Being an Achiever

August 6th, 2015 by Steve Pavlina

You become an achiever by achieving your goals. If you achieve your goals, you’re an achiever. If you don’t achieve your goals, you’re not an achiever.

This is a simple, binary way to think about achievement. To achieve means to reach, attain, or accomplish. What you choose to reach, attain, or accomplish is up to you.

The difference between an achiever and a non-achiever is largely a matter of attention. Non-achievers give their goals little attention, if they bother to set goals at all. Achievers give their goals sufficient attention so as to reach, attain, or accomplish those goals.

Non-achievers reach, attain, and accomplish something other than their goals. Quite often they will reach, attain, and accomplish someone else’s goals, without consciously making those goals their own.

To be an achiever, you must give your goals sufficient attention to reach, attain, or accomplish them. This means you must withdraw much of your attention from activities that are not directly leading to the accomplishment of your goals.

In a given week, where is your attention going? If you aren’t habitually obsessing over your goals, then what are you obsessing over instead?

What do you normally put ahead of your goals?

Do you manage to watch some TV or movies?

Do you keep up with email, social media, and text messages?

Do you attend to the social obligations that your family, friends, and co-workers expect from you?

What exactly are you reaching, attaining, or accomplishing in a typical week? Are you making progress on your goals by giving them many hours of attention, or are you putting your attention elsewhere?

Achievers accept that in order to achieve their goals, they must withdraw attention from non-goal activities. Achievers also accept that these competing interests may resist being put on the back burner. The cable company may try to talk you out of canceling. Starbucks may send you a reminder email if you don’t show up for too long. Your mother may nag you about something trivial. Achievers learn to decline these invitations for their attention by default. They keep putting their attention back upon their goals.

You must especially be on guard for new invitations and opportunities that come up while you’re working on your goals. These hidden distractions can easily sidetrack you. If an opportunity aligns solidly with your goals, wonderful… take full advantage of it. But if it seems off-course with respect to your current goals, then stick to your path, and say no to the diversion. Generally speaking, it’s wise to be less opportunistic, so you can be more of a conscious creator. You’ll often make faster progress by creating your own opportunities instead of haphazardly chasing the random opportunities that others bring you.

The Scarcity of Attention

Attention is a limited resource. The ability to consciously direct your attention with good energy and focus is even scarcer than the time you have available each day.

In any given week, there may be many interests competing for your attention: friends, family, co-workers, random strangers, corporations, organizations, government agencies, media, and more. And these days they have many different ways to reach you.

Internally you have some competition as well: your physiological needs, your emotional needs, your cravings, your habitual behaviors, etc. You need to eat, sleep, eliminate waste, bathe, and so on. These activities require some attention too.

Somewhere among those competing interests is another voice seeking your attention. This is your goal-oriented nature, your greater intelligence, your desire to live a life rich in meaning and purpose. This part of you craves achievement, and it won’t be satisfied by anything less. It wants you to set your own goals and to reach, attain, and accomplish them.

How much of your attention are you giving to your achievement-oriented self?

If you starve this part of yourself for attention, it will punish you with low motivation, low self-worth, and a general scarcity of resources. But if you give it the attention it craves, you’ll be rewarded with high energy, drive, passion, abundance, and a sense of purpose and contribution.

Directing Your Attention

Fortunately you have the power to consciously direct your attention. You can let your attention float around aimlessly. You can focus your attention on something other than your goals, such as the goals other people have for you. Or you can focus your attention on your own goals.

To really move your life forward requires a major commitment of attention. If you want to improve your finances, you must put your attention on creating value for people, sharing that value, and intelligently monetizing that value. If you want to positively transform your relationships, then give that part of your life some intense and prolonged attention.

Unfortunately we have the tendency to remove attention from those areas of our lives that aren’t doing so well. In the short term, it’s wise to shift focus when we feel overwhelmed because temporary diversions can help relieve stress. But for deeper transformation to occur, we need to put lots of attention squarely on those areas that scream for improvement.

