“Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects. It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.” — Gary Keller, Billionaire
If you want extreme levels of motivation and flow, you need a few key ingredients:
- A clear and compelling future
- One very specific outcome you’re seeking
- The full-out acceptance that what you want is already yours
- Happily making “trade-offs” of “lesser” goals (even highly exciting opportunities)
A Clear And Compelling Future
“Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. Without having a goal it’s difficult to score.” — Paul Arden
Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor summed-it up best: Without having a future to look forward and stretch to, the present becomes meaningless and unbearable.
Your view of your own future directly impacts your physical and emotional health here-and-now. If you have a positive view of your future, then your emotions and behavior will be positive here.
If the future looks uncertain or bleak, then you’ll fall apart emotionally and behaviorally.
Your view of your own future is the single greatest factor in what you do here-and-now.
If you’re distracted or depressed right now, then what that means is that you’ve either lost hope in the future, or you don’t believe in your future.
This is why Dr. Angela Duckworth has found that “cultivating hope” is one of the most important aspects of being “gritty” or resilient.
So what does your future look like?
Many psychologists now believe that “consciousness” is really about imagining different future scenarios. That’s what makes us “human” and not “animal.” We can project the future. We can imagine something totally different. We can commit to something that we have no evidence of.
Dr. Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, has found that very few people spend time imagining their FUTURE SELF. We spend much more time remembering the past.As a result, we fail to predict where our lives will go. This isn’t because we can’t predict where our lives will go, but that we don’t.
Imagination is a skill to be developed. It’s something you can get incredibly good at. It’s something you must get good at if you want to control the direction of your life.
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
You can imagine whatever future you want. You also can imagine who you want to be in the future. If you do not do this, then you can’t possibly make conscious decisions in the present.
You must imagine where you want to be so that here-and-now, you can make conscious decisions that will take you there.
How much time do you spend imagining your future self?
What is the future you want?
How much of your present here-and-now experience is driven by your chosen future?
One Very Specific Outcome You’re Seeking
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.” — Viktor Frankl
Having a “bigger future” is essential to mental and physical well-being in the present. But in order for your future to be effective, you need to quantify it. You need a specific goal to direct your focus and behavior at.
Viktor Frankl explained that “purpose” is essential. But “purpose,” as his quote above states, is really just a “freely chosen task.” This clarifies what most people have wrong about “purpose.” Most people think you must “discover” your purpose, and that your “purpose” is some big broad thing.
Your purpose is a freely chosen task. You CHOOSE your purpose, and your purpose must be a task you accomplish. For example, if you’re in college, then your purpose is to finish your degree. If you’re writing a book, then your purpose is to finish the book.
Your purpose is an outcome. It’s tangible. It’s something you can measure and accomplish. It’s time-bound.
Your “purpose” right now is different from what your purpose may have been last year. Next year, when your purpose may shift as well.
It’s crucial that your purpose centers around ONE SPECIFIC OUTCOME. The more singular your focus, the more inspired and clear will be your path to achieving it.
This is where it gets tricky for a lot of people. You need to choose ONE GOAL. ONE OUTCOME.
Right now, you’re probably trying to accomplish too many things. You have competing goals that are stretching you thin, stunting your flow and progress.
If you want more flow states and motivation, you need to simplify your future. You need to clarify one single outcome that is “YOUR PURPOSE.”
“Essentialism is doing the right thing at the right time in the right way.” — Greg McKeown
Choosing ONE OUTCOME is essential to having clarity and focus. Therefore, you must look at all of the “potential futures” you have in your mind and start making some decisions.
Look at all of your goals.
Which ONE is clearly the most important?
Put another way, which one, if you accomplished it, would change your life the most?
Which one, if you truly focused on it and succeeded, would make the biggest impact on your future?
Robert Brault has said, “We are kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to lesser goals.”
All of your goals are important or interesting to you. But some of them are “lesser goals,” even if you really want them. An “essentialist,” someone who focuses on the purely essential is willing to make trade-offs. They’re willing to forego certain things in order to have better ones.
The truth is, you can’t have it “all.” Decisions require removing alternative options. Making a true decision is how you change your life. But it also means you must say no to other things — even great things.
What is the most important OUTCOME you could turn into your purpose?
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your other goals. But maybe, you need to wait on some of the other ones? The order of how you do things matters. If you crush your ESSENTIAL GOAL — the most important one — you’ll probably have 10X more freedom and opportunity than you have now. If you achieve your ESSENTIAL and SINGLE GOAL — then the other things you want right now may become irrelevant.
Your one goal needs to be time-bound. Without a deadline, you have a “dream” not a “goal.” Once you’ve made the bold move and chosen the single goal that will become your current purpose, give yourself a deadline.
Creating A “Process” Of Sub-Goals
“Assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled.” — Neville Goddard
Once you’ve clarified and committed to your single goal, you need to change your daily schedule. You need to target more and more of your time and attention toward your purpose — the “one goal.”
How much of your day is currently designed around creating this one outcome?
Committing to this purpose takes guts. It will challenge you to the core. Life will start to question your resolve. You’ll need to get help and support from the right people. In the book The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho talks about the “omens” that God leaves on your path, to not only confirm to you that you’re on the path, but to encourage you.
Once you’re truly committed, you’ll start seeing “omens” or having amazing experiences that will build your confidence and resolve. These “omens” are really just peak experiences that solidify to you that you’re serious about this, and that you’re going to achieve this.
The more committed you become, the more clarified will become your process. Yes, you have one single goal. But you need “sub-goals” or “means” to achieve that goal. Sometimes, the “sub-goals” or “process” will be non-linear. Sometimes, you must zig while everyone else is zagging.
The main point here is: You need a “process” to achieve your goals. When the “why” is strong enough, you’ll figure out the “how.” Overtime, the “hows” may change. For example, just yesterday, I recommitted fully to my single goal of selling millions of copies of Personality Isn’t Permanent, my new book. This led me to conversations and experiences that opened me up to an inspired path to making this goal real.
In order to have true hope and motivation — you need a clear outcome that you want, you need the sense of agency or confidence that you can do it, and you need a pathway to getting there. The pathways are your subgoals. And yesterday, I discovered a much better pathway to achieving my single goal than I previously had. This, of course, boosted my motivation and hope.
I would not have discovered or thought of this pathway, though, had I not been committed. It was through seeking help and guidance that I was able to find this new path.
You need a path to achieve your goals.
That path — your “sub-goals” — also needs to be quantified. You need specific milestones or outcomes along the way.
Your sub-goals need to clearly lead to your ONE MAJOR goal.
This is how you create insane motivation. This is how you live your life in a flow state. This is how you live your life “on purpose” and “with purpose” and “through purpose.”
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. His blogs have been read by over 100 million people and are featured on Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, Cheddar, Big Think, and many others. He is a regular contributor to Inc. and Psychology Today and from 2015-2018, he was the #1 writer, in the world, on Medium.com. He and his wife Lauren adopted three children through the foster system in February 2018 and, one month later, Lauren became pregnant with twins, who were born in December of 2018. They live in Orlando.
Image courtesy of Jonas Svidras.