About six months ago I bumped into a gentleman who was excelling at his workouts at our gym. At that time he was proud and bragging about his fitness program. Then, he disappeared for many months. When he reappeared, I asked the same question most of you would be tempted to ask, “What happened? Where’d you go?”
He replied with embarrassment, “I guess I just gave up. But now I’m back.” But since making that bold claim, he’s never returned.
I resolved to not be like that man and to stick to my workouts. But, it dawned on me that making such a resolution is a lot more complex than just saying something like, “I’m strong willed enough to just get it done if I tell myself to do that.” Thus, this Nugget was born out of curiosity.
What truly separates achievers from wishers? I thought it best to do some research to make as thorough a list as possible. This Nugget presents over 40 things to be aware of. That’s a lot. Considering people like short, sweet, lists, this may seem overwhelming. It won’t be. It consists of plenty of action items but also many of the bullet points are merely concepts to keep in mind to help prevent you from slipping off your path to achieving a goal.
- Willpower does not last forever. If you say, you have strong commitment, strong willpower, and you will “just do whatever is necessary to make it happen”, then you can count on becoming exhausted before achieving your quest. Much like a balloon, your willpower, your determination, will be worn down by a number of the factors mentioned in the list below. So, yes, you do need willpower. But you also must address the rest of the points in this list., else you will definitely fail.
- Failure to establish POSITIVE triggers. What’s a positive trigger? Cues, environmental associations…call them whatever you wish that help move you towards your goal. It can be some photo or book or poster that prompts you to think of achieving your goal. Or , if losing weight is your goal, then, it may be as simple as looking at your fat cheeks in the mirror each morning and resolving to stick to your diet and exercise program to get that inner glow and slender look.
- Failure to contain or remove NEGATIVE TRIGGERS. Just as your environment can stimulate, encourage, support your commitment to exercise, there are also negative triggers in your environment that will trash your best efforts. Watch out for them. Remove them if you can. Financial problems often derail people from both their financial goals and almost every other goal. Find a way to contain your anxiety and stress so you can spend some time working on your goal. Physical things around your home or neighbourhood may impede your progress. Can they be moved or removed entirely? For example if the temptation to plop into your favourite chair in front of your favourite TV is too overwhelming, can you get rid of them? It may be friends who are very negative and mock you or your goal. Can you create new friendships?
- Beware of hack attacks. Just like nasty computer thieves want to hack your computer to steal your identity, your life will be filled with events, objects and PEOPLE, too, wanting to derail your progress. Such hack attacks can sneak up on you even when you have your mental “anti-virus program” updated. Alcoholics must be on guard at social events and be PREPARED FOR someone offering them that first, very dangerous, alcoholic drink. What will you say and how will you react? PRACTISE BEFORE HAND. Dieters may be offered some delicious potato chips, or something may happen as simple and unexpected as seeing a bag of delicious cookies when opening the cupboard door.
- Always have an option. When cornered by situations, social events, at meetings, get into the habit of calling upon your option to counteract the attack. If a dieter, when the donuts and cookies arrive at the meeting, excuse yourself to grab your refillable water bottle and bag of veggies to munch on while others are slogging down fat-ladden donuts and cookies and sucking on sugar-ladden/artificaial-sweetener-ladden beverages. If you are quitting smoking, have something to do with your hands when the craving strikes, or get up and change your location by popping into someone’s cubicle to ask a few questions.
- BREAK YOUR NEGATIVE TRIGGERS. If you want to make room for your positive trigger, you gotta dump the bad ones. For example, a smoker who tries to quit smoking will continue to undermine him-, or herself by entertaining negative triggers, those events that are enjoyed and triggers the craving for a cigarette. If it is COFFEE, try forcing yourself to sit through your next 21 cups of coffee while consciously reminding yourself that, “in the good old days, I’d be having a cigarette with my cup of coffee. Now I am not and I find I don’t need to.” Repeat this as often as necessary to break the strong association that linked each event to yoru craving for a cigarette. It might be a powerful craving for potato chips while watching TV. Then consciously sit through your TV sessions as least 21 times while reminding yourself that you have adopted the new way without any chips.
- STERN SELF TALK. This is a powerful technique, almost as powerful as point 6, above. At that moment of your craving, ask yourself, “Am I an adult or a child? If an adult, I should be able to do this. So, I must act like an adult and get this done.”
- Make a list of the reasons why. How many times have you ushered in the new year with best intentions by making resolutions only to drop them about 30 seconds into the new year? Resolutions, goals, intentions are meaningless unless you imbue them with strong, powerful, motivating reasons for accomplishing them. The stronger the rationale the more likely you will stick to, and achieve, your goal. For whatever you are striving for, ask yourself, “Why?” The more powerful, the more complete that list of the why’s, the stronger your willpower will be.