Setting goals requires focused attention. Planning out the action steps to achieve our goals requires even more attention. Executing those action steps takes more attention still. Achievers make such activities a priority in their lives. Non-achievers don’t.

As you get older, keep raising your standards for what deserves your attention. Keep deleting and declining unnecessary fluff and obligations that might otherwise distract you from your magnificent goals. This will free up more attention to focus on your goals.

Have you noticed that when you put your full attention on a goal and obsess about it, you can really move it forward quickly, and you do eventually achieve it? But when you let your attention become diluted by too many competing interests, then progress on your goal slows to a crawl, and you eventually lose your connection to the goal altogether. Goals require significant and prolonged nurturing until they’re achieved; otherwise they die.

Say No to Almost Everything

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. – Warren Buffet

What does it mean to say no to almost everything?

For me this means being able to work full-time on my goals, without letting anything get in the way. It means keeping my schedule free of distracting entanglements. It means that even when I work on goals that seem to be put on my plate by someone else, I must either make those goals my own (and say yes to them), or I must reject them and not give them any attention. If I cannot make a goal my own in some way, it doesn’t deserve my attention.

Even a goal like doing your taxes, you can make your own. You can commit to keeping your finances up to date and in good order. You can choose to pay the tax contribution for whatever reasons appeal to you. But if you can’t make a goal your own, and you try to work on it anyway, then you’re fighting yourself, and your progress will be stunted and inconsistent, which is an enormous waste of precious attention.

Don’t dwell in the land of half-commitments. Put your full attention on your own goals, including goals you’ve made your own. If you have a job, then either make the commitment to do your very best at that job, or vacate the position and let someone else do it better.

Put Your Goals First

Many achievers have jobs. Many achievers have families. Many achievers have competing commitments of various kinds. But achievers don’t use their job, kids, and other commitments as excuses for not giving sufficient attention to their goals. For everyone who uses these to excuse their inability to set and achieve goals, there’s a real achiever who started from a more challenging position and used those same elements to help motivate them to achieve their goals. Where non-achievers see excuses, achievers find drive.

A good way to put your goals first is to set high-quality, holistic goals to begin with. Don’t squander your attention on shallow pursuits like making money for its own sake. Set goals that will help you grow, build your skills, create value for others, and do some good in the world. Ask yourself: Does the goal seem meaningful and intelligent when you imagine yourself 20 years past its achievement?

Deliberately put your attention on your goals. When you catch yourself standing in line, dwell upon your goals. Visualize yourself taking the action steps. Make this your default behavior instead of pulling out your phone to attend to something trivial.

Carefully plan out the action steps to achieve your goals. If you received my latest newsletter, you’ll find an extensive how-to article about planning the achievement of your goals.

Clear time to work on your goals, and make this time sacred and inviolable. If you can only clear a small slice out of each week to work on your goals, then consider setting a goal to reach the point where you have the freedom to devote as many hours to your goals as your energy allows. What specific goals would you need to set and achieve to make that a reality? Imagine being able to devote most of your time every week to working on your most important goals, without anything getting in the way. Many people live this way, and they love it. Why not you?

The Goal of Freedom

One of my past goals was to remove financial scarcity as a potential source of distraction, so I could spend most of my time each week working on my goals, whether they were income-generating or not. I want to center my life around personal growth pursuits and share what I learn as a legacy for others. I devoted a significant amount of attention to that goal over a period of years until it was achieved, and after that I could continue to maintain such a lifestyle with relative ease. I know that some people think it’s unusual to have the freedom to immerse oneself in setting and achieving goals that may have nothing to do with making money or having a job, like traveling around Europe for a month or going vegan or exploring open relationships, but this kind of freedom is important enough to me that I made achieving this goal my top priority for years, sticking with it until it was achieved. It was challenging but definitely worthwhile.

I know many people who’ve achieved similar goals. Generally speaking, they tend to be the happiest people I know. Instead of taking orders from someone else as their daily routine, they put their attention on their goals, desires, and interests. They make it a priority to maintain this freedom. They don’t use a job, kids, or the lack of money as excuses — just the opposite in fact. From these people I commonly hear stories of setbacks recalled with laughter and good cheer, not with fear or regret… like the time a couple of friends had to sleep in a park because they had no money for a place to stay. What non-achievers fear as roadblocks are merely stepping stones (and entertaining future stories!) for achievers.

