Setting Goals for Success at Ranger School, Sapper Leader Course, and Life

Setting Goals for Success at Ranger School, Sapper Leader Course, and Life

“If you're bored with life - you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things - you don't have enough goals.” (Lou Holtz)

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who had just completed the Special Forces Qualification Course. The Special Forces Qualification Course is a beast of a course broken into five phases. Each harder than the next until you reach the culminating exercise “Robin Sage”. My friend had set a goal to be a Special Forces Soldier years ago. Now he was kind of lost and unsure where to put his energy. He confided in me that this kind of situation was uncomfortable and he didn’t know what to do. Many Soldiers find themselves in similar situations after they complete a difficult course like Ranger School or Sapper Leader Course. 

I told him he needed to sit down and find out what his next goal would be. Having clearly defined goals at all times is something you absolutely must have to fulfill your potential as a human being. Goals enable you to do the work you want to do, to live where you want to live, to be with the people you enjoy, and to become the kind of person you want to become. 

Setting goals for each facet of your life is a key part of living a fulfilled life. Whether your goals are to pass Ranger School or Sapper Leader Course, spend more time with your family, or start your own business, the only way to get there is by setting actionable goals you can work on every day. In this article we will explore what goals are, why they are important, and steps you can take to set them. 

So what are goals? Though it sounds simple, the question, “what are goals?”, is a very important question to answer if you want to achieve your definition of success. The definition of goal is the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result. While most will assume they already know what goals are, it might surprise you to learn that less than 3 percent of Americans have written goals, and less than 1 percent review and rewrite their goals on a daily basis. Each day you wake up not having goals, you are like a pilot who takes off with no clear destination, so take time to create them, write them down, and review them each day.

“The game has its ups and downs, but you can never lose focus of your individual goals and you can't let yourself be beat because of lack of effort.” (Michael Jordan)

Setting goals is important for several reasons, including that they:

  • Give you an idea of your vision for your future: Many people know what they want to do in the next year (pass Ranger School or Sapper Leader Course), but do you know what your long-term career goals are? Where do you want to be in 5 or even 10 years? Establishing goals allows you to identify your long-term aspirations and begin to take action in reaching those aspirations to build yourself a better life. Don’t forget the old adage, “no one will look out for you like you.” 
  • Help you hone existing skills: Even if you’re great at what you do, there is always room for improvement or advancement. The greatest athletes don’t simply rest on their laurels and use their current level of fitness to ride out their success. Rather, they regularly practice to get stronger and faster. Don’t forget that after you pass Ranger School or Sapper Leader Course you need to earn your tab everyday.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” (Zig Ziglar)

  • Encourage you to become better: High performing people who aspire to attend courses like Ranger School, Sapper Leader Course, and Special Forces Assessment & Selection are dedicated to their success and the advancement of their abilities. Rather than simply showing up and completing the bare minimum for the day, they take time to get better at what they do to make a positive impression on themselves and the people around them, which eventually opens new doors to advancement in their career and life.
  • Improve productivity: Having a goal to work towards can provide a steady stream of motivation and boost your productivity which is essential as you prepare for Ranger School and Sapper Leader Course. This is especially true when you separate your goals into individual tasks and work to complete a task or two each day or week. Making progress, even when it’s small, can keep you motivated to push through and get the job done.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” - Tony Robbins 

The following are steps you can take when setting goals:

1. Accept responsibility for your life. In every study of successful people, the acceptance of personal responsibility seems to be the starting point. Before that, nothing happens. After you accept complete responsibility, your whole life begins to change. Knowing that you are in control of your life will  also give you a sense of power.
2. Decide what your end goal is. A good way to set goals is to start with the end goal in mind. When doing this, imagine that there are no limitations on what you can have or do. Imagine that you have all the time and money, all the friends and contacts, all the education and experience that you need to accomplish any goal you can set for yourself. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years? What job do you want to have? What unit do you want to be in? What accomplishments do you want to achieve? Knowing your end goal will allow you to work backward to create smaller goals that allow you to ultimately reach your larger professional goals.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” (Pablo Picasso)

3. Write it down. Your goals must be in writing. They must be clear, specific, detailed and measurable. You must write out your goals as if you were placing an order for your goal to be manufactured in a factory at a great distance. Make your description clear and detailed in every sense. When your goals are written down you are unconsciously signing a contract with yourself and the universe. If you’re struggling, use the SMART goal method. The SMART goal method, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, is a great tool to use when establishing goals. This method ensures your goals are both actionable, realistic, and able to be measured, all of which will keep you on track and motivated to reach your goal. Place this paper or document somewhere you can see it everyday. Remember, only 3% of people have written goals, and everyone else works for them.

4. Set a deadline. If you used the SMART goal method you already completed this step. If not, ensure your goals have deadlines. Your subconscious mind uses deadlines as “forcing systems” to drive you, consciously and unconsciously toward achieving your goal on schedule. If your goal is big enough, set sub-deadlines. If you want to achieve financial independence, you may set a 10 or 20-year goal, and then break it down, year by year, so that you know how much you have to save and invest each year. If you want to pass Ranger School or Sapper Leader Course, you shouldn’t set your deadline more than a year or two from today. Ensure that you can meet the standards published by the respective courses, but it is better to go those courses earlier in your career. If for some reason you don’t achieve your goal by the deadline, simply set a new deadline. There are no unreasonable goals, only unreasonable deadlines.

