Walter Palmer’s Choice

If you truly want to live the life of your dreams, you’re going to make some choices along the way that you never saw coming.

There’s been a lot of interest over the last week or so regarding the death of Cecil the lion.  I’m going to touch on it because it illustrates the enormous power of choice and also in part, the morality of your success that you’re going to face sooner or later. If you truly want to live the life of your dreams, you’re going to make some choices along the way that you never saw coming.  These are going to be choices with consequences that you didn’t expect, and the more you understand about how choices work the better prepared you’ll be.

…the more you understand about how choices work, the better prepared you’ll be.

My interest in the case is this:  Walter Palmer has inadvertently become the subject of internet vitriol and hatred, and it’s going to be the ruin of more than just him if it continues.Cecil was an African lion who was killed by an American named Walter Palmer.  There is a ton of information available on the internet about the incident, so I’m not going to go into the details here.  Partly that’s because I don’t want to sway your opinion about the incident itself, and partly it’s because if you really want to know what’s going on you’ll read several different accounts and then decide for yourself how to approach this and any other major issue.

If you’ve read The Right Question or basically any other article on this blog, you’ll know how much I respect the fact that every single thing you do or say is a choice.  Whether you like it or not (most people don’t like it, and most people aren’t successful, either.  Not a coincidence) the fact is that the choices we make, expanded over a lifetime, decide our fate.  Charles Noble hit the nail on the head when it comes to choices when he wrote that “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”

This means that choices are something to be valued, and the ability to make good choices is a skill, a talent, an ability worth developing.

…the ability to make good choices is a skill, a talent, an ability worth developing.

It also means that there is honor and maturity displayed in making the right choices.  And on some level, we all know that.

That’s the reason why we can all go into a theatre and sit there with a bunch of strangers in total darkness.  We’re living by an unspoken code of conduct and behavior, a choice we’re all making to get along with each other so that we can enjoy the movie or performance without interfering with someone else’s enjoyment of it.  It can be a fine line sometimes between what you consider fun and what someone else considers annoying, but we all learn that as we go.

When we can’t seem to make those choices, we have people step in and do it for us.  When we’re children, these people are our parents.  In adulthood we call them lawmakers.  Bureaucrats.  Politicians.  Basically, anyone but you.  They’ll decide what happens to you if you don’t behave.  These are people who have made choices that have put them in a position to be able to limit yours.  You’re grateful when they choose not to, and you dislike it when they do.

Here’s how it relates to poor old Cecil the lion and his accidentally famous killer:
There is no law against anyone reading this blog going out and killing a lion.  Nothing at all.  And there shouldn’t be.  Because it’s face it, why the hell would you go out and kill a lion?  Why bother making a law about something like that in the first place?  I mean, who kills a lion anymore?  Call me naive here, call me an old-fashioned gentleman, but is anyone going to eat him? Is his hide of any practical use? His paws aren’t going to be used for making glue, such as horses’ hooves are.  He has no tusks.  To the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, he’s got nothing of practical value that is commercially attractive at all.

Even though there are many areas of the world where wildlife can be a danger, Palmer was too cowardly by far to genuinely place himself in harm’s way.  His choice to exercise the right to kill a lion exemplifies everything that’s wrong about the abuse of free will and power of choice.  And therein lies the reason why he is screwing everybody else over.  By exercising the right to do so, he gives other people with the right to but who choose not to, a bad name.  Do you follow?  I’m assuming you’re a non-lion-killing sort of person.  I’m definitely one.  I’d love to shoot a lion one day, but only with a damn fine camera.  You and I have the right to go shoot a lion, and that’s nice.  But why would we?

I’ve nothing against big game hunting, as long as there is value in the kill beyond the experience sought by the hunter.  I know people who hunt.  They obtain permits to do so, for animals such as moose and deer.  The hunters kill their quota, and they enjoy an overflowing freezer full of healthy game that has never seen a processing plant.  The game has never had preservatives sprayed on it, injected into it, has never been plumped up with water to fetch a higher price when sold by weight; the animal itself grazed freely and reproduced as its ancestors have done for hundreds of years.  I don’t know anyone who hunts bears but I’ve met a few, and I spent an enjoyable afternoon once chatting with a hunting guide whose sole occupation was guiding bear hunters.

