Have you ever missed a target in your work or personal life? Ever wonder what you can do to ensure greater accuracy? Self-help books and videos abound with formulas that promise to get you to your goals. For me, I find the most effective advice emerges from my daily life experiences — especially when I’m engaged in sports.
A few weeks ago, I went with a friend on a 10-day ski trip to Whistler. What I discovered while whooshing down the hills promises to keep me on track — for business and personal goals.
As background, you should know that my primary method of skiing is downhill, but I sometimes ski cross-country. On this trip I switched between the two. Whenever I do that, it feels somewhat schizophrenic because the mechanics of the two are so different. I especially feel out of sync when I cross-country ski mainly because I don’t do it that often and because these skis don’t have the edges downhill skis offer.
With my skinny, edge-less cross-country skis firmly fixed inside the machine-made grooves, I blasted down the hill — holding on and hoping for a smooth landing. Trying to feel more in control, I began to talk to myself saying, “Look, you just need to stay balanced over your skis — check in with your body and don’t let it move too far forward or backward. Next, don’t gaze around at the spectacular scenery — look exactly where you want to go. Keep your eyes fixed on the grooves right in front of you. Finally, don’t get scared — trust that if you do the first two things you will arrive at your destination in one piece.”
To my surprise, I found that by repeating this message to myself on every hill I gained more confidence than ever. I relaxed and enjoyed the ride knowing I would always get to the bottom of the hill without falling.
I want to share this simple but powerful lesson with you. Think of a tough situation you are facing as an executive director, a business owner or in your personal life. Maybe you have a particular goal you aren’t sure if you can reach. Try this formula: Balance + Focus + Trust = Success. Here’s how it works.
Building Block One: Balance
Constantly check in with yourself to see if you are balanced in all areas of your life. Are you taking work home every night, working on your laptop late into the night? Often hardworking people justify their misplaced time with their large salaries, but this distorted work-life balance comes with a high price — personally and professionally.
Start by examining your inner self to identify what is really important to you. Then check in with your actions: Does the way you spend your time reflect your internal values? Are your business and personal goals in line with your deeper priorities? To feel balanced you need to spend your time working toward your goals in a way that brings you satisfaction and joy. Give as much credence to your personal goals as you do to your business goals. When you are with your family, try not to answer business phone calls and emails.
Taking time out to relax and change your mental channel will not only revive your energy and give you more peace, but it will also make your mind sharper and more effective at solving problems and getting you to your goals quicker. Often when I go for a walk on the beach to take a break from my computer, the answer to a perplexing question will come to me as I focus on the rolling surf. When we are tired or stressed out, our mind is not as clear as when we are relaxed.
In my ski story, I was constantly vigilant about checking in with every part of my body to make sure I was balanced over my skis. It took discipline to do this, but it was critical to successfully getting to my destination. I encourage you to be intentional about checking in with your work-life balance.
Building Block Two: Focus
Create a clear description of your goal. What it looks like, why you want to accomplish this particular goal, what the outcomes will be, what your action steps are and your benchmarks along the way. Write it all down. Get in touch with how you will feel when your goal is accomplished. Make a drawing of your completed goal — even if you’re not artistic. Now fix that firmly in your mind and don’t waver from it. You are accessing building block number two: laser focus on where you want to go. Unwavering, undistracted focus on the end result. In my ski story, I never took my eyes off the bottom of the hill which was my end goal.
Jim Collins, author of the popular Good to Great, proclaims that lack of focus is the single biggest reason for failure. He even suggests it’s best to let some fires burn while focusing on a single goal. If we try to put out all the fires, we lose our focus and our power. When multiple goals threaten to dilute your focus, be single-minded. Stoically concentrate your attention and action on your one essential target.
Professional race car drivers are admonished to never look at the wall. They know if they look at the wall, they will instinctively drive in that direction and ultimately crash. Focusing on the road in front of them — looking at exactly where they want to go — is the only way to get to their destination without a collision. So, think like a pro driver: Focus on where you want to go. Always.
Building Block Three: Trust
Do you trust yourself in the board room? How about in your living room? When you set realistic goals, do you trust yourself to accomplish them? I’ve noticed the more often I successfully complete a task, the more I trust myself to do it next time. So the old adage of practice makes perfect rings true, even with trusting ourselves. Trust doesn’t happen overnight — we have to work at it diligently. Some say trust must be earned.
Most of us trust what we have seen and experienced over and over. We trust that the car will start when we turn the key and the light will illuminate when we flip the switch. We’ve seen it happen so often. Trusting ourselves is the same. The more often I give a good presentation, the more I trust myself to do it again next time. It helps to remind myself about all the times I’ve succeeded at a particular activity to establish rationale for trust.
In my ski story, it was hard at first to trust that I would arrive at the bottom of the hill by simply practicing balance and focus. But by the third hill, it was easier to trust that if I paid attention to my balance and focused on my goal, I would get there even if I sometimes wasn’t sure I could trust myself.
Another way to cultivate your trust is to be a trustworthy person yourself. Can others count on you to keep your word? If you promise to do something and then change your mind, can the other person trust you to follow through anyway? The more often you see others trusting you, the easier it will be to trust yourself.
Balance + Focus + Trust = Success
The next time you face a big goal — whether in the board room or your living room — remember that achieving that goal will depend on three must-have components. Continuously check to make sure you are in balance — that your values and your actions are aligned. Check to see where you are looking. Are you gawking around at daily distractions or are you laser focused on your goal? Finally, don’t doubt yourself. Trust that if you are in balance and focused on where you are going you will arrive at your goal destination triumphantly.