One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Albert Einstein:
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Are you doing something over and over in your life and for some reason or another, expecting different results to manifest? Whenever you want to see a different result – be it a positive change, an improvement in your performance or realization of your goals – you have to do something different from whatever you are currently doing. In goal achievement terms, it’s changing your strategy to reach your desired goal.
Change Your Actions to Get Results You Want
Why is that so? Because whatever the actions you have taken thus far aren’t giving you the results you seek. Say ABC actions have been giving you ABC results. If you want to get XYZ results, you need to adopt XYZ actions. Repeating ABC actions again and again isn’t going to give you XYZ results – It’s just going to give you the same ABC results indefinitely.
Applying this principle to your life goals, this means:
If you have been trying to lose weight but somehow aren’t anywhere near your goal despite everything you have done, you need to overhaul your action plan.
If you are a single looking for your soulmate to no avail, you need to change whatever it is you are doing (or not doing).
If you have been trying to improve your career standing with limited success, you need to change your approach.
If you have been in the same income bracket for the past few years despite wanting to earn more money, you need to do something different to earn a higher income.
If you have been pursuing your ideal career but not making much headway, you need to change your actions.
Change your actions = Best way to initiate desired changes
In certain cases, there may be changes brought about through no direct change in your actions. This change might be due to accumulated effects from your previous actions (e.g. a promotion at work from consistent hard work) or through changes in your external environment (e.g. a manager resigning at work which expedited your promotion).
This doesn’t mean not changing is the best manner to give you desired results. The former shows you could have expedited the change by increasing your effort, which is a change itself. The latter (change in external environment) is too unreliable a way to get what you want. Sitting around and hoping things will miraculously change in your favor is a very reactive manner to live life. It’s much more empowering to get to what you want through your own actions. No matter what situation you are in, you always have a choice in how you act.
Give actions sufficient time to play out first
Of course, this assumes you have given the set of actions sufficient time to play out before changing them. The amount of time will vary on the goal itself. For a weight loss goal, a month should be a good time frame for results to set in. For a start-up, results might take anywhere from 3-6 months or even a year to play out. In cases where results take longer to manifest, instill intermediate time frames to measure the effectiveness of the actions.
Keep effective actions; Remove ineffective ones
Changing your actions doesn’t mean chucking aside everything you have been trying. It’s likely you are experiencing a certain level of success with your current actions. If that’s the case, review these actions, keep the ones which are bringing in the results, throw away those which aren’t working and bring in new actions into the mix. Don’t waste your time doing actions which aren’t bringing you anywhere.
Big changes in actions = Big changes in results
It’s not just about changing your actions too. The magnitude of change also plays a role. The more dramatic the results you seek compared to your current results, the more dramatic the change in actions you need to make. With big actions, comes big results. Small changes in actions lead to small changes in results. Big changes in actions lead to big changes in results.
For example, maybe you have been trying to lose 20lbs in 4 months. You improved your diet by eating more fruits. You increased your activity level by walking more. These changes have brought about a decrease in 2lbs in the past 2 months. While these actions have brought about their own effects, continuing in the same steps probably isn’t going to bring you anywhere near losing 20lbs, ever. To bring about a larger change, you need to add in more dramatic changes, such as transforming your diet into a healthy, lower-calorie diet and setting in a proper exercise regime.
Example: Singles finding their partners
For example, a common goal among many is to find their ideal partner. I know many singles (I’m a single myself too), whereby some are in their 30s, with a small handful in their late 30s. Some are discreet about this desire to find their dream partner. Some are overt about it. Then there’s those who try to avoid the issue and claim they are okay being single.
These people have been meaning to get into a proper relationship but haven’t been able to for some reason or another. If they could have their way, they would want to be attached or married by now. While some have already become skeptical about their state of singlehood, most continue to look toward the future with a glimmer of hope that they will find their partner one day.
(By the way, I’m referring to singles who seek to find their special someone but haven’t been able to do so. There are singles who deliberately choose singlehood as their way of living and I see it as a perfectly fine choice.)
There’s usually one big problem though. Many of them do the exact same actions (or in some cases, inactions) they have been doing in the past few years of their life as they “search” for their soulmate. Engage themselves in their daily routine? Check. Sit around, wondering why they are still single rather than actively work toward their goal of finding their partner? Check. Try to ignore their desire to find someone and pretend it doesn’t matter? Check. Wait for destiny to miraculously sweep their special someone into their life one day? Check.
