Success is a very clear cut concept in the military. If you succeed you live, if you fail you die.
This is why military units are very thorough in ensuring their training prepares a soldier fully for what they are going to face on the battlefield.
It all begins during recruit training, where nothing, not a single minute of the day is accidental.
Remember also that the military has had 10,000 years to perfect their training, so they really know what works.
Here are the 5 greatest lessons I learned about success in the military that you can use to hit a new level.
1. Pay attention to the smallest detail
Most people don’t sweat the small stuff, but the military is all about the small stuff.
From the way your clothes are folded to their position in your locker, the angles on your sheets when your bed is made, and your rifle being clean. It is all held up as incredibly important.
I’ve seen entire beds thrown out on the parade ground by instructors because it was made poorly. If you take pride in doing the small things right, it filters through to everything you do.
If a corporal can’t trust you to fold your clothes as you’re instructed, how can they trust you to follow orders in a war zone?
So many people let things slide like their workspace, their diet, their appearance, thinking that they just need to take care of their major goals. It’s the other way around.
Take care and have pride in doing the small things well and the bigger ones will follow.
” We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” – Dwight D Eisenhower
Whether you’re going on a field exercise or deployment to a foreign conflict, lists are a big deal. You have your checklist of equipment, your mission objectives and rules of engagement.
Everything important is contained in a list so nothing is missed, so it can be referenced in a heartbeat if there is any confusion. In battlefield conditions you can’t remember everything all of the time.
Every day, you need a list of your primary and secondary objectives. Each night, work out what you need to achieve the next day.
The “must do” items are your primary objectives and they don’t get moved for anything. The “nice to have” items are your secondary objectives that can be moved around when other things come up.
This way you won’t be eating dinner and thinking “dammit, I forgot to call that client!”
Your list stops your day getting away from you and keeps your priorities straight.
When you’re out in the field you only have a limited amount of pack space and anything you do fit in there is going to weigh you down.
You can’t just put everything that would be nice to have in in your pack because you’ll never fit it all.
This means you have to decide what’s really essential to achieving the mission while leaving the rest behind.
Your budget, for example, is like a soldier’s pack. Is there room in it for an office? Is an office really essential to your mission at this stage or could that money be used for something far more useful?
Ask yourself what your major goals are and what you must have to achieve them.
Don’t waste money on anything that’s superfluous.
4. Adapt and overcome
The military is big on plans, but I think we all know that the lifespan of a plan ends when the first shots are fired.
Any plan needs to be refined to fit the situation at hand so objectives can still be met and people don’t die.
In the business world you may have a certain goal in mind and you’re determined to get there the way you have planned, but sticking to a plan when the battle conditions have changed is lunacy.
In war, if you lose or break a piece of equipment you have to improvise. Maybe your IT system goes down for a day at a crucial time, are you going to adapt and find a way to get things done, or will you just kick back and wait for things to solve themselves?
Being adaptable and responsive isn’t just a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity.
” I don’t fear failure. I only fear the slowing up of the engine inside of me which is saying, “Keep going, someone must be on top, why not you?” – George Patton
5. Learn to be good at many things
In the army you were considered a rifleman first, your specialty second, and anything else that came up after that.
Everyone was expected to be a talented generalist.
While I was a signals intelligence specialist; I could also lay telecommunication lines, set up and use radios, do basic troubleshooting on that equipment, and command troops.
Specialization can bring you big money, but if and when the market turns, you’re screwed if all your expertise and knowledge is in one basket.
Likewise if your specialty becomes redundant and can be done by a program or a machine, or someone can replace it with an app you have to start again from scratch.
People who have knowledge across a range of areas and can connect disparate ideas will be the most sought after in the coming years.
You wouldn’t put your life savings on a single number in roulette, so don’t do the equivalent with your career.
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We have all been there, looking at something and wishing we had it. The girl, the car, the money, the family, the lifestyle…but then we tell ourselves “Yeah, but that’s not me”. The people who get that are cut from a different cloth and we keep telling ourselves that until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We waste the wings we got believing the entire time that we can’t fly and that it’s impossible for us. We don’t even see our wings most of the time. (more…)
How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.
What is Motivation?
The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.
Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).
Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.
However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals.
How to Get Motivated
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.
This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.
4 Ways to Make Starting Easier
1. Schedule it
One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it.
When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.
An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”
2. Measure something
It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.
3. Extrinsic motivation
This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.
4. Make it public
Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.
How to Stay Motivated Long Term
When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.
These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:
1. Stay in your goldilocks zone
The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.
For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging.
The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.
2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals
Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within.
For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.
3. Use “chunking”
Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.
Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.
For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.
4. Be flexible
We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.
5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion
Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.
This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.
Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.
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