Sunday, December 30, 2012

The reason why?

One of the great things about being a kid is that you get to constantly ask Why? even when you know the answer. Why is it so? But why? Why? etc as any parent will attest. The adult version of this is being a philosopher but still being able to ask the same question, Why? So if you’ll indulge my philosophical tendencies, I want to ask you why?

At this festive time of the year many people attend functions with people they have never met. Sooner or later the conversation turns to ‘So what do you do?’. To which we all provide the standard ‘resume’ answer. Like a good philosopher I like to ask why? rather than what?

So here’s my question. Why do you do what you do? Why do you work? Why do you get up in the morning?

Try this experiment yourself. Ask people why they do what they do. I’ll bet you get one of three answers in the following percentages.

70% of respondents will simply say ‘I don’t know’. Amazing eh? They are doing something everyday (like working) but they can’t tell you why they are doing it. This is kind of like using a map without knowing the destination isn’t it? It kinda makes the map useless doesn’t it?

20% of respondents will say they want a ‘better’ this or ‘more’ of that, etc. This is certainly a more focused answer but notice how words like ‘better’ and ‘more’ are very vague. ‘Better’ than what? How much ‘more’? They are vague because people are afraid to set definitive goals because if they do they run the risk of failure. It is much easier to be vague because if you fail you can cover it up by saying ‘well we did more’ or ‘we actually did better’ even if that is not the case.

The last 10% of respondents will tell you with great details why they do what they do. For example, they may say they are saving to buy a purple Bell Jet Ranger helicopter so they can learn how to fly and use it every weekend. You see the difference? A very definitive goal.

There are some major benefits of setting very specific goals as well. The first is measurement. If you say you want ‘more’ money how do you measure that? Is that $1 more or $1,000 more? However, if you say you want $1 million more then you can measure exactly how close you are to reaching your goal. I also believe that having a very specific goal can provide you with that extra little incentive when things are tough and not looking so bright. Chances are if you have set yourself goals like ‘more’ you’ll quit or accept far less than what you really want to achieve. However, if you have a very specific goal it provides focus and generally provides a greater drive to achieve simply because it is far more real. That little extra push through the tough time is generally what separates those who succeed and those who don’t. It is such a tiny thing but it makes such a world of difference.

You can have as many goals as you want but my advice is to make them as specific as you can. Sure, you may not achieve them but I think you’ll be surprised how many you do actually achieve if you make them specific. Have the confidence to go after what you really want and don’t be afraid to be specific. People who do achieve normally have very, very specific goals and don’t forget to constantly measure and adjust as you go along. It is only the unfounded fear of failure that is holding you back.

Of course don’t forget to act like a child, a-hem, I mean philosopher at the next social function you attend and ask why? rather than what? Listen to the responds you get to see whether my thumbnail demographics are correct. Getting specific is a small and subtle change but, in my experience, it separates those who do from those who want.