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The Goal-Getters Game: Yes, you want to set goals for 2009, but here’s a game to make sure you actually follow through on them

The Goal-Getters Game is a variation on some of the ideas we have been playing with in email since Thanksgiving.

So first: ‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions, made in haste and forgotten more hastily.

The Motivational Speaker Circuit, both inside and outside of the real estate world, is always all over the idea of goal-setting. But real changes in you life can only come from goal-achieving.

In our email discussions, I brought up Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” system of goal tracking.

Years ago when Seinfeld was a new television show, Jerry Seinfeld was still a touring comic. At the time, I was hanging around clubs doing open mic nights and trying to learn the ropes. One night I was in the club where Seinfeld was working, and before he went on stage, I saw my chance. I had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic. What he told me was something that would benefit me a lifetime…

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it.

He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

Teri has mentioned that she is already deploying this technique in her real estate practice. It doesn’t matter what your goal is. If you track it by the “don’t break the chain” system, you’ll achieve results.

There’s more. Jeff Brown mentioned the idea that, if you do something for 21 consecutive days, you will have made a habit of it. I don’t know if 21 days is the magic number, but it is a certainty that good habits, once formed, are a powerful goad to good performance.

Here’s the game that Cathleen and I came up with tonight, The Goal-Getters Game.

1. Select one or at most two meaningful goals that you want to achieve — consistently — in the coming year. Cathy picked prospecting for at least one hour each day and exercising for at least one hour each day. I chose setting at least one listing or showing appointment each day and exercising for at least one hour each day.

2. Set up some means of tracking your results Seinfeld style. I built a calendar you can use, or you can try an on-line tool like Don’t Break the Chain! (We may end up building a better social media tool for The Goal-Getters Game.) Either way, track each goal separately. On the calendar, you could make a big “X” using a different colored marker for each goal.

3. Get after your goals. As with the Seinfeld system, your objective is to achieve your goals every single day, without breaking the chain.

4. Want to add another goal? A laudable objective. But: Here’s what you must do: Before you can add another goal to The Goal-Getters Game, you must achieve each one of your current goals for 21 days in a row. If you miss a day on any one goal, the count starts over. Only when you have achieved each one of your current goals for an unbroken chain of 21 days in a row can you add another goal.

If anyone gets to five serious goals that you are achieving every single day, send me your picture. I want to tape it to my bathroom mirror for inspiration.

Any ideas for making this game more fun, more motivating or more likely to succeed?

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12 Comments so far

  1. CompeteRealty December 28th, 2008 8:41 pm

    Nice post. Another great resource on setting goals and sticking with them is the book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

    It is along the same idea as this post but goes more in depth and covers some additional topics.

  2. Sean Purcell December 28th, 2008 10:28 pm

    Add mini-rewards along the way. We respond to the carrot much better than the stick. For instance: exercise one hour every day and after 30 days go buy that dress, jacket, etc. you’ve been eyeing. Prospect for three months straight and take a Vegas trip (Brian and I are doing a variation of this right now.) Just make sure the first reward is beyond the 21 day mark which, psychologically speaking, is the magic number for a habit.

  3. Brian Brady December 28th, 2008 10:43 pm

    “We may end up building a better social media tool for The Goal-Getters Game”

    Of course you will. Greg, you are the only guy I know that knows how to automate EVERYTHING.

    My request, if you do automate the calendar, is that you make it available in the NING site only.

  4. Achieving your goals in 2009 | Floor Calls December 28th, 2008 10:44 pm

    […] Swann of recently wrote a post about goals and offered a suggestion on how to help yourself reach your […]

  5. Greg Staker December 28th, 2008 10:47 pm

    “But real changes in you life can only come from goal-achieving”

    Thank you for providing my theme for the first sales meeting of the new year!

  6. Teri L December 28th, 2008 10:57 pm

    This fall I’ve been able to focus on work without the distractions that have surrounded me for years. I’m pretty good at developing systems and I love to figure out ways to “set it and forget it” for anything I do on a regular basis. I know that it’s really important for me to stay focused on one task at a time- Jeff mentioned the pitfalls of multitasking, which I’ve been guilty of- but I still need an effective way to keep track of time.

    I use my google calendar to do two things for me so I am able to do what I’m doing when I’m doing it. My Google calendar is made of blocks of time for specific tasks, and it pings me 10 minutes in advance of switching tasks. I now know that during specific times I’ll be doing specific things, and I also don’t have a clock ticking inside my head- I can completely put my mind to one thing. It’s been liberating, and productive.

    Although I confess that the past week of holidays and family birthdays have wrecked my chain, I’m looking forward to getting back to a routine.

  7. Ross Domke December 29th, 2008 7:44 am

    I have found in my coaching to my fellow agents that setting the bar too high can be discouraging and often an excuse to stop. Using Kaizen ..i.e. setting small steps if you will … creates mini (and many) successes …establishes the 21 day habit … and leads to greater ultimate success .. it’s like saying I will walk around the block daily vs. wanting to lose 30 lbs ….

  8. Sean Purcell December 29th, 2008 8:14 am


    Came across a quote this morning and thought it appropriate:

    “It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise.”
    -Goethe (1749-1832)

  9. Linda Davis December 29th, 2008 9:12 am

    I love the idea of this game! I’m a big fan of David Allen’s GTD and it fits right in. Consider me the newest member of the chain gang.

  10. Thomas Johnson December 29th, 2008 9:47 am

    This is amazing. It just goes to show how many ideas just need dissemination.

    Attached is the calender I have posted next to my sink. The x is for the date, the happy face is for my daily 2 mile walk. The rule is : No bed until walk is complete. I have played this game for 2 1/2 years now with an unbroken chain. The dot upper left is for daily medication so I don’t clutter my feeble brain with remembering that item. Since implementation, I have lost 25 lbs with no diet. The key for me was the daily happy face on that calendar.

  11. Greg Swann December 29th, 2008 9:54 am

    Tom’s calendar is great. What we were looking for was something so simple that complexity could not be an excuse for putatively-plausible self-delusion. This is just perfect. He’s tracking two goals plus the passage of time with a simple at-a-glance interface — one that is right there in his face a dozen times a day. That’s the essence of good engineering.

  12. Jeff Brown December 29th, 2008 10:41 am

    The ’21 days’ came directly from Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho Cybernetics. It’s the time span our mind needs to more or less realize we’re serious. It then has been sufficiently conditioned such that the behavior/thought becomes habit.

    Also, folks may find a real help. It keeps things simple, while adhering to the principles making goals ultimately become reality.

    So much is made of process, which I understand. But what makes goals become reality is the importance assigned to it by our minds. Very rarely are intensely important goals not achieved.

    When was the last time you went several days without water? Make your goals with that level of ‘need’ fueling them, and success is virtually guaranteed the moment they’re conceptualized. It’s not as extreme as it may sound.

    We attain goals for which failure simply isn’t an option. Make your goal that important and the thought of failure becomes laughable.