Sunday, February 10, 2008

How to Achieve Anything

I have been lagging off in blogging recently, partly due to the traditional Chinese New Year celebration and all the rituals that come with it, partly due to the preparation of GRE and my usual unchecked habit of watching movies.

I'm been seeing a psychiatrist for some time. He's quite an expert, to prove how good he is, all I need to say is that he's paid 3,000 bucks an hour. Anyway, I told him about my completely lack of self-control when it comes to watching TV and films, and he asked what I would do with my time if I were not watching these stuff, so I said I'd read a book or something while listening to music. He asked me to specify. So I told him I'd put on a CD of Mozart and read something about international politics or Roman history; I don't read fiction that much. He asked me why I wish to cut down on movies, so I told him how I'm freaking out because of GRE and that I have to excel in order to go to Kennedy School or something. Then he told me something very profound, he said that every flaw or weakness was meaningful. He suggested me to redefine my problem instead of trying to overcome what I perceive as a weakness and a major roadblock to achieving my dreams. The psychiatrist knows me pretty well, he said that watching these stupid movies was perhaps the only time my brain could rest, because I'm always so busy with everything from work at the TV network, to the newspaper, school and debating, etc. "Embrace it", he said.

On how to achieve my seemingly distant GRE goals, he told me the trick of the trade, which I'd like to share it here.

1. The Will. Ask yourself is it important? Do you really want to do it? What's the relation between the goal you want to achieve now and your bigger goals, long-term goals such as your plan for your career or even your life?
   This step is important, because now you rationalized your will to achievement. And also it helps you to uncluster a bunch of short-term goals you might have and now you can categorize them in terms of relevancy and importance.

2. Work to your goal in 3 ways.
    This helps you to approach your goal from different angles. For instance, if you prime objective is to Lose Weight, then you'll probably draw a plan to cut down in snacks, excise more and reduce TV time. In my case, my 3 ways to tackle GRE is to work on Vocabulary, practice Writing, and Reduce watching movie.

3. Set goals you can achieve.
    My psychiatrist first asked me what I think I should do to improve my writing. I said I should write two short essays everyday. Then he ask me on a scale of 0-10, what's the probability that I can achieve that. Zero, I told him. So he asked me to reset my goals to a degree that I'm 80% sure of making it.
    This is important. Because if you set a goal so high that you can't achieve, this will cause distress, and make it a habit of "unachieving", at the end of the day, you'll think goals don't make sense because you have never achieved any of the goals you set up. This is not a problem with you, but with your goals that are too high.
     So I ended up with "writing 3 essays a week", which is a quarter of what I originality said I should do, but this is the one I'm confident to achieve. After that, according to the Snowballing Effect, one would continue to succeed in achieving the small goals one set up every week or everyday.

4. Detail.
    Break down every step you take towards your goal. Write down the time, place, everything possible about your To-Do. So my to-do looks something like this: Write: 8:19 PM Essay ( Topic:...), on my PC, playing Joshua Bell CD. This is more than a To-Do, it creates a scenario that makes it more likely to come true.

5. Make a habit of it.
    The human beings can adopt of habit of doing something if one continue repeating the task for more than 40 days. Put it simple, if you get up at 4 AM everyday (and staying healthy) for 40 days, you'll make it a habit, so the following days you wouldn't feel the pain of getting up early in the morning. Same with everything. If I write an essay at 8:19 PM everyday, in 40 days, I'll make a habit of it (hopefull:)

Also, there are online tools that help you with your goals. A new website called Stickk lets you put a contract on yourself; you can use money at stake for your commitments, it would go to charity or your selected friends, or you can simply put your honor as stake and let your friends be the witness. In any case, a little community effort is always helpful.

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