Larry is the bestselling author of Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success (Greenleaf, October 2015). He holds weekly coaching calls for more than a thousand leaders across the United States and Canada. Through this website, he shares articles and other resources to help people overcome the obstacles preventing them from winning in any area of life.
What does your typical day look like? Do you get to your desk, work through repetitive tasks to get them out of the way, then push through the remainder of your to-do list? Do you end the day with a clear desk and a sense of accomplishment? Or do you, like so many others, spend the day desperately trying to get through your work, only to be distracted by emails, phone calls, people dropping by, and meetings that could have been emails, until five p.m. arrives and your to-do list has only grown?
I’m not going to tell you this is a new thing, but it certainly has become worse in the last couple of decades. It’s the prevailing attitude that someone else’s time is not as important as your own. It’s someone being on a coffee break and deciding that you need to spend five minutes talking to them about their mom’s hip replacement. It’s a colleague calling a meeting to discuss something that you have no interest in, no authority over, and nothing relevant to contribute to. It’s a friend sending hundreds of pictures of their children, their dog, their lunch… and becoming annoyed when you don’t immediately respond. We’ve developed a culture of instant gratification, where everyone needs to drop everything and focus on things that just aren’t that important.
There’s too much of a sense of urgency placed on meaningless, time-consuming and unimportant things, and all these distractions and interruptions are causing you to become less efficient, less productive, and less successful. The world wants your attention, and it’s up to you to say, “No, I have things that are important to me that I need to get done. If I let myself get distracted, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.”
The world wants your attention, and it's up to you to say no. If you let yourself get distracted, it's nobody's fault but yours. Click To Tweet
Leaving the office behind
In my business, I spent a great deal of time working hard, long hours, growing and expanding, and putting in a ton of energy to achieve the goals I had set for myself. Over the years, I went from being a one-man operation to having numerous employees and many clients, all of whom wanted a slice of my time. It grew so distracting that I came to a decision — I wasn’t going into the office anymore unless there was a specific meeting already planned. I knew that if I walked into that office, everyone would have a hundred questions, things they felt it critical for me to look at right now, even if it was something they really could make their own decision on, so I made a choice to step away.
I would conduct all my business during scheduled phone calls or meet with my assistant at a local restaurant to go over important documents. I kept my office visits to a minimum and set those up for times when I knew I could handle being in demand all day. It was the only way I was going to get things done, so I set those boundaries and stuck to them.
Believe in your own goals
One of the things I’ve noticed over time is that the people who struggle to define clear boundaries are usually those who struggle to accept their value. Whether they’re a member of staff in an organization, or running their own business, somewhere along the way they got the idea that everyone else’s time and demands are more important than their own.
Maxwell Maltz said it best: “Self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment.” To me, that says, if you believe that what you are doing is worthwhile, worthy of your time and energy, if you believe that you have a right to pursue your goals and accomplish them, then you will understand the value of setting boundaries. Because if you don’t set those boundaries, you have nobody to blame for failing to be productive and successful but yourself.
It isn’t someone else’s job to keep up with your schedule and your priorities. People are too busy focusing on their own. When someone comes along and interrupts you while you’re working, most of the time, they have no idea that they’re intruding into your space at a bad time. It isn’t that they don’t respect boundaries, it’s just that they feel they need to speak to you right now, and if you haven’t made your boundaries clear, they won’t see any reason why you can’t be disturbed. This will happen again and again until you figure out a way to isolate yourself when you need to get things done.
When you make it clear that you have defined boundaries, the vast majority of people, from clients to co-workers, family to friends, are going to accept and understand that, and are only going to interrupt you if it’s vitally important. Believe me, when I say, there are a lot fewer fires that need your help to extinguish them than you think. But how do you go about setting boundaries?
You'll never be happy if you allow yourself to be controlled by the tyranny of the urgent. Click To Tweet
Protecting your boundaries
“Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures.” – Edwin Louis Cole
Not everyone is going to be able to decide that they’re working from home from now on. I got to do that because it was my company and I could set that kind of boundary. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries that work within your context. It is up to you to figure out what your boundaries need to be and to enforce them effectively. That said, there are a few ways you can go about setting those boundaries that work for just about everyone. And, if your goal is to be your own boss and work from home one day, you’ll be glad you learned how to set boundaries.
Evaluate your distractions and determine how to deal with them.
Make it easy by starting with the things and the people, as well as the places where you spend the most time. For example, we’ve already talked about taking control of your smartphone. Then let those around you know when you need your space. Believe it or not, the world is not conspiring to make life miserable for you. Most people have a lot of things to do themselves and, they are not thinking about your schedule and whether or not they are intruding into your space. Make it easy for them to know when you need to be left alone. Take a look at your workspace and see what adjustments can be done to eliminate the most frequent interruptions. In all of these areas start with the things closest to you, simplest to fix and work out from there. Little changes can give you BIG benefits.
Set a precedent. Ideally, you want to set precedents as early as possible, because it’s easier to set boundaries from the start than to change them later. Unfortunately, we don’t all have that option, so start setting precedents right now. If your coworkers are under the impression that it’s fine to walk into your office anytime and talk about unimportant things, set a precedent by stopping them and telling them that you are busy and can’t talk. Alternatively, you can set the precedent that when your door is closed, or there’s a specific sign on your desk, that you are not to be disturbed, but when the door is open or, the sign is put away, you are free to talk. Create precedents that suit your circumstances. If you’re a parent who runs their own business from home, make it clear to your kids and spouse that they can’t disturb you when you’re at your desk.
Define boundaries clearly. Like I said before, there are fewer emergencies than you think, but they do exist, and it helps to have clear definitions of what counts as an emergency and how to deal with those circumstances. If your children think that “Susie stole my candy bar” is an emergency, you need to explain to them why it isn’t. Likewise, if a colleague believes that a coffee maker malfunction in the break room is an emergency that you have to deal with, you need to make it clear to them why it isn’t, and when you are willing to deal with these things. Most people are perfectly capable of handling these so-called emergencies on their own, rather than passing them off onto you, and it should be understood they are only to disturb you if it’s essential.
Don’t break your own rules. If you are unavailable, you are unavailable. Especially at the beginning, when you’re setting your boundaries politely, people will test them, and you need to be as firm with them as necessary. If someone interrupts you with something you have already made it clear you won’t deal with right now, then refuse to do it, and make it clear that that is your boundary. Your boundary is your layer of protection against unnecessary distractions and interruptions, and it is what makes you capable of reaching your goals.
We all know the feeling. You’ve spent the whole day running back and forth, answering questions, responding to emails, plugging away at tasks, attending meetings… but by the end of the day you realize you’ve accomplished nothing! Your to-do list has nothing ticked off, your assigned workload is growing, and you’re asking yourself, how on earth did I get nothing done? Here’s the thing: there’s a world of difference between being busy all the time, and being productive.
Paul J Meyer said: “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” That’s a pretty formal way of putting it, so here’s a much clearer, plainer way of saying it, according to Ryan Holiday: “We only have so much energy for our work, for our relationships, for ourselves. A smart person understands this and guards it carefully. Meanwhile, idiots focus on marginal productivity hacks and gains, while they leak out energy each passing day.”
My cousin, H. Edward Roberts, the inventor of the world’s first personal computer, the Altair8800, told me a story about the birth of Microsoft that’s stuck with me through the years. Back before personal computing and the internet took the world by storm, Bill Gates and Paul Allen were nineteen-year old entrepreneurs who won the exclusive contract to develop the software for the Altair8800. There was a mammoth task ahead of them, and it needed to be done fast.
Here’s how they did it: They set up camp in a bare room, down a lonely hallway. The room consisted solely of concrete floors and a couple of folding chairs and a folding table with computers. In their isolation, they wrote code around the clock. When they grew hungry, they ordered cokes and pizza delivered to their sparse quarters. When they became tired, they laid down on the concrete floor behind the chairs. They kept distractions to a minimum. They worked hard, long hours, they pushed themselves to the limit, and they got it done. Now they are two of the wealthiest men in the world.
Most successful entrepreneurs and high achievers can point back to times in their lives where they had to go into overdrive, block out distractions so they could make a significant breakthrough. But the truth is, all of us will have times in our lives where we find ourselves facing the need to do something similar to get the important things we want done. It’s not just working; it’s getting things done.
Busy vs. productive — can you spot the difference?
Imagine you’re in your car, on a long journey. You head out in your car, and push on through long hours, driving, and making excellent time. There’s just one small problem — you’re heading north when you should be heading south. I’m sorry to break it to you, but you’re not getting where you want to go — and this is how way too many people go through life.
Even when you are headed in the right direction, if you’re stopping at every shopping mall, truck stop, point of interest and tourist attraction on the road, you’re not getting where you need to be. You’re going to run out of fuel before you reach your destination… if you ever get near it at all.
If you stop every few exits to get gas, then stop to get something to eat, then stop to use the bathroom, then take a break to clean the bugs off the car window, you’re never going to get where you want to do either. Even traveling with family makes it hard to stay on schedule because somebody always needs to stop for some reason or another. These are the kind of distractions we face anytime we want to do anything.
These distractions don’t do us any good at all. Inefficient time and task management, lack of reliable systems and hundreds of daily distractions and interruptions all slow you down, waste your time, and kill your productivity, which is not helping in your pursuit of success.
The problem with these distractions, interruptions, and inefficient ways of dealing with tasks is that they can make us feel like we’re busy all the time. You tell yourself you’re working hard, but you can’t figure out why nothing is getting done and why you’re not getting ahead.
There are many reasons why even someone who is working ten, twelve or fourteen hours a day still isn’t getting ahead. These are just a few of them.
Distractions: Let me ask you this: Who can get anything done when you’re getting distracted by a little beeping, buzzing, dinging box continually updating you with texts, emails, and social media notifications? How do you become more productive when you’re allowing your schedule, your concentration, and your productivity to be dictated by telemarketers and spammers? What are you ever going to achieve if you treat every distraction as more important than the job that’s in front of you?
Lack of Systems: There are hundreds of tasks that you do every single day, that if you’re not dealing with them efficiently, will take up too much of your time. Without a plan, without a system that works for you, those tasks can take over the whole day, and make you feel like you’re super busy, when you haven’t actually achieved anything. It can be easy to mistake running around unfocused for working hard and being productive
Let’s make no mistake — successful people often do work long, hard hours, around the clock, to accomplish big projects and launches. The difference is, they are working efficiently, productively, with an eye on their goal and a plan to make it happen. They aren’t going to work 24/7 all of the time. They’ll only do this when it’s necessary. The rest of the time, they have systems, plans and processes in place to make every day run like clockwork.
