My 5-Step Process to Getting What You Want Out of Life


The you I am referring to here is the strategic you – the one who is deciding on what you want and how best to get it, previously referred to as you (1).


There are five things that you have to do to get what you want out of life. First, you have tochoose your goals, which will determine your direction. Then you have todesign a planto achieve your goals. On the way to your goals, you willencounter problemsAs I mentioned, these problems typically cause pain. The most common source of pain is in exploring your mistakes and weaknesses. You will either react badly to the pain or react like a master problem solver. That is your choice. To figure out how to get around these problems you must be calm and analytical to accuratelydiagnose your problems. Only after you have an accurate diagnosis of them can youdesign a plan that will get you around your problems. Then you have to do thetasksspecified in the plan. Through this process of encountering problems and figuring out how to get around them, you will become progressively more capable and achieve your goals more easily. Then you will set bigger, more challenging goals, in the same way that someone who works with weights naturally increases the poundage. This is the process of personal evolution, which I call my 5-Step Process.


In other words, “The Process” consists of five distinct steps:


Have cleargoal.


Identify and don’t tolerate theproblemsthat stand in the way of achieving your goals.


Accuratelydiagnosethese problems.


Designplans that explicitly lay out tasks that will get you around your problems and on to your goals.


mplementthese plans—i.e.,dothese tasks.


You need to do all of these steps well in order to be successful.


Before discussing these individual steps in more detail, I want to make a few general points about the process.


1.You must approach these as distinct steps rather than blur them together.For example,when setting goals, just set goals (don’t think how you will achieve them or the other steps); when diagnosing problems, just diagnose problems (don’t think about how you will solve them or the other steps). Blurring the steps leads to suboptimal outcomes because it creates confusion and short-changes the individual steps. Doing each step thoroughly will provide information that will help you do the other steps well,since the process is iterative.


2.Each of these five steps requires different talents and disciplines.Most probably, you havelots of some of these and inadequate amounts of others. If you are missing any of the required talents and disciplines, that is not an insurmountable problem because you can acquire them, supplement them, or compensate for not having them, if you recognize your weaknesses anddesign around them. So you must be honestly self-reflective.


3.It is essential to approach this process in a very clear-headed, rational way rather than emotionally.Figure out what techniques work best for you; e.g., if emotions are getting the betterof you, take time out until you can reflect unemotionally, seek the guidance of calm, thoughtful others, etc.


To help you do these things well—and stay centered and effective rather than stressed and thrown off by your emotions—try this technique for reducing the pressure:treat your life like a gameor a martial art. Your mission is to figure out how to get around your challenges to get to your goals. In the process of playing the game or practicing this martial art, you will become more skilled. As you get better, you will progress to ever- higher levels of the game that will require—and teach you—greater skills. I will explain what these skills are in the next section. However,the big and really great news is that you don’t needto have all of these skills to succeed!You just have to 1) know they are needed; 2) know you don’thave some of them; and 3) figure out how to get them (i.e., either learn them or work with others who have them).


This particular game—i.e., your life—will challenge you in ways that will be uncomfortable at times. But if you work through this discomfort and reflect on it in order to learn, you will significantly improve your chances of getting what you want out of life.By and large, life will give you what you deserve and itdoesn’t give a damn what you “like.” So it is up to you to take full responsibility to connect what you want with what you need to do to get it, and then to do those things—which often are difficult but produce good results—so that you’ll then deserve to get what you want.


That’s just the way it is, so you might as well accept it. Once you accept that playing the game will be uncomfortable, and you do it for a while, it will become much easier (like it does when getting fit) . When you excel at it, you will find your ability to get what you want thrilling. You’ll see that excuses like “That’s not easy” are of no value and that it pays to “push through it” at a pace you can handle. Like getting physically fit, the most important thing is that you keep moving forward at whatever pace you choose, recognizing the consequences of your actions. When you think that it’s too hard, remember that in the long run, doing the things that will make you successful is a lot easier than being unsuccessful. The first-order consequences of escaping life’s challenges may seem pleasurable in the moment, but the second-and third-order consequences of this approach are your life and, over time, will be painful. With practice, you will eventually play this game like a ninja, with skill and a calm centeredness in the face of adversity that will let you handle most of your numerous challenges well.


However, you will never handle them all well: mistakes are inevitable, and it’s important to recognize and accept this fact of life. The good news, as I have mentioned, is that most learning comes through making mistakes—so there is no end to learning how to play the game better. You will have an enormous number of decisions to make, so no matter how many mistakes you make, there will be plenty of opportunities to build a track record of success.


