The Next Right Thing
We didn’t put man on the moon by just winging it. You need a plan. If we didn’t have a plan, most of us wouldn’t do much. Make a plan, and follow the plan.
Everyone has dreams, but very few ever turn them into goals. In order for it to be a goal instead of a dream, you have to have a time frame for when it is going to be done, and a plan for accomplishing it. Otherwise it’s still a dream even if you call it a goal. When a young couple tells me that they are engaged, I usually ask when they are getting married. A common answer I get is “sometime next year”. That is not an engagement. In my opinion, in order to be engaged you need two things; a specific day you are getting married and a ring. Otherwise they are just thinking about getting married. Until you have end date and a plan for getting there, it is just wishful thinking.
Written goals with a plan of action will separate you from 97% of people. Goals must be daily or you are just a dreamer. Look over your top goals three times every day. Look at them first thing when you wake up, right before you go to bed, and sometime during the day. Just having a goal is not enough. The most important thing is what the goal does for you. It should inspire you. It should get you out of bed in the morning. It should give you the energy to keep going when it gets hard. If your goal is not getting you excited every day, it’s time for a new goal. Never follow goals you’re reluctant to pursue. Find ones that will keep you awake at night with excitement.
You should be working on your top goal every day, even if you can only spend 5 minutes on it. This is your breakthrough goal. When you accomplished this, it will make a huge difference to your life. Write it down on a 3x5 card, carry it around with you, and look at it as many times during the day as you possibly can. Visualize yourself already achieving it. Act as if you already have. Try to do five things everyday towards your goal. You can chop a tree down with a hammer if you hit it enough times; but hopefully you are using an axe. If you keep doing things every day that move you towards your goal, eventually you will make it.
Dan Miller suggests that you should set your goals so you have a 50% chance of reaching it. If you are reaching all your goals, your goals are too small. The only way a high jumper knows how high he can jump, is when he can’t jump over the bar anymore.
Another philosophy on goal setting is to set three goals. The first one is a goal that you are almost guaranteed to reach. Next, you set your ideal target goal. Finally you set the goal that would really excite you. Let’s say you want to make an extra $1000 a month in the next 3 months. Your guaranteed goal might be to make $50 or $100. The target goal is the $1000 and the goal that really excites you could be $5000. This way you are setting yourself up for success. The more you feel like a winner, the more effort you will put into your goal.
When martial artists are taught to break boards, they learn to punch through the wood, not just break the board. They pick a spot a foot or two past the board and aim for that spot. When someone just tries to break the board by punching the board, you can break your hand. Seeing yourself going past your goal is a great way to help you reach it. Ask yourself what you would have to do to achieve double what your goals is, or ten times your goal. Then start doing it.
Sometimes you don’t have complete control over the results of your actions. But there is always a way to set yourself up for success. If you are in sales and you set a goal to make $10,000 in a month, there is no way to guarantee that your actions will produce $10,000. So instead focus on the activity that will produce the end result. Focus on how many hours you spend prospecting and how many customers you talk to. You do have complete control over those. If you double the amount of hours or customers you talk to, your sales are obviously going to increase. You can feel like a winner, even when you haven’t seen any additional results. YOU know the results will follow.
Goals need to be SMART
Specific- The more specific your goal is, the better chance you have of accomplishing it. Losing 5 pounds is more specific than losing some weight.
Measurable- You need to be able to measure it. Don’t make a goal to read more. Instead make a goal to read 2 books every month. If it is not measurable, you won’t know if you accomplished it or not.
Actionable- The outcome of the goal needs to be within your power to accomplish it. It might be nice if your boss was nicer to you, or your spouse lost some weight. You do not have direct control over these situations. Pick something you have direct control over.
Realistic- Goals should be big, because it will take a big goal to create the excitement necessary for accomplishing it. They also need to be realistic, so you’re not setting yourself up for failure.
Time Bound- Your goals need to have a deadline. When are you going to reach your goal? “Someday” is as elusive as the wind.
