Saturday, June 8, 2019

Centering Prayer as Appreciation



Often my centering prayer sessions don’t seem to accomplish much. My mind continually bounces around. I rehearse past hurts. I think about my task list. I make plans for today’s meetings. I gain ideas for projects. I have little sense of the presence of God. In a word, I’m distracted.

Yet perhaps these are actually the best days. After all, centering prayer is not about me and my thoughts. It’s about entering a space outside of my control where I may encounter the living God. The sessions, when my brain interrupts incessantly, become opportunities to learn anew about surrender. In these moments I release whatever captures my attention and return to a posture of waiting. This may happen dozens of times in a 15–20 minute time of centering prayer. Yet each recitation of my prayer word serves as an occasion for training in faithfulness and love. 


Jesus' Model

When Jesus was hungry in the wilderness, the tempter pointed to the presence of an abundant number of stones (Matt 4:1–4). He suggested that Jesus use his power to turn them to bread. Jesus reminded the tempter, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus’ hunger was real. He had just completed a forty day fast. Yet he released it by reciting Scripture as a way of moving away from temptation. 

The tempter then presents Jesus with two additional tests. As in the first scene, Jesus quotes Scripture and stays focused on God’s mission. It is no coincidence that angels appear and attend to Jesus’ needs (4:11). 

The Practice of Self-Denial and Surrender to Silence

Centering prayer teaches us a similar process of self-denial. Don’t mistake this for masochism or crass asceticism. God is not cruel. God is love. The greatest hindrance to our spiritual transformation is ourselves. The process of self-denial prepares us for the deep work that God desires to do in us. Jesus recognized this and modeled a way forward.

Our thoughts are the obstacles that distract us from the work God desires to do in us in solitude. But we must not fight our thoughts. This would be our work. Instead, we calmly use our prayer word “Jesus” to recenter.

A friend recently asked me if sessions full of distraction frustrated me. The truth of the matter is they do not at all frustrate me. Instead they are the days where I learn the most.

Don’t get me wrong. My soul loves the moments of deep contemplation where I become lost in God’s love. It is transformational to experience and receive God’s unconditional acceptance. It, however, is also transformational to learn continually the lessons taught by silent surrender.

On those days when I’m constantly lost in thought, I learn to focus on appreciation rather than expectation. I remember that centering prayer is not a tactic for engaging God. It is a way of being in which I consciously surrender in love and gratitude to God. I let go of all things that may hinder me including the expectation that I’ll encounter God during my time of prayer.

Releasing thoughts is an act of faith. I trust that God has my best interests at heart. Therefore, my future does not depend on avoiding being lost in a continuous stream of thoughts or even in my ability to recollect the thoughts I released in prayer. 

Appreciation and Growth

After such sessions, I’ve learned to appreciate the silence. By releasing the expectation of automatically encountering God in each session, I’ve found that growth happens. The prayer time is not about me after all. It is not a work. It is rest in the presence of God. Just as the biblical sabbath envisions life apart from work, centering prayer is an invitation to let go of all human busyness and activity to rest in God. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.


If you are interested in learning more about centering prayer, here is an introductory video: 



Friday, February 8, 2019

Favorite Books from 2018

I read close to 100 books in 2018. Here is my top ten. Most of these were new or recent releases but a few classics made it in.


 

1) Nassim Nicholas Taleb Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life 

Taleb is one of my favorite intellectuals. His writing is fun, brilliant, irreverent, and deep. Skin in the Game is the most recent volume of his Incerto ("uncertainty") series. Each of the earlier volumes: Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and Antifragile are equally worthy of your time. Skin in the Game makes the point that you should never trust any expert, builder, banker, or professor who has no "lived experience" or "skin in the game." Yet the folly of modern banking, government, and education is that there is little "skin in the game" by those at the top. Experts, who have little personal experience or no exposure to the risks of their own policies, serve as decision makers and influencers. This leaves common people to carry the brunt of the risk exposure, clean up the messes and pay for costly bailouts. One of Taleb's favorite villains in Robert Rubin of Citibank fame and a member of Obama's administration. Rubin earned millions of dollars in bonuses leading Citibank in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Yet when Citibank and the world economy crashed due to the profound duplicity of bankers carrying risky debt, Rubin kept all of his bonuses and even became Secretary of the Treasury. It is deeply ironic that Rubin as SOT was charged with fixing the problem that he was partially responsible for creating. Common people lost their homes and we the people ultimately paid for the bailout of these elites who lacked "skin in the game." On the other hand, Taleb demonstrates the power that a tiny minority of a population can wield over the whole by their steadfast commitment and willingness to stand publicly for their preferences ("skin in the game"). Throughout the book, Taleb offers a rich philosophical and historical portrait of the principle.


