Ask Courageous Questions
When you get your Mindset in Motion, things feel good. Really good. The right thoughts, emotions, and behaviors open up possibilities. The future begins to look bright. For a moment. And then the questions kick in. What if . . . What about . . . How will I . . . What will they . . . ?
The wrong negative questions can quickly derail you on your greatness journey. The right questions, however, are the ones that require real courage to ask and answer. Questions unlock potential in you and through you. That’s why the Game Plan for Greatness begins by asking courageous questions.
There are five questions that you need to answer to get to the heart of your personal greatness and push yourself to action.
The Purity Question: If you were to be 100 percent authentic to who you are, what would you do differently?
We all tend to present curated versions of ourselves. Maybe it’s because we aren’t sure if people will like the “real” version of us. But maybe it’s also a crutch that keeps us from becoming great. This question empowers you to own who you are and strive for who and what you want to accomplish and become.
The Priority Question: If you absolutely had to double your goal in the next 30 days, what would be your first three moves?
If you knew you or someone you love would die if you didn’t double your goal and achieve it in 30 days, what would be your first three moves? This may seem like an extreme exercise, but if you lived with a sense of urgency and you absolutely had to accomplish this thing you wanted but have allowed fear to hold you back, what would you focus your attention on to make it happen?
The Possibility Question: What would be possible for you if you could [insert your goal/dream/mission]?
This question allows you to insert the details of your situation into it and try on another potential reality. For example, what would be possible for you if you could leave your current job and devote all your effort to growing your side hustle? What would be possible for you if you could dramatically improve your family relationships? You get the idea. This question lets you explore how your path might feel if you achieved certain goals and positions you to ask the next question.
The Passion Question: What would it feel like if you could [insert your goal/dream/mission]?
We are all emotional beings at the core, so this question frees you to explore how it might feel to experience success in the areas that are important to you. What would it feel like for you if you could leave your current job and devote all your effort to growing your side hustle? What would it feel like if you could dramatically improve your family relationships?
The Prosperity Question: If you won the lottery today, what would you do next?
This question allows you to remove the constraint of money and frees you to think about what you really want to do without shutting yourself down because you don’t think you have the resources to achieve it. You wouldn’t have made it this far in the Greatness journey if you weren’t looking to grow, but oftentimes we shortchange our growth goals by making them too small. What if you thought big—really big—where money was not an issue? Go ahead, dare to dream.
Give Yourself Permission
Stephen R. Covey is perhaps most famous for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit One is “be proactive.” But Lewis likes the children’s version that his son created even better for its simplicity: You’re in charge of you.
That simple expression, if internalized, can help you avoid the permission pitfalls we talked about earlier. It means you have the power to navigate your way to greatness. You don’t need someone else to give you permission to do that.
The guiding principle in Covey’s teachings is the difference between reactive and proactive attitudes. Reactive people let their environment shape their story with language like “I can’t” or “I have to.” They overlook how much influence they have on their circumstances. Meanwhile, proactive people recognize they are powerless over certain aspects of their lives, but they focus on what they can do in response to what comes their way. Proactive people take responsibility for their story, and it all begins with giving yourself permission to take charge of your greatness journey.
Taking charge means living intentionally. For example, Rory Vaden teaches that the key to multiplying time is “giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today that create more time tomorrow.” He calls this formula the “significance calculation.” It means you take command of your time and use it to do things that will save time in the long run.
Scheduling is not just about calendars and to-do lists. Beneath our objectives are feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety, ambition, and drive. Even if we aren’t aware of it, these emotions factor heavily into all our decisions.
Accept the Challenge
Rory Vaden says everyone wants to avoid pain, even small pain like boredom. We procrastinate to avoid unpleasantness. But the reality is that we do not always get to choose if we will experience discomfort. Sometimes our only choice is whether we go through that discomfort now or later when the pain has accumulated. With this mentality, the time spent in discomfort does not seem like a sacrifice; it’s a short-term down payment on a richer future.
Rory calls this practice “taking the stairs” and states, “The shortest, most guaranteed path to the easy life is to do the hardest parts of things as soon as possible.” Notice that this practice is not about working harder. You are actually taking the easier path this way. What it does take is discipline.
This idea rolls right into a concept discussed by Greg McKeown, best-selling author of Essentialism and Effortless. Greg teaches the disciplined pursuit of less, which is the antidote to priority dilution. Focus on a few important things at the price of all the frivolous things. You will be tempted to lose focus, but that is when you remember that you do the hard thing now to avoid harder things later. Take massive action to create momentum and see change happen.
If you are one of the many people who struggle with one or many forms of procrastination, don’t beat yourself up. You are just operating from a place of survival. It is normal to want to conserve energy. But according to Rory, procrastination only conserves physical energy, when most of the energy involved in decision-making is emotional energy. Working out is a perfect example of this. Often the emotional energy spent getting to the gym is greater than the physical energy of the workout. This is because we procrastinate and exaggerate how painful the task will be.
