Give Yourself an ‘A’

How to get the thing you want!

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This is a real rule breaker for some. You can’t just give yourself an A. You have earn your ‘A’. But bear with me as I walk you through quite a powerful formula for achieving a goal or a series of achievements.

How Does This Work?

We’ve all heard of goal setting. This is goal setting in reverse.

‘Giving an A’ is projecting into the future about a significant goal or achievement that is important to you as though you have already achieved it.

It could be any number of things. You then work backwards to determine all the things you ‘did’ to ensure you achieved the goal.

Once you’ve done that, take one step at a time, on those things that you expect to help you achieve your goal.

As you progress, things may change but if the goal is significant enough, you’ll take the time to adjust your direction, activities and attitudes to keep you heading towards your goal.

Here’s the kicker: The time frame you have set for achieving your goal will pass. The date will arrive. Nothing surer! Will you be tracking along with that timeline?

What’s your goal?

Let’s assume it is six months in the future and you have, indeed, received your “A”.

Imagine for a moment how that feels.

  • You’ve got your driver’s licence for the first time
  • You’ve lost that nagging couple of kilos
  • You’ve presented the pitch and won

Don’t skip this part. Imagine, in the future, receiving your reward: physical, mental and/or emotional.

(By the way, it’s good to define the reward too. It may be the thing itself (losing weight, getting the license) or it may be something you reward yourself with for achieving the goal (a holiday, a new thing you’ve always wanted).

Now start writing down all the things you ‘did’ to increase the chances of the ‘A’ being achieved. This can range from simple tasks (losing weight = walk/run 4km per day for 30 days (my current goal)) to taking a course and applying the key methods learnt in the course and getting feedback from a respected peer, manager, significant other.

You can do this in one of two way (maybe there’s more, let me know in the comments). You start at the end, just before the goal is achieved and work backwards.

Or, you can work forwards, taking small steps at the start to help build momentum. As James Clear said in his post today, “plan what you can do on your worst day, make it that simple!”

Take the time to plan it out. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of steps.

Another goal of mine is to learn to touch type. My goal each day is to type for “15+1”. That is, on day one I touch typed for 15 minutes. On day two it was 16 minutes (15+1) and so on. By the time 30 days is up, I am typing 45 mins per day which, I hope, will actually see me touch type more than “hunt and peck!” I am so looking forward to that level of productivity.

A note on planning: While above I have said to plan it out and I believe that is important, you may not know all the steps at first. That is okay. Lou Tice (and many others), founder of The Pacific Institute used a phrase: “Set the goal, invent the “how””. You may not know all the steps at the start. Start with a clear goal and figure to the “first of first” steps.

I work within a project framework at work and while we plan out the project step by step as much as we can, the number of changes made along the way are innumerable. No-one is upset by that, we all expect it to be the case.

If your goal is to begin a meditation practice, it might start with getting up at 5am every day (pick a time best for you) and meditate for one minute, then two, then three.

Think of your goal and work backwards, Remember you are going to be an ‘A’ student at the end of this.

The Added Benefit

The added benefit of working in this manner is we begin to act and think like ‘A’ students. Even if we have never been one.

It is quite amazing the things you will allow and not allow once you fix your mind on the goal.

I recently decided to not buy coffee at work. I was spending something like $200 per month on purchased coffees. Many for me, and many I bought for others, so may it was about $300 per month. Add that up and you’re looking around $4,000 per year on coffee!

So, in acting like an ‘A’ student in this area, I had to change my thoughts, language and behaviour. From being known at work as someone who will regularly buy coffee, I had to lower that profile. I also had to find ways of not buying the others were. I could head out with them for the social aspect but not buy a coffee and not allow them to buy me one either – as that set the expectation I would reciprocate. Which I would because it would be awkward not to.

The benefit isn’t in becoming a cheapskate who never buys coffee, it’s more than that. It’s learning how I want to behave, how I turn up at work and manage my relationships with great colleagues through a period of transition.

How do I feel each time I’m asked if I want a coffee? What will I say? Will I offend some? Do I just tell them straight out, “I’m not buying coffee for a month”?

What if I screw up?

Restart!

A goal isn’t lost completely based on a couple of backwards steps. In his book Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz said a habit begins to form around the 21 day mark. That is beginning to form as in, not set in stone. This takes time.
It’s like year 12 students being told their final exam is the most important thing they’ll do in their lives. (at least here in Australia)

And so…
Giving yourself an A is a liberating exercise. Because you get to choose what you want the A to be about. You have total control over that.

Set the goal and invent the “How”!

Write down the goal, read about it every day. I find when I do that it is easier to maintain the momentum towards the goal. When I don’t do that, I lose momentum and, if I miss long enough, I forget about the goal itself.

Here’s a tool I use when I interview candidates for a role (or am interviewed for a role):

STAR: Situation, Task, Actions, Result or, if you’re working backwards from the goal: RATS!

  • Situation – where you find yourself and not having the “Thing” – the goal.
  • Task – the overall activities you need to do to achieve the Thing!
  • Actions – mini tasks. What do you need to do to complete each Task, if there are multiple.
  • Result– the Goal or the Thing.

Lastly …
If I was figuring out the goal prior to starting the STAR approach, I’d describe the goal in as much detail as I could.

For example:
GOAL: I want to lose weight (actually x kg, be specific). I want to lose weight because … and away you go describing in as much detail for you how good this is going to be, why you want to do it and the benefits you’re going to enjoy.
And then…

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Actions
  • Result.

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