It's amazing how the difference between success and failure can be a matter of degree. You don't have to be going 180 degrees in the opposite direction to fail. Sometimes you can only be off by a couple of degrees, mostly headed in the right direction, but it's enough that it makes a difference over time. Let's look at two examples:
1) In Jiu Jitsu the common saying is that "it's a game of inches". When you grab a person's collar to choke them, grabbing an inch too low will require you to apply a massive amount of pressure, and you still may not get a tap. This is why you'll see some guys escape an attack in the UFC. The difference between success and failure is one inch.
2) When weight lifting, you build muscle when it tears. You literally cause tiny rips in your muscle that then need to heal by growing new muscle. To cause muscles to tear, you need to lift to the point you fail to complete another rep (called "go to failure"). It's that very least rep when you tear your muscle. All the other reps leading up to it are simply trying to fatigue your muscles. If you stop before you fail, you won't build muscle. You can spend all day at the gym, but if you don't go to failure, you'll just be wasting your time. The difference between success and failure is one rep.
Those are physical examples, but it should be no surprise that our minds work the same way. Why is it that creating New Year's Resolutions are a joke that everyone fails to follow through on, yet everyone recommends setting goals because they lead to true success? They're both headed in the right direction: both start from a desire to improve. Both start at the same time (for me at least). And they both tend to be of similar difficulty (lose weight, get a better job, take a trip, quit smoking, etc). Yet, the outcomes are profoundly different. What's the extra degree that sets a goal apart from a resolution?
For me, it's about specificity. Taking the extra step to get really specific about what you want to accomplish. For example, last year I didn't say, "I want to lose weight". I came up with a very specific number that I could measure. Getting this specific helped me gage if my goal was reasonable while still being meaningful to me ("if I lose one pound, is that enough? I technically lost weight.").
There's actually a framework you can use to create goals that will lead to success. It's an ACRONYM that seems to be growing. It was SMART, now it's SMARTER. Next year it'll probably be SMARTEREST or something (book idea!). Kidding aside, I would add the letters AP if I could for Action Plan. Here's how the framework works:
S - Specific: Clearly define what you want to accomplish. This year I started with "Feel healthier" which is not very specific. What does feeling healthier mean? Is it losing weight? Getting better sleep (what does that mean?!)? Getting a tan? Being able to run long distances? When you say "Feel healthier", what are you imagining? Keep asking that question. Feel healthier -> lose weight -> smaller waist -> fit into old jeans. Ah, now we're getting specific. As you work through the rest of the framework, you might even get more specific.
M - Measurable: Can you count it? To me this means there's a number involved because I can count numbers. Do X 5 times a week. Earn $100 from Y. Reduce waist by 2 inches. Those are countable. I'll admit that sometimes I cheat and don't explicitly put numbers in my goal, but I do include them in my action plan.
A - Attainable: Can you actually do it? "I think so" is an acceptable answer for now. Your action plan will help you determine if it's possible.
R - Relevant: Does it matter if you accomplished this goal? I'm overly organized, so I have a theme that binds all my goals together. I also set long-term goals that my annual goals align to. You don't have to be that over the top. Just answer this: What would it mean to you if you accomplished this goal?
T - Time based: Set a time limit. Some of my goals, like "Read the Bible" was a 3-year goal, which I then broke into annual chunks. My push-up goal was a 2 year goal. I also have 10-15 year goals... well I call it a "vision", but the idea is similar. The point is to put a definite time frame for measuring your success.
E - Exciting!: Not only is the goal relevant, but do you get PUMPED about that goal? It can be exciting because it's a BIG goal ("quit my job!"), or because it's fun ("fly an airplane"). For me, I know it's exciting if I'm willing to talk about it at a social event.
R - Recorded: Write it down. Post it somewhere. Tell someone about it. Make it official. This is that degree that can make all the difference.
AP - Action Plan: Here's another critical step. What are you going to do (daily/weekly/hourly) to accomplish your goal? Are you going to fast 1 day a week to lose your weight? Maybe require yourself to eat a vegetable each meal? For each of my goals I come up with an Action Plan, that is also SMARTER.
When I set my annual goals, I spend a couple hours focusing on it. You don't need to over think it. One genuinely SMARTER goal for you to focus on is all it takes to change your life.
My 2015 goalsTo really hit the point home, here are my goals for the year.
My theme is Transformation. In case you missed it, we're having a baby, and everyone keeps telling me my life is going to change dramatically. So, this year is about transforming my life for this new reality. I almost called it "transition", because I really see 2015 as creating huge change for 2016, but that didn't sound as cool/exciting.
