**Note: “The last thing the internet needs is another post on goal setting”…Then why the hell are so many people doing it wrong, or spinning their wheels? Allow me to lay out some tools you can use to accomplish more than ever before. You can do more, faster, than many would have you believe.**
One of the simplest keys to success, is to plan for it.
Action is touted as the main ingredient to success in any avenue of life – and I would agree. However, effort in and of itself, without thinking, without planning, without strategy, will not lead to satisfaction.
You don’t set out to do something important to you by putting anything less than every crumb of your soul into it. This means nothing if that effort is broad, un-targeted and placed on tasks that are not the greatest contributors, or “Big Rocks”.
The more I experience, and the more people I talk to, this principle shines brighter than ever.
Success leaves clues on every level.
The truth is that action and strategy MUST work together. Your action must be optimized by marking an “X”, and working backward to map a legible path.
Here’s the kicker: you cannot plan forever.
Just as action should be swift, your strategy for planing needs to be efficient and targeted. Many a well-meaning sob is paralyzed by analyzing every last detail, to the point of stagnation.
Never become one of these sad souls. If you already are, it’s time to wake up. Take control of your life, fitness goals, business goals and relationship status.
Everyone seems to know they should write their goals down. Personally, I find this useless – if you stop there.
THE NEXT LEVEL
A true road-map to success, is riddled with actionable steps, smaller pieces, accountability and constant re-evaluation. Iv’e laid out my personal process for how I plan to do this (relative to my own missions) in 2013. It’s a fusion of Tony Robinson, Scott Dinsmore, Charles Poliquin, and my own systems. A world of credit needs to be given to those guys.
This is both to help you, and to help me solidify what I will (notice the word choice) accomplish in the coming months.
If you should take one thing away from this, it’s that waypoints need to be set either weekly, bi-weekly, or at the very least monthly, where you repeat the “New Years Ritual” and review your path. There is nothing special about January besides a nifty date on the calendar. Have the mental fortitude and maturity to realize the opportunity around you to “start fresh” every single damn day of the year.
Life is too short and wonderful not to leave some semblance of a legacy, an identity, no matter how small, while having a blast along the way.
Rah-rah! Enough of that.
This is how I do it.
Step 1: Vomit Onto Paper (And See What It Looks Like)
A “year in review”, if you will. This is the time to reflect upon the past year full (or not so full) of accomplishments and goals you’ve dominated.
Some example questions (borrowed from the likes of Scott Dinsmore) I employ include:
- When were you bored in the past year? What were you doing? Who were you with? What do you plan to change?
- Where did FEAR hold you back in the past year, where you should have taken action?
- What would you do differently over the past year?
- What did you not accomplish, that you originally set out to do? Why?
- In contrast to question #1, when were you most excited, engaged and high on life in the past year? What were you doing? Who were you with? How do you plan to replicate it?
- What is your most proud accomplishment over the past year?
- Who did you connect with that had a large impact on your life? Who did you help?
Talk about a bit of a slap in the face. Fantastic.
Take a few minutes to honestly answer each question for yourself, and nobody else. This is a time to reflect on you. Family, friends and loved ones can wait.
Step 2: Sort and Pile The Vomit: Establish BIG Areas of Focus
It’s easy to hurl bold assertions and nebulous goals at the world, hoping something will “stick” to the intended target. But what’s your target?
Life is full of layers. Categories of varying importance, depending on what stage of life you are in and how your priorities are aligned.
By establishing your primary categories, you are able to organize them into a list that makes up the areas in life where you need to see progression and results.
Be creative in how you word them. There are common categories such as Business (if you have more than one, list it as a separate category), Relationships, Travel, Physique Development and Education. However, anything goes. It’s all about what is most important to you.
List no more than 8, preferably fewer than 6. Once past these numbers, there tends to be too much to handle at one time. Life takes time, and so does improvement in all of it’s crevices.
Areas of Focus
Step 3: Populate The BIG Areas
The above categorization has nothing to do with your goals. It simply allows for some organization and compartmentalization on which to build.
Now is the time to establish the goals you have for yourself in each Area of Focus. List NO MORE than 3 for each. Most of you should be listing 2 or less under each area, simply because of the workload involved.
However, the process I will lay out lends itself well to accomplishing more than you’ve though possible in past years. Systems are a powerful tool.
Think audaciously. Be bold in your aspirations. Shoot for the moon, and the worst you can do is land among the stars. (Or, explode on liftoff. Whatever.).
There is no need to get too specific here. That comes later. “Doing a photo-shoot” is a fine example, or something as small as “sleeping more” works as well, as long as it holds meaning to you. Below is a sample table that you can copy. Very simple. (Click for size)
Now is the time to establish what exactly it is that you want. Down to the uncomfortable details that everyone avoids.
Simply leaving a goal as nebulous as “make $1000 more per month” is essentially useless. You have an “X” with no path leading toward it, no conditions of the road you need to follow, the environment, dangers, time limit, or why you are setting out to reach the “X” in the first place.