If lifestyle freedom is important to you, then make that your primary aim. Put the attainment of this goal first in your life. Working to achieve this goal must become more important to you than keeping up with social media, pleasing your parents, watching your favorite TV shows, and other distractions. If anything else is truly getting in the way, then either drop it from your life, or find a way to turn it into an advantage that increases your drive and motivation.

It’s easy for me to tell the difference between people who are committed to achieving lifestyle freedom vs. those who aren’t committed. The ones who are committed are obsessed with the goal; they think of little else. I can’t get them to shut up about it! They’re constantly trying to figure out how to make it a reality. They work hard at it. They stumble and keep right on going. Usually the goal takes longer than they’d like. They often want it to take less than a year. It usually takes 2-5 years to reach the point of financial sustainability. The achievers make it obvious that they’ll get there no matter how long it takes. For them the goal is mandatory, not optional.

The non-achievers talk about the goal as a distant fantasy. It’s a wish, a dream, a possibility… something that would be nice to have if and when the planets align properly. Their action plan consists mainly of reading books about the Law of Attraction and listening to Abraham-Hicks recordings. They treat the goal as a casual desire but not a serious commitment. They disrespect the tremendous force of will that’s required to achieve it. They virtually never get there.

If the goal of lifestyle freedom matters to you, then drop, cut, and burn whatever distracts you from it. Put your attention squarely on that goal, and obsess about it until you achieve it. If you need more time, cancel cable TV, close your social media accounts, and keep your phone powered off during daylight hours. Take breaks as you need them, but keep putting your attention back on this goal. If you do that, it’s a safe bet that you’ll achieve it.

You’ll set yourself on the path to achieving lifestyle freedom when you stop putting other distractions ahead of that commitment.

Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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One Year Without Social Media

July 31st, 2015 by Steve Pavlina

In July 2014 I decided to quit social media, including deleting my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Now that more than a year has passed, I’ll share an update about the past year of being free of social media.

At the time it was mildly difficult to make the decision to quit, but that was only because frequent engagement with social media for so many years had caused it to build up a greater presence in my mind than it deserved. It felt like I’d be giving up something of value that I might miss. Truthfully, however, I don’t miss it, not even a little.

Logically I knew I’d free up more time for more meaningful pursuits, but emotionally it felt (at least in part) like some kind of abandonment. Once I finally came to terms with the decision, dropping social media was surprisingly easy. I deleted the accounts and moved on with my life. I haven’t done any liking or commenting in more than a year now. That’s a lot of time to reinvest elsewhere.

Overcoming the Impulse to Share

After dropping social media, it took longer than expected for my mind to stop twitching to share experiences online. I especially noticed this when taking photos. Even three months after deleting my accounts, I still caught myself thinking, I should take a picture of this and share it online… oh wait, I can’t.

While active on social media, I’d often take photos with the intention of sharing them, but not necessarily because I wanted those pics for myself. It probably wasn’t until the fourth or fifth month that I was able to fully release that habit. As the old conditioning faded, I began taking different photos — photos I wanted to take for myself. I stopped taking photos to share that I didn’t actually want in my personal collection. This improved the quality of my picture taking. I paid more attention to moments I wanted to remember, which were often different from moments I wanted to share.

For months after leaving social media, I’d still think of the occasional witty or brilliant one-liner of wisdom, and I’d feel the urge to share it online. But there was nowhere to share it unless I wanted to turn it into a blog post. Eventually those impulses faded too, and another mental distraction was eliminated. These days I no longer notice those random one-liners popping into my mind. I think that mental pattern was conditioned by social media. My brain doesn’t seem to devote any resources to generating tweetable wisdom anymore.

Over the following 4-5 months post social media, I gradually shed various thought patterns and behaviors which serve no purpose outside of social media. This allowed me to repurpose those mental resources for more valuable tasks, like thinking more deeply about my long-term goals. I felt like I was gradually becoming smarter the longer I stayed away.