One of the more interesting insights I’ve had into wildlife population control was when I picked up two Bavarian hitchhikers on a trip through the Canadian Rockies.  They asked about bears in North America and related how a bear was seen near their town back home.  They said that the authorities shot it.

“Why?” I asked.  “Did it attack someone?”  No, they answered, it’s just that people are nervous knowing there’s a bear around.  The local wildlife authorities didn’t have the knowledge to transport it elsewhere, so they simply shot it to assuage common fears of bears.  To me, that’s every bit as lazy and abhorrent as what Palmer did, but you don’t see people up in arms over that.

All laws were made because somebody with the power of choice decided to make that law.  They had freedom and used it to limit yours.

If we vilify Walter Palmer for killing a lion, we invite lawmakers to interfere.  They’ll side with the indignant masses, and they’ll make it illegal to hunt lions.  And do you know what result that will have?  It will mean that you and I will have one fewer freedom than we do now.  Who cares if it’s a freedom we’ll never use?  All laws were made because somebody with the power of choice decided to make that law.  They had freedom and used it to limit yours.  And you and I, responsible people who would never have pointlessly killed, may not even have the right to shoot an animal with a camera.  And this brings me to why it is that choices are so wonderful.

There will always be people such as Walter Palmer who push the envelope of what we all consider common standards of behavior and conduct, a larger version of the standards that allow us all to go into a darkened theatre and get along with each other long enough to enjoy the performance.  But in a world where we all avoid killing animals because it’s a law, the honor inherent in making the right choice is completely eliminated.  Now we aren’t sure if our neighbour isn’t killing lions because he’s a good person, or if it’s solely because of his fear of punishment.  And that means that we can’t pay tribute to each other’s choices in the same way anymore.  The entire point of having freedom of choice gets belittled.

Success is more a matter of making the right choices in a practical way than it is a constant moral judgment, but your choices stem from your beliefs. And every time the opportunity to choose is eliminated, you lose the ability to practice making decisions. You risk losing sight of your beliefs. And if you can’t choose success, you’ll never be successful.

What You Can Learn from Fantasy Island

One of the TV shows I grew up with was called Fantasy Island. Has anyone ever pointed to the sky and said, “De plane! De plane!”? If so, they were mimicking the most famous yet least important part of the show – namely, Tattoo pointing to the twin-engine floatplane about to arrive with another batch of unsuspecting fantasy-seekers.

The premise of the show was pretty simple: Guests would come to the island having laid out major money for their fantasy to come true. And over the ensuing weekend, it would. The host, Mr. Rourke, played by Ricardo Montalban, and his sidekick Tattoo would see to that.

For example, one lady who showed up wanted to be a world-class figure skater. She’d dabbled on the duck ponds in Minnesota, but with the pair of skates that Mr. Rourke gave her she was able to beat the best figure skater there was.
Another guest wanted to be an accomplished pianist. With the ring bestowed upon him by the management, that’s exactly what happened.

But there was something almost upsetting about the ease with which these fantasies would come to life. The man longing to be a trapeze artist so he can marry the girl in the troupe rubs magic powder on his hands, and suddenly he circumvents all the years of training that go into becoming good at it. Doesn’t really sound fair, does it?

…the fantasy would never come true in the way the guest imagined.

Well, the fantasy would never come true in the way the guest imagined. I suppose you saw that coming, right? Otherwise there’d be no story.

In each case, the person with the fantasy was faced with a decision. The entire TV series can be summed up with the expression “be careful what you wish for”.

I touch on this kind of thing in The Right Question, and it’s perfectly valid. Your dreams will come true, but almost never in the way you imagine. That’s just simply what happens when things are lost in translation between the request you send out and the resources you have available for the request to be fulfilled. And it was no different for the guests on Fantasy Island. The guests’ dreams came true, but never in the way they thought they would.

Between the time they arrived on “de plane” and the time they left, they would have to face a truth about their desire. Something about it would take a toll on their conscience, and they would be asked…well, they’d be asked the Question.

