Three Rules for Accomplishing Any Goal

[1361 words | 6-minute read]

Having a clear plan of where you want to go and how to get there affords you a better opportunity to enjoy the journey. You may have a few planned or unplanned detours. Or maybe along the way you discover what you really want to see or do. Be open to these new experiences and allow them to shape your journey. And make sure you have a solid plan to make it happen.

Setting and accomplishing goals involves the following three things:

    1. Honesty;
    2. Information; and
    3. Obsession.

Working in tandem, these will become ingrained in your subconscious, to the point where your behaviour will be a series of automatic responses to external (and internal) stimuli. While you drive to work, shop for groceries, and brush your teeth, your mind will be on cruise control, entrenching in your physiology behaviour necessary to accomplish your goals.

You wouldn't build a house without a blueprint. Why are your dreams any different?
You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. Why are your dreams any different?

1. Honesty

Understanding your limitations is important, but so is fully realizing your dreams. If you want to be a professional athlete, write it down. If you’re four-foot-eight, write down something other than “NBA player.” Similarly, if you want to own a successful consulting business, but don’t have any business experience, give yourself a longer timeline.

Honesty also means being true to yourself. Managing a billion-dollar hedge fund is an ambitious goal and accomplishing it will likely give you great pride…if it is something you are truly passionate about. If you have a distrust of banking institutions, perhaps chose a different, but similarly ambitious goal. Or manage a billion-dollar hedge fund in a way that aligns what you do with your values.

My first job in radio was at a country music station. I don’t by any means hate that or any other genre (good music is good music), but I didn’t identify with it. However, it was an opportunity to break into the broadcasting industry. Am I saying you’re a hypocrite unless every aspect of your every decision aligns perfectly with your values? Absolutely not. Within most decisions, there is an element of compromise.

I wasn’t a fan of the music we played, but I love communicating with people. So I made my radio show as interactive as possible. I ingrained myself in the community and was able to connect with my audience in a much more direct and personal way than merely discussing the music I played. I changed the parameters of my objective (“host a radio show”) so that my actions were honest and deliberate and in line with my values (“create personal bonds with my listeners”).

You can do the same thing with your goals. Reframe “manage a billion-dollar hedge fund” to “build wealth for my clients in a responsible and transparent manner.” Then, you can take pride knowing any action you take to achieve that goal will be congruent with who you are and what you believe.

Set your sights high and create a plan that works for you.
Set your sights high and create a plan that works for you.

2. Information

Your environment will change (if it doesn’t, you aren’t growing). You need to be open to and constantly consuming new information. This can be difficult because facts are often at odds with feelings. If you want to purchase a Corvette, but you learn your company is downsizing your department, you’ll likely change your plans. Maybe you’ll put off the purchase until you have a clearer picture of where your job stands. Or you’ll rent the car for a few weeks instead of buying it right away.

Let’s say you want to start an independent clothing line. You make the clothing locally and pay your staff a livable wage. You provide benefits. The hours are flexible. You learn the textiles you buy are produced in a factory in which workers are mistreated. Suddenly, your world has seriously changed. Armed with this new information, you need to make a choice. Do you continue supporting a supplier whose behaviour doesn’t align with your values, or do you adjust the parameters of your goal? Maybe some of your profits are invested in workers’ rights initiatives. Or you switch to another supplier. Or perhaps you are satisfied with that these workers, despite their situation, are at least generating income because of you.

When I was in high school, my dream was to host a morning radio show in Toronto. No TV. No print. Just radio. When I graduated from Ryerson University’s broadcasting program and started working in the industry, I quickly realized that simply “doing radio,” in the traditional sense, was no longer enough to survive in the medium, let alone prosper. Being open to the information I was receiving, I learned radio wasn’t in competition only with itself, but established and evolving media.

A radio station’s online presence is more than a placeholder for the call letters and phone number, but a way to attract a unique audience as well as build further rapport with listeners. Announcers are repurposing radio shows as podcasts to compete with long-format audio. We need to create compelling video in order to capture market share from YouTube and Netflix. Some radio stations have in-studio cameras and syndicate shows on visual mediums to collect revenue from television. Plus, many media companies are replacing live announcers with network (or imported) programming.

The industry is changing and I need to keep up. Therefore, I have reframed my own goal from “host a morning radio show in Toronto” to “be an effective storyteller for as wide an audience as possible.” This means engagement in podcasting, video production, writing, and public speaking. I still want to host a morning show in Toronto, but this is now part of a bigger goal to spread my talent—and message—as wide as possible.

