How John Maxwell Sets Goals



“We grow by dreams.” — President Woodrow Wilson

When it comes to goals, it helps to know how some of the best achievers in the world set goals.

One such high-achiever is John Maxwell.

John Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author.  And, one of his specialties is turning dreams into reality through a simple process of setting goals.

In the book, Your Road Map for Success: You Can Get There from Here, John Maxwell shares his approach for setting and achieving goals.

The Success Process

Here’s how John Maxwell articulates the process for success which puts his goal-setting process in context:
Your dream determines your goals.
Your goals map out your actions.
your actions create results.
And the results bring you success.

The ROAD MAP Approach to Goals

John Maxwell use the acronym ROADMAP as an easy way to remember his goal-setting approach:

Recognize Your Dreams
Observe Your Starting Place
Articulate a Statement of Purpose
Define Your Goals
Move Into Action
Adjust Your Plans
Point to Success and Celebrate

Here is a step-through of each of the steps in John Maxwell’s ROAD MAP approach to setting goals …

1. Recognize Your Dreams

The first step is to dream.  Dream big.  Add clarity.  Use your dream to articulate your desired future state or desired outcome as a vivid picture.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“Everything starts with your dream.  It’s an expression of your life purpose and determines what it means for you to reach your potential.  If you can articulate your dream clearly, then you can create a map for your journey.  If you can’t, the trip will be nearly impossible.”

2. Observe Your Starting Place

Know where you start from.  This helps you figure out the gap between your current state and your desired future state.  By knowing the gap, you can better address the gap.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“It’s true you can’t begin the success journey until you know where you want to go.  But you also can’t be successful if you don’t know where you’re starting from.  Both pieces of information are necessary to make the trip.  As Eric Hoffer, known as the ‘longshoreman philosopher,’ said, ‘To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.’  Start by examining yourself as honestly as you can.  Look at your strengths, weaknesses, experiences, education, and resources.

As you think about your dream and measure it against your starting place, you will be able to define it more precisely.  You will begin to get a clearer picture of what’s important to you and what you’re wiling to give–and give up–to be successful.  And you will be in a better position to identify specific goals?”

John Maxwell shares some questions to ask yourself:

  • How great a distance will I have to travel?
  • What do I have working for me?
  • What must I overcome?
  • What will it cost to make the trip?

3. Articulate a Statement of Purpose

Write a statement of purpose that reflects your dreams, values, and convictions in a way that inspires you and helps you stay your course.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“Once you’ve given more thought to your dream, and it has started to become clearer in your mind, you’re ready to take another step: writing a statement of purpose for yourself based on your dream and what you intend to be doing while you’re going in that direction.  I guess you could call it your philosophy of travel for the success journey.

Your purpose statement should naturally grow out of your dreams, values, and convictions.  So creating it isn’t a quick, onetime event.  Instead, most people develop and and then refine it over the course of a couple years.  As you write yours, remember not to expect perfection the first time around.  Write it the best you can and plan to make changes later as you discover more about yourself and refine the vision for your life.”

John Maxwell shares a few purpose statement examples:

  • Charlie Wetzel (John’s personal write/researcher): “Through writing, teaching, and mentoring, I desire to inspire people to greatness by helping them discover their purpose, develop their relationship with God, and reach their potential.”
  • Freya Ottem Hansom (Attorney/write): “To offer compassionate, complete, competent services in her law practice, to write words that inspire God-pleasing change in others, and to make her life be such that she lives to bless humankind.”

4. Define Your Goals

Write your goals, based on your dream, in a way that’s personal, specific, achievable, measurable, and time-sensitive.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“Once you have articulated your purpose, you’re ready to identify your goals—your points of reference on your road map.  They will be activities or accomplishments that you plan to complete to fulfill your purpose, develop your potential, and help others.”

Maxwell shares some simple checks to keep your goals on track:

  • Written
  • Personal
  • Specific
  • Achievable
  • Measurable
  • Time-Sensitive

Maxwell says that goals need to be personal to be effective: ‘A common mistake that people make is to identify something outside their control as a goal.  For instance, many people say their goal is to win the lottery.  Or they say they want their spouse to treat them better.  But they have no control over these things.  To be legitimate, a goal must be within your power to achieve or accomplish personally.  As you write each goal, make sure it passes the test.’

5. Move Into Action

Take action.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“German poet and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, ‘Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.’ Maybe that’s why so few people follow through and act on their goals.  According  to Gregg Harris, two-thirds of people surveyed (sixty-seven of one hundred) set goals for themselves.  But of those sixty-seven, only ten have made realistic plans to reach their goals.  And out of those ten, only two follow through and actually make them happen.”

6. Adjust Your Plans

Adjust your plans based on your results and feedback.  Change what’s not working.  Do more of what’s working.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“As you act on your goals, you will need to continually review them and your progress in order to make adjustments.  Some goals won’t really contribute to your dream or purpose and will need to be eliminated.  Others will need to be modified.  And in some cases, you’ll simply fail.  But as President Abraham Lincoln said, ‘My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.

7. Point to Success and Celebrate

Celebrate your successes.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“Finally, as you accomplish some of your goals, take the time to celebrate.  You deserve it.  Acknowledge your success, and build on them, always keeping in mind that your aim is not to achieve all your goals, but to improve constantly.  Nobel prize-winning novelist William Faulkner urged, ‘Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do.  Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.  Try to be better than yourself.’  You’re trying to fulfill your purpose, move toward your potential, and help others–not arrive at a destination.’”

The Trick to Acting On Your Goals

Keep acting on your goals.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“The trick to acting on your goals is getting started. President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked, ‘It is common sense to take a method and try it.  If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.  But above all, try something.’ That’s good advice.  You don’t have to be perfect; you only need to make progress.  Or as the Chinese proverb asserts, ‘Be not afraid of going slowly; be only afraid of standing still.’”

It’s Not What You Get, It’s What You Become

The big win for you is what you become by chasing your dreams and pursuing your goals.

Via Your Road Map for Success:

“Retail department store founder J.C. Penney declared, ‘Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I will give you a man who will make history.  Give me a man without a goal and I will give you a stock clerk.’  Penney recognized the power and importance of goals.  While you work on them, they work on you.  And what you get by reaching your goals is not nearly as important as what you become by reaching them.”

John Maxwell is skilled at achieving goals and helping others do the same.

If you’re tried goal-setting before, but it didn’t really work for you, give Maxwell’s approach a shot.

You just might surprise yourself with a big dream, a great purpose statement, actionable goals, or what you become as you reach for your goals.

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Image by Lori Bee.