Everyone loves that feeling when they’ve found something they’re naturally good at. However, relying on what we do naturally is a sure-fire way to plateau success.
In The ONE Thing, we outline two possible scenarios for what happens when someone reaches their natural ceiling of achievement.
The first is called the entrepreneurial cycle. Once they reach their personal limits, they become disappointed in themselves. After disappointment, they approach resignation and then look for greener pastures, where they’ll find something else they’re naturally good at that will provide them with the same level of energy and enthusiasm they had at the beginning of the entrepreneurial cycle.
The second scenario is a purposeful approach. When reaching a ceiling of achievement purposeful individuals focus on the barrier, then rely on models and systems to break through that ceiling. Instead of falling back on their own natural ability, they amplify their efforts by forming new relationships, adopting a new way of thinking, and forming a new approach that will produce better results.
We call making the transition between entrepreneurial behavior and purposeful behavior, “Moving from E to P.” It explains the difference between spinning in circles, maintaining a string of mediocre successes and really nailing down your ONE Thing and experiencing extraordinary success.
The first step to thinking purposefully is to become focused, and the best way to do that is to work with goals—BIG goals. Big goals not only give us a target to aim for, but they challenge us to think in ways that lead us to taking larger steps that in turn enable us to live bigger lives. In a way, they shift our thinking away from the ceilings we hit and onto the actions we need to take to make a breakthrough beyond those momentary limitations. (If you’ve seen The Matrix think, “There is no spoon.”)
The process of improving our focus through goals can be broken down into three (familiar) steps: (1) outlining steps through Goal Setting to the Now, (2) narrowing down priorities through a GPS, and (3) developing an action and accountability plan through a 411.
- Goal Setting to the Now
For those who might be unfamiliar with the method, Goal Setting to the Now is the process of reverse engineering our goals—beginning with the end in mind and walking back to what needs to be accomplished today to make achievement possible.
In order for the process to be effective, it’s not enough to break your goals down into smaller goals. You also have to break your goals down into activities. The activities you take at each step of your journey will naturally lead to the completion of your larger goal. And because you’ve broken down your goal and activities into smaller segments, you’re better able to hold yourself accountable to completing them.
- Your GPS
Like we explain in our goal setting guide, the best way to identify those goals is to use a GPS. In short, our version of the GPS stands for Goals, Priorities, and Strategies. For each big, long-term goal we have, we should determine three dominos (priorities) that need to fall in order to accomplish that goal and five strategies for knocking down each domino. Those individual strategies are the actions we hold ourselves accountable to taking if we want to stay on track to complete our goal.
Lasering in on the steps necessary to break through our ceiling is made complete with a little accountability. This is where the 411 comes into play.
- Your 411
The 411 isn’t so much an acronym as it is a metaphor for what this worksheet accomplishes. Like information services, this living document keeps you “in the know” on where you stand with your goals. At the top of the document is a list of all of your annual personal and professional goals. Below that are your monthly goals that put you on track for achieving those annual goals. Finally, the weekly goals section is meant to address the e actions you must take in real time to ensure you’re on track for hitting your monthly and annual goals.
If you’re interested in finding out more about keeping and maintaining a 411 for you and your team, we suggest taking a look at our guide.
Models and Systems
One of the most important aspects about moving from E to P is challenging ourselves with the question: “Are we doing things the best we can do or the best way they can be done?”
Models are all about providing a framework of best practices that are proven to get us from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. Systems are the methods we use to set those models in motion. Unless you are truly venturing into undiscovered territory (like venturing on the edges of the universe) chances are there’s a best-practice for what you’re trying to accomplish. And even then, retracing the footsteps of those who have gotten farther than you have before might lead you to a good launching point to make a breakthrough.
A common criticism of working with models is the belief that models squash creativity—they restrict us and immobilize our options on the path toward success. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Creativity thrives within confines and is constricted by boundless possibilities.
Who would you expect to dance more creatively? An inexperienced dancer or a trained professional? Before you answer, think about this: creativity is expanded by the amount of knowledge and experience we gather. What we consider “creation” is just the synthesis of ideas, experiences, and interpretations in one giant pot. Nothing is entirely novel.
