What do you feel is important in your life to be successful? If you immediately jump to cliché thoughts of billions of dollars and traveling the world, I would caution you to dig deeper, a lot deeper.
For the most part, people that I have heard use these extreme levels of success as their goals tend to be so far away from pursing any of it that it almost feels like a lie.
They say they want to have six-pack abs more than anyone. They say their goal is to run a marathon. They want to be the richest person in the world. They want to be more famous than anyone else.
But then you look at their lifestyle and don’t see anything aligning with that. Sometimes they smoke, eat fast food and sugary snacks constantly, and never exercise. Yet when you ask them what success means to them, they point to an extreme that is so unlikely that it feels like they are pulling your leg.
I realized this because when I asked myself that question years ago I came up with extremes that seemed to make sense at the time.
But for each response, I started to ask why?. I asked that question over and over. It went something like this:
· I want to be a millionaire
· Because then I would have enough money to buy whatever I want
· Because then I could finally get out of debt and buy things I need in life without the stress associated with using credit to buy them
· Because I feel like I’m wasting money when I have to pay so much interest which gives me constant stress and anxiety around finances
That is a very simplified look but it drives home a point. The reason I said I wanted to be a millionaire was because I didn’t like the stress associated with wasting money by putting everything on my credit card and paying interest.
While becoming a millionaire was a bit of an extreme goal for me when I was just finishing college, paying off my credit card debt was not that extreme.
To become a millionaire so quickly, it meant taking on huge risk and leveraging everything I had. Also I needed luck in order to make sure those risks turned out in my favor instead of against me. While this may or not be considered a realistic goal, it was an extreme goal for me at the time.
Paying off my credit card debt was a lot easier to do. I didn’t need a million dollars to pay off my debt and better budget my money. I just needed better systems around my money.
By finding the real reason behind my first goal, I was able to lock into what really mattered and focus solely on achieving that goal – having better systems to manage my finances to eliminate the stress I felt around money. It was a lot more practical and by doing that set me up to be able to better manage my finances in the future.
Before I did this and I was continuing to try for all or nothing with regards to money, I would go to risky options with my money or give up and just buy something that made me happy temporarily but didn’t hold any financial value (think of TVs, Cars, Trips, etc).
But following this path added more to my debt and made it much more difficult to get to my ultimate goal. It added more stress around money instead of reducing it. Shifting to a conservative approach to my finances meant that I didn’t really have much of a shot at becoming a millionaire in the next couple years but I was able to pay off my credit card debt in a year and start a new budgeting system that I still rely on to this day to make sure I properly budget my finances. Giving up on the extreme goal made the underlying purpose more reasonable and attainable.
So extreme goals can actually take you towards actions and behaviors that take you further away from the real purpose behind those goals.
This is why it is so crucial to start with asking what is important you?, or what does success mean to you?. These questions, as well diving deeper and deeper into your responses, can lead you towards a much better path. Instead of all or nothing you can start to take steps in the right direction and build the structures that can help you achieve your most important goals.
What is important to you? Why?