What would you say if I said you could be anything you wanted to be, right now?
A famous movie actress, an award-winning scientist or a sports star who just got signed to their favourite team?
All you have to do, is choose.
Now, imagine you’ve been invited over to a friend’s house for dinner. You check your diary – you’re free that night and some of your buddies are going too, so you accept. As the night approaches, you think about what to wear, how you are getting there and who you might know. The night arrives, you turn up and thank your friend for the invite. They introduce you to the room and it turns out you know most of the people there. Food comes out, you all chat away merrily and eventually everyone leaves the table to carry on in the lounge.
You nip to the kitchen to fill your glass and when you return, you find yourself briefly without anyone to talk to. Just then, a young lady approaches and asks what you do.
‘Oh,’ you say, ‘I’m in sales,’ or something equally vague.
‘Is that what you always wanted to do?’ she asks.
You think about it, it isn’t what you wanted to do, and in return she says that she thinks she might be able to help you.
‘With what?’ you ask.
‘With the problem we all have,’ she says, ‘living the life we want to live.’
This throws you a little so you take a moment to think.
‘OK,’ you say, ‘how does it work?’
Over the next 10 minutes she tells you a story about how, once a year, she gets to grant a wish to just one person. She says that, if you tell her what you want to be in life, she can make it happen, instantly. Obviously, you think this person must be mad but, as you are a little tipsy, you decide to play along. The more she speaks, the more you start to believe what she is saying until she convinces you that she does have the ability to change your life right now, in this instant and forever more.
All you must do is tell her what you want to be in life.
It’s that simple.
She looks at you, quizzically.
‘So,’ she says, ‘what’s it to be? Do you want to be a wealthy hedge fund manager, a well-paid airline pilot, a famous musician, an acclaimed artist? Any of these things I can do for you right here and now but it will be forever, it’s not reversible and your history will also be altered. By all means keep your family and friends but they will forever have known you as the celebrity or the high achiever you now are – your past will match your future.’
‘This is amazing!’ you think, ‘I must be the luckiest guy in the world!’
But, as she stands awaiting your answer, you soon realise that you have absolutely no idea what you want to be or to achieve in life. You look away and start to rack your brain for answers – all sorts of thoughts go through your head.
‘I could be a rock star, an astronaut, a famous writer, a super-wealthy internet guy or a TV celebrity,’ you ponder – but the truth is that you have absolutely no idea.
Minutes pass before you look back at your new friend.
‘You’re not alone,’ she says. ‘Every year I get to do this one thing for someone and I’ve never met anyone who knows what they want to do with their life.’
Why don’t you take the challenge now? Look at your watch and take 30 seconds before saying out loud what your answer would be.
Difficult, isn’t it?
Don’t worry, you are no different from 99% of people out there – they let their ideal life pass them by because of just two reasons:
1. They never build the necessary habits, systems and processes to get there.
2. They don’t know where ‘there’ actually is.
Imagine jumping into your car and trying to enter your destination into the Sat Nav only to realise that you don’t know what it is! Successful people make sure they know where they are going before they start driving whereas most people start off hoping that a destination will just turn up along the way.
Most people want to achieve something in life, yet they have absolutely no idea what it is.
Have you ever gone food shopping without a shopping list? You drift around the supermarket reaching out for whatever takes your fancy – you have no plan and, when you unpack the food at home, it shows!
Whilst unplanned shopping means you make poor choices in the supermarket and driving without a destination gets you lost, the top 1% take the right roads and follow their plan to get them to where they want to be.
They do this because they have created processes, systems and habits.
This is the key to being in the 1% – to adopt daily habits and not to focus on goals. If you want to lose weight and get fit, then furiously working out until you hit your target weight is a painful way to get what you want – you need to develop a habit of healthy eating, too.
So, how do you create habits?
‘A habit is a method your brain uses to solve the problems of life with less energy or effort that you otherwise would need.’ – James Clear, ‘Atomic Habits’
James Clear, author of ‘Atomic Habits’, says to create a new habit, you must start small. If you want to go to the gym 7 days a week then for the first 6 weeks, start with just driving there, going in and doing a half-exercise for just 5 minutes before leaving and going home.
For those wishing to start running first thing in the morning, I tell my clients to lay out their running kit the night before, put it on when they wake up and just walk to the end of the garden and back for the first week before they eventually try to run.
This teaches your mind a new routine, it tells it that you are a person who ‘goes to the gym’ or ‘goes for a run’ and this lays the critical foundation from which to reinforce your new habit.
1. Start with a small habit that takes 2-5 minutes or less to do.
2. Increase your habits in small ways (1% each day).
3. As you build, break habits into chunks – make them manageable and match the skill required to the challenge set.
4. When you slip, get back on track (never two failed days in a row).
5. Be patient and stick to a pace you can sustain.
Most importantly, remember that tomorrow is the ‘first day of the rest of your life’ and all you have to do is to think about what you want to be. Picture what you want in life, put your new habits in place and work towards what you want to achieve.
At least then when you’re at a friend’s dinner party and a genie asks you what you want to do with your life, you can tell her that you are creating habits that let you work towards reaching your full potential.
* If you are in a rut and need help, then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask about my ‘SPIN Recovery Course’ where I take a select small group of people through a 10-week re-alignment programme to help them develop a new mindset around success and personal/group accountability.