The recipe for success is a complicated one. It takes a lot of talent, a little bit of luck and a relentless work ethic — but even those three ingredients won’t guarantee success. It takes one more thing, and it’s something that is often overlooked.
The one thing you can’t accomplish goals without is clarity. While there are several types of clarity — mental, physical, emotional, spiritual — mental clarity is the most vital when it comes to achieving an objective.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to obtain mental clarity. Practicing the methods below will jumpstart your productivity, declutter your life and allow you to make progress towards any goal that you set.
What is mental clarity? When I asked super-athlete and best-selling author of Finding Ultra, Rich Roll, he described mental clarity like this:
“Mental clarity is when you are deeply acquainted with your highest self. When you truly understand who you are, what is important and the trajectory ahead. Mental clarity is when your life and vocation become an extension of your best, most authentic self.”
In other words, you have to know what you want and be willing to do everything in your power to reach that goal. The key is having a clear and concise goal. Any ambiguity in your plans will ultimately lead to negative outcomes, extra steps and/or complications while trying to reach that goal.
There is a huge difference between setting a goal and wanting to accomplish something. The goal-setting process is much more than simply saying, “I want to lose some weight.” Collecting your thoughts and setting a proper goal is a lost art, like the mid-range jump shot in the NBA or having actual face-to-face conversations without looking at your iPhone.
As an AskMen reader, you’re probably an avid learner, highly spirited and very interested in becoming the best man you can be. You may have tons of ideas and plans, but aren’t quite sure how to put them all together. You don’t want to become a serial goal-setter, jumping from one unfinished venture to another.
Here is an easy, 4-step goal-setting hack that will take your efficiency to the next level. Do this once every three months. It’s a game-changer.
Grab a notebook and a pen. Put yourself in a quiet environment with no distractions. Write down literally everything you’ve ever thought about accomplishing. Do this for at least 30 minutes.
Look at everything you jotted down during your brain dump and organize each line item into a category. You can choose the categories — maybe you just choose two: wants and needs. Maybe you go a different route and separate them into categories of life, like career, fitness, relationship, finances and personal. Whatever you think is best for you and your list, use that!
While you organize these items, you’ll weed out the weak entries. Remember, a goal is supposed to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based). During the organization process you’ll run into some not-so-smart things you wrote down. Ditch them. Focus on the good stuff.
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The next step is my favorite and by far the most beneficial. This is where you prioritize everything remaining on your list. I use a strategy called the Prioritization Matrix. Take a look at each item on your list and rank it based on 1) doability and 2) impact.
Draw a graph where the x-axis represents the doability of that task and the y-axis represents the impact of that task — each on a 1 (low) to 5 (high) scale. Map the points on this graph by analyzing the impact doability of each task on your list.
Be brutally honest with yourself. When it comes to doability, think about time commitment, any expenses that you may incur and any resources you need to complete the task. As you map out the graph, the items that wind up in the top right corner will be ones with a high impact and a high level of doability. Those are the ideas that you should focus on first and foremost.
Don’t do away with the ideas that didn’t make the cut just yet. They will still need to get done, but the priority is placed on the top right corner of the graph first.
The next step is when you bring everything together and start to work towards each goal.
Now you have 4-6 great ideas that will impact your life in a major way. Create an action plan for each item. This is when you apply the SMART characteristics to each of these important ideas. Think Who? What? When? Where? Why?
For example, if one of your general ideas was, “I want to get fit,” and you determined that the impact and doability were both high, this is when you specify what “fit” means to you — do you want to lose weight or gain muscle? Remember “success” is subjective and specific to you. Your final goal may be, “I want to lose 20 pounds before my wedding on August 27, 2016.”
This goal is specific and measurable because you have an exact amount of weight you want to lose. It’s attainable and relevant because you’ve given yourself six months to do this and it directly affects your wedding day. Lastly, the goal is time-based because you’ve given yourself a deadline of August 27.
Now that you have a great goal in place, you can create a plan of attack.
- Research weight loss concepts
- Contact a weight loss or fitness specialist
- Join a gym or a hire a professional to help
- Track monthly progress, breaking the goal up into six monthly mini-goals
Follow the same guidelines for all of the major goals from the top right portion of the graph. Turn the rest of the items into a to-do list with deadlines. You can apply the SMART guidelines to those as well, if time allows.
The Big Picture
As I mentioned before, the one thing you need to accomplish a goal is clarity. What you need is a clear understanding of who you are, what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to accomplish it. The 4-step process outlined above will assist you in achieving the mental clarity you need.
When it comes to goals, any uncertainty of even the most minuscule details can lead to you slipping up on what you’re aiming for. Give yourself no room for error. Be strict and disciplined, but have fun and enjoy the journey — not just the destination. In the end, you’ll be a better, stronger and more successful man for it.