A mentor of mine once gave me this challenge… he called it the toothpaste challenge. It sounds kinda silly at first, but here’s the question behind it: “How many things do you quit in the time it takes to use up an entire tube of toothpaste?”
…Whoa. Now, I’ve never counted the days or the amount of globs of toothpaste that one tube holds, but… you’d better believe that I think of this challenge every time I brush my teeth now. And whenever I finish off a thing of toothpaste, I reflect on the things that I’ve either completed or quit in that timeframe. There’s nothing special about the toothpaste, or even the act of remembering to do things — the key is in measurement. Everyone brushes their teeth, and everyone has to use toothpaste to do it. So by making the measurement something so broad, so all-encompassing, it makes you notice, and it keeps you accountable to your goals.
Thats what we’re talking about today — Goals, and how to achieve them.
So, obviously I’m not a productivity guru. I mean, who really is? But I’ve found some kind of a system that works for me (most of the time), and I figured I’d share that with you today. Maybe you’ve got some really ambitious goal that you’ve been waning to accomplish for years. Or perhaps (more realistically), there’s a new year’s resolution that you started out strong with but have now been slacking in. No need to feel bad about it — at least you started. But, part of seeing real success happen is the ability to course-correct when necessary. So, let’s talk about how we can set big goals and actually achieve them.
1. Determine the vision.
When you’ve got something massive set in front of you, you’ve gotta know why you’re doing what you’re doing. We often only think of churches or non-profit organizations as the kind of places that have vision statements… and I think that’s because “helping people” is pretty generally understood, so they have a fairly easy time of getting specific. But what about businesses? What about mission trips? What about you and me? Is there any real reason why we don’t spend more time in determining the phrase by which we shape our actions?
Though it feels pretty superfluous sometimes, crafting a vision statement is one of the most beneficial things we can do in regards to achieving our goals. Because when we determine the ultimate goal for our project, company, or endeavor, all of our actions can be measured against and judged by this singular statement. But, its actually pretty hard to come up with…
Here’s a pro-tip… make a list of all of the things that describe your goal, so that you have them handy when writing out this statement. For example, if you want part of your vision statement to include helping people, you might write “altruism, serving, community, etc.” You’d be surprised how helpful it is to simply have these words in front of you!
A large company’s vision statement might be plastered in big shiny letters at their corporate office — why shouldn’t yours be too? Figure out what you’re about, and then remind yourself of it constantly. Put it in places that you’ll see, so that you get it stuck in your head. Make your friends and family sick of hearing it because you talk about it so much. When you figure out why you do what you do, it should be evident. Nobody should know your vision better than you.
2. Set micro-goals.
Seeing something like “write a book” on a to-do list is pretty scary. Really, any task that’s more complex than “don’t forget to breathe today” kinda feels like it’s pretty scary… especially when you’ve never done anything like it before. It’s a really wonderful thing to realize that you’re passionate about something, to the point where you’d love to make it a personal goal to achieve! But unfortunately, that’s usually as far as most goals get: to the “long-term do-do list.”
That’s where micro-goals come in. Micro-goals are the most minuscule of tasks that eventually add up to achieve your desired outcome. They’re the kind of things that we can work on every day, one little bit at a time. But even in this, we can be a bit too ambitious! What do I mean by that? Well, let’s take that example of writing a book… your first move would not be getting an agent, or looking into how much distribution costs usually average. Designing the cover of the book is too big of a goal. Writing three chapters is too big. Writing one chapter is too big. Writing even a single paragraph is too big! …Start by sitting down at your computer and opening up your preferred writing app. Literally, that’s the kinda scale that we’re dealing with here.
But keep in mind, this is step #2… your micro-goals have no backbone, no focus unless you’re got a vision for what your goal is. That’s why your vision has to be a good one. It’s gotta be specific enough so that your goal is solidified, but all-encompassing enough for every micro-goal you make to fall underneath it.
3. Just start.
Notice how 2/3 of this process is before you actually start chipping away at your goal? That’s pretty important to note. Planning is imperative to the success of your goal. But y’know what’s even more important? Actually DOING what you’re planned!
There's no shortage of great ideas and dreams and goals in the world. There’s really not even a shortage of great planning to see those things happen. But where there is a massive lack is in the doing department. Action. Hustle. Movement. Your grand goal is only as good as it’s execution. Otherwise, it’s just an idea… anyone could have a great idea. If you were to pull together ten strangers and tell them to come up with a great idea, they would do it! It wouldn't take very long, and they’d probably have a plan of action!
…But action is a whole different story.
Let me encourage you… YOU CAN DO IT!!! There’s nothing stopping you from living the life that you wanna live! Often, our excuses are rooted in fear of failure. Don’t let that be the case any more. Whether you choose to act on your audacious goals or not, life will inevitably continue on — you can either simply experience life, or craft the reality that you exist in. Be the kind of person who not only dreams crazy dreams, but also makes them happen. Be a doer and a dreamer.
I pray that in this day, you’ll see the potential for greatness that’s waiting inside of you. A little piece of eternity calls your heart it’s home, and is waiting for you to release it into the world. Your dreams and ambitions and goals are wonderful — truly, you’ve got some great ideas! But I pray that you’ll have the courage and the boldness to actually put those ideas into action. The risks involved are great, and the world might think you’re crazy… but our God is mightier, and His ways are far above ours. Let Him guide you in your endeavors, realigning your path along the way with scripture and with the truth that the Holy Spirit freely gives. I hope you’ll go into this day, and into this year with a fresh sense of power and inspiration, knowing that the Creator of all is on your side. I love your, friend, and don’t forget to keep moving forward.