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The Three Focal Points of Success

It can be overwhelming to start any new adventure. We're full of energy and enthusiasm. But when we start to move on our ideas we realize that we're not sure what to do first.
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Karl W. Palachuk
December 1, 2004


Have you ever asked yourself “How do I get started focusing on my goals”?  Or how do you get started on a big project?  It can be overwhelming to start any new adventure.  We’re full of energy and enthusiasm.  But when we start to move on our ideas we realize that we’re not sure what to do first.

The problem is that we become overwhelmed by details before we begin actually working on the goal.  If you’ve ever tackled a really big project, then you know the road to success requires lots of small steps.  You need to break the big project into smaller projects, and the smaller projects into discrete actions.

This approach is true of all endeavors. One person can’t build a pyramid, or a modern car.  But when all the stages of these projects are laid out in detail, we can do anything.  Many times I’ve read about an author who said “I can’t write a book.  But I can write three paragraphs per day!”

I divide all work toward my goals into three distinct “moments of success” or Focal Points of Success

The first focal point of success is the “big picture” or the ultimate goal. Obviously, you need to set your goals first.  This is a lengthy, ongoing process.  Your goals might be to excel in your profession, to retire comfortably, or (and?) to raise your children well.  Of course your goals may be quite different.

You must spend time on this focal point–the long-term ultimate goal.  As your life evolves, this goal may need an adjustment here or there.  As you get bogged down in the details of daily life, you may need to be reminded of the ultimate goal(s).

The second focal point of success is the set of short-term goals that will lead you to the ultimate goal.  In our analogy of breaking a big job into smaller, more manageable chores, these are the manageable chores.

We need these intermediate goals because the larger goals are generally too broad or too far off in the future to generate specific actions.  If your goal is “To have a strong, loving marriage,” that’s good.  But it doesn’t prescribe an action or behavior you can focus on today, or this month, or this year.

Many plans for success aren’t really plans at all because they lack short-term goals.  Broad goals without specific, narrower goals, are really just pleasant dreams.  You may want good relationships, a comfortable retirement, and to make a difference in the world.  But without specific, actionable goals, you can’t make any progress.

Imagine that your goals are a journey to a destination.  The long-term goal (the first focal point) is like a pin on a map.  Once you establish your destination, you can begin working toward it.  The short-term goals (the second focal point) are the steps you take to reach your destination.

If you wake up every day, look at the pin on the map, and then watch TV, you’ll never reach your destination.  You need to take actions every day, every week, every month that move you toward your goal.

The third focal point of success is the present moment.  At each moment in your life you take actions that affect your goals.  Each action, at each moment, either moves you toward a goal, away from a goal, or has no effect on a goal.  Of these three options, only one advances you toward your goal.  Even the neutral option is really a move away from your goal because it is the actions of daily life that become the habits of success.

Let’s say you have a goal of having a healthy body.  That’s a long-term Focal Point One goal.  To reach this end, you set goals of exercising every day and eating a healthy diet.  Those are short-term, Focal Point Two goals.  Great.  You’re on your way to success.

The hard part comes at the holidays.  Too much candy and fudge.  Potatoes with gravy.  Second helpings.  Skipping the exercise today.  And today.  And today.

The hardest part of success is not the goal-setting (long-term or short-term).  Goals are necessary for success.  But the hard part comes with every action, every day.  Every single bite you take affects your diet.  And every step you take affects your exercise level.

It’s always okay to take a break–to skip the exercise one day.  We can always get back on track.  But it’s also easy to feel very committed to a goal and yet be in the habit of skipping the exercise every day.

“It’s not your commitment I’m worried about. . . .It’s your commitment to your commitment.”— Kenneth Blanchard and Robert Lorber

Ultimately, our progress comes down to this moment–each moment of each day.  Perhaps our progress is so small that no one can see.  But our actions either move us toward our goal or away from it.

Whatever your goals–to be more loving, to be more energetic, to lose weight–you will get there one moment at a time.

I believe this approach, the Three Focal Points of Success, can be a powerful method of viewing your path to your goals.

Focus on the moment.

Focus on the short-term goals.

Focus on the ultimate goal.

And the most powerful consequence of this approach is that you can begin at any moment to move in the right direction.  As long as you have the long-term and short-term goals, you can always advance toward them.  This is true even if you’ve failed to focus successfully before.

Begin today. 

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