Focus On This Podcast

70. Turn Your Goals Into Action



You’ve set SMARTER goals you’re excited about. Now what? You don’t want to stall your momentum, but your goals are risky enough that you’re not quite sure what to do next.

Planning does little good without action. But figuring out how to move forward is simpler than you think. By asking yourself four simple questions, you can start making progress toward your goals—and keep going until you reach the finish line.

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • How to know if your first step is too big
  • The power of the next three steps to get you where you want to go
  • Why you shouldn’t try to tackle a goal alone
  • The relationship between seeing your goals and accomplishing them
  • Why staying connected with your desire is essential for success

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Episode Transcript

Verbs: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs, here with Blake Stratton. Blake…

Blake: Verbs…

Verbs: What’s going on, sir?

Blake: I am pumped, my friend. I am excited. It is a new year.

Verbs: Brand new. Right out of the package.

Blake: It’s a new me. That’s how it works. Right? It’s a new year, and then all of your problems go away. Nothing bad that happened in 2020 is going to carry over. Right? But for real. You listening to this podcast, don’t you love Mondays a little bit extra just because there is a new year on the calendar? It’s 2021. You made it.

Verbs: We get a brand-new package of Mondays from here on out.

Blake: These Mondays are fresh. They have some 2021 energy. I’m going to make a bold prediction, Verbs. Listeners of this show will love Mondays even more in 2021 than in 2020. I mean, gosh, 2020 had so much to offer you. I know that’s going to be hard to top. I’m here for it, Verbs. Are you?

Verbs: I am definitely here. The good thing is I know toward the end of 2020 we’ve kind of been jumping around a little bit as far as hosting on the show, so it has been a while that you and me have gotten an opportunity to tag-team. So let’s go.

Blake: I know. This is exciting. You know who would be here for it but is literally not here for it is Courtney. Before you turn that dial, ladies and gentlemen, Verbs and I are here for you. We’re going to take care of you today. Courtney is taking care of somebody very special, a new member of the family they’ve welcomed in, which is so exciting. So, she’s not with us today, but we are here.

Verbs, Courtney has famously said in the interior of Michael Hyatt & Company that this season, the end of year, the new year… This is our sweet spot. This is our Super Bowl as a team, because everyone is thinking about their new goals. Everyone is thinking, “New year, new me. Best year ever. Michael Hyatt & Company, I am coming for you.” Today, I think we should lean into that. Let’s talk today about everyone who’s thinking new goals, and let’s talk about how we can help them today.

Verbs: That’s good, Blake. When you finish a year of goal setting, even when you had to shift and pivot a little bit on your goal-setting efforts… You complete the goal, you feel exhilarated, but you’re not quite sure what to do next. You know exactly where you want to go, but you don’t know how to get there, and that’s a little bit about what we want to talk about today.

It seems like it’s so far away. You begin to doubt whether your goals are even possible. You feel uncertain, overwhelmed, and maybe even a little bit paralyzed. You want to start making progress, but you don’t know how. So, let’s dig into that a little bit on this episode. Blake, how can our listeners keep from getting stuck even before they start?

Blake: It’s a great question. We all feel that high when we set a goal, and then that kind of fizzles, like the champagne bubbles after New Year’s Eve. It fizzles out. The bubbles go down. It’s a new year, and now you have this goal. How do you keep from getting paralyzed?

What I would say at the top here, Verbs, is if you do feel overwhelmed by your goals or about getting started, that is a very appropriate and healthy place to be. If you set your goal and you knew exactly what to do or how every step of the plan was going to work, that’s a problem. That means you’re primed for not a lot of growth this year. So, if you do feel a little bit in over your head, that’s a good sign, not a bad sign.

Verbs: I think, too, once you kind of calculate or assess what it took to accomplish those goals that were in that risky category, which most of our goals should fall into, don’t allow the time and energy it took to even further immobilize you going into these new goals you’ve set for 2021.

Blake: Verbs, I think the key is once you set those big goals, yes, you will have to make a plan, but if you’re not sure how to get there… Sometimes making those plans is difficult or it feels overwhelming just trying to plan it out. What we have for you in today’s episode are four simple questions to get you moving in the right direction, to help you form a better plan for hitting your goals. So, Verbs, let’s do it. Why don’t you start us off and introduce the first question people can ask to put a plan in motion to hit their goal.

Verbs: Here we go. The first question you would ask is: “What can I do today?”

