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.

 

Does Your New Year’s Resolution Answer The Right Question?

Happy New Year, everyone!  Let’s take our joy seriously!

Soon 2014 will be a memory.  Most of it already is.  And for the month of January, the gyms will be crowded with people who are all pretty sure they’re going to get fit this year; thankfully most of them will be out of your way by February and it’ll be business as usual.

For the rest of us, who take our happiness seriously, it’s a time to approach life for a checkup.  So grab a glass of wine and spend the next few minutes with me as I humbly offer something that might clarify things for you.

By now you know I’ve been a self help student for decades.  Self help, as you know if you’ve read my blog much, is something I both enjoyed and resented through the years.  I enjoyed it because it gave me hope that things would get better during dark and impoverished times, but I also resented it because in retrospect I feel strongly that really, hope is the only thing it gave me.  I didn’t realize that all I had to do was ask myself The Right Question.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  Every single book offered me at least something I could use.  And in the middle of all the rah-rah coaches there are quite a few thoughtfully-written and useful books.  I’d like to share a couple of ideas I learned from what I consider to be the best and most comprehensive one about goalsetting, All About Goals & How to Achieve Them by Jack Ensign Addington.

I’ve included a couple of pictures of pages I found particularly relevant, one with my notes on it.  My whole self help library is like this, dog-eared and worn books with my notes and underlining.

Is setting New Years’ Resolutions a waste of time?

I don’t advocate spending a lot of time on goalsetting.  Don’t confuse setting goals with “sharpening the axe” or practicing. I mean sitting down and thinking about what the next phase of your life is going to be like.  I don’t advocate it simply because if you already know who you are, you’ll be automatically moving toward things that motivate and delight you anyway.  When it comes to making a New Years resolution, let me remind you that talk is cheap.  Anyone can tell you they’re going to accomplish this or that this coming year.  So here’s what I’d rather do:

At the end of the year, tell people what your resolutions were.  Don’t bother telling them what you’re going to do, tell them what you did that you had resolved to do.

I’m a huge fan of what the French call a fait accompli, basically a short way of saying what’s done is done, and it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

I’m not saying that setting goals is irrelevant.  I do it myself.  In fact, the last phrase in the Question is designed partly to get you thinking about your goal, whether in a specific situation or in an overarching life design session.  What I am saying is that you end up achieving things you never even knew should have been a goal in the first place as long as you’re aligned properly with who you are and what you feel is best for you in life.  I’m saying, spend enough time on it and move on.

From Addington, to me, to you

I made my book available with one caveat – that readers never divulge what the Question is.  I think if they pay me good money for the book, they have the right to have that investment protected (and so should I).  But I freely share thoughts in the book that aren’t the Question itself, and here’s one of them:  “In order to live the life of your dreams, you must become the person who could have that life.”

Jack Ensign Addington's book "All About Goals" presents some good ideas
Jack Ensign Addington’s book “All About Goals” presents some good ideas

In part, that was inspired by the passage in Addington’s book, and the phrase that helped me form that idea is here.  He says, “…when we identify with our goal and mentally live in the atmosphere of the attained goal, we are well on the way of achieving that goal.”

What he’s saying is that if you live your life as though you’re the person in that reality, already having attained that goal, it’s much more likely to be realized.  When you slide behind the wheel of your dream car you’ll drive it like it’s yours, not like you’re borrowing it from a nasty ogre.  When you take the vacation you’ve been working so hard for, you’ll give it your all and therefore get the most from it.  The most relaxation, and also the most fun.  You’ll probably meet the most interesting people too.

I also discuss this phenomenon in The Lottery Winners (see Succeed at Anything), but basically, it comes down to this – lottery winners end up bankrupt and hospitalized for stress and depression more often than those who don’t win.  And that’s because the way the rich handle money versus the poor is very, very different.  Winning a lottery doesn’t make you rich, it only gives you a lot of money.  In the sense I mean it here, there’s a big difference.

The Secret Referent

The second phrase seems unrelated, but I think a lot of people need help with it.  It refers to what Addington calls the “secret referent”.