But why should you care? You’ve been doing things this way forever, and it works… kinda. You’re used to this, and you’re in a groove. Well, here’s your problem: The reason this is such a huge issue is, if you don’t work productively, you won’t achieve your goals. I know, that sounds like a no-brainer, right? But let’s be honest — not working productively is the reason you are always busy but are getting nothing done.
Here are a few things to look out for, to help you determine whether you’re being productive or just working hard:
You’re worn out from working all the time, but nothing is checked off your to-do list.
You’re exhausted from taking work home, going into the office two hours early, leaving late every night, so that you can actually complete some of your workload.
You’re frequently frustrated, angry, and disappointed in yourself.
You feel like you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions, and you can’t figure out how to get from point A to point B.
Make productivity happen
You’re not the only one who’s been there. You’re not even the only one who’s there right now; this is something we all have to deal with, all the time. But you can take the right steps today to get out of that space and be a more productive, effective person. The sooner you realize it, the sooner you can take the right steps to protect yourself and be more productive. The better you get at finding ways to compartmentalize your time, the faster and better you’re going to get all those critical jobs done, every time.
In my life and business, I’ve always felt that I don’t mind working hard and putting in the hours, as long as it’s going to be worth it. Part of it being worth it was getting a ton of things done, but I quickly realized that there were going to be distractions. I looked at those distractions, those things getting in the way of my productivity, as the enemy. They were destroying my chance at accomplishing something great, and they had to be eliminated.
Click to Tweet: When you make an effort to plan your time and tasks, you give yourself the luxury of uninterrupted time to get the job done.
So how do we minimize distractions, get organized, and make sure every minute of the day is productive, rather than just busy?
Figure out what’s distracting you. For many, it’s that all-too-important smartphone, with its email notifications, text messages, reminders and phone calls. There’s an app for everything — reminding you to drink water, telling you to get up and move your legs every hour, reminding you that you are a special person… and distracting you constantly. Evaluate the things that distract you and see how you can adjust them. Which ones can you eliminate, which ones can you minimize, and which ones can you postpone? Know your distractions and have a plan for dealing with them.
At least ask yourself, do you need to have the buzzers and bells notifying you every time you get a message, text, email or news updates all day long?
Set boundaries. If you work in an office with other people, you know how many interruptions you can experience. Someone asking about a trivial task that they could have dealt with themselves, someone else stopping by to chat about their weekend, meetings that could have been emails. All these things cause a dramatic drop in productivity, and they can be resolved by setting clear boundaries. Make it clear when you need to be left alone and when you are open to being approached. If it means talking to your boss and working remotely some of the time, do it. If it means closing your door, do that. If it means finding a deserted corridor with an empty room with concrete floors, folding chairs, and your laptop, that’s what it takes.
Learn to prioritize. There’s no escaping emails and messages, or certain types of repetitive tasks, but you can prioritize how to deal with them. Whether that means only dealing with emails at certain times of day, or only being available for meetings on certain days of the week, or giving yourself a couple of hours at scheduled times to get through all the quick jobs, work out how best to prioritize your work.
Get the job in front of you done. Some of these repetitive tasks can be done a whole lot faster because you already know how to do them. Race through them, and once they’re complete, don’t think about them any longer! Handle these things once and, if they absolutely can’t be dealt with now, move on and set aside a one-stop time for getting those done. Don’t allow unfinished business to stack up and create an overwhelming backlog. Unfinished business creates constant stress, all by itself, and the slower you deal with it, the less likely it is to get done. Focus until those tasks are done.
Your downtime is sacred – treat it accordingly. The only person you are robbing when you skip meals, sleep or time to unwind, just to squeeze in a few more hours of work, is yourself. Now, to be fair, we all need to do this from time to time, but it shouldn’t be your habit. You cannot be at your best if you wear yourself out, and to be productive, you need to be at your best. Focus on managing your time and your priorities so that you achieve your goals, but also give yourself a chance to enjoy your life. You need to re-energize yourself and look after your own mental, physical and emotional health, because if you burn yourself out, you’re just going to suffer even more setbacks.
If you want to increase your productivity and your quality of life exponentially, you need to use the right keys, take control and be in charge of your own life. Don’t let life control you. You get to choose what to do, rather than allowing others to dictate your time and priorities. The better your productivity and efficiency when you work, the more you get done, but that’s not all you get. You get more free time that you can use to relax, recover and de-stress…or push for even more challenges and success.
Make the decision today that you are done with pursuing the idea of just being busy. Decide, choose to focus on doing what you need to do to work hard, work
Every successful business is a race to the finish line and beyond. Every successful person is in a hurry to get great things done. The challenge for all of us is how to make every minute count so that we are giving ourselves the best possible chance to do and achieve great things in our lives.
Here’s my challenge to you: Write down five things you can do today to be more productive instead of just being busy. I want to know what you do to be productive and reach your goals. Let me know in the comments below.
Productive downtime isn’t about binge-watching television; it’s about making every second pay off. Click To Tweet
Your downtime is very important to accomplishing your goals because it gives you the opportunity for self-care and for reflection. Time away from your work give you the perspective and distance to objectively evaluate your progress and performance and to make sure you’re still doing work that excites and energizes you. You should treat downtime like something precious and valuable, to use and not to waste.
If there’s one thing really successful people have in common, it’s that they have learned the value of high-quality downtime, leisure time that they use to not only unwind but to add to their success in crucial ways. Downtime isn’t just about binge-watching your favorite new television series — it’s about making every second of it count.
Slow burn vs. burnout
Success in life and business is a lot like driving a high-performance vehicle. That car is a finely-tuned instrument that’s been tinkered with and perfected so that it performs optimally. Likewise, on your journey to success, you’ll spend a lot of time working out the right systems for yourself, developing good habits, and fine-tuning yourself into a lean, mean success-building machine.
But you can’t drive that sportscar at full capacity all the time. If it’s going to continue performing optimally, you need to refuel it, change the tires, and take it in for regular servicing. The same is true of your body and mind. You can’t go, go, go twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You need to refuel yourself; you need to recharge and revitalize. You need downtime.
Life, work, and success are not a relentless rat race. Growth comes in surges. Click To Tweet
Sometimes you need to put in high-octane fuel to have optimal performance. Other times, you need to give yourself an overhaul, clean out your worn-out, exhausted body and mind, and get things back to high-performance mode if you want to avoid burnout. Remember that life, work and success are not a relentless rat race. Growth comes in surges, with periods of considerable activity and periods where everything slows down. This is a natural cycle, like the seasons. It’s like a spring that’s wound tight that has to release from time to time, or it will break.
So, how do you spend your downtime?
Work hard, party harder?
There is a reason why clubs, bars, and restaurants do good business. It’s the same reason streaming television services are taking off. People need time to unwind and relax, and binge-watching a television series or going out drinking and dancing feels a lot like taking a break. But is it really a productive way to spend your downtime?
Of course, it can do you a lot of good to just get a change of pace. Going out somewhere new, even if it is only for dinner, or meeting up with different groups of friends can be really refreshing and energizing. And sometimes, it is healthy for you just to sit down, let everything go and turn off your brain — watch a movie, watch some television, and thoroughly enjoy it. It can regenerate you like a good night’s sleep does, without actually being asleep.
But when you run on the work hard, party harder lifestyle, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Work hard — yes, of course — but also work smart. When you’re working towards success, it can be easy to fall into the trap of overcommitting, and that leads in one direction — burnout. To compensate, we cram all the downtime we can into the least amount of time we have available, which can mean too much frantic celebrating when what you really need is some recovery time.
We’ve built this false impression from television, movies, and books, in which the successful business owner or career person works all the time and never has time for friends and family. We buy into that narrative and push ourselves to the limit. Then, when we do take that desperately-needed time off, we spend it doing things that don’t serve us well, rather than focusing on the things that are truly important, like our relationships or our health.
Learning to unwind
If you don’t engage in quality downtime, you’re missing out on the opportunity to build great relationships with family and friends. You’re doing your physical, mental and emotional health a disservice and you’re not giving yourself time to grow as a person. In the end, all you’re doing is adding to your stress by never letting off that steam and trying to bury the pressure under layers of meaningless activity.
The good news is that productive downtime has been proven over and over to be the most effective way to beat stress. It even helps boost your mental, physical, and emotional health — all good things when it comes to building your success. And once you make that connection, once you get it, once you understand that making your downtime count will actually do you much more good than just collapsing on the couch every night, you’re going to find ways to adjust your leisure habits and make them work for you.
Winners have systems for managing priorities and recognizing when chaos creeps in. Click To Tweet
My advice to you is, to keep that downtime sacred. Use it to build and strengthen relationships and use it to get your body and mind back on track. Do things that mean something to you and give your life real meaning. Don’t just be a successful career person, be a well-rounded, happier person.
Enjoy activities with your family that everyone enjoys, whether it’s board games, family dinner time, backyard football or talking about books you read. Many high achieving families have a second home, a camping routine, specific activities they do, or events they attend together. It’s planned into their routine because it gives them a set time to rejuvenate and connect in a healthy way. The stronger your family relationships are, the more you’ll be able to count on them for support.
2 – Surround yourself with people you enjoy
Don’t waste your time with people who drain you or who cause you to feel negative about yourself and your relationship with them. Instead, spend time with those friends who energize and encourage you, and whom you do the same for.
I love photography. It has no bearing on my work at all, but it is a skill I wanted to learn, so I did. What would you love to be able to do that has nothing to do with your career? Learn a new language? Learn to dance? Never stop learning, it’s good for your brain!
5 – Pay people to do the jobs you don’t want to do
I’m sure there are some of you that get quality self-reflection time in while mowing the lawn or folding the laundry, but if you’re not one of them, pay someone to do it. Don’t waste your precious downtime doing things you hate doing if you can pay someone else to do them.
6 – Control the conversation
It can be extremely stressful to keep getting sucked into discussions about subjects that anger or upset you, and some people just love pushing those buttons. If you’re spending time with people who keep steering the conversation to those things, stop spending time with them, or redirect the conversation away from these topics. Protect your downtime and don’t focus on things that make you angry and drain your precious energy resources.
7 – Exercise your body
Exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. It gets your heart pumping, gets the blood flowing and helps increase your mental function. Physical health is just as crucial to success as mental health. Besides, it’s a great way to work off nervous energy or even aggression and get back to a place of calm and focus.
