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Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Habits”

My readers told me their #1 goal. Then I followed up.

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One thing that almost nobody does is hold us accountable. So today, I thought I’d do it.

See, about a month ago, I wrote one of my favorite posts, where I shared how delusional I was when I was younger: I thought the world should listen to me because of my “great ideas,” and when they didn’t, I got frustrated. It turns out, it’s SUPPOSED to be hard to be the best.

Here’s the full post: “Uh, it’s SUPPOSED to Be Hard

Basically, I now get to rant to 500,000+ people any time I want. This has become a very rewarding life.

So as you know, I’m fascinated between what people SAY and what they DO. So to test this, I decided to see how many of you would actually follow through. I asked what your #1 goal of the year was…

…and then, like the Surrogate Asian Father than I am, I actually followed up.

If you’re curious how many people actually did what they claimed was important — remember, they said this was their NUMBER ONE priority — read on.

You’ll learn how to study the language of people who take action…and the rationalizations of people who don’t.

RESULTS of people’s goals

#1: CLAUDIA’S INITIAL GOAL: DEBT FREE

CLAUDIA’S RESULTS (I reached out):

RAMIT’S COMMENT:

Impressive. This warms my heart like no puppy could ever do (I hate pets). She set a goal, she knew how long it would take, and she accomplished it. Just think how this sense of accomplishment will “flow” into other parts of her life. Awesome job, Claudia.

 

#2: SHAUNA’S INITIAL GOAL: LOSE 5-10 LBS

SHAUNA’S RESULTS:

RAMIT’S COMMENT:

Good job. I love that she set specific goals (5-10lbs, eating healthy 5x/week, etc) and is tracking progress. I would have liked to see specific weight results, but as a general rule, process > immediate results. And she has the right process down. Good job, Shauna.

But what about those who haven’t been able to make any significant progress towards their objective, even when they claimed it was their “#1 goal for the year”?

Why do we claim something is important, then often do nothing to actually make that thing a priority in our lives?

I want you to pay specific attention to how easily we can reframe and rationalize not making progress.

 

#3: LYNZIE’S INITIAL GOAL: LEARN SPANISH, GET A RAISE

RESULTS:

RAMIT’S COMMENT:

Picking a goal is an art, and I would throw this art in my trash can. Saying “I want to learn Spanish” is a HUGE goal. Then saying you’re going to use it to “get a raise or a better job” is yet another huge goal. Huge X huge = kill me. And when you come home from work tired, are you really inspired by a vague goal?  Instead, I would have rather Lynzie said, “I’m going to practice Spanish 3x/week — MWF at 5:30pm for one hour each. By December, I want to be able to order in a restaurant.”

I would RATHER you shoot for 5 and accomplish it, then shoot for 10 and accomplish 0.

This isn’t meant to insult Lynzie. We’ve ALL done the same thing. She was courageous enough to write it down and admit that it wasn’t working. Let’s all learn how to improve from her example.

What did you notice about people who DO things…vs. people who just TALK?

What are the main differences between people that were able to follow through and those who weren’t?

Look at the patterns in from the first couple readers who were successful in taking action. Do you see any of these?

  • Cognitive misers. They made it as easy on themselves as possible by limiting the scope and creating habits
  • Identified the highest-value uses of their time
  • Got an accountability partner

Does this mean that those who didn’t take action are BAD people? Of course not.

But after a while, you can spot the language differences in less than 5 seconds. For example, Lynzie, the woman who wanted to learn Spanish, wrote:

“Part of it is not wanting to give up my lunches, which isn’t the greatest excuse”

This is for the item she claimed as her NUMBER ONE priority of the year!

We all do this. How many of us want to travel more, learn a language, earn more — but we don’t?

It’s easy to point fun at people, but actually, they took the initiative to respond and track their progress. How many of us do that? How many of us look down at other people…but we aren’t excelling at OUR #1 goal of the year?

The truth?

We’re not “Special Snowflakes”. We rationalize our inaction by

  • Justification (e.g., lunches)
  • Spending our time the wrong way (80/20) and focusing on minutiae, including endless research
  • Waiting until we “some day” (when we have enough information, more time, more money…)

Any of this sound familiar?

At IWT, I insist that we’re all honest with ourselves. If you’re weak in an area, AND you want to fix it, great! I’ll show you how. If it’s just not important enough…that’s also cool — if you’re conscious about it.

TO DO TODAY

Think about a goal that you were “serious” about in the past — but you couldn’t seem to take action on.

1. What was the goal?
2. What have you learned from THIS POST alone that will help you achieve the goal?

Leave your comment below.

 

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70 Comments

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  1. Like Lynzie, I’ve always thought about learning Spanish. I never really made any progress. Then, recently, I had similar realizations to the ones laid out in this post. I started a structured program that requires 30 minutes a day (Pimsleur tapes) and set up a weekly call with a Spanish speaking friend of mine.

    In a couple weeks, I will be moving to Chile to really immerse myself in the language. Then there’s no turning back! Thanks for the great advice, Ramit.

  2. My goal for a while now has been to start a personal travel blog. I have the domain, the concept, and a running list of dozens of topics to cover. The problem? Not making time to write. I am going to set a concrete goal to make the blog live by the end of November. That gives me a reasonable time frame to get mostly through my busiest work season and several travel commitments in the next couple of months, but also enough pressure to set time aside each week between now and then to work on the design and make an editorial calendar for my blog post topics to which I can consistently and realistically commit.

  3. Why worry about a past goal when I have one that’s still relevant? The #1 most important goal for me is to ace all of my classes and to be able to fund all of my tuition without unsubsidized loans (I don’t want to be accumulating/paying interest until I’m in a situation where I can pay much more than the minimum payment).