Blake: Verbs, do they ever say this at your church, where it’s like, “Hey, God can’t direct a parked car,” or something like that? That feels like a really pastor-y thing. Essentially, it is so much easier to make adjustments once you’re in motion. It’s really hard to make adjustments and improvements when you’re parked. When you’re trying to figure out the perfect way to attack something, it’s paralyzing, and it’s kind of just a form of procrastination. The key here is just to get started, as you said. Take that first step and build some momentum.

Verbs: I think it’s worth noting that there is a certain amount of planning that goes into you thinking through how you want to accomplish your goal, but you do get to that point where you can only plan so much before you actually get out there on the field and start making it happen.

Blake: Absolutely. You may feel overwhelmed. I’ll raise my hand here. I’ve set goals, even this year, where… “Wow. This is big. I don’t really know what to do.” If I don’t know what the first step is because I’m too overwhelmed… “Well, I probably have to do this thing and do this.” You’re probably thinking too big. So, when we ask, “What can I do today?” Literally, just go as far back as you need to go, even if that first step is just “I need to take 20 minutes to brainstorm.”

That’s a starting place for me a lot of times, Verbs. I’ll start just journaling with my goal, and I go, “Okay. What’s my goal? What would it take for that to happen? What would it take for that to happen?” I’ll just keep going backward, backward, backward until I figure out, “Oh.” Let’s say, for instance, “Oh, I want to be debt free this year.” I don’t know how to get debt free. Maybe I’ll just start writing, just start journaling about it and figure it out.

Maybe the very first thing you need to know to get debt free is “How much debt do I owe?” The one thing you could do today is go, “I’m going to look at my different creditors and figure out what the totals are, what the interest rate is for all those, just to get an assessment of where things are at.” That’s enough. That’s called getting started, and it’s enough to get a taste of momentum, I feel like.

Verbs: That’s good. It’s kind of like Newton’s first law of motion. An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. If you don’t act, you don’t go anywhere. You stay in the same location.

Blake: You took the words right out of my mouth. You know I’m a Newton guy. Big-time Newton guy over here.

Verbs: A Newtonite.

Blake: So, right now you’re listening to this, and if you are currently operating a motor vehicle, take this advice with a grain of salt, but literally, just stop procrastinating right now. Just think, “What is one thing I could do?” If your planner is nearby, jot that down. Or maybe that one thing will take less than two minutes. You know, if it’s, “Oh, I need to check where my bank account is.” “Oh, I need to see what’s happening on my calendar this weekend because my first thing is I need to schedule time with so-and-so.”

Literally, this action could take less than five minutes. Big goals are accomplished in two-minute actions, a lot of times, just a succession of two-minute actions, so often. So, don’t let yourself procrastinate any further. In the words of Nike… It’s famously also Newtonites. Nike is known for this. Nike would say, “Just do it.”

Verbs: They would indeed. Can we say that on the show without having to pay…?

Blake: A royalty payment? I don’t know. Just give this a five-star review, everyone, but don’t share this episode. So, what’s your first step for making the goal happen? That’s the first question. What can you do today?

Verbs: Second question: “What are my next three steps?” I like the fact that we are enumerating those so we don’t just try to skid by with one step, but building upon those.

Blake: “What are my next three steps?” If achieving your goal is like crossing the country… You know, you get in your car, and you have a long, long drive. The goal is the destination, and it can be tempting to think, “I need to be able to see the entire path.” That would be an impossible and completely unnecessary thing for driving across the country: being able to see the road. You literally couldn’t. But you have to have your headlights on to see just far enough down the road so you can see what’s in your immediate trajectory forward.

A good SMARTER goal, as we teach it, is going to be in your discomfort zone, so you will not know how to get all the way there, but it’s helpful to put the headlights on. Think about it this way: “What are the next three steps I could take that would get me closer to my goal?” Just the next three steps. It’s a manageable headlight distance number. Write those down. “What are my next three steps for achieving that goal?”

Verbs: I think it’s worth noting again that these three steps don’t have to be something that is overwhelming, so large that to even think about it you fall back into procrastination or putting that off, but three small steps to get that momentum going. Your goal is you want to be in your discomfort zone, but the steps to get there should be well within your comfort zone. Here’s how you’ll know that. If the next step feels too hard, then it’s too big and you have to break it down.