 

2) Cal Newport Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work is an outstanding read for creatives who need to increase productivity. Newport is an academic who writes prolifically for scholarly and popular audiences. He lays out the secrets of his productivity. As ground work, he argues that to find success in our present/future economy, one must learn to master difficult tasks and be able produce at an elite level. Therefore, we must learn to guard, value, and take advantage of peak periods of productivity. Any one struggling to make deadlines, consistently achieve goals, and live up to one's potential will find Newport's wisdom and tactics helpful. Deep Work is not merely recycled time management advice. It is in touch with the challenges of our high tech world's 24/7 noise and Newport walks the walk or as Taleb would say, "has skin in the game."


 

3) Ray Dalio Principles: Life and Work

Ray Dalio is one of the most successful investors of our era and one of the wealthiest men in the world. His investment returns at Bridgewater Associates are legendary. In Principles, Dalio tells his personal story and lays out his philosophy for making decisions and building teams. This book is less about investing than it is a manifesto on creating systems for taking the right decisions in high pressure moments. Success at an elite level in investing and any human endeavor turns on our ability to leverage a team to assess evidence/data objectively and make the best decision out of all competing options. I found Principles refreshing from an organizational perspective. At Bridgewater Associates, Dalio led his team to pioneer workplace transparency and truth-telling. When billions of dollars are at stake, the contribution of each team member is critical. There is a wealth of knowledge in this book. Any one who wants to build a powerful team should study this book carefully. There is literally a lifetime of wisdom here.


 

4) Robert Greene The Laws of Human Nature

Greene take a deep dive into human behavior. This is not a philosophical or scientific volume that approaches human nature from a theoretical or theological perspective. Instead Greene, a keen observer of the human condition, lays out 18 "laws" that illustrate and synthesize an array of human behaviors. If you've read 48 Laws of Power or Mastery, you will find Greene familiar style of drawing from academics, historical figures, and philosophy. At the core, The Laws of Human Nature rightly views humans as social animals. We talk much about the need for "emotional intelligence." Greene's laws describe what various flavors of emotional intelligence looks like. I personally found his chapter on "Confronting Your Darkside" particularly helpful. It focuses on what Jung termed the "shadow." Luckily Greene doesn't just summarize these laws he offers ways to recognize in others or develop in one's own life each of the laws he includes. You can read The Laws of Human Nature as a guidebook for success and self-improvement. You can also use it to build enough self-awareness to avoid being manipulated by others or as Greene himself says for "self-defense."


 

5) Stephen Pressfield The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles 

I finally read Pressfield's classic guide to creative work this past year. If you have to produce art in your life: writing, speeches, sermons, lessons, songs, poems, or paintings, this is a must read. There are two critical takeaways. First, Pressfield writes eloquently about resistance. Those of us who are authors call this writer's block. The ancients talked about finding their muse for support. Pressfield shares secrets for conjuing up our own muse to empower our writing. It involves doing the psychological work of confronting our inner demons of procrastination, excuse making, and fear and developing a writing routine that serves our highest creative goals. Second, he uses the metaphor of "going pro." I like this. Treat your creative work as a professional and not as an amateur. Pros get work done. No excuses. Read The War of Art alone or in combo with Deep Work. You'll be glad you did. 2019 can be your most productive year ever. 

 

6) Jordan B. Peterson 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos 

Discovering the work and thought of Jordan Peterson was one of the revelations of 2018. I've now listened to dozens of interviews on podcasts as well as watched hours of his lectures on YouTube. I also had the opportunity to hear him live in Orlando in September 2018. I consider him one of the leading public intellectuals of our day. He is well read across disciplines but approaches most topics from his expertise in psychology and Jungian analysis. 12 Rules is a rich text in which Peterson distills his philosophy for a life that courageously strives to empower people to live well regardless of circumstances.  Some of 12 rules seem common-sensical such as "Make friends with people who want the best for you" or "Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today". Others are slightly comical "Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them." Others sound odd "Don't bother children when they are skateboarding" or "Pet a cat when you meet one on the street." Don't let the particular articulation of the principles throw you off. The power of Peterson is not in the wording of the rules (though it helps to make them memorable) but in his exposition of their meaning. His writing is deep and meanders through multiple pathways of understanding. He takes the reader on journey through academic research, biblical stories, personal experiences and Jungian mythic archetypes to bring his rules to life. Peterson is often criticized for having a predominantly male audience. I have a different experience. Peterson's lectures profoundly helped my daughter this past year. She is the one who introduced me to this thinker.