I also added something new: a Bible verse to guide me. Psalm 31:3-5 says, "For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God." In the midst of all the change going on this year, I want to remind myself that God is my rock and fortress and that I should commit my spirit to Him.
1) Memorize 52 Bible verses
Last year I finished the Bible. I like to think of it as "I went through the Bible". Now it's time for "The Bible to go through me." Last year I listened to a talk from one of the elders at my church where he talked about the benefits of memorizing scripture and I became inspired. He knew God's word at a deep level and it was because he spent time memorizing scripture. Have you ever noticed when you memorize something you tend to think about it a lot? How your conversations tend to be around that topic or somehow tied to it? I have. With this goal my hope is to have my thoughts and conversations be closely centered around God's Word. I'm excited about this goal!
Right now I have Romans 12:1 memorized. I definitely plan to memorize Psalm 31:3-5 from above. At first I thought it would be difficult to come up with 52 verses, but I quickly discovered more than enough once I thought about it. For example, last year I wrote a confession of faith (here's what I believe) that included my verse references. My plan is to memorize those so I can fully articulate my faith.
2) Run a half-marathon
So... I want to feel healthier. That means losing weight and being able to run around like crazy with my church's high school students. For me, that means I need to start running again because that's been the easiest way for me to lose weight. However, I'll only start running if I'm working towards something specific, like a race. So, my goal is to run a half-marathon which implies I got in shape and feel healthier. I have not picked a race yet, so I'm open to suggestions. Otherwise, I'll pick something off of halfmarathons.net.
3) Do 100 push-ups & 200 crunches
This is a continuation from last year. I did 70 push-ups, and now I want to finally get to 100. If I stick with the same pace of +1 push-up per week, I should hit it by September.
I also did crunches last year and decided to officially add it this year. It's kind of fun to tell Jessi to punch me in the stomach as hard as she wants. Combining this with running should result in feeling much healthier.
4) Earn $1,000 from Pro DIY Landlord
I firmly believe in having multiple streams of income: my job, Jessi's jobs, & real estate are our current pillars. However, with a baby on the way, one of those pillars is most likely going to go away, or at least dramatically decrease. We've experimented with different businesses in the past, but none have really stuck. But this time is different (of course). Pro DIY Landlord is a website dedicated to teaching landlords how to manage their properties professionally: to maximize long term cash flow and minimize headaches. I'm excited about it because:
1) It's online and tech related, which I love.
2) It's about real estate which I'm successful with and can speak intelligently about.
3) It also passes the Rob Wiltbank "-ables" test
- Feasible: I know I can write blog posts and Wordpress makes managing a site very simple.
- Reachable: Real Estate investors have internet access and spend a lot of time online doing research and help each other out.
- Valuable: The days of "everything on the web should be free" are over and people are comfortable spending money on worthwhile content. Real estate has also proven to be a market where people are willing to pay for continued education.
- Scalable: The internet is unbelievably scalable.
- Durable: I have a couple secret sauces. First, my editor (Jessi) is female which changes the perspective of the articles. Second, I have an interest in psychological behavior that isn't applied, or explained, very often in the property management space. I also think people will find this perspective valuable.
- Saleable: If I wanted to sell the business, there are a few other websites that might be interested in buying it because my content will compliment theirs.
- Traction: I've been giving more and more advice on managing properties. So, locally I have traction. For online I can only point to other websites at this time.
I'll share more later when the website is up and fully operational, which will be after the apartment project finishes.
5) Improve eye contact
Some surprising feedback I got from friends is that I tend to have shifty eyes. Gazing away while someone is talking helps concentration, but darting your eyes around the room is a social tic that communicates that your not interested in the conversation. That's not what I want to communicate!
My goal isn't as measurable as I would like, but my action plan is. I'm going to do 3 things.
1) Practice making eye contact when watching TV or a movie.
2) When talking to someone, make it a point to hold my gaze for 1 second longer than normal.
3) Give everyone reading this permission to remind me to make eye contact.
Family Focus6) Watch only one show / movie per day
Jessi and I have gotten into the habit of watching too much on Netflix and Hulu. We regularly spend 1-2 hours watching something while our dishes remain dirty and our clothes are piled unfolded. We do like watching our shows for relaxation, but we need to limit it. So... only 1 show or movie per day will hopefully be the right balance.
Ironically, we're actually talking about getting an TV. So the focus will be on quality over quantity.
7) Read 4 books
I have 4 books sitting on my desk right now that I want to read - 2 parenting books and 2 business books. I have many more sitting on my Amazon Wish List. I've let this part of my continuing education slip and I want to get back into reading. Four books sounds attainable, especially if we're limiting down how much TV we watch.
Those are my goals for the year. It should be a great year of growth and transformation. I'd like to encourage you to also make SMARTER goals this year.