I’m All Pumped Up, Now What?


On Day 4 we looked at the concept of setting objectives as a series of stepping stones to give ourselves the best possible chance of achieving our goals. We discussed how to set “SMART” objectives – ones which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time dependent – and this article takes a deeper look at the role objectives play in the process.

Setting goals can be a daunting process at the best of times but without goals it is highly unlikely that you will achieve the things you desire from your life. First work out what it is that you want to achieve – this is your goal. The goal should challenge you but should not be so difficult that it wears you out completely.

We use objectives to break things down into a series of stepping stones on the way to accomplishing our goal. That way even if the goal is very large we need not be weighed down by the enormity of it. Next we will put in place a strategy to help us accomplish each of the objectives. There may be one strategy or a series of strategies needed for any given objective. To find your strategy you need simply ask yourself: “What do I need to do to achieve this objective?”

Next we need to develop a tactic or series of tactics to ensure we actually complete our objectives and therefore ultimately reach our goal. The tactics we use can be seen as the day-to-day actions we take to accomplish our objectives. The strategy has shown us what we need to do and the tactics are what help us actually do them. So, for example, one strategy might be to set aside a particular block of time each day to work on our objectives or to reward ourselves with watching a favorite TV program only after we have worked on reaching our objectives.

Say your overall goal is to learn how to fly a light aircraft within six months of today’s date. Now that you have your goal and a timeframe, you need to set objectives and these might include:

Research the flying schools in my location, find out what they charge for lessons, draw up a shortlist, arrange to visit the top three and have a series of questions prepared for my visit. (Timeframe: two weeks)

Arrange to take a trial lesson to determine if this is really for me before I commit a large amount of time, money and effort to this project? (Timeframe: one week)

Decide whether to stop or continue on the basis of the above. (Timeframe: two days)

Work out how I am going to fund the lessons. Have I sufficient savings? Do I need to arrange finance? Do I need to identify areas of expenditure I need to cut back on so I can afford the lessons? (Timeframe: two days)

Set aside sufficient blocks of time for the lessons, ground school and private study…  (and so on) (Timeframe: up to six months)

By asking “What do I need to do to achieve this?” we will find the strategy required to meet each of the objectives and our tactics are the day-to-day measures we put in place to ensure we take action. One useful tactic would be to write down the goal and put this somewhere where you will see it every day. Another might be to start each day with the affirmation: “I am one day closer to achieving my goal of ‘x’.”

In this particular case I would have arranged to have a photograph taken of me during the trial lesson and I would have this on my desk so I could see each day what I was working towards.

Following these rules will allow you to stay laser-focused on your goal so that nothing will allow you to get blown off track.

Now let us look in a little more detail at those SMART objectives.

They are:

  • Specific – What is the precise outcome? Who is responsible?
  • Measurable – How will progress be measured?
  • Attainable – Can the objective be achieved with a reasonable amount of effort?
  • Realistic – Do you have the ability and resources to get the job done?
  • Time dependent – What are the start and finish dates?

Each objective needs to be specific because you need to know the precise outcome of that objective. Also you need to decide who is responsible for that outcome. Most times it will be you but there may be occasions where you decide to outsource tasks to a third party. In this case then everyone involved needs to know exactly who is responsible for each task and what the specific outcome is for the objective. Using the previous example of learning to fly, I might decide to outsource the flying school research to a third party (perhaps someone who has already learned to fly) so absolute clarity is needed in order to properly brief that person on the task at hand.

Progress needs to be measured so we can determine when the objective has been met. If something can be measured then it cannot be disputed. If the objective is “I will lose 14 lbs in weight by March 14” then you either reach that number by the deadline or you don’t and there can be no debate as to whether the objective was met or not. If you said “I want to lose a fair amount of weight by March 14” then you cannot chart your progress because “a fair amount” is vague and can mean different things to different people.

There is no point in setting yourself a task which is so difficult that it is either always out of reach or only possible with near super-human effort. You should choose objectives which require a reasonable amount of effort – not so low that it comes too easy and not so high that it takes forever. It also needs to be realistic and for this you can ask yourself: “Do I have the resources to get the job done?” Don’t be afraid to set the bar high and to push yourself but always ensure that, with effort, you can get the job done.

Finally there must be a realistic time frame otherwise there is no real incentive to get the job done and a task which take days or weeks to complete could stretch out for many months.

I hope you can see how breaking down your goals into small, manageable segments like this can lead to real progress in transforming your life. Don’t be afraid to make subtle adjustments here and there as you work towards your goal. You may find that you can realistically complete one objective in a far shorter time frame than you originally thought while another may prove more complex and might need more time.

Having a reliable framework like this to work on will mean that you will always have a game plan for success.

Day 06: Can You Get Back Home?


You only have to solve two problems when going to the moon: first, how to get there; and second, how to get back. The key is don’t leave until you have solved both problems.” – Neil Armstrong

Ok, so you are highly unlikely to go to the moon anytime soon but every day you will have to solve any number of problems.  Some will be big while others will be small but how effective you are at solving those problems will be directly proportional to the amount of time you spend in thinking them through.

