Research has found that having clarity about your goals is essential to having the motivation to achieve those goals. If you’re not clear on what you’re doing, it’s hard to be motivated. Which is why seemingly easy tasks, like sending a fax, could end up taking months. There’s a lack of clarity on how to do it, so you don’t — until either you have to or it’s too late.
Unfortunately, having a lack of clarity is why so many people settle for less than their dreams. Robert Brault, author of Round Up the Usual Subjects, says, “We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”
You want clarity so badly that you’re willing to settle for lesser goals, simply because the path to getting your true goal is less obvious.
When you’re trying to accomplish something big, you have the why but rarely the how. The path to achieving your goals is far from obvious. You have no clue how you’re going to do what you want to do.
1. Set goals that actually matter to you.
When you set goals that actually matter to you, it’s a lot easier to take massive action to reach those goals. Think about what truly matters to you and what you really want to accomplish during your lifetime.
What impact do you want to make on the world? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Who do you most want to be as a person? What are you incredibly passionate about? If you’re not sure what lights you up.
2. Embrace the unknown.
“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” – George S. Patton
When you experience the unknown, what is your emotional experience? Most people perceive the unknown as threatening, signifying a low tolerance for ambiguity. But some people are more open to the unknown.
Interestingly, researchers have found that children generally have a higher tolerance for ambiguity than adults. Children are often more willing to accept murky conditions—situations where the likelihood of winning or losing is unknown. As you get older though, your desire for surety and security keeps you safely protected in your comfort zone.
Research has found that the more satisfied you are with your work, the higher your tolerance for ambiguity. In other words, if you enjoy and believe in what you’re doing, you’ll take on the emotional discomfort of the unknown.
“If your why is strong enough, you will figure out how!” by Bill Walsh, former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers,
3. Find clarity quickly.
It’s settled then: If you want to achieve big things, your path will be unclear and hazy. The emotional need for clarity and fear of the unknown leads people to abandon their dreams for more straightforward pursuits.
Having goal clarity is essential to motivation. Consequently, in order to get motivated to achieve your big dreams, you need clarity. But this does not mean you have it all figured out. It means you’re clear on the next step or two.
If you’re at mile marker 1 and your dream is at mile marker 50, you just need enough info and support to get to mile marker 3 or 4. Once you get there, you’ll need further instructions. But you have no clue what those instructions will be, because you don’t currently know what you don’t know. When you get to the next step, you’ll be able to ask better questions. You’ll be able to better assess who can help you get to mile marker 5, 6, 7 or 8. What got you here won’t get you there.
You’re on a treasure hunt and you’re finding clues and guides along the way. This is the process and emotional experience of pursuing a big dream.
Here’s what you need to move forward right now:
- A clear checkpoint (so you actually know what to do)
- A hard and fast timeline
- The right tools and systems
- A support structure
If you have these four things, you’ll have enough clarity—and thus enough motivation—to move forward. You’ll be stretching, growing and moving while other people are overwhelmed by the distance between mile marker 1 and 50. While they’re staring at the forest from a distance, you’re winding your way through the trees. And soon enough, you’ll be on the other side.
With this backdrop, here’s the most effective way I’ve found to getting just enough clarity to continuously move forward.