Blake: Absolutely. It’s steady, incremental progress over time that’s going to take you to those big goals, just like making a cross-country journey. If you are a listener to this podcast and have been for a while, you’ve probably heard us talk about our Weekly Preview process. It’s maybe my personal favorite tool in the Full Focus Planner. One of the outcomes of that is constructing a Weekly Big 3. In other words, what are three objectives that are key this week to moving me toward completing a goal or a major project in my life?

If you don’t have that habit instilled already, you may be discounting the power of this question, “What are my next three steps?” But I would encourage you… Write down what those next three steps are and put at least one of those in a Weekly Big 3 this week, and you will feel alignment in your days, feeling like, “Hey, this day is actually important. This week is important. And even if I don’t make ‘huge’ progress, I did make the most important incremental progress.”

So, along with this question, go back to a Weekly Preview, and every week, you could actually refresh this question. Put it on repeat each week. “What are other steps I could accomplish this week to incrementally move me closer to my goal?” So, what’s the third question, Verbs?

Verbs: The third question is: “Who can help me?” Who can I put around me to best help me with continued success when it comes to accomplishing goals?

Blake: This is huge. There is something I’ve struggled with a lot in my life, Verbs, which is asking for help. Let’s just do some therapy with Blake now. Come in, everybody. This is a safe space. Everyone wants to hear this. Somewhere, I learned that accomplishing a goal is more valuable if I do it in a silo, if I do it alone, if I’m self-sufficient. Somewhere along the line, as I’ve gotten more and more into the business world and into sales, I realized self-sufficiency is kind of a root of poverty.

If everyone was self-sufficient, no one would buy anything, and if no one is buying anything, if they don’t need to pay for someone else’s help, guess what: everyone is broke. Everybody is broke if you could be self-sufficient in everything. So, literally, if you want to be a good citizen, ladies and gentlemen, get over yourself. Ask for some help. You are not the first person to try to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish. I guarantee it.

Verbs: Man, this is true. There’s nothing new under the sun at all. That’s good. Obviously, we don’t want to surround ourselves with people of that mindset, but who would be some of the prime first draft picks you would need for your team or in your corner to support you during that process?

Blake: Well, first, you want to see if you have Verbs’ direct email address or cell. Why not shoot for the top? Do you want to give that out to our audience? Maybe not. Maybe that’s in the show notes. It’s 555, so you know it’s real.

Verbs, I’ll give a real-life example. At the end of 2020, I had a sense for a really big goal I was going to set for myself in 2021. When I’m setting goals, sometimes I’ll try to stack them. In other words, if I can set a goal in the first quarter that’s going to help me do a goal in the third or fourth quarter, I want to do that. What tends to happen in my first quarters is I’ll set income goals and/or habit goals, because a lot of times that’s a flywheel for moving other things forward.

So, I had this sense for “Okay. I really want to get aggressive with an income goal in 2021.” Where I went to first mentally was, “Who do I know who will not be impressed at all at the size of my income goal?” I want to find someone where it’s like, “Oh, yeah. Blake, that’s easy. Or at least it is easy by my standards because I did that however long ago.”

Actually, at the end of 2020, one of my fourth quarter goals was to find that mentor. This person could be “Hey, I don’t know anyone personally,” but you may know someone who may know someone. If you have clarity on who you’re looking for… Or someone who has already done it is, I guess, one category of person you could ask for help. So, even if you don’t know someone personally, you probably know someone who may know someone.

Verbs: For sure. As you think through that, what you’re trying to go for is someone who can give good, solid advice who has that wisdom of what you just mentioned, having done it, and could help direct you from there, or it might just be somebody… There are a lot of people who have this gift of encouragement. Regardless of who you are or where you’re trying to go, they just love encouraging people. It’s in them to do so.

Or it just may be somebody you tag as accountability, whether it’s a spouse, whether it’s a best friend, somebody you know who, again, is not going to be impressed with whatever you’re trying to accomplish, but they know who you are, and they’re in your corner regardless. They’ll call. They’ll ask you the hard questions. They’ll check in on you. But just a good solid accountability person on your team as well.