The temptation is not to do the all-important thinking part and dive straight in with half a plan in the hope that something will occur to you in time. The result is you get yourself into a bigger mess than you were in before you set out in the first place. It is for this reason that when you learn to drive a car one of the first things you learn is how to stop it safely and when you learn to fly a plane the early lessons concentrate on how to get it back onto the ground in one piece.

Most of us will have heard of the expression “more haste, less speed” and that is what immediately came to mind when I read the quotation above. People are often so frightened of problems that they just want to do anything to make them go away quickly. The huge flaw with that approach is that it rarely ever works and you end up having to deal with the original problem as well as a whole raft of new ones you have created for yourself along the way.

Rather than jumping straight in, the first thing I like to do when faced with an important decision is…to do nothing. Instead I stop and give myself time to think the problem through and then I set about working out how I am going to solve it. Like going to the moon, the task at hand might have two really big problems to solve or it could have multiple smaller ones to work through. Preparation is key and the more work you do at this stage means the more chance of success you will have when you are ready to put your plans into action.

Think About This:

Recall the last time you rushed headlong into something without thinking it through properly. What was the outcome of your actions? Was it the one you wanted? Did you end up in a bigger mess than when you started? Now vow that from today onwards you will always know how to get safely back home before you set off on your next problem solving adventure.

Day 05: Stand Up to Fate


To sit back and let fate play its hand out and never influence it is not the way man was meant to operate.”  – John Glenn

It is easy to just sit back and drift through life without any real purpose or direction. In fact it is so easy that most of us do it to a greater or lesser extent. We all start off with impressive dreams for the things we want to do with our lives but the temptation is to give up way too easily. When something goes wrong to prevent us reaching our goal or our dream we often just shrug our shoulders and say something like: “Well I guess it was not meant to be.” And then we give up.

But that is not how life is supposed to work. It is your life so it is up to you and up to you alone to take charge, get into the driving seat and drive your life forward in the direction you want it to go. Never be prepared to simply sit back and let fate play its hand because drifting along aimlessly should not be part of the deal. Instead you must take command. Stand up to fate, set your own course and don’t let anyone or anything deflect you from getting there.

Standing up to fate will not be easy which is probably why so many of us just allow ourselves to drift along with the current, to go with the flow, to settle for second best. But just because something is not easy does not mean that it is impossible or anywhere near impossible. And surely making the extra effort to set your own course is worth it to achieve your goals.

Surely part of the fun of the process of getting from where you are now to where you want to be is dealing with the problems and the obstacles which you will meet along the way? You are resourceful but how will you ever find out exactly how resourceful you are unless you meet challenges head on and work out how to overcome them. If you can grasp this point and work hard at achieving the things you want to achieve then you should never again have to sit back and say: “Well I guess that was not meant to be.”

Where there are aspects of your life which you can control then you owe it to yourself to take whatever corrective action is necessary to control them because nobody else is going to come along and do it for you.

Think About This:

The next time you find yourself saying “I guess that was not meant to be,” make a vow to stand up to fate and say instead: “I won’t let this stand in my way.” Then use your resourcefulness to overcome the problem and take charge of your life.

Day 04: Chart Your Path


Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” – Japanese Proverb

Like a captain setting sail, we too must not only know where we are going but how we are going to get there. Are we going to fly? take a boat? or walk? Do we have a compass or a map in case we get off our chosen path? Have we thought the journey through to give us the best possible chance of getting to our intended destination?

Setting goals is like setting a destination – this is the part where we decide where we want to go. Now our next task is to navigate a path to get us there in a quick and efficient manner. Setting objectives is our plan of action where we are setting down a visual pathway to help us get where we want to be. Setting these objectives does not have to be complicated but it always has to be smart. Set smart objectives and you will always get to your destination.

Here is what I mean by setting Smart objectives. Each individual objective must be:

Specific – The objective must not be vague. Instead it must be clear and unambiguous. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish and why.

Measurable – You must be able to measure your objective otherwise you will have no way of determining your progress or identifying when the objective has been completed.

Attainable – You have to set objectives which are possible to attain otherwise you will never get to your destination. They can be out of reach and challenging but with effort you have to be able to meet them.

Realistic – The objectives must be realistic in relation to your own individual requirements and abilities.

Time Dependent – You need a deadline or a target date to aim for. There is no point in setting out on a journey if you have no idea how long it will take you to get there so having a realistic time frame is vitally important.

Think About This:

Think about a goal that you have had for a while but have not yet been able to achieve or choose an entirely new goal instead if you prefer. Now, knowing that the goal is your destination, use the Smart objective formula above to navigate a path to your destination. You can probably already see how much easier things are when you have a road map to follow.

