Decide on Your Most Important Goal, Be Relentless, and Achieve the Crap Out of It

by Mark on January 25, 2010 · 2 comments

Do you have a long list of goals that you have set for yourself? If you do, you aren’t alone. I used to do this all the time. I’ve read numerous personal development books, and just about all of them talk about the importance of setting goals. Typically, the recommendation is to begin by brainstorming all the things you want to be, do, and have without editing yourself. Then you turn your dreams into goals by setting deadlines. Lastly, you take all the goals that have a deadline of one year or less and use this list of goals as your focus for the year. This is a generalization of course, but this framework is a very common one among personal development “experts.”

Reject the Idea of a Life without Limits

It is not uncommon for personal development experts to talk about our unlimited power to achieve. They bring up inspiring examples of people who have accomplished incredible things as proof of our ability to live a life without limits. The problem with the idea of living a life without limits is that it is impossible! The reality is that we have limited time, energy, motivation, money, knowledge, and contacts. Unfortunately, we have limits in every area of life.

Embrace the Power of Limits

The fact that we have limits isn’t a tragedy, however, and there is no reason that we need to let it be a demotivator. We just need to acknowledge this fact and adjust our strategy accordingly. Instead of pretending that we live in a world without limits, we instead want to embrace the power of limits. Instead of trying to do more, more, more, we want to limit ourselves. Forget about squeezing ever more into your schedule and into your life. The key word is focus. Focus your resources — especially your time, attention, and energy — on the things that are most important to you. Limiting ourselves forces us to leverage our resources and allows us to get far better results relative to the resources we have invested.

“Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets.”
Nido Qubein

This brings us back to the idea of having a long list of goals. My personal experience is that it is not very effective. I think the main purpose of setting goals is to give us direction and focus. Without having a target, we tend to meander. Our actions lack consistency and coherence. We end up leaving the achievement of our desires to little more than dumb luck. The problem with having a long list of goals is that it dilutes our focus and causes us to go in too many directions, almost as if we had no goals at all. Our time, energy, and attention is constantly shifted until eventually we start to get frustrated at our slow progress. Eventually, we give up. Focusing on doing too much causes us to do too little.

So what should we do? I alluded to my solution in the title.

How to Decide on Your Most Important Goal, Be Relentless, and Achieve the Crap Out of It

  1. Reduce your goals to five or less (preferably less). Select your most important goals, and ignore the rest. You aren’t necessarily giving up on these goals. You are deferring them for now so that you can focus on what’s most important and achieve them much faster. The fewer the goals, the greater the chance that you will achieve them. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits recommends only setting one goal in his book The Power of Less.
  2. Make sure your goals are one year or less (preferably less). Six months or less is better. Tight deadlines make you more productive. We also have limited attention spans. Break down your goal if you have to. You can always set another goal after that. With fewer goals to work on, you will increase the time that you are able to devote to each goal, which will reduce the time required to achieve them.
  3. Select one goal as your Most Important Goal (MIG). Choose the one goal that you think will do the most to help you achieve your dreams. Make this goal your top priority. Whenever your time is tight, this will be the goal that gets your attention first. This is the goal for which excuses are unacceptable. What one goal would be absolutely awesome to achieve? What one goal are you most passionate about? Your Most Important Goal should be like sex. Once you start to think about it, you start to get excited and motivated.
  4. Take some kind of meaningful action towards accomplishing your Most Important Goal every single day. Instead of using a traditional To Do list, decide on your Most Important Tasks (MITs). These are the few tasks that you are absolutely committed to achieving for the day. Limit your MITs to five or less (preferably less) in order to increase your focus and the probability of doing them. Anything else that you achieve is gravy. Whatever meaningful action that you choose to do to move you closer to achieving your Most Important Goal is your top Most Important Task (MIT). If you get nothing else done for the day, complete your top Most Important Task. Limit your MITs to only one or two tasks if necessary. This is important to developing and maintaining momentum. For more on MITs, read The Power of Less or the Zen Habits blog.

That’s it. Simple, but not easy. Focus intensely on what is most important to you and take relentless and consistent action towards getting it. Commit to working on your Most Important Goal as your highest priority so that it isn’t sacrificed to lesser priorities.

“Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now!”
– Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek, p. 63 –

Your laundry can wait until tomorrow. Work on your Most Important Goal today. Decide that you will achieve your Most Important Goal if nothing else. Good luck!

What’s one goal that could change your life that you could set as your Most Important Goal and achieve the crap out of?


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: