Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Student's Creed - "Commitment is Key"

How committed are you? I mean really committed. Commitment is hard, unyielding, uncompromising, demanding. But the beauty of it is that it's a choice - you must BE committed, you must accept, even initiate a commitment. Nobody can force you to commit to something. But once you decide that you want to achieve or accomplish something, it should be a solemn vow.

Commitment is good - it's a way to focus your attention, your efforts, and your priorities, and by committing yourself you can achieve great things. You can improve your health and fitness. You can increase your business. You can raise money for a charity, influence legislation, or learn something new. The key is to identify a suitable goal, then commit to passionately, vigorously and relentlessly pursuing it.

The first part, goal-setting, sounds easy but it takes some work on your part. You need to select goals that are well-defined so you'll know if you're on track to meeting them (and so that you'll know when they've been met!). You need to make sure they're possible for you to achieve given whatever limitations affect you.

For example, climbing Mount Everest has been repeatedly proven to be an achievable goal for some people, however it's extremely expensive, the training is time-consuming, and the ascent is very physically demanding. If you're not able to personally devote the time and cash necessary, then it's not an achievable goal for you, even though it may be technically possible. Perhaps a better goal might be to start with a climb that's closer to home and less severe than Everest. Once you've accomplished that, you'll have a better sense of what's involved and could set a new goal that brings you closer to the top of the world.

Which actually covers another technique to using goals wisely - they can overlap, build on each other, and ultimately form what I call an "Achievement Staircase" - steps that lead to higher steps as you continue to stretch yourself, challenge yourself, and reach for higher, more significant accomplishments. Everest is a great example of this. Even if you accept that, yes, ascending Everest is your life's ambition, it's not a matter of just buying a ticket to Nepal and putting some Sherpas on your Amex card. There's a great deal of planning, preparation, and training that needs to be accomplished on the path to that goal, and each of THOSE makes a suitable goal in and of itself. Researching the equipment and training needed would be one goal. Reaching a certain level of defined fitness (measured in terms of hiking a certain distance in a certain amount of time, or climbing a lesser mountain that's got similarly challenging features) would be another. And there are great reasons for treating each of these activities as a separate goal.

First, it allows you to give each of them the attention they deserve. They're important, they need to be done right, and if your "main goal" can't be achieved until each of its supporting goals is met. Second, and this is key, we must accept that not every goal will be met. On the way to a large goal, life sometimes takes us in unexpected directions, for good or ill, and our new path no longer takes us in the right direction to accomplish a major goal we've set for ourselves. But you can still look back on that series of supporting goals that you did meet and take away a great deal of value. You made progress, you made accomplishments and you improved your life (or someone else's, depending on the goal) in various ways, which is what this is all about. You end up with something to show for your work, even if it isn't the whole enchilada, so to speak.

Incidentally, there's a great way to know whether you've set a good goal. Good executives and project managers use this technique all the time to help ensure that they're aiming their business efforts toward productive pursuits. It's called the "SMART" technique, because the goals should be (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)ealistic, and (T)imed. In other words, it should be very clear exactly what the goal is (and isn't), there ought to be a way to know exactly how close you are to finishing, it should be possible for you to accomplish the goal, and there should be a deadline to have it done by. Missing any one of those aspects puts you at risk for a vague, undefined objective that you may never be able to achieve because it's too unclear what exactly it means.

For example, "Grow my business" is too vague. Did you mean you want to add 100 students? Add a second location? Make 30% more income? All of the above? Something different? And by when will you know if you were successful? Too vague! Instead, try this as a goal:

I [your name here] commit to growing my business's gross revenue (after taxes and utilities but before marketing, payroll and promotions) by 5% per quarter for the next four quarters.

I can't speak to whether that's achievable for your particular situation, but it's certainly specific enough, it's measurable (if you keep good accounting records), it's been done by others, and it's got a set time span.

And that's it - Commit to the Achievement Staircase and you're on your way to a bright future. Commitment is key, objectives are the door, and lifelong success is the treasure behind that door. You CAN grow your business. You CAN master that style of martial arts. You CAN retire at a particular age. You CAN raise $X for a specific charity. It takes commitment to climbing the Achievement Staircase. The tools are in your hands - get started!

The Student's Creed is a series of blog articles I'm posting at the ChampionsWay martial arts community. Since most of my Virtual Vellum readers probably don't visit that site, I'm posting them here as well.

1 comment:

  1. Often, when you tell folks you have an intent to do something, they *think* that you made a commitment. They are different things, and this can get you in trouble if you are not careful.