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How to Achieve Anything

Photo: Kevin Russ. Check out his stock portfolio.

Is there a goal you want to accomplish, but just cannot find the time to start it? It might be something trivial like, to reduce the amount of TV watching, or time spent browsing the Internet. It might be, to become an early riser, or to quit drinking alcohol, or to start a home business. Whatever it is, what is keeping you where you are instead of reaching your desired destination?

I have several such targets in my life that I often think about, but rarely take action on. Each time I’m reminded of one of them, I would guiltily say, “I really should do [blah]”, and then forget about it until the next time guilt creeps back into my head.

One such target I have is to exercise. I’ve been talking about wanting to get in shape for about two years now. I even setup an arbitrary goal of doing a triathlon to get me excited. I did start to go running shortly after setting the goal, which lasted for about a week, before I became distracted with another target.

I like to think of myself as a pretty disciplined and motivated person – I mean, I write about this stuff! But, something about this particular target has been very psychologically challenging for me to take consistent action on. And I want to understand it.

Overcoming the mental blocks and actually taking action towards this outcome has been my focus over the past few weeks. I am proud to announce that I have been doing 5-mile walk-runs, every other day, successfully for fourteen days now.

I’m confident that since I have kept it up for two weeks, then surely, I can keep it up for a month. And if I can consistently do it for a month, I will have habituated the activity into my daily rhythm and be able to keep it up indefinitely.

The point of this article isn’t about running, but rather, extracting lessons from achieving a goal, and applying them to other areas of our lives.

Analysis of ‘Why It Didn’t Work’

Looking back over past failed attempts at this target, I realized that I didn’t have enough reasons to keep myself motivated, thus I wasn’t fully committed to making the change. Here are some observations:

1. Excuse: “I don’t have enough time”

I used to assume that it I was working too much and simply did not have the time. Well, I’ve come to learn that “I don’t have the time” is the biggest lie we can tell ourselves to justify for the lack of action towards activities that can (sometimes) significantly improve the quality of our lives. If we added all the time we spend on unimportant and not urgent things – like web browsing or TV watching – we would have the time, easily. We do have the time!

I used to tell myself, “When I leave my day job, I will have much more time to pursue the things on my lists, which I don’t have time for now.” Things like exercising.

You’d think, now that I’m in a position to create my own schedule (or lack thereof), surely, I should have enough free time to exercise. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I still don’t have enough time. It’s become obvious that without a measurable target and a reasonable plan, life has a way of magically inserting random (often unimportant) activities to fill up our day. The same items on my list while I had a day job are still on the list.

We don’t have time for things, until we create time for these things. If something is important enough to us, we will find the time, regardless of how busy we are. End of story.

It’s a matter of finding the compelling reasons why something is important to us – enough of a nudge to drive us to lasting change.

2. Focus on Pain

The more I focused on the uncomfortable factors associated with exercise, the less motivated I became, and the more excuses I made to skip workouts – before I stopped completely.

Here are my favorite excuses to justify not exercising:

  • It’s hard! I can’t breathe.
  • My leg hurts
  • It’s cold outside
  • It’s raining (I do live in Seattle, after all)
  • It’s late, if I go jogging, I won’t have enough time to do X.

3. Lacked Motives to Action

Although I kept telling myself that I should go jogging, I wasn’t fully clear on why I wanted it. I wasn’t overweight, and didn’t have an explicit incentive to get active. I didn’t have the motives to justify the necessary action for a vaguely defined goal.

Did you know that we will do more to avoid pain than we will to gain pleasure? In this case, the affects of not doing it, was not painful enough to drive me to get it done. In my mind, the pain of doing was greater than the pain of not doing.

4. Language, Focus & Priority

The goal was a should and not a must. “I should go jogging”, I would say , when it’s better to say, “I must go jogging, in order to gain the energy I need”. When something is a should, it is wishful thinking, and we don’t get it done. When something is a must, it becomes a priority that deserves our attention. Because the target was a should, I never gave it the focused attention necessary for it to become a reality.

The Art of Change: From Desire to Result

The actual change happened very quickly – the moment I decided to change. Instead of thinking about it, and silently beating myself up for not doing it, I just did it. It was beautiful!

laughter-group.jpg
Photo: Kevin Russ.