Your circumstances may change. It's up to you to adapt.
Your circumstances may change. It’s up to you to adapt.

3. Obsession

Earlier we talked about writing down your goals. Do it again. And again. And several times a day, every day. Do it until you can recite them backwards, in your sleep. And then keep doing it.

You need to be constantly aware of your goals as well as the fact that you haven’t yet completed them. This should be personally inspiring, but it should also be painful. This way, regardless of your approach to life, you have something to seek (accomplishing your goals) and something to avoid (the pain of failing).

Become so focused on accomplishing your goals that doing so becomes part of your subconscious. Every choice you make will serve self-improvement. If you want a shredded body, you will automatically choose healthy food options. You’ll find excuses to be constantly active, instead of the reverse. You’ll never hit the snooze button on your alarm clock because that 6am workout will bring you closer to accomplishing your goal.

But this comes from developing more than moderate interest in self-improvement. How many times have you sabotaged yourself by taking a break? You diet for a week, then cheat. You feel weak for failing.

This is different from the pain we discussed earlier. When you are constantly improving, it creates a snowball effect. You still haven’t accomplished your goal, but everything you do brings you closer to it. You’re motivated. When you decide to eat the cheeseburger you’re not supposed to, your self-sabotage demotivates you. Knowingly making a bad decision makes you more likely to do so again in the future.

Dedicating yourself to personal fulfilment means you will have to make sacrifices. Exercising daily at 6am means you can’t stay out late drinking. It means passing up on plans to be in bed early enough to get quality rest. The pain associated with personal sacrifice is a reward compared to the pain of half-assing your journey and leaving your goals unaccomplished. Conversely, the joy you will experience alongside daily gains, and ultimately personal fulfilment, will more than justify the frustration you feel along the way.

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Life without drive is life without a point.

Setting and accomplishing any goal boils down to this:

  1. Be honest with your capacity for greatness and the environment in which you live.
  2. See new information and reframe your goals to align with your values.
  3. Obsess over personal growth so that attaining it permeates your every action.

It’s more than believing in yourself. It’s rewiring your entire system for the express purpose of accomplishing your goals to make Earth a better place for you and your loved ones.

Question: what is a goal you are currently working toward?

Three Rules for Accomplishing Any Goal

Embrace The Grind

When I was in University, a professor told me about The Grind: repeating the same tasks every day for forty years, give or take. You wake up, go to work, and come home. And at some point throughout the week, you clean the sink and buy groceries. Granted, your professional life may be dotted with promotions and other successes, but basically you go in every day until you no longer have to. It can become kind of a drag.

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Excuse the cliche, but conquering The Grind can feel like an uphill battle.

Some people will tell you they work in industries where “every day is a new adventure!” That is horse shit. Brain surgeon seems like a wild, exciting profession, until you realize that’s all it is: brain surgery, every. single. day. Or take what I do: I’m a radio presenter. Live broadcasting must be crazy, right?! All I do is talk into a microphone. Twenty times a day.

Every day.

A solution to The Grind is focusing on the minutia. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But by concentrating on the particulars of your profession, you begin to hone your craft. Think about the mechanics of what you do: the hundreds of microscopic movements that make up your tasks, like the ticking of a watch.

We make the mistake of trying to improve our overall situations, when we should be drilling down to the singular fragments. Again, consider my profession: I want to become a better radio presenter. I need to refine the way I sit, the volume of my voice, the rhythm of my speech, how I tease new music, and chat with callers, among hundreds of other individual things. The progression of performance will be the sum of many microscopic improvements.

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Approach everything from a microscopic level.

The Grind is more than your career, it’s also a barometer of passion. Whenever we start new projects, we become easily excited. Every new idea is a chance to create something big. But as days become months, the spark diminishes. Eventually, that bright, shiny venture dulls. Remember that workout program lifestyle change you started in January? Three weeks later, you were hanging clothing on your treadmill, and tripping over kettlebells. The Grind is constantly taunting you, waiting for you to fold. Don’t.

Embrace tediousness. Break tasks into simple steps, and focus on completing one at a time. Practise and perfect each infinitesimal part of what you do, until you’ve mastered it from an atomic level. Then, The Grind won’t seem like a curse. It’ll be a challenge.

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Start with step one.
Embrace The Grind