The key skills for achieving your goals – Part 1

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Is there something special about those who are successful! Luck perhaps? Very unlikely as hundreds of stories would suggest it was more like hard work plus a lot of acquired competence and abilities. But the good news is that these latter two are very much within your reach too.

Today we will have a look from the long-term perspective and how skills and expertise affect the most important aspects of your life.

Let’s go over some of the more telling examples.

A check you wrote to yourself

Jim Carrey grew up middle class but his family was of modest means. Still, they were very supportive of him when his first attempts in comedy weren’t going very well. At that time of doubt he did something extraordinary. He signed a contract with himself in the form of a $ 10 million check payable in… 10 years.

Seven years of professional growth passed but he never forgot about it. He had to look many times at the piece of paper with his name on it before he finally had his break with the movie “Dumb and Dumber”.

A pregnant teenage girl

American TV persona and media executive Oprah Winfrey didn’t come with a silver spoon into this world either. Her childhood was one hardship after another. She got pregnant at 14 but still managed to finish school. Eventually, she got a chance with a local TV station and then, soon after,  she was fired with the dismissive verdict “unfit for TV”.

She didn’t give up her dream and eventually her show became so popular that it is now an integral part of American TV culture.

A book advance of  30 banknotes

Joan Rowling finished “Harry Poter” in 1995 and send the manuscript right away to the top dozen or so publishers. They all rejected it and it was almost a year later when a small publishing house signed her. The advance was just £1,500.

The rest is history. The hundreds of millions of copies of the magic story made her the most famous female author of Great Britain.

“Carrie” in the wastebasket

No need to tell you whose book was that. Stephen King grew up without his father who left the family when he was only two years old. He was raised by his mother and older brother while the family was under constant financial strain and had to move across the country several times.

He started writing at a very early age. Although he had an undeniable talent he couldn’t make it right away as a writer. At some point, he was so down that he threw the copy of his first novel in the trash. It was his wife who salvaged it and made him re-do it once again. And it turned out so that “Carrie” got published a few months later. Today, with over 50 books under his belt and over 250 millions copies sold, he is one of the most popular writers in the world.

And the many more we never heard of

There are so many other people who didn’t have it always easy and yet they made it. We know about Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison and the like. There are countless more – Olympic champions, writers and inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs – who went on their “hero’s journey” to kill the dragon and return with the reward.

All of their stories are worth to be told because they are not only inspirational but they can also give us a clue what the common denominator between all of them is.

A recipe for success

Perseverance is the one indispensable ingredient.

It’s impossible to argue against that if you look at any of the many successful people. However, being steadfast becomes an advantage only if it is mixed with some other personality traits and characteristics. These are so important, in fact, that we would like to categorize them:

  • The skills related to our vision or dream – that’s what we are about to do here;
  • And those that improve the way we act – we will make this second group the topic of another article.

When you put together visualization and acting on it then you get a winning formula with great potential for change in yourself as well as everything around you.

Everyone can do it

You shouldn’t think this is beyond you! An attitude like that might simply be a manifestation of some limiting beliefs.

Your self-confidence will kick in as soon as you start working on it and will only increase with every step along the way.

So, let’s get on with it without any further ado.

# 1 The ability to visualize what you want

You can simply close your eyes and imagine what you want. Nothing stops you from doing that every single day, not just Christmas. Can you guess how helpful that will be? Well, it is very much so in several distinct ways:

What you gain

First, this will teach you how to formulate what you want in a very clear and straightforward way. No way to put a price tag on this.

Second, the mind will tune itself into searching for ways to close the “gap” between your present state and the future one where your objective is. And afterward, you will get this feeling that opportunities are being outright attracted to you.

And the third one. You will notice some positive changes in your everyday life that are of a more practical matter. At work, for example, when you may instinctively try to imagine in advance the process of running a project. As a result, you will be able to foresee the likely difficulties and other issues and thus address and resolve them beforehand.

“Every Day” is your “Open Sesame”

That’s how to open the lock box in order to get visualization and perseverance work together and to your full benefit.

Niki is one of the many who can vouch for it. He hasn’t missed his daily meditation and visualization for more than three hundred days in a roll. And the effect of these 5 minutes in the morning is beyond any argument.

We can guarantee you that the more time you spend on it the better and better you’ll get.

An ability that’s more than worth it

The yardstick which we measure everything against in our lives should always be the long-term.

“How relevant will it be for me in 20-30 years?“ That could be the litmus test for any new skill that you are thinking of must be subjected to. Would it make sense for you to do it in a few years time or it can be done by an AI, for example?

There is little else that you can use to replace the method of visualization as a life-long routine. That’s what Ivan concluded himself while at first being quite skeptical of it. Nowadays, he is incorporating it in his everyday life.

And how to learn it

This type of meditation is mastered mostly by regular exercise. It’s no more different than, let’s say, learning to drive a car.

Ivan attended a three-day seminar, read a couple of books and even took some coaching but only when he started practicing it on an everyday basis that it really made a difference for him.

