Key №4: The weekly step [excerpts from the book]
Now is the time for the last of the 4 keys to success. We will look at why these are the best means for our big dreams. We will also discuss how the weekly step relates to the other three keys – the Goal Buddy, the vision, and the 90-day goals.
Is the “impossible” doable?
“Even the most ‘impossible’ goals can be accomplished simply by breaking them into pieces of bits, writing them down, believe them, and go to full speed ahead as they are.”
We used these words of Don Lancaster in the chapter of “The 4 keys to achieving goals” dedicated to the one thing we appreciate most – the weekly step.
We can’t think of a better summary of the notion that every vision (as long as it is clear and written) is within our reach thanks to regular and focused actions.
The power of the tiny acts
To fulfill a dream we need to follow a simple 2-point rule. First, we start, and second, we never stop. These consistent movements forward are what success is made of.
Kicking it off small and straightforward is always easier.
The beauty here is that it can be something that looks to be of little importance but it could trigger a number of forces that can propel us forward. Have you ever thought of having your own business? If so, then perhaps your first order of things is just to find out what is needed to register it. How about you wanted for a long time to publish a book? So, you can begin by jotting down a few ideas for short stories or, perhaps a novel.
Advancing in small increments is just as easy.
Every seven days we make only one thing – not 10 or 5, not even 2 but only one. But because of it we easily keep pace and in the end, we made some progress. The effect of accumulating the results of all these steps over time is what we are all looking for to benefit from most.
Let’s have a look at some examples.
From 0 to 116 podcasts
A little over 2 years ago, we decided to do a series of podcasts as part of our mission to help people fulfill their dreams.
In the beginning, we had nothing more than a general intent but also the determination to get it done. We didn’t have even a bare-bones strategy on how to approach this. We didn’t have a studio or special equipment, or a team.
We started by simply recording a conversation we had over the phone using nothing more than whatever software was on our cells. The first couple of podcasts were of quite a poor sound quality but that was good enough as a first try.
After that first go, we were getting better and better with each episode. Every week we learn and improve. We even began live streams on Facebook. Our latest one was number 116.
The moral of it is that you don’t need a perfect setup. Unfortunately, for many people, it is a real challenge to realize that embrace the practice of “getting your feet wet”.
Every beginning is hard
There is no other way to get somewhere without making the first move. This is best illustrated by Lao Tzu’s words – “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.”
What does this mean for our everyday life?
It’s only natural that we would want to get everything perfectly set and ready. We feel sufficiently confident only when there is a detailed plan in place and we have at our disposal all of the needed circumstances and “know-how”.
However, we can get stuck. Time goes on, and we end up never moving beyond this phase of preparing because we never feel completely ready.
The alternative option is much easier. We get on the road first and then we decide and act on the fly. Every single issue we stumble upon will be our chance to learn and to improve.
Small steps will break down any limiting beliefs and self-doubt
Of course, it can seem a little bit counter-intuitive. While this very first tiny action may look insignificant and therefore meaningless it has a more consequential characteristic – it is effortless and therefore easy.
That’s the chance to get out of the comfort zone without subjecting ourselves to needless stress. Doing it little by little allows us to overcome any fears and break free from the wasteful procrastination.
Starting little will kill our urge to postpone
We retold in our book an interesting discussion that Ivan and Juli Tonkin had. It centered around the question “Will you regret a lifetime if you don’t do it?”.
Ivan had serious doubts that his on-line training and education website Aula.bg could successfully compete with the big boys of the global market. The dilemma was whether he should stay local or go to the next level. Ivan already kind of knew the answer but there was an “aha-moment” which brought it up to surface. He realized that any work done to expand globally will greatly enhance the company’s success in Bulgaria. That’s how he made his mind.
As of today the project is in beta and is dealing mostly with minor technical issues. But the most important thing is that even if it turns out to be a failure, everything accomplished in this quest will give a significant business advantage in the Bulgarian market.
In other words, any movement in the chosen direction is better than sitting on your hands while doing nothing more than ruminating on what you plan to do.
Small steps are better than a perfect plan
Most people tend to get into a long and tedious process of “getting ready”. It may seem as if it is an indispensable part but it is not. It’s simply an excuse for procrastinating. And more so when it becomes an endless endeavor aimed at preempting every single eventuality. In the end, this becomes a real problem.
What we need at this point is the one thing that will put us on the first leg of our journey.
The initial step
The best thing is that it paves the way. Imagine that you are walking in the middle of the night carrying a flashlight. Do you need to see everything around you? Of course, no. You have to be aware of only the spot where you will be moving next. And after that, you repeat the process. Thus, little by little, you will be illuminating your path bit by bit.
It’s pretty much the same as the first step. Once you completed it you would have a pretty good idea what’s next. So, this becomes a multi-step process of achievement. That’s the only mechanism for you to work things out to a successful end.
Figuring out what will be our next move
Let’s look at everyone’s favorite topic of getting in shape.
How do we define the weekly step if we already have our vision and the 90-day objective was formulated as “going to the gym 3 times a week for the duration of 3 months”?
Ivan’s take on this was “Set up date and time with the personal trainer!” The effort here is minimal, i.e. just one phone call away. But at the same time it delivers something else:
- Commitment to act;
- You are contractually obliged to another person, the trainer;
- Writing it down in the calendar.
For someone like Ivan who has never been too big on exercising this approach requires the least amount of will power.
Small steps will begin turning the wheel and as a result, we get closer to our big dreams.
The characteristics of the small weekly steps
There are three of them:
- It is the most important thing even if not the most urgent for the week. This means that it is not on the top of your “to-do-list” like a dentist appointment, for example. But we must find the time for it no matter what.
- Self-discipline plays a big role. This is especially true at the very beginning of the habit-building period, i.e. until sharing with the Goal Buddy becomes a routine for us.
- It is a domino type of action – a whole number of other things spring out of it. In other words, it may not necessarily be the only thing we do, but it’s the very first one.
The hidden traps
The small steps are easy but they are equally easy to skip.
They may look minor, and we may feel it’s not a big deal if we don’t do them. And yet, if we lose momentum, then it will be much harder for us to start all over again.
The other challenge is that there is no obvious positive aftermath. That goes against the trend of our hectic times when we expect everything here and now. So, we can very well feel a bit demotivated. To counter this we shouldn’t forget what our mission is about and that the cumulative effect of small but focused efforts is in full play.
How to turn the wheel
There is nothing complicated:
- For each 90-day goal, we choose one step per week;
- We never set more than one, aka there is no a “to-do” list;
- Only the next step should be on our agenda for a given week;
- Skipping a week is a “no-no” even if it might seem pointless to us under certain circumstances.
The 4 keys
Here’s how we make all the keys turn together. The crucial point is the Goal Buddy (key 1) working with us in clarifying what we want and how to get it. We start with the vision (key 2) and each quarter we set a short-term goal to move forward (key 3). And we accomplish the objective week after week with one small step(key 4).
How to act without vision
Not having a vision doesn’t mean you can’t go on your journey. On the contrary, let’s say you reverse the sequence in which you apply the 4 keys. If you go from small to bigger, from weekly steps to 90-day goals, you will eventually develop a good sense of what the strategy must be. No matter which order you choose, make sure that you use the four keys. That’s how you will make it all the way to and across the finish line.