Why is any of that a major problem? If whatever they have done in the past 10~20 odd years have not led them to their special someone, what’s there to think that they will get different results in the next few decades? More likely than not, they’re going to end up with the same fruitless outcome at the end of 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, till their deathbed. If any case, their chances are probably going to get lower and lower as more and more people get attached.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. The last time I did my Myer Briggs profile, it’s a INFP, characteristic of a romantic idealist. I believe in the concept of soulmates. I believe in intertwining fates and interlocking threads of destiny. I believe there is someone special for each of us out there whereby invisible forces of destiny will do their best to bring us together.
But I also believe we need to take action to create the results we want. Destiny and fate may exist, but if you just sit around waiting for destiny to piece everything together, nothing’s going to happen. You have to earn something in order to receive something. Just like the hero in the RPG: He may already have his quest marked out for him, but if he’s just sitting inside the village every day mucking around, that’s all his existence is going to boil down to – nothing. Your life partner isn’t going to fall onto your lap all of a sudden without you doing anything different. You have to take the necessary actions to trigger the event.
If you are a single and you are nowhere near finding your special someone, it is a major indicator to start doing things differently. For starters, self-improvement is probably the biggest thing you can act on. Think about the kind of person you envision yourself to be (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually), and work on the areas which you are not there yet. Are you someone you will love unconditionally? Are you someone that your ideal partner will love? Many times people are single because there are something about them which aren’t attracting their desired partners, but more often than not they are too busy looking outward than inward to realize they need to change from within.
Next, change your whole action around. If you haven’t already done so, been put yourself out there and know other singles. Meet up with more people, go to different outings, take part in different interest groups or societies. If you are adventurous enough, join dating agencies, dating sites and/or approach people you have an interest in and get to know them. Basically, just do anything different from the things you have been doing all along.
Example: Personal Excellence
Another example is my site. Just 8 months after launching it, Personal Excellence now has a strong flow of quality traffic (a few thousand/day), is known by many in the personal development industry, has been featured on almost all key media outlets in my country and has scored front pages in major networking sites, including Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon. It’s performing better than many other blogs of the same theme across different measures – total traffic, unique visitors, pageviews/visitor, reception among visitors. All in all, it is considered to be highly successful.
While those who have no knowledge of the online industry may think of it as an easily achievable outcome, people who have tried to make blogging a serious venture will know it’s very hard to generate quality traffic, especially due to the oversaturation in websites and blogs in the past few years.
For starters, there are about 70 million blogs out there, with tens of thousands of new blogs set up every day. Within the personal development blogosphere, there are at least a few thousand blogs competing for readership. The low barriers of entry have made it incredibly easy for someone to start up a blog, but extremely difficult for people to succeed. Available internet marketing outlets are already used to death by every single blogger (just to name a few – SEO, commenting in blogs/forums, submitting and promoting in social bookmarking sites, networking with bloggers, submitting to blog carnivals, guest posting).
The reason why Personal Excellence has been doing well is because I continously change my strategy to get my desired results. I started off with a traffic building plan. Then after 1-2 months, I would check the results of my traffic building efforts. If the results haven’t been achieved, I would review the effectiveness of my strategies. For actions that have been efficacious, I would keep them; For actions which aren’t, I would put them aside. Then, I would research and adopt new methods to add into the mix. I’m always open to try every single method to get traffic – if it’s something I’ve not done before, I’ll be game to just try it out, even just for one time.
All in all, it is through the continuous process of reviewing and changing my actions which have enabled me to achieve the results I have today. If I had just adopted one set of actions and stuck with it the whole time, I’d never be getting the kind of readership and exposure today, and PE would never have grown to be what it is now.
Start Changing Your Actions
Think about a goal which you have been wanting to achieve with limited success. Then, think about the following questions. Write your answers with a pen and paper:
- What have you been doing to achieve this goal in the past few months/years?
- Why haven’t you been able to reach your goal? Have you been trying hard enough? Have your actions have been too confined? List out all the reasons and dig deep into the answers.
- How can you revise your strategy? What shall you do differently moving forward? For example, look at the people who have been successful in achieving this goal. What did they do? Can you put more effort in your existing steps? What are some new things you can try out? How can you address the obstacles you have been facing? Read 25 Brainstorming Techniques to get new ideas for your strategy.
- Carry out this new strategy you have designed.
- Review it a few months from now to measure its effectiveness. If the changes in results are limited, then repeat steps 1-3 as you review your strategy. If you haven’t been able to get the results you want, it just means that the strategy you have been adopting is not on-point. Keep changing it until you finally achieve the results you want.
Remember that as long as you keep reviewing your actions, stick with the most effective methods and try on new actions, you will eventually get the results you want.