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What's your motivation to wake up in the morning?

July 31, 2013

Many of the mornings when I leave home after 7am there is this group of young men who are always lazing around the neighborhood’s “jobless corner”, commonly known as "Kijiweni". When you look at them, it seems like they really have nothing better to do with their lives. Every time I see them "wako juu ya story" meaning they are totally engrossed in the stories and conversations they always animatedly share. Now, whether or not those conversations have any truth and substance in them is a different case all together.

All the same, seeing these guys there every morning always makes me wonder, is sitting out there every morning what motivates them to wake up early every morning? Is it so that they can go "chapa domo" even before they brush their teeth and take breakfast?

Like these hood guys, there are many people out there who start their day in a way that suggests they are plot-less, meaning they have no clear plans for their day. They wake up in the morning and wait for the breeze to take them wherever it wills, leaving their life to chance for at least 16 hours or so of their time awake. These are the kind of people who are easily swayed in different directions like a flag. Anyone who comes their way and tells them they go wherever, they have no qualms about it because as it were, they had no specific plans for themselves. By the end of the day they are so tired and exhausted but if you asked them what made them tired, they usually would not have an answer, unless of course it’s the dust that has accumulated on their feet that has made them tired – because of carrying it around.

This is what happens when one lives life with no particular goals to govern them. Last Wednesday evening I had an opportunity to speak in public during a motivational seminar based on the importance of goal setting in life (generally). One of the things I mentioned is that when we don't set goals, then we move through life with no particular mission or agenda. I gave an illustration of a dog that is always running around in circles, chasing its tail. The question is, would it bite its tail off should it manage to get it? What about that other dog that is always running after cars, barking at them? I'm sure you see them doing that all the time, but have you ever asked yourself what the dog would do if it ever caught the car? Would it drive it? Or would it jump in and pose for a photo? Most importantly, of what benefit would that car be to the dog?

Unfortunately that is how some people live their lives; chasing after things that have no value to add to their lives, engaging in activities that not only make them tired but also make them look silly and probably loony before the eyes of those observing them. You may be laughing at the dog scenarios I’ve given above, but the truth is a lot of people are no different from those canines. For instance, they will wake up and go to their usual offices with no plan for the day. If you asked them what they will be doing for the day, you are likely to get a response like “tutajua huko huko”, which translated to English would mean “we will figure out something on the fly”. These are the kind of people who really have no self-development goals for themselves; as long as they are getting their salaries at the end of the month, why bother?

These are the kind of people who if given a performance based contract they would leave the job before a week is over because they just can’t handle the pressure. A performance-based contract requires someone with individual goals and a burning desire to achieve those personal goals. In most cases, the individual goals are normally higher and steeper than the goals (read targets) set by the company. Needless to say, in achieving the personal goals, by default the company’s goals are achieved and as a result, the person gets all the perks that come with the performance-based contract.

Unlike the person who has clearly defined personal goals, those who just breeze through their days anyhow and anywhere always have this twisted notion that whatever they are doing is for the benefit of the person who asked them to do it, and not for their own benefit. For instance, if they are employed, instead of thinking that they are going to the office in order to make a difference in their own lives, they think they are going to work in order to help their bosses. They do not realize that a job is a means to an end; it is a tool one uses to bring a difference to their life. It is a vehicle that takes you to your goals. Unfortunately such people think they are doing their bosses a favor by working where they are. That is an arguable thought but the truth is, no one is indispensable. You can either get fired by your boss or called back by your maker. Either way, the organization you were working for will still go on, even if you are the owner.

Apple, which is still producing gadgets and Apps though Steve Jobs was plucked from this earth, is a classic example of what I mean. Now that I think about it, I believe he managed to achieve what he did because he had a goal and a desire to do something different. That goal and that desire made him come up with products that revolutionized the way people view hand-held gadgets; he created a lifestyle that many have taken to, something I believe would have been impossible if he had no clear vision - also known as goals. He wanted to leave a mark in the world, and to prove that he did, even in his absence we still feel his presence.

Robin Sharma, a Canadian lawyer, leadership expert and author of “The Leader Who Had No Title” said in one of his numerous motivational sessions, “Either you set your goals and in doing so have your life governed by choice, or do nothing and have your life governed by chance.” These are very powerful words that if adhered to have the power to change the course of any individual’s direction in life.

“Do people always achieve their goals Liz”, I can almost hear someone asking. Well, the answer to that question is relative. Those who persevere eventually do but those lacking in perseverance don’t. Ever heard of Ross Perot? Well, that’s the guy who said these words: “Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown”. This is what lack of perseverance does.

I can tell you for free that there will be hurdles and obstacles, delays and detours on the way to your goals. Whatever the case, please do not give up. Instead, think of them as speed bumps, traffic jams or potholes. Though you might encounter one of these or all of these on your way home, I bet you have never said that you will not go home because there is traffic. You always stay in that traffic until you get home, regardless of how long it might take you to get through it. Why give up on your goals then, when challenges decide to show their ugly faces? Just like you never give up in those traffic jams, don’t give up on your goals either.

Don’t look at how far you have to go but always look at what you have so far achieved; that way, your goals will always seem possible even though they appear hard to achieve. And of course always have a clearly set out plan of how you intend to achieve those goals, because otherwise “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

In conclusion, if you have been going through life without goals, then this is as good a time as any to charter some for your life. As you embark on this journey of setting goals for yourself, keep the words of Les Brown in your mind: “The problem with most people is not that they set their goals too high and miss, but they set them too low and hit.”

Wishing you all a goal-led week.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 28th July, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"




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