 

7) Lewis Howes The Mask of Masculinity: How Men Can Embrace Vulnerability, Create Strong Relationships, and Live Their Fullest Lives 

Howes is best known for his popular podcast "The School of Greatness." In this book, Howes shows his vulnerable side. He suffered suffered sexual abuse as well as bullying as a boy. This set Howes off on a path where he lived with a chip on his shoulder and constantly had to prove his worth. In Mask of Masculinity, Howes explores various persona or fronts that men use to cover up their pain, shame, and vulnerability. This was a well written book that is helpful for both men open to inner transformation and the women who love them.


 

8) Thomas Merton New Seeds of Contemplation 

This is a spiritual classic on contemplative prayer from one of the 20th century giants of spirituality. New Seeds is a series of short chapters that offer a rich characterization of the inner world of the contemplative life. Merton's ability to capture in words the depth of love experienced as the false self dies in the presence of God. His reflection on the idolatrous projections we make about life, the divine, and others is moving and spiritually cleansing. I can imagine myself reading this book dozens of times and still finding new insights. I think that persons practicing other forms of mediation such as mindfulness can read this book profitably even if they don't share Merton's Christian faith.

 

9) Epictetus Discourses and Selected Writings (Penguin Classics)

2018 was the fourth consecutive year that I consumed the wisdom of Epictetus. Epictetus is my favorite of the Roman stoics. This volume includes both his longer Discourses, his abbreviated Enchiridion, and some fragments from other sources. I consider Epictetus to be the best personal development author of all time (the GOAT). By reading this book, you will essentially have gained the core understanding of human behavior and deep inner-game work that you'll encounter in therapy or from any writer in the self-improvement sphere. At the heart of Epictetus' thought is the necessity of understanding what one controls (not much) and what one does not control. He then unflinchingly reflects and teaches how to live in light of this difference. For my Christian readers, they may be interested to know that Epictetus was read consistently by monastics for his deep spiritual insights.


 

10) Dave Asprey Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life 

I'm an amateur bio-hacker so Dave Asprey of Bulletproof Coffee and Diet fame is one of my heroes. Gamechangers is sourced from his podcast guests. Asprey distills the learning gleaned from his long form interviews into key takeaways that can be applied to enhance life. He divides the book into three sections: smarter, faster, happier. He explores topics such as the power of gratitude, importance of sleep, how altered states can enhance cognitive function and happiness (this is one of the most interesting chapters–he covers topics from the controlled use of hallucinogens [fascinating but illegal in the U.S.] to the power of meditation [my practice of centering prayer squared with Asprey's thinking on the topic]), proper breathing, the most efficient forms of exercise, and finding one's purpose. In some ways, Game Changers contains the topics one might expect in personal development text, but Asprey's biohacking approach mixes modern technology and "hacks" with ancient wisdom. Great book!

What were your favorite books this year?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Two Pathways for Embodying Success


Most people desire to be successful. This begs a couple of questions: What do we mean by success? What does a successful life look like? 

I want to share my two favorite definitions. Both have helped me.

Success as Pursuit of a Goal

First, Earl Nightingale known as the “Dean of Personal Development” describes success this way:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”

I resonate with this definition because it reminds us that success is more a journey than a destination. It involves setting goals as we talked about previously, but notice that Nightingale includes the word “ideal” as a synonym for “goal.” 

In other words, a key to success is establishing a large vision or ideal on your horizon that will guide you in your growth. Jim Rohn puts it this way: “You want to set a goal big enough that in the process of attaining it, you become someone worthy becoming.” 

When we think about success in this manner, we will realize that instead of asking, “How long will it take to achieve?,” we need to ponder, “I wonder how far down the road I can get in this lifetime?” This outlook transforms our life into an unfolding adventure of purpose and possibilities. Success then is not merely about money or past accomplishments. Success becomes a compass and an engine that keeps us moving forward and enjoying the journey.

