Sitting down and setting your life goals can be exciting and motivating. It gives us purpose, sets clear intention, makes us feel productive and creates the feeling of moving forward.
But have you ever started out making a mental or physical list of your goals only to end up with quite a few? Then when you start acting on them, they either end up cast aside or only half achieved? Having goals has been drummed into us from an early age but are having all these goals actually hindering us?
Warren Buffett, one of the most successful businessmen in the world today, questions the need for having so many goals. Instead he puts his success down to eliminating, sometimes important goals, in order to focus on the few that will bring the success we desire.
Warren Buffett asked his pilot to list 25 priorities in his life
To illustrate Buffett’s idea, there’s a great story involving his personal airplane pilot of 10 years, Mike Flint, and how Buffett helped him to focus and prioritize his goals using a 2-list strategy.
Buffett asked Flint to carefully think about, and write down his 25 top career goals. Once Flint spent time doing this he came back and presented them to Buffett. He then asked Flint to pick out the top 5 most important goals.
So at this point Flint now had two separate lists – the list of 5 goals and the list of 20 remaining goals.
Like many of us, Flint concluded that he would focus primarily on his top 5 and work towards the other 20 as and when he could find the time.
However, Buffett stopped him and said that this is actually the path of becoming unsuccessful because really he should now throw away his list of 20 altogether – no matter how important many of them may be – and focus solely on the top 5.
Why? Because that list of 20 is essentially a distraction.
Average people don’t know they should AVOID seemingly important things in their lives
The reason we often never succeed with our goals is because we don’t prioritize, focus and therefore, complete, the important few.
It’s human to get demotivated and distracted – two feelings that can be the death of our goals. The bigger the list of goals we have, the more chance there is to give up and move on to the next one in the hope that this one will succeed.
If what Malcolm Gladwell claims is true, to become an expert in any field we must spend 10,000 hours of deliberate practice towards gaining knowledge in that area. That equates to 20 hours each week for almost a year, for a total of 10 years.
So imagine Flints original list of 25 goals – that would mean it would take him 250 years to fully master his complete list. You can see how having too many goals can lead you down the path to a less successful and fulfilling life.
Make sure you keep the “Avoid-at-all-cost list”
Minimizing has become a hot topic when it comes to living the best life we can and this also applies to our life goals. Like our physical stuff, it can be hard to make a decision to throw certain goals out of the window when they feel important to us. But the process itself allows us to work out our priorities and what’s truly important.
Try writing out 25 goals – whether it’s long term goals or even short term weekly or monthly goals – and start the process of prioritising in order to discover your top 5.
Now, instead of literally throwing the list of 20 away completely, label this your avoid-at-all-costs list to serve as a reminder of what not to focus on. This is the list that will decrease your time and focus and ultimately your success. In other words, if you start working on this list you are in danger of having 20 half-finished goals instead of 5 completed ones.
Whatever your top 5 goals are, whether you want to learn a new language or skill, or work towards a particular career goal, make a conscious effort to stick to these. Keep motivated to achieve these goals and don’t wander onto your second list. Remember, your time investment is key to success and this time will be compromised the more goals you take on.
Get the success you want: prioritize efficiently, focus intently and stick to it.