Goal Setting – Present or Future? How to State Your Goal

There is often some debate in the goal setting and self development community about the best way to structure an effective goal statement.

Some practitioners argue that it is vital to state your goal in the present tense. For example, if you are aiming to quit smoking, then your goal statement should say, “I am now a non-smoker”. This, they say, is the only way to ensure that when you think about your goal, you think about it in the here and now, as if it had already happened.

Placing it in the future, by saying, “I will give up smoking at the end of the month”, they suggest, will only emphasize the distance between the here and now and the place you want to be and they feel this works against your motivation to get there.

Personally, I believe that it really doesn’t matter whether you are speaking in the present or the future tense. I frequently state my goals completely differently. My usual structure is to say “My goal is to give up smoking by the end of the month”, or “To recruit 1,000 new subscribers to my opt-in list in the next quarter”. This format works just as well for me as any other.

However, where the present or future tense debate is really important is when you are formulating your visualizations and affirmations. Then it is vital to place yourself in the mindset of someone who has already achieved their aims.

“I am a non smoker” is what you should be repeating to yourself many times daily. “I enjoy the benefits of my 1,000 name subscriber list”.

In other words, the goal is the treasure you are seeking. It already exists, it is just not in your reality yet. However, the tools you are using to dig for your treasure must always be the finest and the sharpest and that is only true of tools forged in the present tense.

Internet Authors Live In The Present

Internet Authors are living in the present? They have to. In fact, any author needs to think about what’s happening now, right now, this minute. Whether it’s thinking about how to finish a chapter, or whether their character suddenly became unbelievable, or how the dialogue sounds. When they’re hunched over their new creation, they need to be there, really be there, in the here and now.

Traditional Publishers, on the other hand, are lurking somewhere in the 1950s, most of them. Some are still back in the ’30s of course, and you can usually tell them by the way they dress and the elaborate and affected manner in which they speak. The majority, however, are there in the days before computers and Elvis Presley. They tend to like large desks, they fill them with parcels and piles of paper, and imagine themselves deciding the future of ‘culture’ in the Western world, with their exquisite taste and rare educated sensibility. Quite specifically, that places them before the advent of mass television and before electronic means of creating text. It also makes them insensible to the growth of the internet, a medium which has made the purchase and dissemination of the written word at once far easier and also less discriminating in its choice of material. The internet allows anyone with a story to reach a readership. Publishers are no longer the Gatekeepers, the people who have the luxury of deciding what the public has the opportunity to read. The readers, those most underestimated people, are now able to make such decisions for themselves.

Which is odd. A canvas of local creative people that I know came back with the assumption that writers live ‘in the future’. The paradox is caused by an assumption that authors are always thinking ahead, whether it’s planning the finale of a novel, or trying to decide which of their many ideas should they bring to life next. Also, once the work is finished, there’s the hard work of selecting a suitable agent or publisher to parcel off the paper and send it to. Then there’s the imagining of what the reaction might be, anticipating the best outcome, and planning how to spend the new-found wealth (really). That’s all fine, and true to a certain extent, but I’d argue that such planning (and predicting) is still based on a keen appreciation of what’s happening now. If the novel is finished, then sure, it starts to hunt for an audience. But that means living in the ‘now’, seeing the book ready and willing to go. If the creator was really addicted to the world to come, then they’d be living there, happy and contented with their dream of success, fame and riches. The book, on the other hand, would never get as far as the Post Office.

There’s another reason that authors to live in the present, and that is that the past is usually a painful and disappointing place to be. That’s certainly true at one level, judging by the vast output of recent books in the ‘Troubled Childhood’ category. There’s plenty of people out there, it seems, who have had traumatic and harrowing younger years. But I was thinking of the more recent past. For most authors, (and that means the 99% who aren’t basking in the affluence of a six figure publishing deal), that consists of trial and effort. Mostly, in fact, failing. Because, strange as it seems considering the humiliation and degradation involved, most would-be writers still feel compelled to go down the route of seeking publication by the ‘tried and trusted’ method of dispatching their hard-wrought efforts out to a publisher’s office. Inevitably, given the immense odds stacked against them, the likelihood is that the parcel is returned, (sometimes unopened, usually unread). That means disappointment, sorrow, dejection. Who’d want to wallow in such bad feelings? Far better, as any self-help guru will advise you, to ‘pick yourself up’, forget the bad experience, and move on. And that journey – moving on from the past – brings you not to the future, but to the present.

In other words, if you want to survive in the creative industries, get used to the idea that yesterday is where you failed and felt bad. Today is where you have to get on with it, finish the next story and post off the last one (maybe for the second, third or fourth time), and tomorrow is where you start a new work and – maybe, if you’re very, incredibly lucky – you will get recognition for all the good stuff you’re doing now. Maybe. That’s one way. One method. There’s another. And that is – forget ‘tradition’ and explore the internet. There you will find companies that will publish your work on a ‘print on demand’ basis and won’t charge you upfront fees. You’ll get published. You’ll see your work in book form and be able to distribute it to your friends. And there’s no grinding, humiliating put-downs involved. It’s here. It’s now. It’s technically hard to believe, but it’s come about and it’s happened. It’s what those of us in the know call ‘the present’.

Presentation Skills: Getting Off to a Good Start

In public speaking you only get one chance to make a first impression. In a presentation you may have no more than 10, and at the most 30 seconds to make an impression on your audience. The opening to a presentation is in many ways the most critical part and it always pays to plan it particularly carefully.

In the opening you need to set the tone for the presentation, attract the attention of the audience and orient them to the topic. From the very beginning you also need to start developing rapport, or a connection, with your audience. There are a variety of techniques you can use.

It is tempting to start a presentation by telling a joke or a funny story. If you are good at telling stories or jokes, and you get all the words right; and if the audience understands and appreciates the joke, then this can be a very successful way to get going. But the risks are high. If you are nervous at the start of a presentation, it is easy to forget the punch line. You also run the risk that some people in the audience may not understand or enjoy the joke.

Unless you are a highly skilled presenter, you will probably be safer using an alternative means of opening your presentations.

You could present an interesting news item, some facts that are not well known, or a quotation. These are all safe ways of making an impact at the start. Asking the audience a rhetorical question is an excellent way of gaining their attention.

Whatever technique you choose, keep it simple and safe so you get off to a positive start from which you can continue. There are few things worse than a joke that falls flat at the start of a presentation, leaving everyone embarrassed and the presenter lost for words.