Blake: That’s really well said, Verbs. Just to be totally honest, my head almost always goes to the strategic and the tactical at maybe the expense of… Something that holds us back when we hit goals is just the emotional recovery of failure, because the road to success is paved with failure always. It’s like the road to being strong is paved with lifting weights. It’s necessary. But for me, I think I can underestimate…

Like, this happened in 2020, where I’m like, “Oh, I feel so defeated,” and then I just talked to someone. They’re not an expert. I didn’t pay them. They don’t even know how to hit my goal, but they’ve just heard me, they’ve listened to me, they’ve encouraged me, and I’m like, “Oh yeah. That problem is not so big.” Again, I think this is a weakness for me. I don’t know if you feel like you’re better at this, Verbs.

When you hit a goal and you did it by yourself or you just did it because you took a course and you learned this, that’s great, but how much more rewarding is it when there are other people on top of the mountain with you who were encouraging you? I love that you said, “Hey, bring in your spouse or someone holding you accountable,” because that person, when you hit that goal… It’s like, “All right. Drinks are on me. Let’s do it.” If you’re the only one at the bar, that’s just a lonely scene.

Verbs: I think you’re right. Another important note here (and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it) is hopefully you would know what you respond to best in regard to encouragement or advice or accountability. It’s going to fall somewhere between the drill sergeant and, on the other end of the spectrum, the person who’s an enabler as far as…

Blake: Teddy bear.

Verbs: Yeah, who’s on your team. So, figuring out how you’re going to respond best. There might be some people who respond well to the drill sergeant sort of approach. But figure out where on that spectrum you fall, and then kind of use that as a template to design your team and how they can help you best based on how you respond as you approach your goals.

Moving along to the fourth question: “How can I keep my goals visible?” I know a lot of people… And I know you’ve mentioned before, Blake, that a lot of people try to just write their goals down or keep them on a device, a phone, an iPad, or a tablet, what have you, but that might not necessarily be the right way for everyone. How can we keep our goals visible, and why is that even important?

Blake: This is a great question. I don’t totally understand the brain science of it, but I do understand the results of it. I can know something in my head, but my results are better when I see it every day. It’s weird. I know there’s brain science about it. I know there are real reasons, or whatever, but we can know stuff, but there’s something about… I was listening to someone talk about this and what they did. They literally will write their goals down on a card, laminate it, and keep it in their pocket. It’s almost the tactile. They feel the card in their pocket, and it’s jogging their memory toward it.

Me, personally, I’ll write down goals in my planner. I’ll write down my Daily Big 3 in my planner. It’s not a goal, but the Daily Big 3 is kind of a mini goal for your day. When I leave my planner open on my desk… I’ve gotten so used to doing this I don’t even realize how big of a deal it is, but it helps me keep focus. It’s almost this built in, like, “Oh, right. That’s my Big 3. I don’t know why I’m on Slack right now. I don’t need to be.” The other day, I forgot my planner at home, and I didn’t have it open on my desk. It was one of the worst focus days ever, and I was like, “Why? I know what I have to do.” I don’t understand why, Verbs, but when you have something visible, it makes a difference in your results.

Verbs: It is true. On some days you’ll try to convince yourself otherwise that you’re okay, like, “It’s fine. I know what I have to do.” And just for the fact that you didn’t do that extra step of either opening your planner or looking at that goal card, you’ll slip right back into not being aware of what you actually wrote, and then, once again, no visibility. You take a couple of steps back, it feels like, when that happens.

Blake: There’s something to optimizing your brain power, if you think about it that way. Like, with the whole, “Oh, I’ll put a note card up,” or whatever, my fear is if my goals are that visible… I don’t want them to be super visible to other people. I’m kind of private about stuff like that or embarrassed if someone sees my goal. Something that sort of changed my mind about this was just thinking, “How can I have an edge? How can I make hitting my goals easier? How can I make hitting my potential a more likely outcome?”

A big part of that is just working with hacks and brain science and stuff like that and reserving your brain for actual powerful creativity rather than actually using… Even if it’s a percentage of your brain that’s trying to remember what your goal is… I don’t know if you ever think about stuff like that, but to me, that’s one of the reasons posting the goal up… My favorite way for this is I have a separate document I will review as part of my workday startup.

In my workday startup, I’m looking at my Weekly Big 3 and my Daily Big 3, checking my email. I have a document that has my goals but also is kind of a vision document for my life. I look at that, and it’s sort of a reminder in the morning. This is getting really real, but I’ll even put photos of some of the lifestyle outcomes I’m expecting or wanting to see, and almost the visual of that, just like you see someone on… You know, you’re scrolling through Instagram, if you’ve ever done this. I’ve never done it. Courtney said she struggles with this. Not me.