That’s basically the whole concept.


Let’s pause and reflect on this before moving on.


Does what I am saying make sense to you?


Do you agree that it is true?


If not, why not?


If you can’t work through your doubts alone, speak to me or to others about it, but PLEASE do not proceed until you agree with the basic logic behind the 5-Step Process. Either you will get comfortable with it and internalize it or you will point out something that is wrong and the process will get better.


What follows now is a closer examination of each of the five steps.


The 5 Steps Close-U


1) Setting Goals


You can have virtually anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.


The first, most important, and typically most difficult step in the 5-Step Process is setting goals, because it forces you to decide what you really want and therefore what you can possibly get out of life. This is the step where you face the fundamental limit: life is like a giant smorgasbord of more delicious alternatives than you can ever hope to taste. So you have to reject having some things you want in order to get other things you want more.


Some people fail at this point, afraid to reject a good alternative for fear that the loss will deprive them of some essential ingredient to their personal happiness. As a result, they pursue too many goals at the same time, achieving few or none of them.


So it’s important to remember: it doesn’t really matter if some things are unavailable to you, because the selection of what IS available is so great. (That is why many people who had major losses—e.g., who lost their ability to walk, to see, etc.—and who didn’t narrow-mindedly obsess about their loss but rather open-mindedly accepted and enjoyed what remained, had equally happy lives as those who didn’t ever have these losses.)


In other words, you can have an enormous amount: much, much more than what you need to have for a happy life. So don’t get discouraged by not being able to have everything you want, and for God’s sake, don’t be paralyzed by the choices. That’s nonsensical and unproductive. Get on with making your choices.


Put another way,to achieve your goals you have to prioritize, and that includes rejecting good alternatives(so that you have the time and resources to pursue even better ones—time being probablyyour greatest limiting factor, though, through leverage, you can substantially reduce time’s constraints).


It is important not to confuse “goals” and “desires.”


Goals are the things that you really want to achieve, while desires are things you want that can prevent you from reaching your goals—as I previously explained, desires are typically first-order consequences. For example, a goal might be physical fitness, while a desire is the urge to eat good-tasting, unhealthy food (i.e., a first-order consequence) that could undermine you obtaining your fitness goal. So, in terms of the consequences they produce, goals are good and desires are bad.


Some societies define evil to be the desires that can take you away from your goals, which I think is a good way of seeing the difference between goals and desires. That doesn’t mean I think that there isn’t room for a little “bad”, but I do think that desires that fundamentally divert you from your goals should be avoided at all cost.


Don’t get me wrong; I believe you can choose to pursue any goal you want as long as you consider the consequences. So, staying with this example, I think it is perfectly OK for you to make your goal to enjoy eating good-tasting, unhealthy food if that choice will bring you what you really want. As I said earlier, if you want to be a couch potato, that’s fine with me—seriously. But if that’s not what you want, you better not open that bag of chips. In other words, failing to make the distinction between goals and desires will lead you in the wrong direction, because you will be inclined to pursue things you want that will undermine your ability to get things you want more. In short, you can pursue anything you desire—just make sure that you know the consequences of what you are doing.


Another common reason people fail at this stage is that they lose sight of their goals, getting caught up in day-to-day tasks.


Avoid setting goals based on what you think you can achieve.


As I said before, do each step separately and distinctly without regard to the others. In this case, that means don’t rule out a goal due to a superficial assessment of its attainability. Once you commit to a goal, it might take lots of thinking and many revisions to your plan over a considerable time period in order to finalize the design and do the tasks to achieve it. So you need to set goals without yet assessing whether or not you can achieve them.


This requires some faith that you really can achieve virtually anything, even if you don’t know how you will do it at that moment. Initially you have to have faith that this is true, but after following this process and succeeding at achieving your goals, you will gain confidence. If you like, you can start with more modest goals and, when you build up the track record to give you faith, increase your aspirations.


This might sound inconsistent with the previous point that you can’t have everything. It’s not. I am saying that, at this stage of goal-setting, don’t set your goals based on what you think you can achieve. In the process of doing the other four steps (especially designing) you will thoroughly think through what is possible. Then you will circle back and enter the goal-setting mode again. As I mentioned, this five-step process is iterative, but it must be pursued one step at a time in order to do each step excellently.


Every time I set goals, I don’t yet have any idea how I am going to achieve them because I haven’t yet gone through the process of thinking through them. But I have learned that I can achieve them if I think creatively and work hard.