8 – Exercise your mind
An active and healthy mind is critical to a healthy, happy life and career. Did you know that around 80 percent of successful people say they spend time reading quality material every day? Self-improvement books, trusted news sources, and high-quality blogs are their reading material of choice. Many of them also talk about the benefits of self-examination, which helps to clear out the mental clutter and to bring back a sense of calm and peace.
9 – Disconnect from social media
There’s nothing wrong with spending some time online, but so many people end up spending hours wasting time on social media, constantly checking their Facebook, that it results in several years’ worth of wasted hours every single day around the world. Disconnect from social media as much as possible — log off when you’re spending time with other people, disconnect while you’re focusing on yourself… and quit playing Candy Crush in the bathroom!
10 – Plan your downtime
Spontaneity is the spice of life, but a recipe that’s just spices isn’t going to fill you up, and relying on spontaneity for your downtime will likely lead to binge-watching television shows. Don’t be afraid to put systems in place for your downtime. Plan activities, adventures, and events. Make the most of what free time you have. Schedule and prioritize events like date night, family dinner, experiences with your kids, and classes you want to take. Make your schedule in advance and stick with it.
Your time is yours, and you get to decide how it gets spent. Click To Tweet
When you give yourself quality downtime, you’re going to destress much more effectively and efficiently. It’s going to have a marked, positive effect on your physical and mental health and it will give you the energy you need to turn your business or career into a mega-success.
By taking control of your downtime, you take control of your own life. It’s a clear way of telling the world (and yourself), “I won’t be run ragged, my time is mine, and I will decide how it gets spent. I will not be controlled by the tyranny of the urgent.”
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele
Let’s face it, as human beings; we love shortcuts. We love the idea that there is some quick and easy way we can achieve success. We think that one simple trick, like getting up an hour early or reading a specific book will allow us to bypass all the hard work we should do to accomplish our goals. But deep down, we know that’s not true and that it is going to take a lot of hard work. But does that mean there aren’t systems we can follow, methods we can apply to help us achieve success? Not at all. In fact, these systems are exactly what propels us forward.
Being truly successful means that you have to put in time, effort, and work. It’s that simple. What most people find difficult, however, is forcing themselves to do the work. And that’s because they don’t have a plan. They don’t have a clear way to get the job done that makes sense to them and, as a result, their efforts are erratic and random. They haven’t identified the exact steps they should take to reach their goal. It’s no wonder they fail.
Obviously, simply spending your time wishing, hoping, dreaming, and imagining your way to success is not an effective strategy. You need to start moving and keep moving forward. You need simple, concrete ways to get yourself to do the work over and over again. You need tangible, specific methods to follow as you advance towards your goals until you have established a system for success that works for you.
Being successful is a result. It means you put in the necessary time, effort and work Click To Tweet
Successful people may call it habits, processes or even superstitions, but it all comes down to applying precise, detailed systems that are followed exactly and in the same way every time. They do what they have already proven to themselves works and gets results. Their step-by-step approach is what separates them from the unsuccessful. Why? Because it can be hard to figure out how to do things the right way and stick to the plan. Life becomes so busy, that we never stop, pause, and take time to figure out the best and most efficient way to accomplish what we need to do, and then evaluate and remember the methods we applied. We labor under the illusion that we have to force ourselves through the tasks in front of us — even though there may be a better way.
What we don’t realize is, often, the way we approach and complete a task at first is actually the difficult way of doing things. We don’t immediately identify the most efficient way to accomplish the same work, and in the end, this prevents us from performing at our absolute best, and from accomplishing our goals. Always look for ways to improve. That’s when you experiment and tinker. This allows you to figure out the best methods to complete a job and do great work.
You increase your odds of success when you experiment, tinker, and figure out the best way to do a job better Click To Tweet
Eventually, Walsh would write a book called Finding the Winning Edge, which is now out of print, but which details his principles, his approach and how he made such success happen. When Walsh spoke about finding that winning edge, one thing kept coming up: it all came down to precision — being detailed and precise in everything he did to beat the competition. His exacting actions paid off in three Super Bowl championships and a book that is highly sought after today, even though it’s out of print.
The reason his systems worked and continue to work so well is that Walsh had a habit of being precise, doing everything the right way, thinking it through and leaving as little margin for error as possible. This dedication to precision paid off over and over, and it illustrates something fundamental about achieving success — if you want to be successful, you need to be in the habit of doing things the right way.
In the same way that a winning coach like Bill Walsh has a game plan, you need to work out a game plan for yourself. Identify an approach that is going to work for you. To be successful, you’ll need to approach every day, week, month and year with a personalized game plan for success. Without a game plan, you’re going to flounder; you might get some momentum going, but you’ll lose it. You’ll grow frustrated because you’re trying bits and pieces of what you heard someone else does, without understanding how to get the fundamentals down that will make you, personally, successful.
Precision in approach makes the difference between high achievers and everyone else. Narrow your focus, make the target smaller, and this will make the misses smaller. Achieving success requires a specific vision and precise steps to complete tasks. An ambiguous plan or workflow does not lead to accomplishing what you want. Let’s say you want to host a workshop. That’s something a bit vague, so nail down the details. What do you want the workshop to be about, what is the agenda, who are the speakers and what order should they speak in for maximum effect? What is the min thing you want the workshop to accomplish and how can you measure whether it was successful or not? The more details you identify and nail down, the more successful workshop will be. This is why winners win. They have a specific vision of how the plan will unfold, and they carefully plan the details and follow through. They don’t leave these things to the last minute. They take care of them before they become a problem.
Finding your systems
How do you identify and work out personalized systems that work and bring you closer to your goals?
It’s also about giving yourself the luxury of thinking about how to do things a better way, instead of just following the accepted way of doing things. Think about kicking field goals in football for a minute. For decades, everyone kicked their field goals straight on. The only way to get ahead in the game was to kick harder and harder, and the human body can only kick so hard. At some point, someone paid attention to how soccer players kicked their goals. They kicked them at an angle that created much more efficient momentum. When the football players started kicking field goals the same way, approaching the ball at a 45 degree angle rather than straight on, they found their leg not only developed more force but hey could also kick more accurately. Pretty soon everyone copied this new way of kicking field goals and longer distances became common.
Give yourself the luxury of thinking about how to do things a better way Click To Tweet
The best thing about having systems in place is that you can trust them. Once you have figured out the best, most efficient way of doing things and made these methods your habit, you’re going to be able to let those things happen automatically and get on with the business of building your success. So how do you go about working out systems for yourself?
Before you can go about fixing your processes, you need to understand how you operate. Spend some time getting to know yourself. Write down, in detail, how you’re currently doing things, the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s say you want to start waking up an hour earlier. How do you get yourself up in the morning? Hit the snooze button five times? Do you go to bed super late the night before? Whatever it is, write it down, and be honest with yourself!
Step 2: Evaluate your process
If you’re staying up reading until 1 a.m., that could mean not enough sleep, and trouble getting up. So what’s working and what isn’t? Some elements of your process might be great, so keep those. Some will detract from what you’re trying to accomplish, so eliminate those, or change them so they’re more effective and efficient. Be brutally honest with yourself about what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to change. Again, write things down. It forces you to be specific and gives you the opportunity to think about what’s happening to you so you can identify what you need to improve.
Step 3: Study what other people do
Whether it’s someone you admire, a mentor, or someone famously successful who you look up to, find out how they do things. There’s nothing wrong with using what’s already out there; if you can use part of someone else’s system to good effect, go for it. Tweak what you need to, adopt what works for you, and incorporate it into your system.
Step 4: Anticipate problems
We all like to avoid thinking about what could go wrong. Nobody likes to admit that things could fall apart, but it’s a critical step in the process of creating systems that lead to success. When we prepare for the worst, we can prevent it from happening, so work through scenarios and put systems in place to avoid problems. This way, if an unforeseen crisis hits, you can focus on it, instead of putting out small, avoidable, fires all the time.
Step 5: Account for yourself
How do you spend your morning before beginning your workday? Is it efficient and productive? Is it helping you get to where you want to be? Your systems shouldn’t just account for what you do behind your desk; they should take into account everything you do, from when and how you spend your leisure time, too what you do for self-improvement.
Don’t stress yourself by trying to change too many things at once. There are hundreds of articles, books, blogs, and podcasts available that will give you lists of new habits to form, and all of these have value, but not all are right for you. Even if they were, there’s no way to do them all at once. That’s why I want to encourage you to begin by writing down three specific areas you’d like to improve in that you can start working on today. Write down exactly the improvement you want to get and start to put together your own system for making this happen.
Systems = Success
Once you have your winning systems in place, you’re going to notice a lot of things changing. You’ll have eliminated where you were wasting time on useless or frivolous tasks. You won’t need to think about every single step of your process because it will have become a habit. You can just apply it and keep moving forward, which will leave you more time and energy to work on your business or career. And the best part? You can apply these same lessons to your personal life as well. You’ll have more quality free time available, and you won’t be worn out from pushing yourself to the limit all the time on tasks that can be automated.
The beauty of this, is, you aren’t just copying someone else, even if you take inspiration from them. You’re doing something that works for you, which means you’re going to be much more committed to it You’re developing your own, personal magic bullet for success, and when you stick with it, you are going to achieve your goals.
I’d like to hear what your thoughts are on this. Talk to me about the systems you have worked out for your success — where they’ve worked, where they’ve failed, and how you like to go about it.
We all dream of success to one degree or another. The simple fact that you’re reading this right now tells me that you want to live a more successful life. But so many find it difficult to achieve the success they desire and instead of addressing their habits and routines, they continue asking themselves, “Why can’t I achieve success?” The answer is pretty simple, but changing your daily routine can be tough, and even impossible if you aren’t clear about how and why to go about shifting your approach to life. A big part of successful living is about having the right habits for success. It’s simple, and it’s an approach to living that’s available to everyone.
The difference between good habits and bad habits is precision and organization versus sloppiness and disorganization. Most people are sloppy about how they go through life, doing things in a general kind of way, rather than approaching them precisely, exactly. They do things in a way that just lets them get by in life. They would never admit that they’re cutting corners or slacking off; they’ll tell you they’re always busy and on the go, but it’s there, in their approach to life. That’s why they never get to where they want to go. The only person they’re hurting is themselves.
Sloppiness and disorganization create openings for things to knock you off track. They allow for delays and distractions to creep in and prevent you from getting to where you want to be. Think about it like this: if you leave your home with all its windows and doors open, you can’t be surprised when someone walks in and robs you. If you leave your own life open and vulnerable to delays and setbacks by coasting along with bad habits, why are you surprised when you don’t reach your goals?
