Here’s the sad truth about goals: Not only is quitting an option, it’s usually the most obvious option.
Obstacles can be so daunting that you really have to commit yourself to believing they can be overcome. If you don’t believe that to the core of your being, you will give up when all you can see are the forces working against you. The solutions are rarely obvious, and people often mistake their inability to see the path for there being no path. That’s why it’s so hard to stay the course and grit it out for the win.
If you are going to succeed, here are the three most critical things you need to do to ensure that your goal actually improves your life instead of just being something that gets forgotten.
1. Write down your goals.
Goals need to be ridiculously specific. If you don’t know exactly what they are, you’re not going to be able to build the map of necessary, hyper-specific points of execution.
I can’t overstate the importance of making your goals beyond specific and writing them down.
Don’t just say you want to win an Academy Award — for which category do you want to win the award? For what type of film? Made by what studio? At what age? What will you wear when you accept the award? Whom will you thank?
If you think I’m kidding, I’m not at all. The higher the degree of specificity, the easier it is to make a roadmap to making it come true.
If you know you want to be a character actor and lose yourself in a role, that’s one path. If you want to be the lead, that’s an entirely different path altogether.
I use the example of an actor because people focus on how much luck goes into getting cast. But if you have enough specificity, you can create your own opportunities.
For proof, read about Sylvester Stallone and how he got the role in Rocky. The story will blow you away.
2. Build a consistent routine.
Do the most important things in your life before you do anything else. Get the hard things out of the way as soon as possible. This is where we separate the greats from the also-rans. The hard things are called the hard things for a reason.
But if you want to actually accomplish your goals and not just talk about them, you’ve got to do the hard things first. Whatever your resolution is, your willingness and ability to do the difficult things will determine your success or failure.
Whether you’re on the 50-yard line or the one-yard line, it’s all the same — only getting into the end zone actually counts.
3. Change your behavior by changing your identity.
The truth is, you need to feel a massive amount of pride when you follow your routines and get the hard things done, and shame when you don’t. If you don’t have those emotional rewards and punishments in place, you’ll never stick with it.
To oversimplify things, it’s about figuring out how to self-congratulate and how to really let the sting of disappointment motivate you to do better. It’s not about throwing a party when you do one small thing well, and it’s definitely not about beating yourself up for something petty either.
It’s about finding the perfect balance between delicious carrots and painful sticks. Having said that, learning how to reward and punish yourself well is an art, not a science. A whole book could be written on this topic, and by hook or crook you’re going to have to eventually get this right.