People who believe they will accomplish their goals are more likely to achieve them. However, there are two different kinds of belief. One is good, the other is harmful. Believing that you will achieve your goal has been proven to be a successful strategy over and over. Thinking that your goal will be easy to achieve is a different story. Some research has shown that people who think it is going to be hard to achieve their goal are three times as likely to reach it as those that think it is going to be easy. So believing you can achieve your goal is critical, but you need to combine it with knowing it is also going to be difficult.
Tony Robbins has a plan for achieving goals he calls the RPM. This stands for Results, Purpose and Massive Action.
Results- What is the outcome you want? “The indispensable first step to getting what you want out of life is this: decide what you want” Dr Paul Jenkins. Take the time to get really clear about what it is that you want.
Purpose- Why do you want it? When your why is big enough, you will do anything to accomplish it. Why you want it is as important as what you want. Make a list of all the reasons you must accomplish this goal. What will be the benefit if you reach your goal, and what will be the pain if you don’t? What is this costing you right now, and what will it cost you in the future? When the messenger of misery comes, what reasons are you going to have, to keep going? Who are you doing it for, and why?
Massive Action Plan- What specific massive actions do I need to take to get the results I want? Attack your goal with everything you have. You can do just about anything for 2 or 3 months. I would stand outside in a chicken suit for a month if it would drastically help me accomplish my goal. Most of the time, the only difference between what you have right now and what you want, is the actions you need to take.
You must know what you want
You must know why you want it
You must know when you want it
You must know what you are going to do to get it
When you have to do something mundane or monotonous to reach your goal, try to remember the reasons you are doing it. There can always be greater meaning to what you do. A janitor can either view his job as cleaning up after messy children, or he could view it as helping to maintain a great learning environment for the rising generation.
When you are doing something that is very difficult, has a lot of steps, or you have never done before, break down each task into pieces. When you break a difficult task down into smaller pieces, it doesn’t seem as difficult or scary.
Compass vs Map
We know God has a plan for us, but sometimes we would like to know exactly what that plan is. We all want a map to follow to lead us to our final destination. These days a map doesn’t cut it. We want the exact coordinates and turn by turn directions. We want God to tell us exactly what roads to take and how long it is going to take to get there. And if you are anything like my family, we want to know where the Dairy Queens’s are so we can stop for a Blizzard. Sadly, this is not how it works. Instead, God points us in the right direction. Instead of a map, we are given a compass.
A compass doesn’t give us an end location, it simply points a direction. When you are climbing a mountain, you can’t see the top of the mountain. Go to the highest peak, and see what you can see from there. As we follow the directions of the compass, we are led through the fog. Guidance comes every day. It doesn’t come for a week, month, year, or decade. When Moses was in the wilderness, the children of Israel got manna for 1 day. In the same way, sometimes we only get guidance for a day. Sometimes we must ask again and again, “God, is this what you want me to be doing?” There is no fail safe formula. You are not going to get a revelation for your whole life. How can God give you guidance today for six months down the road, when you aren’t at that place yet? You don’t have to understand it. It is very powerful to say, “God, I don’t understand this, but I trust you. I just know I’m getting guidance.” Richard Bolles
Let’s say you need to go to the grocery store. If you wait until all the stop lights are green before you leave your home, you’ll never get started. They say the quickest way is in a straight line, but that’s not how it works. You don’t go in a straight line from your house to the grocery store. You would be going through houses and fences. Deal with the lights one at a time until you reach your destination. Martin Luther King Jr. said you don’t have to see the whole staircase before you start going up the stairs. You just take the first step.
It might appear that the last chapter and this chapter contradict each other. In one chapter I write about being patient and not being in control of everything. Then in the next chapter I talk about setting goals, committing to them, and not giving up. There is a way for these to work together.
