Imagine that you and I went back 100 years to a time when Henry Ford first made the automobile available to the average person.
It's an exciting time.
This disruptive change in technology has given us the freedom to reach destinations beyond what we dreamed possible.
But there's a catch.
Although we have dreams of driving our new cars to far off destinations, it's not going to be easy.
The roads will be bumpy.
The directions won't be clear.
And intuition won't be much help if you get lost along the way.
Now, I don't know the exact statistics of successful trips from "Point A to Point B" 100 years ago, but it's safe to say that it was significantly lower than it is today.
- Despite all of the dangers we face in the world today...
- Despite all of the flaws of human nature that are still apparent...
- Despite all of the uncertainty about the future...
There is one thing you can rely on — when you leave your home, you are almost certain to reach your destination.
Why is this?
Despite what you may think, it's not necessarily because we have better vehicles today than we did 100 years ago...
The reason we're more successful today is that we have shaped the path.
Paved roads, licenses, speed limits, stop signs, street lights, GPS; all these things put together have provided a framework for us to reach our destination with unprecedented success.
Take these things away, however, and it doesn't matter how great you are at driving — reaching your destination will be difficult if not impossible.
Equally, with these structures in place, even a terrible driver will reach their destination nearly every time.
Neglecting this crucial insight is why so many of us fail to achieve our goals.
We invest in amazing technology, gear, and gym memberships, but spend almost no time on:
- Specifying what we're trying to accomplish (The Destination)
- Learning how to achieve it (Getting Directions)
- Clearing the path ahead of time (Roads, Rules, etc.)
In other words...
We choose to drive a brand new car on terrible roads with vague directions, and "trust our gut" to handle any setbacks along the way.
Then, of course, we blame ourselves when we don't reach the destination.
After all, if you have a great car and neglect the whole concept of a map, what other explanation is there for why you didn't reach your destination?
Insert self-criticism and/or self-justification here
Clearly, this is not a formula for reaching your destination.
So is it any wonder that so many of us struggle to reach our goals?
SHAPING THE PATH
Think of the profound implication of this.
A terrible driver in a "clunker" with paved roads, stop signs, and GPS will always beat the great driver with treacherous roads and vague directions.
That's the power of the path.
Yet, when you think of what it will take to "turn things around" in your life, what do you focus on?
- Your coworkers?
- The endless list of problems and the lack of time available to solve them all?
These undoubtedly merit your consideration, but you're not going to change anybody — including yourself — overnight.
You can, however, change your path.
HOW TO SHAPE YOUR PATH
The first principle of shaping the path is recognizing that you're not aiming for perfection.
The path to your goal will likely never be as clear as the path you take to work.
However, there is a lot of room for improvement between that level of clarity and what you probably used when you began the journey to your latest goal.
To illustrate this, I'm going to show you how I've built Wilson to make sense of the unknown and overwhelming journey of Entrepreneurship.
Not through perfection, but through progress.
GETTING THINGS DONE
GTD involves emptying all the "stuff" in your head (to-dos, ideas, reminders, etc.) putting them into an in-basket, and identifying what action you need to make progress on every single idea next.
Nearly every person who uses this method sees extraordinary results – getting organized, making progress, and enjoying stress-free productivity.
Then, like me, they stop following the checklist...
The GTD Checklist is incredibly boring. You have to process EVERY TASK using the flowchart in the picture.
Trying to identify the next action to take on all of your to-do items is tedious — and so easy to put off.
But if you can summon the discipline to do it...The feeling of calm and clarity you get after you're done processing your in-basket is priceless.
However, most people who feel this sense of calm, slowly but surely let stuff pile up, lose control, then...
Are back to being constantly nagged by wandering thoughts of something we don't want to forget about — but can't do anything about right now.
This was my story far too often — but I was determined to take the boredom out of the process.
← So I turned this
Into this →
Now all it takes for me to follow the path from a huge in-basket of stuff to complete organization and mental clarity is just the tap of a button.
I even set it up so I can process my inbox completely hands-free!
So I can walk outside, enjoy the weather, and process all my tasks at the same time.
And so can you.
If you join the Consistency Challenge this Spring, you will receive access to all the apps I've built like this to make it easier to get to your desired destination.
If you can't join us this Spring, these tips will help point you in the right direction:
1. SPECIFY THE DESTINATION
This seems absurdly obvious.
But how often when you set a goal do you take the time to specify exactly what "success" will look like?
What are you trying to achieve by going to the gym?
- Look better?
- Feel more confident?
- Set a good example for you kids?
Your answer likely seems so implicit and obvious, that it seems tedious to respond those questions.
But when you face the inevitable temptation to take a day off, making this answer clear and meaningful to you could be the difference between a failure...and a habit
Here's how Wilson helps me:
2. GET DIRECTIONS
Pay attention to this step...
This is the most important step that almost no one deliberately takes.
How do you "get directions?"
Find someone who has already reached achieved your goal and learn how they did it.
No matter what your situation is, there is someone who has been in a similar situation, with a similar goal and overcame similar obstacles.
Will Smith explains this best:
In the context of your goal, this person is an "expert."
Learning their story probably won't be able to give you "turn-by-turn directions," but it will clear up a considerable portion of your map.
Learn the stories of several of these "experts" and getting from where you are, to where you want to be, won"t seem nearly as daunting.
Here's what I built to always Get Directions
3. CREATE "RULES OF THE ROAD."
As you can see from this post's title, this is a "Rule of the Road" for me.
I created this list for the same reason we use speed limits, stop signs, and insurance.
There are so many unknowns that you're going to come across on your journey — but not all unknowns are created equally.
You may be driving to a completely new destination, but you know there will be stop signs, stop lights, and can count on other drivers adhering to them.
This structure frees your mind to focus on more important things.
"Rules of the Road" are your principles, values, and rules that you can turn to when you need to make a tough decision in an unknown situation.
With each goal, there will be at least one value or principle of yours that will be challenged in some way.
Before you embark on your journey into the unknown, you need to know where your "line" is.
- How much time will you devote to this goal over other priorities?
- How will you respond when you face setbacks?
- How will you deal with the temptation to quit?
You may not know the specific that will challenge you on these questions, but you will likely face some challenge to your principles or values.
So create a plan for how you will respond.
Here's what I built to ensure I know which rules to apply:
4. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!!
When you shape your path with a clear destination, expert directions, and your principles and guidelines to reach it — follow it!
Again, I know it seems obvious, but it will not seem obvious when You're exhausted, stressed out, and hit a bump in the road.
That's why we need a Checklist.
We need to remember the specific directions to follow we mapped out when we weren't tired, stressed and emotional.
The problem — I'll admit it — checklists are boring.
- They feel like a chore.
- And if they feel like a chore, you're not going to use them.
- And if you don't use them, the small things you miss will add up.
Like it or not, Checklists are the best tool you have for bridging the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
They take the vast amounts of knowledge from experts, practitioners, and case studies, and put it into a framework that's actionable.
But it's not enough.
Just because something is actionable, that doesn't mean it's useful.