If you don’t believe me, dial in a few episodes wherever you watch old tv shows. You’ll see exactly what I mean. Sometime during the course of their fantasy coming true, the character would realize that contained within their fantasy was the seed of an unresolved internal conflict.

Usually, the basis for the desire behind a fantasy was that it represented something they’d never had in their real lives. An insecurity, a feeling of failure or at least having never succeeded, permeated their lives and they wanted to make up for it somehow. Or they wanted to take an ability or talent, or at least the idea that they had an ability or talent, and parlay it into something grand – being a famous author or movie star, or something similar.

I’ve always found it interesting that no matter how little talent an individual has, they can amass great fortunes with it.

If you surf YouTube long enough you’ll see one video after another of people with incredible talent who aren’t making a dime from it. Then look for those who are famous and rich, and the number of those people with genuine talent is, well, let’s just say it isn’t high.

What makes the difference? Obviously those with more money than talent do know something that the talented but broke people don’t. So do I, and I’ll teach it to you. It’s called the Right Question.

It isn’t that having a fantasy come true is bad, it’s that there is a price to be paid for everything. I’m not the kind of person who believes that some things are better left as fantasies. Far from it. I think that whatever you want in life wants you just as bad, and you should pursue what you want until you get it.

Just for fun, let me lead you through a weekend on Fantasy Island. You board a seaplane at a tropical airport, and after a flight of indeterminate time you touch down on the water at a small tropical island. You’re greeted by your host, who assures you that your fantasy has already begun to come true.
Let’s say you want to be an author. He shows you the novel with your name on it, already a bestseller on a continent you don’t live on. Sounds great, right?

Now it strikes you that you’re not the one who actually wrote the book. It’s a fantasy. You aren’t sure who wrote it, but it wasn’t you. And now, all the adulation from your fans on the island feels hollow, and you feel like an impostor. Or…or perhaps you are indeed happy that all the years of your struggling as a writer have finally paid off, no matter how it came about, and now you want to take all that your new-found fame has to offer.

…no matter what, you’re going to make a choice about what you say you want.

Either way, there is going to be something you’re going to have to deal with. Either the feeling of being an impostor will make you rise to the challenge, or you’ll decide that fame is not for you. Either you’ll love the feeling of accomplishment as a writer, or you’ll find yourself choosing between the love of writing and the burden of fame it brings. But no matter what, you’re going to make a choice about what you say you want.

Something to note is that the real nature of the decision wasn’t so much what the character wanted as…well, the answer to the Question.

I’ll say it again in a slightly different way – it didn’t matter what the person wanted. The issue at hand was watching them find the answer to the Question. And the same is true of you. Succeeding in life isn’t a matter of what you want. The only thing relevant to whether you’ll live your dreams is whether or not you use the Question.

But once you learn it, why don’t you watch an episode of Fantasy Island and see for yourself what’s involved? Trust me, it’s a piece of cake. And just like in the show, every ending is a happy ending.

The Question is the Answer

Have you ever really gotten an answer?

Statistically, you’ve bought several self-development programs, courses, or ebooks.  And although all of them have taught you something valuable, I’ll bet none of them ever really encouraged you to think.

That’s because they all pretend to give you answers.

I say they ‘pretend’ to give answers because they have no real idea just what your problems are, yet they all provide answers.  To questions you haven’t even asked!  And when it comes to things like setting goals, they all say the same things.

Well, I did those things.  And I never really reached any of my goals doing it that way.

Not until I added the Question.

Many self-help gurus are pretty comfortable giving advice and telling you what you should do.  Weight loss and diet gurus do the same thing.  So do financial gurus.  “You should stop eating this, start eating that, invest in this, invest in that.”

Quite often, we feel that we need answers but don’t know where to start simply because we don’t know where we are, and it’s easy to think we need somebody to tell us.  But as long as you know where you want to end up, it doesn’t matter where you start.

The only thing that has ever led humanity out of the darkness and into the light is our ability to think, and to use our imagination.  It is what separates us from animals, what gives us possibilities, what helps us understand, what empowers us.  Thinking solves problems that are created by those who don’t bother thinking.