Sometimes, the best motivators are the ones we find when we hit a personal low point. My low point came a few weeks ago, when I realized that I hadn’t been outside for seven days straight (Eeeek!). I felt groggy, my body was aching, my energy level was low and I felt a slip in my grip on clarity.

When my clarity is threatened, I start to take notice. I now had a strong motive. I got up instantly and went for a run – a long one.

The System of OPA

OPA is a trick I picked up from Tony Robbins, which when applied, will assist us in achieving the results we desire. It stands for:

  • Outcome (O) – Having a clear vision.
  • Purpose (P) – Focus on results and purpose.
  • Action (A) – Create a massive action plan for meaningful results.

Let’s expand on these and apply them to the jogging example.

O, Outcome

Most of us have vague ideas on what we want. We know roughly the direction we want to go, but because we aren’t clear on the vision of our destination, we get pushed into whichever direction the wind is blowing. Without a vision, we will obsess over “the how”, and will often overanalyze and fail to take action, or take ineffective action.

In the jogging example, “wanting to go jogging” is not the ultimate vision. The ultimate outcome I am seeking is actually mental clarity and physical energy. One activity that contributes to this outcome is regular exercise. Additionally, because I am focused on the desired outcome and not on the how, I have realized that there are other things I can do which will contribute towards this outcome, such as deep breathing, swimming, and yoga.

What is the ultimate vision for what you want? Be specific in describing the outcome you desire.

P, Purpose

Knowing what we want isn’t enough to give us the push towards massive action. We must know why we want it. Why is it important that we achieve our desired result? When we achieve this outcome, what will it bring us? Without strong enough reasons, we simply will not be moved into action.

In the jogging example, my reasons for wanting mental clarity and physical energy are:

  • To feel physical wellbeing. To live fully and consciously.
  • To have the clarity to write articles that serve others. To empower and inspire readers towards a fuller life with more joy and passion.
  • When I have energy, I can get more out of my day. I can do more activities which will benefit my personal wellbeing, and in turn make more contributions to others.

Why must you achieve the target outcome? What are the reasons most important to you? What does achieving the outcome mean for you?

A, Action

Armed with your clear vision of the outcome and with the burning reasons why it is important to you, come up with an action plan for achieving the results you seek. Once you have your action plan, take one small action immediately. Then commit yourself towards taking some action regularly (everyday if possible) towards your target. Regardless of how small the action may seem, it will move you one step closer to your outcome, and – importantly – help build the momentum you will need to reach your destination.

In addition to knowing what you want, why you want it, and having a battle plan, the following are tips to overcome potential pitfalls on the road to lasting change.

  • Quantify & Measure – What gets measured gets managed. It’s important to be able to quantify results, so that we can evaluate our improvements and effectiveness. For my jogging example, I got the Nike sport kit for ipod nano – which allowed me to measure distance ran, duration and calories burnt. Once I had the numbers after each workout, I just wanted to beat them! As if playing a video game and trying to beat the top score.
  • Know Your Excuses – List out all the excuses you’re known to use in order to avoid action for a particular result. Now come up with an antidote for each excuse. Even without an antidote, at least, now you’re aware of which excuses might come up, and you’re ready to ignore them. For myself, “I am committed to going jogging every other day, regardless of weather, or how late in the day.”
  • Focus on One Target at a Time – When we try to focus on many results at the same time, rarely will we succeed. When we focus on one thing at a time, we can devote our undivided attention and energy on realizing the single result, thus giving it a higher chance of actualization. Move on to other targets only after we’ve successfully reached or habituated the current target. I’ve found it helpful to write the targeted outcome on a piece of paper, and posting it on a wall where I can see it regularly.
  • Change Your Language – Turn ‘should’ into ‘must’. The language we use carries with it energy. Notice that if you must do something, suddenly you feel a sense of urgency and priority? What is that thing that you’ve wanted to complete, and if you got it done will improve the quality of your experience? Now say, “I must do <insert activity>, because it will give me <insert reason>.” See how much more energy this sentence has, versus “I really should do <insert activity>.”
  • Consistency – When cultivating a new habit, consistency is more important than quantity. Have you noticed that when we skip a routine activity even once, it’ll be harder to get back into it? And the more we skip, the easier it is to skip it again the next time. Before we know it, we no longer have the habit which we’ve worked hard to create.
  • Fun Ingredient – Find ways to make the experience fun and enjoyable. For example, I will listen to motivational audio books or personal growth seminars when I run, and it really enhances both experiences. This added enrichment to the running experience, makes me look forward to the activity.
  • The 30 Day Challenge – If you can repeatedly do an activity for 30 days, it will become a habit, and will integrate automatically into your routine. Take it one step at a time, first commit yourself to following something for 7 days, then extend it to 14 days, then 21 days and 30 days. If you can do it for 30 days, you can likely continue it indefinitely (if you want to).
  • Change Your Questions – If you’re not getting the kind of results you’re looking for, perhaps it’s the questions you are asking yourself. Ask questions which lead to possibilities instead of limitations. Here are some examples of the limiting questions vs. more resourceful alternatives:
    • Why can’t I do this? Vs.
      How can I make this work?
    • Why can’t I make more money? Vs.
      How can I add even more value?
    • Why is this happening? Vs.
      What can I do to help change this?
    • How can they do this to me? Vs.
      How can I use this?
    • What is wrong in my life? Vs.
      What am I grateful for?

