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(2) Pearls of Life

Don’t Be a Fuzzy Thinker

 How to get what you want

If you want something, you have to go for it. You don’t necessarily have to sacrifice everything  (sometimes you do) but you do have to make a firm decision to take action. It’s no good saying you want to give up smoking if you just carry on lighting up and thinking how nice it would be if you could stop. Do something about it.

I know one person who can’t even make a decision about whether to have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee in under five minutes. It usually takes him several years to move houses or to hand in his notice at a job he doesn’t enjoy. Hardly surprising then if he doesn’t often get what he wants.

You have to be firm with yourself. After you’ve identified what you want-and decided why you want it and how much-you need to make a decision about whether you’re going to do something about it.

Commitment: That’s what you need. After all, if this is definitely what you want, what are you waiting for?

People who get what they want are generally decisive people. And if you want to do this without having to ask, you need to be doubly firm with yourself. It’s OK-decisive behavior may not come naturally to all of us, but you can learn it. Just jump in with both feet. It gets easier every time.

Know What It Takes

So how are you going to go about making things happen to reach that goal? It won’t just happen. You need to make a list (it could be long; it could be very short) of the things that have to happen to achieve your aim. After all, if you don’t know what they are, how are you going to make sure they actually do happen?

You might need something concerte-to borrow money to pay for a new car or the fancy wedding you want, or to get an appointment with the boss of the company you want to work for, or to find a babysitter once a week so you can go out and do whatever it is you want to do. Or maybe you need to influence someone’s behavior, or encourage them to change her attitude. In that case, what will it then take to change her mind? Whatever it takes, you’ll have to identify it. Otherwise how are you going to make it happen?

Look, you have to put something in to get something out. A lot of the work may simply be a matter of thinking, or it might take months of long hard work.

But however it might look from the outside, good things don’t just fall into people’s laps. Not very often anyway. If you want something you have to work out how to get it, and this is the first stage of that process.

Work Out Who You Need on Your Side

You’re not alone, you know, and you don’t have to do this by yourself. Even if you don’t take other people into your confidence, you may need their cooperation. So start by establishing who can help you. They may be an essential part of the team, or they may not even know they’re helping you.

Let’s go back to your promotion. You need your boss on your side for a start. And very possibly their boss. And maybe some of your senior colleagues. You may also need your partner’s support-whether because a promotion will mean a shift in hours, or because you want him to help you practise your interview skills. Dealing with any kind of life or work problem is going to be a whole lot easier if you have good friends, or your partner again, backing you up. And if your family is really with you, it can provide that crucial practical and emotional support. Maybe you also want a network of other people in your situation. Perhaps you’re on your own and would like to meet that special somebody. Do you know anyone who can introduce you to people? If you want to try online or speed dating, would it be a good idea to get advice from someone who has tried it before? (The answer’s yes to that one.)

Right, now we’re getting somewhere. We’re starting to see what you need and who you need, so you can lay the groundwork thoroughly and make this aspiration far more likely to come true.

Break Big Ambitions into Chunks

 There’s a big difference between wanting to buy a little runaround car and wanting a Rolls Royce or a Lamborghini. Sometimes what you want should be achievable in a fairly short time. But other aspirations are too big to take a blind jump at. You need to break them into manageable steps. And the important thing is to treat every one of those steps seriously-think each one through as carefully as you would if they were your eventual goal and not just a starting point.

Did you hear about the guy in Canada who decided to get what he wanted by trading?3 He started out with one red paperclip, which he traded for a pen. He traded that for a doorknob and so on. Just kept trading up until he finally got a house. You see, there’s no way he could have traded that paperclip for a house right away, but because he took it one step at a time, he got what he wanted in the end. In his case it took 14 trades. In your case there may be only one or two steps-or there may be many.

Take big ambitions in stages, and treat every stage as an achievement in itself. Otherwise the mountain will be too high to scale and you’ll lose heart. In fact, you may well end up with far less than you could have had. If you want that Lamborghini, aim for a few cars of increasing value, impressiveness, coolness, speed, or whatever-it-is-you-want on your way to the ultimate car.

Set Up Some Milestones

Not every ambition is big enough to break into chunks. But whether yours is, it’s certainly worth setting up some milestones. These aren’t final concrete achievements, but they are steps along the route. So, for example, if you’re trying to lose weight, you might ultimately be aiming to lose 10 pounds over the next six months. But if that seems a long haul, aim for a more modest goal along the way. Maybe losing four pounds by the end of this month, for example.

Not all milestones have to be so concrete. Maybe you know that to get promoted you need to win a particular contract, get your boss to give you more responsibility, find an opportunity to impress the board of directors with a valuable self-generated report, exceed certain targets, and so on. Each of these is a step toward your goal. Starting a language class requires you to locate the class, free up the relevant evening to attend it, and maybe find someone to go with you. None of those things is an end in itself, but without them you won’t get what you want.

Milestones are important for two reasons. For one thing they help you to get organized so that you can launch your plan more effectively. And for another thing they ensure you stay on track and keep pointing toward your destination.

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