Putting in the minimum amount of effort to a task to achieve a satisfactory result is a behaviour associated with people that have little or no ambition. Successful individuals take nothing for granted. They realise that through hard work and loyal commitment to their goals they may from time to time have to put in extra hours or do things that may feel punishing to either their mind or body – quite often both. The reality is that very few people are willing to push themselves physically and emotionally to over deliver. This maybe work a weekend to complete an important project, staying late at the office to help colleagues complete a critical bid or a teacher spending more with a pupil struggling to grasp a learning point. Going the extra mile to please others is an extremely admiral behaviour, you become respected by your peer group and the opportunities for personal progression is enhanced because others become engaged by your level of commitment.
You will place yourself well ahead of the competition when you do more than what was expected of you. It is also extremely rewarding both professionally and personally. The mindset of going the extra mile helps when:
- You don’t want to let someone down
- You want to influence a customer or stakeholder
- You have an ambition to achieve
- Someone needs your help
- You see an opportunity others have missed
- Potential has not been realised
Think deeply about what you want to achieve and accept that by conditioning your mind to embrace the philosophy of doing more you will become evermore successful purely by outperforming others. This mental programming becomes an integral part of your behaviour and winning becomes a habit.
Working long hours does not always mean you are working smart, however if you are setting up a business and trying to get it moving in the right direction – there is often no short cuts – a long shift is vital. Ambition comes in two forms…stated and genuine. Many individuals talk about what they are going to do, I am inspired by those who talk about what they have done.
Growing a business requires genuine gritty hard graft, courage and luck. Its surprising how luckier you become when you put in more hours.
The journey to reaching your vision will involve a number of stages or interim goals – the key milestones that will be your targets along the way, providing a route to your dream. Each stage will represent a progression either personally or professionally – or both, depending on your vision. As your goals move on, so will the circumstances you find yourself in and the challenges you’ll face. It’s likely that decisions you have to make will become more demanding and the risks more acute. To handle this changing environment, you’ll need to progress personally, shifting your mindset to a new level at each stage.
The critical steps in growing a business or embarking on a challenging new project will place pressure on the way you think – it will push you into new areas and possibly further than you have gone before. It’s likely to stretch your abilities to the limit. So it’s important to adapt your way of thinking to be able to cope with the new risks and challenges each new situation brings. Otherwise you will find yourself frozen like a rabbit in the headlights, unable to make the necessary decisions to take you forward.
Successful entrepreneurs, for example, will tell you that growing their companies tested their capabilities to the breaking point. How comfortable will you feel if you need to give a personal guarantee to secure bank funding, or learn new skills to support the growth of your business or personal project?
To prepare yourself for the climb ahead, it pays to work out the different challenges you’ll face as you move from achieving one goal to embarking onto the next, so that you can be mentally ready to deal with them. Viewing each goal as a step towards your vision will help you to define the mindset that you need to develop to negotiate each stage successfully, allowing you to move forward with focus and clarity of thought.
Many individuals have big goals but only few put in the energy and effort to attain them. Why is this? Actions speak louder than words and to be grounded for a second, big goals can sometimes feel like an awesome undertaking. That’s when the goal just remains a dream.
Breaking the £1m revenue target, implementing a new quality system, opening up that new export market or whatever it means to you needs careful planning and iteration.
Patience, routine, trial and error and action are important contributors to passing across the finishing line – you just can’t leap to the end point, that’s why so many just give up.
So what tools can we use to assist us get what we want? I was inspired by the story of what made GB Cycling world class and the envy of other nations . Their coach referred to the “aggregation of marginal gains” as being central to their success. In other words small improvements that all add up to a magnificent performance.
My interpretation of this is:
1. Be clear about what it is you are looking to achieve and and nail a measure and timescale to it
2. Put in place the plan of the milestones and improvements that need to be reached and by when
3. Train like crazy and put in the activity needed to get there – KpI’s (that awful term – but paramount to monitoring where you are – be clear on what they are as well)
The GB Cycling philosophy of marginal gains can be of massive use to us in business. The key lesson is that small nudges in the right direction delivers a winning result. Get on your bike and pedal – if you fall off, get back on and pedal faster!
