If you do one thing today, make it this
I’m reading an excellent book at the moment, Pschyo-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz and I’ve just had an ah-ha moment.
Goals. Do you set them? Things you want to aim for, do, be, have? For years, I have not set goals. I’m a list-writer, don’t get me wrong, but goals? Not really, they’ve always just been things I need to get done, boring, mundane or daily-work-related. I remember going to a corporate workshop for women a few years ago and we were encouraged to create mood boards. The lady running the day had an incredible story to tell us which has remained with me ever-since. She’d created a mood board that included a suave grey-haired George Clooney type guy and a very cool place on the beach in California. She was British, living in Britain. Yet a few years later, attending a conference in the US, she was introduced to a man who looked remarkably like the man on her mood board. A year after that, they were married and living together in a beach house in California. It was genuine too, not made up for good effect on the day. Yet I never went on to create my mood board. All the little pictures I cut out are still tucked away somewhere in the dark, in a lost, forgotten draw.
An Indian friend of mine (I mention the Indian part as I find the culture can often lean towards striving for achievements) sits down with her husband each NYE and together they write out their dreams for the year ahead, even five years ahead. I marveled at that each year she told me. I thought that was wonderful, yet I never did the same. Why not? I’d just convinced myself that I didn’t have any .
But perhaps I just wasn’t framing the question quite right, to myself I mean.
Goals is not a word that works for everyone. For some people, it causes a negative reaction, turns them off, scares them away. Perhaps that’s what it was doing to me, too. Yet goals can also mean ‘projects’ or ‘causes’ — things you believe in, things you want to be, or become. Perhaps for you, those words may already feel better, more comfortable, so work with those instead.
You see, the thing is, we are engineered to strive for things in life — let’s stick to the word goals for now — strive for goals to achieve — something to aim for. What I’ve realised, now that I’ve begun setting them, is that without these, we’re a bit lost, life can feel a bit aimless, we lack purpose. So much is written about purpose nowadays — both in the leadership space and personal development — our awareness has been heightened around needing to have purpose and if you’ve not got it, well, you’ve got no life at all. What’s the point?
Yet when we have goals, a cause, or a project to aim for, the world is a better place. You have something ahead of you, always, to look forward to. You develop a forward-looking outlook rather than reminiscing about the good old days. You keep moving forward with an altogether more positive outlook.
As Maxwell Maltz says, “A bicycle maintains its poise and equilibrium only so long as it is going forward towards something. But when you try and maintain your balance standing still, with no place to go, you’re understandably going to feel shaky”.
I’ve felt shaky for years. I’ve been trying to support a bicycle on the flat instead of riding it up the hill. Yet since I began writing goals, two weeks ago, my life has changed already. What I suggest is that you do two types of goals — big hairy ones (otherwise known as a bucket list) where you create big dreams. They’re not immediate, they’re ones you will build towards. Then you do sprint goals. Benjamin Hardy has us doing these in his 52 Weeks of Momentum course. These are projects you’re working on now, in the next month that you can absolutely achieve if you put your mind to it. I liked the analogy he gave recently in one of his posts on Medium with regards to the bbusiness professor and religious leader, David Bednar. He too makes an important analogy. Here’s what he says:
“In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field. The painting is a vast collection of individual brushstrokes — none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive.
In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint. However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brushstrokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field.
Many ordinary, individual brushstrokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.
You don’t worry about every day actually having ticked a goal off your list, but you use every day to do something that works towards your goals.
My point is, it’s working for me and I want you to try it because I know it will work for you, too. So grab a nice notebook — start dreaming, start writing. Make two sections, one for your Bucket List and one for your Sprint Goals. And when you’re done and happy with what’s on the piece of paper in front of you, don’t close the book and forget about them. Do something each day to work towards achieving those goals. As well as practical steps, you’ll also need to think about them, imagine what it would be like if you achieved each one of them. Feel them. That’s important part of the process too, in making them a reality. When you set the wheels in motion, what you’re actually doing is giving an instruction to your subconscious, or what Maxwell Maltz calls your ‘creative mechanism’, that you want this to happen.
And remember, on the days you may find yourself thinking that life is dull, perhaps not even worthwhile, all you’re really saying to yourself is that you have no personal goals that are worthwhile. I promise you, this will get you focussed on moving forward, a life to aim for, things to feel excited about. So, what are you waiting for?