But here’s the interesting thing:  Thinking is a decision.

It’s something we decide to do.  When somebody else takes over, provides answers, takes charge, are you secretly relieved that now you don’t have to think anymore?  You’ve probably noticed that those who think are criticized more often than those who don’t bother.  Not thinking is a great way to avoid responsibility.  But it also means that we aren’t seen as trustworthy, independent, or worthy of respect.  And it certainly isn’t going to help us succeed at anything.

The great thing about the Question is that it’s something you can ask yourself silently, think about silently, and come up with answers to silently.  Nobody has to know.  It’s just you and the Question and one minute of your time, and then you move on in whatever direction you chose.

This means that YOU are the one who gets to provide the answers.  Once you’ve asked the Question, you get to understand what your own opinion is of what’s going on around you.  You get to finally see where you stand with yourself.  You’ll realize that you really do have all the answers inside you, and you can ask the Question about even the smallest aspect of your life.  With a tiny bit of practice, you’ll be applying it to bigger and bigger things.  And you’ll wonder why nobody ever told you this before.

It’s also obvious to me every time I see someone succeeding at something – anything at all – that they’ve asked the Question, and their success is the result of the answer.  And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about somebody running for President or running for the elevator, the question is the same and the answer depends on the individual.

That’s why the answer is never a wrong answer.  Isn’t that beautiful?

I was standing in a bookstore the other day, at the self help section, leafing through a book written by a now-famous human rights activist, Bob Goff.  He has done some great work in his life.  I can tell you right now that his book is decent and worth reading.  But I can also tell you that there’s one thing he didn’t say, one thing you’ll find nowhere else but here…

His success is a result of The Right Question, the most powerful sentence in the world.  The one sentence that every single successful person has ever asked – and the answer to which has also explained every failure.  It’s all you need.

The Question is the Answer.

Apply Your Laziness To Get Things Done

You know you need to get started – or keep going, or finish up, or whatever. You know you have work to do, but you just…

don’t

feel like it.

Well, join the club. Everyone feels like that sooner or later. For some it’s a daily occurrence, for others it’s rare, but it visits us all.

Now, I’m a big fan of the kind of thinking that advises us to just push past it (or through it, or whatever) and act in spite of those feelings of lethargy, or anger, or fear. I think there’s a lot to be said for feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

However, I’d like to offer a method of getting yourself engaged in your projects that takes this a step further. It’s a fun and easy mental trick that anyone can play, and it connects you to yourself in a way that feeling the fear and doing it anyway just can’t offer.

I’ve written many times that avoidance of a task usually indicates fear, but asking yourself, ‘What am I afraid of?’ can only take you so far. Because remember, understanding ‘why’ isn’t going to get you results. Only action does that.

What I propose is this: Absolutely embrace that lethargy, or fear. And apply those feelings to your task. Do your task lazily, do it fearfully, but do it. Approach your task knowing and fully understanding that you don’t feel like doing it, and embrace that feeling.

You see, you don’t have to jump for joy at the prospect of cleaning the house or coding bugs out of your app. You just need to do it. So next time you don’t feel like mowing the lawn, ask yourself the Question and realize that you’re going to do it anyway. So, just slowly and lazily start it. Push it like you’re trying to move a mountain. Complain loudly if you like. If it’s a writing project, sit down and write, “I don’t feel like writing. I am lazy today, and I just want to watch crazy cat videos all day.”

You’ll find that you get something accomplished by doing it this way, which is more than you can say for avoiding the task altogether. You might not actually push that mower any faster. You might only get half of it done before you call it quits. You might only write one paragraph, but as you write down all the reasons why you don’t feel like writing, inspiration may just pounce on you and help you produce the best work you’ve ever done.

At the end of the day when you reflect on what you’ve accomplished, you’ll be able to say you at least got something done, which is more than would have happened if you’d completely avoided your work. You didn’t have to like it, but you did it. Tomorrow there will be less to do, less distance between you and your goal.

I’d say that’s worth doing something lazily, wouldn’t you?