If you truly care about hanging on to your valuables, you lock up when you leave your home, because the only person who will lose out is you. Similarly, if you care about achieving your goals and desires, you close up the opportunities for things to go wrong and hold you back. And that’s the reason the rich and successful cultivate good habits and precise, organized ways of doing things. It isn’t because someone else is standing over them, making them do it. It’s because they make the conscious, daily decision to do things in a way that helps them maximize benefit and minimize disruption. They want good results, and they want to win over and over again.
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.” -Art Williams
Good habits are not an annoying and challenging approach to life; but they are a very specific, systematized and simplified approach to life. They make your life easier. They make it more productive. When you choose to live with a system of good habits, you move beyond deciding just to live life and get by any way you can. You are choosing to live more precisely by doing the exact things you know are going to give you the results you want. When you decide to do those things over and over again, they naturally become one of your habits.
Success is a daily decision to do things in a way that maximizes benefit and minimizes disruption. Click To Tweet
The habit of habits
Successful people don’t just do things; they do things the right way, at the right time, over and over. They eliminate their margin of error. The difference is that not everyone operates that way. Not everyone pays the same attention to detail that high achievers do.
High achievers expect significant results as fast as possible, and they do it by being precise. They want to eliminate any margin of error, and they want to know what their payoff is going to be for the effort they put in. It’s pointless to follow some list of “rich habits” simply because someone else does them. The key is to look at lists like that as a resource to get ideas to help you get more organized on accomplishing the things that are important to you.
Great results don’t magically come because you follow some checklist of habits; great results come because you have organized yourself and your life around the activities that give you consistent, excellent results. That’s how you eliminate your own margin for error.
High achievers expect big results as fast as possible; they do it by being precise. Click To Tweet
If you are lucky, you grew up picking up the right kinds of habits. If not, don’t worry. You can change. In fact, high achievers are continually making changes. That happens because their life changes. New opportunities open up, new goals emerge, and they adapt their schedule and activities to accommodate the new direction. Also, ideas for improvement continuously come from doing things yourself and from observing others. This allows you to do not only the right things but to do them quicker, faster, and better. That helps keep you fresh, energized, and growing.
You're constantly making adjustments and pivots in your habits as you chase greatness. Click To Tweet
Put yourself in a challenging environment, where you can stretch yourself and improve. Give yourself ways to grow and improve, perform under pressure. Your mental toughness and capacity are just like physical toughness; if you go to the gym and workout, lift weights, you’re going to become stronger, and if you work out your mental capacity by engaging it, stretching it and challenging it, it’s going to grow. You’re going to gain the ability to solve problems, develop new skills and new, winning habits are going to emerge. Good, new habits are the result of doing things in your life that you want to do.
Ray Kroc and the hunger for success
Back when Ray Kroc first joined the McDonald’s company and started selling franchises, he couldn’t figure out why his franchisees weren’t making a huge success out of it. The system that was in place was stellar and guaranteed to work. But somehow, the people buying his franchises just weren’t making it happen. That was until he started selling to a different type of person.
When Ray Kroc first started, he sold franchises to his buddies at the country club who bought them for their relatives and friends — people who weren’t truly invested in making it work. After all, even if it failed, they’d probably be okay. They had no real desire to follow his proven system, and they just went through the motions.
Things changed when he sold his first franchise to a door-to-door Bible saleswoman and her husband. They took the running of their new business very seriously and personally. They ran it like a mom-and-pop operation. They had invested everything in it, and it was their future, so they followed that system to the letter, and they found real success. This success was no surprise as the McDonald brothers had done the same thing before them.
When Ray Kroc saw this success, a lightbulb went off, and he realized he needed to sell it like a mom-and-pop business to first-time business owners. Sales began to skyrocket. He even went to the Small Business Administration and made an arrangement where underprivileged families could get individual loans to purchase a franchise. It was good for them, good for the economy and good for Ray Kroc. That small shift of finding people who would follow the system to the letter turned McDonald’s into the global, runaway success it is today.
It all comes back to systems and habits. If you want to develop the right kinds of habits for success, you need to be invested, committed, and determined to make it work, no matter what. Travis Bradberry said: “Humans are creatures of habit. If you quit when things get tough, it gets that much easier to quit the next time. On the other hand, if you force yourself to push through it, the grit begins to grow in you.”
What will give you the determination to push through the tough times is when you know this is the system, these are the habits that are going to pay big dividends for you. The only person who will lose if you start cutting corners is yourself. Life is hard enough, and we don’t want to be our own worst enemy. Once we understand the situation, we’re going to want to stay with the system, game plan, and activities that allow us to move upwards. That’s what’s going to give you the grit, the toughness and the determination to stay on course. In other words, it’s more than just knowing what habits to develop; it’s about sticking to it, committing, being all-in.
Developing the habit
Think about it like a factory. At the start, it takes time, energy, and effort to set things up the right way, to find the optimum way to manufacture products, so they come out as quickly as possible, perfect every time, and with as little waste as can be managed. Once everything is in place, it’s a simple matter of adding the raw materials and pushing the “start” button.
Breaking one bad habit and replacing it with a good one could happen overnight if a lightbulb goes off, but often it takes longer. This is because it takes time to unlearn the old habit, learn the new one and incorporate it into your everyday routine. Sometimes these bad habits hide and it takes a while to realize they are even there. Once you start moving forward to new projects with energy and intent, the bad habits begin to reveal themselves, and you will recognize them. They’ll show themselves because you will find yourself wasting time, becoming side-tracked, and going nowhere. The good news is, the more you unravel the old habits and start building new ones, the easier it becomes to change.
2 – Focus on the things you want to accomplish, not your habits
Once you start moving towards new goals and projects you want to achieve in your life and spend more time on the right activities to make them happen, your habits will begin to change. Old, bad habits will start getting squeezed out by new, good ones. Of course, it’s good to be aware of your bad habits, but don’t waste all your attention on them by obsessing over them. Put your mental energy into achieving your goals and dreams and let the habits change by themselves, as your new activities start aligning with your goals.
Habits aren’t made by taking a vow, like a New Year’s resolution. For good habits to form they need a purpose, an end goal, for them to become part of your life. Bad habits are things you grow out of as you grow into new ones.
3 – Take it step by step
Evaluate where you’re spending your time and see where it needs to improve. Where are you wasting time on things that aren’t giving you a good return on investment or, even worse, things that are dragging you down? The idea is to take the 24-hour allotment of time you have daily and put it to productive use so that you can live a rewarding life.
Set your own goals. It’s great to be inspired by someone else’s success, but don’t try to copy them exactly. Make sure that the goals you are setting are important to you, and will help you find the success you desire.
Celebrate your achievements. As important as it is to push through when you hit a bump in the road it’s just as important to reward yourself when you succeed. (Just don’t reward yourself by indulging your old, bad habit!)
Use the resources you have available. Read motivational books and blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch videos of successful people for inspiration and motivation. Keep a journal of your progress. The power of writing things down is that it forces you to be specific. It forces you to take a few seconds to think about what you are doing and evaluate whether you are satisfied with the results or can think about improvement. Taking time to be specific pays dividends.
Don’t give up — failure is going to happen. The dieter is probably going to break down and have a slice of pizza with their friends occasionally on a Saturday night; the new early riser will oversleep one morning and get behind on a deadline. So what? These things happen, but they are not a reason to give up; they are a bump in the road. It’s how you deal with failure that shows your character, and determines whether or not you achieve success. Get over it, get past it, and move on. Evaluate why it happened, change a couple of small details if you need to, and keep moving forward.
It's how you deal with failure that shows your character and determines whether you achieve success. Click To Tweet
Changing the bad habits of a lifetime can be challenging, as can learning good new habits that serve you well. But no matter how tough it is, it will be worth it. Nobody ever regretted becoming a better, stronger, more successful version of themselves. When you achieve real success, you will also experience amazing rewards for your efforts.
What are the most important habits you want to develop to help you reach your goals?
Let me ask you something: How do you want to go through life? Do you want to live full of anger and resentment, or would you rather live life on your terms? Do you enjoy being dragged down by a toxic past, or even a challenging present? Do you know, in your gut, that your life, your career, and your everyday experiences would be so much more powerful and purposeful if you looked forward, instead of constantly reviewing the past?
I know what my answer is, and I’m confident your’s will be the same. Too many people live their lives confined in the straitjacket of negative experiences, instead of pushing forward and grabbing their success. You don’t have to be one of them.
It takes energy to make positive things happen. Mental and physical energy are finite resources, and you need all that you have to reach your goals. Achieving great things requires focus and boldness. It takes tremendous effort to overcome the many obstacles that will impede you and it takes determination to create the life you want. That energy is there to propel you to your success, and you can’t afford to waste it on pointless things. Energy is an investment.
Holding onto a toxic past or present — be it that relationship that’s turned negative, that career that just doesn’t suit you, or the employer that’s bad for your soul — takes up too much mental and emotional space and energy, leaving you unable to focus on your present and future. So, how do you get to that point where the past no longer holds you back, and you’re able to build a fresh, new life?
Everyone knows that rush hour traffic can be frustrating and even crazy. But it became especially crazy for one man in Greensboro, North Carolina, when a small airplane missed the airport, dropped out of the sky and crashed into his car while he was stuck in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Not your typical drive home from work!
The crash destroyed the plane and the vehicle, while the driver of the car suffered a broken arm. A reporter commented to him that he was lucky; a plane fell out of the sky, and his only bodily injury was a broken arm. His response was to lash out at her, yelling that he didn’t think he was lucky at all. On a Friday afternoon, stuck in rush-hour traffic, when all he wanted was to get home and relax at the end of a workweek, an airplane fell out of the sky and out of all the thousands of cars on the road, it fell onto his car. Plus he had a broken arm.
This man reacted in the moment the way most of us would, and it’s entirely understandable to be that upset. It’s what you do after the reaction that counts. Does he hold onto that anger and resentment, constantly reliving the physical pain, the disruption to his life, and the financial impact of medical bills, replacing his car and time off work? Or does he assume a positive attitude of getting past it, realizing that the reporter was right, that he was lucky, it was just a broken arm, and life goes on?
It is when we cling to those past hurts, those toxic situations, that we fail to move forward and create success. You can’t change the outcome of past events. It’s almost impossible to be positive and proactive about your future when you’re spending most of your time worrying about the past, or a present situation that you can’t change.
Find your future
The past is over, and those events that happened can no longer hurt you. Understanding this is a crucial first step in letting go. No, of course, you can’t pretend the painful events in the past didn’t happen, but you can make a choice: Will you allow the past to control you, or are you taking back control of your life and your future?