Additionally, as I gained more awareness of these micro-patterns from social media activity, I became aware of similar temptations related to blogging. You may have noticed that I took the last 7+ weeks off from blogging (my longest break since I started in 2004). Partly I did this to release any habitual urge to blog. I kept going until the impulse to blog for the sake of blogging faded too. I want to write by conscious choice, not by subconscious impulse.

Restoring Discipline

In the year after dropping social media, I gradually became less impulsive and more thoughtful in my choices that weren’t even related to social media.

When I was actively using social media, I didn’t see how the always-on ability to connect with other people might be increasing my impulsiveness in other areas of life. But I really saw the difference in the months after I quit. Dropping social media became the first step in a chain of gradual improvements I’ve made since then, and these improvements continue to this day.

One lesson I learned from reading several books on neuroscience is that an addictive behavior is never an isolated affair. An addiction in one area weakens our self-discipline across the board. So when we improve one sloppy or impulsive behavior, we’ll usually see cascading benefits in other parts of life. That was definitely true for me.

I especially feel more disciplined in my health and productivity patterns. I’ve made a number of important changes in these areas in the past year. Dropping social media removed a bad habit that encouraged me to drop other bad habits and replace them with better ones. This was a very gradual process, but I can see that dropping social media was the real starting point of this progression.

Although I’ve been more quiet online lately, I’ve been very active offline this year. I’ve been putting in many long days researching topics that interest me and working on my own personal growth. I really like not being distracted by impulses to share so many details along the way. It allows me to go much faster.

Better Concentration

Without the daily distraction of that internal urge to go online and see what’s happening in my social circle, I find it much easier to concentrate and get a lot of work done each day.

After quitting social media, I finally felt the motivation to tackle some long-delayed projects and get them finished and off my plate for good. It felt really good to close those open loops.

Earlier this month, I spent about two weeks setting and clarifying my goals for the next 18 months, including writing out a detailed plan of action for each and every goal. The resulting document was 40 pages long, single-spaced. Then I used Scrivener to neatly organize my goals, projects, and actions, so I could quickly navigate through them. This makes it easy to jump to my active projects, and it keeps everything neatly organized. Scrivener is a Mac app for writers, and I find it useful for organizing and managing goals, projects, and actions too.

Looking back I can see that when I was active on social media, it conditioned me to focus too much on short-term thinking. The instant gratification impulse eventually wore off, and I began making better decisions with more attention paid to long-term outcomes and consequences. I also became more patient.

More Rewarding Work

Without social media my work feels more motivating than it used to — not just the easy work or the fun work but ALL of the work. Even parts of my work that I didn’t enjoy much in the past now feel more pleasant and rewarding. I don’t procrastinate as much on tasks like accounting. This past year it’s felt so much easier to keep on top of my tasks and to even pull ahead of schedule in some areas.

Social media gives us instant feel-good rewards for doing next to nothing of value. When those rewards are no longer so easily accessible, we have to work harder for those same feelings. When we accomplish something meaningful to create that dopamine surge, the feelings can positively guide our behavior, and those feelings can stack up and create lasting motivation to tackle more sizable goals and projects.

Social media is an endless treadmill that substitutes for real achievement and progress. It completely wastes our natural reward circuitry. What will spending the next 5 or 10 years on social media do for your life? What meaningful outcomes will you achieve? You’ll just be on the same treadmill, having little or nothing to show for it. If you think that’s an acceptable result, I would definitely recommend quitting for at least six months, so you can restore some of your sapped motivation and ambition.

Looking back, quitting social media is a no brainer. In retrospect it’s patently obvious that such services are little more than a huge time waster. It may have been worthwhile to dabble in them for a few weeks to satisfy my curiosity, but I’d rather have back all the other hours sucked away by such services. At least I’m glad to have abandoned those junk activities when I did.

Using social media may feel good now and then. But not using it feels even better.

Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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Get Steve's Free Newsletter to stay in touch and receive the newest updates

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