The secret referent is the person whose permission you feel you need before you really start living your life the way you want to.  We consider people brave when they act in the face of criticism from their referent.  Think of Romeo and Juliet, the unfortunate offspring of Shakespeare-era Hatfields and McCoys, from families sworn to destroy each other and therefore incurring wrath not only from their own families for fraternizing with the enemy but from their beloved’s families as well.

The idea of the "Secret Referent" from Addington's "All About Goals"
The idea of the “Secret Referent” from Addington’s “All About Goals”

The passage I underlined reads, “Many emotionally immature people never get past the secret referent stage.”  He asks, “Are we choosing (goals) for ourselves or to please someone else?”, and I made a note underneath that which reads, “OR steering away from a treasured goal because its completion will not please the referent?”

It should be obvious what is meant by this, but I’ll state it in a different way.  If you really want a goal, you need to be sure that this goal has been chosen for your own benefit and not for the benefit of others.  These are questions such as, Are you taking over the family business because you want to, or because you feel it’s expected of you, or conversely, Are you blazing your own trail because you secretly want to take over the family business but you feel that this way you earn more respect?  Either way it’s all about the referent, not the goalsetter (you).

It’s also just as unlikely that any of the traditional self help methods are going to get you closer to what you truly want if you allow the disapproval of your referent to steer you away from a treasured goal.

However, I must caution you against Damage to Desire or a misunderstanding of the Law of Attraction.  What I mean is that many times our dreams come true and we don’t even know it because we don’t understand that there’s always something changed in translation between our desires and our reality.

Make sure you understand this.  I explain it fully in The Right Question.

Goodbye 2014, and thanks for everything

As we say goodbye to 2014 and open our arms to welcome the New Year, it’s a good time to think about the course we chose to steer this year.  To use the lawnmowing analogy in TRQ, we all hit some rocks buried in the tall grass along the way.  Some of them dented and dulled our blades; we needed to stop for a while, sharpen them, take a break and steel ourselves before pushing on.

But mowing the lawn is what gets the lawn mowed.  Not wanting it, not trying to figure out “why”, not setting it as a goal, not sitting on a mat wishing for it to get mowed.  Only cutting the grass stimulates it to grow more lush, rich, green and healthy.  Anything else qualifies as glorified wishing.

In the same way, self help made me feel great about the fact that my lawn was overgrown and full of weeds, but it shouldn’t have.  There should have been somebody writing The Right Question long before I did.

But better late than never.

The Annoying Internet

There’s something that has begun to really annoy me about the internet over the last year.  I would like social marketing gurus to take note, because I’m going to give them a free idea here to make them richer, their clients richer, and me less annoyed.  We’ll all win.

I really love the internet.  The potential for it to change humanity for the better is truly unlimited.  It allows us to connect with one another and share in ways we never could have imagined, that were impossible twenty or sometimes even ten years ago, and it has changed the world forever.  Like television, however, it can either be used to educate and elevate us, or to satisfy baser desires or watch cute cat videos all day long.  Not that there’s anything wrong with either.  Personally, when the day is ending I like to grab some wine and sit out on the patio and listen to the surf as the sun sets while I see what the rest of the world thinks is important that day.

But here’s the thing:  Too often when I visit a site, I read for a few seconds and then my reverie is interrupted by a lightbox that comes out of nowhere asking if I want to sign up for a newsletter.  I’ve been contentedly reading a website’s article about this or that, getting into it, or at least scanning the page, and my concentration is shattered by a marketing ploy.

I have never asked for an email address from any of my website visitors, ever.  And because of this, I’ve been told straight up by marketers that I’m missing out on a tremendous amount of business.  I’ve read tons of statistics that back them up, but I don’t think I’m missing much.

Now, I understand everybody else has gotta eat lunch too.  I have the kind of life many of them are working towards, and I fully sympathize with the drive to make money.  But when you think about how much time each of us has in the day, and then think about the number of websites trolling for you to sign up to a newsletter, the math doesn’t add up.  I spend about 6 hours a day working at most, and that includes reading newsletters, tending to business, and so on.  I also read newsletters about expatriate living, fitness, aviation, science and tech, and so on, and beginning with this article I’m going to share my thoughts on more than just self improvement and the psychology of money.

