“If we did the things we are capable of,
we would astound ourselves.”
How to accomplish goals - whatever the task…
- Driving to a family reunion in another state…
- Finding a job…
- Starting a business online…
- Cleaning the house…
- Saving a marriage…
- Lowering your golf score by 10 strokes…
- Landing a man on Mars…
the essential, fundamental steps to accomplish that task, or ANY task, very small or paradigm-shifting, are exactly the same. Whether a task is simple or complex, the process to get from point A to point B successfully is absolutely identical – it’s universal.
By definition, therefore, understanding and optimizing these 7 steps in any and every aspect of your life can ensure that you accomplish more tasks successfully and enjoy the fruits of that success.
On the other hand, ignoring, short-cutting or dismissing these steps as intellectual masturbation will make reaching any goal agonizingly more difficult.
Make these 7 steps an integral part of your daily life. Put them on your wall, on your desktop, on your mobile phone. Internalize them and measure every important task you undertake against them. “Am I doing everything I can to follow this 7-step path to my goal?” The impact of making this simple exercise habitual can be life-changing.
1 Envision the goal
“If you can dream it, you can DO it.”
Notice I didn’t say “Set a goal.” That’s too intellectual. A goal is most achievable when it’s emotional in nature – something that will evoke a positive emotional response – something you can see, touch or feel.
The goal shouldn’t be to finish your housecleaning, save your marriage or make an extra $5000 to go on vacation. They aren’t emotional goals. Virtually every self-help professional will encourage you to see yourself already there… to “envision” yourself accomplishing the task… feeling what success will be like – what it will look like – how you’ll “feel” when the house is clean, your marriage is happy again…
Or how great it will feel when you’re on the vacation that those extra hours of work will enable you to afford – smelling the sea air, savoring the stuffed clams at that waterfront hideaway you discovered on your last visit, feeling the soft, wet sand and listening to the sounds of the surf as you walk hand-in-hand with your partner on a deserted beach.
You must experience those emotions NOW in anticipation of getting there. It must feel real to you. Use all your senses – the more specific the better – because that emotional feeling will help you overcome the inevitable obstacles as it pulls you toward the goal.
2 Choose a Direction
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Francis Of Assisi
Whatever the task, big or small, there are likely several, perhaps many, possible ways to reach your goal. The trip to the family reunion could take several different routes – each affected by different factors – traffic, scenery, available rest stops, etc.
Pursuing an education, growing a business, learning a new skill, building a serious relationship – they each can offer so many alternatives – hundreds of variations and endless conflicting advice on the best way to go.
So what direction do you choose? Which one of all the alternatives will be the best for you in reaching your goal?
I believe the #1 cause of failure, in every aspect of life, is the fear and anxiety of starting in a direction when you don’t know for sure if you’ll reach your goal successfully, This is the BIG elephant in the room in business, in marriage, in sports, in everything… FEAR.
Fear is the prime emotion.
Fear is about survival. Unfortunately, the brain-initiated fear responses that once enabled our ancestors to survive life-or-death dangers has, in today’s world, been transferred to such non-life-or-death situations as public speaking, asking a girl out on a date, fear of the humiliation of failure, etc.
Our brain has not changed significantly over the last 150,000 years, but our world has changed dramatically. So choosing a direction, especially when the goal is important to us, is difficult – because we fear the consequences of having chosen the wrong direction. The more important the goal is to us emotionally, the more fear can be a barrier.
The power of massive action
That’s why any knowledgeable professional or leader will advocate a quick and decisive commitment to massive action – to choose a direction and get started – even if you’re not totally convinced the direction is the perfect choice.
Why? Because not starting, always looking for a better direction, leads to procrastination and, eventually, paralysis as too many choices overwhelm us.
In no way do I undervalue research and analysis. Choosing a direction without aggressive research and thoughtful analysis can be foolhardy and destructive. But those who experience success at all levels... the do-ers who get stuff done and move the world… will invariably say that success really escalated when they stopped overthinking and took massive ACTION.
Choosing a direction, and acting on it, is liberating and so often leads to actions and experiences that help us find the right path to the goal.
3 Create Or Follow A System
“People with goals succeed
because they know where they’re going.”