The importance of having a plan sounds like such a statement of the obvious, but how many of us in our business or personal life have one? At this time of year New Years resolutions are made – in my view nothing more than a wish list. By February most will have given up on them with an estimated 80% not even remembering what their goals were in the first place.
Whilst it is hard to move away from the term goal, I am trying my best to do so. People think they have goals but they don’t – why? – because are not hard wired into daily actions, this is why I prefer to use the term personal intention. This defines more precisely what you WANT!
Personal intentions have momentum and are limited to a vital few, rather than a trivial many. It’s impossible to focus on many things, so my advice is work out what 2 or 3 things you want to achieve and really focus on them. For 2012 I will be focused on 2 measurable intentions and the action plan to achieve them will benefit from a laser beam approach.
So my advice is, define your vital few intentions, write them down, create a plan, set KPI’s and review them daily and weekly. Get them hard wired into your system and focus – its amazing what happens.
In my study of success people one characteristic that I often find is individuals impose pressure on themselves to achieve something special. Whilst a stimulus or encouragement may come from a mentor or coach, self imposed pressure often drives attainment of the prize. This pressure can become an important factor in delivering on the personal intentions we set for ourselves. For example going public with a statement of what you are going to achieve result in pressure to take action and build momentum. Here the driver is not wanting to be seen to fail to deliver or the worry of letting people down- the fear of looking stupid also becomes an important motivator for action.
Investment in new business initiatives where personal and company risks are taken often focusses the mind on what needs to be achieved by when. Self imposed pressure can drive us to what we want but this must be balanced as too much of it can be destructive – emotionally, physically and professionally. Its back to the importance of balance! However self discipline and hard work driven by self imposed pressure helps to build momentum.
I read this book just after Christmas last year and I keep going back to it in search of wisdom and insight for the entrepreneurs I deal with. The book teaches us how clarity of purpose and setting clear intentions opens us up to the world of new opportunities and how the law of attraction delivers us what we want. In many respects The Secret can be summed up in Goethe’s famous quote:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now”
In my opinion The Secret can give false hope to those who don’t appreciate or embrace one extremely simple principle – life rewards people who take action. Whilst I believe the book is a source of great inspiration, my research clearly shows that successful people have an extremely strong work ethic, whilst believing they can can achieve what they set their minds to, practice, practice, practice is essential and must follow the dreaming. If we combine the teachings of The Secret with that of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers theory – of the”10,000-Hour Rule” then I think a formula for accelerated performance can be derived. The rule claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Fusing this thinking with the need for deeply rooted personal intentions delivers a potent mix for getting what you want.
The ability to remain focused is a key ingredient for anyone who aspires to achieving more. All too often we can be side tracked by ideas or pet projects that don’t contribute in any way to the personal intentions we have chosen to pursue. When presented with set backs or difficult situations that require attention it can be easier to default to tasks that are hassle free or easier to fulfil.
Pet projects often come in the way of achieving what we want. Always remind yourself of:
“Must do” – what are the activities vital to accomplishing your intentions? Implementation must involve doing the things that directly align to your ambitions and desires. By keeping a journal or completing a daily to do list you remain focused on the critical essentials. Such simplicity ensures clarity remains the priority. Your direction becomes very clear and success prevails
“Nice to do”- most of us will be clear on what is required for success. However, all too often we get distracted by more enjoyable activities, equally we can we tempted to pursue things that require less effort. Pursing nice to do projects will move you away from what you set out to achieve, they divert energy and you lose focus. Continuous attention on the wrong things will lead to ineffective performance. You will delay the process of success or as a worst case never get to the destination. Too many people become very easily distracted and forget what is important.
Be aware of what you are doing, keeping asking yourself – is what I am doing going to give me what I want? – Such consciousness allows you to do away with non value added activities. Time is the most precious commodity for anyone who wants to achieve more. Thinking in the must do nice to do way will help you to do the right things at the right time. Momentum results from focusing on the activities critical to success. Don’t be distracted.
Flexibility can improve your effectiveness in many different ways – reputation, building relationships and credibility to name but a few. Individuals that consider their way to be the only way can be extremely difficult to work with on both a professional and personal level. Going the extra mile will frequently require you to display alternative ways of working, one that does away with a single minded viewpoint. Your attitude of mind should be one that accommodates different perspectives to achieve the desired outcome.
