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Is Your Destination Clear? Article by: Earl Nightingale

Have you ever noticed that ships operate essentially the same way people ought to, but so few do? Maybe you’ve never given it much thought, but at any given moment, a ship has a direction and a destination. That is, either she’s sailing to a predetermined port of call, or she’s in port, getting ready to sail to another one. You can ask the captain of any big, far-sailing ship where they’re going, and they can tell you instantly – and in one sentence.

How many people do you know who can do the same thing? It seems that most people want too many different things – or at leasy they think they want them – they’re unable to focus their efforts, their minds, and their hearts on anything specific. And all this leads to is doubt and confusion. They’re like the guy who jumped on a horse and rode off in all directions at once. They don’t recognize how vital it is to pick one port that’s important, then sail to it, rest and refit for a little while, and then sail to another port. In this way, in not so many years, a person can set and reach their goals, one by one, until finally they have a tremendous pile of accomplishments in which to take pride – they have all the things they want, just because they had the sense enough to realize they could do well with only one thing at a time.

There’s another analogy that fits here, and maybe it makes the most important point of all. If a ship tied to a dock for some reason had no place to go, she would stay there until she fell apart from rust and disuse. A ship’s engine isn’t started until she has some place to go. Here again, it’s the same with people. This is why it’s so important that each of us has a port of call we want to reach – a goal – a place to get to where we feel will be better than the place in which we now find ourselves. If we don’t, we might never cast off. We might never start our engines and know the thrill of sailing a charted course to a place we can’t see for fully 99 percent of the journey. But we know it’s there, and we know that if we keep sailing toward it, we’ll reach it.

If someone came up to you today and asked you what your next port of call is – that is, where you are going – could you answer him in one sentence, as could the captain on the bridge of their ship? If not, maybe you’d like to give that some thought.

A clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Ari Kiev writes, “In my practice as a psychiatrist, I have found that helping people to develop personal goals has proven to be the most effective way to help them cope with problems. Observing the lives of people who have mastered adversity, I have noticed,” he writes, “that they have established goals and sought with all their effort to achieve them. From the moment they decided to concentrate all their energies on a specific objective, they began to surmount the most difficult odds.”

So writes Dr. Kiev in his book, A Strategy for Daily Living, “The establishment of a goal is the key to successful living. And the most important step toward achieving an objective is first to define it.” I’m sure you have at least 30 minutes a day in which to list your thoughts about possible goals. Set aside such a period each day for a month. At the end of the time, choose from the possible objectives you have listed, the one that seems most important, and record it separately on a single card. Carry this card with you at all times. Think about this objective every day. Create concrete mental images of the goal, as if you’ve already accomplished it.

The doctor points out, “You can determine your special talents or strengths in a number of ways, ranging from psychological tests to any analysis of the unexpressed wishes in your dreams. No one method works for everyone.” You might start, for example, by clipping and saving magazine and newspaper articles that interest you for 30 days. After which, look for the pervasive trend or trends suggestive of your deep-seated interests and natural strengths. Whenever you discover a strength or talent, think of five possible ways to develop it. Write these strengths down on your card as well, and check it periodically to keep them fresh in your mind.

If possible, have your card laminated and place it on your bathroom mirror so that it is the first and last thoughts of your day. Then focus your day’s energy on this goal and on activities that utilize these natural strengths.

Dr. Kiev continues, “Focus on one objective at a time. Like a microchip, the brain, set on a target, will call into play those mental processes that will bring your efforts to fruition. Your actions will conform to your expectations, thereby bringing about the event. If you believe that you will reach your objective, you will continue to work at a task until you have accomplished it.”

So, take the advice of the psychiatrist Dr. Ari Kiev and don’t be afraid of failure. As Herodotus wrote, “It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half of the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what may happen.”

Sit down and make a list of everything you want in life. When you do this, you will make some surprising discoveries. You might find that you have already managed to get many of the things you have wanted seriously. Or, if you don’t have most or all of them, chances are you are now in the process of getting them.If your list contains some items you want very much but do not have, you might ask yourself why you have failed to get them. Chances are that you have not tried very hard. Or perhaps you felt, for one reason or another, that these things are completely beyond your ability to achieve. These wants make very worthwhile goals.

It’s a good idea to have two lists of things you want. The first list would include those bigger goals that relate to your career or the overall good of your life or your family. These might include the position and/or income you are working toward, perhaps a higher educational degree, a certain amount of money in savings, a goal of height of business success, or that beautiful home you have had your eye on.

The other list could be a fun list. It might include the car you want for no good reason except it’s the car you happen to want, redecorating your house, getting new furniture, traveling to some special place — perhaps abroad — or buying a new wardrobe. This is a list of things you want just because you want them.

You should have long-range goals. These should be on your number one list, and each of them should be numbered in the order of importance to you. These are goals that might take five years or longer to achieve. They’re extremely worthwhile, and you should be working toward them daily. These are the goals that give meaning and direction and substance to your life.

But you also need short-range goals. These are the goals that add zest and interest to your life and break up the monotony of the long haul for the long-range goals.

If you’re honest with yourself about the things you want – not idle wishes that change from day to day but things you are serious about – you’ll find that they all can be yours, and in a surprisingly short time, if they are taken one at a time.

It’s been said, “People can have anything they want. The trouble is that they don’t know what they want.” Get off by yourself for a quiet hour or two, and make up your card and your two lists. It is a fun and rewarding exercise and will prove to be the first step toward living the life you most desire.

Source: Earl Nightingale’s The Essence of Success, edited by Carson V. Conant.


The great historical philosophers, teachers and prophets all agreed…

  1. “You become what you think about”
    – Earl Nightingale
  2. “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”
    – Emperor Marcus Aurelius
  3. “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
    – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  4. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
    – Bible, Mark 9:23

Do you appreciate the life you have fashioned for yourself?

When was the last time you assessed your long-term goals?

Are you prepared to create new goals after you have accomplished your current goals?


A man hunting tigers in India was suddenly surprised by a huge Bengal tiger – it was almost on top of him. The man raised his rifle and fired, but he overshot and missed. The tiger, frightened by the man and thrown off stride by the noise of the gun, leaped toward the hunter but the leap was too wide, and he missed his prey.

The man returned to camp and spent several hours perfecting his aim for short distances and quick firing. On the following day, he again stalked the tiger. Finally, he spotted the beast at some distance – practicing short leaps.

What are your goals?

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"First say to yourself what you would be: and then do what you have to do."

- Epictitus

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