Do you try to accomplish your goals on your own? Sort of a "rugged individualism" mentality that prevents you from asking for help?
If you never ask for help, you will certainly accomplish less in life. I'm not saying you need to throw your hands up and scream "Help Me!" every time you have a goal or every time you encounter a hurdle.
I starting thinking about this today, because I need your help. I think it will be easy for you to help me, but I'll wait a few paragraphs to formally ask.
People fail to ask for help in accomplishing their goals for a number of reasons:
- Truly don't need help. Sometimes this is true. We can do it ourselves.
- Pride - asking for help, in some circles, makes you appear weak.
- Hope that help will come without asking.
- More rewarding to do it yourself. There are some goals that just plain feel more powerful when completed purely on your own. Often, this is a false perception, but sometimes it's true.
- Fear - this takes many shapes, including the fact that to ask for help, you have to tell people about your goal. That in itself is sometimes scary. "What I I fail, after telling everyone? I'll be ruined! Ah me!" But it can also be fear of rejection: "What if I ask for help and the person says 'no'?"
- Arrogance - sometimes we fail to ask for help because we believe we can do it on our own, when in reality we can't.
How To Ask For Help With Your Goals
Asking for help on an important goal is different, in some ways, from a generic plea for assistance. It's not asking for a favor. It's asking for substantive contribution towards something really important to you. Here's my checklist for asking for help with a major goal:
- Start with "I've set a goal for myself to do ________________. But I realize that there are parts of this that I can't do alone. Can I tell you more about this because I would like your help with one area?"
- Be specific with how you want them to help.
- Don't try to soften it by saying "I understand if you don't want to" or "You don't have to" or anything like that.
- If this is a truly important goal, and you sense that the asking for help will be difficult for you, then practice the asking and visualize it turning out the way you want.
- Say please. For example "Could you please email me every Tuesday morning to ask me how my run went?"
- Tell them exactly why you chose them and how their small assistance will make a big difference for you. For example "I know you are very organized, and I respect your opinion a lot, so knowing that you will be emailing me every Tuesday will be a major motivator for me to do my jog before I get that email from you!"
- Choose someone you trust. You need to trust them ethically and trust them from a skill-level, that they can actually perform the help.
- Choose someone who will also benefit, in some way, from the process.
So Now I'm Asking You For Help
Let's see if I can follow my own advice...
I've set a goal to get to 1000 registered readers of this site by June 30, 2010. But it's tough going and I can't do it alone.
But you can help. See, you already must be enjoying this site right? So you are in a great position to tell others about it.
All I want you to do is email, right now, 5 people who you think might like the site. Don't send them to this article though - this won't be as valuable to them. Send them to another article you really like. And tell them to sign up.
To make this easy, I'll include an example message below.
Getting more active readers will help you too - that means better discussions and more incentive for me to invest more time in quality articles that help you achieve amazing goals.
So can you please tell friends about this site?
Here what you can cut and paste to them:
I've been reading a cool site for goal setting. It's called The Goal Triangle. I think you'll especially like this article: http://goaltriangle.com/advanced-goal-setting/the-myth-of-the-balanced-life-success-comes-from-imbalance-not-balance/
If you like it, you should definitely register on the site - no spam or anything, just good articles once a week.
Please send this, or something like it, to 5 people you know right now! I thank you in advance!
You may have heard at some point in your life that you need to set your goals low so that you build confidence. The idea is to set your expectations low so that you won't be too disappointed if you fail. With that attitude, it's not "if" but "when" you'll fail...
I call these "lame goals" because you are already cutting yourself off at the knees by setting your sights low.
Of course, you usually don't say to yourself that you are "setting your sights low". What you say to yourself is that you want to keep your goals "realistic". Aarrggghhh! This infuriates me! That's another reason I say to skip the R (and the S and the A) in SMART goal setting and just focus on the M and the T.
While having some easy goals can help you build momentum, easy goals are really only useful as supporting goals. By that, I mean there are major goals and minor goals. Major goals have many supporting goals (minor goals) that are required along the path. I'll write more about major/minor goals in another article but here's an example:
A major goal could be "To have enough assets by 2015 that my passive income is enough to support all my basic living expenses." Then many minor "supporting goals" follow, for example "Purchase a small rental property by August 15, 2010 that is immediately cash-flow positive and that requires less than a $20k down payment." Or, as a really easy one, "Read 3 books on real estate investing by July 1." As I'll write in a few weeks, confusing your minor goals for major goals can cause major problems and limit your success.