In a study that examined the brain activity of several professional and novice dancers, researchers found that the more a dancer knew, the more likely regions of the brain associated with creativity would light up under an EEG scan. When asked to perform a free-style, creative dance, those with more experience turned out to be more creative than those without experience.
Even artforms that are the pride of many who value creative exploration, like music, turn out to be perfect illustrations of how a set of rules provide an environment for creativity to flourish. When you think about all the possible notes our voices are able to hit—did you ever find it weird that people naturally gravitated toward building musical scales? Or that we find people who sing off-pitch displeasing?
Without confines, structure, and rules, music would sound like everything else in the world. It wouldn’t be special or creative at all. It’d just sound like noise.
Part of the problem with adopting models is that they aren’t always presented to us in ways that make it easy for us to cut and paste them into our lives. While easy to implement models do exist—we’ve created a few ourselves—sometimes you’re going to have to develop your own model from your own research.
Looking at what others have done to achieve the success you want in your life is a great place to start when trying to find a model. People often say that there’s a science to success. There’s also a science to failure and everything else in between. Choose the models you want to follow in your life based on the success you want to experience for yourself.
Go to Amazon and read their biographies—get in their mindset and retrace their footsteps to the best of your ability. If you want to get good at investing, read Warren Buffet. If you want to start a cable network, read about Ted Turner. If you want to hit homeruns from both sides of the plate, read about Chipper Jones. Understand the way those who have walked before you think, adopt that thinking, and implement similar actions in your own life.
Developing New Skills and Building New Relationships
In 1933, Bertrand Russell published an essay called “The Triumph of Stupidity” where he wrote:
“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Thinking we know it all is probably a good sign that we don’t have what we need. That’s especially true when it comes to making the move from E to P.
Take an honest assessment of your own abilities and you’ll likely find that you’re missing a couple of skills that you’ll need to help get you to where you want to be. And no matter your current situation, there’s something you can do about that.
There are two ways to attain new skills—the first is to develop them on your own. This requires dedicating time and energy to honing your craft until you’re able to bridge whatever gap you’ve come across. The second is to find someone else with the skills you need and build a working relationship with them.
Developing skills on your own is always a viable choice—to a degree. While you’re never too old to learn a new trick, there will always be someone out there who can do it better. When it comes to the question we posed earlier, “Are you doing something the best you can do or the best it can be done? “The truth is the answer will always be “the best I can do” or “the best that we can do it.” There will always be a better way to do something – always.
Having a humble attitude about your limits, once you know you’ve reached them, is the first step to making a breakthrough because it puts you in the right mindset to make a positive step. Once you’ve set on a path to developing your own skills and you realize that you’re doing something the best you can do it, it’s time to make the move from “I” to “We”. In other words, to move from “I do it” to “We do it”.
The right relationships, when built purposefully, can challenge our views in ways that naturally improve the way we operate. No one succeeds alone. For every McCartney there’s a Lennon. For every Bill Gates, there’s a Paul Allen. For every Frodo Baggins, a Samwise Gamgee! Identifying the relationships that will carry you forward when you can’t go any further is critical to all types of success and being purposeful about how we enter into those relationships and find them, increases our chances of finding those world-changers and making them a part of our lives.
We’ve written extensively about recruiting and developing talent. If you want to learn more about finding and recruiting people onto your team, be sure to check out our series on the topic. However, if you’re looking for something a little more lightweight, then we suggest just beginning with a friendship.
Regular conversations with the right people can give us a much-needed new perspective. With their guidance in mind, we are better able to make incremental improvements, discover solutions we didn’t think of before or receive the accountability we needed to push ourselves further. Sometimes we don’t need a “working relationship”, we just need a little communication.
Take the Leap!
It doesn’t do anyone any good to start their journey from E to P by applying the concept to every single area of their lives all at once. Begin with ONE Thing that you know could benefit from a purposeful approach and start with the first step in the process: getting focused by setting a goal. Work through the different levels of working purposefully and then let that mindset flow into the other areas of your life that also benefit from the approach.
Like Charlie, his grandfather, and Willy Wonka experienced at the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the ceilings in our lives are made of glass. No matter how cumbersome they may seem, there’s always a way to break through. You just have to keep at it by maintaining focus, challenging yourself with new ideas, skills, and relationships, and committing to acting purposefully in the areas of your life that matter most.