Maybe it's just me, but there might be times in your life when there is something that you are pretty sure that you could be doing to get what you want, but you just don't feel like doing it.  It could be that you know that if you were too pick up a book and start reading and learning, you would be closer to having that knew skill you want.  Maybe it is to exercise or eat right, though you just don't feel like doing it.  Maybe it is contacting someone that you keep putting off.

I'm a huge fan of doing what you want to do, so the first thing I would recommend is to try and see if there is some way you can find to enjoy, or at least be able to tolerate what you think is important to do.  Is there someone who can help you?  Can you try another way or method?  Can you change the time or place that you perform the activity?  Can you shorten the length of the activity?  Just keep asking yourself, "How can I want or enjoy doing this activity?"  Keep reading and learning and maybe a new idea will allow you to find the way.

One good way to try changing how you feel is to change your body.  It is well established that the way that you hold your body and especially your face will change the way you feel.  Put a big fake smile on your face, get up and move around, jump up and down if you want to.  Listen to your favorite music as you are doing this.  Get your blood pumping.

Now, if you truly can't find a way to want do this activity, than you can choose to not do it.  You can accept that you won't do it right now, and will maybe do it some other time.  Now when you make this choice, be honest with yourself that you accept responsibility for giving up on your goal.  That's fine, just be honest about it.  Be honest and say "I accept that I am poor, because I am not willing to do what it takes to grow."  or "I accept that I am fat because I decide not to change."  or "I accept that I am alone because I am too afraid to take the risk of connecting with another human."

The above might seem like crazy advice for a success blog, though it is just honest.  We are all at different stages of our life and can maybe only handle focusing on one or two areas at a time.  It is perfectly acceptable to say that we will ignore a certain area for now because it is too difficult for us.  That's fine, just pick another area that you can handle.  Do whatever is within your reach.  Would you expect a toddler to go out and run a marathon or would you praise them for making one small step?

If there is something you suspect you should be doing and you can't find a way to want to do it, or can't pump yourself up enough to do it, and you still want to achieve your goal, so you aren't willing to give up, then the only advice I have is to just do it.  Just knuckle down and do something, no matter how small.  Try to pick the smallest thing that you can do and do it.  Get some momentum built up and see where it goes.

A great teacher once told me "Stop telling me it doesn't feel right, just do it 100 times and then come back to me and tell me how it feel."

How you taken 100 actions to achieve your goal?
 
 
There is an often repeated saying "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  It appears the best evidence is that this was first said by Rita Mae Brown.

You might want to check yourselves to make sure that you are open to doing new things in order to get different results. 

This is similar to the often quotes saying that Thomas Edison failed 1,000, or 5,000, or 10,000 times before finding a combination for the light bulb that worked.  He is reported to have said something like "I have not failed 1,000 times, instead I have found 1,000 ways that will not make a light bulb."

So persistence does not have to mean that you keep hitting your head against the wall.  You might want to evaluate how what you are doing is helping you achieve your goals.  Do you have the belief, feeling or evidence to show that what you are doing is getting you closer to your goal?  If you do than, keep going and be persistent.  If not, then make some adjustment, small or big.

When you are trying to form a new habit and develop your mind it takes time.  Unlike trying a new design for a light bulb, developing your mind requires patience   Would you go to the gym one time, then jump on the scale and if you didn't see results, stop going to the gym, or radically change your workout?  You have to allow time for your actions to influence your mind.  At a minimum, I would expect 1 month to be enough time to see results if you are taking regular actions 3-5 days per week.

My advice then is to choose your goal, take some action, and then keep taking action at least 3-5 days per week and do that for 4 weeks.  After 4 weeks if you do not have any evidence, feeling or belief that your actions are producing results, then change your actions and try again.
 
 
I am unable to find a reliable source of who originated the saying "If you fail to plan you are planning to fail".  I have seen it attributed to Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill.  Either way, I can understand the logic of the saying.  In essence, if we don't have a clear method to get from where we are to where we want to go, then we are less likely to get there.