5. Break your larger goals into smaller tasks. The more you can break your goals up into bite-sized tasks, the more likely you are to continue pursuing that goal. Take each larger goal you set and break it down into tasks you can complete each day or week to work towards that goal. For example, if your goal is to pass Ranger School you need to get a slot, put together the Ranger School Packing List, be physically and mentally ready, know the Ranger 20 boards, read the Ranger Handbook, and complete pre-Ranger, before you even get to Camp Darby. Check off each task as you complete it to show you the progress you’re making.

“People with goals succeed because they know where they're going.” (Earl Nightingale)

6. Identify the obstacles that you will have to overcome. What is holding you back? What is an obstacle that you’ve seen other people struggle with who have done what you’re trying to achieve? Two ideas to keep in mind here are the Theory of Constraints and the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. The Theory of Constraints is a methodology for identifying the most important limiting factor (i.e., constraint) that stands in the way of achieving a goal and then systematically improving that constraint until it is no longer the limiting factor. This constraint is often referred to as a bottleneck. The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. In other words, a small percentage of causes have an outsized effect. This concept is important to understand because it can help you identify which initiatives to prioritize so you can make the most impact. When setting goals, 80% of what’s holding you back is inside you (fears, self doubt, lack of a certain skill or quality) and only 20% is outside you (external factors and forces outside your control). Always start with yourself

7. Identify the knowledge, information, and skills you will need to achieve your goal. Do you want to pass Ranger School? You better know how to set up an ambush and react to contact. Do you want to pass the Sapper Leader Course? You better know demo calculations and how to tie a bowline.

8. Identify the people whose help and cooperation you will require to achieve your goal. Make a list of every person in your life that you will have to work with or work around to achieve your goal. No one has ever achieved anything great by themselves. Also, no one has ever passed Ranger School and Sapper Leader Course by themselves. Start with people you know who have completed Ranger School or Sapper Leader Course, your family members, and friends. List your boss, coworkers and subordinates. Once you have identified the key people whose help you will require, ask yourself this question, “What’s in it for them?” To achieve big goals you will have to have the help and support of lots of people. One key person at a certain time and place in your life will make all the difference. The most successful people are those who build and maintain the largest networks of other people whom they can help and who can help them in return. 

“Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.” (LL Cool J)

9. Make a list of everything you will have to do. Combine the obstacles that you will have to overcome, the knowledge and skills you will have to develop, and the people whose cooperation you will require. List every single step that you can think of that you will have to follow to ultimately achieve your goal. If you think of new items add them to your list until it is complete.

10. Organize your list into a plan. Remember, no plan survives first contact so be prepared to adjust when your initial plan doesn’t work. You only fail if you stop trying. Organize this list by arranging the steps that you have identified by sequence and priority. Planning is very important. Time spent putting together a plan to achieve your goal will save you loads of time and effort to achieve your goal.

11. Make a plan. Organize your list into a series of steps from the beginning all the way through to the completion of your goal. When you have a goal with a plan, you increase the likelihood of achieving your goals immensely. Plan each day, week and month in advance. Plan each month at the beginning of the month. Plan each week the weekend before. Plan each day the evening before. The reason you do this is to stay on track and organized. If you’re not organized you’ll get distracted and lose sight of the goal. If you’re struggling with this just ask yourself, “If I could only do one thing on this list, which one activity is most important?” You should always be thinking multiple steps ahead. 

“The primary reason for failure is that people do not develop new plans to replace those plans that didn’t work.” (Napoleon Hill)

12. Further develop the habit of self-discipline. Following your plan will take discipline, but it's something that everyone who has ever attended Ranger School and Sapper Leader Course has had to do. Once you have decided on your most important next task, resolve to concentrate single-mindedly on that one task until it is 100% complete. Your ability to select your most important task and then to work on it single-mindedly, without diversion or distraction, will double and triple the quality and quantity of your output and your productivity. Multi-tasking is a myth. It just means you do two things poorly instead of one well. Focusing on one task is one of the most powerful of all time management techniques. This means that when you start with the task, you avoid all distractions and stay with that task until it is done. 

13. Practice visualization of your goals. Take time each day to see your goal as though it were already achieved. Imagine yourself enjoying the accomplishment of this goal. Visualize that Ranger Tab or Sapper Tab on your shoulder, see yourself with that Green Beret on, feel that sense of accomplishment. This image should be vivid and powerful. In visualizing, take a few moments to create the emotions that would accompany the successful achievement of your goal. A mental picture combined with an emotion has  an enormous impact on your subconscious mind.

14. Regularly review your progress. It’s easy to lose sight of goals, especially if a goal you’re working on is more long-term. That’s why it’s important to regularly check in with yourself and review your progress. Realizing that you are making progress towards each goal will keep you motivated and also ensure you’re still on the right path to achieving each aspiration.

So there you have it. A complete list of why and how you should set your goals. I truly hope you take time to actually implement this material and see success in your life. With that I’d like to leave you with a quote from the entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn. 

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” (Jim Rohn)

Get after it.

Ranger School Packing List

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Special Forces Assessment & Selection Packing List

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