Parting Words

We are the ultimate author of our life story. Within each of us, we hold the power to change anything in our lives, and in doing so, experience more joy and fulfillment. Lasting change starts with a change in the way we think – a clear vision for our desired results, meaningful reasons why we must have them, and building momentum towards massive action to make our visions a reality.

With meaning, understanding, awareness, and conscientious planning; we can turn massive responsibilities into actual possibilities, we can incorporate healthy habits, we can realize dreams, and we can live more deliberately and intentionally shape our own destiny.

Thank you for listening to my jogging story and allowing me to share my own life victories, regardless of how trivial they may seem. Through observing this experience, the jogging example accentuated some simple fundamental principles of achievement that can be applicable to other outcomes in our lives. I wish you success!

* What are some outcomes you would like to see in your life? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comment section. See you there!

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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90 thoughts on How to Achieve Anything

  1. What an awesome list Tina. Just today I published a youtube video on taking massive action, and I mentioned some of the principles you listed above, in addition to others.

    I always like the 30 day concept, and I’ve used it successfully to make exercise and eating habits for myself.

    Anyway, check out my video LifeHack: Taking MASSIVE Action

  2. Excuses with not having enough time are a waste of time! If you want to get something done, and you don’t have time during the day, then stay up until 3am to achieve your goals…. sleep is for the dead, and if you aren’t fully going after what you want out of life, then you are dying too!

    Check out Alexs’ video above, this is good stuff and it compliments everything Tina says.

    Thanks Tina,

    You Rock!

    Lewis

  3. Great advice–and you’re so right! My current excuse for not exercising is that I came down with a cold, so I’m taking it easy and resting up. But come tomorrow, I’m definitely going to start up again. Thanks for the boost.

  4. This was a really thorough and informative post. Great job!

    I would like to add a couple of things as well. One, I would encourage instead of the word “must,” the word “choose.” The truth is, we don’t HAVE to do anything, and “must” is still a directive. Internally, when I hear myself say “should,” “must,” “ought” or the like, I have a give myself a little attitude back at my internal voice and say, “Uhh, no I don’t.” (Of course, this is all internal.) The word “choose” is really the truth – every action is about choice.

    Last, there’s a little piece of advice I continually give my clients in my practice, and it is this: It’s not going to be easy. If you’re waiting for it to be easy and “when I feel….” or “when ____ happens, then….” well then, you might as well kiss that goal goodbye! Right? I mean, you make the choice to do whatever it is you want to do, with the realization it’s probably not going to be easy and it might make you VERY uncomfortable.

    I really appreciated this post. It has some great information that many people “should” choose to read and put to use. =)

  5. Awesome to see that you’ve stumbed upon Tony’s “The Time of Your Life” Program! :)

    This is the self improvement audio product that started it all for me.

    Congrats to you for breaking the 5 mile mental barrier – I didn’t learn about running “10 and 1’s” till I registered for a Running Room workshop. I remember when I first broke running 10K, then 11K, 12K and then finally a half marathon. It blew me away when I finally crossed the finish line. Anyway, enough with rambling of actualizing goals.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ‘Achieving Anything’.