Now we are going to address something much more challenging.

# 2 Finding out the answer to the “Why“

This is probably the toughest question to face, especially in the long run.

First of all, it always leads to your vision, if done right, of course. When you are 100% sure of what you are doing it means one thing only – that it is really what you want for yourself in life.

To find the right words to the “Why” questions is the only manner in which we understand what our true goals are.

The other great advantage of it is that it could open your eyes to other, better ways to reach your objectives.

And how to learn it

You can try out the following technique:

In the course of one day you start questioning every single thing you do. Why breakfast? Why work? That might look silly at first but it will surprise you how rewarding it might be.

It will confirm what you already know deep in your heart – those things that matter to you. And perhaps you will begin thinking about what you weren’t fully aware of before. Namely, if you really have found the best possible way to get what you want.

The result will be a much more streamlined day of yours filled with only those things that you really need when advancing towards your goals for family, health, career, etc.

A short detour

“Just because I feel it to be so” is a perfectly okay line of thinking. Logic is not necessarily the best way to perceive and appreciate some things.

You shouldn’t make the mistake of giving up on things that make you happy. They still have their role even if it might seem to you that they are not contributing directly to your overall movement forward. You may never become a world-renowned guitarist. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from playing if that fills you with joy and satisfaction.

Perhaps at some point, you will be able to find a connection between a hobby like that and a vision. That’s always a good thing because it means that you have opened yet another avenue towards your objectives.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

If you can not find a rational or an amotional explanation of what you do then it is only a drag and not an engine of your growth and development. That was the case for Niki who used to watch too much TV.

Well, it is obvious what your next step is. Find something better to do with your time because it is in short supply when it comes to life.

# 3 The ability to calm down and listen to ourselves

… instead of paying attention to what the rest of the world is saying or expecting from us.

This skill has a lot to do with the latter two. Only in the silence of our own self, we can hear well the good answers. Sure, it is difficult to practice it in our busy and noisy everyday life but if you manage to remove yourself from all the noise for only one minute, you will get the idea.

How does it help?

You can reach a perfect inner balance by learning how to shut down temporarily all those channels of communication that are forced on you through the worries and stress.

A peaceful mind and good mood will do miracles for your ability to concentrate. You can always keep your eyes on the ball and not get pulled away from what’s meaningful and of value.

# 4 How to know when to say “No”

It’s perhaps the most challenging of all skills but it is also far going in terms of consequences.

Because the more you progress through your life, there will be more and more interesting offers for all kind of projects and business opportunities.

If you can’t say “No” you can quickly get overwhelmed. You might also lose your sense of direction and even get completely off track.

You have to learn how to stay focused and not get sucked into every new and intriguing thing that you may encounter.

Easier said than done, right!

And how to learn it

You can do it the way Warren Buffet does it. His rule is that from a list of 25 goals you choose the top five and the rest go to a new list called “Don’t start till the first five are completed!”

Because only these few are actually in line with your vision. This plays the role of some sort of a priority filter and sets the direction of your further efforts.

The other side to the coin here

On the opposite end of the spectrum is to start something only to find out that it is not your thing.

Everyone should have experienced that situation, i.e. reading a book you don’t find very interesting and therefore wondering how long it would take till the last page. Or maybe you’d better close it and put it aside never opening it again.

There is one major distinction here. Do you give up because it would have been a waste of your time or because it is such a trial for you!

Sometimes it is so difficult

Seth W. Godin presents an interesting concept in his book “The Dip”. At the very beginning, things would go easy and you can achieve a lot driven by enthusiasm and seemingly unlimited energy. Sooner or later, though, you will run for the first time into trouble which will be the ultimate test for your motivation and will.

That’s exactly the moment of truth for you. If you can prove yourself by not giving up then you will be able to go on and build upon your success so far.

A very thin line: persistence vs. cutting your losses

It is crucial not to stop when the going gets harder and harder. However, it is equally consequential to be able to figure out what exactly drives you – perseverance or stubbornness. You can do that by assessing whether the effort and time you invest in overcoming a given problem are well oriented in the right direction.

Of course, the criteria is the long-term perspective of yours.

When you are not sure then you can do a review of your vision and think carefully about it. And only then make your mind.

This brings us to the last one:

# 5 Acting quickly and decisively

It’s an old saying that when you know where your goal is decisions are easy and giving up is hard. And when you don’t know then decisions are hard and giving up is easy.

That’s why a clear understanding of where you are going is the one thing you can’t go without on your journey.

When an opportunity comes our way,  we should always first ask ourselves not if it would be financially sound but whether we would be willing to keep doing it in the next 20 – 30 years.

You should immediately drop everything which is short-term, as well as all other knowledge and skills that are not sustainable and will not be contributing much throughout our lives.

And to summarize it all

The strategy should be to follow your vision as a guiding light at every fork in the road. This will require from you decisiveness and perseverance.

We will talk about what skills are needed for your short-term goals in our next article.

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