Impose a Deadline

I recently took a position with a new organization that requires a specific professional certification within 6 month of my hire date as a condition of employment.  Failure to obtain this certification within the designated time will result in termination.  Period.

Roger that!

I’ve been in this new position for 4 weeks and have been studying a little every day for the certification exam, and making good progress.  However, in an effort to make sure I’m focused in my study, I imposed a deadline by registering to take the exam on August 18, 2016.

For me, having a deadline causes me to be more focused and purposeful in my study, because I know the test is only a couple of weeks away, and I need to take steps today so I can be ready when August 18th arrives.

It is easy to slack off or lose focus during the pursuit of a goal if we don’t have a very specific target in mind.  Consider the following goals many people have:

  • To get out of debt
  • To lose weight
  • To start a business
  • To write a book

My question to people that state these and other goals to me is, “By when?”

Without a deadline in mind, it’s just a desire or a wish that may or may not ever be started, let alone completed.  If I ask someone the “By when” question and they instantly give me a date, the probability of them being successful is quite high.  They have a hard deadline they are working toward, rather than just a lofty dream.  A deadline provides the motivation, the game clock on the scoreboard, to let you know if you’re on the track toward reaching your goal.

Do you have a goal or objective you’re working on that could use the boost of a deadline?  If so, set yourself a deadline and use it to help you make consistent daily progress in the direction of your goal.

Light Your Own Fire

Imagine you’re camping and, in an effort to take the chill off and warm yourself up, you decide to build a fire.  You crumple up some paper, collect and arrange wood in the fire pit and then… you never put flame to paper and light the fire.  You’re still cold, and you’d still like to get warm, but you never light your fire.

Sounds silly, right?  Yet how often do we do the same thing when we have a goal or a dream we want to pursue, we know the first (or next) step we should take, yet lack the motivation to get started?  In a sense, we fail to light our own fire.

Motivation is the fire that moves us to get started and stay committed to our goal.  This “fire” can look like, but is not limited to, a desire to:

  • Life a healthy lifestyle
  • Achieve an educational goal
  • Start a business
  • Be debt free
  • Travel

What’s important about the fire of motivation is that it has to come from us, not others.  We are the ones who must light our own fires and motivate ourselves to take action.  If we’re relying on others to motivate us before we take action, I would have to wonder if we really want the goal or dream we’ve laid out for ourselves as much as we may say we do.

If you’ve got a goal, but have been waiting for motivation to come from somewhere other than yourself before you get started, decide today to light your own fire.  Determine why achieving this goal is important to you, focus on that, and move boldly toward the goal before you.

There’s a System for That

Do you suffer from any of the following:

  • A cluttered house
  • Forgetting important dates or events
  • An out of control email in box
  • Not knowing what you need when you’re at the grocery store until AFTER you get home
  • A car full of junk
  • Not knowing where you put your keys
  • Forgetting the login and password you picked for a specific website

If so, it may be the result of not having systems in place for certain areas of your life.  What I mean by a system is simply a set of behaviors you regularly perform for a specific situation.  Here’s what a system might look like in a real-life scenario.

Let’s say my house is always cluttered and messy, which causes me to feel frustrated.  A system for keeping my house from being cluttered would involve adopting and maintaining behaviors like:

  • Assigning a specific place for each of my items
  • When I’m done using something, instead of laying it on the first convenient place I can think of, I will put it where it belongs (e.g. Dishwasher, laundry bin, closed, garbage, recycle, closet, etc.)
  • I will regularly go through my things and get rid of anything that I no longer use so that my house stays free from unneeded items.

A system like this identifies clear behaviors that will yield the outcome you desire.

When I don’t have systems in place, or don’t follow the systems I do have, I tend to do what’s most convenient at the time.  Operating by convenience rather than by established systems tends to cause parts of my life to feel out of control and chaotic.  Without specific systems in place, anything goes!  Clothes go on the floor, dishes stay in the sink, and important things become forgotten or left undone.

Do you have areas in your life that would benefit from some new systems?  If so, start with just one area you’d like to improve and do the following:

  • Envision the outcome you want
  • Create a system of behavior that will achieve that outcome
  • Work the system

Chaos and disorder are almost always the result of a system that needs to be put into place or a bad system that needs to be revamped.  Start adding systems to your life to remove chaos and disorder and begin enjoying a less stressful existence.

