Set Goals. Achieve Them. Repeat. Succeed.

Outstanding performance is one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become an outstanding performer, you need to do three things.  1) Stay on top of your game by becoming a lifelong learner.  2) Set high goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them.  3) Get organized.  Manage your time, life and stress well.

I saw an interesting quote from my favorite playwrights, George Bernard Shaw, the other day.  Mr. Shaw was very successful in his time — and after.  He died in 1950 at the age of 94, but his plays – he wrote more than 60 of them — are still produced today.

“I dread success. To have succeeded is to have finished one's business on earth, like the male spider, who is killed by the female the moment he has succeeded in his courtship. I like a state of continual becoming, with a goal in front and not behind.”

At first glance I thought, “I dread success, what a strange thing to say.”  But as I read the entire quote, I got it.  Mr. Shaw makes an important point – success is a journey, not a destination. 

Once you achieve success in one endeavor, or reach one of your goals, it’s important to set a new goal and reach even higher – or to enter “a state of continual becoming.”  Mr. Shaw crammed a lot of success into his 94 years.  He is the only person to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and an Oscar.

I love the concept of “continual becoming.”  About the time Mr. Shaw died, Abraham Maslow was creating his hierarchy of human needs.  I’ll be brief here as I realize that you are probably familiar with the hierarchy.  

The hierarchy suggests that as human beings, we have a series of needs that must be met before others come into play.  Our most basic needs are physiological, things like our ability to satisfy our hunger and thirst, the ability to survive today.  Once physiological needs are satisfied, human needs turn to safety and security, the ability to survive over the long term.  Next, human beings have social needs, the longing for a sense of belonging and for love.  Moving up the hierarchy, we come to esteem needs, things like recognition and status.  Self actualization needs are at the top of the hierarchy. 

In broad terms, Maslow defined self actualization as “being all that you can be.”  Then he said that you can never be all you can be, because as soon as you reach one accomplishment, you will find that there is more to achieve.  In other words, self actualization is “a state of continual becoming, with a goal in front and not behind.”

What does this mean for becoming an outstanding performer?  Plenty.  It means that you need to set high goals, and do whatever it takes to achieve them.  Then you need to repeat the process again and again, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.  Outstanding performance is a lifelong commitment to goal setting and goal achievement.

The common sense point here is clear.  Successful people are outstanding performers.  Outstanding performers set high goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them.  Then they set higher goals and achieve them.  This is what Abraham Maslow refers to as “self actualization” and George Bernard Shaw calls “a state of continual becoming.”  In other words, successful people don’t rest on their laurels, they are constantly looking for ways to do more and be more.

That’s my take on the importance of continually setting and achieving high goals.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. “Constant and never-ending improvement,” Tony Robbins calls this concept.
    Living a successful life means always try to be a better person. There will always be room for improvement in some area of your life. As soon as you stop trying, you’ve stopped succeeding.

  2. Right again, Alan:
    As you say, “when you stop trying, you’ve stopped succeeding.”
    The joy is in the trying — knowing that you might fail sometime.
    If you want to succeed, you need to keep stretching yourself.
    Thanks for the comment,

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