    This post may be one of your best posts yet… :)

    Cheers!

    Will

  6. thanks Tina, I’ve been inspired from it

  7. Hey Tina,

    I am currently undergoing a 30 day challenge which require me to exercise for 6 days a week and I agree with what you mentioned, by doing something consistently for 30 days or more, it will gradually become a habit. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. :)

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogge

  8. Tina,

    These are excellent tips. Tony has his programs have been a big inspiration to us all over the years. And while I agree with his formula, for most of us we read these simple formulas, agree with them, and then wonder how to do them. How do create a vision? How do I define my purpose? I want to take action, but how?

    I would argue that vision is a part of discovering purpose. If we say that purpose is the result of clearly defined roles, the values of which we cherish, and the vision of the way we live the roles in alignment with our values, then we can define our purpose, or natural missions.

    Once we know our natural missions, the question is how to take action to achieve our desired results over time, the definition of success. Tony became well known because of a program called “Personal Power”. Personal power is simply our ability to produce the results desired. Do have the energy, mission, attitude? Do we set goals, make plans, and prioritize? Do we synergize, organize, optimize and act now? If we are not strong in each area, we lack the ability to fulfill our natural missions.

    I would say success is 2 steps:
    1. Create crystal clear future expectations upon which you can take specific action, and
    2. Apply sustained power to your actions such that you meet or exceed expectations.

    At the point in time where your power intersects your expectations, a choice is made, an action is taken and a result is produced. If your power is sufficient to meet or exceed expectations, a positive result occurs. If your power is insufficient to meet expectations a negative result occurs.

    Accumulate a successive series of positive results over time and you will become the success you desire. Accumulate a successive series of negative results over time and you will fail.

    Take 2 minutes to answer 10 simple questions about your performance and we will give your assessment free by simply clicking <a href=http://www.thinktq.com/membership/tqs_register_page_2.cfm?sa=110646″ here.

    Again, thanks for reminding us how simple success really is to achieve.

    Regards,
    Jason Blackburn

  9. Congratulations on starting the running program. I just ran my first 5K on Thanksgiving. It was a lot of hard work getting started, but now I really enjoy my exercise time. Instead of it being something I “must” do, it is now something I treat myself with!

  10. Thank you very much for that very helpful article – your purpose to write helpful articles is fulfilled with this post. :-)

    Regarding the time there is something I don’t agree:

    > If we added all the time we spend on unimportant and not urgent
    > things – like web browsing or TV watching – we would have the time,
    > easily. We do have the time!

    This is not necessarily true. If you spent hours in front of the TV then you can easily change by changing the priorities. This does not apply for commitments you have done that do have a long-term effect. In my case I have committed to take care of a family and a child. This is a long-term commitment and I cannot step out of this for some weeks because I want to do something else.

    > If something is important enough to us, we will find the time,
    > regardless of how busy we are.

    I do have some wishes of what I would like to do. To gain this time I have to drop something (to gain time for something you have to drop other doing). The question is then: Is it worth dropping those other actions? What would I loose if I would drop these other actions?

    I would loose loved family members and also a lot of comfort if I would set priorities differently. So we could find time for new things if we want to – but we have to look at the costs also.

  11. These are some great tips. I would also like to add in addition to what you have shared are a couple of things.

    1) Language is important. It is a great indicator to what is truly going on inside. What we really feel and believe about a situation. Do we use the word “Try” all the time? That means that we don’t really want to claim what it is that we want. As Yoda says, there is no try it is do or do not. When we are aware of our language, we can see where we need to make changes to support ourselves in receiving what it is that we want.

    2) It is also important to be unconditionally responsible for what it is that you are currently experiencing. If you are not experiencing the results you consciously want, then you have to realize that what you are currently experiencing is what you want even if you are not conscious of it. You must then decide if what you are receiving from your current situation is what you really want or not, then you know what kind of appropriate changes you do need to make. I it is important to be unconditional with yourself and not judge your current situation as good or bad because you will not be able to change anything when you are judging it.

    This is just the micrometer of the tip of the iceberg. I wish I could say these words were mine, however I got them from THE CHOICE IS MINE by Veronique.

  12. I think taking action is one of the harder things, and getting ideas and setting goals is much easier. Steve Chandler says that when we “don’t feel” like doing something, we should just go out and do it… because chances are we will feel much better once we are doing it, than beforehand.