Will you allow the past to control you or will you take back control of your future? Click To Tweet
Over and over again, people have told me stories of how their lives changed — always for the better — when they finally let go of toxic situations and past hurts and consciously chose to move forward. Letting go of the past clears out mental and emotional space, and allows you to be open to new opportunities and take risks to create a better life.
Start by telling yourself: “I can’t make my past go away, I can’t change what has happened, but I can choose to stop allowing it to dominate my life. No matter how bad things were, those things are done and gone, and I am still here. I have decided to no longer allow my past to damage me further.”
Next, you need to ask yourself the right questions to come to your own conclusions. Try these for a start:
Give yourself a specific reason to let go. Find something that is meaningful to you, something to focus on and give your life a new purpose beyond letting go. Letting go is simply the foundation on which to build a great new life. Develop your most marketable talents, learn a new skill, and find an endeavor that excites and drives you.
There is a world of skills, meaningful work, and connectivity available to you. People everywhere are learning new things, going on adventures, making new friends, getting involved in causes they believe in, having personal breakthroughs and enjoying life by pursuing meaningful activities. These people are fulfilled and possess a positive energy that overflows into other areas of their lives.
People who are engaged in reaching their full potential and contributing to the world are pumped up. Regardless of what life problems may arise, they have the energy to deal with the challenge because they know they are already living their best life, and no obstacle can change that.
Want to find a role model? Read biographies, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, and watch videos by successful people. There are so many resources available to you for finding a role model. Be inspired by how they overcame their obstacles. And here’s a little secret: Those people you’re looking at as role models? They also found role models for themselves before they achieved success. Imagine where studying their habits could take you!
Letting go is an active process, like untying a mental knot. You accomplish it by looking for positives. It’s something you have to do every day, starting with loosening that knot a little, stretching some, and creating some movement. Remember, every knot can be untied and every painful memory can be overcome.
When past hurts and resentments flood your mind, they drain you of energy and stop you in your tracks. When that happens, you need to make a point of reminding yourself that was the past, and your future is happening now. Find the positives and condition yourself how to live in this new reality.
You also have to realize that sometimes you will need to backtrack, as counterintuitive as that may sound. If you’re heading down the wrong road, you may need to back up and start over at the beginning. Every time you do that, focus on finding a positive in the old situation. Remember the driver who had a plane land on him? He came to accept that he was lucky to walk away with his life and that the good outweighed the bad in that situation.
Focus on those things that add real value to your life, such as relationships and career, and actively expand your horizons. Experiment with new activities until you find those things that bring you excitement and purpose. And most importantly, practice forgiveness. Forgive those who have hurt you, and forgive yourself for your own mistakes. If forgiving someone seems impossible to you at this time, at least consider the possibility, and watch your resentment diminish. This begins the process of letting go.
Learning to let go will help you develop a better sense of toxic situations and how to avoid them in the future. It’s also going to help you permanently move on and build a better life and a stronger future.
Letting go isn’t simply a one-off decision. It is the process of allowing yourself the time and effort to truly let go, over and over, until you heal. The more you commit to this practice, the better equipped you will be to deal with adverse situations and people and move on from them.
How have you struggled to let go of things in your past, and how this affected you? What insights have you gained in learning to let go? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.
What is the most frustrating thing for you on your personal journey to success? Is it seeing someone else who has achieved great things and wondering how they got there? After all, they make it look so easy—they have a grip on every step, every trick, every nuance of their business, their life, their health.
Every day we are inundated with success stories, tales of people who made it big, whether it’s growing a multi-billion-dollar company from scratch, earning a couple of PhDs, finding the perfect soulmate and having an incredible family… There are hundreds of things we look at daily that can make us feel inadequate by comparison. They got lucky, we tell ourselves. They had it easier than we did. We didn’t have all the benefits, the privileges, the education that they had, so how could we possibly be expected to achieve these same things? The funny thing is, if you knew what was really going on behind the scenes of their lives, you wouldn’t want their life because it wouldn’t suit you.
In a world that prizes the 24-hour news cycle, the instant gratification of social media and the culture of “10 easy ways” to achieve a goal, we often fail to recognize our own achievements and successes. It is so simple to look at the social media profile of a distant acquaintance, see the face they present to the world and believe their hype. It is beyond simple to say, well, I’ll never achieve that. What you need to realize is, this is the default—this is how you’re going to react if you don’t train yourself to be smarter than that. You need to understand, deep down inside, what is presented as reality is rarely even close to the whole truth. Not understanding this is what crushes so many people’s goals and ambitions. You need to stop falling for that con.
There is constant pressure from society to be a certain way, look a certain way and act a certain way. For many, it feels like they don’t quite fit the box of this perceived success, which is why they haven’t achieved their goals. Trying to fit into a box that isn’t built for you is going to crush your success unless you start to see that box for what it is—something that isn’t designed to help you, but to hold you back from your potential.
Real failure is allowing someone else’s success to overshadow and diminish our own Click To Tweet
Where the real failure lies, however, is not in not being good enough. It lies in allowing someone else’s success to overshadow and diminish our own. We cannot become another person, no matter how hard we try. Even if you try it’ll eventually fall completely apart because it’s all an act. You must be the person you were created to be. While you will never become someone else, you can model after them. Watch and practice their techniques, methods and success patterns. In the end, you may even get further along than your original role model did!
When you accept and embrace where you are in your life and on your journey, you discover your own potential and purpose. This will suit you considerably better than what you see when you look outward. Realize that just about everyone has someone who looks at them and imagines what it must be like to live such a successful life. That includes you; someone out there wishes they could emulate your successes. By continuing steadfastly down your own path, you have a much better chance of creating long-term success. Remember, much of what we see is just the sparks of the firework.
Obsessively comparing ourselves to others can so often cause us to get stuck, to give up when things become difficult or when there are obstacles in our way. I could never achieve those same things. I’m just not clever enough, lucky enough, or privileged enough. I don’t have the right connections. But what if we could use our natural human tendency to compare ourselves to others to our own advantage? What if we could be objective and draw inspiration from others’ success, instead of allowing that comparison to cripple us?
Growing up mediocre
When many of us were growing up, we were surrounded by adults who were either ignorant of the vast levels of success available to us or had an unfortunate victim mentality. Of course, parents and other people in our lives don’t realize they are imparting this ignorant way of thinking. People like us don’t achieve mega-success. We simply don’t have what it takes, and that’s just the way life is. Want to try out for the track team, but can’t run fast enough? Well, then, better accept you aren’t fast enough and move on. Can’t play tennis? Well, then you can’t play. Just move on. Give up that dream. It’s not worth the heartache.
Especially in the days before ESPN and YouTube, there really wasn’t an example to see how good someone could actually become—or how to get that way. When I was eight years old and kicking a ball around in the backyard, I just figured, hey, the other kids are better than me. That’s the way it will always be, so why bother. That’s until I got big enough to join the gym and start playing basketball. Nothing else to do all day but play basketball with bigger kids or take a break from that and play ping pong or shoot pool.
In a matter of months, I was getting good. Really good. Sure, I was limited by my own speed and height, but I could shoot a basketball like nobody’s business—so I did. My team played a high school that was eight times the size of ours, and we won. I kept right on playing and getting better and better until one day it occurred to me that this is how it’s done. Natural talent can only get you so far. Just because you start out being not quite as good as someone else, doesn’t mean you have to stay there. You don’t have to accept that “that’s just the way it is”.
Just because you aren't good enough today doesn't mean you can't be good enough tomorrow. Click To Tweet
My story is anything but unique. There are many highly successful people who will tell you that they came to a similar conclusion: That there’s nothing wrong with comparing your own current level of achievement with someone else’s, but that you shouldn’t use it as an excuse to give up, or allow that comparison to take away your capacity for self-belief.
So where do we find that middle ground? How do we use the success of others to motivate ourselves and to teach ourselves to achieve success, without allowing those comparisons to destroy our own ambition and tenacity?
Comparing to achieve
There is a fine line between inspiration and envy. Inspiration is viewing someone else’s achievements, taking a page from their book and learning how to achieve your own success. Envy is allowing their success to be the reason you give up, as is accepting that they will just always be better. We all want personal, financial, career, family success, so we need to learn to focus on how to use that natural tendency to compare to our own best advantage.
Comparing and competing in a productive manner requires using those comparisons to measure your own progress. For me, when someone does something big that grabs my attention, I see it as something that’s really possible to achieve. Now, maybe you can’t be the greatest in the world, or maybe you can. But knowing that someone has come close to it and hope could pull you over that line. Think about Roger Bannister. It took seemingly forever before he famously broke the four-minute mile. But once he had done it, more and more people started doing it because they realized it could be done and that challenged them to run their best time ever.
The value of our goals can be established by comparing them to what has been achieved and imagining what more can be achieved. This is where our natural human competitive spirit comes in. If you are competing against the best, you can go beyond what others are doing once you realize that there’s always greater possibility and more you could achieve.
Use your own natural tendency to compare to your own best advantage. Click To Tweet
The best place to start is to focus on your own strengths. But what does that mean? Only develop the talents you’re good at? Not exactly. Of course it pays to develop your natural talents, but it also means using your character strengths to help you achieve what you want. Are you an especially positive person? Use that to drive yourself. Are you an early riser or a night owl? Do the bulk of your work at a time of day when you are at your sharpest and most likely to push through. Do you have the ability to sit and focus for several hours? Use that ability to get through all the work you need to do to get your degree, build your business or achieve your goals. And don’t worry if you’re not amazingly good at something right off the bat—that’s what hard work and practice is for—to get stronger and better.
Set goals that are meaningful to you. When you are working towards your own definition of success, rather than someone else’s, you are more likely to stick to your plan. Of course you can be inspired by the way someone else does something, but by changing your perspective, you come up with a plan that works for you. For example, it would be ridiculous, even harmful, to try and run 20 miles a day to get in shape, just because you heard that’s how an Olympic gold medalist does it. It would be time-consuming, and it could break down your body. And as for your goals, it could distract you from achieving the other things that are more important to you. By all means, take inspiration where it appeals to you. You can be inspired by the gold medalist’s routine, without allowing it to consume you.
Learn to recognize and celebrate your own victories and achievements. Success isn’t a single destination, it is a series of milestones along the way. If your goal is to write a best-selling novel, you don’t only have to celebrate once it reaches number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. You can give yourself a pat on the back once you’ve successfully drafted the story outline, enjoy a celebration once the first draft is complete, take pride when you finalize the editing and have a publication-ready story. Enjoy your achievements along the way and, at every step, remind yourself that you have come a long way since the start and that you are making real substantial progress towards where you want to go.
