I was doing a bit of self-reflection the other day. Looking back at my life so far, and just thinking about some of the goals I had accomplished, and those that I let fall down the waist line. Every once in a while, I find it helpful to do an “inventory” of my life. The things I am proud of accomplishing, what I have learned and what I would do differently next time. In going through this mental exercise, I realized that in the instances where I not only succeeded in achieving my goal, but achieved it victoriously versus the times when I pretty much failed before I even really got started, there were three underlying aspects in play:
(1) Lack of vision:
Before any goal is achieved, it must be seen in the mind first as completed. The more vividly one can place themselves as achieving the goal in their mind, from how they would feel, to what they would do, to where they would be and what they would wear, the more likely it would be achieved.
If a goal is not in the forefront of our minds, it will stay hidden with the other cobwebs of memories, dreams and desires that come fleeting in and out of our mind without much more thought.
So how do you ensure that your goal remains in the forefront of your mind, even with so many other things seeking your attention? Here are three ways that have worked for me:
- Vision boards: For almost every goal that I have accomplished, from getting out of $120k of debt in 2.5 years, to completing my MBA, to starting my own tutoring business on the side, I had some visual representations of achieving my goal. Whether you draw out your goals by hand, or cut out pictures from magazines, the idea is the same, if you see it enough times, you will begin to believe it. I know it sounds cheesy, but it works. It’s not about how pretty the vision board looks, it’s about how pumped up it makes you feel about reaching our goals. Once you’ve created your vision board, be sure to pin it prominently in your room where you are encouraged to look at it each day. There is no use in creating a beautiful vision board if it will be tucked away.
- Motivational podcasts: I feel that the more you engage the 5 senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, hear) in achieving your goal, the more luckily to achieve them. This is why, in addition to using a vision board, I like to play motivational podcasts to re-inforce what I am aiming for each day. If it’s starting a business, then I would listen to leaders in the area of entrepreneurship. If it’s getting out of debt, then I would listen to other people’s successful debt repayment journey on a daily basis to remain pumped and determined to succeed. Whatever the goal may be, there is more than likely others that have been through the same struggles and overcome them. Listen to their stories and become motivated to achieve the same for yourself.
- To do lists: Do at least one thing every day that brings you closer towards reaching your goal, and write that activity down on paper before you do it. Being intentional about our lives and the direction we want them to go is essential to achieving our goals. It is unlikely to stumble into success, but very likely to stumble into a life of failed hopes and dreams. One of the main differences between these two is being intentional about how you will spend your day. This is not to say that luck does not play some part in achieving success in one’s life, but luck without intentionality will always lead to an unfulfilled life. About 70% of Americans who win the lottery will file for bankruptcy within the next 3-6 years. If winning the lottery is not luck, then I don’t know what is. One of my favourite saying from Anthony Robbins is “it’s not what you do every once in a while that changes the direction of your life, but rather, what you do consistently”. In one of Robbins podcasts he outlines one of the first things that he does when he provides one on one motivational coaching to any of his elite clients is ask to see their day planner. Based on that, he can pin point with fairly good accuracy why the person is not successful in achieving their goal, whatever that goal maybe.
Some people may argue that they don’t need to write their tasks down, because they have a good memory and won’t forget to do it. I personally feel that putting your tasks for the day down on paper makes it’s real, intentional and hard to ignore. It creates a sense of urgency that keeping it in the forefront of your mind, reinforcing your vision.
(2) Lack of direction:
Even with intentionality, vision boards, podcasts and all the motivation in the world, a goal without direction will result in frustration and maybe even defeat. The best way that I know to direct the achievements of my goals is to make them SMART goals.
“Specific”: the more detail you can provide, the better. If you are trying to pay off your debts, how much to the last cent do you need to pay off? What type of debt? What kind of time frame are you giving yourself? How much money do you have to put towards the debt each month?
“Measurable”: Many goals can be quantified. Quantifying a goal is the most accurate way to measure progress. How can you know if you are moving towards the right direction if you don’t have a measuring stick to track your progress? This is where the how much debt and how long is answered?
“Attainable & Realistic”: When developing goals, it’s important to have goals that will make you “stretch” as a person and even go past your comfort zone, but not to the point where you feel defeated because you never gave yourself a fair chance. In the area of personal finance and paying off debt, determining whether something is a realistic and attainable goal can only be achieved by preparing a budget. If you are trying to get out of debt, and you haven’t prepared a budget, then you may be defeated before you even start.
“Time bound”: every goal should have a beginning and end date. Creating a timeline creates a sense of urgency and causes us to have our goals on the forefront of our minds.
(3) Lack of grit
Grit is “a belief that you can conquer anything, if you stick with it. It’s a belief in yourself, a determination to win, a plan for success. It is based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective”.
There is more to being successful then having natural born talents and abilities. The person with more “grit” but less natural born talents will surpass the person with more talent and less grit. Unfortunately, internal motivation, the desire to succeed despite the odds is not something that can be easily learned. It’s a passion, a burning obsession that must be birthed from the inside.
Sometimes, the grit we need to achieve a specific goal like getting out of debt or starting a business will come naturally. But many times I feel that it is not until we are pushed beyond our comfort zone or pinned to the corner that we realize what we are capable of.
A vision gets you started, direction leads the way, and grit makes sure you finish the race victoriously.
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