How to Set Goals like John Kennedy
"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." ~ Neil Armstrong
Today we’re celebrating one of the biggest successes of all time. Forty years ago today, on July 20, 1969, three men – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins – landed a spacecraft on the moon for the first time.
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They had launched their mission 4 days earlier, flying 203,000 miles to get there.
About six-and-a-half hours after they landed, with one-sixth of the people in the world tuned in to watch, Neil Armstrong descended down the ladder of the lunar space module. As he became the first person to walk on the surface of the moon, he uttered those famous words:
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
We never get tired of hearing those words. It gives us goose bumps. They are so inspiring.
But we have to remember that it didn’t just happen. It began as a bigg goal over eight years before.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy said:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
How to set goals like President Kennedy
President Kennedy’s goal was very well-stated. It was a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for:
Time- and Resource-Constrained
Let’s look at each of these five components of a well-stated goal using President Kennedy’s goal as an example.
President Kennedy said that we were going to do two things:
- land a man on the moon
- return him safely to earth
You can’t get much more specific than that. In this case, it may be easier to think about what wouldn’t be specific. He could have said, “We’re going to land a man somewhere in space.” That’s not specific. He clearly articulated the destination.
President Kennedy’s goal was clearly measurable. We would certainly know if a man had landed on the moon. We could certainly tell if he returned safely to earth.
Note, though, that landing on the moon and then not being able to get back safely would have meant the goal was not reached.
Let’s bring this point on being measurable safely back to earth. Here’s an example of a goal that is not measurable:
“I’m going to increase my income next year.”
What does that mean? If you increase it by $1, did you really accomplish what you set out to do? A well-stated goal would be:
“I’m going to increase my income by 5% next year.
“I’m going to increase my income by $2,000 next year.”
Now you’ll know if you accomplish what you set out to do.
When President Kennedy called for this mission to send man to the moon [PDF], he made clear that it would take a tremendous commitment by the entire nation to reach this goal.
He called for innovation. He called for new money. He said it would take a concentrated effort for an extended period of time. But it would get done.
And get done it did. In a similar vein – with our personal goals or the goals we set for our businesses – we must commit to taking the necessary steps to achieve the goal.
President Kennedy said, “I believe we have all the resources and talent necessary.”
Your goals can and should be bigg goals. They should stretch you beyond anything you’ve ever accomplished before. But they have to be realistic.
Otherwise, they don’t lead to bigg success. They only lead to discouragement.
Time- and Resource-constrained
This one’s easy. President Kennedy said we would accomplish this goal by the end of the decade. It was 1961. The goal was reached July 20, 1969.
He made it clear that resources would have to be diverted from other good causes if this goal was to be reached.
When you set your goals, be sure to give yourself a due date. When will you accomplish this goal? What resources will be required to do it? Do you have them?
Goal-setting is not goal-getting
John F. Kennedy was able to reduce all of this into a simple goal statement of 31 powerful words that set this course of events into action.
Because he wasn’t just a bigg goal-setter, he was a bigg goal-getter.
Setting goals is just the first step in that process. We have a great tool – the Bigg Goal-Getter’s Workbook – which takes you through the entire six step process to put goal-setting and goal-getting to work for you. It’s free when you subscribe to our free newsletter, The Bigg Success Weekly.
Just one final point:
Good goals have a reason behind them. They serve a bigger purpose. Every goal should lead you closer to the bigg success of which you dream. So we’ll close with John F. Kennedy himself explaining why sending a man to the moon was so important:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
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(Image and quotes in today's post from NASA)