Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Begin with the end in mind

Many goals are set, while just as many remain just goals. Take for instance the traditional influx of gym memberships sold around New Year’s, let alone the sales of prepaid personal training sessions. I’m not here to talk about the genius of these marketing pushes around the first of the year, rather to discuss the goals that never make it past the first week of February.

I’m betting that many of these goal setters have great intentions, but lacked focus. It is not normally easy to maintain focus; it’s actually quite challenging. Focus takes a lot of effort, and as humans we are naturally out of focus all the time. You have to intend on staying in focus. Think about the time you had a great workout: your favorite sports drink flowing through you, your sweat pouring through your pores, and an hour later your adrenaline levels are soaring. On your next workout you concentrate on the previous workout: comparing your efforts to your current workout, feeling lackluster for not matching up, and next thing you know you’re workout is just a waste of your time and energy. The next workout you concentrate on your subpar workout and continue the cycle. Next thing you know you’ve lost the motivation to work out and your gym membership becomes a memory. Why is that?

Distractions such as “what I did yesterday” chip away at your focus. Learn from the past and let go of it. Most drivers, I hope, get into a car and drive defensively, just as we were taught in driver’s education. Look ahead, check your side mirrors, check the rear view mirror… After all that checking, I certainly hope you don’t forget about the road immediately in front of you. Using “what I did yesterday” to get you through today is just like driving a car and perpetually staring at your rear view mirror. Do not be distracted by yesterday. Focus on today. You cannot change the past. You are not into tomorrow. Focus on today, since you have control to shape today.

When you did not achieve success in your workout goal yesterday, do you throw in the towel?

Success is not an event, it is a process. Any champion will tell you that that this process takes a considerable amount of time. When time is involved maintaining focus is essential. Think about the kind of challenges did Hank Aaron have to overcome. Aaron said, “I think what separates a superstar from the average ballplayer is that he concentrates just a little bit longer.” Are your challenges relatively comparable to the ones Aaron had to face day-in-day-out? Those that can direct their focus to complement their talent, condition themselves to reach various levels of success.

Make every action count. Determine where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Remember the rearview mirror driving example. Begin with the end in mind. I know friends that occasionally drive cross county. We can learn a lesson from these hard core drivers. They map out point A to point B. They know how many miles it will take. They know how many days it will take. They know how many pit stops they will take to reach point B. They know what point B looks like, so they’ll know they arrived. It doesn’t matter that there was ugly weather in the last state. It doesn’t matter that a thousand miles away if there will be a stalled vehicle that might cause a traffic delay. What matters is that this very moment, driving at night when traffic is lighter, that the driver needs to:

· Focus on staying awake

· Focus on as far as the headlights are lighting the way

· Focus on reaching a predetermined end of this stage of the journey

· Focus on reaching point B

Without maintaining focus, how will you reach your goal? Stay focused on results, not the difficulties involved. Maintaining focus conditions you for self-discipline, not self-pity. Challenge your excuses (as that’s what they are, right?). The clock is ticking and you don’t have enough time for excuses. Focus lifts you and increases your energy. Why? You get to momentarily enjoy your mini-wins that lead up to bigger wins.

My friends know that I work out to stay in shape, and to keep up with my active five- and seven-year old boys. That is my focus. My focus is not to be able to bench press Smart cars in my spare time. However, I do have a friend who has focused on more massive goals. Strength training was key to him in football, baseball, and track & field. As he continued on with progressing in his career in IT and completing his masters degree in Computer Systems Management, he maintained focus in his body building goal. Some of his successes along the way include:

· 1st place and overall – NPC Lenda Murray Classic

· 1st place – NPC Maryland State Champion

· Four IPA World Records – 275 lb. class

· Eight-time Maryland State Bench Press Champion

· Six-time Maryland State Powerlifting Champion

· Three-time Eastern National Champion

· Two-time National Champion

Recently, Sherwin (“Big Sherwin”) Pagtakhan was recognized by a sponsorship from Muscletech, beginning yet another stage of an incredible journey. Every bit of success builds to the next level of success. If the current stage of success takes a bit more time, would you consider Big Sherwin unsuccessful?

In seven weeks Big Sherwin has a major competition which I know the preparation will test him further. What’s involved is quite a handful: diet, gym time, diet, family time, diet, career, diet… Focus will be key in mapping his point A to point B over the next seven weeks. This stage of his journey is not unlike previous stages. It doesn’t matter what he did yesterday. It doesn’t matter what he’ll do five weeks from now. All that matters is today. He didn’t get to the big leagues haphazardly, but through focus. Big Sherwin, your friends and family are pulling for you. More importantly, we know your focus will pull you through.

Begin with the end in mind. Plan each stage of success that will get you to point B. Maintain focus!


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