Two related principles of the Excelerated Life™ deal with setting and achieving BIG (Bold, Important, Gratifying) goals. The two principles are Goals and Goal Setting and Action. Goal setting is an important step but by itself is not enough. Once you have your BIG goal in mind, you must start to take the actions that enable you to achieve it.theExceleratedLife.com
The Missing Ingredient
I have told the story before about my client, “Mary”, who came back for more coaching after she had set some good, workable goals but had failed to make progress on any of them. I told Mary at the time that a goal “was a necessary step toward creating her best life, but it is only a step . . . a beginning step at that. She needed to develop strategies – a detailed plan – to help her progress toward achieving her goals.”
Take Action On Your Goals
In the Exclerated Life plan, Goals and Goal Setting and Taking Action are two separate principles that work together to enable you to “move forward while increasing your ability to be outstanding, first rate, and exceptional.” Goal setting comes first. Then you must take action. The practices for Action include Excelerated Productivity™, Excelerated Self-Discipline™, and Excelerated Action™. Let’s take a closer look at some specific ideas around taking Excelerated Action. If you’ve become stuck and are not making progress, these ideas can help you begin to take action on your goals. (If you don’t have a BIG — Bold, Important, Gratifying — goal, start here first.)
A Goal – Necessary But Not Sufficient
As Mary discovered, having a goal is, as they say, “necessary but not sufficient”. In a sense, the goal is your starting point as well as your final destination. Without a clear goal, you don’t know which direction to start off toward. If you shoot an arrow but don’t know where your target is, you could aim in any number of directions, none of them the right one.
With a clear goal, you know the direction in which to aim. But knowing the direction – the goal – is not enough. You also have to pull back the bow and release the arrow. You have to take action on your goal.
15 things to do
Here are 15 actions you can do to get started on your goal. They aren’t necessarily chronological and you may not even need all of them. But, assuming you know your target — your goal — one or more of these ideas can start you moving in the right direction.
1. Develop an action plan.
An excellent way to come up with a workable plan is to WOOP your goal. WOOP is an acronym for Wish – Outcome – Obstacle – Plan. You already know your Wish; this is your ultimate goal. The Outcome is the “why” of your goal. What benefits will you experience when you hit the target and achieve your goal? List the Obstacles that you’ll need to overcome to reach your destination. Finally, make a Plan for how you will deal with the obstacles should they arise. (Click here for more on WOOP.)
2. Break it down.
If your steps are too large (“too large” being relative), you’ll never take them. The idea here is to make the steps, especially the first steps, so small that you’d almost be embarrassed not to take them. Do 1 push up. Eat 1 baby carrot. Floss 1 tooth. Read 1 page. Or 1 paragraph. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Inertia is a strong force that you must overcome and the way to do that is to make the initial steps ridiculously easy to do.
3. Focus on the why.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
This is the Outcome portion of your WOOP plan. When motivation flags or you are having a tough time overcoming the inertia and getting started, look at the reasons and benefits for achieving your goal. You may not yet know how you’ll get to the end but you do know your next step.
4. Make it measurable.
Measurable is one component of a SMART+Plus goal. How will you keep track of your progress? Seeing the progress you are making, even with the tiny steps you are taking, is motivating. One simple way to track your progress is to put a checkmark on the calendar each day you complete your step. As you see the check marks accumulating, you’ll want to keep the streak going. Find a way to keep track that works for you.
5. Don’t wait for the perfect time.
Sometimes I find myself starting to begin to commence to get started by telling myself that I am waiting for just the right time. If I am honest with myself, and we are honest with each other, we know that the right time — the only time — is NOW. You have a plan for reaching your goal and you have tiny steps to start on your way. Take the first step . . . now.
6. “Fail Fast, Fail Frequently, Fail Forward”
Another reason you may be waiting for the “perfect” time? Fear of failure. It isn’t failure itself that keeps you back. I believe you’ll agree with me that if you look over your life, or even your last week, you’ve failed time and again. I repeat: It isn’t failure that keeps you from getting started, it’s the fear of failure. Remember that failure is a necessary part of most success. It’s through failure that you learn and grow. So fail fast, fail frequently, and fail forward. It’s how you make progress.
7. Take the first step.
See #5 and #6.