Success as Maximizing Potential

John Wooden was one of the best coaches of all time in any sport. He led the UCLA Bruin’s men’s basketball team to an unprecedented 10 national championships over a twelve year period including a run of seven consecutive years. 

Wooden’s genius as a coach and teacher is found in his definition of success:

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming."

Amazingly, Wooden never talked about winning games or championships. In his mind, if his players worked harder on themselves than on winning games, success took care of itself. He focused his practices not on beating the opposition but on the development of the skills, teamwork, and character of his players. 

One of Wooden's other maxims was “Make each day your masterpiece.” Wooden knew that there will be challenges and that sometimes our best will simply mean that we climbed out of bed and went to work. But regardless of the circumstances of the moment, success is found in giving all that we can muster.

How would you live differently if your goal each day was simply to make your best effort in growing toward your potential? Imagine the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from realizing that life is about growing into the person you were created uniquely to be. There is no competition with others. Instead of competing, try to view head to head challenges as opportunities to assess current progress rather than in terms of winning and losing. The only true loser is the one who gives up or doesn’t try their best. In fact, reread Wooden’s definition and observe that you could potentially win and still not be successful because you gave less than your best.

Action Steps

Which definition of success do you most gravitate to? Why?
What is your big dream? 
Who is God calling you to become? 
How will you take the first baby steps today on your journey of success? 
What can you do or learn today to create a slightly better version of yourself than you were yesterday?

© 2019 Brian D. Russell

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Writing Life Changing Goals


"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible." Tony Robbins

One of my favorite quotations about success and achievement is from the pen of Jim Rohn. He wrote, “You want to set a goal that is big enough that in the process of achieving it you become someone worth becoming.” We thrive in life by having a target at which to aim.

Aim for the Right Target: A Personal Warning

A critical key for an abundant life is to make certain that you are aiming at a target that you truly desire to hit. I can remember working on a book project for six years. The writing had been interrupted for over a year because of my need to focus on healing and solo parenting following a painful divorce. By the time I returned to the manuscript, it had become burden rather than the passion project it had once been. Writing became a matter of “grinding out” words rather than feeling inspired and in the flow. When I emailed the final manuscript to the publisher, I felt more relief than joy. Even worse, the next morning I awoke feeling down and empty. I had achieved a target, but it ended up being one that I didn’t truly desire.

Guidelines for Writing Life Changing Goals

As you dream about your future, here are some guidelines to help you discern your goals:

(1) Make sure that you truly want it. 

Is this a heart felt personal passion or is it something that you only think you should do?

(2) State your goal in the positive. 

This practice keeps you focused on what you actually want rather than what you are trying to avoid or change. Observe the difference between these two statements: I want to stop eating fried food. I want to eat healthy, organic, whole foods. One statement puts into your mind the practice you want to avoid whereas the positive goal focuses you on what you actually desire.

(3) Be specific and descriptive. 

State what you want as specifically as possible. Rather than say, “I want a job that pays more money” say, “I want to work in the healthcare industry and earn a salary of $100,000 per year.”  An even better one would be for example, “I desire to work as a highly paid ($100,000+) physical therapist in a well respected private practice in a growing suburban area in the southwestern U.S.” Notice how you can see, feel, and even hear what the achievement of the rewritten goal is like.

The problem with the original goal of earning more money is that you could achieve it by simply finding a job that pays $0.01 extra per hour and you’d achieve it. 

(4) Make Sure that It is in Your Power to Achieve It. 

If your goal depends on the actions or response of anyone/thing other than yourself, you may have to rethink it. It must primarily be your actions that drive your achievement of your goal. 

(5) Reflect on How the Achievement of the Goal Would Affect your Life. 

This brings us full circle to the opening Rohn quote as well as the story about my book. Achievement is about the person we become. How will I need to change to achieve my dream? What will it take to acquire the skills and knowledge required to take action? Does it align with my highest aspirations and ideals? Will it positively or negatively affect my relationships? Am I prepared for the different life that I will need to embrace to achieve my goal? 

I look forward to hearing about your successes. Just imagine how good achieving your dreams would feel.

For a broader look at Goal Achieving, see my essay “The SET Method for Goal Achieving.”

