Monday, January 28, 2008

Marilyn Puett: Broadway and Disney - The Secret to Achieving Your Goals

When I read this article, I loved it and shared it with my critique group. I also asked Marilyn Puett if I could post it here to share with even more of you, because it's inspirational, and we can all use inspiration. My critique group is big on motivational quotes, in fact we all made gifts for each other at Christmas, using each other's favorite quotes. Enjoy!

You got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true? ~ Bloody Mary in South Pacific (1)

When you wish upon a star your dreams come true. ~ Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio (2)

January is the month when everyone begins to utter the question, “What are your goals for the new year?” Last January you may have said, “This is the year I’m going to [insert favorite goal.]” Yet here it is a year later and you didn’t do it. Why not?
It’s something you’ve dreamed about for ages.
Broadway musicals and Disney movies are full of lyrics expounding on the power of dreams. Dreams are the passions that guide us through life. They are what get us out of bed in the morning and make us put one foot in front of the other, or in the case of a writer, put the butt in the chair and the hands on the keyboard.

How many of you have had dreams so lofty you’ve been shot down for them? Who has had a relative or friend tell you to get your head out of the clouds and come back to earth? History is filled with stories of dreamers who gave up too soon. Heed the cautionary tale of an only child of a man who was an auto mechanic and car salesman and a woman who was domineering and narcissistic. He was raised in New Orleans and after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees, his teaching career and doctoral studies were interrupted by the draft and a two-year stint in the Army.

After his discharge he returned to New Orleans, lived with his parents and taught college. He also wrote a novel, drawing on some of his life experiences. Simon and Schuster expressed initial excitement in the book, but eventually rejected it, saying the book “isn’t really about anything.” Hello? Seinfeld.

But this was a different century, a different time. The author began drinking heavily and believed the book would never see publication. He also quit teaching, dropped out of his doctoral studies and sank into a deep depression. In 1969 at age 32 he hooked a garden hose to his car’s exhaust pipe and ended his life. Seven years later his mother insisted a Loyola professor read the manuscript. The professor hesitated, but relented and fell in love with the book. In 1980 A Confederacy of Dunces was published, and a year later John Kennedy Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

History is also filled with stories of those who didn’t listen to the naysayers. Walt Disney refused to listen to the people who told him to get a “real” job. Without his dreams we’d be living in a world without Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.

And without the determination of Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, the Barbie doll would never have come into being.

But having a dream alone isn’t enough. You must take that passion and channel it effectively to make it become a reality. That is where goals come in. Motivational speakers Zig Ziglar and Anthony Robbins tell about a study of the 1953 graduating class of Yale University. Researchers asked the seniors if they had specific written goals for their lives. Only 3% of them did. Twenty years later they were studied again and that 3% of the graduating class had accumulated more personal wealth than the other 97% of the class of 1953 combined. That’s a tremendous vote of confidence for the importance of writing down your goals. Or it would be if it was true. Fastcompany. com as well as the secretary of the Yale class of 1953 debunked this story that has been told from stages around the world.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t write down your goals. Putting them on paper keeps them in front of you and gives you an easier way to visualize them. It also creates a level of commitment on your part to meet the goals, especially if you’ve shared them with an accountability partner.

Another story often told from stage by motivational speakers is the true story of Napoleon Hill. He was an American author and one of the pioneers of the genre of personal success literature. Hill was a newspaper reporter who was assigned to interview steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was so impressed with Hill that he commissioned him, without pay, to interview 500 successful men and women including Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller and Theodore Roosevelt.

Hill was already a believer in success principles and was more than willing to work without pay in order to have access to these great people. His job was to discover and publish their stories of success, which Carnegie believed could be distilled to a simple formula that could be duplicated by the average person. That distillation was eventually published as the book Think and Grow Rich, which has sold more than thirty million copies worldwide.

What Hill discovered was that these successful people all had a “Definite Major Purpose.” In simple terms: They had dreams, goals and a plan to achieve them.

A plan of action
What’s the plan for turning a dream into a goal?

1. You must want your goal badly. You must be willing to sacrifice to achieve it. Olympic athletes devote years of their lives to train for one moment of performance, which--if perfect or near perfect--will win them a gold medal. Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen was favored to win medals in the 1988 Olympics. He competed only hours after his sister’s death from leukemia and fell. Despite dominating the sport for a decade, he went home with no medals. Yet he continued to train and returned to the Olympic arena in 1994 for another try. After a fall in his specialty event, he had one more chance for the elusive gold. He not only won that medal, but set a new personal and world record.

How badly do you want to write that novel?
2. You must visualize achieving your goal. The human brain can’t tell the difference between something imagined and the real thing provided you are able to visualize your goal with clarity. A study at Manchester University showed athletes were able to achieve muscle growth purely by visualizing larger muscles during hypnosis sessions.