And along the way, you’ll have used the most powerful sentence in the world. Next stop: Global domination!

Why We Hate Happy People

Yet another of life’s many ironies is that we all want to be happy, whatever that means to us, yet many of us secretly resent those who already are.

Maybe it’s because we feel they’ve discovered a secret we don’t know, or maybe we assume they have already ‘made it’ when we’re still struggling, or maybe we just think they need to be taken down a notch. Maybe we think (or know) that their happiness isn’t the result of anything we did, and let’s face it, we all like to be the reason someone smiles. If they’re happy whether we’re around or not, perhaps it means they don’t need us, and that might be an uncomfortable realization.

Regardless of what we tell ourselves, there is one thing behind it, and it’s easy to define. Therefore it’s easy to deal with it, and when people envy you for your happiness you’ll know what’s really going on.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of happy people is the absence of its corollaries. Think about what happy people aren’t – they aren’t angry, they aren’t worried, and they aren’t afraid, regardless of the state of their health or finances. And when you think about how nervous and unhappy many people are, this comes into closer focus.

The absence of worry or fear indicates that something’s going on in that person under the surface that we’re all working towards. It tells us that this person has confidence and self control. No matter what may happen, this person knows that they’re able to roll with it.

Inwardly, many people who appear happy are fighting the same battles anyone else is. They have bills to pay too. They’ve got medical issues, family troubles, they’re recovering from heartbreak or some setback or other, just like you are. But they aren’t letting it bring them down, and that indicates that they’re drawing on some resources that are available to you too.

People don’t like happy people because often we interpret happiness as self control and confidence, and the presence of a concomitant threat that happy people could control others too, even though a truly happy person has no need to control others at all. That degree of confidence inspires jealousy.

To those who don’t experience happiness much or often, there’s somewhat of a mystery to it. But it’s easy to explain.

Happiness isn’t just the absence of worry or fear. Actually, it has more to do with being immersed in the moment than anything else. Think about the times in your life when you were happiest. The moments you felt the most joy. I can guarantee that they are moments when you were just letting yourself feel what was wonderful about the situation you were in. You were on a date with somebody wonderful, or you were feeling the ocean breeze on a long-awaited vacation, or you were watching your child or spouse or good friend do well and celebrating with them. Maybe you were just inhaling the fragrance of a flower. Whatever it was, that moment is what everyone’s chasing after. That’s happiness.

It’s only elusive if you allow fear and worry to seep in, but it isn’t the opposite of those things. It’s what replaces them when they’re gone, but it isn’t the other side of that coin. Happiness is something of its own, and it will gladly come to you as well.

To experience happiness, first remind yourself that you’re not in charge of the world’s problems. No one person is. Celebrate when those you love succeed. This way you’ll join them in that feeling instead of letting it drive a wedge between you.

It’s difficult to learn how to drive worry and fear away, but it can be done and the rewards are astounding. You’ll still have bills to pay and problems to overcome, but one key difference is that this time you will be in a more resourceful state of mind, able to deal with your problems so much better.

You see, happiness isn’t just a nice warm glow. It puts us in a state where we are acting from a position of power because we aren’t being dictated to by negative emotions. It allows us to enjoy being powerful, and to associate with powerful people who won’t feel as though we just seek their company to gain something.

Happiness is not only a wonderful feeling, it’s an essential tool for dealing with adversity. So don’t hate happy people. Help the world out by being one of them.

Ask the Question every morning, before every task, before everything you do, and you’ll never go wrong.

The Bucket List Accomplishment Week

I’ve heard it said that most people overestimate what they can do in a week and underestimate what they can do in a year.  I couldn’t agree more.

Zorbing? I just put “find out what Zorbing is” on my bucket list. Image from abackpackerstale.com

I like a new week, that’s how I roll.  I like Sunday night because I’ve clicked the odometer again.  There’s a good mile behind and a good mile yet to come.

