“The ability to concentrate and to use your time well is everything if you want to succeed in business–or almost anywhere else for that matter.” — Lee Iacocca
This month I want to pass along two powerful strategies to help you reach your goals. The first is called the S.M.A.R.T. approach to goal-setting. S.M.A.R.T. stands for “specific, motivating, achievable, relevant and trackable”. Let me explain:
The “S.M.A.R.T.” Way to Set Goals
Specific means your goal is crystal clear (”I want to be a black belt within three years”). Motivating means it’s something you really want (”to be a black belt”). Achievable means your goal is realistic (”purple belt in a year, black belt in three years”). Relevant means it’s something that will pay a dividend or benefit in your life. Something that matters. Finally, trackable means you can measure your progress towards your goal. All these add up to the S.M.A.R.T. to reach your goals. It’s an excellent framework and way to set your goals. It’s the first thing I want you to think about this summer when it comes to hitting your targets.
Still, with all these in place, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is another little-known part of achieving goals most people never realize. It’s called momentum. I believe that momentum plays a big role in achieving your goals and it’s something that separating the achievers from the also-rans.
I mean, have you ever thought about why some people are great starters, but poor finishers? Or why some people meet a challenge head-on – and overcome it – while others lose steam and give up on their dreams? Or how some people struggle every step of the way while others are drawn to their goals like a magnet? I believe the answer is momentum.
What is Momentum?
Momentum is defined as the force or speed of movement. Momentum is actually a natural law of the physical universe. Here’s an example. Did you know, for example, that it takes a lot of force to get a steam locomotive moving down the tracks? But once that locomotive is moving, it only takes 2 foot pounds of pressure to keep it going. That’s about the same amount of force as pushing it with your hand. How can this be? Well, that’s the power of momentum. It’s how momentum works in the physical world.
However, momentum also plays a role in how events unfold. This is especially true in sports. For example, when a football team is said to have momentum, it means they’re on a roll, racking up win after win. They’re overcoming great odds with ease and may surprise people with “come-from-behind” victories. They’re a machine. When a team has momentum on their side, they’re like a steam locomotive driving forward to their end point. They are unstoppable.
As a martial artist, when you have momentum working for you, things seem to work the same way: You breeze through classes. You surge with energy. You feel excited, pumped up and motivated. You rise through the ranks quickly. Sparring comes easily and you train effortlessly. It all feels somewhat “automatic”: You’re moving rapidly towards your goals and you see the light at the end of the tunnel getting closer every day. It’s all falling into place.
It’s one thing to have goals. It’s quite another thing to have momentum on your side. When you have momentum working for you, it lights a fire under your actions and sustains your energy over the long haul. Here are some of the ways you can keep your momentum level high this summer:
Start in the Morning
Morning is the best time to review your goals, commit to a plan of action for the day and get your mind “set” in the right direction. A very helpful thing to do when setting goals is to write a simple statement of your goal on paper and read it out loud every morning without fail.
Here’s an example: “I intend to reach the rank of 1st degree black belt by December 2011. I will attend two classes a week, practice 10 minutes-two nights a week on my own, attend four tournaments per year and upgrade to Leadership when invited”. And so on.
A few sentences work just fine. Read your goal once aloud in the morning to get your day started on the right track and keep you focused on what you need to do on a daily basis to move closer to your goals. I guarantee: do this for just one month and you’ll be amazed at the results. You’ll feel like you’re on a roll.
Immerse Yourself in Your Goal
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: reaching your goal requires you to make choices. This means you must give up some of the time you would otherwise put into other activities. Things like watching TV, hanging out with friends, playing video games and lounging around. The truth is-you have more time than you think you have-there’s time for everything. The way to combat these momentum-breakers is by immersing yourself in your goal. Here are some ways you can do that:
Read magazines that relate to your goal. Reach out and interview other people who have achieved your goal. Ask them how they did it. Follow their advice. Or, jump on the internet and do some research. Read about your goal and see what’s involved. What challenges have other people faced and overcome when achieving your same goal? Attend more tournaments. Bring your friends to class so they can see what you are doing and learn what it takes to reaching your goal. Stay and watch a Black Belt class and picture yourself IN the class. Watch YouTube videos of past tournaments. Ask to try on an actual black belt—get your picture taken with it on! Stay in the loop. A couple of months ago I answered a question about what to do if you were going on vacation this summer. Much of the answer revolved around keeping yourself “in the loop” even though you were physically removed from our academy.
Live your goal. Breathe your goal. Sleep your goal. If you think this seems a little single-minded, it is! Remember: achieving a big goal always involves a tradeoff: a tradeoff in time and energy. This means instead of being mediocre in three or four things, shoot for the best in one thing. Focus.
Digging in and learning as much as you can builds your momentum in a big way.
Give Yourself Constant Reminders
Apart from reading your goal aloud every morning, you can also post reminders in other areas. For example, one lady I know sticks Post-it notes on the edge of her computer monitor. Every time she’s composing an email, writing a blog post or researching on the web, she sees her goal and is reminded of it. Her goals are always in her peripheral vision.
Another man had a goal to lose 50 pounds within six months. He thought to himself, “How can I see my goal each and every day without fail?” So he came up with a novel solution: He wrote his weekly weight-loss goals on his bathroom mirror in semi-permanent ink. Every week on the same day he weighed himself and wrote his current weight on the mirror. This clued him in every week and told him if he was on track to reach his goal or not.
Both of these people discovered that consistent feedback and reminders helped build their momentum, stoked their resolve to hit their goals and, as you can imagine, they both reached their goals without a hitch! Try it. Give yourself reminders to help build your momentum.
Step it Up a Notch
Sometimes if you feel your energy level starting to wane, you might be tempted to back off a bit or train less. You might even think a short break will do you good. That if you put things on the back burner a while, your motivation level will start to move back up.
But almost every time, the exact opposite it true: This is precisely when you need to step up your training and take it to the next level. See, sometimes when you have momentum working for you, you may not feel as challenged as before. You’re now on a roll and learning has become easy. Second-nature. You might mistake this for boredom or being burnt-out.
So if you’re in that situation, adding an extra challenge helps you sustain momentum and propel you to your goal faster. And you can do it one small step at a time.
Here are some examples: You could add one class day per week. You could attend a few extra seminars. Attend a few tournaments outside of your region. And so on. Just mix it up and push yourself a little bit more. When you take your training to the next level in this way and get more involved, your momentum will pick up speed.
This is a biggie: never accept excuses from yourself. Follow through on your goals, keep your action moving forward and avoid things that break your focus. You must exercise self-control and self-discipline on every step of your journey.
It’s like the “shark theory”. Did you know some sharks must keep moving forward in order to survive? It’s true. If they stop swimming, water doesn’t filter through their gills and they suffer from lack of oxygen. Achieving goals works the same way: on the path to achieving your goal, your forward movement must never stop.
Now that we’re into the “dog days of summer”, it’s tempting to ease up on your efforts or lose focus mentally. Don’t let that happen. You’re worked hard to get to this point. Follow my tips in this article to keep your forward momentum dialed in.
Senior Master William J. Babin