As I reflect on my past experiences, I'm not so sure that I can 100% agree with the saying.  When I think about areas in my past where I consider myself to have been successful, for none of them did I have a plan.  If I was lacking a plan, then how was I able to succeed?  What is luck, like winning the lottery, or is planning an optional part of being successful?

For the areas that I was successful, I did have a sense of my goal and I took regular action towards the goal.  Sometimes massive action and other times small action, though it was regular action.  I also spent much time reading information about my goal and talking to others about my goal to get ideas about how it can be achieved.  I was also open to try all sorts of different things to achieve the goal.

Maybe planning is just another type of action, that has various levels of usefulness, depending on the person and what they are trying to achieve.  This also reminds me the saying by Carl von Clausewitz "No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy."  When making plans, it is not so important if we actually end up following this exact plan.  The process of planning will help our brain to think about different options and what we might do when things don't go the way we want.

So, I am removing planning as a critical step for success.  Instead, I am going to add "Review".  Meaning that after you have set a goal and taken some action you should take the time to review your goals and action and see how is it working out for you.  If you think there should be adjustments then make them.
 
 
In general there are two reasons why we do something: Pain and Pleasure.

We can be motivated to escape pain or to achieve more pleasure.  In general, the self development and positive thinking teachings focus on getting more pleasure.  They talk about how we will achieve that which we focus upon.  So if we focus on achieving pleasure we will receive more pleasure.  How about if we focus on escaping pain? Does it mean we will achieve more escape from pain or will we just get more pain?

I propose that pain is the most powerful motivator in the world.  Think about it.  How quickly do you respond to the pain of your hand being place on a hot stove versus the pleasure of petting your favorite animal?  I suspect most of us respond with great urgency to pain, and the more painful, the more rapidly we respond.

How do we solve this paradox?  Pain is a powerful motivator, though if we mostly focus on pain than we may mostly achieve pain.  As with many things we should strive to achieve a balance between these two motivators.  To ignore pain as a motivator is to throw away the most powerful motivator in our toolbox.

I was thinking about the saying "No pain, no gain" and now when I think about it, I interpret it more as, if we want to experience pleasure, we will have to endure some pain as opposed to trying to escape pain in order to achieve pleasure.  It is more that pain usually stands in the way of the pleasure we want.  So, in this context, pain isn't a motivator, pleasure is the motivator and pain is just another obstacle.

I'm still trying to figure out how utilize both pain and pleasure as motivational tools.  I'll try it by adding one question to my regular goals review session.  I'll ask myself, "What am I most afraid of?"  I'll let you know how it goes.

What do you think?  Is it worthwhile to think about our pain points and use them to motivate us, or is it sufficient to think about what pleasure we want to achieve?  If it is useful to use pain?  If so, how can we do it?  Do we reinforce every day our deepest pain/fear and use that to drive us to action?
 
 
It is great to be enthusiastic and positive when setting our goals.  When setting goals, let's be careful to set goals that are likely to energize and encourage us when we have done our best to achieve them, rather than cause us too much pain if we fall short of our goal.

With this in mind, I am cautious about making goals that require achieving a particular level of success relative to others.  I would recommend setting goals independent of how other people do.

Think about athletes.  When we watch a sports competition, we celebrate the victors and it is sometimes said that second place is the first loser.  Of course, I want to achieve my highest possible level of success, though it is most likely that of the billions of other people in world there might be one other person who can achieve more than me.  So if I am focused on being number one, even if I achieve more than everyone else in the world besides that one person who achieve more than me, I might feel like a failure because I didn't make number one.

A friend of mine told me about how she was on one of the Olympic teams.  For her sport they had three groups A, B and C.  A was the best, B were the backups, and C were those who pretty much had no chance of going to the Olympics.  She was on the C team.  She said that it was difficult not feeling bad since in her peer group she was in the bottom third.  The crazy thing is that if she went to any community around the world, they would be blown away with her athletic abilities and the local athletes would praise her and say how much they wished they had her abilities.

