7 Simple Steps to Make Things Happen

Are you stuck in a rut? Are you making the progress you would like in your current goals? Maybe you’re putting in the work but you’re not seeing the results. Or do you find yourself paralysed by inaction, unsure of what you should be doing. Stop. Take a step back. Here’s a simple six-step process to get you back on course, progress faster, and start making things go your way.

7 steps to start making progress

  1. Get your mind right. Are you a negative thinker? Do you believe you’ll fail before you even try? Do you expect everything to go wrong from the outset? Negative thinking is a habit. You were not born to think negatively, it’s a trait you’ve picked up. How you see the world around you is as much a matter of perception than reality. For example, some people love the hot weather: trips to the beach; working on their tan; everything looks beautiful; whilst others hate it: the stickiness, the humidity, sleepless nights, constant sweating. Same hot weather, different reactions.  The skill is to interpret the world around you in a way that helps you. As you work on your goal, counter every inevitable negative thought with a positive one. See the positive in every situation. Is this living in denial? No. Life is not always black and white. Optical illusions, for example, prove that things can be different to how we see them, no matter how convinced we may be. Situations can be similarly complex. Choose the more helpful perspective.
  2. Act “as if”. You’ve no doubt heard that confidence or self-belief is the key to success. But what if you are not a confident person? Positive affirmations, “I am a confident person” are practically useless. They will never silence the voice in your head that says otherwise or the strong sense we all have of what we are and what we are not. So how can we develop a characteristic when we don’t have it or believe we have it? We simply act as if we had the quality we want. If you want to be a confident person, ask yourself, “How would a confident person act? What would they do? What would they say? How would they carry themselves? How would they interact with others and the world around them?” You then start to act in a similar way. At first, it will feel unnatural and forced. That’s normal – you’re pretending to be confident, after all. But gradually the line between the act and the authentic quality begins to blur. Where does the non-confident you end and the confident you begin? Over time, you will simply be a confident person. This acting “as if” applies to any skill or quality you want to attain.
  3. Have a simple plan. Don’t confuse busyness with effectiveness. There are many people who have a strong work ethic and put in long hours but achieve relatively little. You don’t just have to work hard, you have to work on the right things. What are the right things? For every project you set yourself, there are myriad choices you can make and actions vying for your attention. Not all these choices are helpful and not all these actions are important. Only a relatively small proportion of these tasks (approximately 20%) are worth your attention and focus. Identify these 20% of activities – this is your simple plan. Is the plan comprehensive? No, and it doesn’t have to be. (In any case, it will likely change as you start working on your goal.) What it is however is a clear guide as to what are the most important activities you need to focus on to get 80% of your project complete by only having to put in 20% effort. This is the well-known Pareto Principle or 80-20 Rule.
  4. Focus on one step towards your goal. Now that you have a simple plan outlined, identify one of the important steps for attaining it. Start immediately working on just that one step. A dog that tries to chase five rabbits will probably end up with none of them. You need to identify one step – one that will make a big difference towards attaining your goal. Identify one goal and stick to it like glue until it’s finished.
  5. Start working. Once you’ve identified the one step you can take, start working on it immediately. You’re going to meet resistance. You’re going to encounter the voice that says “What if it doesn’t work? What if they say no? What if I fail?” and so on. That’s your habitual negative thinking in action. And even if you fail, you’ve succeeded by taking action. Taking action is the most important skill for success, by far. Most people don’t realise their goals because they don’t take action because it’s difficult and uncomfortable – physically and mentally. So just by taking action – regardless of the outcome – you are training yourself to be an achiever. If you can develop the habit of taking action, your chances of success skyrocket.
  6. Connect with more people. This is one of the most overlooked keys to success. Make more connections. Meet more people, build your network, help others, ask more. You’re not going to connect with everyone you meet but those you do will make the process worthwhile. You can reach often shortcut you way to your goal by the people you know. Don’t be anything you’re not. If networking isn’t for you, there are still lots of options available: reach out to someone on social media and offer your help; take something they’ve created and put your spin on it. (The founder of Etsy did this. A fan of Flickr, he built Etsy around its design. He contact the founders of Flickr and said, “I love what you’ve done with Flickr. Here’s what I’ve done and I’d be grateful for your feedback”. Their response? To fly him to San Francisco to meet with them). You never know where making a connection will take you. Every person you meet is a doorway to a different world.
  7. Persevere. It seems every day in the news there’s a story of some young prodigy selling their business for billions or an artist who has become “an overnight success”. It gives the false impression that success is (or “should be”) easy. What you don’t hear about are the failures. The deep, dark valleys that most successful people have gone through. The long, dark nights of the soul when all seems lost and you feel completely alone. It’s easy to be upbeat, positive and to carry on when you’re winning; but it’s more important to carry on during the vast majority of time when you’re struggling to make something happen and no one knows – or cares – about you. The secret is, well, there is no secret. You just carry on. Know that other successful people have and continue to go through the exact same doubts and emotions as you. The difference is, they don’t let those things stop them. You’re going to have winning days and losing days. It’s to be expected and it’s the same for everyone. And if you’re thinking of quitting, do just one more thing before throwing in the towel.

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other ~ Walter Elliot

Takeaway points

  1. Don’t overcomplicate the achievement process: think supportive thoughts; set a goal; take action and persevere.
  2. Love the journey. Stop investing so much into the destination.
  3. The secret to success is to create more than you consume. Get busy putting your value out into the world.

Action steps

  1. Build momentum. Decide on one action and start immediately. When you’re stuck, it’s more important that you do something rather than worry about what is the “right” thing. You can adjust your actions as results start coming in and you have some feedback to work with.
  2. What’s the worst that can happen? If you’re not taking action because of fear, write down the worst-case scenario. Next, pretend that the worst has happened. Now, calmly think how you can improve on the worst.
  3. Meet more people. Your life changes in direct proportion to the new people you meet (and new knowledge you acquire). Join Meetup and sign up to groups that interest you. Attend social events. Join a club. Keep it low-pressure, low-commitment. None of this should feel like an obligation. Set yourself a goal of talking to a new person once a week. Set a goal of meeting new people.

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