I’ll never forget one of the funniest (but serious) managers I’ve had while working in sales at Sears. He used to say “focus like a laser beam” when he wanted us to understand something important. This manager was from a foreign country, which made his statements funny to hear him say, but he was a great person who was serious about getting things done. I’ll never forget him.
When it comes to focusing on goals, we all know what that means – for many of us it means hunkering down and simply trying harder. And if you’re anything like me, whose ambition is sometimes bigger than his brains – you put all of your efforts into trying to accomplish your goal and find that two days, weeks, or months later, you are sick and tired of trying. Or you forget the goal completely because you get busy with other stuff in your life.
In terms of focus, many of us try to shine bright like a regular light bulb, and not like a laser beam. The difference between a basic source of light and laser beam, is that a laser beam can focus on very small targets from very far distances. When we “hunker down and try harder to meet goals”, that simply places pressure on us to complete a result that is not guaranteed. Although there are times when we must kick ourselves in the butt to work harder, we usually do it without having any focus of any kind, which forces us to be responsible for a goal for which we might not yet be capable of handling. Or more simply, the goal might not be defined specifically enough.
So this could be why many of us don’t follow through.
For example, there is a 37-minute cardio-vascular exercise video that I wanted to complete, from start to finish, about 3 months ago. This 37-minute video was divided into about 7 different sets of cardio exercises. The problem was that, at the time, I was not exercising regularly and I was only able to accomplish about 2 sections.
So considering the above scenario, think about how you would handle this challenge. Would you tell yourself that you need to work harder, then set aside more time to complete the video? Or maybe you would tell yourself that it’s time to start working out, then decide to start going to the gym 3 or 4 times each week, while also trying the video.
There are probably multiple ways that would be successful in getting the job done, although there are some tricks that separate those who are successful from those who won’t make it.
For me, breaking the video into numerous smaller pieces was the key. Breaking the video down into sections gave me the confidence that I could accomplish a goal, no matter how small the goal. With this confidence, I also eliminated the pressure on myself to accomplish a big goal for which I was not ready. And the video became like a game to me, instead of being such a serious challenge.
In a sense, I created the confidence to accomplish goals that did not present themselves as a huge burden, and I did this in a way that seemed like a game to me.
For example, I used my first experience with the video as a way to test my fitness. I was able to complete 2 sections right from the start, so I knew that my I could accomplish at least these 2 sections at any given time, and I knew that I had the strength to do more if I really had to. I also noticed that 2 sections of the video lasted for approximately 10 minutes, and I used this short amount of time as motivation for me to say officially, “I accomplished my workout for the day”.
And to make sure that I always had a goal to look forward to, I committed to working ONLY 2 sections of the video for 4 days during the first week, and then added 1 additional section in week number 2. Anything more than that was not required, unless I wanted to do it. By adding ONLY a small amount of work each week, it kept me in control and I did not feel burdened when adding new exercises each week. Also, I was able to say that I worked out 4 times during the week, even though it was not contributing much time.
Now for the real benefit of doing it this way.
Notice that I start with 10 minutes of working out in week 1, and then add 1 section to my activity each week. By working for 4 days during the first week, you can calculate that I worked out a total of 10 minutes x 4 days = 40 minutes. Seems like a pretty lazy workout, right? However, if I can hang in there for the full 7 weeks (7 sections x 1 each week = 7 weeks), then the workout time grows without much of a change in commitment from you. If you were to do the video for the full 7 weeks, you would get a total of 37 minutes x 4 days = 148 minutes of workout.
Another thing that I didn’t mention is that 37 minutes of variable cardio exercises truly feels like an accomplishment. Your body sweats and your heart pounds hard, which makes me feel accomplished. This is not to mention that it helped me lose about 20 pounds in 2 months for one of my hiking trips. The payoff of 2.5 hours each week was a small payment for the results and feelings of accomplishment I gained.
So when you’re looking at that next goal, pay attention to how big you are dreaming and the realistic steps you might take to get there. Most people miss the point at this moment. If you are serious and break down the goals in such a way that they are convenient and easy, it can take you very far over a period of time. If you are worried about not doing enough, there will always come a time when you have the choice to do more, if you want. That is the beauty of keeping it simple.
I hope this post has helped.