Define Your Greatness Goals
Katy Milkman says research shows you’ll get more results if you follow through with a schedule rather than merely expecting it to happen. Planning for success is key. What are you going to do and when? Milkman says it’s also important to have “if/then” plans. Based on research by Peter Gollwitzer, who studied how people plan their goals, the people with the most follow-through had specific structure and details in place. They were more likely to accomplish their goals by using expressions such as “If X happens, then I will do Y”—if it is Monday at 5 P.M., then I will go to the gym to train for my marathon. Instead of merely focusing on the outcomes and knowing what needs to be done, you will be more likely to act if you write down specific times and details.
Tracking your goals and seeing the difference your actions make is also key for implementing behavioral change. Milkman explained that if you can’t easily see where you are in the journey, it becomes difficult to reward yourself, which is important for your feeling of fulfillment as you move forward.
When it comes to goals, a lot of people feel stuck, and Lewis thinks it’s because they don’t set goals correctly, including because they have too many goals. They end up with a to-do list that feels overwhelming. As counterintuitive as it may seem, you need to focus on fewer goals to achieve more. That doesn’t mean you ignore certain areas of your life entirely; they simply do not have your most intense focus in terms of the goals you are pursuing.
What do I want? Answering this question forces you to bring clarity to vision and the end you have in mind. Why do I want it? Answering this question helps you reconnect to your meaningful Mission and tap into deep motivation to take action. What’s the next step? Answering this question causes you to focus on the next practical move you need to take to move forward.
When you think of accountability, you see, not surprisingly, three levels: Accountability to yourself. Accountability to someone else. Accountability to a community.
Accountability to yourself. The first level is the personal pride and integrity of holding yourself accountable. Most people overlook the value of this level because they undervalue themselves and discount their own voice and personal pride to keep their own commitments. But when you learn to appreciate who you are right now and who you are becoming, you can leverage your personal integrity to value and keep your word. Are you shaping your identity around your individual integrity? In other words, are you a person who says, I will do this thing—and then does it? Or are you a person who says one thing and does another, particularly when it’s for yourself?
Accountability to someone else or Lewis likes to call this person an accountability buddy. It could be a friend, partner, spouse, coach, or another professional of some sort. For example, if you and a friend both want to commit to being more active, maybe you walk together every morning. The point is that you have enlisted their support specifically to hold you accountable for taking the next step to achieving a goal. On those days when you struggle to act based on a sense of personal pride and integrity (and we all have those days), this person can support you and hold you accountable to continue taking action.
Accountability to a community. Community can come from a lot of different places: clubs, memberships, churches, masterminds, support groups—you name it. It can be formal or informal, super structured or more casual, and meeting and interacting frequently or not, depending on the need. The point is acknowledging that we are, at the heart of it, community beings who respond well to positive peer pressure. When we know that others are counting on us, skipping means we’re admitting a lack of commitment to the others.
According to productivity expert Thomas Frank, a subgroup within community accountability is accountability to a team, where a group’s success depends on your performance. It can be your business partners, co-workers, or even family members. Team accountability can be especially intense because you not only have to admit your failure to the group, but your failure is their failure. This is why challenges are so effective when done with a community, especially when tied to team success.
Get Stuff Done
As you pursue greatness, there is one battle that you’ll constantly have to fight—the battle against perfectionism.
Although perfect seems like a worthy target, it actually can be a devious enemy. Brené Brown says, “Perfectionism is something we don’t understand very well. We think it’s being our best selves. Perfectionism is actually a defense mechanism that says to us, ‘Hey, if you look perfect, do perfect, and accomplish perfect, you can avoid or minimize shame and judgment and blame.’ So, perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or being our best selves. It’s how we self-protect.”
The 1 Percent Rule acknowledges that you won’t be perfect right out of the gate. But you can become 1 percent better. We all can do that. Here’s how that might look in your life: Exercise—strive for 1 percent better form during a push-up. Music—aim for 1 percent better control of the note Business—write a 1 percent better customer service e-mail. Writing—draft a 1 percent stronger sentence in a paragraph. Relationship—get 1 percent better at making eye contact in a conversation.
This is a really simple way to give yourself some grace while continuing to move the needle toward getting better. It’s the antidote to fear and failing to launch. Brené Brown finished her talk about perfectionism by saying, “I think the question to ask is, ‘What am I afraid of?’”
Don’t let the tension between where you are now and what you don’t know hold you back from where you want to go or who you are becoming. At some point you’ve got to push back fear, strive to get better, and move forward—even if you don’t feel ready.
The truth is, none of us ever are.