In Zen and the Art of Making a Living, Laurence Boldt explains the misconception that there is a conflict with “going with the flow” and creating what you want in your life. Creating what you want can, and should be, going with the flow if you are following your higher Self. What your higher Self really wants is be at one with the universe. “Your deepest desires are as organic as any towering tree, roaming river, or flowering bush”. Accomplishing your goals and going with the flow, can be one in the same.
The Next Right Thing
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”
Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. Don’t wait to be inspired or for all the planets to be aligned before you start. First we begin, then the insights appear. There is never a perfect time to start. It just doesn’t exist. There doesn’t need to be an empty week where you can say “Now is the perfect time to start.” Start wherever you are. Use the tools and resources you have right now. You have what you need right now. The universe gives us what we need, and sometimes not a bit more. Think Big, Dream Big, but start small. When would NOW be a good time to do it? It’s not enough to say, “God I trust you and I know you are going to meet all my needs.” That’s like the farmer not planting any seeds and expecting a harvest. The Law of the Harvest gives to those who plant, not those who need it. The rewards go to those who deserve it, not those that need it.
One year is one chapter of your life story. One month is a paragraph, one week is a sentence, and one day is a word. Everyday you are writing something in your story. If your life story was turned into a movie right now, what would the audience think when it was over? Would they say, “That was inspiring! I wonder what will happen next.” Or would they walk out of the theatre with a confused look on their face and say, “What was that all about?”
The person who doesn’t read, is no better off than the person who can’t read. Knowledge is not power, but applying knowledge is powerful. Knowledge without action is the same thing as not having knowledge. What you need is the knowledge of what you need to “do”, not what you need to “know”. The worst thing you can do is keep learning or preparing, without taking any action. Bruce Lee said it best “Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough. We must do.” In the battle between planning and action, action wins every time. God feeds the birds in the sky, but he doesn’t just throw worms in the nest.
You can’t say that you don’t have enough time because you have exactly the same number of hours given to Helen Keller, Micheananglo, Mother Theresa, and Albert Einstein. Time is the only thing in life that is fair. The secret is to break things down into small measurable tasks, and then start doing the first one. Do what is in front of you. There are 86,400 seconds in a day. What you do today is what matters. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday, or last week.
There is no such thing as completing a project. All you can do is complete is a task. When you complete enough of the right tasks, then the project will be completed. There is only one action we need to take and that is the next one. The next right thing is usually something small, mundane and not very glamorous. It is always doable and gives you a sense of satisfaction. Zen Masters would say “Do what wants to be done” or take “effortless effort”. Your job is to simply start. Then keep taking what feels like the next logical step. Your journey will ultimately take you where you want to go or somewhere even better.
In the beginning God dreamed about making the Earth, but then he got really busy and never did anything about it. Compare that to, in the beginning God had an idea to make Earth. After he created the Earth, God saw that it was good and enjoyed His creation. Oh what a difference “doing it” makes!
Successful people do what they should do, when they should do it, no matter how they feel. People don’t procrastinate because they want to do it later. They procrastinate because they don’t want to do it at all. Religious people sometimes use prayer and waiting on God as an excuse for procrastination and justification. Ask for guidance and then begin. People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.
“You may never know what results came from your action. But if you take no action, there will be no result.”
Crossing Your Rubicon
This section is for those who are thinking about making a huge decision that might have consequences. Many of you may only need to make small changes in your life to make it work for you. Some of you need to make some large changes. Don’t just go jump off a cliff. I am not suggesting to anyone to go out today and quit your job because you don’t feel passionate or fulfilled in it. Most of the time a gradual change works better for everyone involved. What we are looking for is often found right where we are at. But sometimes you just have to jump.
The Rubicon is a river in Rome. Julius Caesar was the general of the Roman army. By law he had to keep his army on the opposite side of the Rubicon River. If he crossed the river he would be labeled a traitor and an enemy. His goal was to overthrow Rome. Julius Caesar decided to take the chance. After strategic planning and preparation, he crossed the river and made history. Before making a huge commitment and crossing your Rubicon, Nido Quiben suggests you ask yourself these four questions:
What is the best result that could happen from me taking this action?