As a counter example, a good friend of mine was told at a young age that she had no talent for dance and should give it up.  Despite this advice, she loved dance and decided to dedicate her life to dance.  She found a way to make a living as a dance instructor and dancer.  She always realized that she would never be a world class dancer, though she was just thrilled to be doing what she loved to do.

Let's try and find a way to do this in our life.  It is great to make huge vision goals.  I know a website blog who's goal is to help 10 million people.  This is a huge goal and notice how it is independent from how other blogs do.

Be careful about being too concerned about beating out all other competitors.  Find out what it is that we really want and work towards getting as much of it as we can.
 
 
I am a fan of being spontaneous and doing what ever the mood calls for, and I'm also a fan of having routines.  Both of these are of value, and are part of our natural behavior.

In my young son, I can see that at the age of 3 he already displays both of these.  Just the other day, I laid down in bed to take a nap and I happened to lay down on my wife's pillow.  Kai quickly pointed out that I was using the wrong pillow and I should use daddy's pillow, and I was on the wrong side of the bed.

Many highly successful people have well developed routines for the area of their life in which they are successful.  For example, top athletes, usually have a routine as to when and how they workout and when and what they eat.

Think about franchises.  A key power of franchises is the routines that they are selling.  Somebody has figured out a system that worked for them and by following their pattern they propose that another person can also succeed.

Now within these pattern for top athletes and franchises there is also room for flexibility and creativity.  Though, I propose that if one of them started to see themselves achieving less success than they wanted, it would be a good idea to see how they are straying from the routine, rather than adding more flexibility and creativity.

Most of us don't have a coach or franchise company to tell us what routines we should follow.  It is up to us to develop our own routines.  I don't suggest that you must plan every minute of everyday, but I do suggest that the more regular you plan success achieving activities and that these activities become a natural part of your personality the easier it will be to succeed.

What success routines can you developed?
 
 
Everybody gets tired.  It doesn't matter how smart, motivated, successful or positive a person you are.  This is a fact that we must accept and then figure out how do we deal with it.

There are different types of tired.  There is mentally tired and there is physically exhausted.  For true physical exhaustion, there is not much else that we can do except rest.  All people require sleep.  It is as important as eating and drinking.  How much rest is required is debatable.

It is rumored that some high achievers like Michelangelo and Thomas Edison never slept more than 4 hours.  Maybe employing some sort of polyphasic sleep pattern.   I used this method in college to have more study time.  I find that I can sleep maybe 2 hours less in the evening if I take a 30 minute nap sometime during the day.

Here we are not talking about physical exhaustion, instead about mental exhaustion.  When we just no longer have the motivation or desire to continue with our tasks at hand.  We know that we are mentally exhausted if a different activity instantly energizes us.  An example might be that if you are resisting doing something that will help you achieve one of your goals, and then a friend calls up and invites you to go play.  If it is a person that we have romantic interest in asking us for a date, then the level energy can instantly change.

So, how can we develop this level of enthusiasm for the things we should do instead of just having it for the things we like to do?  Just asking the question, leads to a possible idea.  How can we learn to like doing the things we should do?

Having clear, believable, passionate goals will make working towards them something that we like to do.  We generally lose interest in our actions when one of these three things are missing.  If your goal is "How can I be a better person?"  This goal is unclear.  If your goal is "I will make US$50,000,000 by the end of this month."  Unless you already make this type of money, this goal is not believable.

Check that you have clear, believable goals and that you are passionate about them.  Now even with this, there will still be times when you are mentally exhausted or can't seem to take action towards your goal.  The first advice is do something anyway.  Don't let your feelings rule your life.  Put your mind in control.  Force yourself to take any small step, no matter how small.