The more creative I am, the less hard I have to work.


I also know that I can “cheat.” Unlike in school, in life you don’t have to come up with all the right answers. You can ask the people around you for help—or even ask them to do the things you don’t do well.


In other words, there is almost no reason not to succeed if you take the attitude of 1) total flexibility—good answers can come from anyone or anywhere (and in fact, as I have mentioned, there are far more good answers “out there” than there are in you) and 2) total accountability: regardless of where the good answers come from, it’s your job to find them.


This no-excuses approach helps me do whatever it takes to get whatever I want most. Not all goals are achievable, of course. There are some impossibilities or near-impossibilities, such as living forever, or flying with just the power of your arms. But it’s been my experience that if I commit to bringing creativity, flexibility, and determination to the pursuit of my goals, I will figure out some way to get them, i.e., almost all goals are attainable. And as I don’t limit my goals to what seems attainable at the moment I set them, the goals I set tend to be higher than they would otherwise be. Since trying to achieve high goals makes me stronger, I become increasingly capable of achieving more. Great expectations create great capabilities, in other words. And if I fail to achieve my goal, it just tells me that I have not been creative or flexible or determined enough to do what it takes, and I circle back and figure out what I need to do about this situation.


Achieving your goals isn’t just about moving forward.


Inevitably, you must deal with setbacks. So goals aren’t just those things that you want and don’t have. They might also be keeping what you do have, minimizing your rate of loss, or dealing with irrevocable loss. Life will throw you challenges, some of which will seem devastating at the time. Your goal is always to make the best possible choices, knowing that you will be rewarded if you do. It’s like playing golf: sometimes you will be in the fairway and sometimes you will be in the rough, so you have to know how to play it as it lies.


Generally speaking, goal-setting is best done by those who are good at big-picture conceptual thinking, synthesizing, visualizing, and prioritizing. But whatever your strengths and weaknesses are, don’t forget the big and really great news here: it is not essential that you have all of these qualities yourself, because you can supplement them with the help of others.


In summary, in order to get what you want, the first step is to really know what you want, without confusing goals with desires, and without limiting yourself because of some imagined impediments that you haven’t thoroughly analyzed.


How well do you know what you want most out of life?


What are your most important goals?


Are you good at setting your goals?


How confident are you that your assessment of your ability to set goals is right?


If you are confident of your self-assessment, why should you be confident (e.g. because you have a demonstrated track-record, because many believable people have told you, etc)?


2) Identifying and Not Tolerating Problems


After you set your goals, you must come up with a plan or a design to achieve them and then you must execute that plan by doing the tasks. On the way to achieving your goals and executing your design, you will encounter problems that have to be diagnosed, so that the design can be modified to get around these obstacles. That’s why you need to identify and not tolerate problems.


Most problems are potential improvements screaming at you.


Whenever a problem surfaces, you have in front of you an opportunity to improve.The more painful theproblem, the louder it is screaming. In order to be successful, you have to 1) perceive problems and 2) not tolerate them.

一旦有问题出现,摆在你面前的就是一个提升改善的良机。问题越棘手,带来的反应越大,要想成功,你得 1)发现问题;2)对问题零容忍。

Though I’ve said it before, it’s worth saying again: I understand that recognizing harsh realities can be extremely painful. But I’ve learned that if you can stare hard at your problems, they almost always shrink or disappear, because you almost always find a better way of dealing with them than if you don’t face them head on. The more difficult the problem, the more important it is that you stare at it and deal with it. After seeing how effectively facing reality – especially your problems, mistakes and weaknesses – works, you will become comfortable with it and won’t want to operate any other way. I also believe that one of the best ways of getting at truth is reflecting with others who have opposing views and who share your interest in finding the truth rather than being proven right.


If you don’t identify your problems, you won’t solve them, so you won’t move forward toward achieving your goals. As a result, it is essential to bring problems to the surface.


Most people don’t like to do this. But most successful people know that they have to do this.


The most common reasons people don’t successfully identify their problems are generally rooted either in a lack of will or in a lack of talent or skill:


They can be “harsh realities” that are unpleasant to look at, so people often subconsciously put them “out of sight” so they will be “out of mind.”


Thinking about problems that are difficult to solve can produce anxiety that stands in the way of progress.


