Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Achieving what’s Important

We all care about different goals.  Some want to run a marathon; others dream of getting a first for their art history degree.  Some care passionately about delivering an important project at work, and going on to yet greater responsibility and job satisfaction.  Others are frustrated with lack of success in completely different areas.  Whilst all our goals are very different, they are tied together with more commonality than differences.

What’s very clear is that achieving what’s important to us matters a lot.  It matters for our happiness, our financial security, and our ability to make choices in how we live our lives
There are just four steps to achieving your highest priorities:

1.      Be specific about what you want to achieve. 

2.      Plan what you will do to be successful.

3.      Make time to do the big, important things, as well as fitting in everything else.

4.      Stay in control of your days.

It’s short, specific and anyone can do it.  But not everyone does, even though there is a mountain of research to demonstrate that it works.  The reason for this anomaly, despite everyone’s protestations about how important their goals are, is equally short and specific.  It’s self-discipline.
It’s not that we don’t know what to do; it’s more that it’s a lot of effort to do it. 

A recent Horizon programme called “The Truth About Exercise” promised a way out of hours in the gym, at least for some people.  One minute of high intensity training, three times a week, can keep you fit.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Almost as good as a silver-bullet list for achieving your goals.  The difficulty is that one minute of truly high intensity training is not pleasant; I know because I’ve tried it.  I’d go as far as to say it’s unpleasant.  It’s certainly not an easy option, but it does get you fitter.
There’s the rub.  If you want to compete at the Olympics you have to get up early and train hard, so hard that you start to dream of opening a sweet shop in Devon.  If you want to achieve your goals you have to work at it - not on an exercise bike until you feel queasy, but at your desk until your brain hurts.  And then some.

The good news is that whilst you may not be a natural athlete, you can achieve important goals where you do have the necessary ability and motivation, providing you are disciplined enough to do what needs to be done.  Discipline isn’t a fashionable word, or a particularly agreeable notion in a world of instant-gratification.  On the plus side, if you want something badly enough, you don’t have to wait to win the lottery.  You can go out there and get it.

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