    Keep on running! ;)

  13. “Whatever it is, what is keeping you where you are instead of reaching your desired destination?” ~ Tina

    I would say for the most part it’s my impatience. And the patience is lacking in the area of business growth….

    As far as working out and maintaining good health and well being, I’ve always been able to keep a regular routine even “when stuff came up.” And I think it’s because of the reasons you mentioned, but not in so many words. Simply,

    > I have a clear vision of my healthy, sexy body
    > I associate massive pleasure to fitness and working out
    > taking action sort of just happens as a natural next step once I get the first two steps sorted out

  14. What an apt post for this time of year! In the interests of “thinking simple” I start with
    • one clear, specific and actionable goal, then
    • craft a vivid mental picture of “the reward” the situation in which I envision myself once I’ve reached that goal

    That becomes my top-of-mind image first thing in the morning, last thing before sleep… AND as i am about to choose the next activity on which I will spend time.

    In short, my main goal provides my CONTEXT for making my choice… which choice moves me closer to my main goal?

    – another avid fan of this blog,
    kare, moving from me to we

  15. Well Tina, you’ve done it again! What an excellent list of practical, productive, action steps to overcome our own pathetic excuses and self-imposed obstacles. I appreciate that you mentioned the effects of our perception of the pain / pleasure paradigm. Using personal lows as a springboard for taking action is also a great motivator, as you mentioned. Excellent article.

  16. Running is bliss — even the pain :-)

    I was a long time runner. I ran in the morning sun, in the rain, and on dark and cold winter mornings through ice and snow. I loved every challenging moment of it. The secret is discipline and being mentally in those moments.

    Hey have you ever looked at any of George Sheehan’s books on running? He is dead now, but I loved his way of looking at running philosophically. Two of his books are: “This Running Life,” and “Running and Being.”

    If we are present and disciplined in whatever we want to achieve, and combine that with a philosophical, humor-through-pain perspective, it makes the achieving easier.

    John

  17. Lianna

    > If something is important enough to us, we will find the time,
    > regardless of how busy we are.

    Here’s how I deal with the “I don’t have time” issue: Everytime you say to yourself, “I don’t have time”, substitute this phrase with the truth: “I didn’t make time”.

    Telling myself that I don’t have time is an excuse; Acknowledging that I didn’t make time gets to the root of the problem.

  18. Hi Tina,

    Great blog, again. :) Good use of the “jogging” example to drive home the point. Holds true to all other things we want to achieve too.

    Take care
    aK

  19. I was totally feeling unmotivated today, but after reading this post I got dressed, got out of the house and went to the coffee shop to start working.

    Thanks for the kick in the butt!

    Giyen

  20. Thanks for the sharing!

  21. Tina,

    What a great reminder of some of Tony Robbin’s tools. I dove into a few of his books when I was in Thailand, but haven’t “freshened up my skills” in quite a while. Your post was the perfect kick in the butt to remind me that I need to pull some OPA on a few goals that have been marinating a little too long!

    I think this was on your personal blog, but I’ve been using Now Do This (it currently says- stop lurking, write comments!) and wanted to thank you for the introduction. What a simple, yet effective way to keep us on track!

    Do you have “Go running” as one of your daily goals? :)

    @kare– I totally agree about keeping the final picture as vivid as possible! I’m big on the moving toward motivation and having the reward bright in my mind is key.

    Peace,

    Molly

  22. Great thoughts Tina. Perfect with the new year coming up!

    -Scott

  23. jenny

    HI,

    This approach is unlikely to work.

    Why?

    Forced efforts fail over the long term. It substitutes ‘achieving a goal’ for ‘living a life’. The general rule: If you have to force yourself to do it — reconsider why you are doing this at all.

    Learn to do things which lead to happiness – they last, plus, you get to laugh a lot.

    Lots of love,

    -J-

  24. Anthony C.

    Thanks for a good one! These motivational articles work wonders for me, and a new always seems to pop up when I need it most.

    I really MUST improve my digital painting to the (traditional medium) look I’m shooting for. I don’t feel like I’m getting much further with each Digital painting I do, but one step at a time MUST do it. :-)

  25. Kamil

    Excellent article Tina! Thank you very much.

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