People often worry more about appearing to not have problems than about achieving their desired results, and therefore avoid recognizing that their own mistakes and/or weaknesses are causing the problems. This aversion to seeing one’s own mistakes and weaknesses typically occurs because they’re viewed as deficiencies you’re stuck with rather than as essential parts of the personal evolution process.


Sometimes people are simply not perceptive enough to see the problems.


Some people are unable to distinguish big problems from small ones. Since nothing is perfect, it is possible to identify an infinite number of problems everywhere. If you are unable to distinguish the big problems from the little ones, you can’t “successfully” (i.e., in a practical way) identify problems.


Remember, you don’t have to be good at any of the five steps (in this case, identifying problems) to be successful if you get help from others. So push through the pain of facing your problems, knowingyou will end up in a much better place.


When identifying problems, it is important to remain centered and logical.


While it can be tempting to react emotionally to problems and seek sympathy or blame others, this accomplishes nothing.Whatever the reasons, you have to get over the impediments to succeed. Remember that the pains you are feeling are “growing pains” that will test your character and reward you if you push through them. Try to look at your problems as a detached observer would. Remember thatidentifying problems is like finding gems embedded in puzzles; if you solve the puzzles you will get the gems that will make your life much better. Doing this continuously will lead to your rapidevolution. So, if you’re logical, you really should get excited about finding problems because identifying them will bring you closer to your goals.


This is typically because they let their emotions control their behavior and/or they haven’t learned how to deal with their problems e.g., the amygdala is “hijacking” decision-making away from the pre-frontal cortex.


How good are you at perceiving problems?


How confident are you that your assessment of your ability to perceive problems is right?


If you are confident of your self-assessment, why should you be confident (e.g. because you have a demonstrated track-record, because many believable people have told you, etc)?


Be very precise in specifying your problems.


It is essential to identify your problems with precision, for different problems have different solutions. For example, if your impediments are due largely to issues of will—to your unwillingness to confront what is really happening—you have to strengthen your will, for example by starting small and building up your confidence.


If your problems are related to lack of skill or innate talent, the most powerful antidote is to have others point things out to you and objectively consider whether what they identify is true. Problems due to inadequate skill might then be solved with training, whereas those arising from innate weaknesses might be overcome with assistance or role changes. It doesn’t matter which is the case; it only matters that the true cause is identified and appropriately addressed.


There are also other antidotes that we will delve into in the next book.


The more precise you are, the easier it will be to come up with accurate diagnoses and successful solutions. For example, rather than saying something like “People don’t like me,” it is better to specify which people don’t like you and under what circumstances.


Don’t confuse problems with causes.


“I can’t get enough sleep” is not a problem; it is a cause of some problem. What exactly is that problem? To avoid confusing the problem with its causes, try to identify the suboptimal outcome, e.g., “I am performing badly in my job because I am tired.”


Once you identify your problems, you must not tolerate them.


Tolerating problems has the same result as not identifying them (i.e., both stand in the way of getting past the problem), but the root causes are different. Tolerating problems might be due to not thinking that they can be solved, or not caring enough about solving them.People who tolerate problems are the worse off because, without the motivation to move on, they cannot succeed. In other words, if you are motivated, you can succeed even if you don’t have the abilities (i.e., talents and skills) because you can get the help from others. But if you’re not motivated to succeed, if you don’t have the will to succeed, the situation is hopeless.


Not caring to solve problems often occurs when the expected reward is less than the expected cost. For example, when someone is working toward someone else’s goals without being appropriately supervised, rewarded or punished.


* How much do you tolerate problems?


How confident are you that your assessment of how much you tolerate problems is right?


If you are confident of your self-assessment, why should you be confident (e.g. because you have a demonstrated track-record, because many believable people have told you, etc)?


People who are good at this step—identifying and not tolerating problems—tend to have strong abilities to perceive and synthesize a clear and accurate picture, as well as demonstrate a fierce intolerance of badness (regardless of the severity).


Remember that you need to do each step independently from the other steps before moving on.


Can you comfortably identify your problems without thinking about how to solve them? It is a good exercise to just make a list of them, without possible solutions. Only after you have created a clear picture of your problems should you go to the next step.


For a more detailed explanation of identifying and not tolerating problems, please read My Management Principles.


3) Diagnosing the Problems


You will be much more effective if you focus on diagnosis and design rather than jumping to solutions.


It is a very common mistake for people to move directly from identifying a tough problem to a proposed solution in a nanosecond without spending the hours required to properly diagnose and design a solution. This typically yields bad decisions that don’t alleviate the problem. Diagnosing and designing are what spark strategic thinking.