When Police officers train for performance driving, they’re taught one simple principle.
When you’re speeding to an emergency or pursuing a suspect, anything can happen in the blink of an eye. If you lose control of your vehicle, you know to know how to get out of a tough situation, or you’ll crash.
The principle is simple, yet counterintuitive.
Focus on where you want to go, not on what you want to avoid.
Here’s a passage from a Police and Pursuit Driving manual:
“The key to performance driving is to look where you want to go. Don’t look at the obstacle or you will certainly drive right into it.”
Crashing into the wall daily
Have you ever felt so stuck and overwhelmed by your present situation, that you just couldn’t take action to make the future any better? Likely, you were focused on the obstacle.
When it comes to making change happen, we often get the formula the wrong way around: we think short term and we act long term.
We think about how to get to the end of the day, how to survive the week, and rarely look beyond that point.
We give 99% of our focus to what we want to get away from, and have nothing left for what we want to get closer to.
But here’s catch 22: by giving all your attention to the problem, you move towards it, rather than away from it.
Short-term thinking usually comes in pair with sporadic action happening in bursts. Instead of taking small action daily, we wait until a moment when we can take big action. In the end, we settle for the occasional space between a commitment and a firefighting, and use that to take some action.
This accomplishes nothing other than to make you feel even more guilty. You don’t make any progress, but you don’t let go either.
Feeling stuck? Switch your strategy
To get out of a rut, change your strategy: think long term, act short term.
Long term thinking…
Instead of focusing on what you want to get away from, focus on what you want to get closer to.
I learnt this the hard way.
Years ago, I spent months in a job that made me unhappy and unfulfilled. On some days, I’d have difficulties breathing. That’s how stifling it felt.
Things changed, and I decided to move on, once I switched my thinking onto what I wanted to create, rather than what I wanted to abandon.
The same happened with my fitness. I spent over a year wasting away, and not looking after myself. At the time, I hadn’t quite yet grasped the fact that nothing in life happens in isolation.
Getting my physical performance back boosted my relationships, mental sharpness, energy levels, clarity, which in turn all supported my physical fitness.
For months, I had focused on “I want to be less skinny”. Nothing changed.
Until one day, I browsed Pinterest and found a picture of what I wanted my body to look like.
Then I decided I wanted to be able to do handstands within 6 months. At that point, I knew.
Rather than hopelessly drifting away from what I didn’t like, I had a clear direction for my future.
In 10 weeks, I put on 5Kg (11Lb) of mass (having to eat that much isn’t something I wish onto anyone), and within 3 months I was able to hold a handstand.
Whether it’s a relationship, fitness, your finances, work, skills, your own character and behaviour, or ANY change you want to create, focus on what you want things to be like, not what frustrates you.
This doesn’t mean ignoring your starting point and pretending things are different than they are.
That would be naive and get in the way of taking relevant action.
All you have to do is to shift your obsession. Instead of being obsessed with what you don’t want, become obsessed with your positive destination.
…short term action
Now that you’ve shifted your obsessive thinking, it’s time to take action and actually move closer to your destination.
Most often, our destination is so distant from the present, that we don’t know where to start from.
This is why I’m a big fan of monthly goals: once you know your long-term vision, how can you break it down and get closer every month?
Then closer to that every week. Then closer to that every day.
You see, it’s the domino effect.
A falling domino can knock down a block 1.5 times bigger than itself.
The key is constant progress, not odd bursts.
We often underestimate the impact of small action.
But, when taken daily, action compounds. Like a river eroding a gorge out of a rock, the effect will be very visible looking back.
Your turn to get unstuck: take a pen and paper, think about the change you want to make happen, and then…write down exactly what they look now a year from now. Or five.
The longer your view, the more space you will give to your ambition.