When you celebrate your achievements your overall confidence starts to grow because you know you haven’t quit, your dream is still alive and you are still moving towards it with every single step. This tells you without a doubt that you are on track and making progress towards something truly important to you.
Feeling good about yourself and the actions you’re taking prevents the habit of running in circles, feeling constantly defeated. Now you don’t have to rely on a fleeting, happy feeling to kick you into motivation mode. Your motivation and confidence run so deep that anytime an obstacle threatens your progress, you’re able to bounce back. You become more resilient. With so many great things happening, the setbacks are less daunting.
Here are a few practical steps to help you stay on track to success and keep your goals clear:
Track your progress: Whether you keep a journal, write a blog or plot your goals on a graph on a big whiteboard, write your goals down and keep track of your progress. From small steps to big milestones, keep a record of your accomplishments and keep a visual record of what you have achieved to inspire and motivate you.
Serve your own needs: Ask yourself daily, “What am I going to do today that will get me closer to my goals?” Make sure that the steps you take and the goals you achieve are there to serve your own needs, and not someone else’s. Remember that even if you take inspiration by comparing your achievements to someone else’s, their journey wasn’t and never will be exactly like yours.
Don’t be too hard on yourself: Things will go wrong. There will be failures along the way. Your journey may have to change course. This doesn’t mean you should quit or berate yourself. Don’t take pride in being your own worst enemy; you should be your biggest cheerleader. Take the time to be kind to yourself and accept that we all make mistakes. Rather than giving up, use these obstacles in the road as learning experiences and grow from them—figure out what you did wrong, or what circumstances changed, and work on strengthening your plans and resiliency.
Treat the people around you with compassion and kindness (AKA, respect): You are not perfect. Your expectations of others should reflect compassion, and should recognize they are also not perfect. If someone is struggling, remember what that feels like, and ease up on your expectations of them versus piling on more. Share your wisdom and your knowledge, and help others achieve their own goals if you can. Remember that service to others is an achievement in itself. Someone else’s success doesn’t automatically mean your failure. Continually focus on the goals that are most meaningful to you rather than allowing yourself to be sidetracked.
Get excited about where you’re headed
By taking the time to focus on achieving the goals that are meaningful to you, rather than trying to achieve someone else’s goals, you are going to find yourself recharged, re-energized and excited about where you’re headed.
Comparing your own achievements to those of your friends, family, acquaintances or even heroes is normal and natural, but when you turn that around and allow yourself to use those as inspiration, rather than a cast-in-stone map that you must follow, you will stop feeling the pressure to achieve according to someone else’s standards. By setting your own goals and standards, you will enjoy your own achievements and success. You will better understand your own dreams, your own goals and the process you need to follow to achieve them.
Doing it your way
When you stop constantly comparing the way you do things and the goals you want to achieve to the achievements of another person, you will learn to trust your own instincts, intuition and experience. Follow your process one step at a time, in a way that plays to your own strengths and your own timeline.
It’s perfectly ok to use the achievements of another as inspiration. But, it helps to understand that constantly, obsessively focusing on someone else’s achievements and comparing them to your own causes you to become side-tracked and pursue goals that aren’t meaningful or necessary to your own success. Focus on what you can achieve and what you can do today that makes you more successful than yesterday. Then, go achieve your goals for yourself.
What other thoughts do you have about inspiration versus envy? How have you focused on your own goals, rather than trying to follow someone else’s path? Comment below with how you are being inspired by someone else’s success to achieve your own.
Whenever you start out to do great things in life, you’ll find a lot of obstacles in your way. So how do you kick negativity to the curb and push through to new levels of success? The first thing you can do is make sure you aren’t your own worst enemy. The biggest thing on your journey that’ll hold you back is your own mind. Whether you have a leg up or not, there are going to be plenty of things to overcome so you must ensure your mind isn’t adding to the problem.
We’ve been exploring in recent posts the impacts your brain and thinking have on your life and levels of success. In my last post I shared that our brains are wired to look for negativity. We always hear sports and business coaches say when a potentially gifted player just cannot seem to breakthrough, “if they could just get out of their own way.” But what does that mean?
There’s a lot of negative clutter in your mind preventing you from performing at your best. When 70-80% of your daily thoughts are negative you get stuck in thought patterns that aren’t going to move you forward. You are mentally trapped in a pain point, unable to move ahead even if it’s in order to find some kind of relief. What’s worse is that the very thing you are afraid of happening to you, the thing that’s left you frozen in fear, is much more likely to happen if you aren’t moving at all.
The first thing you can do in order to move forward is start to rewire your own brain. This is impossible unless you are aware of it. People go through their lives lashing out at people, places and things they think are standing in their way of success when the first and biggest problem is in their own mind. It’s empowering to realize this is happening so you can start to unravel it and break the control negativity has over you. Only you have the power to break the invisible chains.
I want you to know that you aren’t stuck in your negative thinking or trapped frozen in fear of the future. I am going to specifically explain what you need to know in order to understand the foundations of your negative thinking and how you can take back control.
What Positive Thinking is NOT
First of all, let’s be clear that when I talk about positive thinking I am not talking about pretending that nothing is wrong or am saying that problems are never going to arise. On the contrary, positive thinking is when negative thoughts infringe upon our daily life but we are able to get out of the negative thought spiral before it takes us all the way down.
Problems and negative experiences happen to everyone. People look at super successful people and think WOW! It was easy for them! The reality is that most of those people have had an amazing series of tragedies, but it was how they responded that made them tougher and more confident in dealing with life. Each step caused them to be elevated. Everyone goes through crisis. You can never predict it and can never predict the severity of it. So it’s UP TO YOU to work through adversity. That’s the only thing that’s going to get you out of bad situations.
If you are doing everything you can to work through a difficult problem, festering over it isn’t going to help anything. In fact, all of the obsessing will just make it worse. Further and further down the negative spiral you’ll go until getting back up to the top feels impossible. Your brain is in no condition to work through a problem in a negative state of mind. You must take time to get back into the positive zone so you can make clear and confident decisions.
Your brain is in no condition to work through a problem in a negative state of mind. Click To Tweet
Set Achievable Short Term Goals
Setting goals for your life and work are excellent things to do but when goals are too massive, they become overwhelming. By breaking them down into smaller bite sized chunks you are able to achieve wins along the way. This way you are able to keep your brain moving forward rather than being disappointed and quitting when you aren’t even at the end of the marathon yet.
Even a sculptor with a massive piece of marble only chips away one small piece of marble at a time. Not even Michelangelo took one big whack at the marble and all of the sudden created the sculpture David or the Pieta. It takes a lot of detailed chipping and polishing to create a masterpiece. Treat your massive goals the same way and tackle them step-by-step, celebrating every win along the way.
Even a sculptor with a massive piece of marble only chips away one small piece of marble at a time. Click To Tweet
Turn Problems into Challenges or Games
This is a simple way of reframing how you look at an issue and how to deal with problems when they arise. Instead of seeing ‘problems’ when things come up, start to train your mind to view them as a new challenge instead. Instead of going down the negative thought cycle route, outline the different options, risks, and strategize just like you would if you were playing an actual board game.
When concerns and problems arise, be proactive in finding a way to help solve them.
I remember years ago, it was 2 days before Christmas and I was fired from my construction job. Exactly 1 week before my boss had just told my coworkers that, “Larry will always have a job as long as I’m in business.” 7 days later I was let go when he suddenly realized the financial crisis the business was in.
Of course I went into a complete turmoil. I was angry, afraid, frustrated, every normal feeling when tragedy strikes. However, this made me start to really question the industry I was in and how exhausting it was to constantly be switching between feast or famine.
Over the course of 9 months being on unemployment and food stamps, I took the time to assess how I really want to be spending my time. I decided I wanted to be able to build an unlimited income, have financial independence, and never be in that feast or famine situation ever again. I wanted off the roller coaster that never let me get ahead.
This is how I got into the financial services industry and was the biggest step toward where myself and the company I run are today. I could have just worried and stressed and took the next construction job offered to me because I was in panic mode. I navigated this by thinking and acting positively and treating the problem like a challenge I had to strategize through so I could make clear and wise decisions.
Be Proud Of Your Achievements
It’s difficult to remain in a positive state of mind when you are constantly surrounded by negativity. We see this in the news, with our family, in the music we listen to, the things people say to or about us—it’s everywhere. In an effort to combat this it’s important to see things that’ll instill some positive thinking back into your brain.
Displaying anything that reminds you of past achievements such as awards, quotes someone said about you, photos, artwork from your children, gifts from an appreciative boss, etc. will serve to instill more positive thinking when negativity tries to bring you down.
Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People
Just like posting past achievements around your space instills more positivity, surrounding yourself with other like-minded people also does wonders for reframing your thinking.
“You are the average of the people you spend the most time with. Who you spend your time with has a great impact on the person you eventually become. If you are around cynical and negative people all the time, you will become cynical and negative. Start spending time with nice people who are smart, driven and likeminded. Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be. Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you, people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it.”
Now consider the types of people you are spending time with:
Are they trying to stay positive in their thinking or are they negative about everything?
Are they actively working towards goals and pursuing success like you are?
If you are spending time with people that are encouraging negative thought patterns, then it’s time to cut down on the amount of time spent with them or cut them out of your life altogether.
Start Your Day on a Positive Note
If you’ve ever started the day on a bad note, then you know how it can impact the rest of your day negatively. It just feels like everything is going wrong! The same is true if you start the day on a positive note; it sets the tone for the rest of the day.
“. . . be careful about how you spend your mornings. If you get going at full speed, lost in future troubles in your mind then the stress, perceived loss of power of over your life and negative thoughts will ramp up quickly.”
So rather than jump into the morning watching the depressing news and reading overwhelming emails. . . ease into your morning with reading inspiring articles or listening to motivating podcasts. Get an audiobook to listen to while you get ready for the day and drive to work or a playlist full of fun and encouraging songs.
I also challenge you to include some kind of exercise into the morning. This can be as simple as a walk or stretch routine but could be as vigorous as a 3 mile run. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but exercise is proven to boost endorphins and release stress so it’s very helpful in getting a positive jump into the day’s activities and concerns.
Many bloggers and professors trying to teach positive thinking will suggest a series of what I call “Pollyanna-type solutions”. Such as “take the next 45 days and for 1 minute a day think positive thoughts”. They suggest this is how you can reprogram yourself to be more positive, but I’ve never met anyone who ever follows that type of suggestion and sees any kind of result. This is the exact type of idea that sounds good but leads you nowhere and is exactly the kind of advice you’ve got to avoid.