Let’s get real here.
Effective goals have at least four components that need to be clarified:
The ground-level. This is what you wrote in Step 3 – the broad goal itself.
“Make $1000 more per month” is the definition. Quantify this by adding something like: “Through increasing my hourly rate by $5 and increasing the sales of my online store by 15%”. NOW you have something to work with.
Time is a brutal motivator, and is a good place to begin when creating urgency. Set a specific deadline for you to have completed the Definition of your goal.
It should be realistic, while being close enough to make you hustle. None of this – “In 8 months I’ll probably have this done” bullshit. You’ll fail. “This will be accomplished by the night (11pm) of April 25th”, is ideal.
However, this is often not enough. A sadistic tip Iv’e learned is to involve some form of monetary incentive. In a negative way.
Reward, pales in comparison to a horrible consequence when seeking motivation to achieve a goal.
Simply take $50-$100 and place it in an envelope with the Definition of your goal written on the front. Then, think of who you despise most in this world.
(Note. I do not promote the idea of cultivating enemies and generally hating the world. However, an enemy is an excellent motivator and a valuable asset. Don’t pretend you are without a nemesis. One exists in every great story.)
That person, that nemesis, will receive the envelope of money from you personally if the deadline and quantifiable outcome is not reached.
Sounds awkward, and it is. Walk up to the person, hand them the envelope with the goal still written on the front. Calmly explain that you failed in a challenge with yourself, and this is the punishment. Expect a barrage of questions, and if they truly are your nemesis, a substantial teasing and public humiliation is in order.
This also creates a “gamification” effect with a tangible consequence.
Think Batman giving The Joker a sopping, filthy-wet, passionate kiss while handing over the keys to the Batmobile. That shit’s just awkward.
Any method of monetary risk can be used. This is just my personal favorite.
For each of these goals, an emotional connection needs to be established.
Your “why” is more important than your “how” or “what”.
After each goal is thoroughly defined and filtered, take a look inside yourself to find what the real reasons behind them are. Dig deep.
Some will be as shallow as the kiddy pool, because it’s okay to want a bangin’ bod’ for the sake of vanity (although, I can almost guarantee it runs deeper than you think). Others may reveal things you have never uncovered about yourself, and lead to an entirely new chapter in your life. (Click the image for size)
Step 5: Break It Down – Habit Creation
You cannot escape your genetic code. You are a creature of habit. How you create, organize and manage your habits will be the difference between success and failure when embarking on a journey.
Any quest can be broken into small steps and major plot shifts. Each step leads into the next, regardless of size or significance, every move forward takes you closer to the prize.
Like a quest, you will take each of the goals you’ve established above and transform them into the two most powerful components in “crushing it”: Baby Steps and Habits.
In shattering your big, hairy, audacious goals into Baby Steps, you immediately increase your chances of success. Suddenly, things are clear. Habits work to develop a PROCESS driven mindset, instead of an OUTCOME based mindset.
It’s the little things you do daily that lead to greatness. Consistency, simplicity, and aggressive defence of your time.
Under each Definition of a goal, place 2 to 3 “Baby Steps” that lead to it’s fruition. Under the “Baby Steps” List 1 to 2 daily or weekly Habits you need to implement for consistency. This could simply be reading in the morning, daily workouts, getting up at the same time every day, or time limits on email and social media.
Many “experts” exalting authority over the goal setting industry, make a case for learning 1 new habit per month. I agree that the less you have on your plate, the better. However, I have found that 2-3 at one time is extremely doable, especially with the system I’ll outline.
For some personality types, this will feel like a snail’s pace. Alternatively, others will be overwhelmed by the illusion of complexity.
Find your happy medium, and work within your “effectiveness capacity”. (click for size)
Step 6: Time Block
Everything you need to succeed is now laid out before you. So perfect, so simple. You can taste it.
Unfortunately, if you are like most people, stopping here will seal your inevitable failure. Knowing you “should” or “have” to do something every week, remembering tasks and dates, while trying to move toward the bigger picture can fry the toughest of minds.
Why not make it easier on yourself and physically schedule your days, weeks and months to all but ensure your success? Enter Time Blocking.
My brain and lifestyle are perfectly suited to this, and I tend to thrive on the specificity of time blocking my days. I do this by working from the outside-in. Nothing will be accomplished if every goal and milestone is pursued at once. Thus, each month, week and day has a theme. They flow together, knocking the items off my list like it’s child’s play.
Every 15 minutes of my day has something in it, including the white spaces of “free time” and scheduled time with friends.
However, not everyone works like this. For some, simply having a weekly outlook of what you want to accomplish, then assigning 2-4 tasks to be completed by the end of each day is ideal. It’s flexible, unrestricted, and relatively easy to set up. IF you are the type that get’s shit done (GSD) without question, this could be for you.
