I’ve been doing a lot of blog reading lately, and I’m really impressed by how many high quality blogs are out there. I’ve also been looking around to hire some people: an accountant, a web designer, an attorney, etc. I’m not planning anything complicated, but I have been researching people, their services, and their philosophies about business.
Something interesting I’ve noticed is that in the world of small business, people use this phrase a lot: “When you are serious about your business, you . This is interesting, because it seems there is a real and significant line in the sand between people who are SERIOUS about running their own business, and the people who are less serious about it. It strikes me that this is true about many things in life, not just running a business. Some people are serious about improving their health, and some people are not. Some people are serious about improving their relationships, while other people are not. But in all cases, there seems to be a level of seriousness that defines people who are taking action, versus people who are not taking action but are just doing a lot of talking. Actually, I think that action might be one of the key differentiators that separates the people who are truly serious.
Now that I’ve reflected on this concept of “seriousness” – I think there are several ways you can tell if someone is serious about their goals, their business, their health, their relationships, or anything else. Here is how I think you can tell if someone is serious about their goals.
Top 14 Ways I Can Tell If You Are Serious About Your Goals
1. You spend more time acting on your goals than you do talking about them.
Did you know there are 100,00 people in the USA who complete a marathon each year, but there are 200,000 who say they are going to run a marathon. Ok, not really – I just made up that statistic. But we all probably know someone who has made a grand declaration but never followed through on it. Hopefully you are not that person. It would be interesting if we could collect data to compare the number of times a week that we think about our goals, versus the number of times each week we take action towards our goals. We probably wouldn’t like the data that was collected. If you are serious about your goals then you are probably too busy taking action to do all that much talking anyway.
2. You hire people with expertise who can help you.
Going back to the marathon example, if you are a first time runner, you might want to work with a running coach or fitness trainer. If you are planning to grow your business, you might need the help of a marketing expert. When I was training for triathlons, I hired an online coach to develop my weekly training schedule. When you are serious about something, you know there are a lot of smart people with a lot of relevant expertise, and you are willing to hire those experts to help you.
3. You write out a schedule, with specific deadlines, and milestones.
If you are serious about your goals, then you should do know what you will accomplish and when you will accomplish it. If you can’t figure out any important milestones because your goals are too nebulous to create a schedule, then you are probably just daydreaming about your goals. You’re not serious. When you are serious, you know your specific products and deadlines. When I set out some of my 2011 goals, I identified specific milestones, with dates, and I committed to blog twice a week for 52 weeks. Even when I don’t really feel like it, I have a schedule to keep.
4. You set aside money to invest in your goals.
You really only have two things you can invest: your time and your money. And when you are serious about something in your life, then you are willing to invest money in it. Furthermore, you think about those dollars as an investment, an investment in yourself. Because you are investing in yourself, you are happy – even thrilled – to write that check. When I was doing Ironman triathlons, I made to make some significant investments: in a bike, in race registrations, in running shoes, and dozens of other things. All those things cost money. And they all showed that I was serious. This year, I invested money in new office furniture and I am THRILLED to have spent that money.
5. You set aside time to invest in your goals.
You really only have two things you can invest: your time and your money. And when it comes to accomplishing your goals, time is usually more valuable than money. Your time is scarce, and you probably have dozens of other priorities competing for your time. What’s that phrase about the urgent usually takes precedence over the important? Well when something IS important and you SERIOUS about your goals, then you set aside the time. Every day and every week. Time to run, or time to write, or time to spend on date night with your sweetheart. If I want to know what you are serious about, then I should be able to figure it by looking at your schedule for the past month.
6. When something else comes up, which would qualify as an EXCELLENT and justifiable distraction, you don’t let yourself get distracted.
Let’s be honest here, there are dozens of awesome distractions available to us every single minute. The internet has enabled entirely new levels of procrastination. Even when you set aside a regular schedule to start that running plan, there’s always something else that might come up: that emergency at work, or the dog needs to go to the vet, or you suddenly ran out of milk, or your best friend decided to stop by and wants to go to happy hour. If you are serious about your goals, then you resist the distractions and focus on your plan. You will say no to your best friend for happy hour that night and you’ll schedule happy hour for a day when you won’t have to skip your 5 mile run. When you are serious, then NOTHING gets in your way and your friends will understand. That’s why they are your friends.