So, internet marketers, here’s what I propose.

What I need is the reassurance that I’m not going to be interrupted by a signup lightbox.  And if I am, I can click one button and one button only that will automatically enter my email address into a service database that will compile all the other newsletters I’m subscribed to, and deliver them at the same time all in one email.  It will say which websites it’s from, so I know I’m not missing any, and I can read them all at once.  Each newsletter in that compilation will have an unsubscribe link.

If I visit a site with a signup lightbox that I’ve already clicked ‘No thanks’ to, there will be a cookie that will remember that and not nag me again.  I’d be perfectly happy with a static box in a sidebar that said, ‘We’re sad you didn’t want to sign up last time, but you’re missing out on a great upcoming article!’ or some such thing.  I’d think that’s perfectly game.  But to let me read an article for thirty seconds and then shove a signup box in my face usually makes me hit the ‘back’ button.  ‘Like what you read?’ it’ll ask, and my answer out loud is, ‘Well I was reading this newspaper until the waiter shoved the bill right under my nose’, because that’s what it feels like.

I have faith in human innovation, compassion, technology and desire for improvement.There is a better way.  There is always a better way.

Download The Right Question and find out what it is.

 

Succeed at Anything

The Right Question is the most powerful sentence in the world.

Once you learn what it is and how to use it, you will be unstoppable.

I want you to live your dreams.  And you will.

My name is James de Garmo, and I want you to live your dreams. I don’t care how old you are or what you’ve done with your life up to now, or how far you think you’ve fallen from where you were or where you wanted to be. I want you to succeed at life.

If we all did that, we’d act from positions of power, understanding, generosity, acceptance, gratitude and effectiveness.

Whatever it means to you, you want to succeed at something.  Maybe it’s making a lot of money.  It might mean overcoming a personal hardship.  Perhaps you want success with the opposite sex, a fulfilling relationship.  Any of these things seem like moving targets, elusive, and a matter of luck more than anything.

Success is the result of doing the right things at the right time. Many other factors play a part – everything from knowing the right people to just plain and simple good luck – but absolutely nothing happens without some action. Even winning a lottery means you have to buy a ticket. At some point, you have to do something.

Naturally, this leaves most people wondering what to do. What is it that successful people are doing that unsuccessful people aren’t doing, and where can you learn this, anyway?

Read on to find out how I came up with the most powerful sentence in the world, the one that every person who has ever succeeded has asked. You’ve asked it too, but it’s possible that you didn’t really understand its power or thought it wasn’t important. Believe me, it is.  In fact, it’s impossible to succeed without doing this one crucial thing.

Unless you already knew the Question, you never stopped to ask it. But if you want consistent results in your life that are measurable, positive, and guide you towards the life of your dreams – in every sense of whatever that means to you – then you need to do so.

You need to ask it on purpose. And when you do, you’ll realize why some things succeeded and others didn’t. You’ll immediately realize that the good life isn’t just for other people. You will understand that you can have it all, and you’ll begin living it.

I’m not talking about ’embracing your inner halo’ or some other New Age excuse for accepting an unfulfilling existence. It is important to want the life you already have, because that’s where you start from, but make no mistake – the life you really want to live is waiting for you.

Asking the Question is a compassionate way to examine your current way of living and understand how it drifted away from what you really wanted, but its purpose is to get you back on track and make you realize that the life you’ve always wanted is yours with so little effort that you’ll wonder why nobody told you this before.

“Is this self-help?” I hear you asking.

Please, no.  No more self help, okay?  I’ve had all I can handle.

I studied self help for over 20 years before I realized it had done absolutely nothing for my bank account whatsoever.  The thing I wanted most was financial independence, and it was the thing that had eluded me the most.  You’d think two decades of gaining intimate knowledge of the self help field would have produced some result – something, anything – but I was just as broke as I was as a teenager.

Interestingly enough, this is how self help backfired on itself and led to the Question.  When I say I followed all the instructions in those books, I mean it.  I wrote down my goals in the positive, I meditated, I filled a binder with pictures the places I was going to go and the cars I was going to drive, everything.  This includes the advice about having conversations with some very wealthy people about how they did it.  And those conversations led me to understand the one thing – really, the only thing – that wealthy people had in common.