Picture writing the last scene of your novel and typing “The End.”

3. Plan the path to your goal. Every athlete has a training schedule. Every teacher has a lesson plan. Every project has a schedule and budget.

How many pages will you write each day to finish your book?

4. Put a date on your goal. Napoleon Hill wrote: “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Many have dreamed for years, yet never achieved the dream. Olympic athletes know that every four years the world’s best will gather to compete. A student knows when his term paper is due. An author under contract has a deadline date.

When do you want to finish your book?
5. Mark your calendar at set intervals and chart your progress. Runners time trials at intervals to clock their improvement. Manufacturing companies develop schedules for each phase of production to help them stay on task. Get yourself an accountability partner and check in with each other on a regular basis to report your progress.

Put a calendar on your desk and use it for more than a paperweight.

6. Evaluate regularly. If you aren’t making progress, perhaps you need to make changes. The goal will stay the same, but perhaps you need to change the date or the path you’re using to get there. Characters go off on tangents; life sideswipes you and lands you in bed with the flu; hard drives crash. But your story stays the same.

Most success coaches also emphasize the importance of daily affirmations. Jack Canfield, co-creator of the billion dollar Chicken Soup for the Soul series, teaches that you can increase your results by taking your goals and turning them into affirmations, and he's created a formula for doing so. Take the goal and turn it into an affirmation by beginning with “I am” and adding an emotion adverb. State it in the present tense and say it aloud at least twice every day.

For example your goal of writing five pages a day becomes: “I am cheerfully and effortlessly writing five pages or more every day.”

“I am” goes back to that deal about the brain not knowing the difference between the truth and a lie. The adverbs tell your subconscious that the goal won’t be difficult to achieve. Stating the goal in the present tense creates conflict between what you are saying and what is true. Your subconscious then acts to eliminate the conflict. Adding the words “or more” to the statement nudges your subconscious into realizing that it’s possible to do more than just the five pages. By saying the affirmation first thing in the morning, you start your day on a positive note. By repeating it right before bedtime, you command your brain to work on it while you sleep.

Write down your affirmations, not only as a writer but as a spouse, parent, employee or any other roles you have and tape them around your house. It takes twenty-one days to make a new habit. Repeating affirmations is a habit worth developing.

Quotes from successful people can serve to motivate and inspire. Like affirmations, they help choke out the negative thoughts that frequently invade our minds. Here are some of my favorites. Feel free to paste them around your writing area.

Plan your work for today and every day, and then work your plan. ~ Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. ~ Henry Ford

There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going. ~ Beverly Sills, American opera singer and chairman of the Metropolitan Opera

What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail? ~Dr. Robert Schuller, minister and author of Move Ahead with Possibility Thinking

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. ~ author unknown

If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else. ~ Yogi Berra, New York Yankees player and manager also famous for his “Yogi-isms”

One last and very important element in this equation is belief. W. Clement Stone, whose life reads like a Horatio Alger story, said: “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

There’s a story about a young girl whose father died and left her in the care of his second wife. The wife wasn’t thrilled at being responsible for this child and relegated her to a life of misery. Yet despite her abysmal lot in life, the girl kept a positive attitude and believed that one day she’d find a way out. Then an opportunity presented itself. She had held fast to her dream and now had a deadline to aim for. With a little help from her friends, she acquired the tools to achieve her goal and despite a lost glass slipper, a coach that turned back into a pumpkin, a nasty stepmother and two ugly stepsisters, Cinderella found her Prince Charming and lived happily ever after.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbows will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing the dream that you wish will come true.
~ Cinderella in Cinderella (3)

I will be drawing a name from your comments on this blog, and Marilyn will send a journal and a Writing Playground pen for writing down and tracking goals to some lucky person!
Thanks, Marilyn!

1 Music and lyrics by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II
2 Music and lyrics by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline
3 Music and lyrics by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston

Marilyn Puett is an Alabama wife, mother, grandmother and writer. She has sold a dozen and a half stories to confessions and romance magazines and is the featured author for week one of the 2008 Bylines Writer’s Desk Calendar. She is a member of RWA and serves as secretary of her home chapter, Heart of Dixie RWA ( Two years ago she was invited by four friends and chapter-mates to join in the formation of a group website. The result was The Writing Playground ( It features monthly interviews of authors and other industry professionals, articles, book recommendations, and photos of hunky men among other things. Their blog ( is a assortment of posts about writing, family, life and hunky men, with guest bloggers sprinkled in for good measure. Her goal for 2008 is to dust off that old manuscript that’s been under the bed too long and finish it.


  1. Oh, Marilyn and Cheryl!!! That made my day!!! I needed to hear some positive, uplifting, and encouraging words after having a bug and having to go back to work tomorrow. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!!! God bless you both!!!!!!!!

