It’s so easy to set goals in life. How many people actually take the time to set specific life goals? Not many of us, is my guess. You want to make more money. You want to enjoy more productive relationships with friends and acquaintances. You want to make a difference in the lives of others. You want more responsibility in your career.
Unfortunately, while all of these goals are admirable, they are also very broad. Most people fantasize about being rich, famous, and well liked. However, these are not necessarily goals. These are common images of success that the media wants us to believe in. Human beings are programmed by books, television, movies and Internet to believe in someone else’s values. After all, did you ever want to be Bill Gates before you knew he was filthy rich? Better yet, did you ever want to be filthy rich before you knew that money could buy you luxurious accommodations, fun new gadgets, and exclusive world travel?
Step 1: Know the Difference between Dreaming and Doing
When a person claims that making a lot of money is his or her “goal”, they are not truly seeing the future. A person who is “destined” for success, programs their own mind to achieve something remarkable but feasible. A person that is motivated to achieve a goal does not think in terms of failure and winning. (As in, I failed at becoming a millionaire. So it’s not meant to be) Rather, this person follows a set path towards their final destination.
To the successful person, succeeding in life is a daily responsibility, one full of setbacks and solutions. The successful person doesn’t merely think in terms of “becoming rich” overnight. They study the path towards financial freedom, as handed down by others, and create a feasible and specific plan to increase their profit through the years. They learn about their chosen industry. They learn about office relationships and business strategies. They learn about investing and wealth building over time. Making money is not just a fleeting thought or a wild idea that must be tried at least once—it is their continuing journey for success.
Similarly, a determined person who wants to become an actor or actress will take steps towards this ultimate goal. They will study the craft and attend auditions on a regular basis. Furthermore, they will study the history of show business and model their own career after the careers of successful actors and actresses. They see the entertainment industry as their career and works according to a plan. Do you see how this mindset is different from another person who simply wishes it would be nice to be paid $20 million dollars for three months of camera posing?
Step 2: Set ‘Stretch’ Goals
Achieving one’s vision of success depends upon the setting and completion of ‘stretch’ goals. A stretch goal is a realistic goal with a little more added to it for it to be a stretch. I think stretch goals are a little more motivating and inspiring than goals that are ‘realistic.’ Stretch goals do not follow someone else’s idea of success, but only your own. After you study the profession that appeals to you, you begin to understand the steps involved and approach your profession from a results-oriented perspective. Set your goals on a long-term and short-term basis and work your way down to weekly goals. It is easier to take smaller steps than trying to focus on one big goal or many big goals.
As you reach milestones along the way, your self-confidence increases and the ultimate objective becomes clear. You are no longer confused about what action you should take. You don’t start projects and stop them; rather you channel your enthusiasm and passion in one specific area, moving closer to the desired result. Along the way, you learn to prioritize your time, as setting specific goals helps you to avoid unproductive actions. When you apply your energy and resources to your goals, you are able to accomplish more in a few short years than most people will ever do in one whole lifetime. When you set your own goals you are given total power over your life. You don’t surrender your time and energy to the will of others, as if subject to someone else’s control.
Step 3: Don’t Procrastinate
The successful person doesn’t typically procrastinate or procrastinate often. Some have stated that dreaming or wishing is actually a form of procrastination, especially if no goals are being set to achieve a dream. Once you have created an action plan, you have no reason to delay taking certain action. You may find that once you start to put your plan into effect that your outlook on life may change. When you have specific goals in mind and keep a positive perspective, you start to achieve more things in life. You may use other’s achievements as a guideline if you are new to the industry and profession; however, you choose your own goals based on where you want to be and by when you want to be there. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or hold you back from achieving your goals and desires.
What is the difference between dreamers and doers? Dreamers usually spend a great deal of their life whining and wishing things were different. Doers go after what they want, in essence, adapting to a system to prolong their life and prosperity. Doers create their future. Jim Cathcart says, “Dreamers stay stagnant and blame others for their lack of progress.” Are you a dreamer or a doer?
Anne M. Bachrach is known as The Accountability Coach™. She has 23 years of experience training and coaching. Business owners and entrepreneurs who utilize Anne’s proven systems and processes work less, make more money, and have a more balanced and successful life. Anne is the author of the book, Excuses Don’t Count; Results Rule!, and Live Life with No Regrets; How the Choices We Make Impact Our Lives.