7. You ask for help from other people, because you know that you can learn from them.
When you are serious about your goals, you don’t get jealous of other people. You have no need for jealousy, because you know you are on your own path and you will get to where you want to go. Which means that you are eager and curious to learn from other people. When you are serious, you want to soak up all the knowledge and wisdom that you can from everyone you know. When you are serious, you ask for help, you listen to what other people have to say, and you are appreciative of their support. When you are serious, you know that you won’t succeed alone. I recently scheduled a phone call with a good friend who just happens to develop websites. I picked her brain and I learned a ton, and she gave me lots of ideas to consider. When I was first buying a road bicycle, I asked for help from a friend of a friend I barely knew. But she was willing to help and even went bike shopping with me. Most people are willing to help, you just need to be willing to ask.
8. You don’t use the word “maybe.”
There is no ambivalence about your goals when you are serious. You might say something like “I am going to do xyz.” You never say things like “I might run a marathon if I can find a good coach, and some running partners, and if I can find the time to train.” Nope, that won’t work because you have things backwards in that sentence. IF you are serious about running a marathon, THEN you WILL find a coach, and you WILL find running partners, and you WILL find time to train.” When you are serious, there are no maybes. If you are serious, then you don’t flake out. Please: Don’t be a flake!
9. You don’t get fazed by rejection or disappointment.
When you are serious, you are committed for the long haul, and you don’t get fazed by short term obstacles or let downs. You find a way through the disappointment and you keep moving forward, you don’t get stuck. You know that obstacles are just there to test your commitment and help you uncover what is most important. When you are serious, you will NOT be deterred. If you are training for your marathon and it’s raining on Sunday morning when you are supposed to run 12 miles, well then you go run those 12 miles in the rain. Or the snow. Or the mud. When you serious, you don’t let little silly things like weather get in your way.
10. When you describe your goal, you hold your head up and you make eye contact.
This reflects your commitment to the goal, and your faith in yourself. Body language speaks volumes, and when you are serious about your life, your body language indicates this. If your voice quivers or you can’t make eye contact, then you need to practice being serious. Look yourself in the mirror and practicing saying your goal out loud. Practice saying it to the person next to you on the airplane – practice saying it to the mailman or whoever, but when you say it out loud, say it like you mean it. Say it with your whole body.
11. You learn how to use the tools that you will need for your goals.
A golfer knows the difference between her driver and her 7 iron and her sand wedge. A cyclist knows how to change a tire and adjust their brakes and align their saddle. A runner knows the different between a tempo run and an interval run and a recovery run. Every sport and every discipline has its own tools. If you are serious about a goal, you’ll figure out which tools you need to learn and you’ll learn them. When I was first learning about cycling I sat through a 2 hour class about how to repair my bicycle chain. At the end of that class I concluded that the best way to fix my bicycle chain would be to hitch a ride home and take the bike chain to a bike shop. But hey, I learned how to use the chain tools, and then I memorized the phone number to the bike shop. My point is this: when you are serious about a goal in your life, then you will get smart about the tools you will need.
12. You start collecting critical data about your goal in order to track progress.
You can keep a list, or mark up your calendar, or find any way that works to track your progress on a regular basis. Ben Franklin had 13 virtues he wanted to improve in, so he created a daily matrix and scored himself on that matrix at the end of every day by how well he demonstrated those virtues. He tracked this for years. He was serious. No matter what your goal is, I’m sure you can figure out some data that you can track in order to measure your progress. And when you are doing great, be sure to give yourself a gold star.
13. You are disciplined about what you do every day.
If you are serious about your goals, then you will figure out a daily routine that supports your priorities. Some people I know exercise every day as soon as they wake up. Some people use the first 30 minutes of their day to write, or meditate, or walk. One person I know runs outside every day at lunch, no matter what. Routines are powerful things, and if we are serious about our goals, we will design a routine and stick to it. I had a friend who was committed to developing a better relationship with his kids, because he found that he was coming home too stressed out from work to be present with them. So he created a new routine where his entire drive home was silent – no radio, no music, no cell phone. Just 20 minutes of silence in the car, so when he arrived home he was relaxed and happy to play with his kids. Our routine doesn’t have to be complicated, but we do have to be disciplined about it.
14. At the end of the day, you did something you are proud of.
Maybe the best thing you did last week is you walked 3 miles. Or maybe you went to the gym every day, or you interviewed for a new job, or you bought a new computer or you paid off a debt or you sold a piece of your art. But if you are serious about your life, then you should have done something that moved you closer to your goal. And don’t discount your tiny accomplishments, because one small action every single day adds up over time, and we all have to start somewhere.
Now what do you think: Are you serious about your goals? If you aren’t serious, then why not, and what would it take for you to get serious?