If you’re the kind who keeps a bucket list, do you ever marvel at how overwhelming it looks?  Mine is still three pages long and in some places the handwriting is so tiny that only I could ever decipher it.  There are arrows pointing to items that are related to each other, point-form lists in margins, you name it.  It’s the same paper it was written on when I was in grade twelve, before they were even called “bucket lists”.  Even when I cross things off, I still have yet to toss the paper out because there are things on every page I have yet to do.

One thing that has helped tremendously is to view a year as nothing more than a sequence of weeks.  This sounds pretty obvious, but here’s the thing:

I tried breaking it down into smaller chunks, with a daily approach, but that didn’t fit the way I do things.  Nor did it help to view goals on a monthly basis.

A week is a small enough period of time to manage in your head, and not so far away that it’ll never get here.  If it’s Monday and you’re gearing up for something to happen on Thursday, it’s a lot easier to work it backwards and know what you have to do now in order to reach that stage.  I’ve noticed, however, that by the time I start thinking in terms of the month ahead, I lose focus.  And when it comes to a year, forget it.  I do have things planned out on a dry-erase calendar eight months from now such as “…by now we should have contract firmed up with Carib island” and here’s why:

There’s a huge difference between focus and action in the sense that your focus lies down the road, in the future, but you can only take action in the present.

When a year has gone by and you’re thinking about all the things you wanted to do over the past year but didn’t, I’ll guarantee that although your long-term focus may need to be adjusted, it’s your short-term action strategy that’s the problem.  If you’re overestimating what you can do in a week, you’re going to be that much more prone to give up when what you want doesn’t immediately appear.  You’ll get frustrated and quit, or worse, if you can’t do it in a week you won’t even bother trying.  You’ll still want what you wanted before, but your actions were miscalculated, and now it seems as though what you want is never going to come.

Don’t let this happen to you.

It’s great to plan your life out a year in advance.  Hell, don’t stop there.  Do you have a five-year plan?  That seems to make people feel good, a five-year plan.  Never mind that things have happened to you in the last five years that you never could have seen coming, and could have dealt with a lot better if you’d been thinking of your week instead of your year.

Here’s the thing:  If you put a dollar in a jar every year, at the end of the year you’d have $365, obviously.  Do it every day and it’s a habit, you don’t have to think about it.  Coming up with seven dollars a week requires only a tiny bit more thought – the perfect amount, in my view, because the thought it requires makes you stop and assess where you are versus where you want to be.  It takes a few minutes, then you continue on.  But at the end of the year, if you’ve done nothing, now you’re scrambling to find $365 and thinking to hell with it.  And another year down the tubes.

One year is going to come and go whether you like it or not.  One year of surprise job offers, breakups, new dates, all kinds of things you had everything from a huge hand to no hand in planning.  But one thing I can tell you is that it’s going to come at you one week at a time.  Learn how to manage a week, and do that fifty-two times, and suddenly your year has made a lot more sense.

Download The Right Question and you’ll never have this problem again.

 

TRQ gets an interesting mention…

One thing I’ve noticed that people have in common who berate themselves for being unsuccessful is that they don’t take action.  It seems to me that they’re waiting until they want to do something about it before they take that action, but because they feel that everything is futile, they know that they’re never going to want to take action towards a better life because it means that they would have to have a certain degree of faith in a positive outcome before they even bothered trying.

It came to my attention that someone had posted a short mention of my book on a website called http://www.imatotalloser.com/.  I had never heard of this site before and I read through it.  If you haven’t been there, trust me it’s an eye-opener.

It’s a very simple website, not choked up with ads or anything.  It’s basically a blog site where anyone can vent their troubles to the world at large.  If you feel that nothing is working, you go to imatotalloser and share your story.

The post that TRQ was mentioned in was several months ago. If you read the post you’ll see why I’m flattered in a rather…unique way, you could say.  But I’m glad that the person who wrote it found some value in my book, and I want to address more about it.

Imatotalloser is crammed full of very similar stories.  The details vary but the underlying philosophy behind why the contributors feel that they’re losers is strikingly similar.

First, there’s contempt for themselves because they aren’t contributing anything.  A lot of the posts are just one person after another saying how they can’t seem to get their act together.  Some of them are getting good grades, some aren’t, some are married and wish they weren’t, others aren’t married but wish they were, but they are in the same boat in the sense that they just can’t bring themselves to be productive members of society.