- You need a report card. If you do not track your progress, on your computer, handheld or on paper, (if paper still exists when you read this), you will lose sight of the progress you are making that is self-rewarding. Massive muscles are achieved through one rep at a time and by adding reps and sets over a long period of time. Tracking your own progress helps to keep you on plan.
- Too much confidence. It’s fine to have confidence in achieving your goals, but if you are overly optimistic about the time, effort, commitment, persistence, adjustments, willpower, etc., needed to achieve it, you will likely become exhausted before becoming successful.
- Muscle through your influences. Your world will be filled with people, surroundings, events, surprises, that will influence you to do more of the old unsuccessful way. Accept the reality that you may have to first change the world immediately around, in some measure, before you will succeed at making the changes needed to achieving your goals.
- Make your environment conducive to your goals. Some things may be obvious. You won’t lift weights in your home if your weights are still unpacked in the original box. You won’t run in the winter if you only have short running pants. On the other hand, if you have a workout corner in your basement you are likely to use it when not at the gym. Or you may view items around the home from the context of substituting for gym equipment. Example, turning your back to the stairs, you can do reverse push ups using the bottom stair. Or when outside cooking on the BBQ, in the privacy of your backyard, you may want to occasionally drop down and do 20 push ups when no one can see you working to improve your body. A case of soda can be curled while carrying from your garage floor to restock the refrigerator.
- No person is an island. Nobody can go it alone for the long-term. We are social animals, some people may have a bigger bank account, but all of us need to hangout with people. Let a supportive person know of your goals. Or, align with someone who is also working to the same goals. If you can’t find someone, join an online forum of supportive types or join an association or group in your locale, etc. Try to go at your goal with some form of companionship.
- Can you compete with someone? I’ve been deeply immersed in a number of books about recent innovations. It was the explanation of incentive prizes by Salim Ismail that struck a chord with me when he pointed out that incentive competitions offer LEVERAGE, EFFICIENCY and TRANSFORMATIVE POWER.(See End Note 1) Translating that to you? Maybe a friendly competition of some sort challenging to put up a “prize” for whoever is first to achieve the stated goal?
- Remove the road blocks. Can you conveniently get to and access the tools required to achieve your goal? If you need to attend a gym, you may be better off picking a nearby gym with almost all the equipment and amenities you need for a nearly-complete workout, versus driving through traffic jams or driving on slippery winter roads to get to a brand new facility where you are assured of having every bit of updated equipment.
- Give up something to make time. In business, we call this technique, “delegating”. A manager won’t have time to manage if he or she is busy doing the actual work. Manager’s are paid to manage. So tasks must be given up, meaning passed to those who have skills and are trained. If it is exercise and your household duties get in the way, you may have to find a way to do them less often or to find someone to pitch in on your behalf. Or, if you can afford it, you may want to hire a trustworthy housekeeper to clean house while you are at the gym.
- Make it a priority. Whatever your goal, if you don’t put it above other goals it will likely not get done. Remind yourself that even Supergirl can’t do everything on her list of goals. So choose wisely. [Type “Pareto” into my search field…to learn of a powerful success tool.]
- You will Need/passion/desire. Be certain you have real ones. Make a need scale, a passion scale and a desire scale with which to rate your goals. Such as: on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most important/strongest. Rank each of your goals. Only do those with which have a 10 rating across all three categories. If you have more than 5 or more goals that rank with solid 10s, then you have not challenged your thinking hard enough. Do it again.
- Make life happen. Often we choose to see what life hands us. There’s an adage: for every effect a cause; every cause, an effect. You’d be surprised at how life changes for the better if you grab it and make decisions, tough, painful ones, rather than taking the cowardly way out by merely waiting for life to make the decisions and then trying to adapt after the fact. Make the tough decisions required to make your goal happen.
- Strong purpose/strong reasons. It goes without saying that your goal must have a strong, ethical, solid, reason and rationale. The stronger the purpose for doing it the more likely it will get done. Post your purpose where you will see it often.
- Do you think you can do it? If you have convinced yourself that you will never achieve your goal, you won’t.
- Baby steps make for marathoners. Set a reasonable PACE for achieving your goal, allowing for the occasional lazy period or the occasional days off to relax or recuperate.
- Don’t lose patience. Like you, I, too, wish everything can be achieved overnight. But, your goals need time. Solid record keeping will help you to track your progress even if you think you are making very little progress. Study your documented progress to see your baby steps at work. Be patient.
- Expect plateaus. Climbing a mountain is not accomplished overnight. Along the way climbers need to find places to set up camp to rest and acclimatize. EXPECT TO HIT PLATEAUS. When you do, take time to assess your progress, what it took to get there and what it will take to move up to the next plateau.
