I once heard a motivational speaker give a lecture about goal setting. He opened with simple advice: If you have trouble setting goals, start off with something easy like “I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning.” A goal everyone can achieve. Wake up the next day and boom. Done. One success under your belt before you get out of bed. No preparation, no work. All you do is go to sleep.
The great thing about that goal and the little piece of success attached to it—despite the fact it was clearly a dumbed-down metaphor used as an icebreaker—is that it’s one hundred percent repeatable.
Success in life is rarely so simple. To achieve something great, it often takes weeks, months, or years of planning and hard work. You go through phases of trial and error. You take two steps forward and one step back. You try this, you try that.
You push that boulder up the mountain.
Then one day you get there. You make it. You’re elated. Proud, relieved, and probably exhausted all at the same time. You shed tears of joy, you let out a huge whoop and do your special end-zone dance to celebrate. The flood of emotion makes all the hard work worthwhile. You celebrate with drinks or a nice dinner, then move on.
You forget about the trials, tribulations, and travails that got you there—and that’s a mistake.
Because the next time you’re faced with the same situation, the chances are you forgot the granular details of how you created that original success.
Pat Yourself on the Back—Then Debrief
Celebrate your achievement. You deserve it. But before too much time passes, go back over everything you did to get there. Too many people skip this crucial step. They end up recreating the wheel when they face similar situations in the future. They waste precious time and energy, and often fail to recapture the magic of that first success.
You can avoid this common pitfall.
When you accomplish something great, you’re not done. Take time to internalize it. Not just the feeling of success, but the process you went through to get there. Make it part of who you are, deep in your bones. Embed it in your nervous system. Burn it into your muscle memory. Encode it in your psyche. Save it on your organic hard drive so you can call it up any time you like.
The next time you face a similar situation, you’ll know exactly what to do. You’ll save energy and nail it with workman-like efficiency. It’ll be even easier than achieving the goal that corny motivational speaker led his lecture with. No falling asleep or waking up involved.
It’ll be easy as shampoo: wash, rinse, repeat—success.