    What I’ve learned: Well, that’s not really a goal, more like a wish. Instead, my new goal is to set aside 2-4 hours at 5pm each afternoon to work on the homework for the week. I’ll start with the simplest/quickest assignments first (like the Dave Ramsey/snowball method), and tackle more challenging assignments in order. I also asked for time off from 1 of my jobs on Fridays and once that kicks in I plant to still get up as if I were going to work, and spend that time studying.
    The funding thing is going to be taken care of w/ my jobs, assuming I can keep up the pace. If I do end up having to get a private loan? Well, I’ll just have to get extra hours in July and pay it all back over that month & the next, because the grades come first

  4. Hez Ramit,
    Mz number one priority this time last year was to achieve full self-employment. Like mitch said, that was not really a goal, more like a wish. Only in recent month (as I marked the 1 year anniversary of my current job) that I have really kicked into gear and started making progress on this goal. I have an accountability system I borrowed from one of my coaches where I post a Facebook photo of a Post-it with my major to-do’s for each week on them. I’ve committed in front of a supportive crew to posting 52 of these posti-its, so one for each week of the year. If I don’t do it, they have permission to harrass me endlessly until i do (and I get to do the same for them).

    My projected timeline to achieving self-employment is now 3 months or less (I didn’t slack off all year, it’s just now that everything is snowballing into success!.)

    I am a Dream Life Consultant by the way, I help people gain clarity on what they really want out of life and then make sure they achieve it)

  5. I’ve done well. Year ago my net worth was in red $25,000, now almost $30,000 in black. I’ve been working two jobs while full-time studying a college in English speaking country while I’m from non-English speaking European country. At my free time I’ve been also working on my online business that starts to generate me nice income.

    Was it hard? Yes. Worth it? Hell yes.

    Actually I told my boss just today that I want to quit by the next month. Work more on my lifestyle business, enjoy life again, and soon travel for indefinitely

  6. Don’t try to boil the ocean.

  7. I have been thinking about doing my MBA since 2010 and that goal is still alive.
    I had written my GMAT in 2010 (710) and have not yet applied to any B-schools. I stay in India and i wanted to apply to 2-3 US B-schools and ISB. Every year I shortlist the schools and then form word files for each essay and leave as it is. I know that I put off things anything related to writing as I’m not good at writing.
    My number one priority is to do apply for MBA this year as I’ve realized this is the last year I can apply because of my personal reasons. This year too, I have shortlisted the schools which I plan to apply . I even started a blog, joined Toastmasters to improve my writing and reading skills, but I still couldn’t find the courage/time/etc to write essay.

    The only difference between this year and the previous years is I now have a mentor/someone accountable. He keeps me motivated enough to write though he might not help me in forming a fantastic essay.

    Thanks Ramit.. Your blog posts have helped me to:
    – Form SMART goals
    – Have someone accountable.
    – Focus on relevant things.

    Though I’m from India and can’t afford most of your courses considering the exchange rate , I’m reaping the benefits of your FREE blog posts.

  8. My goal: save money for a freaking downpayment on a house.
    I didn’t really learn from this post, but I’m reading IWTYTBR (about in the middle of it now). I decided to quit screwing around and stop talking about how nice it would be to have a high-interest savings account, and to put money aside each month, and I actually took the steps to open a savings account. Turns out ING got bought out, so I didn’t go with them (I don’t like Cap One) and went with Emigrant. Then I posted about it on Facebook, where a friend of mine said she got even more from ally. I gave them a quick look and now I have an automatic deposit going to ally on the first of each month. Then this morning I texted my husband and asked if I could open a joint account with an auto-deposit on the 15th, until his military service is over. He said yes, and now that’s happening. My plan is to build up a good amount and then roll it over into a higher-interest CD. By the time that CD matures, we will both be out of school and in the job we are currently working toward. Then we will be in a position to buy, and the money in the CD will go towards the downpayment on a house. FINALLY.

    An accountability partner would be a good thing though. I will have to talk to my friend about it; she seems to have her shit together more than I do. I believe she’s already doing the stuff recommended here. In fact I will text her right now.

    • OK, texted her. Now I’m going to go work out, since that’s the other big goal I have. I’m doing well on that note too. It’s weird how this program is translating well for other parts of my life too, not just monetarily. I’ve already lost about 5 pounds. If you look up weighandwin, it’s a program (just in CO I believe) that pays you to lose weight. That way I get the weight goal handled, and the money is going towards my house downpayment. Win-win!

  9. I do not “set goals” – I make detailed plans with specific target dates, then track/monitor on those. I know I want to own my own B&B by 2015, so I started with buying a HUD repo fixer (closed in 2013) which I am remodeling. It will be on the market in Spring 2015 (already set up with realtor on that), where I will use the $35k-$40k profit for the downpayment on the B&B location. On the remodeling, I have specific goals every weekend (finishing flooring at [insert location], etc.) and I have all targets on a piece of paper with target date and finish date blanks that I fill in. Feels great seeing progress WEEKLY! I am also monitoring the housing markets in both locations (sale and purchase property) so make sure I don’t get hit with anything unexpected in 2015. =) Victory shall be mine!!

  10. My previous goals have all be ambitious and vague. Often times, the action plans were unrealistic. (Dedicating 2 hours per night to study a language with 4 young children is NOT realistic.)

    I’ve learned that my goals need to include the action plan to achieve them. I am learning technical stock analysis, so my goal is as follows: I will learn to read and profitably trade 3-4 stocks by spending 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week reviewing the stock charts. I will spend 30 minutes analyzing a losing trade to understand the reasons for the loss and document those reasons. I will know that I have successfully learned when I can trade profitably 75% of the time.

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