“You have to create a goal for yourself, short term and long term and go after it. Because if you do not see it and if you do not believe it, who else will?” — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr. Olympia, Actor, Politician
1. To make a sustainable, long-term change in your personal life requires you to make an immediate change in what you do on a daily basis. As humans, we are creatures of habit—in thoughts and in behaviors. Who you are and who you’ll eventually be, can be traced back to what kind of disciplines you practice and the amount of time you devote to these discipline everyday; this applies to your career, your finances, your relationships, your health and body etc. The question is, what are your priorities and is your time and effort spent every day congruent with what’s most important to you? Your memory is never as good as you think it is. Numbers never lie. What’s the best way to know if you’re spending your time and effort focusing on your most important priorities? Measure it. Schedule it. Track it. Speak from evidence, not from memories. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
2. Don’t assume, systematically test. In any area where you don’t have personal experience, especially in the areas you want to try but still hesitate to actually do anything—there’s a high likelihood you’re holding a set of untested assumptions. The problem is, how you got these assumptions are not through systematic trial and error but through what other people have told you, through an isolated experience or generally, biased information. These set of assumptions influences what you do—and don’t do. And the real cost of living based on a set of untested assumptions is robbing yourself of knowing what you could do, what you could become had you had act differently. Ultimately, reality separates what works and what doesn’t work. But you only know that if you have a systematic way of testing your assumptions. To me, a pragmatic person, unlike a highly idealistic or pessimistic person, approaches life as a series of never-ending experiments—what do I think works, how do I test it to see how it actually works, what’s the result, how can I adjust to make more intelligent decisions in the future?
3. You increase the probability of success—for your career, your finances, your personal development, your health and relationships—with a plan. Whether your plan works depend on a lot factors but having a plan, and this is the important thing, shows you’re proactive in getting what you want. Planning is essentially a thought exercise forcing you to be clear on what you want, your resources and how do you manage and execute to get what you want. What you want can change, so your plan can change. Your resources can change, so your plan will change. There’s a more effective approach, your plans will accommodate for that and there’s always the inevitable uncertainties of life you can never plan for. But the practice of planning to make decisions in an ever-changing reality, is a must.
4. You need to learn to motivate yourself everyday. Motivation fuels action. And without action, there is no result. From my experience, motivation is a state of mind. Motivation isn’t a ‘either or’—it’s not whether you’re a motivated person or you’re not a motivated person. I found motivation is an emotional drive that springs from knowing clearly your values, your goals and why you’re the person you are and why you do what you do. To me, why I invest a lot time and money in self-improvement is a burning desire to become a smarter, more resourceful, efficient person to eventually be able to make a lot ambitious things happen. But along the way, if you don’t motivate yourself, no one will.
5. To achieve congruency between your words and your behavior means creating rituals in your life. We all have habits and to a large extend, our habits define and control who we are and what we do, often unconsciously. This year, I’ve been able cultivate several rituals in my daily routine that has helped me increase my productivity, metal clarity and most importantly, made me aware of how a lot of my daily actions are not the result of intentional cultivation and development. A ritual is a conscious, highly specific habit you cultivate for a purpose. For me, I have rituals to ensure I get adequate rest, energy and focus whenever I sit down to work. I also have rituals that help me plan my day and prioritize what I have to get done. Rituals equals intentionality in behavior. Your time, energy and focus is limited, creating rituals is all about doing the daily disciplines that sculpts your mind, work ethic that moves you closer everyday towards your goals.
6. Set goals that scare you. A few weeks ago, while looking at my goals for the new year, I realize hardly any of my new goals actually scared me. To me, a scary goal is a challenging goal that forces you to think, to attempt things that are—upon hindsight—way outside your comfort zone and outside of what’s easily attainable for you. In short, you will probably look like an idiot, fail and have a nagging fear not knowing what to do when you pursue this kind of goal. Setting scary goals force you to grow—fast. Aiming for things you know for certain you can achieve isn’t good enough. If you aim for a high enough goal, even if you fail, you will have gone further had you aimed and succeed at a mediocre goal. And finally, don’t be concerned if your ambition makes other people uncomfortable. People are intimidated by your goals not because your goals are ambitious but your goals often forces them to re-examine their own direction in life.
7. If you decide to pursue a goal, there are only two outcomes: You achieve your goal or you get an experience to help you make more intelligent decisions in the future. But if you don’t do anything, you’ll still be at the starting line without having learned anything. When you make decisions, you have to consider the potential risks of action and the risk of inaction. While failure can be painful, underneath failure is an opportunity for brutal honest self-examination and a basis for personal growth. Don’t develop psychological apathy towards failure—accept it, dissect it and ask yourself how you need to change in thinking and in behavior to not be the same person that failed in the first place. Learning equals behavior change. Remember, what you fear most is often a good indicator of what you should go ahead and do.
8. Become a man. Psychological age doesn’t always match chronological age. You can grow older, taller, bigger but not grow up. The first thing about being a real man is taking responsibility for your life—take whatever life throws at you and choose your response in a way that reflect who you are. Your choice of action is the clearest expression of your character, not your intellectual understanding or words. Then it’s about discovering your mission and structuring your lifestyle to support the maximum achievement of your mission. “What do I want to do with my life” is a complex question. But don’t sit and wait for it to magically appear. Your life’s purpose or the discovery of it might very well begin with a decision to start the journey, to be proactive and open-minded of wherever your decisions ultimately lead you to. Perhaps, who you want to be isn’t a discovery, but a refinement process—you’re in charge of your personal development into a real man.
9. Train renewal. A key piece of your productivity is how you effectively renew yourself after a hard day at work—sustainability in performance is about intensity and focus in execution and recovery. In simple terms, when you work, really work. When you rest, really rest. Don’t be stuck in multi-tasking and dragging work from home to the office all the time. Burning out due to excessive work and underwhelming renewal doesn’t help you in the long-run. Renewal rituals can be naps, weekly goal reviews, working out or just spend time doing something you really enjoy like watching a movie, socializing and reading good fiction. Schedule renewal as a strategic priority to consistent recharge. It’s not only about how hard, how long you work, it’s also about how effective, how engaged and focused you are during those long, hard hours.
10. Circumstances don’t make a man, they simply reveal him to himself. Every time you’re overwhelmed by worry, stress, fear and uncertainty—remember, it’s amidst hardship that you reveal to yourself how tough you really are. It’s at the edge of your comfort zone that you grow. Think things through, be decisive, make plans and always look forward. The best way I’ve found to start eliminating worry is to take action towards resolving whatever is causing you to worry. Worry is simply a fear based on inaction or indecision. And you start to eliminate worry the moment you make a decision and start doing. Focus on doing, worry can’t be cured by thinking.