My dad would often make pithy statements that made me think. One day, he asked “Do you want to be one among nine or one among ten?”
Reading my puzzled look, he went on after a brief pause “Imagine there’s a horse race with ten horses, and you are one of the jockeys. Do you want to be one among nine or one among ten?” he said, repeating his question.
Then he explained, “Only one horse and rider will win the race. That’s one among ten. The rest are one among nine. You have to decide before you begin, why you want to be the jockey who is one among ten?”
It was lesson that remains etched forever. The idea of being committed to a goal from the start took root in those early years and has been there since. There’s a subtle, but important, point about commitment… my dad’s comment was about the why. Not the how; the how adapts to circumstances. The why doesn’t alter; if I am truly convinced about my motivation, it should endure. Otherwise, it’s clear that my goals are superficial.
So how do I “connect” with my motivations and stay on track? Here’s a process that’s worked for me:
- Brainstorm. This is a key first step because often I am not clear what I really want. About once or twice a year, I jot down what I want to accomplish. I just let the ideas flow and vigorously write down everything that pops.
- Prioritize. Second I analyze… I organize my list into two things – desires vs. objectives. Desires are just that; for example, some day I’d like to visit New Zealand. Objectives are different; I am willing to put effort toward to accomplishing them. This is where motivation comes in. Once I’ve got my objectives clarified, I’ll also put a couple of timeframes – 6 months vs. 5 years. I’ll cut my list down to about 3-5 (max). BTW, check out Patty Azzarello’s book “Rise” and blog for “Ruthless Priorities”. Ruthless priorities are things you can’t live without. Scoping my list to ruthless priorities is both clarifying and liberating!
- Track. This is the hard part, but it comes down to being honest with myself. I try not to get too focused on the everyday, but if I let a week slip by without having done anything to one of the objectives on my list, I know I am in trouble. I draw upon my motivation to force myself to self-correct.
- Rinse and repeat. I keep going back to the brainstorm step at least once a year. So I start fresh every time. Surprisingly, a few things always stay the same. But a few things have evolved over time, partly because I’ve accomplished what I wanted, and partly because they don’t matter anymore.
What’s your formula? How do you decide why you want to be one among ten?
Photo: Gabby Canonizado, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License