Set Your Course


By Ella Lawrence  |  

Chip Wilson imagines what he’ll remember two minutes before his death: He’ll see himself sitting at the head of a dinner table filled with children and grandchildren who are laughing and making jokes, probably at his expense. The founder of the yoga apparel company Lululemon Athletica finds that envisioning a happy future in which you have achieved what is important to you is key to setting and reaching your life’s goals. And it will inspire you to live a more fulfilled life along the way.

Wilson practices this kind of goal setting in his personal life, and he’s woven it into the culture of Vancouver-based Lululemon. The company’s 5,000 employees receive goal-setting training and are encouraged to regularly set goals for their life, career, and health and to share them with each other. Wilson believes goal setting makes his staff happier and more productive and that it can have a ripple effect in communities.

Four years ago, as a personal goal, Wilson decided to climb the Grouse Mountain trail, a steep hike (2,800-foot vertical rise over 2 miles) near downtown Vancouver. The challenge was not just to get to the top, but to climb it at least as many times as the number of his age each year. In 2011, at 56, he had hiked to the top 56 times by September, achieving his goal.

Goals can be large or small, playful or serious, but Wilson has discovered that the more daring the goal, the more likely it is to be effective as a catalyst to action. “Failing is an essential part of success,” he says. “To make goals effective, you have to fail at them 50 percent of the time, or they didn’t stretch you far enough.”

Personal Peak

Aim high with these practical tips from Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson and the company’s director of possibility, Susanne Conrad.

Imagine: Start by thinking of your life 10 years from now. Imagine a detailed picture of where you see yourself. What kind of home do you have? Who do you spend time with? What work do you do? How does it feel?

Break It Down: Work backward from that vision to figure out the steps you need to take to turn your vision into reality. Define 10-year, 5-year, and 1-year goals.

Set Deadlines: It’s easier to get yourself focused on a quantifiable goal with a “by-when” date. For instance, if you’re hoping to become a yoga teacher some day, turn that into “I will complete a 200-hour training by January 2014.”

Test Your Goals: Read your goals aloud to see if they feel authentic. If you feel a little tension in your belly as you read, that’s probably good. Powerful goals will excite you and drive you to action.

Recruit Support: Share your goals with friends who you know will support you. Encourage them in their goals as well. The mutual support will help you make it to your personal finish line.

Revisit and Refresh: Write your goals on a piece of paper and keep it where you will read it often. Feel free to revise them. Nothing’s set in stone except your commitment to achieve the success you are capable of.