If You Really Want to Achieve Something, Make Sure Every Step You Take Is in That Direction

If achieving what you want to achieve were easy, everything you want to achieve would come true simply by you thinking about it or desiring it—but that isn’t how life works, is it?

Just because you want to lose 10 pounds doesn’t make it so. Nor does simply desiring to get an A or being a 5.0 tennis player or an accomplished pianist make it so. Just because you might desire to be rich or date a certain person or spend a summer traveling Europe doesn’t make it so. Nor does simply desiring to get into a certain college or work for a certain company or live in a certain place or complete a certain degree program or have a great marriage make it so.

Just because you want to achieve something that you consider good or right or important or great, doesn’t mean that that thing you desire will come true. Desiring to accomplish something is good. The fact that you have a goal is wonderful. The problem is that frequently something happens between when you conceive a goal (the idea) and the completion of that goal (the execution).

While there are a number of reasons why this happens, right at the top of that list of reasons is that most people lack the kind of focused attention needed, along with the kind of bulldog tenacity necessary, to see an idea come to fruition. In fact, one of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from Socrates, who years ago simply said,

“If you want to get to Mount Olympus, make sure every step you take is in that direction.”

This Johnson lesson is simply a riff on that point. If you want to accomplish something (whatever you determine to be your Mount Olympus), make sure every step you take is in that direction. If you do that consistently, with focused attention and bulldog tenacity, you’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll accomplish than most of the people around you.

Now, to help you do this on a more consistent basis, I’ve discovered that there are two questions you should ask yourself everyday, that if you ask them, will help you achieve immeasurably more than others think is possible. So, what are those two questions?

I. “What Do I Need to Do Today To Move Me Closer To My Goal of ___________?”

Now, obviously, this question presupposes that you have a goal. So, to make this practical, what is one of your top goals that you want to achieve for this year or quarter?

If you’re not sure of what your top goals are, you may want to use my four favorite categories (Healthy, Wealthy, Wise and Connected) to begin your brainstorming. Or you might want to use more traditional categories like Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical, Emotional, Professional (or Career), Recreational, Relational, etc.

For the sake of illustration, let’s just pick an intellectual goal and let’s say you’re in school and your goal is to complete this school year with a 4.0. That would mean that every morning, before you head to school, you should ask yourself, “What do I need to do today to move me closer to my goal of finishing this year with a 4.0?”

Once you ask that, you might write down something like.

  • Get started on book report today (because you know you have two big tests next week)
  • Ask Mr. Jones if I can stop by after school for extra help
  • Rewrite my notes from Western Civ so I truly own that material
  • Take practice tests for my Chem exam next week
  • Get started on next chapter’s vocab words for Spanish

You get the idea. And hopefully, you noticed something about each of those items— that each of them was preparatory/proactive. In other words, you were thinking in advance of what you’d need to do as opposed to being reactive and waiting until the last minute.

Simply by asking this first question, you’re forcing yourself to refocus your attention back on your goal and then figuring out what you believe to be the next logical step you need to take to get to your goal. In fact, that’s a great secondary question to ask if you’re stuck on what to do to move closer to your goal.

“What’s the next action I need to take to move me toward my goal?”

In other words, you don’t need to worry about the next 50 things you need to do to achieve your goal(s), just the next one (or two). Then, and this is key, once you figure out what that next step is, you need to schedule it. You need to figure out,

  • “When am I going to get started on that book report?” 7:00 p.m. tonight.
  • “When am I going to rewrite my notes?” 8:00 p.m.
  • “When am I going to take a Chem practice test? 8:30 p.m. and so on.

Then, once you create your schedule, you need to stick to it with bulldog tenacity (even if a friend calls or a favorite TV show is on).

So, what do you need to do today to move you closer to your goal of _________?

II. “Is What I’m Doing Right Now Moving Me Toward or Away From My Goal of _________?”

Of the two questions I’m giving you in this Johnson lesson, this second one may be the more important of the two. Can you imagine the kind of difference asking this question could make in your life if throughout the course of everyday you were asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now helping me reach my goal or not?”

For example,

  • Is responding to this email or text moving me toward my goal or not?
  • Is watching this TV program moving me toward my goal or not?
  • Is working on this project moving me toward my goal or not?
  • Is surfing the web moving me toward my goal or not?
  • Is playing this video game moving me toward my goal or not?
  • Is posting status updates on my social media sites moving me toward my goal or not?

Just imagine the kind of impact that asking this second question could have on your life if every day, all day long, you kept asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now taking me straight toward my Mt. Olympus or is it taking me off course?”

For example, let’s say you want to lose 10-15 pounds to get in shape for some reason (an upcoming sports season, a class reunion, beach season, a wedding, etc.). Setting that as your goal is the easy part, making it a reality is the difficult part. Moreover, for this goal, it’s not as easy as saying, “Eat less, move more.”

Goal achievement is usually lived out moment by moment, day by day. So, in this case, as you’re eating dinner, if you keep asking the, “Is what I’m doing right now moving me toward my goal or not?” you’ll probably make better eating choices and pass on the french fries or having seconds or adding extra butter to your vegetables.

If you’re tempted to just spend the afternoon on the couch watching a movie and you ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now moving me toward my goal or away from it?” chances are you’ll get off the couch and go for a run or a workout.

Or if you’re walking by a stash of Halloween candy and you ask yourself, “Is what I’m currently doing (or, in this case, about to do :-) moving me toward my goal or away from it?” chances are you’ll pass on the Kit Kat® bar or Skittles® and go for a healthy snack (if you’re even hungry at all).

Do you see how powerful this question can be? I hope so. Because if you actually want to achieve something significant in your life, it’ll come down to the little choices you make everyday that will either keep you moving in the right direction or detour you off in a different direction which will ultimately lead you to a destination you don’t want to arrive at.

So, if you really want to achieve something in your life (whatever it is), make it a habit to ask these two questions everyday so that you’ll keep moving in the direction of your dreams.

1. What do I need to do today to move me toward my goal of _________?
2. Is what I’m doing right now moving me toward my goal or away from it?

If you’ll ask those two questions everyday, and apply the answers you give yourself, I think you’ll be amazed at the level of achievement you’ll attain. Socrates was absolutely correct when he said,

“If you want to get to Mount Olympus, make sure every step you take is in that direction.”

To your accelerated success!


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