Full text of Reggie Rivers, a former Denver Bronco, on If You Want To Achieve Your Goals, Don’t Focus On Them at TEDxCrestmoorParkED conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: MP3 – If you want to achieve your goals, don’t focus on them by Reggie Rivers at TEDxCrestmoorParkED
All right. So if you want to achieve your goals don’t focus on them. That goes against everything we have ever said about goals, right? Everything everyone ever talks about goals, is you pick out what it is you want to do, you set your goals, you write them down, you stay focused on them, you check your list over and over again, you come back to it, and that’s how you achieve your goals.
What I have learned over the course of my life, and watching other people, and studying other things, is that that is not the way to achieve goals. We all talk about setting goals, but we don’t talk that much about how do you actually achieve goals.
So, I started learning this lesson with my first girlfriend in life. Her name was Lasandra Johnson. You guys, who has never seen Lasandra, you have to take my word for it; she was the most beautiful 6th grader God has ever created. And for the record, I was in the 6th grade too.
I used to look at this girl and think every day, “I would love for LaSandra to be my girlfriend.” But I was young, and I was afraid, so I didn’t go to say anything to her.
But one day I was standing on the playground during recess, I don’t know where the courage came from, but I decided today is the day, I wasn’t going to wait another day. I turned to my buddy, John Statura, and I said, “John, go ask Lasandra to go with me.”
So he goes walking over to her, and he poses the question, her little group of friends giggles, she says something back. He comes walking back to me, he says, “Reggie, Lasandra said, if you want her to be your girlfriend, you’ve got to ask her yourself.”
I thought I am in 6th grade, I sent my best man. What does she want? But there was no way I was going to ask her myself, so I continued to think about her for the rest of that school year.
Summer break came, and I thought about Lasandra Johnson every day of the summer break.
The next year was 7th grade, and at my school, you had a different class every hour, and lockers between classes. For the first hour I had Woodshop. First hour, Lasandra had Home Economics. At my school, you’re allowed to change one class as long as the class you are moving out of met at the same time as the class you’re moving in to.
So, I walked into the principal’s office and said, “I’d like to change from Woodshop to Home Economics.”
I walked into the Home Ec room, there are 22-23 girls in this classroom, one boy named Jurgen Kuhn and now, me. I asked the girl named Tara Virgamini to move over so I could sit next to Lasandra Johnson, and that day I asked her to go with me, myself.
Thank you. Thank you.
She said, “No.”
That was my first lesson on the prerogative of women that would be many more, but, making a long story short, Lasandra did end up becoming my girlfriend for two weeks and three days later in that school year. But I tell that story because that’s the first time in my life that I can say that I purposely focused on the part that was in my control and ignored the part that was outside of my control. That was the first time in my life that I purposely focused on my behaviors rather than my goal.
We set goals for ourselves, but our goals are things that are outside of our control. Whatever it is you want to achieve in your life. If you are a student and you want to get an A in a class, that’s outside of your control, you don’t get to write A’s on all of your papers, you have a teacher who is going to grade these papers, you’ve got to have a teacher who is going to give you assignments, somebody else is setting the curriculum, somebody else is grading you, you don’t control what your grade is.
If you want to be the world’s best salesman, you don’t get to make all the sales yourself, you don’t get to do both sides of the transaction, you’ve got to recruit customers into your life. Goals require you to have the participation of other people, therefore, they are outside of your control.
So, if you spend too much time focusing on your goals, you’ll never achieve them. Behaviors, by contrast, are things that you alone can do, it doesn’t take a parent, a teacher, a coach, a friend, a neighbor, a spouse, a child; it doesn’t require anyone else, you alone can do behaviors, and behaviors are the things that you focus on in order to achieve your goals.
And looking at the situation with Lasandra Johnson and I — when I was focused on my goal, which was to have this girl to be my girlfriend, I couldn’t speak to her if I was walking past her in the hallway. In my head all the time it was, “Lasandra is cute, I want her to be my girlfriend. Lasandra is cute, I want her to be my girlfriend.” We’re walking past her in the hallway, I’d turn the other way.
I would not even say “Hello” to her, because I was terrified, all I could think about was my goal. When she told my friend John, “If Reggie wants me to be his girlfriend, he’s got to ask me himself,” I heard, “Yes”.
So, I stopped thinking about the goal, the goal had already been achieved, I came back to focusing on my behaviors. Once I started focusing on my behaviors, I figured out what class she had at first hour. I learned the rules at our school about changing classes. I went to the principal’s office talking to adults, “Hey, listen, I got to change class, I got a girl to catch.”
I walked into the Home Ec room, a room of full of girls. I was afraid to talk to one girl, now there is a room full of girls, and I was like, “Ladies, I am here.”
I asked Tara to move over so I could sit next to Lasandra, and she did! I had a little swagger to me because I heard, “Yes.” And when I heard yes, I stopped focusing on the goal and I started focusing on my behavior, and I got myself into a position to achieve my goal.
Well she said no at that time, but later she said yes. But I learned — Years later, when I looked back and I thought about that, I thought, “That’s really the model for what happens in life, it’s a metaphor.” If you think about what we all go through, say, weight loss. We’re all on a diet at one point or another — I am on one now, involuntarily, my wife has put me on one — but we’re all on a diet at one point or another. And how does a diet start? It starts with a goal. You say, “I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year.” Okay, that’s great, you have a goal.