Defining Moments: Jumpstart 2014 With Laser-Focused Goal Setting

Vol. 3, No. 6

Melanie Bragg has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Houston’s fiercest attorneys in her representation of children, the elderly, and mentally disadvantaged people.  Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas. She also writes and produces legal education programs through Legal Insight, Inc. (founded by Bragg in 1993). Her writing credits include HIPAA for the General Practitioner as well as the upcoming book Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul to be published by the American Bar Association (ABA) flagship division. When she is not writing, Melanie devotes her time to her work as chair of the Book Publications Board of the ABA Solo, Small Firm General Practice Division and sharing ideas with fellow authors.


The month of December is a busy month for us all. Through the years I have found the time to make it a habit to really contemplate the year and make plans for the year ahead. I have incorporated annual goal-setting into my lifestyle. It is more than just New Year’s resolutions. I have those, too. Many of mine are what I call “rollovers”—the ones I make each year: lose weight, make more money, work out more.

What I am talking about are clear, ascertainable goals to accomplish and build on. Many leadership gurus speak and teach about the importance of writing down your goals. One book I highly recommend to everyone for this year is Michael Hyatt’s Platform. It is easily downloadable from Amazon. Hyatt talks about the importance of creating a platform in any business endeavor. We lawyers know that business is increasingly competitive in the current climate. Thinking in terms of your platform is a great way to start the year. Hyatt makes a good case when he says that written goals are important because they:

  1. force you to clarify what you want;
  2. motivate you to take action;
  3. provide a filter for other opportunities;
  4. help you overcome resistance; and
  5. enable you to see and celebrate progress.

To give you an example of how written goals have been powerful in my life, I will share one particular defining moment that happened in 2003. I was packing up my things to move to California. (I had such bad breathing problems I decided I had to relocate. Only later did I find out it was an undiagnosed heart problem. Once it was fixed, I could breathe again. And go back to Texas!) I ran across an old college journal, from just after I had taken a semester off and traveled in Europe. I happened to open up to a particular page and zeroed in on a passage that highlighted my desire to become an independent lawyer and work with women who had been abused. The passage ended as follows:

I think the law profession needs some compassion and more women. I think I can do it.

You can imagine my amazement when I read those words a mere 27 years later and saw that everything I had written down about what I wanted in life had come true! I have had an independent career that is very exciting and full of challenges. I have had many cases involving injured women and children, and I feel happy about the many lives I have been able to impact for the better in my years as a lawyer. I was right that the law profession did need more compassion and more women. I had the honor of becoming the first woman president of Houston Young Lawyers Association and have devoted much of my time mentoring young women in the law. My last statement was fundamental to success. I said: I think I can do it.

Believing in yourself is a key element to attaining your goals. You must feel what you want and then go for it with all of your heart. I submit that what you write down will happen. Things don’t always happen exactly like you think they will. But what I am talking about is having goals, not wishful thinking. Many people have a lot of wishbone, but they don’t have the backbone to do what it takes to get the job done. Written goals are very powerful.

Have you written down your goals for this year?
Goals give you a sense of purpose. And a sense of focus.

Already this week I have had an example of using Michael Hyatt's list above to vet opportunities that come my way. In December I did a meditation tape with my goals and affirmations for the year. I have been doing this with much success for many years. I listen to the tape in the evening, in the morning, and sometimes even in the car during the day. My subconscious gets trained in the process to act on the positive things in my tape and filter out the negative things that come up. Now that I have it on my iPhone, I can access it very easily and stay connected and anchored to my purpose and to make sure my activities are in alignment with my goals.

The reason this is so important is that there are so many distractions and great events coming at us all the time. It is hard to know what to say yes to and what opportunities and activities to decline. Last year I was able to reach a long-awaited and much desired goal of getting my first fiction novel, Crosstown Park, published. Achieving that goal brought on a slew of other goals and many new activities and skills that I need to learn, and fast. I also have a full-time law practice, Bragg Law PC, that I must nurture and pay attention to during the exciting time of the publication of my book.

In my new meditation tape, we created affirmations about staying focused and knowing exactly what my goals are for the year. As each new opportunity comes in, it will go through the filter of “Does this activity fit into my goals for this year, does it further my branding as a lawyer, or as an author, and does it move me closer to the fulfillment of my goals?” If the answer is no, then that activity is not going to happen. Last night I turned down an opportunity to work on something that would be fun that involves writing and is a good service, but it did not meet the criterion above. Because of my written goals for the year and the commitment I am giving to moving to the next level in several areas of my life in 2014, I said no.

Written goals and a clear picture of what you want helps keep you focused and gives you that sense of purpose. Saying no was empowering to me because I feel that I am gaining momentum already in the early stages of the year. This example demonstrated Number 3 of Hyatt’s list that goals provide a filter for other opportunities, and Number 5 that they enable you to see and celebrate progress. Saying no felt so good because it reminded me that I am committed to my plan.

Affirmations are just written declarations of your desires and outcomes beginning with the words “I AM.” They are also very powerful, and I recommend you use them in conjunction with your written goals.

Click here to see Michael Hyatt’s free life plan. A life plan is a more in-depth document, but it is a good thing and will help you know what to consider in forming your goals. I submit to you that your 2014 will be more productive and more enjoyable with an ascertainable roadmap than it will be if you just plug through it without purpose or direction.

And you will create memorable defining moments! I hope everyone has a great year this year, and I would love to hear your feedback about examples of your written goals and how they came true, how you handle your annual goals, and what you would like to see happen as a result of really being clear about your goals.

Until next time!


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