Got goals? We all do. In the creative field, it’s ambition that wakes us up every morning. Not coffee.
Yet at the same time, everyone can be honest about the fact that they’ve failed to achieve something in the past, or that where they are now in relation to a big, big dream is much farther behind than they’d like to be. What’s often missing from the equation, according to New York Times bestselling author Jon Acuff, is intentional planning.
Join us on this podcast episode as we discuss his personal and professional philosophies on success, best advice for ambitious creatives, and more.
Going About Goals the Right Way
History-makers like Steve Jobs have proven that any idea can be brought to fruition, regardless of how big or scary it may seem from the outset. But whatever you want to do, Jon says, whether it’s launch a startup or build something from the ground up for your existing business, you have to create a plan.
Think of the journey as a 12-foot ladder, with the bottom being where you are now and your dream awaiting at the top. A half-baked plan, or ladder with only one or two rungs, would require some NBA-level jumping skills to climb. One that’s been methodically laid out piece by piece? Much easier to get you where you want to be.
Some Beats None: The Power of Taking Small Actions
To expand upon the ladder analogy, it’s not uncommon for those of us with tall flights to climb to feel overwhelmed. You may want something really bad, but looking up at that towering journey from down below, begin to have second thoughts.
Or even halfway through the climb – anything short of the summit can feel like a failure.
Jon’s hack for this lies in breaking loft ambitions down into daily actions that are as easy to take as a trip to the coffee shop. Framing them as non-intimidating and achievable steps, and focusing on only those individual steps every day, is the best way to stay strong throughout a long journey.
Put it this way: 83% of Americans want to write a book, according to the New York Times. It’s a very popular goal.
But the reality is, it’s a big task. A ladder with many rungs that you’d be wise to scale one step at a time. In this specific example, Jon suggests creating micro goals of writing just 500 words a day.
When considered on its own, this action feels doable, and when done consistently over time can add up to big successes. Tiny accomplishments also build confidence that will help propel us to the next level.
How Emotional Power Lends Itself to Success
Fear and vulnerability are taboo topics in the business world, and even amongst friends. We hide our own from others with the belief that none of it is valid or that feeling scared is a sign of weakness. But to the contrary, emotions like fear are proof that we’re all human. To that end, they’re also fundamental tools we can all learn to take advantage of.
So, you feel intimidated or daunted by something. Maybe it’s applying to a creative internship with staunch competition. Maybe it’s the decision to take your passion full-time. Whatever the case, that initial feeling is just that – a feeling. Everyone is instinctively scared by the unknown. The key to making something out of the fear of failure though, something that’s productive and not debilitating, is conscious reframing.
Thoughts are an unbelievably powerful thing when it comes to success. While feelings are inevitable, how we choose to interpret and take action on them through mental awareness is what defines the outcome.
“People who say you should never be afraid are missing half of themselves. You don’t get to be fully aware without understanding and learning from fear.” Jon says.
He warns that fear left uncontrolled can lead to an even bigger problem; if you don’t deal with it, it turns into a belief. From there, it’s only a matter of time before that perspective defines your identity. And your identity? That’s what determines your future.
Jon’s advice is to look at things from a holistic perspective. One that acknowledges, yes, you’re worried about something, but also that you have the tools to control it. It’s about tapping into the productive side of fear while preventing it from taking the reins.
The Investor’s Mindset
Talk to any finance friend and they’ll be happy to tell you all about the power of compound investing – how making small contributions towards a fund today can pay dividends in the future. Talk to Jon Acuff, and he’ll tell you that the same principle holds true in other facets of life.
Even the smallest, most seemingly insignificant things you do in pursuit of a dream have the potential to make a big difference in whether or not you achieve it. If you’re consistent, that is.
Just like a retirement savings account, your goals take time to grow and achieve. It’s not a matter of getting lucky or relying on arbitrary happenings – it’s about the consistency of your actions over an extended period of time.
And here’s the kicker: You’re more likely to be consistent if you have a positive mindset. Because even when things don’t go your way, you’ll still believe in what you’re doing. You won’t be as easily deterred or discouraged by a setback, and that will give you the resilience to keep going and stay motivated until your goal is achieved.
You don’t get to write as many books as Jon Acuff has without some serious domain authority. And the craziest part about the above-outlined advice is that it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what this expert on success has to share. I highly recommend giving his latest release, ‘All It Takes Is a Goal: The 3-Step Plan to Ditch Regret and Tap Into Your Massive Potential‘ a read for more great insights.