Verbs: Sure.

Blake: But you scroll through Instagram, and someone is doing something cool, and you’re like, “Oh man, that would be cool,” and then you just feel tired and kind of bad after scrolling through Instagram. It’s not really rejuvenating. It’s the opposite effect when you review your goal. You’re kind of scrolling through. “Oh, these are what my goals are. This is what it’s going to feel like. This is a photo of what that might be or a reward I’m expecting.” It’s almost like the opposite, the anti-Instagram scroll is that visibility scroll of your goal outcomes.

Verbs: Kind of turn it into a visualization exercise to keep it going. That’s good. One of the things Michael often says is goals fall into that category of “Out of sight, out of mind.” So, to keep those at top of mind, there are a few things we could do and implement. One of the ones you just mentioned is creating some sort of vision board behind your goals and what they may look like, attaching photos and pictures.

A lot of folks like to post their goals somewhere they’ll see them, whether it’s by their desk, a bathroom mirror, by your coffeepot, or just somewhere that you know you’ll be during the course of the day frequently. Or even add reviewing your goals to an existing daily habit such as your workday startup or your shutdown. Another thing you can do is schedule time to review your goals and the progress you’ve made toward them, and you can do this by using the Weekly Preview tool in the Full Focus Planner as well.

Blake: These are all great ideas. For the person who got distracted on the treadmill midway through, give us a quick summary. What are the four questions? If someone is feeling overwhelmed right now about their big goals, what questions can they ask themselves to spark their creativity and get some forward motion?

Verbs: Sure. The good news is you don’t have to let uncertainty stall your goal achievement. You can turn your goals into action by answering four questions that we talked about today:

  1. “What can I do today?”
  2. “What are my next three steps?”
  3. “Who can help me?”
  4. “How can I keep my goals visible?”

Blake, do you have any final thoughts for our Focus on This listeners?

Blake: Verbs, my final thought is probably most connected to that last question of visibility, but it’s about reconnecting with desire. I think that’s part of the help of keeping your goals visible. It reconnects you to desire. In my experience, my greatest creative breakthroughs come toward things I am very passionate about, where my desire muscle is really strong. So, my final thought if you’re listening to this and struggling to get some of those creative ideas is, yeah, keep your goal visible. Rewrite it if you have to, but ask yourself this question: “What will my life look like?”

Maybe even look at the goal detail pages. Look at the different life domains. Comb through those life domains and go, “What life domains will be affected when I hit that goal, and what will that look like?” If you’re not excited when you’re journaling about that, then your goal is too small. I did this the other day, and I felt like I could rip a tree from the ground. I was so focused, so excited, and ideas started coming to me, because your brain is so powerful.

You who are listening, even if you fell short in 2020, your brain is so much more powerful than you probably realize, and it will come up with awesome, creative ideas, but it’s waiting for you to cue it up with desire. So, if you’re stuck, if you’re not feeling it, get out a pen or one of our journals or just in your own journaling app, whatever you use, and write down, “What will hitting this goal make possible, and what will my life look like?”

Just by writing that down, all of a sudden, you’re taking your brain away from, “This is impossible. How can I fix this?” and you’re putting your focus on “Wow. What’s going to be possible once I do fix this?” It’s wild how that will affect your creativity. So, that’s a little bonus tip from the archives of my experimentation with trying to hit really big goals. What do you think about that, Verbs? Do you like that?

Verbs: I like it. The other thing I would tag along with that is in that exercise, don’t be afraid or guilty of going there. “Hey, what could be possible?” It may be something well beyond what you felt like you were able to do, but just getting your brain to think on that plateau is going to be helpful for your whole process in setting these goals and even knocking out those little next steps. It’s going to help you get closer to your goal. So, that’s good stuff, man.

Blake: Awesome. Well, thank you, everybody, for joining us in a new year.

Verbs: Brand new.

Blake: It’s a new year, but it’s the same Focus on This. It’s the same Monday morning, productive energy, awesome podcast you are committed to leaving a five-star review for. That’s what we are.

Verbs: And I’ll add that this is the most productive podcast on the Internet, so please be sure to share it with your friends and remember to use #focusonthispodcast.

Blake: We’ll be here next week with yet another great episode for you as you kick off this year. Until then…

Verbs: Happy New Year and…

Blake & Verbs: Stay focused.