Day 03: Shape Who You Are


Act as if everything you think, say and do determines your entire life – because in reality, it does!” – Laurelle Adrian

It is so easy to get into a rut where you simply think, do and say things because it has become second nature to you. If someone asks you something you can often fire right back with a response without even thinking about it. Sometimes it can seem like we live our whole lives on autopilot where we have little or no input on the things we do every day.

However right now might be a good time to take a step back and examine who you are and where you are going with your life. You could start with examining your thoughts. Write down the things you think about most often. How do you think about yourself? How do you think about others? What do you think about your problems or the successes of others or where you are compared to where you want to be?

Because one thing is certain; what you think, shapes what you do and what you believe.

You may have heard it said before that every great invention, every successful business and, indeed, everything we have in this world, started with a single thought, with one single idea and this is true. Our thoughts become reality and this is how they have shaped the person you are today and the person you will be tomorrow.

If you constantly tell yourself things like “I could never learn a new language,” or “I am too old to start over now,” or “I don’t deserve to have that much success” then you are imposing limits on yourself.

Tell yourself something enough times and you will come to believe it, so now is a good time to stop those negative thoughts, words and actions. Nobody in this world is going to step forward to make you a better person, a happier person or a more successful person but this does not matter because the key to those things lies deep inside you.

Start believing that the things you think, do and say actually determine your entire life and start believing in yourself and your self-worth. Don’t limit your potential by telling yourself you can’t do things, but challenge your inner potential by finding new things you can do and shape your future with your thoughts, words and actions of today.

Think About This:

Find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed for 15 minutes and write down your thoughts about yourself, your abilities and your life. Now examine those thoughts and work on finding more positive thoughts to replace the negative ones which are holding you back.

Day 02: Sitting On A Nail?


When you know what you want, and you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it.” – Jim Rohn

Most of us are not getting the results we desire from our lives and are simply not satisfied with the lives we currently have. We may have dreams, desires and wish lists but unless we take practical steps to make positive changes happen then we will go on living the lives we do now. The questions are whether we want the change badly enough or whether our current unfulfilled state is uncomfortable enough for us to take action.

This reminds me of the story of the howling dog which goes like this:

Tom moved into a new neighborhood and each day he could see his neighbor’s dog sitting on the front porch howling as if in great pain. At first he thought little of it, but when this had gone on for a couple of weeks Tom approached the neighbor and asked why his dog kept howling. The neighbor looked at the dog and said simply: “He is howling because he is sitting on a nail.” Tom thought about it for a moment and asked: “Well then why doesn’t he sit somewhere else,” to which the neighbor replied: “Well I guess it is not hurting him badly enough to move just yet.”

Examine your life right now because if you know what you want but you are making do with a pale imitation of the life you really desire then you are no better than the dog sitting on the nail. It is no use just saying you want change in your life, you really have to want it with an all-consuming passion and desire. Find that passion and desire and you will find a way to get what you want. For one thing you will realize that your current position is just too painful to endure any longer. Stop sitting on the nail.

Think About This:

  1. Determine what is the nail you are sitting on right now.
  2. Decide how much more uncomfortable you need it to get before you take action.
  3. Work out what action do you intend to take to deal with the problem.

Day 01: Do Delegate or Delete


In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

Making decisions does not lead to your long term success but rather your decisiveness does. When you come to a fork in the road, making a choice creates the power, not the choice itself. Success is built on momentum so no matter what we have chosen, if committed to it wholeheartedly, momentum is generated.

One of the places where indecisiveness had become an issue in my business was my ever growing project list. A few years ago I started to feel like the weight of the world was on my shoulders because of all the “stuff” I needed to get done.  I wanted to make the right decision all the time to avoid the pain associated with a wrong decision but instead of avoiding it, I was creating it!

Do It – Nike said it best with Just Do It! Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity, it will never come. Don’t wait for the right answers to come, you may be waiting forever. The sooner you make the decision the sooner you put it into action. So what if it was the wrong one, now you know and can quickly move in the right direction. Doing nothing will never move you in the right direction.

Delegate It – This was a tough one for me in the beginning because I want everything to be just right. I quickly learned being a control freak perfectionist will kill momentum along with wasting tons of valuable time. Start building a core group of individuals you can trust with your tasks. They don’t need to be business partners or employees, for years I bartered services and outsourced when possible. Don’t be afraid to leverage your position, there is always someone willing to do the mundane tasks in exchange for your experience and knowledge.

Delete ItMy wife loves to watch the show Hoarders. It drives me crazy and I actually get stressed out seeing all the chaos people have created for themselves by never getting rid of stuff. The same holds true for our desktops, whiteboards and endless collection of notepaper. The more we hoard the wider we spread our focus and the more time we’ll need to dig ourselves out. Two of the biggest benefits I found from just deleting projects were that it narrowed my focus and took the weight of the world off my shoulders. When in doubt throw it out!

Think About This:

  1. Grab your to-do or project list
  2. Go over every item and be decisive – either Do it, Delegate it, or Delete it
  3. Develop Smart Objectives to stay on track for those you keep.