Have you set yourself goals several times during your life? Have you forgotten about your goals several times during your life? First dreaming up goals to work towards, second not working towards the goals, third forgetting about the work towards the goals, fourth thinking about all the things to have, do and experience. And the cycle repeats itself. Odds are this kind of thought masturbation is familiar to you.
Thought masturbation has nothing to do with the hot girl next door. I consider it thought masturbation when I have all the information and tools needed to make a change and instead of taking action I sit down to think about long-term goals, dreams, rewards and obstacles in the distant future. Planning and strategizing are important parts of any project, but once you have done them, you should take action. Thinking what you would like to have and experience some time in the future isn’t making progress. There is a time to think and a time to act. You have to “love the grind” as Ray Croc put it.
Thought masturbating differs from deep contemplation. Deep contemplation is useful and should be a regular part of your weekly routine, even daily routine. It is concrete, focused effort to solve a particular problem. It is no longer contemplation but masturbation if:
1) Specific problem and next action steps are already defined
2) Thinking solutions to a problem isn’t well-defined
3) Reflection about a problem already solved
4) Thinking and identifying solutions to a problem you aren’t going to do anything about
5) Thinking and defining solutions to a problem that is outside your circle of influence, something you can’t do anything about
Thought masturbation is an escape from taking responsibility and doing things that are needed to take your life where you want to take it.
There is a time and a place for strategizing. There is also a time to make sure you are headed in the right direction. Pay attention and be careful if the strategizing about the future appears particularly compelling. Trying to avoid taking real action can be a problem. A good time might be when you are feeling stuck, angry, bored or depressed and don’t want to think through things.
Strategizing should be done when starting out on any large projects. Periodic, scheduled sessions can be helpful to map out progress and next action steps. Implementation of a mediocre strategy is more effective strategy than polishing your strategy to perfection without taking action.
Implementation of a plan can be hard work. Taking action is not at all as exciting as fantasizing about all the scantily-clad goals you would achieve, even several goals at the same time. That’s why thought masturbation is so seductive.
Breaking the habit
As with any procrastination habit, thought masturbation is a habitthat can be hard to break. My suggestion is scheduling a deep contemplation time block of a couple of hours every week for goal setting, review and action step defining weekly.
During the weekly review session, it is important to make sure you won’t be interrupted. I like to go to a cafe and take a notepad and pen with me, leaving distraction electronics home. That way I won’t be able to “check something real quick,” others can’t distract me with requests, and I can’t start any other projects.
Outside of that scheduled time, you should limit deep contemplation to action steps you identified during your weekly review session.
A goal setting method I like goes as follows:
- Jot down your most important goals, long and short term. Take no more than 5 minutes for this.
- Identify a maximum of five most important 90-day goals, five most important 1-year goals, and five most important 5-year goals.
- Write them down on separate peace of paper.
- Identify each goal in detail, what would attaining the goal look like, what would you have, see, hear, and feel. How do you know you have achieved your goal.
- Write out the Why; Why do you want to achieve the goal. If you are having trouble with this step, you shouldn’t be afraid to ditch the goal. On closer inspection, you might discover some goals to be outdated or even inherited from someone else. You should get rid of goals that are aren’t important and exciting for you.
- Write out steps you need to take to achieve the goal.
- Identify the next step to take and do it immediately or schedule it in your calendar.
- Do this with all the goals.
Now that you have approximately five 90-day goals, five 1-year goals, five 5-year goals you should set up a weekly time to:
- Review your goals
- Examine the progress made towards the attainment of each during the week
- Identify and schedule the next steps
Your focus should be primarily on 90-day goals. Once you attain a goal, celebrate the progressyou have made. Then set a new goal to fill the void. Revise goals when needed, but make an effort to change them only at the scheduled weekly review.
The next step is to take massive action towards attaining the goals. Deep contemplation can be strenuous, but make sure it is the next action step, working towards solving a particular problem to achieve your most important goals.
If you are having trouble getting started, consider this from Pablo Picasso: Action is the foundational skill to success.
Take action and do it now.