 

 

You Already Know

My wife has been traveling for work a lot lately, so she’s interesting in looking for tips to help her pack lighter or more efficient.  After she had looked up some tips on-line I asked her, “So what did you learn that you can start applying?”  Her response was, “Nothing I didn’t already know.”

That response got me thinking.  How many things do we already know we should be doing, that we aren’t?  My guess is that in the gap between where we are and where we want to be, we already know the steps we need to take to get there.  At a minimum, we usually know the specific step we should take right now.

The real question then becomes; what’s keeping us from doing what we already know we should be doing?  There are several potential reasons, such as:

  • Fear – of all sorts
  • Indecision
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of focus
  • Laziness
  • Maybe we just don’t feel like putting forth the effort

So there we sit, where we’ve always been because we know what we need to do, but don’t do it.

Think about that.  When we already know what we need to be doing to achieve a desired outcome, and fail to act, the only thing standing between us and our goal… is us!

What do you already know you should be doing, that you currently aren’t?  Do you already know what you need to be doing in order to:

  • Improve a relationship
  • Get in better health/shape
  • Manage your finances better
  • Advance your career
  • Improve yourself intellectually or spiritually
  • Live the life you desire

If you answered, “Yes”, then starting today, get out of your own way and do what you already know you need to be doing.  You are not only the biggest obstacle to overcome in achieving your dreams; you are also the greatest force to bring them about.

Getting from Here to There

From the perspective of achieving your goals, getting from where you are to where you want to be can often feel overwhelming.  Especially if we’re unsure about the steps we need to take to get there.  The following visual exercise can be very helpful in gaining clarity on what we need to do to start moving forward.

First, make a write in where you are, and where you want to be, as shown below.

Step 1

Second, on the left side of the page, fill in what you currently have in the way of resources and things to work with and overcome.  This gives you a starting point.  On the right side of the page, note what you will have once you achieve your goal.  This will help provide motivation, clarity, and direction.

Step 2

Next, think of all the major tasks you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be.  The list doesn’t even have to be in order, or 100% complete.  Just start thinking of all the tasks that you need to do and list them in the gap on the page between where you are and where you want to be.

Step 3

At this point we know where we are, where we want to be, and a bunch of tasks that need to be done to get there.  The next step is to number the tasks in the order we need to complete them.  This is where our action plan gets created.  When you’re done with this step, you should have a plan to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Step 4

Now, we come to the most important step in the process:  TAKE ACTION!  The best plan is useless until we take action toward implementing it.

Step5

If you’ve got a goal you’d like to achieve, but need a plan on how to achieve, try this simple exercise.  It will give you clarity on what needs to be done, and motivation to see what you’re moving toward.

Just remember that the most important thing you can do, once you’ve completed the plan, is take action.  Your goals are waiting.  Start today.

The Secret Ingredient

I believe there is a not-so-secret ingredient to achieving results in any area of your life.  Before I share this not-so-secret ingredient, let’s first review the other necessary ingredients in the proven formula for achieving results:

Vision + Knowledge + ? = Results

The first 2 components of the formula make sense, right?  Without a vision of the result you want, it would be challenging to even know where to begin.  We must first know where we’re going (know the result we seek) before we can move toward its achievement.

Likewise, we must also possess the knowledge required to achieve the results we want.  A vision will only prove frustrating if we lack the requisite knowledge for its attainment.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is the secret ingredient you say I need in order to achieve results?”  The complete formula for achieving results is:

Vision + Knowledge + ACTION = Results

Does that secret ingredient leave you feeling dissatisfied?  Were you perhaps expecting something more exciting and grand?  The truth is, any results or success we seek only come through the disciplined and consistent application of action.  We’re not talking about action that fills our time and causes us to appear busy, but rather specific actions that move us closer to our desired results.

Very often, this is the step that trips people up.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we usually know the necessary action we should be taking to achieve the results we want.  We simply need to be courageous enough to take the action we already know we should.  We need to cause something to happen.

What results are you trying to achieve that could use a healthy dose of necessary action?  You probably already know what action you need to take.  So… when will you take it?  Today would be a good day to start.

Don’t delay.  Results await!