“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin, and then the work will be completed.” ~Jean Anoulih
Here it is — that week between Christmas and New Year’s when you hover in the netherworld between holiday indulgence and the fresh, clean slate of the coming year. Your mind peers forward at the possibilities of change and renewal before you tuck your head under the covers and proclaim like Scarlett O’Hara, “I can’t think about that right now. . . I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Well tomorrow is only a few days away, and whether or not you put stock in New Year’s resolutions or see the value in setting goals, can you acknowledge the invitation of possibility laid out before you in the fresh, clean slate of 2011? I believe this invitation beckons all of us with the hope of a better life, one more closely aligned with our ideal.
That clean slate contains the promise of a better life, but it also whispers the threat of dreams unfulfilled and goals once again left to fallow. We have all experienced this scenario before — we begin the year with enthusiasm yet end it “not with a bang but a whimper.” If we don’t set goals or resolve to make change, then we don’t have to hear that sad whimper this time next year.
In this interim week, I invite you to take a moment to see the promise of the year to come with new eyes.
Rather than fear the possibility of failure, embrace the promise of success and begin to cultivate the one essential ingredient that will ensure that the seeds of change you plant now will actually take root and grow throughout the year.
Before I explain this essential ingredient, I’d like to present some ideas for planting the seeds for change and success. In his book Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life, Michael Neill suggests that “the most important choice you can make is what you choose to make important.”
He reminds us of the 80/20 rule first pointed out by the 19th-century economist Vilfredo Pareto, who noticed that 80 percent of a nation’s wealth was controlled by 20 percent of the people.This anomaly applies to our efforts at achievement and change as well.
80 percent of your most meaningful results derive from 20 percent of your efforts. When you put your focus on that 20 percent, you will make profound, positive change in your life.
Michael Neill suggests that you:
- Make a master list of your tasks or goals. Include everything you can think of to make your life better and move forward.
- Add the number of items on the list, and divide that number by 5. The result will be your 80/20 percentage. If there are 20 items on your list, your 80/20 number will be 4; if there are 50, then it will be 10.
- Chose from your master list of tasks or goals the 20 percent of actions you want to focus on. Which ones would fall away?
This exercise allows you to examine the multitude of things you could be doing with your time, and narrow that down to the ideas and actions which will lead you to 80 percent of your achievements. It forces you to focus on what matters to you most, so you aren’t distracted or confused by what matters least. (Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has written an outstanding book called Focus which provides specific guidance on this point.)
However, even when you are clear about your primary actions, have you noticed you often still “don’t have the time” to move forward on them? Or perhaps you fear taking these actions because you are afraid that “you just don’t have what it takes” to follow through.
Both of these are flawed assumptions, and that leads me to the one essential ingredient to actually achieving the goals or taking the actions that fall in your 80/20 list.
The one essential ingredient for achievement is boldness. Boldness is your willingness to follow through on your priority actions regardless of the circumstances that life throws your way on any given day.
It is that quality that propels you to “just do it,” as the Nike ad commands. You may think that you don’t have the capacity for boldness, but I guarantee that you already use it all the time. You just might not be applying it to your 80/20 priorities, and here is where you must begin to see things through new eyes.
- If you purchased a plane ticket, you would do everything in your power to catch the plane, and you’d plan the rest of your schedule to make that happen.
- If you had an appointment with your boss for a promotion, you wouldn’t let the dirty dishes in the sink stop you from getting to that meeting on time.
- If you were told that your diet must change or you will have heart attack, you would change your diet.
You use boldness all the time, but you hold these actions differently in your brain.
You view them as actions that must be taken because the positive elements of the result far outweigh the negative elements of the actions required to achieve the result. There is external motivation supporting your internal motivation for the desired result.
My friend Steve Chandler, an extraordinary coach and writer, tells the story about his own efforts to lose weight. He knew he needed to lose 20 pounds. He knew he would look and feel better if he did. He had the internal motivation, but he needed boldness to make it happen.
So he created an external motivation for himself. In a staff meeting, he announced to his associates that he wanted to lose 20 pounds in six months. He promised he would give each of the ten staff members $1000 each if he did not reach his goal. He put $10,000 on the line. He lost the weight.
This is an extreme example of boldness, and Steve Chandler is an “advanced boldness master.” You don’t have to put $10,000 on the line to create external motivation and take bold action. Begin with small, manageable actions while applying the “boldness ingredient.”
Here are some ideas to help you add boldness to your daily actions so that you will begin to overcome inertia and excuses:
1. Create the list above of goals and tasks that you want to achieve in the first quarter of 2011.
2. Narrow the list to your top 20 percent — the goals that are most important to you.
3. Pick one action for one goal that you wish to accomplish TODAY.
4. Get a sheet of paper and write the action at the top of the page. Then write the goal that this action helps you to achieve. And finally, write down the positive results of achieving that goal. For example, if the action is to take a walk, and the goal is to lose weight, then the positive results are looking better, feeling better, and being healthier.
5. Determine the time during the day in which you will take this action. Write it down on your calendar.
6. Create an additional “bold” motivation to make this action non-negotiable — like a plane ticket. E-mail a friend to tell them your plan. Announce it to your co-workers. Allow nothing else to get in the way of your one daily bold action.
7. Work to change your mental view of your one daily bold action. It is like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, catching a plane. Only emergencies get in the way of this daily action.
8. As you get more accomplished at bold action, create space for two actions a day — one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
9. Work through your goals this way, taking one or two simple but regular actions toward them every day. The actions can be simple and manageable, but non-negotiable.
10. If the goals require increased challenge or effort (like an exercise goal), build those challenges into your daily actions in small, manageable increments. Be realistic in the actions, but unwavering in the commitment to them.
If you should falter, and you likely will, don’t use it as an excuse to stop or a reason to decide you can’t take bold action. You can. Just start again. Take small actions on a focused 20 percent of your goals. Reinforce these daily actions with bold commitment. This time next year, you will be greeting 2012 not with a whimper, but with the bang of real achievement.
If you would like to make significant progress on achieving the life of your dreams, please check out my course, Discover Your Passion: A Step-By-Step Course for Creating the Life of Your Dreams.