Okay, you’re psyched and ready to take action. You may not yet feel confident that you know the precise path to follow, but you’re smart enough to know you’ll never get where you want to go if you procrastinate. It’s time to pick a direction and get moving!
So how do you get started?
How do you get from here to there as quickly, efficiently and successfully as possible? For some tasks, you may already know that the path ahead is long and hard. For some tasks, the exact path is unknown… a mystery to be solved each step of the way.
You can always “figure it out as you go.” Sounds creative and confident. Truth is, “figuring it out as you go” seldom ends well. Whatever your task or goal, “winging it” is usually destined for dead ends, frustration and disappointment.
No matter how creative you are… no matter how untraveled your path to accomplishing your goal is… the smartest way to get started is to identify or devise a SYSTEM to guide you along that path.
System: a set of principles or procedures working together according to which something is done - an organized framework or method.
Whenever I have a task to accomplish, big or small, I first try to find if there is already a proven system to follow. It could be looking for You Tube videos about installing pavers… it could be doing a Google search for how to construct a Masters thesis… it could be searching for creative ways to find a new job.
Step-by-step instructions to follow a proven path are invaluable.
Following a system does not depress creativity. Along the way the creative person is always looking for ways to make the system better, more personalized, quicker or find inspiration to veer in a new direction. But the system provides a guidebook to keep you on an efficient path forward.
So what do you do when you can’t find a proven system to follow? YOU CREATE ONE. When there is no proven path, every step forward has an aspect of “winging it” to its DNA. But the best “winging it” strategies are built on research and careful thought about the best way to move forward.
They may be educated guesses deciding where the next step on the path should go, but proactive thought and analysis optimizes the chances that the next step you take on your path is grounded by your most educated guess.
In other words, the better your planning, the better your chances that the next step will be a successful step to get you closer to your goal. And, if it doesn’t work out as you planned, there’s a good chance that your prior research and thought will prepare you to adjust your direction for another attempt to successfully navigate that next step.
And there is one more valuable component in creating your own system:
DOCUMENT EACH STEP. If the task you want to achieve is an important one, take the time to document your thoughts, strategies, tools and actions. That will make analyzing what you did to adjust for failures, or provide a proven pathway for accomplishing the task again another time, much easier. In other words, think like a scientist. They document everything. It pays!
4 Narrow the Focus
“Great things are not done by impulse,
but by a series of small things brought together.”
Vincent Van Gogh
The human brain is hardwired to complete tasks. You feel good when a task is successfully completed, and you feel upset and anxious when a task is not completed successfully.
The more complex or difficult the task, the more likely you will fail to complete a step on your path to success. And with failure comes frustration, disappointment, loss of confidence, questioning whether further pursuit of the goal is worth the effort and, too often, motivation to abandon the task.
Failure is debilitating.
It can be cancerous to your forward-looking state of mind. Yes it can be motivating to try harder IF your will to succeed in the task is strong enough to overcome the emotional power of failure. Most of us think we have that strength, and, sometimes, sheer will can overcome that negative power.
However, the most effective antidote to failure’s debilitating power is to AVOID FAILURE in the first place. But how?
The secret is to follow the brain’s own “work rules” and divide complex or difficult tasks into smaller, more achievable goals. Each success is energizing and motivating to press on. Narrow your focus to successfully achieving each small step and ensure that you avoid the debilitating power of failure along your path to success.
5 Feed the Passion
“A person can succeed at almost anything
for which he or she has unlimited enthusiasm.”
Passion: a powerful or compelling emotion or feeling
Passion is the energy of accomplishment and achievement. We reserve the word “passion” for the most powerful and compelling emotions – the emotions that get our blood boiling producing energy that drives movement. Sometimes that movement is backward when the passion is destructive. Sometimes passion is the energy that drives us to force our way over and through obstacles to success.
To accomplish anything difficult and challenging, by definition, the obstacles will be intimidating. It is always easier to give up in the face of difficult challenges. It takes enormous energy and iron will to push past these obstacles. Not everyone has the strength and determination to climb mountains.
