How being intentional can change your life
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With the new year rolling around, I wanted to share a growth mindset that has completely changed the way I approach successes and manage failures by being intentional in everything I do, and I want to show you how that can help you to achieve your goals and find more meaning in your life.
What I'll be sharing today is a methodology that's been battle-tested while working with entrepreneurs, students, software developers, consultants, startups, and multi-million $ corporations. I've distilled the best of many established mindsets and methodologies out there, to come up with a life framework that is both easy to follow and meaningful to execute.
Prefer video instead? Watch this short video!
Asking Why, What, and How
Most people don't follow through with their aspirations because they lose visibility in:
- Why am I doing this?
- What does it mean to succeed?
- How can I go about accomplishing this?
Let's start simple. We all have areas in our lives that we want to work on. They can range from health, finances, family, career, etc. - for me, I decided to focus on 9 areas in my life. (PARA)
So let's pick one - say, health, and ask the question:
"What about my health do I want to improve?" Well, maybe you want to be fit in 2020.
Key Results and Projects
The follow-up question you should ask is, what does it mean for you to be fit? Is there a particular reason? You might want to run a marathon. You might want to be the best at your sport. You might be worried about a medical condition that runs in your family. Whatever the case may be, list out at least 3 key results, or outcomes, that when achieved, you can confidently say that it is proof you are fit.
Next, let's talk about how you can go about achieving your outcomes. Well, to run a marathon, you might have to start a cardio exercise routine. To place well in a sports tournament, you may have to sign up for classes at your local trainer. To lose weight, you may have to get a gym membership.
Then, it's time to execute your projects! Sign up for those classes, attend those gym sessions, and throw those weights around.
But wait - 2 months later, you realize that you're nowhere closer to achieving your goals. This is where most people falter. Remember those first 3 questions we talked about? When the going gets tough, we may lose sight of why we bothered to sign up for that gym membership in the first place. We may forget what outcomes we were aiming for, and be working on projects completely irrelevant from the initial goal.
Or, we may have simply conducted the wrong research on how these outcomes should be accomplished. The end result is an overall feeling of depression, anxiety, and helplessness. So, let's fix that.
The 3 Important Roles We Play
When you ask the why, what, and how questions, you're putting yourself into the mindsets of 3 very different thinkers, with various responsibilities and priorities.
- First, you're the Founder. A visionary, you set ambitious, time-bound goals for yourself and determine what key results need to be achieved before you are satisfied that the goal is complete. (OKR)
- Next, you play a management role. Detail orientated, you define the key results further, manage deadlines, and determine what projects need to be worked on to progress towards your goal.
- Finally, you're the project manager. Well researched and an expert in your field, you analyze if the projects set out are enough to achieve the key results and determine the relevant tasks that need to be worked on.
What we need to realize, is that these three roles have their own opportune moments where they are most needed - otherwise the well-oiled machine loses its lubrication and falls apart.
- The project manager is a day to day responsibility. It is their role to ensure that active projects are being worked on effectively, and they are the first to sound an alarm if it seems like the project is going nowhere. Projects should be periodically evaluated and re-considered - you can consider them experiments meant to explore the best way to accomplish the outcomes.
- Management has a weekly responsibility to make sure that key results are making good progress, and that the goals can be accomplished in the given time frame.
- Finally, the founder has a bi-weekly big-picture review and makes an executive decision to adjust key results based on overall velocity. (Scrum)
Executing Successful Projects
So going back to the goal to get fit in 2020, let's focus on losing weight - let's say 35 lbs or ~16 kg. Your first project may be to start gym sessions every other day at your apartment's gym. 2 weeks roll by, and you haven't noticed any significant results. It's time to re-evaluate your project. What's wrong?
- Are you losing motivation? - Change your project to working out with friends, attending classes, or hiring a personal trainer
- Are you eating properly? - Perhaps your problem is not exercise, but rather diet? What could you be eating better? - DYR.
- Are you exercising properly? - You may not be doing the right exercises for your body type, or for the result, you're aiming for! - DYR.
It's extremely important to do the right research upon launching any project, and continuously question the validity of the research for the goal you are attempting to achieve. This principle applies to any sort of goal.
Let's say in a work setting, your quarterly goal is to make $100,000. Your key results may be to sign on 10 new clients and cross-sell 5 existing clients to other products and services. You may start off with a project revolving around email campaigns. After observing the results, you may find out that it's not the right fit!
Instead of sticking with that project and ultimately missing your targets, try something different. Keep trying until you find the project that starts hitting the right targets, and brings you closer to your goal.
Maintaining Results and Best Practices
Once you are satisfied with the results and achieved your goal - it's now time to maintain your progress - otherwise, you may revert back to your previous state, or lose the insights that you've gained.
I call this "turning successful projects into masters" - guidelines that have proven themselves in practice and are worthy to repeat over time.
Here, you can set them to have maintenance periods - how often do you want to review these guidelines and update them and ensure you are still following them correctly?
Falling back to our previous example, let's say we found the right projects and tasks that have helped us lose 35 lbs. It is useful to document those steps and maintain them so that we can consistently perform the same results in the future.
3 Mental Hacks To Being Intentional
One sobering realization I've had these past few years is that we are rarely in control of our own minds. If you've ever had any meditation experience, you'd know that even focusing on your own breath for minutes at a time is a monumental task, let alone sticking to goals you're setting for the new year.
Knowing this, I've come up with a few mind hacks to keep myself highly focused and productive during the day on the things that matter the most. I've derived them down to the following principles, all revolving around the central theme - being intentional. (First Principles Thinking)
- Know what you are trying to achieve at all times. It does wonders for your motivation to know why you are spending the time on a particular task, especially the more trivial it may seem.
- Celebrate your wins. Every move towards your goal should be celebrated, no matter how small. I've successfully gamified my entire life by rewarding myself for every win I achieve through concepts of experience points and gold rewards (you can check that out in my last video here. With gamification, I've also successfully transformed productivity into a collaborative experience, where I can compare levels, stats, and gold with my family, friends, and community - therefore collectively sharing our successes and moving forward together.
- Learn from your failures. The beauty of maintaining full visibility into your goals, key results, projects, and tasks - is that you can pinpoint exactly why you failed. The answer may often surprise you.
We're rolling into a new decade, and it's with an intentional mindset that we become intentional people. I urge you all to make it one of your 2020 goals to be intentional in everything you do.
Executing projects and tasks without a clear vision of the key results and goals is almost like trying to navigate a desert in the dark. You feel like you are making progress, but in reality, you have just been walking in circles.
In your success plan, anything without an upstream a hobby - you're doing it with no purpose.
On the other hand, anything without a downstream a dream. You're never going to accomplish it because you don't know how.
One of my 2020 goals is to work with as many innovators equally passionate about tackling global challenges and unleashing breakthroughs.
I've started an inclusive group affectionately named Co-x3, which stands for co-creation, collaboration, and community. It's an inclusive group of like-minded forward thinkers that want to effect positive change on the world. If this sounds like your cup of tea 🍵 (or coffee ☕, no judgment), we'd love to have you as part of the community. You can find details at x3.conradlin.com
Let me know in the comments: What are you going to be intentional about in 2020?