What is the worst thing that could happen?
What is the most likely thing to happen?
Am I willing to take a chance at getting the worst possible outcome, for a chance to take a shot at the best possible outcome?
Smart people don’t just jump off a cliff and hope everything works out. Smart people check out the water before they jump. They make sure it is deep enough. They check for big rocks or anything else that could be a problem. Then they jump.
It’s Not Over Until I Win
“The minute you start talking about what you’re going to do if you lose, you’ve lost.”
- George Shultz
Les Brown tells a story about playing a game of Connect Four with his son. Les had won about 10 times in a row and told his son he didn’t want to play anymore. I love his son’s response. He said, “It’s not over until I win”. What if we had that attitude? What if we fail over, and over, and over, but every time get up and say, “It’s not over until I win”.
Ted Turner had lots of losing years in a row when he bought the Atlanta Braves, before taking them to the World Series. Someone asked him if it was hard staying motivated when he kept losing. He said “I wasn’t losing. I was learning how to win”. I love it!
Many people abandon ship when it comes to their dreams as soon as they run into the first strong wind. No one is ever defeated until defeat is accepted as reality. Even when you hit a T on your goals, you can always take a left or a right. Rest if you have to, but don’t you quit!! Don’t let anyone steal your dream. No matter how bad it is, or how bad it gets, you’ve got to say to yourself, “I am going to make it!” Practice persistence. It’s always too soon to quit. Say to yourself; “I may be in defeat, but I am not defeated. I may fail, but I am not a failure.” You are a success waiting to happen. Reject rejection. Rejection does not exist. It’s just a concept in your head. Be willing to find out what price you have pay, and pay it. Go through the awkward stages. Most people can’t deal with enough failure to reach success. Keep trying until… Until what? Until you reach your goal, or die trying.
“I can’t” is a dead end. What is the next step after I can’t? There’s nowhere you can go. I try to never let my children say “I can’t”. Instead I try to get them to say, “I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but I will.”
How many times would you let your child try to walk, before you say. “OK, that’s enough. You’ve tried long enough. I guess you just don’t have the talent to walk.” No! When a child is learning to walk or talk, etc. we encourage and praise her for every tiny improvement. The child smiles and eagerly tries to do better. Is this the way you encourage yourself when you are learning something new? Or do you make it harder to learn by telling yourself you are stupid or a failure? The only way you can fail is if you give up.
Sometimes we are a lot closer to achieving our goal than it seems like. We don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel because there is a curve in the tunnel. As soon as we go around the curve, we see the light. Sometimes all you need is 1 more idea. Like a combination lock that has 5 right numbers and you just need the last one.
If you believe you can’t, then you won’t be able to. If you believe it’s not possible, then it won’t be possible. If you believe it’s too hard, then it will be too hard for you. It doesn’t take much to buy a ticket and go in and watch the bullfight. But it takes a whole lot to jump into the ring and fight the bull.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.”
-Mary Anne Radmacher
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever the cost, must be obtained.”
If you’re not fired up for greatness, it means that you are ok with mediocrity. You should have as much patience with mediocrity as you do for flies in your soup. You have got to commit 100%. Not 50% or even 98%. The most important thing is not how big your list is of what you are willing to do that matters. The most important thing is how small the list of things that you won’t do is. Good intentions are not enough. Commitment and sacrifice are necessary.
Every master was once a disaster. Be willing to be bad at doing something at first. “I’m going to be bad at this, and then I’m going to get better.” If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly at first. Reminding yourself that you don’t have to be a master by day 3 is the best way to assure yourself that you will be a master by day 3,000.
“Your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” -Abraham Lincoln.
Promise yourself you will never give up. It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. If Columbus had turned back, no one would have blamed him. No one would have remembered him either. I love the true story of Monty Roberts, the Horse Whisperer. He grew up very poor. In high school he was given an assignment to write about what he wanted to do when he grew up. He wrote about how he wanted to own a large ranch and raise thoroughbred racehorses. His teacher gave him an F and told him to pick something more realistic. At that time he was living in a camper, on the back of a truck. He told the teacher, “You keep the F. I’m keeping my dream.” Today he has a 154-acre ranch.
