Successful people and teams create a vision of the future they want; they don’t wait to receive one.

By Doug Davin and Diana Morris

Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”
—James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

Around 1730, while in his late 20s, Benjamin Franklin made a list of 13 virtues. As a set of signposts or guidelines for his life, Franklin listed—with the intention of “living into”—the virtues of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. He recorded each in a small book that went with him everywhere. In it, he’d evaluate his performance on these virtues every day.

But it was the idea of listing and then “living into” the virtues that gave Franklin’s approach real power. Without knowing it, he was priming his brain to be on the lookout for events and circumstances that would enable him to achieve his goals.

Fast forward 170 years. In 1902, an English writer named James Allen published a small book called As a Man Thinketh. Allen’s book would be translated into scores of languages, with new printings and commentaries showing up to this day in bookstores and libraries all over the world. What gives this small book such staying power? The promise of ultimate freedom: the ability to create our lives by virtue of how we think, what we focus on, and what we believe is possible.

More than 100 years after Allen and close to 300 after Franklin, there is science to support the idea that we do in fact “live into” what we focus on and believe. Located in the upper brain stem and continuing to the lower part of the cerebral cortex, the human brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) serves as a gatekeeper for information. It seems to function by sending urgent messages to the active part of the brain and non-urgent messages to the subconscious. We program the RAS with our thoughts about what’s urgent, essential, and what we believe is possible. So we see silver Saabs everywhere on the road the day we bring ours home from the dealership. We notice the word “assiduous” three times in one day because we looked it up that morning. And everyone in every store or restaurant seems to be pregnant when we are.

In a restaurant in New York City hangs a letter dated January 1970 and stamped SECRET. Inside, the letter states, “By 1980, I will be the best known Oriental movie star in the United States and will have secured $10 million.” It is signed Bruce Lee.

In 1977, after filming Pumping Iron, Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked in an interview what he planned to do with his life after retiring from bodybuilding. He replied, “I’m going to be the number one box office star in Hollywood.”

So maybe they sounded a little loopy. Honestly, Schwarzenegger—with that accent? Bruce Lee—a Chinese martial arts expert—a movie star known the world over?

Loopy or not, their goals, stated as positive affirmations, set something in motion for their lives. “Desire,” wrote Descartes, “awakens only to things that are thought possible.” Through the brain’s built-in wiring, the RAS sharpened their vision, attuned their hearing, and moved their feet in the direction of what they desired and believed they could achieve.

What we believe is what we see because it’s what we’re looking for.

With this as a backdrop, we begin the final section of THINK!, our goal-setting brainstorm. This is where we want you to leverage every step we’ve taken together in this workbook. Considering your signature strengths from Part 1, the support you can count on from the Trusted Colleagues, Mentors, and Key Influencers you named in Part 2, your values, preferences, and non-negotiables from Part 3, and from Part 4, the Breakthrough Skills you need to strengthen…what’s next for you? What specific achievements will enable you to finish the next 12 to 24 months feeling positive and fulfilled? What about longer term?

We want you to answer using affirmations, positive statements about the future as if it’s already here, for example,
• “I have been promoted to Marketing Director, with a 10 percent raise and a larger bonus.”
• “I am the top salesperson in my office/region/company.”
• “My annual income has become my monthly income.”
• “I’ve moved my family to a more rural area.”
• “I asked for a 10 percent raise, and got it.”
• “I have signed on the most coveted account for my company.”
• “I’ve gotten my most important papers organized and conquered my time management issues.”
• “I am having coffee with the CEO.”
• “I am walking off the podium at an industry meeting listening to the thundering applause of my colleagues.”

Some suggestions:

• Set goals when you feel balanced and calm, not at a high or low point. Both cloud your judgment and perspective.
• Work alone, at a time when you know you will not be interrupted.
• Work in a place that makes you feel good, hopeful, and positive: the park or a favorite coffee shop rather than your car or cluttered office.

Affirmations must be stated in the positive. Yes: “For the first time, I’m taking my family on vacation and paying cash for everything.” No: “I’m not using my credit cards on vacation.”
Affirmations must be about you, not others. Yes: “I received the Chairman’s Trophy—my company’s top honor—for my work on the ABC initiative.” No: “I’ve stopped giving all the credit for my accomplishments away to other people.”
• Add as much detail as possible. Include specifics about when and where and how you achieved your goal: “After studying competitors’ websites, I added five new features to my company’s site that increased visitor traffic 10 percent in the first three months alone,” or “It is the end of June. I have spoken up at every weekly staff meeting since January and volunteered to present mid-year results at the July meeting.”

• Write your affirmations from your gut, not from business books or based on competition with others or any other outside influence. For each one, ask yourself is this what I truly want to achieve?
• By all means, reach for the stars, but consider practical issues too. For instance, this may not be the right year to uproot your family. You may need to change jobs if you want a 20 percent raise. The chances that you’ll play center field for the Yankees are slim if you’re 37 with no baseball training.

The table below includes many categories to spark your thinking. Select the categories that make the most sense for you. Use the table to brainstorm a long list. Then, sharpen it down to your Top 10 most meaningful goals and list those in the space below the table.

My Professional Goals

Title/position I will achieve…
1. ______________________________________________
2. ______________________________________________
Company or business I will work for…
3. ______________________________________________
4. ______________________________________________
Promotion I will receive…
5. ______________________________________________
6. ______________________________________________
Location where I will work…
7. ______________________________________________
8. ______________________________________________
Clients or customers I will attract…
9. ______________________________________________
Skills I will strengthen…
People I will develop...
Income I will earn…
Work/life balance I will achieve…
Business relationships I will foster or strengthen…
Visibility and networking I will take advantage of…
Awards/recognition I will receive…
Other areas in which I will achieve…

Author's Bio: 

Doug Davin and Diana Morris are authors and coaches at, a professional self-improvement community and webstore. Their original resources—Rapid-Read™ Handbooks and Workbooks, free BTS QuickTools™, Breakthrough Coaching, Workshops, and Telesession calls—zero-in on seven Breakthrough Skills you need to reach the highest levels of success and enjoy your work—every day.

“You know you’ve got a great future ahead of you. We know it too, and we’re serious about helping you. Contact us at or call toll-free: 1-877-512-3400.” Also visit their site at

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