When we were kids, we thought we could write down everything we wanted and mail it to the North Pole, and then, magically, all our desires would appear, on schedule, under the tree in our living room, complete with pretty paper and a bow. When we grew up, we realized there wasn’t really a big roly-poly guy who flew around the world in a single night on a sled pulled by reindeer, squeezed down our chimney and delivered those presents. We found out a real person had to go out and sacrifice, earn the money, march through the shopping malls, wrestle the thing home, put it together, wrap it up and place it under the tree.
I think many people must still believe in Santa Claus. You cannot simply write down a list of wants on New Year’s Day, stick it in a drawer for the rest of the year and wait around for your life to change. Sorry, but it’s time to grow up and get serious. Most people know how to write down their goals, but few know how to achieve them. I would like to help you move from goal-setting, rainbow-chasing, wishing upon a star and lamp-rubbing to achieving actual results in the areas of your life in which you dedicate yourself. This article will help you get your start.
WARNING: Achievement requires work, discipline, commitment, maybe some heartache and a stiffened spine. If any of that makes you queasy, I invite you to continue reading.
The Cause of All Your Problems—And the Solution
When I ask people what they want to improve in their lives, I hear things like, “I need to make more money” or “My marriage is unhappy” or “I need to lose weight.”
But these are simply symptoms, or outcomes, of the problem. The cause of the problem is you—and this is probably one of the most sobering understandings you can reach as you work toward your stated goals. Whatever it is you want to change—your marriage, your financial situation, your weight—you’ll never achieve lasting change until you change. Once you improve, everything else around you will improve.
You don’t get in life what you want; you get in life what you are. You will only have the level of success in any area of your life that equals your level of self-worth. But the human tendency is to engage in the study of effects, while giving little attention to the cause.
I see this travesty played out every day. People complain about their terrible marriage, and so they leave it. Oddly enough, they end up with similar problems in the next relationship. Why? Because they didn’t address the real problem. The same set of circumstances and patterns of behavior will create the same outcome. Some people go from diet plan to diet plan, losing weight and then gaining it all back. Why? Because the plan and the weight aren’t the issues or the solutions; they are, and the weight will ultimately meet them back where they are.
“Wherever you are in life right now is your own doing—good or bad”
The first step to changing the trajectory of your life, as well as what you achieve and sustain, is to take complete responsibility for your circumstances today. Wherever you are in life right now is your own doing— good or bad, it’s your fault. Your parents aren’t responsible, the economy isn’t, McDonald’s isn’t; you are. You are 100 percent responsible for everything—by what you did, what you didn’t do or how you responded to what was done to you. Once we get that straight, then we can get to the heart of how to fix or improve any outcome as you desire.
Here is how it works, let’s say my goal is to earn an additional $100,000 next year. The question is not, What is going to make me $100,000 next year? The question is, Who do I need to become to earn an additional $100,000?
Goal: I am earning an extra $100,000 in income this year. Question: Who do I have to become to achieve this? Answer: I am a smart, confident and effective leader. I seek and cultivate the strength and greatness in everyone around me. I am a Goal Setting. disciplined master of time efficiency. I focus solely on high-payoff and high-productivity actions. I wake up an hour earlier and review my priority objectives each morning. I fuel my body properly and exercise four days a week so that I am energetic and highly effective each work hour. I feed my mind ideas and inspiration that will support and bolster my passion. I surround myself with peers and mentors who elevate my expectations and prod me to rise to greater levels of discipline, commitment and achievement.
Action—Yes, You Have to Actually Work
Now, contrary to movie lore, you can’t just sit on your tush in your living room imagining checks coming into your mailbox. If you do, you won’t have that living room for long. You have to act on your plans. You have to get off the couch, walk out your door and productively make something happen to get what you want in life. Doing has to follow planning.
So what do you do? Once you’ve decided who you need to be in order to accomplish your goals, you have to fi gure out how this elevated person operates. How does this person show up in the world? If you are unsure, if you lack a vision of your potential, find a model. Emulating the habits of someone you respect is one of the greatest keys to moving from where you are to where you could be.
Who has already achieved the income level you seek? How do they walk, talk, dress, shake hands and interact with others? What time do they get up, what do they talk about, what do they read, how do they prospect, how do they present, how do they manage their time, keep themselves accountable, etc.?
Who has the depth of intimacy and love in their marriage that you want in yours? How do they talk to each other? How do they listen to each other? What special things do they do for each other? How do they treat each other’s families, friends and colleagues? If you find the answers to those questions and act on them yourself, you, too, can have the marriage your model has created.
Creating a Strategic Plan of Action for Your Life
Whether you know it or not, you are a multimillion-dollar enterprise. That is how much you will actually earn over a lifetime, or how much you could earn. Any multimillion-dollar business needs a comprehensive business plan and a well-designed strategic plan of action. To do business without one is nearly certain disaster. So it is for your life, too.
Remember, you are the driver on this journey, and your goals become the road map. Before you begin, it is important to take a step back to gain perspective on exactly what direction you want to travel. Too often, you see people focusing exclusively on one area of their lives at the sacrifice of every other area—a big mistake that can lead to heartache and regrets.
Have you ever seen a guy who has giant muscular arms but skinny legs? Looks a bit ridiculous, right? That’s how some people’s lives look. Too much focus in one area and not enough in another. We all pity the man who has the big house on the hill filled with expensive cars and trinkets yet no one to share them with.
We often see people who have become successful in one area of life, but are utter disasters in many other areas. Tabloid magazines are full of this kind of drama, with headlines of bitter divorces, drunk driving arrests, family feuds, racist rants, bulimia, drug rehab, depression and suicide attempts. Many of these same people, the ones many Americans idolize, are some of the most unhappy, insecure and depressed people you will find. Why? Well, one reason has to do with what we have covered—the You Factor. Their extraordinary income far exceeded their actual personal development and feelings of self-worth, and money only exasperated their troubled feelings. Secondly, their focus on succeeding in one area of life created a great imbalance with the other areas.
During the pursuit of what you want in one area of your life, be careful what you sacrifice in other areas. Also, be aware of the price you must pay to achieve the prize you seek. Some prizes might cost too much, and they might only be realized after payment has been made.
Now is the time to write the script for the life you have always dreamed of having—the health, the relationships, the thriving business, the financial abundance and freedom, and the knowledge that you are making a significant difference in the world and with the people around you. You can have it all, but it will require you to get serious and relinquish the fantasies that debt fairies will leave a stack of cash under your pillow while you sleep or that the Easter Bunny will bring you miracle diet chocolate, or that you can click your heels and your relationships will all be better. It will take rigorous planning, relentless commitment and steadfast dedication. That is why success is reserved for the willing few.