A Definite Chief Aim: Lesson 1 of The Law of Success in 16 Lessons by Napoleon Hill

A Definite Chief Aim – Articulate Your Most Important Goal

The whole concept of success depends on there being something to succeed at. This lesson goes over what a Definite Chief Aim is and the reasons why having a Definite Chief Aim matters. The term “goal” gets thrown around a lot. I prefer the phrase “Definite Chief Aim” because it’s more evocative than a goal. This thing is definite and is chief or most important. When my mother-in-law first met me (way back when I was just starting to date my now-wife) she told my wife she liked me because “I had goals”. But back then, my goals were vague, grandiose and in no way indicative of the path I was actually on. There was nothing definite or chief about them! I wasn’t succeeding a anything at the time we met, and I didn’t really achieve anything worthwhile until I set myself a Definite Chief Aim.

Breaking down the Definite Chief Aim


It is not enough to have a vague idea of what you might like to do some day. You need to clearly define what you want to achieve by when and then articulate it. Be as specific as possible, then write it down, then tell it to someone else. Until your Definite Chief Aim is written down and spoken out loud to another person it does not exist. You literally speak it into existence.


Chief Prioritize and Focus on it. What is the one thing you want to achieve? It’s easy to come up with goals for the various facet of your life. Indeed, you should know what goals you have for all aspects of your life. But to succeed, you need to prioritize your time and effort on the most important one, and make sure whenever there’s a conflict between goals, you prioritize your time on your Definite Chief Aim.


Your Aim needs to deeply matter to you. This means you need to understand yourself. It sounds simple and easy, but truly understanding yourself is hard. What do you really want? Why do you want it? 

Finding your Definite Chief Aim

Your Definite Chief Aim should be an expression of who you are or who you want to be.  One of the things I loved about being an actuary is that, at the beginning of the career there is a Definite Chief Aim built directly into the career path: obtaining membership in one of credentialing societies. But Fellowship (or whatever level of credential you’re going to stop at) itself is a means to an end, not an end of itself. 

You Gotta Want it

Way back in 2003, I set myself the Definite Chief Aim of becoming an actuary because I thought becoming an actuary would create a lot of job opportunities. I figured out what it takes to be an actuary, and I started studying for the first exam. For me it started with having a vision of what I was lacking my life that I needed to develop: job opportunities. In 2002, I graduated college with no opportunities, and after much reflection, I developed a very strong desire to never be limited by opportunities again. That desire is what drove me to accomplish my Definite Chief Aim. 

What’s driving you? Who do you want to be? These are the kinds of question you need to ask yourself to figure out your Definite Chief Aim.  You need to develop and cultivate a burning desire to achieve your Definite Chief Aim, so it must be something you care deeply about.

Well, not always…

It’s not always going to be the case that you’ll have a grand vision for who you want to be and what you want to achieve.  This is particularly true just after you’ve achieved a big goal. But sometimes you simply don’t have a vision on which to base a Definite Chief Aim. When that happens, look at what you’re doing now, and focus on the next logical thing.  One of the best pieces of advice I got from a Chief Actuary was that you should always be developing your skills and honing your profession. If you know that job you want, then you should tailor your development towards that. If you don’t know what job you want next, focus your development efforts on your boss’s job. Eventually you will either get good enough to replace your boss when they move on, or you will stumble on something more meaningful.

Two Keys to Obtaining a Definite Chief Aim

Two key concepts from the text that will help you keep your Definite Chief Aim front and center in your life are Auto Suggestion and Organized Coordinated Effort.

Auto Suggestion is the idea that you can cultivate and develop your burning desire to achieve your Definite Chief Aim through the way you talk to yourself. One of the reasons why you should write your goal down is so that you can read it every day, preferably multiple times a day. Read it when you wake up. Read it when you go to bed. The more you read and re-read your Definite Chief Aim, the more you will believe you can achieve it. This will give you strength to press on towards your goal on good days and bad. But that’s not to say that saying the thing out loud will make it happen. You have to figure out what to do in order to achieve your Definite Chief Aim, then do it through organized coordinated effort.

Organized Coordinated Effort is the second key concept in this chapter. Deciding on a Definite Chief Aim then believing you can achieve it are essential but not sufficient. You have to organize all the forces available to you and coordinate them towards your Definite Chief Aim. Be deliberate about how you spend your time and where you focus your effort. Doing this day in day out will lead to success. Stating this another way, you need to create a system that will ensure achievement of your Definite Chief Aim. One my favorite quotes about achieving a goal comes from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear:

We don’t rise to the level of our goals, but we fall to the level of our systems.

Harnessing the power of Auto Suggestion and Organized Coordinated Effort will help you achieve your Definite Chief Aim.

Exercise to help you apply this lesson (from the text)

Step 1: Decide what your Definite Chief Aim will be

Step 2: Write out a clear, concise statement of this aim

Step 3: Write out a statement of the plan through which you intend to attain the object of your aim

Step 4: Create a master mind to help you

Quote from the book on step 4:

Your next and final step will be the forming of an alliance with some person or persons who will cooperate with you in carrying out these plans and transforming your definite chief aim into reality.

Step 4 can be tricky. The book suggests leaning on people closest to us for support as we pursue our Definite Chief Aim. It’s been my experience that the people closest to me are in fact my biggest fans and have been instrumental in helping me achieve my Definite Chief Aims. But, some of my biggest fans are also skeptics. Sometimes if our dream is a lot bigger than who we are or who we have been then those closest to us might have a hard time visualizing us becoming something new. In that case some people could become that terrible monster described in Steven Pressfield’s book: Do The Work: Resistance. Resistance is a catchall phrase for all the negative forces that attempt to hinder us on our path towards achievement. Choose your Master Mind well, and don’t listen to the naysayers. You can do it if you believe you can!