8. Do it!
Still stuck? Do something. Do anything. Here is one of my favorite quotes, from Cathy Stucker, The Idea Lady: “I have a firmly-held belief that it is better to do the wrong thing than nothing. Any action you take will lead you closer to your goal.” If you find you are having trouble taking the next step (or the first step), revisit item #2. Your steps are not small enough yet.
9. Tap into your Signature Strengths.
Use your unique combination of character strengths, the ones that come most naturally, your Signature Strengths to help in planning and executing the steps to reach your goal. It makes sense to let these facets of your personality help you in your quest for your goal. It has also been shown by experimentation to increase your positivity, which can make you more creative and more resilient.
10. Hold yourself accountable.
We sometimes have a negative connotation for the word accountable, attaching a sense of blame for things going wrong. What I mean by holding yourself accountable is that you take responsibility for taking action on your goal. When you have a misstep (a missed step?), don’t heap blame upon yourself. And quash any negative self-talk. (“I’m so stupid!” “I never do anything right!” “I’ll never learn.”) Be accountable, take responsibility for your actions (or lack thereof), and learn from your experience. (Fail fast, fail frequently, fail forward . . . remember?)
11. Find your motivation.
The Fogg Behavior Model says Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Prompt. [Fogg] Without all three components, a behavior will not occur. The easier the behavior is to perform (Ability) and the higher your Motivation to perform the behavior, the more likely you will do it. We’ve already discussed making it as easy as necessary so let’s talk about motivation. According to BJ Fogg, motivation has three sources: Person – that’s you; Action – an external reward or punishment, and Context – your environment. Motivation can come from any of these. [Fogg] You can be internally motivated to do the behavior; you can be motivated by the promise of a reward or the threat of punishment; and you can be motivated by your environment. So find your motivation sources, the more the better. But keep in mind that Motivation is the least dependable of the components of behavior. Find what motivates you to take action on your goals and use it . . . but don’t depend on it.
12. Embrace the drudgery.
If your goal is sufficiently BIG (Bold, Important, Gratifying) enough, it will take more than a few tiny steps to reach it. It will likely take many, many steps, taken day after day after day, week after week after week. Be prepared to do the work. Orison Swett Marden, writing in The Secret Of Achievement, says “Blessed be Drudgery! For thrice it blesses us: it gives us the fundamental qualities of manhood and womanhood; it gives us success in the thing we have to do; and it makes us, if we choose, artists — artists within, whatever our outward work may be. Blessed be Drudgery, the secret of all achievement, of all culture!” [Marden]
13. Evaluate how the plan is working.
The Universe rewards action, often through feedback. As you begin taking steps toward your goal, you’ll receive updates on how you are doing. Likely that means you’ll see places you can improve and things you can do differently. Keep in mind idea # 10 and be accountable, i.e., responsible, for evaluating your progress. No shame, no blame, and, in the spirit of #6, remember you generally learn more from your failures than from your successes.
14. Revise your plan when necessary.
As you evaluate your plans from the feedback you receive by taking action, look for the ways your plan can be improved. “The plan you start with,” Jeff Olson reminds is in The Slight Edge, “will not be the plan that gets you there.” [Olson] As you learn more about your goal and about yourself, you’ll be able to adjust and fine-tune your plans. You learn by doing. So do and learn and do and learn and do and learn and do in an upward spiral. Keep revising your plans until you get the one that takes you to your goal.
15. Take a moment to reward yourself.
This is an important step. Every time you perform your tiny step in moving toward your goal, take a moment to reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but, in order to create the habit, you must consistently reward the behavior. BJ Fogg lists “One Hundred Ways To Celebrate” in his book Tiny Habits. These include: Saying “Yes!” while you do a fist pump. Drumming a happy beat on a desk or wall. Giving a double thumbs up. Raising your arms in victory. Striking a power pose. See the book for the full list. Keep it simple and be consistent.
You have your BIG goal. (I hope. If not, perhaps you want to start here.) And now you have a map of 15 items you can select from to get you started. Will you stumble? Probably. Will you fail? It’s likely. Will you have to re-work your plans? Definitely. But all of these are simply steps on the way to reaching your BIG goal. Think about how you will feel once you arrive. Do that frequently. Now, review the list of 15 things and pick the one that will help you most. Then, most importantly, get started on that one step today. Now you are embracing the Excelerated Life™!
Taking Excelerated Action™ in pursuit of your goals is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being and a life of meaning, purpose and service..
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