I was probably 6, a tall, chubby kid in a Kmart bathing suit at the neighborhood pool. I slowly climbed the ladder to the diving board and then took tiny, trembling steps out onto the board. It felt like it took 5 minutes to get out to the end of the board and back again while the other kids yelled at me to hurry up. I summoned up the courage and flung myself off the end of the board, flying toward the water with my arms and legs flailing. I emerged with water up my nose and a huge smile. “I WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN,” I yelled.
The prelude to this story is that it took weeks of cajoling and frustration from my parents to get me to the point where I jumped off the board. It seemed so high up. Only big kids and adults used the board. One by one though my friends all took that leap, and finally I was the one being left behind. I was a bit timid and always a responsible little kid, and one who focused on what could go wrong. I am still that way to a great extent. Leaping off the board and falling through the sky (or 3 feet of it) into the deep end seemed like a dangerous thing to do, even if all the other kids seemed to love it.
I spent weeks inside my head thinking about that board, what could go wrong, and how I might actually build up the guts to climb up and jump off. Those are weeks that I could have spent actually doing what I was thinking about, though I did finally take that leap and I am still glad that I did.
I would like to say that I learned that lesson and have spent the last several decades jumping into the deep end of life. That is not totally true. Sure, I have had many great adventures along the way and accomplished a lot. I have a great family, have been successful in my career, and have many great memories of adventures large and small. I have also left undone some things I wanted to accomplish -- half-written novels and blog posts, languages unlearned, computer programs unwritten, races unrun. I think the same is true for many of us.
I have always been a big planner, making lists and doing research, setting up notebooks and project boxes, reading books and taking classes on things that I want to work on. I also know that too much preparation has the same impact as procrastination. At some point you need to actually start by writing the words, cutting the board, lifting the weight, whatever. The first real step to finishing is starting, so that is what I have committed to doing more often.
For me, that means I am running a 5k on July 8, posting this blog post you are reading, and becoming a coach by both getting certified and by actually coaching (see more on that elsewhere on this website, coming soon). This blog will share my insights on achieving my goals. It will also hopefully inspire you to do the same so that you move forward and accomplish some of your own.
After reading many dozens of books on productivity and time management and consuming even larger numbers of articles and podcasts on this subject (look for reviews on those in the coming weeks), I have come to the following conclusion. It does not have to be that complicated.
BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT. Losing weight is not a goal, it is an aspiration -- losing 10 pounds in a month is a goal. Goals should be measurable so that you know when you achieve them. This blog was created because I made a commitment with a fellow coach to write and post a blog entry by 30 June 2017 -- pretty specific and measurable. In turn, that goal supports my broader goal of getting my voice out to the world and sharing what I have learned. In turn, that allows potential coaching clients to see what I bring to them. I have always wanted to write and teach, now I have added coaching to that.
FIGURE OUT THE SPECIFIC STEPS TO TAKE TO GET WHAT YOU REALLY WANT. I am a researcher and planner. I studied others who have built coaching businesses and I will graduate soon from a great certification program. I built a list of what I needed to get started right now. That list is much shorter than all that I eventually want to accomplish. Tiny steps forward are a great way to complete a long journey. I have a separate blog post coming up on the MVP -- the Minimum Viable Product -- which is something I learned from some folks out in Silicon Valley. In short, MVP is about getting something out as quickly as possible to see how it resonates to others. For this blog post, I needed the following: a webpage and to write a blog post. As time goes on, both will get better.
DO THOSE THINGS TO GET WHAT YOU REALLY WANT. I saw a sign the other day that said “I got so much procrastinating done today!” When you have big goals it is easy to find them so daunting that you spend time avoiding them. Setting a deadline is often a good way to deal with that, especially if you make that public or have a person who will hold you accountable. It is also good to break things down into discrete steps that you can accomplish quickly and with a minimal amount of effort. For this task, I needed to find a hosting service and since this is about doing something fast and cheap, I found this one that is both easy and free. I did get some help from my daughter to set up the page (any mistakes are my own), but within a week I had a little piece of the Internet. For the blog post itself, I made a list of things that I wanted to write about and even started several posts. Since I always carry a notebook around with me, this was something I worked on whenever I had a few spare minutes, This was the one around which I felt the most energy and the one which I finished.
That’s it, no book to buy or class to take. Follow those three steps and you too can achieve your goals, one tiny step at a time. Stop reading and get to it -- your dreams won’t come true without some work.
Now go make it happen -- Tom