We often value more our colleagues who are flexible – this is because they can understand our viewpoint, listen and then work with us to attain mutual satisfaction. If it is your intention to lead or win over the views of others, you must be flexible in your thinking, attitude and work style. In some instances this may feel uncomfortable. As you progress through life and your career, you will come across many different personalities success means that you may have to adapt your approach to suit the situation.
Be conscious of the way in which you interact with others – do you dismiss views too easily or do you embrace them? Even if you do not agree frankness and openness with a respectful reason why, will demonstrate clearly a mindset of flexibility.
Flexibility is also an important element of an engaging personality, it involves being reasonable with an ability to bend your thinking whilst not compromising personal values, self control or composure. Do not subject yourself to the whims of others as this projects the image of being a yes person. When you are flexible you are able to take prompt action in acquiring opportunities. The openness of this mindset also attracts others to you because constantly saying no can be off putting and close doors that could otherwise be opened.
Goal setting has been around for years and there is nothing new about the concept. However, I believe that the term is too easily used and indeed its over used. What I mean by this is, its easy to say that you have a goal but how real is it? How emotionally and spiritually are you connected to it? Is it more of a wish? I am desperately trying to get away from the term because personally I think it’s a bit of a tired phrase. Many individuals say they have a goal, however they remain to convince me that its firstly, really what they want and secondly they are behind its achievement with energy, drive and focused activity.
A more powerful way of thinking about your goals is to define your personal intentions. For me this captures a more potent and motivating way of thinking about what exactly it is you want. The road map to achievement must flow from your personal intentions – it should guide your actions and prioritise the projects that will get you there – wherever there maybe.
When personal intentions have total clarity a set of other invisible, yet highly powerful forces flow – for example:
1. Purpose – you know exactly why you are doing the things you do when your intentions are clear
2. Mental Toughness – you will keep going because what you want is has a meaning
3. Passion – achieving what you want gets you out of bed with gusto, no alarm clock needed
Ask yourself are the targets you set yourself as part of your New Year’s resolution goals or deep-rooted personal intentions – have you delivered on them or have you given up? Monitor your progress against them
Observation tells me that 80% of people want more from their career, life or business. However the two biggest challenges are:
- Defining what more looks like
- The will to change behaviour to achieve more
Here lies the heart of debate – most people are resistant to doing things differently with many not willing to take the necessary steps to initiate the changes – the reality is, only action delivers change. A study of 11,000 of patients in the US who had undergone major heart-by pass surgery revealed that only 11% changed their lifestyle habits to accommodate a new way of living – that means 89% carried on with business as usual even though their life was at risk.
For me Darwinian thinking applies in these instances – its about the survival of the fittest, in other words those willing to change usually enjoy long term success. Big changes do not usually happen overnight, it comes in small steps – a bit like a dimmer switch – slight turns make the light shine brighter. Embracing a mindset that welcomes small changes can have an almost profound impact on personal progression.
Lets draw some insights from Nudge Theory, an area that I don’t claim to have any deep understanding but one where its impact I know has had a profound impact on behaviour. The best example of this was seen in Schipol Airport. Toilet cleaning costs were spiraling out of total control. The problems were attributed to the mess made in the gent’s toilets, usually men rushing to catch their flight obviously late but needing to relieve themselves before departure. Unfortunately their haste led to making a mess on the floor, wall and just everywhere including their shoes. This created a massive demand for additional cleaning – costs started to rise at an unbelievable rate. By applying Nudge Theory to this situation the sanitary ware manufacturers etched what looked like a fly on the urinal – guess what 80% immediate reduction in the cleaning bill – think about it. Something so small with such a profound effect – how can you nudge yourself to getting the change that you want? What small nudges can you make to?
- Think differently
- Act differently
- Deliver you the change you want
So the starting point for any one on a mission, ambitious project or wanting to achieve a big goal is – pull the trigger of personal change, recognise that if you don’t you will at best stand still or at worst go into reverse.
Personal change is likened to the turning of an oil tanker, it takes time, and very few of us are blessed with the ability to change at the pace of a gazelle. However, if we recognise that change is constantly needed we are more likely to take action to get what we want.