“I want to build a million-dollar wholesale area. I want to have a million dollars in profit from wholesale deals. I want to build a million-dollar wholesale area.” The dream was firmly established in my mind as I looked into the mirror, but that’s all it was—a dream. It was a nebulous goal that I didn’t really believe was attainable, if I was to be honest. That was three years ago. Three years later, my goals have changed. Now, I sit at the head of the table at a company buying and selling across four states; a company that has surpassed that million dollar goal this year alone. My goals now are even bigger and more unattainable, but that’s where I like them. Bigger than I think I can do, just big enough to make me grow.

I learned long ago that few things worth doing are easy, but hard work alone was not getting me where I needed to be. I needed a plan. Looking into the mirror wasn’t going to do it for me anymore. I had to figure things out.

We all have goals, we all have dreams. January 1st is coming up, and with it comes a list a mile long of things that will be different in the upcoming twelve months. For some, it’s losing weight. For others, it’s building a relationship. Financial goals, health goals, personal goals, this seems to be a time of the year for introspection and good intention, and yet so few of those dreams are reached.

The first step to achieving your goal is to look inward. Figure out the where. Where am I in relation to my goal? If I have a weight loss goal, how much do I weigh now? If I have a financial goal, what do I want to save? As a Christian, I love the verse that reads, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Any addiction program teaches that the first step is honesty. “Hi, my name is Tom and I am an addict.” Often, it is the hardest step because we don’t like to see ourselves for who we truly are, but it must be done if you are to go anywhere.

That day as I looked into the mirror, I figured out where I was. I was in an area right outside of Chicago, and I understood the potential, but for a long time that was all I was looking at. I saw what the area could be, and based everything on what one day could be, but it wasn’t until I took an honest look at where I was that I realized where I was going wrong.

The second thing is to determine the what. We already figured out where we were, now we needed to look at what we want to be. The addict wants to get clean. The unlearned wants to become educated. The overweight wants to weigh less. The one with the broken relationship wants a healed relationship. The debtor wants financial freedom. This is the easy part of the process. Establish clearly what it is that you want to do.

When asked why he climbed Mt. Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the top of the world answered, “Because it was there.” That’s another way of saying he saw what he wanted to do before he tried to do it. We would have never put a man on the moon if we hadn’t for years stared at the moon wondering what it would be like to go there. We must first figure out where we are, and then see where we want to go in light of where we are. You have no doubt heard the ancient Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with…..entering the destination into your GPS” or something like that…

As I psyched myself up in the mirror that morning, I knew what I wanted to be. That big 7-figure number attached to my name was what I wanted. One of my favorite phrases is “What you focus on expands.” You will never reach your goals if you don’t establish what they are.

Thirdly, after you have figured out where you are, after you establish what you want to achieve, figure out why you want to achieve that goal. Why do you want to quit smoking? Why do you want to get out of debt? Why do you strive to have a better marriage? Why do you want to lose weight? The why becomes your motivation. This will keep you going when you would rather give up. This will drive you when everything seems to be falling apart.

The pilgrims believed that freedom to worship as they pleased and that drove them through the harsh winter. The founding fathers of our country sought for freedom from tyranny and that drove them not to quit when everything seemed against them. Pioneers believed in their “manifest destiny,” and that drove them to cross a continent in search of a new life. Soldiers throughout history have believed in the valor of their cause and that has driven them to give their lives. In all these cases, the why drove them on when nothing else would. As a Christian, even Christ Himself was willing to endure death because of His why—me.

I stared into the mirror having a goal, but pumping myself up was not what drove me to sell more properties. Looking deep into my own eyes didn’t drive me through lean months. I have a personal goal to give away a billion dollars to churches, charities and people in need before I die. I want to leave a legacy that transcends real estate. Being able to give to those in need around me as well as around the world drives me on when there is no light at the end of the tunnel. If your why is big enough, your what will take care of itself. Focus on the goal, but more importantly, focus on why you want that goal.

Once you have established where you are and seen where you want to go. Once you have determined why you want to get there, you must establish how you will do it. Sit down and figure out how you will get from where you are to where you want to be. The addict goes through a twelve-step program, not because he values the numeral between 11 and 13, but because those 12 steps represent the plan he is taking to reach his goal.

I live just outside of Chicago. If I were to drive to the city, I would not route myself through St. Louis. Partially because, as a Cubs fan, I hate the Cardinals, but also because it would not be the most efficient way to reach Chicago. Many times in my life I have given up on a goal because I got lost on the how. I didn’t establish a plan, and no matter how good my goal was, no matter how dedicated I was at the moment, no matter how important my reason was for wanting that goal, the fact that I didn’t plan out how to reach my goal killed my momentum.

The Bible talks about “counting the cost.” Figure out what it will take to do something. This is a huge step in achieving your goals. Many times you will find that once you see something written out, it becomes a lot simpler. My math teacher used to always say “if you can draw it, you can do it.” If you can establish the steps you must take to get where you want to be, achieving your goal becomes a stroll in the park.

Finally, once you establish where you are, once you figure out what you want to achieve, once you determine why you want to get there, once you lay out how you will get there, the last step is the when. Start right away. Goals will not be achieved if you are always planning to accomplish them down the road. What can you do today to make yourself better? Don’t let a day pass when you don’t take a step towards your dreams. As Ben Franklin said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Start somewhere…today.

Reach for the stars. Then get there.

Written by: Tom Olson

Tom Olson
I am an investor working in the greater Chicagoland area. I have been in this business for over a decade, and have bought and sold over 1,000 houses. In addition to looking for deals, I offer real estate coaching for the new investor as well as a flip-management program for those looking for the profit but none of the hassle.