Most of the time, that’s no bueno for me. I need the precision, the forced time allotted to a task, and the piece of mind knowing what my schedule is supposed to look like.
My weapon of choice for the scheduling is a simple Google Calendar on my iPad. Half of my business is run from the device, and it’s extremely simple to use. Because of it’s mobility, the need to change something in my schedule and compensate for it is met with the swipe of a finger.
My life has been more streamlined and organized since implementing it.
Some alternative tools include any other tablet, Google Calendar on your computer, smart phones with ridiculous screens, or the trusted pen and pad calendar.
Whatever is accessible, sustainable and effective, use it.
So, here is an example of how to really simply organize your months. Certain months will involve completing an entire goal, while others will just involve completing stepping stones or “Baby Steps” toward a larger purpose. You organize to give yourself a “bird’s eye view” of the year: (click for size)
Here is a sample of what one of my past weeks looked like. Some would say it’s chaos. On the contrary, it’s a beautiful, comforting thing. Note that it only starts at 10am in that screen shot, and my day of clients begins at 5am. I would classify this week as “mild”, as the coming ones will be hurricanes.:
Step 7: Constant Re-Evaluation Schedule
One of the fatal downfalls of the typical New Years Resolutionists and general “go getters”, is the failure to re-evaluate.
Rah, Rah! The New Year arrives, followed by reborn souls and newly found confidence. THIS TIME, it’s happening.
3 weeks later, the scribbled pages in the “life changing” journal are all but forgotten. Routine clouds outlook, distractions arise, and it’s not until 6 months later that the journal is once again opened. At this point, the process often repeats itself, creating a vicious cycle.
I’ve been there.
Really, there is a simple solution. It follows what Iv’e discussed so far. You need to schedule a formal re-evaluation period, and savagely defend it.
This can take many forms: Dinner with a friend discussing the progress made, every second Sunday afternoon to review, whatever. The point is to have a solidified routine repeated on a regular basis.
My approach is simply built into Step 6 when Time Blocking. Every month, I review and schedule the “Big Rocks” that need to happen. Each week on Sunday, I review and schedule tasks, major or minor, that lead to the “Big Rocks”. Each day, I take those major and minor tasks and break it down to the hour.
The result? A constant process of review and stimulated awareness. It’s too easy to shrug off a mission, only to look back at the year with nothing to show for it. Make it easy for yourself to rise above your own expectations, and have a great fucking time doing it.
Step 8: Accountability…
We come to the final step in the process. This could very well be the most enjoyable aspect of your journey: sharing it with someone.
It’s admirable to attempt a major shift in your life without any external support. Admirable, and stupid.
There is a time and place to be a Lone Wolf. Personally, I bottle up certain things and prefer to scale most of my obstacles independently. However, the value of spilling your guts to the world in certain areas is immeasurable.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you project your intentions out into the world, they will exponentially increase in validity. That is, the more people who know what you’re after, the more likely you are to succeed. If you want something, ask for it, make a plan, and execute it with brutal intensity.
Pretty damn simple, really.
This is where the role of an “Accountability Partner” (AP) comes into play. An AP is someone whom you trust to wear the boot that kicks your ass when needed.
A person who is both unbiased and critical, but extremely supportive. Regular meetings need to happen over Skype, coffee, or dinner. A place with minimal distraction and the energy required to dissect your progress, intentions and reflections.
My room mate and I have made a pact to convene for coffee every Sunday afternoon. This simple coffee will be one of the key catalysts to our success throughout the year.
No distractions, we will lay out our past week’s accomplishments, what we have planned for the coming week, how on-track we are with our long term plans, and what we might not have accomplished.
This back-and-forth provides accountability, as well as an element of motivation. If someone close to you is killing it in the key areas of their life, your lust for the same will only grow.
Get an Accountability Partner. Don’t stop at one, either. The more people who know what you’re after, the more likely you are to follow through.
Step 9: Closing Out and Moving In – NOW
There is one thing left to do: act on ONE thing right now to move you forward. Ideally, that should be completing the exercises I’ve laid out, and thinking critically about why you’re doing what you do.
If there is enough interest, I can put together a simple downloadable PDF with different tables, detailing and walking you through the above process.
Conclusions of grand eloquence and complexity would be inappropriate. Action is all that remains.
This “system” is not perfect, but it is effective if you put some flesh in the game. Just like the gym, you need to be willing to put everything on the line to get where you
want NEED to go. Unshakable visualization needs to be employed, just as Arnold would.
Whatever method you use, stick to it. Take what is useful to you and discard the rest, as Bruce Lee would do. You are too good, too smart, and possess too much potential not to harness the power of your body and mind.
Now, go make me look bad. Don’t save anything for the swim back – because I never will.
I don’t care who you are, or what you do, I want to hear what YOU are working toward. Do you use a system like this? Let’s hear 1-3 “missions” you’re working toward this year, and what you’re doing to get there.
Training/nutrition related? Shoot questions below.
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