An Undeniable Force of Nature
“To achieve a goal you have never achieved before, you must start doing things you have never done before.”
- Chris McChesney
The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals
Reflecting on our current lives, let’s ask the tough question: are we reaching our goals, and if not, what do we need to do differently to set realistic goals and start hitting them? In Michael Hyatt’s book, Your Best Year Ever, he comically writes, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”
The reason history rhymes is that we are creatures of habit and we tend to fall victim to the law of inertia, which states an object continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless that state is changed by an external force. So how do we fight off our humanistic preference of inertia and continue the never-ending fight towards improvement? We find an external force.
My mentor always told me that, “Action without a plan is chaos, a plan without action is a pipe dream, but a plan followed by action makes dreams come true.” I have repeated that saying many times since I first heard it; however, I now realize this is only partially true!
More accurately, “Action without a plan is chaos. A plan without action is a pipe dream. A plan followed by action and backed by accountability is an undeniable force to be reckoned with.” A game plan followed by action is a great start, but life isn’t about starting power, it’s about staying power. Therefore, accountability is so important in creating long lasting and continuing progress.
So if you are bored with not having anything to strive, are frustrated by not making progress to your goals, or are very content with your progress but still want to reach your goals quicker than your current trajectory, here are three steps you can take…
Step 1: Developing a game plan…
When it comes to all goal setting, game planning is rather simple…
• Step 1: We must first assess and articulate exactly where we are.
• Step 2: Paint a clear picture of where we want to be, and when we want to be there by.
• Step 3: Develop and implement a strategy to bridge the gap from where we are, to where we want to be.
For example, if someone wants to lose weight, we can stand on a scale to get clarity on exactly where we are, set a goal that’s appropriate for the person, and create a diet and workout schedule to reach that goal. For finances, it is much more challenging as there is no magical scale to stand on to tell you where you are. Furthermore, it is much harder to know where you stand relative to where you should be when it comes to financial planning. While society does a “pleasant” job of telling us exactly where we “should” be body-wise, personal finances lack clear feedback and rarely do we get “shamed” into having a strong financial plan.
Figuring out where we are financially, and how that relates to where you should be is as relative as it is subjective, and that is just the start of the murkiness. Figuring out where we want to be, when we need to be there by, and creating a strategy of how to bridge the gap between the two points only gives us more reason to quit before we even start. Because of these challenges, I believe it is almost necessary to have a professional who has experience in helping people reach their goals.
In his book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Chris McChesney states, “If you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing.” Financial professionals can help you keep score as they often have software programs to better help you know exactly where you stand financially, and this can be your “financial scale” so to speak. Additionally, experienced advisors have met with so many people that they can help give you context as to where you should be financially. Finally, a good advisor should have ideas to help you with step two: taking action!
Step 2: Action
If a plan without action is a dream, then action without a game plan is chaos. Want to see what chaos looks like? Just look around you!
Today’s trend is to stay as busy as possible, and technology “helps” us stay busy by pulling us in all directions. Few people start their day with a game plan and those that do often lose sight of the plan to the “whirlwind” of the day. Too often, we confuse movement with progress and run around like a chicken without its head.
Yet, don’t we all know of the calm, cool, and collected personality who seems to have it all together? This guy/gal has a plan and is executing that plan. If you don’t know someone like this, just look at the leaders and rising leaders in any company. Not only do they have more on their plate than anyone, but they also handle it methodically and with grace.
Whereas we might call this prioritizing, Greg McKeown refers to this as the practice of essentialism. In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, he writes “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
In the financial world, an essential action plan looks like a well-prepared budget, setting up automatic savings systems, and a monthly meeting to review progress and to predict the upcoming month’s expenses. If losing weight is simply a function of expending more calories than we take in, saving more money is a function of spending less money than we bring in. It’s just that simple… it’s just that hard.
Since there is no “silver bullet” and very few people “get rich quick,” we must practice patience while building wealth over multiple decades. When we have a timeline as long as our lives, it can be tough to keep focus and stay on track, which is why step three is the difference-maker…
Step 3: Accountability: The differentiator
Sitting on the graduation floor at Mercer University, I was naively grinning from ear to ear and ready for the ceremony to conclude so I could go and tackle the world. But before I left to go to the office that Saturday afternoon (true story) I remember the school’s president saying, “The myth of the self-made man is simply that, a myth.” That one quote stuck with me that day, and I find it prevalent in our daily lives as very few people can accomplish their goals without the help and collaboration of others. If they can do it on their own, I would argue their goals and dreams aren’t big enough.
Humans in general hate accountability. I think we hate it so much because in a perfect world we would be intrinsically motivated to reach our goals, and we would love what we do so much that it wouldn’t feel like work. Unfortunately, I don’t know many people living in that perfect world, making accountability a necessity for progress.
An old colleague used to say, “What people want is a hug, but what they really need is accountability.” Personal accountability is an oxymoron, we need others to help us get to where we want to be. If we don’t need help reaching our goals, then we need higher goals. So how can we go about establishing an environment of accountability?
First, let’s this simple and continuously work towards being on the same page as our significant others. Not only can you help hold each other accountable when that morning alarm goes off, but you can encourage each other to get promotions and raises and may think twice about making that big purchase when someone else is depending on you!
Secondly, we need to find a way to keep score. My first boss used to say, “Winners keep score,” and Chris McChesney writes in his book, “People play differently when they are keeping score… People like to win, so no extrinsic motivation is needed.” Whether it is using an online application, or tediously handwriting and tracking your progress, we have to find a sustainable way to quantify and see our progress, and sometimes regress, towards our goals.
Lastly, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, I’m going to encourage you to work with a financial planner. I am a big proponent of the belief that we should all have an outside, third party to watch over us and help make certain we stay on track over the years. We are constantly in the weeds of day to day life, and we all could use another set of eyes and an outside perspective of someone knowledgeable of our current situation, our goals, and of the solutions that are available to help us get from where we are to where we want to be.
Think it is expensive to work with a financial advisor? Not nearly as expensive as continuously missing your financial goals, which could lead to more expensive and further losses in the future. Yes, you could potentially follow every step I have laid out and find success, but would it really be healthy for your marriage to hold your spouse accountable, or would you rather have someone else do that? How much time would it take for you to track your progress and keep score on how you are doing, and wouldn’t a professional have more tools and be more affective at doing that for you?
If your finances are a priority (and they should be), I highly encourage you to reach out and interview a few financial advisors to see which one fit’s best with your personality and situation. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the process of planning, the results you will see, and by how little it may potentially cost to get top notch information, insight, and accountability from a professional. Here is to you becoming an undeniable force of nature!
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