Why Easy Goals Backfire
The problem with setting easy goals is that they easily slip into what I call the self-esteem trap – the idea of feeding your self esteem without actually accomplishing anything worth being proud of.
Setting goals that are too low or too easy undermine your true confidence. On the surface, you feel good because you “accomplished” that (lame) goal. But subconsciously, your heart and mind know you are just coasting and (again, subconsciously) you start to believe that you are incapable of achieving anything ambitious.
A Real-World Example That Hurts Individuals And Society
One real-world example area I am increasingly alarmed about that fits this description is obesity.
There are a growing number of fat people (pun intended) who are promoting the idea that being fat is ok. Actually, more than ok. It’s to be celebrated.
These are almost always people who have tried to lose fat, several times, and have given up. They believe they simply can’t do it. It’s just a belief, but they view it as fact.
Having failed at the true goal, they set a new (lame) goal of "well, I guess I'm just built this way, but I probably shouldn't get fatter". So their new goal: "Don't get fatter."
Let's say they successfully "don't get fatter". Well, they accomplished their goal. Sure, they are 300 pounds with no muscle, but hey - at least they can be proud of accomplishing their goal of not getting fatter!
In an effort to save their self-esteem, they convince themselves that fatness is ok, even good. But that’s all external show. Inside, they know they have failed. And their self-confidence is cut.
Let’s get this straight- it is not ok to be fat. It’s unhealthy and it’s selfish. That’s an internal and an external expectation there for those of you keeping track…
But what worries me most is that they have the potential to change society’s view on obesity. If kids start hearing from an early age that it’s ok to be fat. And if kids “learn” that, then they’ll grow up without any inner sense that they need to be other than fat. So it may never occur to them to have a goal related to fitness that is any more challenging that being fit enough to walk from the couch to the fridge.
Ok, let me step off the soap box and wrap up this article...
Set Non-Lame Goals
Why not set ambitious goals? What are you afraid of?
You’ve got 100 hrs a week, once you subtract sleeping, showering, eating.
Bill Gates has 100 hrs. Barak Obama. Drew Brees. Your neighbor down the road who seems ordinary but is actually rich, happy, morally inspiring, with an amazing family…
Everybody has the same 100 hours or so.
What are you spending your 100 hours on?
If you are like most of us, you spend your time about like this (and yes, I’m intentionally taking a cynical tone here so that in a few paragraphs I can shine some glorious light on the problems and make myself seem uber-insightful…):
- 45 hrs a week “half working”, going through the motions of your job, trying just hard enough to make sure you get a modest raise at your annual review, trying to not make mistakes, and neglecting to set your own goals, instead just doing whatever your supervisor directs you to do
- 5 hrs in the car, listening to junk
- 10 hrs a week watching TV, mostly off-color sitcoms or repetitive news, maybe 1 hour of pseudo-educational stuff and rarely anything that truly inspires you to become more than you are now
- 5 hours cruising the web, doing God-knows-what but rarely anything of real purpose
- Anywhere from 2 to 10 hrs hanging with friends, doing the same old things you always do
- Between 2 and 5 hrs doing household chores, and often doing them the same way you always have – inefficiently and incompletely
- 2 to 5 hours with your spouse complaining about your jobs, your kids, or your neighbors
- 2 hrs making a lame attempt at exercise, most of which is either spent doing ineffective cardio or talking to buddies in the gym, without any intelligent goals in mind
- 5 hours of unfocused time with your kids, where you aren’t really doing anything of purpose, and spend half of the time thinking about something else
- 5 to 10 hours that are simply “lost” – you honestly have no idea where they went; it’s just that when you add up your hours, you are less than 100 and you are clueless how you are losing that much time every week
So What Are Better Uses Of Your 100 Hours?
Obviously I’m going to say that it all starts with your goals: What are you trying to accomplish?
Part of The Goal Triangle philosophy is that there are 3 major areas of your life:
- Family (including friends and greater community)
- Fitness (physical, mental, spiritual – “fun” is included here too)
- Finances (including career)
If you haven’t written down your most important goals in each of these areas, stop reading right now. This article is useless if you have no goals.
Once you do have the right goals (read the other articles on this site for advice and tips on how to do so), then there’s an overly simplistic answer to the question “What should I spend my 100 hrs on?”