Even with this advice to take action when you don't want to, you have the option to rest.  Just like physical rest, we also need mental rest.  It is OK to take a break.  You can even decide to have a mental break every day.  You can take 1 or 2 hours everyday, if you so choose, to do nothing towards your goals.  You can watch TV, read comics, play games, surf the web, or do anything that many people might consider a waste of time.  I consider this letting yourself rest mentally.

As we develop new habits, the amount of rest we want and require may decrease, so you can adjust this amount of rest time as it suits you.  The point is that it is perfectly OK, to take a break, just don't make it what you do most of the time.  Most of your time should be taking actions toward achieving your goals.  If you are not yet spending most of your time trying to achieve your goals then review your goals and make them clear, believable and something that you are passionate about.
 
 
In order for you to have a different level of success in the future than you are experiencing today, it is important for you to be able to consistently think about that future level of success.  In other words, having a long term vision.

Think about your past accomplishments.  Didn't you have some sort of long term vision in order to accomplish them?  Maybe you finished some educational program like college, university or a professional development program.  Didn't you have in your mind that you would finish that program?  Maybe your vision was just the length of the course, whether it was 4 weeks or 4 years is not important, 4 weeks is still a long term vision.

Long term is anything longer than the current moment in which you are living.  Ordinary people have a vision and planning timeline of 1 day or 1 week.  Their thoughts are consumed with things like "What will I wear today?" "Where should I go to dinner this evening?" "What should I do this weekend?"

I propose that to improve your level of success, it is necessary to extend your vision out to at least 5 years.  For some things I have a 40 year vision because I want to still be alive and healthy for the next 40 years of my sons life.  I thought I had heard some rumor that the Japanese had a 500-year vision for their country, though can't find any reliable references online so maybe it was just my imagination.

Assuming you accept that having a long-term, around 5 year, vision is critical to increase your level of success, how can you develop this habit?  Just like everything else we talk about, practice, practice, practice.  I am convinced in the value of spaced repetition.  If you like to research this, I suggest reading the many interesting articles at the SuperMemo site.  So little amounts of practice, like 5 minutes per day, on a regular basis can be as effective, if not more effective than spending 1 hour per week.

What can you do for 5 minutes to develop a long-term outlook?  Write out your goals.  That's it.  The key thing though is, do not refer to your previously written goals.  Write your goals out from memory.   At first don't worry about how you do it, just write a list of goals from memory each day.  You can write it by hand or type them into a computer, either way is fine.  After 30 days you will start to form a pattern to your goals.

I recommend combining the ideas of both Brian Tracy and Noah St. John when doing this exercise.

According to Brian, these statements should follow the 3 Ps, Positive, Personal, and Present tense.  So, an example might be "I make US$100,000 during the year 2013."

According to Noah, these should be questions in a positive manner designed to get your brain thinking of ways to achieve your goals.  Something like "How can I make US$100,000 during the year 2013."

Try them both, or make up your own method.  The key is to regularly practice thinking long term so that it becomes one of your new habits.

How long term is your vision?
 
 
As we are having thoughts about success and happiness and learning these success principals, we will update the content of this website.  In particular, the Success Formula is intended to be a living document that improves as we do.

Today, I have added a fourth step to the formula "Plan".  This is a step that might be assumed, though I think it is significant enough to be specifically mentioned.  So, now the formula has 4 steps:

  1. Goal - Definite, time limited goal that a 5 year old can understand
  2. Action - Take regular action towards your goal with urgency
  3. Plan - Look at your goal and actions and make plans to improve
  4. Persistence - Keep trying.  Expect to fail 70% - 80% of the time. Review your goals, take actions and make plans.

We can evaluate each of these steps and think about how good are we at each of them.  Yesterday we talked about changing wishes into goals.  This is the first step for us to be successful.  Learn how to be as clear as possible about what is our target, and what are we aiming towards.