© 2019 Brian D. Russell

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Learning to Say "No"


It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. - Tony Robbins

There is no decision that we can make that doesn't come with some sort of balance or sacrifice. – Simon Sinek

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. – Greg McKeown

Learning to Say, "No"

I’ve experienced too many times when I’ve been dog tired and feeling burned out because of taking on too much work. This has been entirely my own doing. No one forced me to accept a speaking engagement, an invitation to write an article, or an offer teach an extra class. In fact, I love to do all of these activities. The problem was that I lacked a process for making decisions about what was best. I was so committed to living out my mission that any opportunity that seemed good in the moment received a “yes” from me. The result was that I became a prisoner of my own success. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on a project or sat in my seat moments before being called to the front and simply wished that I had never accepted the opportunity. Other times I’ve received epic opportunities, but because of my already scheduled activities I either had to turn these down or literally shoehorn them into a calendar with little margin for the rest of my life. I managed to pull these off but I often found myself under the weather, burned out, exhausted or wondering if I could have performed at a higher level if I had not been so overcommitted. Moreover, I missed out of much joy of enjoying these moments because I was always distracted by what I had to do next.

Learning to say, “No” is key for living the life of God’s dreams. If we don’t learn to say, “No” with intentionality, we will lose the freedom to say, “Yes” when a truly great opportunity appears. Of course, there will be obligations on which we must take action that involve work mandated by a superior or certain family commitments. These are not my concern here. I desire to reflect on avoiding my mistakes hinted at in my earlier confession. 

My Process for Discerning “Yes” or “No”: Default to “No” Except for these Exceptions

Here is my current process for discerning. My default answer is now “No.” It is rooted in the following principle and then filtered with three additional ones.

First, set this rule in stone. If the opportunity does not align with your goals and values, you must say, “No.” 

This rule assumes that you’ve established clear goals and know your core values. Jim Rohn wrote, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” If you don’t know what you want and who you are, you will default into people pleasing or dollar chasing.

Second, just because an opportunity aligns with your goals and values does not mean that you say, “Yes.” 

This is particularly true if you are in a religious vocation when most invitations and opportunities will line up with your calling. 

How do you say “No” when there is an opportunity to do something good that aligns with our mission? This is the problem. Therefore we need additional filters. 

From my reading and reflection, I ask myself these three questions:

(1) Would I want to participate in the activity/project/event tomorrow? 
This question is crucial. If you would be too busy or tired to enjoy the opportunity tomorrow, you will likely feel the same way 3 months, six months, or a year from now. This means you should automatically say, “No.”

(2) If I say, “Yes” to #1, ask: “Is this opportunity an absolute life or death “must do” for me and do I feel a high level of energy that signals ‘I’m all in on this!’?” 
Derek Sivers writes, “When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! [Heck] yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’”[1] 

(3) Last, can I reasonably fit this invitation into my life during the season it will come due? 
Learning to recognize one’s limits is critical. I try to divide my year into four quarters. I’m at my best when I’m only working on a couple projects per quarter. When I set goals for the next year, I try to spread out work and projects. Then I can reasonably accept an additional opportunity or two per quarter without burning myself out.

This makes life much more enjoyable and allows us to be at our best when we do say, “Yes.”


Three Critical Reads for Maximum Productivity: Best of 2018

All three of these books are outstanding. I strongly recommend them as they provide clear strategies for doing our best work in a world that does its best to distract us 24/7. You will notice a theme in these books: all advocate 

Greg McKeown Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Essentialism is about creating space to be able to get the right things done in our lives. It is not about doing less. McKeown has written a critical tool to help us to succeed in achieving our actual goals by maintaining focus on them. This involves learning to say "No" and removing obstacles in our lives that hinder us from the pursuit of what we actual want/desire to accomplish. Every time you say "Yes" to something; you are saying "No" to something else. Problems happen when we say "Yes" to "non-essential" tasks to the detriment to our goals. This quotation from McKeown captures the heart of what he teaches: "If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."


Cal Newport Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World 

Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University. He is a prolific writer who has studied the art of productivity. Deep Work is one of the best books that I've read for writers, teacher, pastors, creatives, and designers. If part of your career demands high level thinking and planning and you struggle organizing your life to be at your best, then Deep Work is for you. Newport offers strategies for prioritizing your life via habits that support blocking out focused time for your critical work/thinking. This means identifying your best hours and allocating them to the most important and intellectually demanding projects and cutting yourself off of distraction. Newport walks the walk as he produces a tremendous amount of scholarly research in his field in addition to all of the productivity content. 


