What Dr. Lou taught me about setting goals

Lou Holtz Notre Dame

I’m a huge college football fan. I’m also a goal-setter, Type-A, and an entrepreneur, which makes all three of those a master’s class in redundancy. The other day I read a story about Dr. Lou Holtz that taught me a valuable lesson about setting goals.

Lou Holtz was the coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team from 1986-1996. I grew up watching Dr. Lou win big games with the Golden Domers. I admire Lou Holtz, even though I’m not a Notre Dame fan. The thing I respect about him the most I didn’t even know until earlier this month.

The year was 1967 and Holtz had just lost his job as an assistant coach at South Carolina. He was broke, jobless, and his wife just had their third child. He started to dream and write everything down on paper. He wrote down 107 personal and professional goals. Some of them were more realistic than others, and some were pretty extreme, like the following…

  • Run with the bulls in Spain
  • Meet the pope
  • Win a national championship
  • Coach football at Notre Dame
  • Land on an aircraft carrier
  • Go skydiving
  • Be on “The Tonight Show”

107 goals and forty-five years later, Dr. Lou has accomplished… 102 of them. What Dr. Lou taught me is putting dreams into quantifiable goals shows a life with a dynamic future.

I’ve heard people say setting goals is a lost cause, claiming it’s essentially an evergreen version of New Year’s Resolutions. “Set and forget” is the phrase I heard the other day.

In reality though, the most vocal people I’ve heard against setting goals are also people who have accomplished next to nothing in their lifetimes. If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every single time.

At the end of every month, I set new goals for the next month. Six categories, two to five goals per category, all measurable in some way, and tracked through Evernote. Very few people know what my goals are each month. Someday, sixty years from now, I’ll publish (most of) them in a memoir, but not now.

I want my life to matter, but to do that I need to use my God-given wisdom and insight to make the best plans I humanly can. Setting goals is putting an expiration date on your dreams. I believe God gives us ambition and opportunity to make much of the life He’s given to us. Thanks to Dr. Lou, I have my latest inspiration.

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