The answer: on doing what it takes to accomplish your goals!
It can’t be that simple can it? Actually it is. But it’s not easy. It only becomes easy after you have practiced it repeatedly. A regular review of your goals – daily, and even multiple times per day – will allow you to almost effortlessly start using your time more wisely.
So let’s revisit that list of what “most people” do with their 100 hrs. Except this time, I’m going to write it from the perspective of someone who has clear goals in multiple areas of their life.
The Goal-Oriented Way Of Spending Your 100 Hours
- 45 hrs a week working all the time you are at work, focusing on the things you want to accomplish to further your career and advance your income dramatically; not spending time at the water-cooler and not spending time on “busy work”; willing to take some risks because you know that accomplishing great things requires some risk; working with your supervisor to tie together your own goals, with her goals, and the goals of your organization
- 5 hrs in the car, listening to audio recordings that support your goals (for example, if you are a sales woman, there are countless recordings on how to improve sales; if you are a parent, you can find CDs at the library on parenting; if you have a goal centered around minimizing your angry outbursts, there are recordings for that too)
- 10 hrs a week reading books that help you learn things to accomplish your goals; if you watch any TV, it is uplifting positive shows; and you limit your news watching to just the headlines and only watch more when a truly important event is taking place
- 5 hours using the web not as “entertainment” but as a research tool to help you grow, learning more about fitness, finances, or family-oriented topics
- Anywhere from 2 to 10 hrs hanging with friends, but doing things that are both fun and growth-oriented; finding ways to inspire and challenge each other to be more
- Minimal time doing household chores because you do them so well and completely that they don’t need to be done as often; also incorporate a schedule that allows them to be done more efficiently (like batching them, or like doing them immediately when needed)
- 2 to 5 hours with your spouse brainstorming ways you can excel at your jobs, talking about your goals for your kids and the successes of your kids, or ways you can establish friendships with neighbors who are going to be fun and inspiring
- 2 hrs of focused exercise using established principles to accomplish whatever your specific fitness goals are; when you are working out, you are working out according to your plan and you don’t get distracted into socializing or slacking off
- 5 hours of time with your kids where you are focused exclusively on them, playing and talking about what is important to them (and helping them to think about the bigger picture of what they want their life to be like and setting goals around those)
- 5 to 10 hours that are available for other important goals that you’ve defined
So I ask again, what are you spending your 100 hours on?
Is your life “balanced”?
If you are one of the rare people who would answer yes, then here’s a follow-up question: how long have you been “balanced” and how long do you expect it to last?
We’re told by psychologists, talk show hosts, life-coaches, and parents that we should be seeking “more balance”.
From my experience, people who are spending their time seeking a “balanced” life fall into two categories:
a) People who have not accomplished anything remarkable, and never will, because they are constantly striving for “balance” (and are thus secretly afraid that doing what it takes to achieve true success in one area will put them out of balance).
b) People who have already achieved amazing things in one (or many) areas of their lives, and are now attending to the previously ignored aspects. Better term here would be people seeking to “rebalance”.
These are two vastly different approaches to living. And I’ll argue that the second is more admirable than the first. You see,
To accomplish truly great things, you need to seek an imbalanced life.
This imbalance I’m referring to is usually temporary. And the degree of imbalance depends on your specific goals.
But make no mistake, achievement of your most important, most ambitious goals, you need to embrace imbalance.
Let’s start with a simple example, using the three corners of The Goal Triangle: family/relationships, fitness and health, and finances/career.
Imagine trying this coming month to “balance” these. If you are accustomed to goal setting, you will quickly come up with measureable, timebound goals for this month in each area. And you’ll make some progress. But will you accomplish anything truly great, without having to “borrow” time, energy, or resources from another area?
For examples, here are three truly great (in terms of ambitious) goals for 30 days:
- Fitness: Lose 10 pounds of fat without losing muscle.
- Family: Spend extra time every day with your teenage kids (or working on strategies), beyond what you are already spending, resulting in 50% fewer arguments each week.
- Finances: Perform so well in your job, through ingenuity or extra effort, that you could ask your boss in 30 days for a 5% raise and she would grant it.
Are these the “best” goals? Maybe not, but they are all examples of amazing accomplishments for a single month.
Could anyone achieve all of them at once? Not a chance. (Ok, maybe 1 out of 1000 people could; I know I couldn’t. But later in this article I’ll share how you can accomplish them all, just not in the same month.)
