The Absolute Secret to Goal-Setting!

Most of us have seen the criteria for effective goal-setting. You know, goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic—all with a targeted time frame for getting there.


To be honest, I can’t say I’ve experienced many of those! I mean …

  • I didn’t set out to marry the perfect woman for me, but it happened.
  • I didn’t set out to have 7 great kids—responsible, kind, non-entitled, hardworking—but have been blessed with them anyway.
  • I didn’t set out to “make it” as a keynote speaker, but I guess I have.
  • I didn’t set out to be debt-free, but we’ve been blessed. Much credit goes to Larry Burkett and Rob Blue, whose teachings we employed 25 years ago. (Yes, all of you debt haters, before Dave Ramsey!
  • Karen and I didn’t set out to write a parenting book, but—phew!—we got it done.
  • And, I admit, I didn’t plan to lose 43 pounds since April 11, 2012—but they’re gone.

And I’m delighted to be sooooo much less of the man I was back then!

Here is how I described my journey in November 2012 and then again in 2013: 

5 Lessons Learned When I Quit Making Excuses

Personally, when it comes to setting and reaching a goal, I don’t believe much in the whole “seeing the future” thing. As we wrote in Outstanding!, over two decades of “vision casting” in our organizations has left us with employees whining cynically, “Why don’t they share the vision?” Instead, it’d be better for people at all levels to be asking accountable questions (QBQs) like, “How can I be my best today?” and “What can I do right now to contribute?”

Honestly, if you think you know someone who can see tomorrow, please have them email me as I’d like to know what I’ll be doing!


Good things are obtained one step at a time. The step that counts most is the first one—whether we “begin with the end in mind” or not.

And that’s what happened in April 2012. After trying on four pairs of dress slacks that didn’t fit, I walked around the block.

One thousand miles later, that walk around the block was my most important walk ever. Now, down 43 pounds and walking three miles each day, eating less (no fad & fancy diets here), and going to bed a little hungry each night, I have reached a goal.

One that I didn’t even know I had—but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying.

Want to achieve a goal, possibly one you’re a bit cloudy on and uncertain about? Would you like to change your life in some way?

Then here’s the absolute secret to goal-setting:

Initiate. Act. Risk. Start!!!

When, you ask?


Waiting for clarity and crystal-clear certainty—which is really just procrastination—is the worst thing one can do. As we say in the QBQ! book:

Procrastination is the “Friend of Failure.”

And when it comes to achieving goals, who needs a friend like that?! That would be almost as bad as having friends like this!

For Discussion:

Do you have an action in mind you’ll now engage in? A risk to take? A step to make?

We’d love to hear about it here. So comment away!

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22 Responses

  1. LONGtime fan of QBQ, John. Have used your work for years in leading various companies. I had my own epiphany about 7-8 years ago and went into the gym. Daily. I haven’t stopped. But you’re absolutely right – the key was to just start. Thanks for your good work.

  2. I have doing the same things to lose weight and it worked for me too. You just have START! Every day! You probably know about Jon Acuff’s new book “START” my wife and watch his streaming video Tuesday and it was insipring.
    Bradford Hull
    Cerritos CA

  3. In 1984, I had a dream and quit my well-paying job and founded Terra-Genesis (new land with new beginning). I went to several goal setting back in late 80’s and one really helped me to achieve what I have dreamed about was to write three SMARTER goals and achieve them every three months and read them at least for times a day and act on them daily… Fifteen years later I have achieved the ultimate dream and now I am handling six goals every six months and it is working. My book ‘Urban Shepherd from Dream to Reality’ will be published next year… and yes part of my success was reading and re-reading the QBQ and practicing the QBQ and sharing the QBQ….

    Thank you for the good work..

  4. I couldn’t agree more, whether it’s the first thing you do or the first time you don’t, the first step is the key. And once taken, your own eagerness feeds the pace as you hunger for more results. Pounds lost or dollars gained; accrued stamina from daily workouts or days without distractions (like junk food, cigarettes, alcohol), it all starts with the first step. Take it.


  5. Thank you for the nudge. Been spending way too much time trying to figure out the perfect way to do what i do instead of just doing it. Congrats on the weight loss and more importantly the exercise.

  6. Everytime I think your last note is the best I have seen you post another one. You are so right, for me it is time to take the first step, my mistake ia I waited past yesterday….Thank You.

  7. I started walking a few years back and do about 2 miles a day. More importantly, I am leading a marriage retreat today, and will be incorporating QBQ as we discuss Personal Accountability in marriage. Thanks!

  8. My biggest problem is that I allow my life to revolve around everyone else’s schedule. I try so hard to set aside time to pursue my dreams and life happens. I keep telling myself that it is God’s way of saying “not now”. Any suggestions 🙂

  9. This is one of your best, because it’s simple.

    I want to go back to school, so I can help others build a healthy financial family. Perhaps what I need to do is look at how I can help them now, with the information and skills I currently possess. And save up the $$ for school while I do it.

    You’ve given me some food for thought– what can I do TODAY.


  10. Outstanding John! I’ve lost over 100 and it was truly a combination of setting the goal and depending on God. So glad to hear of your success. So glad you came to my wife’s Great Clips all those years ago so I could get to know you! Inspiring my friend!!

  11. In our ADP class (Agency Development Program), one of our “Aha” moments was that “it is the start that stops us.” I have found that to be true in more instances than I care to recall! The trick is to do as you did and make that start! You haven’t stopped since! Congratulations!

  12. I am 53 years old, raising my grandson ( i’ve gotten him up to age 15 now ) and have been a nurse for 27 years ( the same length of time I have been married ). I have started back to school! I want to be an art therapist, how cool is that for a job-art and helping people achieve goals and dreams? I never considered my self artistic, but I have spent a fortune on classes of all kinds. I have been seeing a therapist and showed them some art, pictures, pottery, etc… They said I am artistic and talented. Took a while to believe and to sink in. Then I went to a class at my grandson’s school. They were doing art journaling and I lent them supplies and a few art journal pages that I had done. They asked me to come and explain ” my process” just as if I was a real artist. I really had no idea what “my process” was. Several other interesting incidents occurred that convinced me this was what I want and this semester I started art classes at a community college, oddly nursing school did not require much art. I am happy and thrilled and excited, though I must confess that in all my giddy joy I had truly forgotten about homework, it really did not ever occur to me. Ah well, I have decided to live a daring and fearless life, homework and all.

  13. Wow, I love these update topics. This one hit so close to where I am I felt I had to comment – something I have never done.
    Yesterday, I went to a speaking group called Toastmasters to just be a guest and see if it had what I need to improve my message delivery whatever the topic. Later a co-worker was asking me about it and I said “The hardest thing was just getting in the car and going over there. I had thought up lots of reasons why I should not go and they were valid work related.”

    Everyday I ask the question – What is my part in this? Whether it is in my career development, job satisfaction, social interaction. It doesn’t matter.

    Thank you for not only writing the books, but for these QBQ moments. They touch many peoples lives.

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