Category Archives: Goal Attainment


No 'brick wall' can stop you when you want something bad enough.
Photo: George Hodan

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people. — Randy Pausch

I love the above quote not only because it points out that obstacles can usually be overcome if you want something badly enough, but also because within the imagery of the quote itself is the perfect analogy for something applicable to goal attainment that I like to call, applied tenacity.

I’ll explain.

Most people believe that tenacity (or grit, perseverance, willpower, or anything else you might want to call it) is a superhuman strength special people are able to summon up in order to accomplish extraordinary feats. Viewed this way, one is tempted to be exhausted before one ever attempts to accomplish anything.

But applied tenacity  is different, and analogous to building a brick wall.

You wouldn’t try to build a brick wall out of willpower alone. You wouldn’t even want to build a brick wall without a good reason. The term applied relates to putting into practice a specific approach to a concrete (pun unintended, but welcome) problem. You don’t build the brick wall because you think it might be morally or philosophically correct in the abstract. You build it for some practical reason, because you have a clear and specific reason to do so, like a desire for privacy or keeping the neighbor’s pet goat out of your flower bed.

Goals need to be nurtured using a rational thought process. We use phrases like, “building an argument” when we want to make a point, but we seldom say we’re, “building a goal” when we want to achieve something — we should.

After all, rational, deliberate thinking has to apply when a bricklayer sets out to build a brick wall, or the whole thing will be built in the wrong place and/or built badly and fall to pieces.

Similarly, goals can fall apart without careful thought. Assuming you will be inserting your particular goal into the brick wall analogy, it goes like this:

Identify the situation you wish to change, or the problem that needs solving. This identifies and assesses the current situation. You will note that there’s no room here to ask useless questions like, “Why did I have to move next door to a guy with a goat?”

Identify your desired outcome. “I need privacy” or “My flower bed needs to be protected from that voracious critter.”

Identify what materials or tools will be necessary to achieve your desired outcome. This might include time between the hours of ___ and ___ everyday until the wall is built, concrete, buckets, bricks, and so on.

Identify each new step that needs to be taken as you implement your plan. As you proceed from marking where the brick wall will be laid with flags and string and laying the first bricks, ask yourself each step of the way, “What’s my next move?” Maybe it’s to mix some more concrete, or clean your trowel. The point is to be deliberate about each step you take. Attaining a goal can never be put on autopilot.

Overestimate how long it will take to accomplish your goal. Contractors often advise adding 30% to budget estimations for any given job to account for the unexpected (ever see Love It or List It on HGTV — enough said). I say, do so with time as well, and if you come in ‘under budget’ you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Underestimate your time and you can wind up feeling frustrated and defeated.

Which brings me to my last point.

Avoid buzz kills. As you build your plans, stay focused, build forward momentum, and avoid negativity in yourself as well as in others. Concentrate on how nice it will be to be able to cut some flowers for your dinner table, instead of supplementing some guy’s goat’s diet.

So, not only are the brick walls there to keep the others out when they don’t want something bad enough, but they’re also there to inspire us to ‘construct’ our own outcomes on our own, ‘applied’ terms.

Please share your thoughts on overcoming obstacles while achieving goals in the Comments section below.

In the meantime,

Bestest to all,Cynthia Dalton signature