Brendon Burchard High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way 

This is Burchard's best book to date. He studied carefully several hundred high performers from around the world and distilled key principles that are immediately actionable in our lives. Burchard distills six habits under two broad headings: Personal and Social. The personal habits are Seek Clarity, Generate Energy, Raise Necessity. The social habits are Increase productivity, Develop influence, Demonstrate courage. All of this may sound like standard fare if you are familiar with personal/business coaching. What sets Burchard apart are the specific tactics that he includes with each habit. He also offers worksheets and tactical breakdowns to operationalize what he teaches. Sort of hiring a private coach this book offers tremendous value to anyone looking to take the next step in finding your edge.


This post contains Affiliate Links to products on Amazon. There is no additional cost to you, but this blog will receive a small payment if you purchase through this site. Thank you.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The SET Method for Goal Achieving


Goals are essential for bending the future to fit our sense of calling, our dreams, and our desires. Goals empower us to be self-directed. I’ve been a generic goal setter for decades but in late 2013 I began to set better goals and my life has changed. I’ve written more books, essays, reviews, and blogs in the last five years than in my previous 15 years as a professor. I’ve gotten fitter. My relationships with family and friends are richer. I’ve even increased my income by 50%. 
Without goals, time will pass and we will wake up wondering where the years went. Without goals, the agenda of others becomes our agenda (and others frequently don’t have much planned for us other than helping them achieve their goals). Without goals, we will expend the majority of our energy and time on tasks that don’t bring true satisfaction and growth. Without goals, the dreams that we have deep within will lay dormant and whither.  

What do you truly want? What do you deeply sense you were created to achieve? What are God’s dreams for your life? 

In this post, I will introduce you to the SET Method for setting and achieving goals. In coming weeks, I will breakdown the process more deeply and offer hacks to help you gain exponential results.

The SET Method  is a three step process:

S: State your goal as a positive target. What do I want?
E: Explain the "why" behind it. Why do I want to achieve this goal
T: Take Action. "What can I do NOW to move forward?"

First, State your goal as a positive target. Ask: What do I want to achieve? Establish goals for different parts of your life: family, finances, spirituality, work, fitness, and fun. It is critical to set goals for what we really want and not merely what we should want. We must also not settle for goals that are easily achievable. I used to make the mistake of making my goals for the next year more of a “to do” list of my obligations than a true set of targets that when achieved would lead me to true growth as the person I was created to be and bring deep satisfaction in my life. Go for the moonshot rather than aiming for getting 10 feet off the ground. Don’t just look for 5% improvement. Be audacious. When we shoot for the moon, we may not make it but we’ll likely be much higher off of the ground than if our goal was simply to attain lift off.

So what do you truly want? Write these targets down using positive language. In other words, don’t set targets to avoid or flee from; set targets that pull you forward. For example, if you are presently deeply in debt, don’t state your goal merely as “I want to get out of debt.” If you achieved this, you would only have made it to $0. Instead, focus on achieving financial abundance. Be specific and include the date when you’ll achieve this. For example, I want to increase my income by 50% by Dec 31. Increasing your income would take care of your indebtedness and help you build a more robust future.

Now we are ready for step two: Explain the “why” behind your goal. Too many of us make the mistake of trying to figure out the “how” of achieving a goal. The “why” is perhaps more critical because it is the “why” that will drive us to discover the “how.” Think about our above goal of increasing income by 50%. What is the “why”? Perhaps its to provide a better life for one’s family. Perhaps its a desire to have more wealth to fund a non-profit. Find your “why” and write it down. It will become the inspiration that motivates you to achieve the goal. But make sure that you are descriptive and multi-sensory in describing your “why.” See your children smiling and laughing while enjoying a family vacation paid for in cash with the increased resources. Feel your own joy in having a more secure financial footing with a positive net worth. 

Last, Take action. You’ll know that you’ve nailed the “why” when you are chomping at the bit to move to the final step. Our “why” inspires us to find the “how.” We do this by taking actions that move us toward the goal. Immediately work out an initial plan of action. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Sketch out daily/weekly/monthly activities. Then, review your goal and your “why” and take action daily. If your initial plan doesn’t seem to work, revise and keep moving forward. Focusing on our sample goal of increasing income by 50%, here are some possible actions: ask for a raise, request overtime, start a side business, begin studying a new skill or topic that will allow you to earn more over time. Focus daily on the “why” to keep yourself energize. If your initial plan does not pay dividends, make revisions until you succeed.

This is the SET Method in its basic form. Stay tuned for more specific breakdowns and tips regarding each of the steps.

© 2019 Brian D. Russell