Every once in a while, I will recommend a book that I think everyone should read if you want to be successful in achieving your life goals. I know this one has been out there for a while (as a matter of fact the 10th Anniversary Edition came out in 2015), so I’m a little behind, but if you haven’t read it yet, you need to. I’m talking about Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles.
This book is 500+ pages of incredibly insightful and time-tested principles to help you get from where you are to where you want to be. Among those pages is a chapter dedicated to keeping one from being “terrorized by the expectations of others”.
I’ve written on this subject before. Most of us tend to live our life based upon what other people expect of us and what they think we should do. For example, we pick professions that our parents feel would be the responsible career path instead of what inspires us. We take on more than we can manage at work in order to impress others or get ahead instead of focusing on delivering the best work for our top priorities.
Unfortunately, living to everyone else’s expectations keeps us from living to ours.
According to Mr. Canfield, “To be successful in achieving your goals and creating your desired life-style, you will have to get good at saying no to all of the people and distractions that would otherwise devour you. Successful people know how to say no without feeling guilty. To them, “No” is a complete sentence.”
The way to benefit from saying no is not just to say no, but to say no to those things that don’t have a high payoff. The key is to say no to the good so that you can say yes to the great.
So, how can you determine what’s truly great so that you can say no to what’s merely good? Mr. Canfield has four suggestions.
- List your opportunities
Start by writing down all of the options, opportunities, requests, activities, etc. that have been presented to you. Seeing them in writing will allow you to figure out what questions to ask and what additional information you will need. Then review the list to see which truly align with your overall life purpose. The ones that align with your goals are great options. Those that don’t are probably just good options and will do nothing but take you down a side road instead of take you closer to achieving success.
- Talk to advisors
Talking to advisors is not the same as seeking out the expectations of others. Talking to advisors means talking to those who have experienced what you are considering and can offer insight, lessons learned, expected challenges, amount of commitment required, etc. Learning from the experiences of others will help guide you to make the right decision and shorten the learning curve.
- Test them out
Determine if there is any way to test a new opportunity without investing a lot of time and money. Is there any way you can integrate the opportunity on a part-time basis before going all in? If it’s a new sales and marketing strategy can you implement it with a test group before sinking your entire budget into the strategy? If it’s a new business location can you try a pop-up shop before signing a long-term lease? Testing in order to collect data to determine potential success will go a long way in protecting your time, money, and sanity.
- Review where you spend your time
Finally, determine if the activities on your list truly serve your goals or if saying no would free up your schedule for those pursuits that do serve your goals. This is not a delegation exercise but an elimination exercise. For instance, I’ve had a newsletter for the past three years. I had one because every other business coach I know has one. I assumed it was just something that you were supposed to do. But, when I take a step back to evaluate whether or not it truly serves any of the goals in my business, I have to admit that it doesn’t. So, effective this year, I have stopped publishing a newsletter. Eliminating this activity frees me up to focus on other items that do serve my goals.
It’s not easy to draw a line in the sand and start saying no to the good so that you can say yes to the great, especially when others expect you to do certain things. No one ever wants to let people down or not live up to the expectations of others. But believe it or not, people will respect you more for being clear on your goals and clear on what you will do or won’t do to advance those goals. This practice will take you from, what Jim Collins calls, just good to great (another awesome book if you haven’t read it yet – Good to Great).