Once we have chosen a goal, we should take some actions, any action.  Just do something to get over that terrible thing called procrastination.  Even the wrong action is much better than no action.  Do anything.  We can do a whole other post about how to get over procrastination and do something as this is a common place for us to have difficulty.  Maybe it is fear or lack of confidence that stops us from taking action.

Now, after we have taken some action, spend some time, review what we have done and make a plan on how to do better.  Are we aiming for the proper target?  Can we do better there?  Now, what possible actions can we take to achieve this goal? Think small, large, short-term and long-term.

When making plans, it is not so important if we actually end up following this exact plan.  The process of planning will help our brain to think about different options and what we might do when things don't go the way we want.  Carl von Clausewitz wisely said "No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy."  So, be flexible and roll with the punches.

The final step is to be persistent.  In American professional baseball, the highest paid player in 2012 is Alex Rodriguez, making US$30,000,000.  His batting average is 0.301, that means that ~70% of the time that he goes up to hit the ball, he fails.  Though it is even worse that this, because this does not count how many times he swings at the ball.  If on average he swings the bat 3 times per time at bat, then in reality he fails to get a hit 90% of the time that he swings the bat.

Can you really believe this, that someone is paid US$30 million to only be successful 10% of the time.  Though, that is the fact.  Of course, he has other skills, like fielding the ball, though it still remains that this statistic is true in most major sports, the true professionals fail much more than they succeed, their key is to get up and try, try again.

How are you doing on each of part of the success formula?
 
 
Having clear goals is a basic requirement for being successful.  In fact, the achievement of goals is the definition of success.  Sometimes it is possible to get lucky and feel successful without even having set a goal, if we accidentally achieve one of our wishes.

Here is where we should find a distinction between wishes and goals.  Few people have goals and most of us have wishes.  Wishes are thoughts that we have about how we might want things to be different than they are.  Maybe we see a nice item, like a car, house, or jewelry and think it would be nice to own one of them.  Maybe we see a happy couple and think it would be nice if our relationship was like that.  Maybe we see a fit person and wish we had that level of healthy.  Maybe we hear a moving speech and wish we had the ability to be as persuasive.

Those are all example of wishes.  It is even possible that we have those thoughts for years or even decades.  Since we have those thought for so long, we get confused into thinking that they are goals and therefore this whole idea of goal setting and achieving goals is bogus.  The problem is that these wishes are triggered by external events and are only sporadically triggered into your consciousness.

Our brain is an immensely powerful tool that is eager to help us achieve our wishes, though only if we transform them into goals.  Wishes are like a dream to our brain, they are interesting when they occur though they don't necessarily spur us on to take action.  A goal must be something that will enable and encourage us to take action.

What is the key to setting goals?  When trying to answer questions like this, I try to fall back on transferring this mental goal into a physical goal.  What is the key to running fast?  When thought of this way, I think if a child asked us this questions, an easy answer would be to tell them to practice running.  The same is true for our mind.  Most of us are children when it comes to being successful, so don't get distracted by any fancy ideas or formulas.  If you want to learn how to set goals, practice setting goals.

How often should you practice?  About the same amount of time you would expect that child to practice running.  I ran track and cross country in high school and we practiced every day after school, and sometimes in the mornings.  At a minimum, I would expect the same amount of effort to improve a mental skill.  Practice setting goals about 5 times per week.  Don't worry about how to do it or what to do, just do something that you think is setting goals.

Review what you have done each day and improve on it.  To start, you can keep a list of wishes.  Every time, you have a thought like "I want that" or "I wish I could do that" add it to a list.  Try and get as long of a list as possible, and review it regularly to see what type of pattern there is. Then try and find a common theme or thread to reduce what are the key recurring themes on this wish list.

Then when you have a good handle on what your key wishes are, try and make a specific goal or target and put a timeline on it.

Just like when training your body, expect this exercise to take at least 3 months, and I would plan for 6 months before you feel like you know what you are doing.