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Are your means leading to your ends?

The other day a friend shared with me a simple reality check for our behaviors. He said that he looks at his goal and then reviews the methods he is using to reach that goal to determine if those methods are actually moving him toward his desired end result. Very simple. Very telling.

Here are a few examples where the means are not getting to our desired result:

I have often wanted to have deeper, more loving relationships (goal). My actions (method) have been to be distant and aloof to keep me from being hurt.  The result is that my distance kept others distant which prevents my having deeper, more loving relationships.

A millennial dreams of owning his own house (goal). Every day he eats out breakfast, lunch, and dinner (method). The result is that he is not able to save enough money for the down payment.

A spouse wants to be trusted by her partner (goal). Yet she continued to lie and manipulate him (method). The result is that she is less, not more trusted by her partner.

A worker wants to receive a promotion and be respected in the company (goal). He constantly complains to his co-workers that he is not treated fairly (method). The result is that his co-workers see him as a complainer instead of management material.

Looking at the goal, method, and results is simple in design and difficult in practice. The two challenges that come up are the ability to look at our methods objectively and second, to know that if we are not headed toward our goal, we need to make changes.

Being Objective

Humans are very rational beings. Or maybe I should say that we rationalize things to make ourselves feel better about them. We can do awful, unethical, or at least not wise things, but if we can find some story or premise to explain our choices, we feel justified. To learn from the Goal-Method-Result tool, we need to look at each action objectively, without excuse or justification. If we explain away our less-than-ideal choices, we can not learn to do better.

Goals

The goal can be something specific like buying a house or the goal may be something less tangible like being more peaceful. It is important for your goal to be YOUR goal. It should not be what others want you to do or what you believe you should do. In your heart of hearts, what would make you happy?

Method

Next, look at your current actions, words, and beliefs. This is not a time to analyze, just uncover. Be honest with yourself. What are you doing?  What are you not doing? How are you currently acting, speaking, and feeling?

Result

Now play out those methods to the end. Are they moving you toward or away from your goal? If they are not moving you toward your goal, what is the end result you are heading toward? Look at the examples I provided at the beginning of this article. The methods applied were in direct conflict with the end goal.

Change

Nothing changes until something changes. It is hard to honestly look at our methods (actions and beliefs). It can be more difficult to be willing to change those methods. First you need an honest desire and willingness to be and do different. We may want change but the actual transition into something new can be terrifying. Even welcomed change is scary because it is not what we have known. Humans crave consistency. Our stress levels are lower when life continues in the way we are accustomed. That is why so many people stay in a bad relationship or an unfulfilling position longer than they should. It is the devil they know. Moving into something new upsets the apple cart, takes us out of our comfort level. But it can also move us toward our goal.

What is the life you want (goal)? What are your current actions and beliefs (methods)? Are you heading toward or away from what you want? Are you willing to make a change to head you in the desired direction?

Wanting versus Willing

Throughout my life I have studied, analyzed, and comprehended. I expressed theories and best practices. I feel I have a good understanding of how to live the best life. Thinking, feeling, and believing are great. But none of those make me experience the best life, until I act. Taking action is a theme for me this year. I have written about how action can take us out of worry, and I have shared tangible steps to help someone take action. In this article I want to explore the step before action, willingness.

How many times do we want something, desire something different in our life but we are unwilling to do anything about it? We think it is too hard. We think we can not obtain it. We know it is good for us, but we stubbornly or fearfully don’t want to change. Wanting to change is not the same as willing to change.

Let’s go to Merriam-Webster to learn the difference. To want is defined as desire. Desire is an emotion, not an action. Willing is an action. Willing means “done, borne, or accepted by choice or without reluctance.” Willingness is a strong confident unwavering action.

Our want or desire is good because it defines for us the change we want in our life. If we don’t know where we want to go, we will never get there. However, the best visions and plans do not ensure we reach our goal if we never take any steps toward completing them. Here are a few stumbling blocks that may hinder us from moving from wanting to willing.

Overwhelm

A common reason we don’t move forward is that our goals seem insurmountable. Maybe we have so much on our plate already that we can’t imagine adding one more thing. Maybe we know what we need to do but the amount of time and effort needed is discouraging. Some of us shut down before we get started. We dream and imagine, but we are not willing to put on our big girl pants and make those first steps. It all seems like too much.

Worth

My usual stumbling block is feeling unworthy. I want better but I don’t believe I deserve better. Maybe I say others are worse off than I am, how can I be so greedy as to want more. Maybe I have resigned myself to a position of less-than and don’t believe I deserve to be happy. Being stuck in unworthiness can make our desires a fantasy we never give ourselves permission to explore.

Fear

Fear is usually the base culprit of our inability to move forward. We may be afraid we can’t reach our goal and will be disappointed. We may be afraid that our goal is not the right choice for us.  We may be afraid we will reach our goal and there will be backlash from others if we do succeed. Fear comes in many forms and no matter how it shows up, it can be paralyzing.

Make the Switch

How can one flip the switch from wanting to willing?  The answer is by removing all of the dishonest beliefs that are holding us back. Look at the excuse keeping you from willingness. Is it overwhelm, unworthiness, or fear? Is it real or imagined? If it is real, can you solve or address it? If it is imagined, which it usually is, stop feeding it. Stop replaying the what-ifs. Stop telling yourself again and again how this is insurmountable. Next, build proof that the story you are telling yourself is false. By listing tangible examples about how our dishonest beliefs are dishonest, it makes it easier to be released from their grasp.

What do you want next in your life? If you are stuck in wanting but not willing, break down the lies you are telling yourself and use the truth as building blocks to your willingness and eventual action.