“Never give in, Never give in. Never never never. In nothing great or small. Large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”- Winston ChurchillYou will win if you don’t quit. If life was easy, it wouldn’t be hard. If it was easy……. everyone would do it!
A Little Pain is Not Going to Kill You
Most people want to avoid pain at all cost, and discipline is often painful. But we need to recognize there are two kinds of pain: The pain of Discipline and the pain of Regret. The pain of discipline is momentary, but the benefits are long lasting. The pain of discipline weighs an ounce. The pain of regret weighs a ton. Success is on the other side of pain. With every decision we make, we must weigh the pain. “What will it take to do what I am attempting to do?” versus “What are the painful consequences if I don’t get myself to do the activity?” The pain of regret is also more painful because it is final. It is easier to pay the price for success, than to pay the price for defeat.
The secret to handling failure is to realize that nothing “bad” ultimately happens when you fail. You just go on to the next thing and never give up. If you ask a pretty girl on a date, and she says no, you are no worse off then you were before you asked. You already didn’t have a date. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down. The only thing that matters is how times you get up. There is an old cowboy saying I like, “Fall off a horse seven times. Get back on eight times.” If you try and lose you can at least learn from the trying which greatly reduces the loss. “I failed” is 10 times the man that “What if”’ is. There is little you can learn from doing nothing. Those who try and fail are infinitely better off than those who do nothing at all. The wrong choices usually bring us to the right places, eventually.
Are you made up of softwood, or hardwood? Softwood trees grow 3-6 feet a year, but are brittle and break easy, and are prone to disease. Hardwood trees grow slower, but are stronger and can live for several hundred years.
If you have never failed, you have never lived. “It is hard to fail, but it is worse to never have tried to succeed.”- Teddy RooseveltWhen the book on you is finished, let it show your wins and losses. But don’t let it show that you didn’t try.
Sometimes you will need to change your plan for accomplishing goals. However, your objective usually does not change. You may need to keep trying different strategies until you find one that works. For example, if you had the goal of losing 20 lbs, you might have to be flexible with your strategy. What if your strategy to lose the weight was running 5 times a week, but you sprained your ankle. Should you give up trying to lose weight because you can’t run for 6 weeks? Running isn’t the objective. The objective is to lose weight. If you can’t run, try swimming, weightlifting, or the exercise bike. Try different strategies for eating healthier.
Sometimes you will be shown a different plan for accomplishing your goal. It’s OK to change the plan, but you almost NEVER change the goal (99.9% of the time). There is always a way (99.9%). If one way doesn’t work… Try another… And repeat. Don’t get caught up in what your strategies are. Stay focused on the objective you are trying to accomplish. Be flexible with how you accomplish it. And don’t let the distractions, distract you!
Sometimes you will feel stuck. I have two mantras that I use when I feel stressed out and anxious. They are, “Everything is exactly how it is supposed to be” and “I love and accept myself exactly how I am”. Sometimes I say these to myself over, and over, and over. Caroline Myss suggests asking 3 questions when you feel stuck. “If I had self esteem right now, what would I do? If I had courage right now what would I do? If I had guts, what would I do?” Deep down you usually know what you should do. Sometimes we pretend not to know because we are afraid. When we are on the right track, we will feel excited and at peace, even if we are a bit scared. When we are on the wrong track, we will feel frustrated and upset.
“Freedom is reserved for the man who lives by his own work and in that work does what he wants to do.”
-R G Collingwood
One of the main reasons that most people are not successful is because their beliefs, thoughts and actions are not congruent. Even if you are thinking positively and taking action, if deep down you don’t believe what you are doing will work, then your subconscious mind will be working against you. Your subconscious mind is more powerful than your conscious mind. Your conscious mind is like a person riding an elephant. Your subconscious is the elephant. The rider can guide the elephant and try to direct it where he wants it to go, but if the elephant REALLY wants to go somewhere else, the rider can’t stop it.