That’s why this step is so crucial to accomplishing anything important. Because anything important will inevitably be difficult and present multiple barriers to success. Without a driving passion, energy will wane in the face of obstacles.
To accomplish difficult tasks, you must continually feed the passion.
Like a steam locomotive, you must continually shovel in more coal or throw in more wood to fuel the engine… or the locomotive will slow and eventually stop. A powerful engine consistently needs lots of fuel.
So how do you continually feed the passion that will drive you to overcome those obstacles to success?
Look inside yourself to identify what really motivates you. Sometimes it’s negative emotions like fear of failure or rejection. Sometimes it’s anticipation of the fruits of success. Sometimes it’s a deep-seated desire for self-realization. It only takes a brief review of Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs to understand how diverse those needs can be,
What’s important is to identify what is most emotionally important to YOU. Only then can you identify the right fuel to best energize your quest.
Find your own personal carrots and sticks.
The image you have likely seen of the mule with the carrot on a string dangling in front of the mule continually moving forward in pursuit of the carrot is a real-life scenario in seeking success. What are YOUR carrots that have the motivating power to pull you forward even when the obstacles seem insurmountable?
And what are the “sticks” that you fear their sting so much that they will push you forward when the going gets tough? Embarrassment? Shame? Rebuke? Loss of something important? Whatever your “sticks,” use their sting as fuel to power your way over and through the obstacles ahead.
6 Rest & Refresh
“Rest when you're weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”
“Determined,” “Workaholic,” “Obsessed,” “Driven” – these are often words of praise in the business world over the last 50 years. But the behavior behind these words comes with a price. Our human body, including our brain, is not capable of continuous work without rest.
We marvel at the individual who seems in perpetual motion, always working – all hours, not needing much sleep, oblivious to breaks. But it is all a dangerous lie. There is always a price for defying the human body’s and the human brain’s “work rules.” It may be mistakes, misjudgments, physical harm – today or in the future,.. there is always a price.
The enormous amount of energy needed to overcome difficult obstacles requires periodic rest and refreshment. No compromise here. To accomplish anything difficult, you MUST build into your system rest and refreshment. Fight the urge to “power through” all the time.
You can get lucky occasionally. But your humanity will eventually prevail. So don’t wait until exhaustion or physical harm or costly mistakes force you to rest. Be smarter than that. Proactively include in your success system the rest and refreshment that will energize your success path.
7 Cherish And Celebrate Milestones
“Remember to celebrate milestones as you
prepare for the road ahead.”
As noted in Step 4, big goals can feel overwhelming. Narrow your focus to breaking up big goals into smaller, achievable pieces. In addition, identify specific milestones along your success path for which you can celebrate real success. Take time to think hard about what milestones, when reached, would signify a clear marker that success is another major step closer to the accomplishment you are working hard to achieve.
Make achieving each milestone a big deal. Don’t just recognize your achievement. CELEBRATE it. Cherish it as the major achievement that it is. Go out to dinner, have a party, indulge yourself with a sinful dessert, post it on your social media, announce it in an employee meeting, drink some champagne – whatever you will appreciate as a REWARD for your determination, talent and persistence, use it to drive you forward.
The path to difficult accomplishments may be long and hard… however, small, but celebrated, victories along the way will keep you energized and moving forward.
And when you finally accomplish your goal, celebrate big-time. Difficult accomplishment should be celebrated with passion as well! It’s hard to come by. If the path were easy, more would get there. But it was not easy, and you beat the odds.
Appreciate it. Celebrate it. Use that earned confidence as fuel to accomplish even more.
So there you have my 7 Steps To Accomplish Anything.
One more suggestion: I consider these 7 steps to be so important that I carry around with me a little card with these 7 steps as a reminder when I get confused or discouraged, or when I’m about to embark on a difficult, challenging task. We all need reminders.
Here is a link to a Pdf of 4 cards on an 8 ½” x 11” sheet that you can print out on card stock and cut out. Put one on your desk, one on a wall, one in a purse or wallet and one in your car. Surround yourself with constant reminders of these 7 Steps To Accomplish Anything that you put your mind to.
Follow these 7 Steps How To Accomplish Goals religiously. Internalize them as your success habit. The payoff in your life will be enormously gratifying.