Let’s say you actually tried some of these ‘positive thinking’ exercises and didn’t see any results, you’d think it was your fault. But it’s not your fault, it was just a stupid idea somebody made up because it sounded good. Ensure any advice you follow has actually worked for someone who’s gotten great results from it.
In the real world, I believe you overcome negativity step-by-step. You develop the skill of how to best respond to situations by starting to recognize what exactly is happening to you each time. Then you take control of the situation to make sure that the natural negative responses don’t determine what you’ll do. Instead you give yourself a moment to shift back into a more positive viewpoint before taking action.
Most people misunderstand positive thinking. They think, I’ll just think happy thoughts and great things will happen, and that no negative thoughts will ever occur. Understand you can live and use the positive thinking approach to life and still get frustrated, angry, mad, things will go wrong, people disappoint you, you make mistakes, etc. If you are in an impossible situation like when I was laid off from my job, that situation of course would make anyone angry and frustrated. But you can STILL use positive thinking to get yourself back on track. Until you get yourself back on track you are just going to stew in the negativity and be paralyzed in tragedy. It’s only when you shift gears and say, What’s done is done, now what am I going to do about it? You get to choose if you are going to let tragedies and hardships destroy your life forever or if you are going to rebuild and move forward.
Trying to talk yourself into change is going to take you nowhere, fast. While self-talk is important, you must work to develop the skill of positive thinking by taking action and making proactive changes so your brain’s new training turns into habits. Thinking and acting responsibly is a skill we must all develop ourselves and the best way to do it is going step-by-step and dealing with the situations life presents us. The more of these you handle, the better you’ll get at doing it—just like everything else.
Thinking and acting responsibly is a skill we must develop. Click To Tweet
I would love to hear your comments below on how you plan to take action steps in changing your mind to be more positive.
There are plenty of books you can read that are supposed to help you focus or train your mind. But the real fact is that this is something you can only learn by doing. Once you start putting mental training into practice, things start to get clear about how you can set yourself up for success. In this post I am going to shed some light on how your brain was designed and how it might be holding you back from moving forward. Once you understand these basics on how the brain works, you’ll be able to implement the specific strategies I go through to retrain your brain to be programmed for success vs. continually focused on failure.
Our brain is often the culprit for why we don’t reach our goals. By learning how to train your mind to release negative thought patterns, you open yourself up to a new world of vast opportunity. This is an oversimplification, of course. But, basically, you can think of your brain as having two sides to it, the right ‘creative’ side and the left ‘logical’ side. Every incredible idea you have is thanks to that outlandish, creative right side of the brain. That side has endless amounts of positive ideas, dreams, fantasies, and desires. However, in order not to get too wrapped up in a fantasy land, your brain also has a left side. The left side is logical and critical of all the crazy ideas your right side is scheming. Now, while the left side can be good in keeping us set in reality . . . it can also hurt. It can squash any idea we ever have, convince us we aren’t good enough, and drive us crazy with worry and anxiety.
Psychologists believe that the reason our brains focus on the negative and get into those cyclical negative thought patterns relates to our primal ancestors. Their brains constantly had to be on high alert and scanning the environment in order to survive. Our brains naturally have a negative bias. This means they respond more to negative images, ideas, etc. than to positive ones.
How this looks in the moment is being paralyzed by fear when new opportunities or ideas arrive. New means scary to the brain. Often our judgment is clouded by this fear, and we get stuck. Even if it’s a positive opportunity or idea, we are unable to move forward. By knowing the way your brain works and acknowledging negative thought patterns when they occur, you can shift the way you approach new ideas and thought processes. You can literally train your brain. When your brain is processing things at a higher level and doesn’t get stuck in negativity, that’s where the magic starts to happen.
I want you to know that there are actions you can take to train your mind to process the 80% of those 70,000 thoughts differently. Unless it’s a completely unrealistic fantasy (e.g. retire at 65 and decide I want to start training so I can be an NFL starting quarterback at 70), it actually doesn’t matter how lofty the goal is. If you want it bad enough and are willing to work hard enough, there is a high chance you can make it happen.
New means scary to the brain until you train it to think differently. Click To Tweet
So let’s get practical. Here are the 6 ways and specific strategies I personally recommend to start to train your mind to be programmed for success.
1. Look for the Good
The best way you can prevent your brain from getting stuck in negativity over a new idea or “I can’t do this” thought pattern is to seek out others who have done it before. This may sound simple, but it can be very powerful. Remember, we are trying to help the logical side of our brain see that whatever new thing you are thinking of doing or want to do isn’t such a crazy idea. One way to do that is to show the brain, “See, he did it and was no better than me. In fact, he had more to overcome than I do and was still able to accomplish this.” You are giving your brain logical reasons to accept the fact that, if he did it, you can do it.
Focusing in on the most successful key players in the same arena you want to grow in will start to replace the negative stories in your brain with new “I can do this too” positive stories. You will see the mistakes they made and how they kept going despite it all, so you aren’t paralyzed with fear of failure. When you have questions on how to do something, they likely had to deal with those same issues and can point you in the right direction without you having to go through it too.
Printing out quotes to put up that are from those key players, researching and reading interviews or books, watching documentaries, or even working with an actual mentor can start to convince the logical side of your brain that this isn’t so scary and crazy after all.
2. Protect Your Mind
When the time comes to start moving ahead with the new idea your creative brain has set forth, it’s also time to set some parameters for the other side of your brain. The negative side that’s going to question every single thing you do needs boundaries in place.
When you lock in on a project you want to take on, it’s like you’re going on a trip, and you get to decide who is going to go on the trip with you. No matter where you go, if you have someone in the car constantly complaining and belittling you, saying “this is taking forever . . . this is a disaster . . . why did we even go on this trip?” it will make for a totally miserable experience. The trip is ruined, and you may end up just giving in to the constant nagging in the end.
In order to avoid this, you want to learn how to take care of your mind and protect it from these negative voices. Nobody can operate at their best when they have a negative, interfering, constant nagging. In the same way, you cannot allow a flood of negative thoughts in your mind to abuse the logical side of your mind while it’s trying to figure out how to do the things you want it to do. Both sides of your brain need a positive environment.
You have to look out for yourself and go into a positive tunnel. Get away from all the negative people, places, and things. Tell those negative voices in your head, “Enough! Stop with the negative ideas right now. Instead, let’s think about how we can do it.” Give your mind time to work through the transition of sorting out a new idea that may seem scary, and allow it to work out the next steps.
3. Practice Gratitude
One trend you’ll notice with successful people is that they aren’t constantly obsessing about what they don’t have. Instead, they appreciate the things they do have. It’s a great thing to keep growing in life, but not if you never enjoy what you’ve already accomplished. The trick is to train your mind to be grateful and enjoy what you’ve achieved so far in life while you continue to push forward for bigger and better things.
Just because you were expecting your child to bring home straight As on her report card doesn’t mean you should fall apart when she shows up with 4 As and 1 B. When you spend the bulk of your time focusing on the negative, you’ll find yourself getting less and less done. You won’t move forward. By constantly obsessing over unrealistic expectations, you take the joy out of the successes you do have.There have been countless studies that show what the brain does when we practice gratitude. Starting a gratitude journal is a popular method for implementing this practice into our lives. When we participate in gratitude, it lights up the positive parts of our brain. The more you practice, the more your brain adapts to this mindset. Just like you can train your brain to be more protected, you can also exercise and strengthen your brain’s ability to feel thankful and empathetic.
4. Practice Thought Discipline
Start thinking like an overcomer. Shift your thinking towards becoming someone who is going to overcome obstacles rather than someone who is going to be held back by obstacles. Everyone goes through difficult situations and seasons in life. Even if you are implementing everything we’ve gone through already, negative thoughts and self-doubt are going to creep in every day anyway. So how are you going to react? It’s your choice. Remember, your brain’s natural inclination is always going to be negatively focused. It’s easier to stay stuck in failure, disappointment, frustration, etc. It’s easier to give up and just continue living life in a stalling neutral. It’s much more difficult for your brain, and therefore you, to shift out of this negative state and continue pushing forward even when everything inside says to stop. Know that it is okay to get upset, angry, sad, overwhelmed, etc. The most important part is what happens after those feelings arrive. Don’t stay in that state of mind. Don’t allow yourself to spiral out of control. Success is when you choose not to stay stuck and instead choose to use those emotions as momentum to keep charging forward and continue to change things for the better.
You start to take charge of your life when you start to take charge of your thinking. Click To Tweet
5. Give Yourself Room to Fail
You must decide to be your best friend. Your best motivator. Your best supporter. If you can’t get excited about yourself, your possibilities, and your ability to work and make a difference, why should anyone else?
Don’t be your worst critic. The world is full of people who will be glad to volunteer to criticize you. There is no need for you to do the same. Instead, be your biggest booster.
Nobody is perfect and nobody does everything right. Don’t allow yourself to freeze up in indecision because you are afraid of failure or of offending someone. Remember that even the most successful people in the world blundered along the way. If you offend someone, you can apologize. If you make a mistake, you can fix it.
Don’t get too upset when you fail. Everybody does it. Failing is how you learn. Click To Tweet
I remember once I was at a convention in Puerto Rico and spent an afternoon at the driving range. The professional golf instructor was giving a lesson in the booth next door. The woman he was teaching kept missing the shots. Shot after shot, she was just terrible. I’ll never forget what the pro said to her; it stuck with me for a long time. He said, “Don’t worry, a lot of getting good at golf is not getting upset when you miss a shot. Your capacity for getting good at golf is directly related to your capacity for being able to tolerate hitting terrible shots while you learn.”
There is no need to go timidly through life afraid of offending someone or making a mistake. Live boldly and know nobody is perfect!
6. Train Your Mind For the Future
Think of training your mind like tuning an instrument. Once you know what the instrument sounds like when it’s in tune, it will always sound wrong when it is out of tune. The same goes for your mind, once you know how to train your mind to think differently, you will subconsciously know when your thought process is veering off course and starting to go negative. Even better, you’ll know how to steer it back on track.
Incorporate more of these strategies into a daily practice and watch how you begin to see more doors that lead to success than you have ever had before.
That wasn’t a failure. That was my education for success. Click To Tweet
We’ve covered a lot of ideas here, and you don’t need to implement them all at once. Make it simple on yourself. Look back at what we just discussed and choose something that you know you can easily try. Make this is your first step in training your mind.
Comment below with which strategy you plan to implement and how you are going to make it happen!
There are countless financial gurus that have learned the art of mastering money—and David Bach is certainly one of them. Bach hit the nail on the head when he said this, “You can’t get rich watching and wondering. You have to take action.”