According to Adapt, “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.” To prove his point, Harford cites compelling examples innovation by trial-and-error from visionaries as varied as choreographer Twyla Tharp and US Forces Commander David Petraeus.
I interviewed Harford over email to dig deeper into the counter-intuitive lessons of Adapt. What follows is a series of key takeaways on the psychology of failure and adaptation, combining insights from our conversation and the book itself.
The Wrong Way To React To Failure
When it comes to failing, our egos are our own worst enemies. As soon as things start going wrong, our defense mechanisms kick in, tempting us to do what we can to save face. Yet, these very normal reactions — denial, chasing your losses, and hedonic editing — wreak havoc on our ability to adapt.
“It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to admit we’ve made a mistake and try to put it right. It requires you to challenge a status quo of your own making.”
Chasing your losses.
We’re so anxious not to “draw a line under a decision we regret” that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it. For example, poker players who’ve just lost some money are primed to make riskier bets than they’d normally take, in a hasty attempt to win the lost money back and “erase” the mistake.
When we engage in “hedonic editing,” we try to convince ourselves that the mistake doesn’t matter, bundling our losses with our gains or finding some way to reinterpret our failures as successes. We’re so anxious not to “draw a line under a decision we regret” that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it.
The Recipe for Successful Adaptation
At the crux of Adapt lies this conviction: In a complex world, we must use an adaptive, experimental approach to succeed. Harford argues, “the more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.” We can’t begin to predict whether our “great idea” will actually sink or swim once it’s out there.Harford outlines three principles for failing productively: You have to cast a wide net, “practice failing” in a safe space, and be primed to let go of your idea if you’ve missed the mark.
Try new things.
“Expose yourself to lots of different ideas and try lots of different approaches, on the grounds that failure is common.”
Experiment where failure is survivable.
“Look for experimental approaches where there’s lots to learn – projects with small downsides but bigger upsides. Too often we take on projects where the cost of failure is prohibitive, and just hope for the best.”
Recognize when you haven’t succeeded.
“The third principle is the easiest to state and the hardest to stick to: know when you’ve failed.” The more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.
How To Recognize Failure
This is the hard part. We’ve been trained that “persistence pays off,” so it feels wrong to cut our losses and label an idea a failure. But if you’re truly self-aware and listening closely after a “release” of your idea, you can’t go wrong. Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.
“Above all, feedback is essential for determining which experiments have succeeded and which have failed. Get advice, not just from one person, but from several.” Some professions have build-in feedback: reviews if you’re in the arts, sales and analytics if you release a web product, comments if you’re a blogger. If the feedback is harsh, be objective, “take the venom out,” and dig out the real advice.
Remove emotions from the equation.
“It’s important to be dispassionate: forget whether you’re ahead or behind, and try to look at the likely costs and benefits of continuing from when you are.” Don’t get too attached to your plan.
“There’s nothing wrong with a plan, but remember Von Moltke’s famous dictum that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. The danger is a plan that seduces us into thinking failure is impossible and adaptation is unnecessary – a kind of ‘Titanic’ plan, unsinkable (until it hits the iceberg).” Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.
Creating Safe Spaces to Fail
Twyla Tharp says, “The best failures are the private ones you commit in the confines of your own room, with no strangers watching.” She rises as 5:30 AM and videotapes herself freestyling for 3 hours each morning, happy if she extracts just 30 seconds of usable material from the whole tape. This is a great example of a “safe space to fail.” But many of us don’t have this luxury of time or freedom. So how do we create this space?
Practice disciplined pluralism.
Markets work by this process, encouraging the exploration of many new ideas as well as the ruthless weeding out of the ones that fall short. “Pluralism works because life is not worth living without new experiences.” Try a lot of things, and commit only to what’s working. Finding “a safe space to fail is a state of mind.”
Assuming that you don’t operate a nuclear power plant for a living, you can probably infuse a bit more freedom and flexibility into your workday. Give yourself permission to test out a few off-the-wall ideas mixed in with the by-the-book ideas.
Imitate the college experience.
“College is an amazing safe space to fail. We are experimenting with new friends, a new city, new hobbies and new ideas – and we’ll often mess up academically and socially as a result. But we know that as long as we don’t screw up too dramatically, we’ll finish college, graduate, and move on – that mix of risk and safety is intoxicating. Yet somehow as we grow older we lose it.”
Sarah Rapp writes for 99u, a creative resource for making ideas happen.
