Pop quiz time!
The theme of today’s quiz is this: the best mindset for achieving your goals.
Now don’t worry, you weren’t supposed to study, and it’s perfectly okay if you want to sit on the sofa and take the quiz in your underpants. Also, unlike the quizzes you may have taken in high school, there’s a payoff at the end of this one.
Here’s how this is going to work…
I’m going to describe two individuals to you – their thoughts, their actions, and the goals they hope to achieve – and you tell me which individual is likely to achieve his goal. Easy as pie.
For this one, I’m going to use a fitness example. If your own goals have nothing to do with fitness, that’s okay. It’s only illustrative. Are you ready?
So then. First we have Danny Dreamland. Danny is a world-class couch sitter. His butt-print is a permanent feature of the sofa cushion. He drinks cola straight from the two-liter bottle, gobbles sour-cream-and-onion potato chips by the fistful, and channel surfs like the lives of his loved ones depend on it. This is an every night ritual for Danny.
His goal is to be thin, and muscular, and sexy – like the professional athletes he likes to watch, and the reality show guys who have nicknames for their abs.
Danny hopes it will happen for him someday, but for now, he’s content to wait for the perfect moment. He’s hoping that a miracle product will come along – some vitamin, or supplement, or “fitness system” – that allows him to put forth a minimum of effort, but absolutely 100% guarantees he’ll come out the other end more or less resembling a young Brad Pitt.
With science these days, who knows? Failing that, he hopes that he’ll have one of those life-changing moments that seem to happen in the movies, and that will finally give him the motivation he needs. But for now, hey, what’s on the Food Network?
So that’s Danny Dreamland.
Then we have our other contestant, Eddie Enlightened.
Eddie prefers barbecue chips, but otherwise, same deal as Danny. Couch, TV, hope, dream…the whole enchilada. With one major difference. Eddie has had a realization. What we in the personal development biz like to call an “epiphany.” And that epiphany is this: He will NEVER look like a sexy athlete or Hollywood hunk until he eats, trains, and lives like a sexy athlete or Hollywood hunk.
Like a bolt of lightning out of the sky, his whole fit and fabulous future appears before him, so real he can almost feel the lustful gazes of strangers on his steely buttocks already.
Eddie’s going to abandon the chips and grab a bowl of celery or something. He’s going to join the YMCA and work out, maybe hire a personal trainer, or buy one of those DVD Body Blasting(!) courses he’s always seeing the infomercials about. He’s going to spend less time on the couch in front of the TV (what was he thinking!), and more time being active, healthy, and in all ways more fully engaged in a go-get-’em life.
And so, here comes the quiz part.
Which guy is likely to achieve his dream? The guy waiting for a miracle? Or the guy who already had his epiphany?
The answer is, of course…wait for it…NEITHER OF THEM!
I know. Trick questions are B.S. Sue me. There’s a point here.
And the point is this…
Epiphanies are for suckers!
There are days when I have five epiphanies before lunch. I’ve had days where I figured out how to save the whales, feed Africa, broker peace in the Middle East, make a billion dollars, and have six pack abs till I’m 70. I’ll bet you have, too.
And moreover, I’ll bet it didn’t feel at the time like it was merely a revelation…this time, it was going to be a LIFE CHANGING revelation!
You didn’t just know what to do…you figured out how to do it…and moreover, you understood, deep down, that it would be easy. So easy, in fact, that you wanted to kick yourself for not realizing it before. And then you took a deep breath, hunkered down, and…
Nothing? Put it on hold until all you had left was a faint memory that you once intended to do something? Watched it sit on the back burner with the full intention of getting back to it, “As soon as you took care of a few more things?”
Did those few more things include more TV, chips, and soda, because first thing this coming Monday morning seemed like a much better time to start your new life than right away?
Did they include a little more research, just to make sure you got it perfect?
Did they include a few more games of Angry Birds, just to get it out of your system…because, you know, once you were busy changing your life and the world, who’s going to have time for Angry Birds?
