Entering into the as-yet-unsullied space of a new year, we are surrounded by invitations to set goals, start new ventures, make big changes and generally transform our lives. Which all sounds great, until about the middle of January at which point we realize that we haven’t set ourselves up for success, and we’ve lapsed back into the pattern of behaviour that has gotten us to wherever it is that we are. Not a problem, necessarily, but it’s not going to get you to whatever that “next big thing” is that you envisioned for yourself.
Einstein’s definition of insanity, as we know, is to do the same thing over and over yet expect a different result. So it stands to reason that, if we want to achieve something – anything – significant in our lives, we’ll have to make some changes to do it.
But first – how do you know it’s time for your “next big thing?” Or if a “next big thing” is in you at all?
Do you have it in you?
Look ahead five years. Ten. More. If you keep doing what you’re currently doing, where will you be? And will that be acceptable? If it will be, congratulations – you’re one of the rare ones.
Most of the rest of us, however, envision a future quite different than our present – and in fact, if we confront ourselves, we realize that without achieving whatever it is that we envision, there’s some risk that we’d look back on our lives with regret. But change is hard, so we need to use that healthy state of unrest to provide the impetus to achieve something different.
We’ve decided that we want to change; we want to achieve something different. How big a goal should we attempt, and how many? Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired magazine, says that our lives can generally be measured in five-year chunks – that it takes about five years to accomplish any one significant thing. I think this five-year idea can be very useful when thinking about “bucket lists” and life goals. So if we’ve established the fact that we won’t be happy if we don’t at least tackle some of our big things, and we do the math on how many five-year things we’ve likely got left in us, we can prioritize our list and get busy.
There are several ingredients that are critical to assembling a plan that will lead you towards whatever your next big thing might be.
Without desire – without some burning need – you’ve no fuel for your pursuit. Ask yourself – what’s the ONE THING that stands out on your list? What’s the one thing – whether it’s rational or not (in fact, best that it defies logic, at least a little!) that you can get excited about? What’s the one thing on your list that, if you get it done, will make you feel the way you want to feel? And even more important than actually achieving it – what’s the one thing that you can WORK ON and be happy?
To make a decision, if one considers the Latin root of the word, means to cut off all other options; to focus single-mindedly on one thing, at the exclusion of all others. If you’ve identified the “big thing” that is fueled by desire, can you put other ideas aside in its pursuit? What’s the thing that you can commit to and prioritize over some of the ways you currently spend your time? Remember, your life is currently full, so if you’re going to add something, the time has to come from somewhere.
Systems and Habits
Wanting to achieve something, and setting it as your sole focus – not enough. There’s a reason you haven’t achieved whatever it is up to this point. There are two reasons, actually – you need new habits and new systems.
Chris Brogan wrote, in his recent New Year’s post, about the importance of systems as support mechanisms absolutely necessary to the creation of habits. I agree that they go hand in hand. Every productivity expert I know – from Charlie Gilkey to David Allen to Tara Robinson – assures us that systems are absolutely necessary in order for us to keep our priorities straight and our projects on track. Which means that if you’re really determined to accomplish that next big thing, you need to set up the necessary systems that will help you build the necessary habits.
Community of Support
Goal-setting theory shows us that public accountability, expert resources and moral support are all critical to achieving anything significant. Or, put another way, it takes a village. To share your goal with others helps motivate you (either to share your pride or avoid embarrassment – both are powerful). To understand that you don’t have to know it all or do it all helps you focus on the aspects of the goal that are really yours to do. And to know that you’ve got people rooting for you and available to pick you up when you falter or stumble is very comforting.
Here at MarchFifteen we have a shining example of someone who’s constantly working on her next big thing. Edyta Pacuk will be climbing Mt. Everest in the Spring of 2016. Working next to her, I can attest to the fact that she didn’t just wake up one day and decide to do it. Nor has she tackled the goal alone. She’s had a plan, she’s relying on the expertise of people who know about climbing big (really big!) mountains, she’s sharing her goal with the world, and she’s prioritizing her training efforts to ensure she’s really ready. And, probably most importantly, she’s fundraising to support a cause about which she is really passionate. If you’d like to support her efforts, you can donate here.
Do you have a mountain you’re committed to climbing?