5. Actually use your homespace and workspace.
Only one thing now remains: time in the saddle. The more time you spend doing only homey things in your homespace and only worky things in your workspace, the more you’ll develop the state-dependent memory that will trigger the associations you want in either place. When you enter your homespace, you’ll automatically relax, effortlessly dropping effort and negative office juju. (If the urge to think or talk about work arises, note it, then picture it evaporating like steam.) And when it’s time to work, the genuine R&R you’ve enjoyed will help everything you do feel more like flow.
6. Watch the Zen master in you emerge.
If you don’t find this exercise helpful, you’re certainly free to keep day-trading while nursing your twins, or stacking paperwork on every surface in your home, including the oven racks. But I think if you experiment with the methods I’ve described, you’ll come to appreciate them. One definition of Zen is simply “doing one thing at a time”—which goes a long way toward explaining why Zen masters look so calm and live so long. I want you to love going to work, and to love being home. Just not at the same time.
4. Separate your homespace from your workspace.
Once you’ve assembled a bunch of homey things in your homiest possible place, and a bunch of worky things in your workiest possible place, separate them like a Puritan chaperone dividing teenagers. Even if your office is 90 miles away from your house, some worky things will inevitably infiltrate your home—your job is to keep them out of your designated homespace. If you work in your house or apartment, you’ll need to be extra vigilant. When you’re not working, put all work-related things out of sight. Cover them with a sheet, if necessary.
By the same token, don’t bring a lot of homey things into your workspace. Doing so will distract and confuse you. There’s a reason service dogs mustn’t be petted or played with when they’re wearing their work vests: They need to be clear that they’re on the job. But when the vests come off, service-dog owners must play with their animals in order to keep them from becoming exhausted and depressed. You’re the same way: Having clear boundaries will help you work enthusiastically, then truly rest.
3. Use your mental states to create physical spaces.
The next step in keeping your work and home lives healthy and pristine is creating physical environments that support each side. Let’s start with your homespace. Find the spot in your current domicile that best matches the feeling of your mental home state—a room, a corner, the box your refrigerator came in. Bring into this space any objects or beings that make it feel even homier. These may include your kids, your parakeet, your softest quilt, and your dog-eared copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (just not at the same time).
Next, use the same strategy to create a workspace, whether you’re a full-time parent or a merchant marine. Find a space that—no pun intended—works for you, and bring in the people and things that make you feel productive: a fresh notebook, a team of coworkers, a mule. I myself am motivated by high-quality tools (anything from a fancy-schmancy computer to a hammer), absolute solitude, and of course my writing chair, writing glasses, and writing gum—the combination makes me itch to work. Whatever places, people, and things support your internal work state, gather them!
2. Establish a productive inner “state of work.”
If you’re lucky, you do the kind of work that sparks your creativity and makes you want to meet its challenges. For me that work is writing: Although I find it hellishly hard, it’s the first thing I turn to when I need to express myself or understand the world. I love its very difficulty.
Most of my clients, however, are work Nazis. They think they should force themselves to do things they loathe. If this is your mental “state of work,” it’s also the way you’ll feel about your job, and it will follow you home—likely in the form of depression or rage. You absolutely must create a mental work state more like what psychologists call flow, the total absorption that comes from doing something that interests you at the upper edge of your ability level.
Even if your current job feels more like imprisonment than flow, you can still create a productive mental work state. Start by remembering any kind of effort that absorbed you enough to make time disappear. If after racking your brain nothing comes to mind, periods of interested problem solving will do nearly as well, and moments of productive effort will suffice in a pinch. Tedious repetition is as low as you want to go here (if your job is so awful that it doesn’t yield even an hour of tolerable slog, it’s time to hire a life coach). Now focus on the three best work activities you can remember, smoosh them together in your head, and silently repeat, “Work. Work. Work.”
The time has come to write. I feel this on an almost cellular level. Why? Because I’m sitting in my writing chair, wearing my writing glasses, chewing my writing gum. Now, I could sit in this chair, wear these glasses, and chew this gum while knitting tea cozies, juggling jelly beans, and husking corn (just not at the same time). But I wouldn’t. See, I write at home, and I’ve learned the hard way that unless I strictly divide my writing time from everything else, my work bleeds into my home life. Then I can never relax, because, just like an ax murderer in a horror movie, my work is always lurking.