Sure, most of them worked lots.  But some didn’t.  Some were happy, some weren’t.  Most of them said they’d build another fortune easily if the one they had was suddenly lost.  But not all.  Some drove beautiful cars, others walked.  Some found that their business took them around the world, others barely left their home town (these ones were tough to find, and though their fortunes were modest, they were rock solid).

However, every single one of them told me the same thing – that when it came to overcoming challenges and finding a way to succeed, when it came down to the business of getting it all, keeping it all and enjoying it all, no matter how humble their beginnings, they all asked themselves the same question.

They didn’t all word it the way I’ve done.  Some took an entire conversation to explain it, others who were kind enough to give me five minutes outside their hotel or convention center said it much more succinctly.  But they all, every one of them, said the same thing in one way or another.  And it was something I’d never, ever read in any self help or success book before.  Not explained in such simple terms, anyway, and certainly not as such an easy-to-understand concept.  I read one book that came close, but it didn’t quite hit the mark.

…when they actually told me how they did it, none of them thanked self help books for their wealth.  Only the Question in one shape or form was what made the difference.

Ironic, isn’t it?  Self help and success books told me to see how wealthy people became wealthy, yet when they actually told me how they did it, none of them thanked self help books for their wealth.  Only the Question in one shape or form was what made the difference.

I followed every single suggestion and step to the letter.  I wasted oceans of time trying to figure out why my life wasn’t working, before I realized that “why” is irrelevant.  It took me a long time to realize that the purpose of mainstream self help, from what I could see anyway, was simply to make me feel better about my problems.  I’m not talking about academic studies of self-esteem or personal interaction by writers such as Nathaniel Branden and Eric Berne, though I read those as well (and recommend them).  I mean the standard diet of crap like The Secret or Tony Robbins or anyone else who panders to the frustrated masses.  There’s only so much rah-rah fistpumping you can do before the rush wears off and you realize you’re worse off than you were the day before, because you’re not richer but you are older.

Self help isn’t just about getting rich.  Love and weight loss are the other two huge subjects in which self help books insist that they can pave the way for you.  And they’re just as useless in those fields.

The reason is simple:  They don’t answer the right question.

When it comes to your success, there’s only one thing that’s going to light a fire under you and ensure that you stay on track until your dream comes true.  And to get that answer, you have to ask the right question.

Have you heard these tired old saws:

  • “Figure out why!”
  • “You have to want it!”
  • “Set your vision!”
  • “Take massive action!”
  • “Follow your passion!”
  • “Set great goals!”

In the long term, they’re useless.  They’ll fire you up for a while but it is very rare that any of these methods provide long term results you can rely on.

To fully understand why, think about the fact that success and failure are two sides of the same coin.

In twenty-five years of reading self help and success books, I ran into countless others who were bona fide self-help and success lit junkies.  They made me look like a hobbyist, even with my huge collection of books, tapes, videos, you name it. These people knew a lot more than I did about the genre, but they were just as broke and confused as I was.  Obviously there was either something missing or something wrong with what we were being told.

I found out what was wrong, and I discovered what was missing.  And now I want to share it with you.

I’ve made it my mission to help you understand why everything you’ve wanted seems just as far away as the day you first wanted it.  Until now.

I’m going to share a secret with you that will put you back in touch with the life you’ve only thought could happen if you won the lottery or met a magic genie.  Back in the driver’s seat of your dreams, with the people you love, and above all, I’ll put you in touch with yourself.

You’re going to get your life aligned with who you really are.  You’re going to see every single area of your life blossom and grow in ways you never even imagined.

Along the way, you’re going to gain a permanent and lasting understanding of how to beat your problems. You’ll conquer the things that have been holding you back.  You’ll finally understand why you procrastinate, divert your attention away from what really matters, eat when you’re upset or bored, are generally unsatisfied, and are consistently broke no matter how much money you make.  And you’re going to change all that.  Completely.

 Download The Right Question right now and discover how to achieve success, no matter how far away it seems.