Increase Success with Two Questions

I’ve talked before about how setting your course can spare you in the long run and why mapping out a plan to achieve your goals will bring focus and clarity as life pulls you in other directions.  In order to zero in on your plan you’ll need to dedicate time to making it clear. Over the next few paragraphs, I’m going to show you a simple approach to creating your plan. Just for clarity, what I call a “plan” most would refer to as a “mission statement”.  

My goal for you at the end of this blog post is to have created a plan no longer than two sentences (one if you’re super daring). Being able to clearly convey your plan to others in just 15 seconds (or 2 sentences) can be challenging, but it will give you a concise statement that is easy to remember, simple to share with others, and will also keep you focused.

No matter what area of life you need a plan for, here’s my simple approach to creating those two sentences. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What am I going to do?

  2. How am I going to do it?

Far too often, we look at the goals in front of us and never take the time to write down a plan. This exercise isn’t complicated, although depending on the scale of the goal, it may take some work to define the “how” in only a sentence (and I’m not talking about a five line, runon sentence either).You can apply this strategy to the greatest and smallest of mountains you find yourself wanting to climb. Just remember, taking the time to actually write these answers down instead of only letting them swim around in your head will make all the difference. 

So, what are you going to do? It’s time to name your goal. It can be anything, short term or long term. A promotion, a parenting aspiration, a house project, living debt free, starting a business, etc. There should be a relatively simple answer to this question. However, I want to challenge you to dig in and get specific. If you want to write a book, don’t just say, “I want to write a book”, say what kind of book you want to write. For example, “I’m going to write a book about my life as a circus performer.” If we don’t get specific we’ll be preparing ourselves to fail, because we won’t know where to focus.

Now, how are you going to do it? What steps lie between you and the answer to question #1? Remember, I’m not asking you to write a book. There could be many steps between where you are and where you’re going, but I only want one sentence. I want to capture the big picture, the major focus of your “how”. If your “how” is too complicated you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll come back to this “how” often and it will focus your efforts. For example, if your goal is to get that promotion, what will it take? The answer to this question might look something like this: I’m going to do my job with excellence and help my colleagues be more efficient in their jobs. See how we didn’t list out every single step you’ll have to take, because frankly, you don’t know them all yet. However, you have two things to focus on and, if done consistently, they will make you the best candidate for the promotion. And if you find yourself losing focus several months into this goal, you can always come back to excellence in your work and helping others be more efficient. There’s your focus.

When we answer these two questions on the front end of our goals, we set a path for success. Consistently following the plan, and remaining focused throughout our pursuit will allow us to efficiently give each dream we have a higher probability of success.

Take these two questions and begin to activate them in your life!

2 - What Is Your Plan (Mission)

Do you have a mission statement? Do you have a way to quickly describe your purpose or plan? If I were to walk the streets asking the question, “What’s your mission statement” to random people, I’d likely receive vague answers at best. And, the truth is, if I were to interview many employees and even some high level leaders working in organizations around the world asking them what the plan or mission statement of their organization was, many of them would be unsure of the answer as well. Why is it important to have a mission statement or what I call a plan? If your purpose helps you define your goals, then your plan helps you clearly define your purpose.  So, what’s your plan? Better yet… what’s your plan in one sentence? That’s your mission statement. For a businessman pitching an idea to a potential investor, the elevator pitch is critical. Every salesman knows that if you want to be the best, you need to be able to convince someone that they need more information or want what you are selling in the same amount of time it takes you to move from floor 5 to floor 6 in an elevator. Those receiving an elevator pitch expect a succinct sentence or two that takes less than 15 seconds to say and sums up the entirety of what your wanting to do and how you’re going to do it. Not hard at all, right? However, if you haven’t spent a significant amount of time honing and practicing your “elevator pitch,” you’ll find yourself jumbling words and babbling on, only to find that you lost them at 15 seconds in. As unfair as that sounds, that’s how it works. I remember giving my first few elevator pitches. My team and I spent hours developing an extensive business plan. We had pages on end that described our market, our competition, and our projected value in 5 years. I could sit down and talk you through what we wanted to do for an hour, but I couldn’t for the life of me trim it down to 15 seconds. Though I knew the plan, I didn’t “know it.” The words on the page hadn’t turned into words in my heart. When you spend time crafting your plan, you are actually and more importantly learning more about your purpose, and you are sealing it in your heart. Then when you are asked, it just sort of leaks out, clear and concise. One of the hardest parts of writing a plan is trimming down all your thoughts and dreams into one or two sentences. However, your plan must be simple. Clarity brings focus and focus directs our actions. Once you set about your mission, you will be faced with a thousand “what to do next” decisions. When your plan is clear and concise, referring back helps you stay on track with your mission and not lose focus. Without clarity, we are like a leaf in a tornado, blown every which way. It’s time to get started on the mission statement for your life or your business. Here are the two questions you’ll need to ask in order to create your plan. Number one: What am I going to do? Number two: How am I going to do it? Remember when answering these questions you have to limit yourself to a total of 15 seconds or two sentences. You can expect to have to wrestle with the answers in order to refine them into a brief statement that is clear to anyone who reads it. Your plan isn’t just for your employees or your clients, it’s for you. In fact, it’s mostly for you. You may know deep down what you want to do, but until you form it into a plan, it’s useless. The final step in creating your  plan is the check question. The check question is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a question that checks your plan to make sure it aligns with your purpose. Does my plan [insert your mission statement] get me to my purpose [insert your purpose]? If your answer is “yes”, then you’ve got what you need. If the answer is “no”, then you’ll need to go back and answer the two questions again, keeping your purpose in mind. Take time today to create your plan. Once you have it, you’ll find yourself able to focus on the right things. Focus brings results. And focusing on a plan that is tied to a purpose brings the results you want. If you haven’t already, take time today to create your plan and practice communicating it.

Chris CapehartComment