These days almost all of us work at home to some extent. Maybe you spend evenings brooding over spreadsheets from the office. Maybe you’re in the house all day doing the hardest work imaginable: caring for the young, the old, or the ill. Or maybe, like me, you have a job—sort of—but no official physical workplace. All of which is to say that when I talk about “home” versus “work,” I mean the activities that replenish your energy versus the ones that drain it. In an age when bleed-through is the new normal, it’s more crucial than ever to separate the two. Here are some strategies that help me.
1. Establish a replenishing inner “state of home.”
Some people spend years in an office cubicle without ever feeling the energetic involvement of real work; others do brilliant, inspired work without ever leaving their bed. This is because both work and home are first and foremost states of mind. So to begin separating your work life and home life, we’ll concentrate on creating a mental “state of home” inside your head.
To do this, focus on memories that feel relaxing, nourishing, replenishing—in a word, homey. Remember baking with your grandmother, or talking with your sister, or snuggling in bed with a loved one (fabulous sex is an excellent way to feel at home, as is cuddling with your beloved collie—just not at the same time).
If you don’t have many homey memories, your mental state of home may feel tepid at first. Persist! Remember the most comforting times and places you can: the branches of the tall tree where bullies couldn’t reach you, Uncle Joe’s bomb shelter, the warmest corner of the prison yard. (Ideally, you’re looking for a sense of joyful replenishment, but happy relaxation is nearly as good, pleasant neutrality will do, familiar boredom is better than nothing, and defensible concealment—well, you get the idea.)
Once you come up with three memories that qualify, hold in mind the feelings they bring, while silently repeating, “Home. Home. Home.”
Read step two in tomorrow’s!
You have 1440 minutes between right now and this time tomorrow. Only 1440 minutes. How will you use that time? One percent of that time is about 15 minutes. What, you ask, is so important about 15 minutes? It is a block of time that’s small enough to make room for and large enough to get something significant done.
My most important strategy to get more done every day is simply to always be ready. When you are ready, you have what you need when you need it. This means you can use “found time” productively to move your business forward.
I can hear you asking: “What is ‘found time'”? Have you ever been to a meeting that didn’t start when planned? Far too many meetings start several minutes late. When you are ready to use those “found” 15 minutes, you can effectively make a dent in all you need to get done each day.
For example, when I have magazine articles I want to read, I tear them out of my magazines and carry them with me for a day or two. Then when — not if — “found time” appears, I use it to read those articles. This helps me stay in touch with what’s happening in my industry, making me more effective with my clients.
In my experience, many people use “found time” to check their email. While this may seem productive at the moment, it doesn’t always move you forward on your long-term goals. When you really look at your goals, there are often tasks that would help “get you there” that take between 15 to 45 minutes to complete. Get clear about what tasks you can accomplish in 15 minute chunks. Then, always be ready with what you need to accomplish that task. You will immediately become more productive.
A good exercise is to make a list of 20 to 30 tasks you can accomplish in less than 15 minutes. I keep and update this list in Evernote all the time. This is not a list of to-dos, but rather the extras. Then set yourself up with the supplies or information you need to complete those tasks. Make sure the needed items are with you when you go to meetings, leave the office or otherwise suspect you might have a bit of extra time. By being ready, you can take advantage of these windows of opportunity.
One of my favorite uses of “found time” is to write thank you cards. Watching for people to acknowledge and thank also makes my day better. Plus, thank you notes touch people in a unique way. In fact, I write at least one thank you note each week. This means I send a minimum of 52 hand written — yes, always by hand — thank you notes a year.
Of course, I accomplish this by always having note cards, envelopes and stamps with me. When a meeting is late, I can quickly jot a note of thanks, pop it in the envelope and send it off. Expressing gratitude is a fabulous use of “found time.” Plus, saying “thank you” makes the recipient feel valued, sets you apart from the crowd and leaves you feeling good.
So my favorite strategy to being more productive is to always be ready. Take time to figure out how your day is likely to unfold and make sure you have the supplies you need with you. When you are always ready, you can truly get more done each day.
Jason W. Womack is founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He is author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012).
When it comes to being successful, high achievers have a number of habits in common. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be right up there with them.
Here are three qualities all successful people share and how you can make them your own:
1. Say ‘no’ to distraction. Every. Single. Time. Successful people make better use of their time because they are disciplined goal-setters. I’m referring to those high performers who experience no down-time. Sure, there are vacations and time spent with the family, but that comes after success has been achieved.