The biggest reason that most people do not succeed is the story in their head about why it’s not going to work. The good news is that you can, and do, choose the beliefs that are in the subconscious. What is a belief? A belief is just a thought that you have a lot of conviction (emotional involvement) about. Where do beliefs come from? Of course they come from different places. Some beliefs we picked up from our family members growing up. Other beliefs come from our mainstream society. Lots of our beliefs come from our experiences.
It is possible to change your beliefs. You can actually consciously choose what you want to believe and what we believe is a huge factor in our success. To change your limiting beliefs, it is helpful to get clear about what your beliefs are right now. To find this out, just ask yourself “What would I have to believe in order to do/feel/have/put up with etc._____?” For example, if you came home and ate a whole tub of ice cream, ask yourself “What would I have to believe in order to eat a whole tub of ice cream?” Some of the answers might be “Its ok to be overweight” or “This is my reward for getting through this hard day”. Keep digging until you uncover what your underlying beliefs are. When I was overweight, I asked myself “What would I have to believe in order to be overweight?” Here are the answers I got: “It’s ok to be overweight as long as you are not HUGE”. “Using food to change my state is better than a lot of other alternatives”, “I’m just not very disciplined”, “I’m not really that fat” “Eating junk food makes me feel good”
Now you need to decide what you want your new beliefs to be. Spend some time thinking about what beliefs you would need to have in order to accomplish the goal you want. Some of them might be the exact opposite of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back. When I decided to become my ideal weight, I chose to believe that: “Water is the most delicious drink on the planet”, “I deserve to look good and feel good”, “Working out is an absolute necessity” , “Eating healthy food makes me feel great”, “I’m extremely disciplined with things that are very important to me” and“I feel strong, sexy, and more confident at my ideal weight.”
The last step is to pair the new belief with a powerful emotion. Words and thoughts are not enough. The emotion behind them is where the power comes from. Repeating affirmations all day long will not help you unless you have the emotion attached to it. Really feel what it is going to feel like to have accomplished your goal. Get excited and grateful about it. If your new belief is stronger than the old one, you really believe it and you repeat it over and over, this new belief will be planted in your subconscious.
You can also change how you choose to look at something. This is called Reframing. Let me give you a couple examples of reframing that I have used in the last few weeks. The first one involves my 2 month old baby, Claire. I take care of her in the evening and put her to bed. Lately when I have been putting her to sleep she has been waking up and crying. I have to get out of bed, after only being in bed for 10 or 15 minutes. I was getting really frustrated and dreaded her waking up. So I decided to change how I was looking at the situation. I imagined her crying meant that she loved me and really missed me. That brought up strong feelings of love for her. The next time she cried, it actually made me feel loved and I was no longer as frustrated.
Where I used to work there was a chain link fence with a padlock in the rear of the building. My office was right by the rear exit, so the fastest way for me to get in was through the fence. I used to hate opening the lock, having to put my stuff on the ground and lock the gate back up. It also made me feel like I was in a prison. So I decided to change my perception of the gate. Some of the students I worked with have had horrible childhoods and lived in rough neighborhoods. I started viewing the gate as a way to make my students feel safe and not have to worry about strangers entering the building. It helped me feel a lot more positive about having to lock/unlock the gate all the time.
One soldier loses both his legs in Iraq and is proud of his military service and sacrifice. He comes home a hero and goes on to start his own successful business. Another soldier loses both of his legs and is devastated. He is ashamed and angry and feels like his life is over. He becomes an alcoholic, lives off disability and never does anything productive with his life.
The same exact thing happened to each of them, but how they view it is very different and leads to very different results in their lives. Who is right? It has nothing to do with right or wrong. It is a decision. How you feel about something is a decision. You can’t always choose what happens to you but you can always choose how you feel about what happens to you.