Another thread running through them is a feeling of hopelessness, as though there is no point in wanting anything or working towards anything.

In my view, these two things are inextricably linked.

We all know that we respect people who take action.  They may be the wrong actions but we usually don’t know that until later.  People who do nothing don’t earn respect.  Obviously there is a part of our psyche that knows very well that taking action is something that mentally and emotionally healthy people do.

But who wants to take action when there is no faith that things will turn out the way we want?  And if there’s no faith that things will turn out the way we want, then why would we bother doing something in the first place?  This goes back to the entire reason why I wrote The Right Question in the first place – the fact is, it’s pointless to wait until we want to take action.  Because if our lives aren’t working, it’s going to be a very, very long wait.

Instead, ask The Right Question, spend a minute or two on the answer, and you’ll never post to a site like that again.

Reverse Engineering Your Life

If you were to take a look at what you wanted your life to look like from the perspective of who you were five years ago, what would you see?  Would you see dreams come true, goals achieved, things basically tracking on schedule?  Or would you see a graveyard of your desires?

It’s always awful when we don’t get what we want, but it’s sometimes even worse when we do.  Mostly this is due to what I call Damage to Desire, which I explain in The Right Question.  But what’s a good way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

One relatively easy way to turn a dream into a goal and then achieve it is to reverse engineer it.

For the mechanically uninspired, reverse engineering is a complex-sounding term for simply starting at the completion of your goal and working backwards from there to today.  You place a date on a calendar by which you’d like to see it happen, make your best assessment of what’s required to get it, and decide what you need to do on a daily or weekly basis in order to make it happen in that time frame.

Reverse engineering isn’t a new idea, and you’ve likely thought of it yourself if you haven’t actually done it, but when you apply the Right Question to it you see results that you hadn’t even thought of before.

You’ll need to understand the difference between a dream and a goal, though, and that’s something that’s commonly overlooked.  A dream is, for example, “to travel”.  That isn’t a goal, because there’s no destination, no date, nothing measurable and therefore nothing we’d call “achievable” in it.  It’s a great desire, but it isn’t going to light a fire under you to go anywhere.

Once you decide on a destination, though, it becomes a goal, and that means that it now needs you to start setting aside money for it, reading up a bit on what to expect once you’re there, looking at where you can get the best deals for airfare and hotel, and so on.  This kind of practical planning is exactly the sort of thing that makes a dream come true.  You take a dream, turn it into a goal, and then…

…Then, the confusing part begins.

Most of the time we’re looking over our shoulder to see if we’re doing it right.  I know many people who just aren’t sure if they’re on the right track to get where they want to be in life.  Part of the reason for this is simple – we don’t see other people’s journey towards success, we often just see the results.  Nobody really knows what famous celebrities or business leaders were doing in their spare time unless they tell us in their autobiographies, and even then, there’s no guarantee they’re being honest.

One thing successful people all share, however, is the ability to visualize success, to see themselves having already accomplished their goals and living their dream.  And even more importantly, they realized this one cardinal truth:

No one is going to succeed your way except you.  And that’s okay.  And when things didn’t turn out the way they wanted, or the way they intended, they changed their approach in a way that showed that they had learned from that experience.

Think about how many people live in your city, your town.  You share the same coffee shops, hotels, streets, and so on, but none of you get there exactly the same way.  Even in your own minivan, you’re in a different seat than the person next to you.  And success works in exactly the same way.  Nobody can give us your success like you can.

If you lack the ability to really visualize yourself being successful, that’s okay.  Not everybody daydreams with spectral surround sound in full color.  Instead, take pen to paper or grab a coffee at your local hangout and do some actual work.  I don’t mean “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if…”, because that’s daydreaming.  That isn’t work.  I mean, take those daydreams, those nice-to-haves, and put some numbers beside them.  Do a little constructive web surfing instead of just reading the news or trolling for bloggers to annoy with anonymous comments.  Focus on your own life, what you want for you, and imagine where you’ll be if you take this step.

Then, of course, take it.