Let me start this post with a math problem. Wait! Don’t click away so fast. I hate math too but bear with me for just a moment. I promise it will be worth it.
Think of some possible solutions for the following equation:
(______ + ______ – _______) x ______ = 100
The truth is that there are literally an infinite combination of numbers that you could put into those spaces to get the answer of 100.
Now let’s look at another equation:
(25 + 40 – 15) x 2 = ________
This equation gives us just one answer: 100. Every time, no question.
What’s the point?
Look at the first equation again. You could stare at the answer (100) all day long and come up with a number of different ways to fill in those blanks, but in the end you would realize that you couldn’t even make a dent in the number of possibilities. You know the answer but it doesn’t show you how to get it.
Yet with the second equation, you could figure out the answer in a few seconds by focusing on the combination of numbers. If we run those numbers, we will always get 100. Every time. You already know the process and therefore if you work on that, you are guaranteed to get the right answer.
The same is true in life; if we do the right things every day for a long enough period of time, they will always produce success. Every time. If you take care of the process, the product will take care of itself. What is the product? The product is whatever you have determined to be “success” in your life.
“We get the idea but did you have to bring math into it?”
The point of going through the equations is to illustrate the fact that many people spend a lot of time dreaming of “success”. They can picture how it looks and feels to have accomplished their goals. They want it so bad they can practically taste it (I imagine success tasting like a breakfast burrito…yummmm). They talk about their big dreams to their friends, family, anyone who will listen.
All of this is good except for one problem: They spend so much time focusing on the product, or result, that they forget to put time and effort into the process that will give them that result. That is where most people get bogged down or give up, they don’t want to work through the process. Dreaming of the results is fun and exciting, focusing on the hard work and the process of gaining that result can seem daunting, scary, or just boring.
What happened to us?
Before the age of electronics and convenience, people spent a lot of time thinking about their thoughts. They spent time in silence, contemplating self-improvement and self-mastery. The idea of working for 20 or even 30 years in order to obtain success was common. The thought of working day after day in a field under the hot sun was not such a burden, because people knew they could look forward to a harvest. Time spent going through the process of building a successful life was viewed as a wise investment.
So many things come easy to us that we are losing the ability to dedicate time and make sacrifices in order to achieve the great accomplishments of life. Taking time to work through the process and develop new habits has never seemed less appealing to people. Most people like the idea of having the success but hate the idea of working for it over an extended period of time. That is why the quote, “There is never a traffic jam on the extra mile.” is more true today than ever.
Kids These Days
I work a lot with teenagers and I like to ask them about their biggest goals and dreams for life. Usually the boys talk about cars and money, the girls about running an international charity, starting an online business, or some other noble cause. But when I ask them if they would be willing to be poor, work 60 hours a week, and drive an old, used car for 20 years if they were guaranteed to get all of those things, just about all of them say it wouldn’t be worth it. These kids are 14-18 years old. So, even if I guaranteed them everything they ever wanted in life by the age of 38, they felt like it was too long to “suffer”.
We are losing our ability to focus on the processes that lead to the successes. We are losing the ability to work hard now for something better in the future.
How Do We Focus on the Process?
In spite of what I said about the perils of focusing on the results, it is actually the first place to start. You have to define what you want to accomplish. You have to know what the finish line looks like if you are ever going to move towards it.
The process will be different for everyone depending on what their vision is. Your process may require extra schooling or an apprenticeship, perhaps moving to another city, or working your way up in a business over a number of years. Those steps will be specific to you and the vision you have for your life. As long as you can see how those steps will get you closer to your goal, you will be on the right track.
But let me tell you about some processes that need to be a part of anybody’s plan.
Learn to set goals. One of the best habits I ever formed was to write down my goals every day. I have a sheet where I write down my 5 biggest goals for the next year and then something I can do today to get me closer to each of those. I don’t always get everything done each day but even if I only get 2 done, I’ve made progress towards my big goals. To get started, try writing down 5 things you would love to accomplish this year. Next, write down something you could do this week to get closer to each of those. Now post that paper somewhere you will see it every day.
Focus. If you can identify the most important things you’d like to accomplish this year, you will also realize that any extra effort you put towards achieving those goals will be well worth your time. Many people will write down their goals but then when it comes time to do the work, they realize they would rather browse the internet or watch Netflix. If you can force yourself to put off the time-wasters and work towards your goals just a little bit every day, soon you will feel the excitement of living your life with intention. You will achieve more and feel happier. I use Netflix or other guilty pleasures as a reward. I won’t indulge until I have completed something from my action list. Try it, you won’t be sorry you did.
Review. Once a week, take time to reflect on what you have accomplished over the past 7 days. Look at where you did great and the areas you’d like to improve. If you accomplished some steps towards your goals, congratulate yourself. If you didn’t do some, write them down again for the next week. It is important to check in on your progress to make sure you are still moving in the right direction.
Repeat. Now that you’ve accomplished one week. Write down your major goals again and some smaller steps you can accomplish this week to get closer to them. Post them where you can see them every day and focus your efforts on getting them done. Make it a habit of repeating this process every week. It gets easier and easier.
Believe. Now you just need to trust the process. I promise that if you do the above steps long enough, you will have incredible results. The process has worked for the most successful people in the world for thousands of years. The process works if you will trust it, try it, and work at it. I don’t know how long it will take, but it will work.
Just like the math problems at the beginning of the article taught us, knowing the final vision for your life is important, but it is just as important to focus on the process that will guarantee your results. If you focus on the small steps, day after day, you will eventually reach your goal.