Before we start today’s post, take a moment to answer the following questions.
- Do you have any goals?
- Are they specific and measurable?
- Do they have any deadlines?
- Are they written down?
- What are the actions that you took in the last 24 hours and in the previous week toward your goal?
Those questions reveal your approach to goals. I hope you have answered “yes” to the questions from 1 to 4, and take at least one action toward your goal every day.
If not, promise yourself to write down at least one specific, measurable goal with a deadline after you read this post and take action toward it every day until you achieve it.
Working toward Your Goals from a Different Angle
Those are the basics of setting and working toward goals. Today, we’ll go one step forward. We’ll look at working toward goals from an entirely different angle.
Today’s advice comes from two billionaire investors, Charlie Munger and Ray Dalio. Charlie Munger calls it inversion and Ray Dalio explains it in his book Principles.
It’s a two-step approach to working toward your goals.
- Determine what keeps you from realizing a goal.
- Eliminate it.
When we think about working toward our goals, we think about taking action toward them. This approach is excellent, and it’s a necessary part of achieving our goals. However, it doesn’t address an essential ingredient of life: obstacles.
Find and Eliminate Roadblocks
When working toward our goals, it’s inevitable that we’ll hit roadblocks. Taking action when we don’t have any obstacles is the easy part. What separates successes from failures is how we deal with the roadblocks.
Sometimes, these roadblocks are so subtle that we don’t even recognize them, but they effectively prevent us from reaching our goal. When you take action toward your goals and still can’t accomplish them, ask yourself the following question.
What keeps you from reaching your goal?
Your answer to that question is your roadblock. You need to eliminate those roadblocks to achieve your goal.
How can you eliminate that roadblock?
The answer to that question requires a different set of skills compared to working toward your goal.
You can formulate your version of the question as a problem and use your problem-solving skills on it.
Find the Root Cause of the Roadblock
The first step to eliminate the roadblock is to find its root cause. You can do that by using the 5 Why’s Technique. Answer the following question.
Why do you have this roadblock?
You might come up with one or more answers. Now, ask the same question for each answer. Do this until you go five levels deep.
If you go five levels deep, you’ll have a clear picture of what keeps you from reaching your goals. Maybe, one of those obstacles will stand out among others. That would be the root cause. Maybe, a set of them will stand out. Then, those are the root causes.
You have to eliminate the root cause or causes to achieve your goal.
Now, take one of the root causes, and write down 20 solution ideas. Think about this as a brainstorming session. You don’t need to come up with great ideas at this moment. Just flex your creativity muscles to come up with 20 solutions. They could even be silly answers.
If you complete 20 solution ideas, you’ll see that one or two of them are excellent ideas.
The Ideal Solution
In this step, go over all the ideas you’ve generated in the previous step and try to come up with an ideal solution. Imagine you didn’t have any external or internal limitations. Imagine you had virtually infinite resources and no inhibitions. What would be the ideal solution?
Write the ideal solution with as many details as possible.
Come Up with an Action Plan
The last step is to come up with a detailed action plan. In this step, we’ll write down a realistic version of the ideal solution that we can apply in practice.
The realistic version has to be applicable in practice, but at the same time, as close to the ideal version as possible.
First, write down an outline of a few steps. Then go over each step and break them down into smaller steps. Keep doing it until you come up with action items that you can carry out right away.
The default way of working on our goals is to take action toward them directly. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but sometimes, we hit subtle and not-so-subtle roadblocks that keep us from making progress toward our goals.
If we don’t make any progress toward our goal no matter how hard we work, it’s time to take a break and look for the roadblocks that keep us from reaching our goals.
Once we determine them, we can formulate the roadblocks as problems and use our problem-solving skills to eliminate them.
When we eliminate the roadblocks, the achievement of our goals becomes inevitable.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.