Successful people have that same list of tasks to accomplish as anyone else, but the difference is they make time to get them all done with no excuses. They may not enjoy it, but that is irrelevant. What matters is that it gets done. They are disciplined in planning their work and sticking to their plan.
Even when you’ve achieved that level of success, the work doesn’t stop. I am always on the lookout for a great, profitable investment. I might be out with my family, but my brain is always aware of business opportunities around me. I don’t just shut it off when I’m not at work.
2. Read something new everyday. Successful people read constantly, find mentors who can teach them and value new information that can help push them forward. Whatever field you are in, you have to learn before you earn. Learn your product, customers and competition. And then: keep learning.
3. Flaunt your failures like a champ. Fail as many times as you can. Everyone fails. It’s part of life. Too many people take failure as a sign it’s time for them to give up. Those people don’t get very far. What sets successful people apart is the ability to get up and give it another go with a better plan for how to be successful the next time around.
If you want to embrace the habits of successful people, you’ve got to make the change within yourself first.
Reblogged from Entrepreneur Online.
As a label, the word “entrepreneur” really is fascinating. When my friends and I were starting up our first Virgin businesses in the early ‘70s, no one seemed to understand what we were doing. Some important people called us entrepreneurs, but they used the word in a derogatory way, hinting that we were adventurers, out to upset the order of things, and perhaps not to be trusted. We certainly didn’t describe ourselves as entrepreneurs at that time, because that would have been met with some strange looks.
These days, the number of people who are working as entrepreneurs has increased so much that that this career path almost qualifies as a lifestyle choice. Defining “entrepreneur” has become more difficult because it now means so many different things to so many different people — all of us speak from our own experiences.
The thing is, our critics were partly right: We really were out to disrupt the order of things. Then and now, when we’re starting up a new Virgin business, we don’t just want to carry out a simple moneymaking exercise, but to make a positive change in people’s lives and give consumers a better deal. Whichever product or service we offer, we want it to be a lot better than all the rest.
Our approach, which I would describe as entrepreneurial, has proven to be a real advantage. For instance, all but one of Virgin Atlantic’s original competitors have gone out of business since we entered the market in the ‘90s. This happened for a number of reasons, but probably the most important one was their lack of innovation and bravery. We noticed this first when Virgin’s move into air travel was met with skepticism, and then after we showed the critics that air travelers wanted a different type of experience — flights that included entertainment and terrific service — we saw that most of our competitors were too slow to react.
From my perspective, an entrepreneur isn’t just someone who launches a business; the desire to innovate then prompts that person to keep on striving to make positive changes. Companies need to be flexible: This starts with the people at the top, who must have a real desire to disrupt new markets they enter, and to react nimbly to changing circumstances at established businesses. It’s also probably fair to say that you can be successful in business without being an entrepreneur — keeping the money coming in steadily without looking for the next opportunity to expand and improve.
What makes the difference is fearlessness. The best businesses offer a product or service that has never previously been available. While you can almost always conduct research and test the marketplace before a launch, an entrepreneur will always be, to some extent, jumping into the unknown, as the very nature of a new product means you’re venturing into new territory.
Very young people often have an advantage here, since they can approach business challenges without fear because they have nothing holding them back, no commitments, and in many ways nothing to lose. As a person’s career progresses, considerations such as looking after one’s family and paying the mortgage come into play.
If you think you have a game-changing idea and you too have such responsibilities, you are facing a true test of an entrepreneur. The best way to handle this is to not to let such factors rule your decision-making process, but to integrate them into it. Prepare for failure, protect your downside, and then go right ahead with the launch.
The other part of the equation is resilience. Despite the most careful planning and preparation, the vast majority of startups fail within the first year of business. What does this tell us? That entrepreneurs must not only cope with failure, but welcome it. There’s no shame in admitting that something isn’t working and going back to the drawing board — we’ve done our fair share of that at Virgin. This ability to bounce back will make the difference, allowing you and your team to apply yourselves to new goals wholeheartedly, without looking back. So an entrepreneur is many things: a job creator, a game-changer, a business leader, an innovator, a disruptor. Most importantly, that entrepreneur is you, if you want to be one badly enough.
Let’s hear from readers: Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur, or a businessman or businesswoman? Which label do you prefer?
reblogged from www.entrepreneur.com Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, which consists of more than 400 companies around the world including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America and Virgin Mobile. He is the author of six books including his latest, Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School (Portfolio Trade, 2012).