  2. Thank you for the wonderful words of wisdom!

    I'm looking at my calendar right now and evaluating my goals...

  3. Wow--great inspirational things. I actually don't use January to set goals, I use the school year as my guide. January is 'checking in time' to make sure I'm progressing.

    Of course, since I'm a HUGE Disney fan, the references made everything a little more clear for me.

  4. Hope you're all better now, Sue! {{{HUGS}}} on feeling punky.

  5. My goodness, Marilyn. Aren't you brilliant? Oh, wait, I kind of knew that already :-) Good to see you're inspiring others.

    My quote that ties in nicely with Marilyn's theme: "The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want"--Ben Stein

    Decide on your dream and name it. That makes it much more concrete.

  6. Hi Marilyn - popping in from the LHBB *grin*

    Great article - particulary enjoyed the Disney references.

    Willa pea!

  7. Well said, Marilyn! I'm a huge believer in the power of setting goals, most especially in writing them down and tracking progress. I like my goals to have a theme for the year.

    But you are so right: there is a difference between goals and dreams - there is a difference between *work* and fantasizing about success.

    Recently, a very dear friend sent me this quote, attributing it to the character of Miss Tick in Terry Pratchet's book THE WEE FREE MEN. I loved it:

    "If you trust in yourself...and believe in your dreams...and follow your'll still get beaten by people who spent *their* time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy."

    LOL - not that dreaming and following and visualizing is lazy, but that you gotta back it up with action.

    Beautiful blog post - thanks for inviting Marilyn, Cheryl!


  8. No wonder I love disney and musicals so much. LOL And it is amazing when a concept that you may be fighting for whatever reason is explained in a manner that makes it so simple, you wonder why you never thought of it that way before!
    Thanks to Marilyn and Cheryl for sharing so much.

  9. What a wonderful and inspirational post! Thanks so much for sharing such wisdom with us.

    I need to work on setting my specific goals for the year, and my dreams too.

    I was watching Strictly Ballroom recently, and was struck by the message 'A life lived in fear is a life half lived'... so I think one of my goals for 08 is to be less afraid and to strike out boldly for what I want! :)

  10. Good morning folks! And thank you Cheryl for asking to post my article. I'll share a little secret -- I didn't learn all that stuff while being a writer; I learned it all at Amway rallies. That's a long-gone part of my life now, but these concepts stayed with me.

    I'll tell you another secret too. It's much easier to talk the talk, than to walk the walk, and I struggle every day with it. I have lists and a desk calendar and belong to a goals group email loop, and I still only meet part of the goals I set. I tell myself that a part is better than none, but I believe we're all much harder on ourselves than anyone else is.

    I love that quote that Rocki posted. It makes a lot of sense. Note to self: less words, more action.

    And Portia -- I've only seen Strictly Ballroom once but I loved it. Another note to self: Be fearless!

    Today's goal: get through the day with a sick hubby at home. *g*

  11. One of the things I love about writers groups is the diversity of experience and backgrounds that individuals are able to bring. We come from all walks of life and have learned things of value we can share with each other--not to mention warning of the mistakes we've already made.

    I've done a motivational talk or two myself, so what you're sharing is right up my street!

    Many thanks!

  12. I oh so needed this today. Terrific, Marilyn!!!!

  13. Hi Marilyn! (Giving you a friendly wave.) I really enjoyed your post and am planning on using this quotes for future motivation. :-)

  14. Oh goodness, I meant 'these quotes'. Argh! Pardon the typo.

  15. Marilyn, thanks for the major dose of inspiration. I'm visualizing, I'm visualizing!

  16. Determination - thank goodness some people have not given up and kept on being determined and thus, their goal was met.
    I can learn from this!!!
    Thanks for a great post and great quotes.

  17. What wonderful inspiration for a Monday! Once again, I feel like I'm losing track of my goals already even though it's only the end of January! LOL This is an annual problem of mine, so this wonderful article was just what I needed.

    I loved Portia's quote from Strictly Ballroom as well! Very inspiring!

  18. Remember that part about not changing your goal, but just changing the date? My plans to write today have fallen by the wayside. A sick husband isn't conducive to writing so instead I've spent the day getting him juice and getting him medicine and finally giving him a dose of Wild Turkey with honey and lemon in hopes it would calm his cough. Seems to have worked. I think I'll give him another dose at bedtime. *g*

    So instead I've read today, which is always good for refilling the creative well.


  19. Great post - I loved it! I'm going to print it out.

  20. Hey, Marilyn and Cheryl! I've read this before, but really need the reminder. I enjoy putting together the plan, its the work when life gets in the way that I have a problem with. :)


  21. Thank you. I love reading inspirational stories about setting and reaching goals. It's a confirmation that I'm not alone - that if I stumble along the way, it's okay because others have as well. The important thing is to get back on track and keep going, whether it's in my writing or christian life.