In fact, each one of these is so ambitious that I would argue accomplishing even one of them would be difficult.
And doing so – accomplishing just one of them – would require some sacrifices in the other areas of your Goal Triangle. If you dedicated yourself to fat loss, you’ll need to exercise more, spend more time planning your menus, extra time doing research into food and calories, and possibly even extra time meditating to get through the emotional/mental struggle involved in losing so much fat without losing muscle!
The best-case result: your family and your work are simply “maintained” at their previous level of effectiveness. The worst case: less time and energy for your family and work, either of which hurts those corners of your Goal Triangle.
In other words, for that month, you will be imbalanced.
I’ll repeat it again, knowing that I’m repeating myself: To accomplish truly great things, you need to seek an imbalanced life.
Does That Mean The Other Areas Must Suffer?
No, it doesn’t mean that the other areas must suffer. Quite possibly, you can still accomplish small things. In the example above, while focused on losing the fat, you should still able to do your job at work. You’d still spend time with your kids. You may even make a little progress on small goals in each of those areas, but that depends on how deep you need to go into the main goal (in this case, fat-loss).
The more ambitious your goal (in terms of aggressive timelines or amazing results), the more likely other areas of your life could decline.
This is “temporary imbalance in the interest of achieving something truly great.”
How Much Imbalance Is Too Much?
Depending on your main goal, you may be willing to go deep into imbalance or not so much. There is no single formula.
Stephen Covey talks about the “emotional bank account”. The basic concept is that you are always either making deposits into or withdrawals out of your life’s key areas. With work, you are either doing things to improve your skills, relationships, and performance or you are letting those things slip a bit. With your family, you are either building stronger relationships or you are straining them. Same with your fitness.
Taking relationships as a deeper example, you can miss one of your kids’ basketball games (a withdrawal from the emotional bank account) if you’ve already been to the past three games (previous deposits into the emotional bank account). You can only withdraw what you’ve deposited. If you are taking more withdrawals than you’ve made deposits, then you are in trouble. Once an account balance is negative, it not only takes much more effort to restore good standing; you may also never recover.
I’m not advocating having a negative account balance in any area of your life. So you have to stay very aware of the impacts of your chosen imbalance. If you take the imbalance too deep or for too long, you obviously have to pull back.
So how does imbalance actually result in a greater life, full of diverse areas of achievement?
The Key To Balancing Imbalance
A simple but extremely effective way to avoid too much imbalance is this:
Cycle your imbalance.
Focus on one area, intentionally being imbalanced, for a period of time. Then switch gears to a different area, while simply maintaining the gains you made in the first area.
Over time, you are actually achieving life-long balance, even though there is never a single point in time where you are balanced. Think of it as a helix, where you are cycling around but over time climbing higher and higher because you are periodically rebalancing your life.
How Often To “Rebalance”?
I like to think of most big things in longer blocks than a month. Three months works pretty well for most ambitious objectives, because it’s enough time to accomplish truly great things but short enough that less attention to the other areas won’t do too much damage. This gives you 4 really ambitious goals to accomplish each year.
But some goals may require longer periods of imbalance. If you’ve been a horrible dad for 10 years and suddenly want to be a great dad, you are going to need to make that your primary focus for much longer than 3 months, even if that means you make little to no progress on career and fitness.
And some goals could take shorter than 3 months. For example, quitting smoking.
You’re not looking for a balanced life, you’re looking to constantly shift your balance one way then another.
And the magic of this is that once you achieve an ambitious goal, it usually is long lasting with reduced effort. You focus on learning the basics of a certain language, and then maintaining your fluency is easier than the initial learning. You focus for a few months really hard on learning everything about the right way to eat, even to the point where other parts of your life become secondary, but then you have that knowledge. It doesn’t go away. It’s like an investment.
What Goals Are Worth Being Imbalanced Over?
When you’re setting a goal that feels really ambitious, ask “Is this goal really important enough to me that I’m willing to be imbalanced as I pursue it? Am I willing to somewhat neglect other areas of my life to achieve it?”
If it is truly a great, ambitious goal, then you should feel some butterflies in your stomach as you ask those questions. Achieving great things doesn’t come easily. If you don’t feel butterflies, then maybe it’s not ambitious enough to earn the description of “truly great”.
Perhaps there’s a better big, ambitious goal to pursue. One whose achievement is worth being “temporarily imbalanced”.