Most people’s “few more things” include stuff like that. And by the time you finish, if you finish at all, life has caught up with you, and you’re back where you started.
Epiphanies are a dime a dozen. They’re a drug. We have one, and use it to excuse ourselves from following up. We get the illusion that we’re closer to the pot of gold than we really are. Like the trivial business of actually getting-on-with-it will be easy.
It’s horse crap.
But There’s More to Life Than Epiphanies
Now, we all know Danny Dreamland ain’t getting anywhere fast, waiting for somebody else to solve his problems for him. (Hooray! We all got one right!)
But Eddie Enlightened and everyone else with their life-changing epiphanies? They’re just as far away from meaningful change as the dreamers.
You want real change? Then you want to bet on Simple Steve.
What? You didn’t know there was a Steve? Well, there aren’t many Simple Steves, but they’re out there. And I tell you what. As long as you read about Steve, you pass the quiz with flying colors. Fair?
So then. Steve is pretty much the same guy as Danny and Eddie. Maybe Steve likes cheese puffs instead of chips. Whatever.
One day, Steve thinks to himself: “Self…how did those guys on TV get those ripply muscles and six-pack abs?” And then, instead of giving himself a reminder to pick up a multivitamin next time he’s at the store…
…instead of plotting how he’s going to head right down to the gym and sign up for a spinning class first thing next Monday…
..instead of those, he does the one thing that all the Dannies and Eddies with their good intentions and epiphanies and such never get around to doing…
He does a pushup.
In fact, he does a couple of them, until his flabby muscles give out on him.
Maybe it’s not much of a workout. Maybe he’s not going to see bulging biceps and chiseled pecs next time he looks in the bathroom mirror.
But the next day, he’s sore. And it’s a good kind of sore. Like he can feel his muscles when he moves. He didn’t know he had actual muscles, and now, suddenly, they feel different…better. Like he’s earned that soreness. So he does a few more.
Steve has started what we call a positive feedback cycle. He took action, and he feels rewarded. And it feels good, so he takes more action. And sees more reward. You get the idea. All of which leads us back to the promise from the headline way up above…
The Amazing One-Step Process That All Achievers Have in Common
To jump-start the positive feedback cycle, you’ve got to do something. And that something has nothing whatsoever to do with having epiphanies.
What you’ve got to do is this: take any meaningful action in the direction of your goal. That’s the amazing one-step process that has built every empire, launched every superstar, and wooed every starlet who’s ever been wooed. Taking one action.
And what’s the best kind of action to take? The simple kind. In fact, best of all is the simplest kind. How zen is that?
Why? Because the simpler the action is, the more likely it becomes you’ll actually take it, and not philosophize about it while staring at your navel and contemplating how awesome your future life is going to be.
Steve never would have left the couch if the only action he could come up with was a full, 17-exercise Body Blasting(!) plan guaranteed to hit every muscle on his physique from every conceivable angle. That kind of action is exactly the kind people love to think about doing…or better yet, fantasize about having already done…but rarely actually do.
And so there’s Man of Zen for you. In a nutshell. Nothing moves you toward your goal faster than simple action, taken immediately.
Try forgetting about perfection for a while. Forget the products and schemes and advertisements and articles and talking heads that promote it. And try this instead: simplify. Do more pushups.
And remember, “pushup” here is just a metaphor for any super-simple step you can take in the direction you want to travel.
If your goal is to run a marathon, then run a mile…or a block. Just take action. Get a little closer today than you were yesterday.
If your goal is to own a profitable web-based business, then write an article, or a blog post, or some code if you know how (or start to learn a little code-writing).
If your goal is to meet the woman or the man of your dreams, then get out there, make a little eye contact, smile, and say hi to some people.
The feeling of having done something kicks epiphany ass, every time.
P.S. – If you take a little simple “pushup” style action toward your goal, let us hear about it with a comment. There’s too many Dannies and Eddies out there, and we could all use a little inspiration.
Photo by Jeremy Deades