Want to accomplish something difficult? Everybody has goals. But, not everybody achieves them. Why?
Right now I am working toward a bike race in May. Cycling is fairly common, right? Except this isn’t just any bike race. It is a race across the United States. Over 3,400 miles. Here’s the thing. I’m not a cyclist. I rode my first 100 mile ride, a “century” in cycling parlance, this past New Year’s Eve.
How do you prepare to bike across the country? In a little over four months? It really isn’t any different than any other goal.
Over the years I have seen a number of “systems” that allegedly lead one to success. Everybody has an idea. And many of them work. But, the system I am using here is the most complete, well thought-out plan, that I’ve seen. Or I should say heard. I came across it on Jonathan Field’s podcast – Good Life Project. He calls it success scaffolding. I call it genius.
To achieve a goal you need 8 things. Fields calls them the 8 P’s of Success. Here they are.
Plan. And hope isn’t a plan. To accomplish anything that is difficult you have to have a real plan. I like to say that if you plan for the expected challenges along the road, you will have more capacity to handle the unexpected when it arises. And the unexpected will arise.
Not just any plan will do. You have to have a plan that works for you, based on your own life circumstances. The plan must sync with the realities of your life. If it doesn’t, adjust it before starting, when things are calm. After you begin is no time to change plans. People often make poor decisions when faced with the stress of potential failure. Define the obstacles to success, before you start. Then adjust your plan accordingly. The WOOP method works well here. Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan.
To create a plan, define the goal that you want to achieve. Then break the path to that outcome down into small pieces. Think of them as micro steps. Most things don’t happen in big chunks. It takes baby steps, if you will. Make the steps small enough that you will follow through with them, but significant enough that you feel a sense of accomplishment with each step.
Purpose. Why your doing something matters. A lot. Without a purpose, you won’t finish. Having a clearly defined reason as to why you are doing something helps you stay committed when it gets difficult. And if it is worth doing, it will get difficult.
Before striving to reach a goal, consider why your doing it. What is driving you? Why do I care about making this happen? Not at the surface level. But, deep down. Why do you care? Is that a good reason to do it? What are the opportunity costs? Are you willing to pay the costs to accomplish the goal? Why? You could be doing other things. Is this really how you want to invest your time and energy?
I like to ask myself a question when considering whether to take on a new challenge. If I knew that I had only five years left to live (a shorter time frame is too immediate, and longer is not urgent enough), would I be investing my time in this endeavor? If the answer is, ABSOLUTELY, then I go for it. But, if the answer is anything less than a resounding affirmative, then I would be better off investing my energy finding what I would be doing in that circumstance. Life is short. Don’t waste it on superficial endeavors.
People. No matter what they think, no one ever accomplished anything alone. If nothing else, we are all a product of whoever influenced us in the past. We are who we are because of others. And we need people to help us achieve great things. There are five different roles that people may play in you achieving your goal: Co-strivers who are trying to accomplish the same or a similar goal, champions or cheerleaders, accountants to keep us on the road to success, mentors/coaches to help us learn and speed up the path to achievement, and community which provides a sense of belonging.
Whether you realize it or not, each of these people are present in most things you do. By recognizing the roles ahead of time, you can better choose the appropriate person to play each role, and you will more closely identify with their influence. As a note, we often rely on significant people in our lives to play multiple roles in our journey. However, it is rare that a single person can effectively play more than one role at a time. So choose those who influence you carefully.
Possibility. Without hope all is lost. You can find your purpose, plan your path perfectly, and be surrounded with all the right people. But, if you don’t think it is possible, nothing else matters. If it isn’t even possible, why invest in it in the first place? This doubtful thinking will sabotage every step.
You have to believe in what you are doing. But, let me be clear. While you have to believe it is possible, you don’t have to know success is certain. There is a difference between believing in something and having certainty. In fact, believing the outcome is certain can lead to failure. Initially, you just have to believe it is possible. There needs to be a 1% chance of success. I can work with that. With the right this, and a little of that, then maybe, just maybe, I can achieve my goal. That’s all that is needed to crack the door open enough to build a path to success.
What if you simply don’t believe there is even a 1% chance of success, but you still want it? Let’s not give up just yet. Do you believe there is a 1% chance of success of just the first step toward the bigger goal? Action precedes belief. Take the first step. Build on it. Each step brings you one step closer to believing it is all possible. How do you walk to Rome? One step at a time.
Proof. We need some proof that our goal is possible. We need encouragement. And sometimes the best encouragement is proof that it is possible. Align your thoughts with others who have achieved the same or a similar goal. What is their story? Can you find inspiration through them? If they can do it, why can’t you?
You can also look to experts in the field. Seek them out. Talk to them. Others who have accomplished similar goals are often eager to help similarly-minded people. You can also find proof in data and statistics. Crunch the numbers. Is it possible? Find proof that it can be done from somewhere outside of your own mind, and it will give you confidence, in turn strengthening your resolve. Take the micro proofs you can find and build on them.
Progress. Perfection only comes through progress. Anything worth achieving will take time. It will get hard. And the likelihood of your continuing to take action toward your goal, when faced with unforeseen obstacles, is greatly increased if you have experienced progress along the way.
As we see progress three things happen. First, we are rewarded for our work up to that point. Everybody likes to feel like they are receiving a benefit for their work. I often reframe large goals, to create the sense that I am making progress toward the larger outcome. I first break the the goal down into smaller, micro goals. So they are manageable. But, then I try to incorporate the overall goal into a larger, overriding outcome. If the seemingly large goal is part of something much larger, then in some ways it seems smaller to achieve. It’s all relative.
Second, it helps us overcome the negativity bias. We tend to focus on what is going wrong, rather than what is going right. recognizing and celebrating progress helps us see what is actually going well. Then we can build on that progress, as we move toward the larger goal.
But, perhaps most importantly, progress helps us begin to believe the end goal is possible. As we see progress, we move from believing there is 1% chance of success, to 2%. Then 10%, and so on. It may be micro progress. But, it is progress. And nothing motivates like progress.
Pledge. Make a commitment. Make it vocal. Make it public. But, definitely make a pledge to accomplish your goal. When things get hard, it is much more difficult to quit when others know that you committed to doing something.
Our natural tendency is to want our words to be consistent with our actions. We want to do what we said we were going to do. Everybody does. And this is a great motivator. Once you have determined what you want to do, and identified why, write it down. Pledge your commitment to a specific outcome. Make sure to identify the goal, the reason for pursuing it, and the basic actions that must be taken to achieve it. Share your declaration with the people playing the five roles above. If you do this the likelihood of success is significantly increased.
Practice. It takes time to become an overnight success. Use all of the above to take daily action to move toward your goal. Don’t work on it weekly. Do it everyday. Make it part of who you are. Habitual behavior is simply action that has become automatic. It isn’t even up for debate whether you will run 1 mile every day. It is automatic. It is who you are.
Actions that are automatic happen without thought. You don’t even need to think about them. You just do them. Rituals are similar. They are intentional, but they can be counted on. They are done regularly, without fail. Habits and rituals provide no chance to waiver or second guess them.
There you have it. Want to succeed at something? Try using these tools. I am applying them to help me achieve my goals. You can too.
WHAT IS THIS? And small habits are more lasting and efficient than large actions that you have to think about doing. n a regular basis, but they are intentional, not automatic. The presence of them makes it more rich and meaningful. Setting up, timing, etc. is habit. But actually doing the activity should be ritual. Intentional.
These above are the elements to achieve something. They are the scaffolding of success.