Today, I would like to share two concepts that I have come to realize are important in helping us move forward in times of change and uncertainty.
1. We are more likely to get what we want – when we are clear about – what the outcome looks like.
How do we define success? Is there a dollar number? Is it running a successful business? Is it a big house? A loving partner? Is it vague or really specific?
I am suggesting that in these times of great fog brought about by the forces of change, disruption and turbulence…
Having a general and vague idea about how you define success is not good enough. Vague aspirations don’t work.
It’s not good enough to say “I want more” or a “better job” or “grow my business”.
Because “more” doesn’t help us identify when we might have achieved it.
Because “better” doesn’t compel us to keep moving forward on tough days.
Because “more” is unlikely to give us a sense of meaning.
Because “better” will not give us a strong enough reason to push through obstacles.
Define Success with Specific Outcomes Not Goals
Think in outcomes not in goals.
A goal is generally broad: “I want to lose weight”. But an outcome is the result of your goal and very specific and measurable. More clarity around your outcome helps focus and inspire you. This is an outcome: “I want to be able to go up the stairs on December 25th without huffing and puffing and go into my closet and put on a pair of jeans that fit me really well and walk downstairs to enjoy Christmas dinner with my family.”
You can feel the outcome. Outcomes are inspiring. You can see the result.
When we’re dealing with change, life gets really confusing. The change feels uncomfortable. The uncertainty of a job feels overwhelming. So what we have to learn to do is to identify something we can focus on that can help stop the world from spinning. The first key to finding success in confusing times is to be crystal clear about defining what the result of your intended effort looks like for you. What does the person you want to become look like? Who are you trying to bring value to? How many people will be affected positively by your effort? When will you achieve the outcome? The more specific outcomes you can list on a plain sheet of paper, the stronger it will compel you to figure out how to achieve it.
Engage the heart and soul says scientific research
Scientific research has shown that specific goals and outcomes are very good at engaging the heart and soul to help you achieve it. Here are two studies which demonstrate that “…clear, compelling and challenging goals causes the blood to pump more rapidly, the brain to fire and the muscles to engage. However, when goals are vague, no such effects take place.”
Study 1: Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology: “The effects of goal setting on arithmetic performance of brain-damaged patients.” Brain-Damaged patients performed arithmetic better when they were given specific and challenging and clear goals than those who were given vague goals.
Study 2: The Journal of Applied Psychology. “The effects of goal difficulty on physiological arousal, cognition and task performance.” The more challenging a goal you set for yourself, the more the heart rate increases and positively affects your cognition and behavior to perform a certain task.
Summary of concept 1: Defining success with clear, specific and challenging outcomes that are measurable and observable in your behavior serve as a powerful mechanism for helping you move forward. They connect with your mind and heart fusing your emotion with intellect to help you take the right actions exactly when you need to.
When you are crystal clear about who you want to become and see it visually in your mind and feel it in your heart and bones – you are more likely to achieve it.
I used this very technique to write and publish two books – all while working full time in a corporate career. I would print out a small sheet of paper with the title of the book with my name on it and then scotch tape it to the front of another book’s cover. Looking at that imaginary cover of a book made it real for me. It connected me with an outcome I hoped for, planned for and eventually worked my butt off for.
I also used this outcome based technique to help define a better vision of me when I was going through anxiety and stress of an uncertain corporate career. I would write down a vision of my better self – a calmer, fitter, creative self who was successful in a more entrepreneurial environment. And here I am. It didn’t just happen overnight by chance. It was through a journey of hard work, failure, rejection, planning, throwing out plans, resiliency and a bit of luck. But it started with a clear outcome.
Action: Write down an outcome that you wish to achieve. Write it down. Be specific. Set a timeline. Visualize it. Describe it. Feel it. Tape it to the morning mirror. It will help focus you in confusing times.
2. Defining success is less about chasing the Ferrari and more about chasing contribution.
A lot of us get stuck trying to define success because: WE DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT WE WANT.
Sure, more money is nice.
Sure, a growing business is good.
Yes, a better job would be awesome.
But going deeper than that is often difficult for a lot of people because we put up money limitations in our head before our desires can ever be fully expressed. Gotta pay the mortgage you know. How much can you really make doing that?! All of these limitations emerge in our mind just as we start exploring the definition of success.
In my journey, I’ve learned that overthinking to figure out what we really want with the lens of dollars and cents limits our growth.
Instead, what I have found to be a more potent driver of discovering our definition of success and ultimately helping to pull us towards that success is when instead of focusing on money – we focus on creating value.
When we focus on contributing our gifts, our talents, our resources, our connections, our hard work, our creativity, our enthusiasm – all of it towards a more meaningful purpose which is to create value in someone else’s life – that’s when we really start to move forward and shine.
Define success by who you help
Who will you help today?
Who are you working for?
Who will be the benefit of your hard work?
Why are you doing this hard work?
Who will value your effort?
Borrowing the Ferrari for the weekend
The video above is my experiment with borrowing a Ferrari for a weekend. What I learned: The novelty of driving a fancy car wears off after a couple of days. But making a difference in the lives of others lasts forever. That’s the real definition of success for me: being able to contribute to making someone else’s life better.
When we chase contribution instead of defining success through the lens of money or a nice car – we are more likely to realize a success that is ever lasting.
With love and respect,