Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Henry David Thoreau? Zig Ziglar?
Dear Quote Investigator: Many self-help and inspirational books contain this guidance:
What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
These words have been ascribed to three disparate individuals: German literary titan Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, famed transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, and popular motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. What do you think?
Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Goethe or Thoreau employed this expression.
The earliest match located by QI appeared in the curiously titled 1974 book “Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles” by Zig Ziglar. One section of the work discussed the necessity of formulating and striving for goals. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
I want to emphasize that what you get by reaching your goals is not nearly so important as what you become by reaching them. What about you? Are you sold on the necessity of having goals?
The phrasing above differed from the common modern instance, e.g., the word “reaching” appeared instead of “achieving”. Nevertheless, the statement provided a strong semantic match.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading
- 1974, Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles by Zig Ziglar, Segment 4: Goals, Chapter 4: Reaching Your Goals, Quote Page 171, Published by Update Division of Crescendo Publications, Dallas, Texas. (Verified with scans) ↩