Photo Credit: Bill Nichols


ome years ago, Brian Tracy, one of the world’s leading experts in personal development, said, “Success is goals and all else is commentary.”

Imagine the most successful people on earth: executives, professional athletes, actors and even top officials. What do they all have in common? What’s the reason for their outstanding achievements? The answer is deceptively simple: goals. They have a burning desire to accomplish extraordinary things despite constant adversity.

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Why is goal-setting so important? We have to understand that goal-setting is the basis of all achievement and success. In fact, the very definition of success is “the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” Without a goal to work toward, we tend to go off in all directions and never accomplish anything in particular. But when we have a goal — something to work toward — we finally have a destination and a purpose.

Not long ago I was driving to Nashville, Tenn., a city I had never been to before. I started the trip in Toledo, Ohio, spent the night in Louisville, Ky., and continued the trip the next day. As I was passing by the many destinations along the way, I was struck by the fact that without the goal of arriving in Nashville in the first place, I never would have experienced the ambience and the joy of visiting those places. I could have finished the drive somewhere else, but I chose a definite goal to reach. And sure enough, I made it.

With a concrete, worthwhile goal, we find that the journey makes us happier than reaching the goal itself. Once I got to Nashville, I needed something else to look forward to. That is why having goals to work toward is important. In order to be the happiest and most alive, we need to be actively working toward something we really want to bring about in our life.

So, what is it you want?

There are several areas in which an official should set goals. The first has to do with the highest level of play you intend to officiate, a long-term goal. What level of play, if you absolutely knew you could do it, would you like to work in the future? Take a minute to think about that. Since you are reading this column, I assume that you want to advance as far as you can. So it makes sense to choose a level that would signify the pinnacle of your journey.

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If you’re a baseball umpire, it might be the majors. If you’re a basketball referee, it might be the NBA or the WNBA. Or maybe you want to work Division I college or high school varsity sports. Your highest aspiration might not be the same as someone else’s, but if you will decide on that goal and write it down on an index card to carry with you, you’ll place yourself in that rare category of people who know where they’re going.

The second area has to do with your health. Your health as an official is crucial to your longevity and success, not only where your career is concerned, but your general well-being. As a matter of fact, your health is critical for success in nearly every area of your life. So, imagine yourself in perfect health. What would you look like? How much would you weigh? What foods would you eat? What exercise programs would you engage in?

If you could be perfectly healthy in every way, what would be different about your life? Have that as your vision for the future.

The third area has to do with your end-of-season goals. Those are short-term goals. Ask yourself, “How far into the season do I want to work?” It might be a certain number of playoff games or a championship game. Maybe you want to work the finals of a particular league. Whatever it happens to be for you to have a successful season, set it as a goal and work on improving the one key skill that will help you the most.

The fourth area can be fun goals, or goals that you’d like to accomplish just because you want to. I set goals of working in different cities, states or buildings. Sometimes it might be to work a breast cancer awareness game, or work in front of a sold-out crowd. Think of all the cool little things you want to do as an official. Don’t limit yourself. Remember, goals can be fun as well.

So, now that you’re clear about what you want in those areas, how can you increase the odds of achieving your goals? Here are some suggestions:

Write down your goals.

Take a sheet of paper and write down what you’ve decided to achieve. A goal that is not in writing is only a wish. All of us should have a list of goals on us at all times. We need reminding of the things we want to be, have and do. Many people say, “I can keep my goals in my head.” Well, did you know that if you write down a goal, you increase the likelihood of achieving it by more than 10 times? According to USA Today, people who simply write down their New Year’s resolutions on a card increase their chances of following through by 1,100 percent. So, what’s keeping you from doing the same?

Make it measurable.

Many people’s goals are not clear. We often hear people say, “I want to be happy,” or, “I want to be healthy.” Those are merely wishes. A measurable goal, with a deadline, gives you the chance to track your progress and keep you motivated.

Identify the obstacles, skills and people that can help you.

Once you’ve exhausted the list, organize it by sequence and priority. Then, start with the most important task you have to do. The first 20 percent of your list will account for 80 percent of your progress in achieving the goal.

Visualize your goal as attained.

Visualization is one of the greatest abilities we have. When we envision our goal as accomplished, we actually move closer to it and bring it closer to us. Associating our wants with positive energy keeps us from losing faith and gives us incentive to continue.

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Back every goal with persistence and determination.

Say to yourself, “I will never quit.” Promise yourself that you will pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going should you initially fail to reach your goal. Remember, you will become what you think about. If you want to reach your goal, keep it in front of you.

Apply those goal-setting principles — not just in officiating, but in every area of your life. As Earl Nightingale pointed out, “You can have anything you want. You need only make up your mind.”

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Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.

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