The Power of a Sharp Axe

January 1, 2020


There are essential skills required for successful goal setting. The good news is they can be learned and developed through practice.   Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  If one cannot achieve the goals one has set, it is possible that the problem a dull ax!  The following six keys to successful goal attainment will ensure that your ax is sharp!



·      Planning – The adage ‘fail to 

       plan, plan to fail’ is applicable

       to successful goal

       achievement. Inadequate

       planning negatively affects

       outcomes in relation to goals

       (Smith, Locke, & Barry, 1990).


       Through proper planning, we

       can prioritize and focus

       on the task at hand, while 

       avoiding extraneous



·      Self-Motivation – Without

       the desire to achieve, attempts at goal setting are

       doomed to fail. Motivation to achieve a goal encourages one to develop new

       techniques and skills in order to succeed (Locke, 2001). When encountering

       obstacles, the motivation to keep going is essential to goal attainment.


·      Time Management – Time management is a useful skill across many facets of life

        including goal setting. While setting goals are commonly considered to be a specific

        time management behavior (Macan, Shahani, Dipboye, & Phillips, 1990), time

        management is also required in order to successfully accomplish a goal. If we do not

        properly consider the timescale required to attain a goal, one will inevitably fail.


·      Flexibility – Inevitably, at some point, things aren’t going to go as planned. Having

       the flexibility to overcome obstacles, the perseverance to sustain one’s efforts and to

       carry on in the face of adversity is essential to reaching one’s goal.


·      Self-regulation – An individual must regulate and manage one’s emotions in order

       to promote personal and social goals. Well-developed Emotional Intelligence leads

       to the ability to efficiently consider and describe motivational goals, aims, and

       missions  (Mayer, 2004).


·      Commitment and Focus – If we are not committed to our goals, goal setting will         not work (Locke, 2001).


It is imperative that goals are important and meaningful on a personal level, and that we know we can attain, or at the very least make substantial progress towards, a goal.

The time one allocates to perfecting the six keys directly impacts task performance – the more time spent on developing the six keys, the more likely we are to succeed (Smith, Locke, & Barry, 1990).  If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, he would tell us that depending its size one cannot chop down a tree in six hours with a dull ax.  In addition to failing to complete the goal, we are also jeopardizing our health when will fail to plan.  Like the ax analogy, a dull ax can bounce and potentially cause injury.   Failure to implement the six keys to successful goal setting can lead to anxiety, headaches and other maladies.


"If you are ready to attack goal setting with unyielding passion, see more below for my goal setting tools." - Doug



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