Align your actions around your larger goals to make life better.
Today's topic is using the big picture to keep on track. The quick and dirty tip: when something isn't working, stop, step back, and ask, "Why is this important?" Find the real goal you're after and ask how else you can achieve it.
Do your time-saving gadgets work? Mine don't. Take e-mail. It would change my life! It has. My #1 priority today was writing my podcast. It was also my #1 priority yesterday. And the day before. But here in my inbox--a great question from an entrepreneurial high-school student. Love that! I spent an hour on my answer. Oh look! Another question, this one's also from a budding entrepreneur... Six hours later, I've spent all day with e-mail, feeling productive, without the inconvenience of actually being productive. And I never even got back to the deposed Nigerian Prince who wants to send me one billion dollars. Darn!
The problem is simple: I'm human and humans do this funny thing: we make a goal, we choose a path to the goal, then we forget the goal. But we keep to the path long after it stops making sense. My time-saving gadget doesn't save time, but hey, I bought it so I have to keep using it, even if doesn't actually save time.
Solving the Solution
Say we have the goal, "Help our teenager, Jules, become a responsible adult." We decide cleaning the bedroom is a good start. If you don't have a teenager, think about your sweetie who leaves dirty glasses on the table by the couch. We say, "Jules, please clean your room." Nothing. Then, "Jules, I want that room clean." "Uh, huh. I'll do it later." Later: nothing. Then we try haranguing, bribery, blackmail, and finally, begging. And have you noticed? It's not working. And the more it doesn't work, the more we do it. We're upset.
But why? Why get upset? Jules isn't cleaning the bedroom, but that wasn't our goal. Our goal was helping Jules become an adult. Somehow, we convinced ourselves that a clean room has something to do with that. Then we forgot the real goal. And look, some adults have messy rooms. Maybe Jules is being a responsible adult. Thinking for oneself sounds pretty adult, and that seems to be what's happening. "OK," you cry. "I don't want Jules to become a responsible adult. I just want a clean room!"