- Reframe obstacles. Learn to turn negatives into positives, but not in a hair-brained sort of way. Rather, in a realistic manner with both feet firmly planted on the ground. There is always a bright spot in coming face to face with an obstacle. Be optimistic, but don’t float off into never-never land.
- Stick with it, be consistent. Try to stick to the same schedule. Resist interruptions or events that will derail your daily efforts towards your stated primary goals. But, sometime you have to be a bit flexible. When you do allow some flexibility, try to resume your regular schedule at your earliest possible date.
- Consolidate gains. Once you have made significant progress on your goal, find a way to pause and enjoy it. If you have sculpted your body through exercise because you wanted to showboat, then do it. Buy some new clothes that fit better, or buy that new bathing suit, and walk tall amount the average, slouching, overweight, TV watcher. If you saved a bunch of money after eliminating your debts, buy a wafer of gold to leave to the kids. Or buy a new computer. But if getting out of debt was your goal, once you have, NEVER use debt again, if possible.
- Diversify but don’t let yourself get distracted. After you made sufficient progress, or after you arrive at your goal, spread your wings a little to try something additional that is related to, but that will not fully substitute for your main goal. For example, if your goal was to sculpt your body by building new muscle, try some sport within your capability that will let you apply your new body to something more, such as running, climbing, skiing, or skating.
- Aim for single hits. If you aim to hit a home run you may become exhausted before your will is strong enough to keep you in the game. I know a heart attack victim who, following bypass surgery, gave up because he wanted to return to normal right away and could not. By contrast, another person surviving by-pass surgery aimed to walk from his chair to the front door for a week, then a week later, from his chair to the light standard along the sidewalk, for a week. Then a week after that, his goal was to walk to and from the distance of two light standards, then a week later, three and so on. 8 months later, his cardiologist was cheering him on with “unbelieveable!!” while he ran his ass off under an increasing workload on the treadmill during his stress test.
- Make your goals happen, not excuses. A business manager ought to be fired for failing to achieve a goal. Competency without results is inexcusable in business. Accept nothing less for yourself in any other endeavour to which you set a goal. It’s easy to dig up excuses. Don’t let yourself go there.
- Making an effort is not good enough. How many times have you heard people say, “I tried.” Worse, “I tried everything.” Tony Robbins nailed it when he posited before a live audience of executives, “If you tried everything you would have succeeded!”
- Don’t resist technology. If there is something that helps you get closer to your goals, don’t resist using it. I had been jogging for quite some time until one day someone changed my life for the better by introducing me to a running “app” on my iPhone. Now it motivates me to pound the sidewalk a wee bit harder each time. It’s wonderful.
- Work at changing your attitude. You can’t sustain your efforts on your goal if you are constantly reading or listening to negative events. Give yourself a lift by working at discovering the positives in life. Catch yourself when you begin to think negatively and counter that with some positive comment. You’ll also make people around you feel a lot better which will cause them to want to hang out with you.
- Find some role models. Read about and meet people who have “been there and done that”. Use their success to inspire yours.
- Find a solid, trustworthy, experienced mentor. Mentors can save you from making a lot of mistakes.
- Find strategies that have succeeded for others. When I was a teenager I read this suggestion, [paraphrasing]: The secret to success is to copy the success of others.
- Don’t wait to start. The longer you wait before performing your first steps the harder it will be to perform your first steps. Don’t wait. Start right now.
- Grieve. Take time along the way to pine for the old way, but don’t let yourself go backwards. After all, you will have lost a good friend called “inaction” or “procrastination”. It will take time to trust and fall in love with your new friend, “action”.
- Have a goal after this goal. As you approach the achievement of this goal , start working on the goal that follows this one. The first goal, if you recall is similar to hitting singles. Now try for something beyond that, something larger or a bit more challenging.
- Measure your progress towards your achievement. It’s not what you do along the way that matters. It is whether or not you achieve the goal. But to get there, you will have a plan and plenty of action items along the way. Keep track of your progress on each and that will be like stack bricks on a solid foundation to build a new house. Keep focused on making the goal happen…one brick at a time, so to say.
- Build an eco-system. [To learn more, type “Eco-system” in the search field.]
- Learn. Take advantage of books, REPUTABLE online sources, seminars, courses, and ask fellow experts for help and advice.
- Do it because it’s for yourself. Whatever your goal, understand it must be done for yourself, not because someone else wants you to do it. For example, if you are overweight, even if your doctor recommends switching to a vegan diet for better health, don’t do it because you are told to. Study about the new lifestyle to convince yourself that it is the right thing to do and then do it because you want to do it for yourself.
- EXPONENTIAL ORGANIZATIONS by Salim Ismail. Diversion Books, New York. 2014. P. 81.