Have you ever ended up setting yourself a really compelling goal, throwing yourself into fulfilling it with all the determination you can muster and then finding yourself with nothing at all to show for your efforts?
In this article I explained how to create a Vision Board to define your end point and to give yourself a constant source of motivation.
In this other article I described how you can take 3 simple actions to achieve your goals. Desiring something with all your might isn’t enough to get results – you have to get moving and do something concrete.
Very often, though, your efforts still aren’t enough.
Perhaps you’ve already ended up taking action after action in the belief that you’re getting closer to your objective, only to realise that not only are these actions not relevant to your goal, they actually seem to be taking you further away from it.
If you think you’re giving your all but aren’t getting the results you were hoping for, keep reading and you’ll find out why.
Paige and her insufficiently useful actions for her goals.
Last week I witnessed something I’d like to share with you. I was chatting with Paige (name changed to preserve anonymity), a young woman of around 30 who has been running a financial business in Singapore for some time.
Paige told me proudly how her family had been able to launch a successful business in Malaysia, silencing their critical neighbours and ‘friends’ who hadn’t thought they could do it at all.
Following their success, Paige relocated to Singapore to further develop the business.
At first glance, Paige’s situation seems perfect. However, Paige feels that since moving to Singapore her relationship with her family back in Malaysia has deteriorated considerably.
She hasn’t been in contact with them for a year, and she would therefore like to find a way to reopen communications with her loved ones.
Because of this, she has begun a life coaching course with a colleague. If you don’t know what coaching is and what purposes it can serve, click here.
Paige tells me that every week, during her coaching sessions, she has found answers regarding her problem and, in particular, she has understood how she can deal with her internal resistances.
Yet despite her words of satisfaction, to me Paige didn’t seem content.
Me: ‘Paige, I sense that something is troubling you. What’s going on?’
Paige: ‘You’re right. Every week at my coaching sessions I increase my knowledge and understanding and I realise what I have to do to solve my problem, but the situation doesn’t seem to change.’
Paige seems sincere and genuinely interested in finding a way of breaking out of her situation. But from what she says I gather that perhaps she isn’t doing anything concrete, or isn’t doing enough, to get any real results.
Me: ‘What are you doing to solve your problem?’
Paige: ‘Well, I’ve thought a lot about the things that come to light during my coaching sessions and I find them useful. At the end of each session, I write down what I need to do.’
Me: ‘So what are you actually doing to solve the problem?’
Paige: ‘For now… well, I need a bit of time. I can’t just suddenly call my parents – I’m still deciding what to do. But in the meantime I’m not just sitting around. Every so often I reread my notes, so that I can keep in mind what to say.’
Me: ‘Paige, which of the actions you’re taking are ACTUALLY going to help you improve communications with your parents?’
At this point Paige realises that until she picks up the phone and calls her parents, her problem will remain a problem.
Reading her notes or creating imaginary scenarios for the phone call won’t help her reach her goal, as long as she hasn’t yet made the decision to actually call her family.
Essential actions, helpful actions and unhelpful actions
Paige’s case shows an example of actions that contribute towards a goal, but that in reality are not genuinely helpful in obtaining concrete results.
In her situation, it’s essential that Paige communicates with her parents, whether by phone, email, WhatsApp or any other means. As long as she limits herself to rereading her notes or thinking about what to say, she won’t get any tangible results.
In general, actions can be split into three different categories. For convenience, let’s call them X, Y and Z actions.
- X actions: These are all the actions that are essential and critical for reaching your objective. If you don’t perform these actions, you won’t be able to get your desired result. These actions are crucial for the fulfilment of your goal.
- Y actions: These are all the actions that support the X actions. They are helpful, but in themselves are NOT essential to fulfilling the objective. They can help you to prepare for the X actions, but alone they are not enough.
- Z actions: These are all the actions that are not at all connected with the result. Generally, they are distractions that cause you to waste time and are not relevant to your primary goal.
Paige’s actions so far fall mainly into the Y category. Reading notes and preparing herself mentally for the phone call are certainly useful activities, but alone they aren’t enough to obtain her desired result.
In her case, examples of X actions would be calling her parents, sending them a message, communicating her feelings, maintaining regular contact, etc.
If Paige had decided to look at photos of her childhood and drift off into fond memories of old times, this would be a Z action – completely irrelevant to achieving her goals.
Still not reaching your goals?
If Paige were to continue to perform Y or Z actions, she would never achieve her goals. She might believe herself to be doing something, but she would continue to feel troubled and unfulfilled.
Here are some examples of X, Y and Z actions in other situations:
Objective: Create a website
E.g. of X action: Publish content on the site
E.g. of Y action: Acquire a web domain, configure the graphics, create texts to publish, etc.
E.g. of Z action: Read email, browse Facebook, chat with a friend, etc.
Objective: Lose 3 kg
E.g. of X action: Do physical exercise and reduce calorie intake
E.g. of Y action: Join a gym, choose a suitable diet, buy low-calorie foods, etc.
E.g. of Z action: Flick through sportswear catalogues, daydream, complain, etc.
As you can see, the Y actions are helpful for achieving the X actions, but in themselves they’ll never be enough to fulfil the identified goal.
The next time you end up failing to reach an objective, ask yourself:
- How many X actions am I actually performing?
- How many of them are Y actions?
- How many are in fact Z actions?
If you waste time and energy doing things that don’t bring you closer to your objective (Z actions), your motivation will fall and you’ll easily be persuaded to give up.
If, on the other hand, you concentrate on Y actions and, in particular, on X actions, the likelihood of reaching your desired result will be much higher, as will your levels of motivation and satisfaction.
It all comes down to this simple and effective principle:
Whatever your objective may be, the more X actions you are able to perform, the quicker you’ll succeed in reaching it.
So every time you get ready to do something, remember to ask yourself:
Is this an X action?
If the answer is no, ask yourself what would be a more useful action, an action that would really enable you to move closer to your desired goal. Remember that Y actions are very useful and you’re right to be taking them, but alone they’re not enough.
Here we are at the end of this article. If you’ve found it useful, please ‘like’ it and share it, so that you can help other people achieve their goals. To receive further tips and suggestions, you can also follow ThreeSixtySkills on Facebook.
I’ll leave you with a question: What is your objective and what is the X action you are doing to fulfil it? Share your response below ;)
See you next time!