The Secret to Achieving Your Goals

Among the many factors that can propel us toward success in reaching our goals, one seems to increase the odds exponentially.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified
Published: January 27, 2018

John had always dreamed of going on a safari in the Serengeti. But after five years, he still has not taken the trip — likely because he made the same mistakes many of us make.

We set goals, make to-do lists and hammer out New Year’s resolutions. Yet a study conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (now known as the Association for Talent Development) reveals that merely having an idea or a goal gives you only a 10 percent chance of reaching it. That’s pretty pitiful.

How do you improve your odds?
The first thing missing is a deadline. Napoleon Hill, an author best known for his best-selling book “Think and Grow Rich," said, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Indeed, the study shows that if you set a date for goal completion, there is a 40 percent chance you will reach your goal. But 40 percent is still a pretty low success rate.

How do you improve your chances of success?
The study suggests coming up with a plan that describes how you will reach your goal — that alone gets you closer to victory. You now have a 50-50 chance of achieving your goal, but 50 percent is still not the best.

How do you improve your chances of success even more?
The critical ingredient is accountability. If you commit to someone else by sharing your goal, you have a 65 percent chance of reaching it. That’s much better, but still not good enough.

How can we get closer to 100 percent certainty?
Nothing in life is guaranteed, but the study shows that if you set up a specific accountability appointment with someone, you have a 95 percent chance of reaching your goal.

So the question becomes: Who should your accountability partner be?
There are many options here — a family member, a close friend, a colleague, a mentor, a coach or a peer. The important point is to find someone who will truly hold you accountable, gently but without room for excuses.

This same concept can be used in a clinic setting. As a practice owner or manager, you likely have quarterly or yearly goals. How do you make sure you are staying on track? Help each other remain accountable by discussing your progress during every management meeting — it shouldn’t take that long. It could include the following talking points:
  • What is the deadline for your project?
  • What have you accomplished since the previous meeting?
  • Are you on track to reach your goal by the deadline?
  • Do you need any help or resources to reach your goal?

Remember John, who spent five years dreaming about a safari in the Serengeti? Learning from his mistakes, he chose a deadline for his trip. Then he came up with a plan to prepare and save for the trip. He opened a separate checking account where a specific amount money would be deposited out of each of his paychecks, and he spent one hour every weekend organizing the trip. Then he asked his best friend Mike to keep him accountable. On the third Sunday of every month, Mike called John and asked about his progress — both financially and logistically.

And exactly two years later, John achieved his dream and finally went on an amazing safari throughout the Serengeti and Tanzania.

Kelly Serfas, a certified veterinary technician in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, contributed to this article.

Dr. Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at and

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