Mastering money takes consistency, control and time. If you are not 100% in it, you are bound to fail. There are many reasons why many people, like yourself, have a hard time gaining and staying in control of their money. Although few would admit it, this is generally due to the “keeping up with the Joneses” effect.
Most people know, deep down, how much they can spend, but the moment they see one of the Joneses purchasing a new car, enjoying an exciting vacation or updating their home, they feel the overwhelming need to make a similar purchase—no matter what the cost is.
They live off the idea of impulse buying, which is difficult to control since it is so easy to swipe a credit card to purchase things.
This is very similar to how, historically, the federal government does things—they spend money first and worry later regarding how they are going to pay for it. This way, both the government and you end up with the same result — way over budget and under a lot of stress about how the debt will be paid.
It is a big first step to remember that you can always find ways to save money, gain control and not get caught up in the moment—in other words master your money.
Just hearing those words causes many people to panic, but you don’t want to do that. What you want to do is change the way you think about managing money. In the next few paragraphs, you’ll realize it’s much simpler and easier to do than you’ve ever imagined.
For example, what if you are shopping at your favorite store and find a sweater that fits you perfectly? And, even better, it comes in multiple colors, and you love them all! You think to yourself, ‘This is great! I’ve been looking for a sweater like this for years. I might not be able to find it again. I’ll go ahead and get a bunch of colors now, so I don’t have to worry about it.’
You think you are being wise, as well as saving time because you’ll have this problem solved for years. But you’re not. You’re just making a common financial blunder that people make repeatedly that unnecessarily drags them down financially. What should you do? Only buy one or two—there is no need to buy three or four of the same sweater! Realistically, you will probably never wear all of the sweaters that much anyway.
Pausing and taking a step back before every purchase can save you thousands in the long run. If possible, delay the decision for a day or two and let your emotions cool off. If you make this habit a part of your normal purchasing process, you may save tens of thousands of dollars, or more, over your lifetime.
Before making a purchase, take a step back & ask yourself if you truly need that item. This will save you thousands. Click To Tweet
Allowing yourself to give into impulse purchases means that you will give money the power to control you. It is impossible to learn the art of mastering money if you don’t grab the reins and control your money.
I know that money can be a daunting thought, so, for one moment, let’s think of something a little more enjoyable—puppies. When you take your dog for a walk, it is easier when you are in control of the dog—when the dog is by your side and behaving. Money is the same way, it is easier to control it the closer you keep it to you. Don’t let your money turn into a runaway dog.
By letting your money turn into a runaway dog, or purchasing items impulsively, you are letting your money control you. In this instance, you will be living paycheck to paycheck, which means that you won’t be able to save money for emergencies and the future.
Life is full of surprises, and they all normally cost money. This is when someone who is frugal has higher odds of successfully mastering money than the spendthrift because the frugal person always has reserves to cover those surprises.
A reserve of money for emergencies has the same effect as shocks on a car - both help you smooth out the bumps. Click To Tweet
All of this money talk may make it seem impossible to gain control of your money, but it is possible. It just takes some small action steps and you will be on your way to successfully mastering money.
Understand Where You Are Spending Your Money
Information is powerful. The more facts you have, the stronger you’ll be and the better decisions you’ll make. That’s why one of the first steps in mastering your money is to figure out where exactly your money is going. This is when you compile all of your bank statements, credit card bills, receipts and anything else you may have that tells you what you have purchased for the last few months and put it all together.
Personally, I find this incredibly annoying and depressing to even think about doing. But the good news is that you can actually get someone else to do this for you, if absolutely necessary—just like getting someone else to file your taxes. Regardless, you need to find a way to get it done if you are going to get in charge and really master your money.
The idea is to create a list of exactly where your money is going—this can be in an Excel spreadsheet or just using paper and pen—which ever way works best for you. Once you have this list, then you are able to see exactly where you’d like to make changes.
Some categories to help get you started are supermarket, clothing, dining out, recurring expenses (electric, mortgage, car payment, insurance, etc), entertainment (live shows, movies, sports games, etc) and medical expenses. These are just general categories, but there are countless others that may include expenses that you have. The key with this is to make it your’s—don’t worry about how the Joneses are keeping track of their expenses.
Develop a Budget
After you have figured out where your money is being spent, it is time to create a budget. I know that most people groan at the word “budget” (and I was one of them!), but learning how and where to spend your money is extremely important when it comes to mastering money.
A budget is simply a type of protection. Imagine visiting the Grand Canyon. There are barriers to keep you from accidentally falling. Your budget protects you from overspending and falling into debt in the same way the barriers protect you from falling into the canyon. By using a budget, you will alleviate financial stress, which is great for both you and your bank account.
This is a great place to get you started on creating your budget.
Accepting a budget is accepting reality. Click To Tweet
Optimize Your Accounts
There are so many different places you can put your money—there are savings accounts, checking accounts, rewards cards, investments and so much more. Think of optimizing your accounts as a game—how can you get the most out of them?
Make it a challenge to get more out of your accounts. Do some research to decide which accounts are best for your specific needs—don’t sign up for a Chase Checking Account just because Mr. Jones did. If it is not going to do anything for you, don’t waste your time.
No matter how much you are making, you should always be putting money away in your savings account—even if you are just putting $5.00 in a month—anything is more than nothing. Before opening a savings account, as always, do your research and make sure you find the best savings account for your needs. This is just a start. Eventually you’ll find places to get better returns.
My son has a friend who has been a bartender his entire life, but he has managed to save $1 million in his savings account. This is certainly an extreme, but it proves that anyone at any income level can save money.
Start an Emergency Fund & Fund Your Retirement Account
As we have just discussed, saving money is an extremely important step in mastering money. Two of the main reasons you should want to save money are for emergencies and for the future.
Open a savings account specifically for emergencies and put between $20 and $50 or more in there every time you get paid. Emergencies are never enjoyable. But, if you have the money to cover them, you won’t feel as much pain as someone who has to use their credit card or has to scrape by to cover the expense. Fortunately, emergencies don’t happen every day and you should have time to accumulate and maintain money in that account if you are regularly contributing to it.
In order to fund your retirement, take advantage of any employer-matched opportunities, such as a 401(k) or Roth IRA. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should be thinking about your retirement as early as possible.
In The Automatic Millionaire, David Bach writes that the single biggest investment mistake you can make is not using your retirement plan and not maxing it out—Bach is also a huge proponent of Roth IRA’s.
Take the time to sit down and plan for both emergencies and your retirement, you can thank yourself later.
Automating Your Finances Almost Guarantees Your Success
Automating your finances may seem like the most mundane part of mastering money, but once it is set up, you don’t have to think about it. This gives you more time to maintain your budget, keep track of your savings and grab dinner with friends (within budget of course).
You can automate almost any part of your finances:
Credit card bill payments
Transfers from checking to savings accounts
Phone bill payments
Think of automating your finances like Netflix automates their subscription services. Every month Netflix automatically takes their service fee out from their users’ form of payment and the user probably doesn’t even realize that the service fee is being taken out every month. Your finances have the power to work the same way—if it works for companies it can work for you, too!
Earn Extra Money & Save It
This may seem like something someone in High School would do, but this works for anyone at any age. You can earn extra money by selling some of your belongings, taking on a freelance gig or adding a second job to your resume.
No matter which way you choose to make some extra money, keep in mind that the extra money you accumulate is more likely to be saved than spent. This is because you aren’t budgeting for that money, so you shouldn’t need to use it right away.
Smart, financial people tell you it’s not what you make, it’s what you save. So, put the extra money that you make straight into a savings account and let it grow.
I came from a working class family who would spend their paycheck right away, which, in turn, made me into someone who would save all my cash so that I could pay for things outright. When I bought a $1,000 sofa at the age of 26, I purchased it in cash—without even realizing that I could have bought a less expensive sofa and put the rest of the money in the bank to let it accumulate. I thought I was really being a smart money manager when actually it was just the opposite. I needed a sofa, but I didn’t need that much of a sofa. Cash in the bank would have been a much smarter move.
Keep Track Of Your Credit Score
A credit score is something that banks came up with to give them some kind of assurance that you’ll be able to pay their loan back. Banks and other financial institutions will use this to determine how much you can borrow, how much interest you’ll be charged and how many lines of credit (number of credit cards, car loans and/or mortgages) you can have open.
The better your credit score, the better loans and credit cards you’ll be able to get. Your credit score may even be used by landlords to determine whether or not you can rent an apartment.
You don’t just have one credit score, you have several. There are three major credit agencies that banks and other financial institutions will use to measure your credit score. By law, you are able to request your credit score from one of the three agencies once every twelve months without it affecting your credit score.
When you first start out, you won’t have a credit score, which can make it difficult to get new credit. If you’ve been with a bank for a while, you may be able to get a credit card with a low limit—this will help you start to build your credit and then you can apply for larger credit cards.
You can also have someone with good credit co-sign on a credit card application, car loan application or for an apartment rental. Keep in mind that, while this will help your credit, if you miss payments, it will mess up your co-signer’s credit score.
On the other hand, when someone asks you to sign for them, the best move is to politely decline. It will save you a lot of grief later. It will be smarter to just give them some money rather than put your name as a guarantee for them.
For most credit agencies, a score around 700 is considered a good score. Be sure to always know what you score is—you never want to be ready to buy a car and find out that your credit score is too low and you can’t get a loan.
Mastering Money Is All About the Image In Your Mind and How Bad You Want to Make It Come True
If you’ve failed before at mastering money, know that the quicker you get the image in your mind of where you want to be, the quicker you will be able to master your money.
Past failures can work perfectly to your advantage because they can make you much more determined and disciplined as you move forward through the rest of your life. Everyone has failed in some way financially. But you want to be one of the smart ones who learns from those failures and uses it to your advantage to create financial successes.
In the beginning of my career, I just had the mentality that I should be working like a dog. I never sat back and thought about what type of lifestyle I was working for. Once I got past the survival stage, I took a new approach. I decided if I was going to work hard, I wanted to make sure that the work paid off and gave me the life that I wanted.
Think about it: there are countless stories of lottery winners going broke within 5 or 6 years of winning the lottery. This is because they didn’t have an image in their mind depicting what they wanted to do with the money.
Get the picture in your mind of the life you want and work towards it every day. Managing your money is a big part of making that happen.
How Do You Start?
Before you start to figure out where your money is going, be sure to surround yourself with a positive network of friends. If you are surrounding yourself with people that spend impulsively and don’t worry about how they will pay for things, you may want to rethink how close you are to them.