Three questions to answer daily for 2011 success

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Sunrise over New London

The temptation to leap in with guns blazing is never higher than right after the new year. You’re pumped, you’re excited, you’re ready to go. You’re like the little kid staring at the lawn full of fresh snow just after the morning radio announced a snow day for school. You can’t run fast enough towards everything you want to accomplish in 2011.

You’re about to leap off a cliff and hope you learned how to fly between 2010 and 2011.

Before you open your inbox and set up your calendar, before you start to do, I want you to take a few moments to answer three questions:

1. What must I win today?

2. What must I accomplish today?

3. What must I learn today?

Start your day with these three questions. Write down your answers. If the answer to any of them is “I don’t know”, then you’re not ready to go. What’s worse, the things you hated about 2010 will continue to dog you in the new year unless you can develop these answers each and every day.

A short while ago, we talked about how motivation wasn’t enough. Never is this more true than now. You’re motivated, more motivated than you have been in days or weeks. The three questions above refer back to the idea that in order to achieve success, we need to have the means to do so, the motivation to do so, and the opportunity to do so.

When you ask, “what must I win today?”, you are asking what condition of the day will provide you with ongoing motivation. Of everything you want to accomplish, what will be a victory for the day? Maybe it’s getting that workout done first thing in the morning. Maybe it’s having a great call or meeting. You have to know what defines victory for you for today and be ready to celebrate a little when you achieve it. That’s how you power motivation.

When you ask, “what must I accomplish today?”, you are asking for far more than a list of chores. A to-do list is filled with stuff. 90% of the stuff doesn’t move the ball forward at all. It’s busy work, activity that doesn’t bring results. Responding to emails, chatting on IM, hanging out on Twitter, building documents – all of these are activities that may or may not contribute to progress. Figure out what stuff on your to-do list constitutes accomplishment or progress, and make sure that stuff gets done today no matter what. It may not be completed in whole today, but if you are writing a novel, adding 1,000 words to it moves the ball forward, while replying to Tweets does not. This is how you reap opportunity, by doing stuff that matters.

When you ask, “what must I learn today?”, you are asking what tools, ideas, and methods you need to grow your capabilities, to power your goals. If there’s one gap I saw in nearly everyone in 2010 that I interact with personally and professionally, it was a stagnation in your capabilities. You didn’t learn nearly enough, add nearly enough to your toolkits to get the results you wanted. Every day, commit to asking what you need to learn today that will make you more effective, then seek out the knowledge. Google is but a click away. Friends with expertise are but a click away. Teachers who have walked the path before you and know the hazards are but a click away.

Asking these three questions every day will not only help to perpetuate the excitement you feel now over a fresh start, but will also help you leave behind old habits, old customs, old motivations, old ideas, and old practices that might or might not have been working for you.

Right now, opportunity is waiting. Right now, motivation is higher than ever. Right now, the means are within reach of your mouse button or touch screen. Take advantage of now, of today, to ask yourself these three questions before you start the new year, especially the new work year, and set yourself up for success.

May your new year be full of great answers to tough questions!

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9 responses to “Three questions to answer daily for 2011 success”

  1. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…….three great support legs that will hold you up throughout your goals!

  2. I’m taking your advice, though I don’t see enough difference between the first and second question. Still, two questions is two questions more than I asked myself on any given day last year.

    1. The difference between motivation and opportunity can cross over, unquestionably. Big wins in the opportunity department can feed motivation, but where I find the distinction helpful is when stuff in the opportunity department is flagging or there aren’t a lot of opportunities for milestones. For example, let’s say you’re a writer. The opportunity for progress is unquestionably writing more words until your book is complete, yes? But those accomplishments may not provide a whole lot of motivation, so you may have or need a separate achievement just to power the motivation. What motivates you may also be completely different from what creates progress. I may be working towards writing a blog post for the company blog as my accomplishment, but getting to 5 minutes of sitting meditation may be a motivational achievement.

  3. Great suggestions! I will incorporate these questions daily!

  4. Gary Ares Avatar
    Gary Ares

    Happy new year! I can always count on you for depth. Your topic, timing, and text are absolutely perfect to address my struggle with organization. I’ll use your insights along with learning GTD, and SMART goal setting through 2011.
    Thank you.

  5. Aww, I love this post. It really resonated the way only good truth can.

    I especially like the idea of determining what a “win” would be every day. This is particularly valuable to keep in mind when you are going through a hard time for whatever reason. What can you do to plow through and feel good when you lay your head on your pillow? Set the bar a bit higher each day maybe, but make it possible. Don’t kill yourself trying to cure Cancer on Monday and create world peace by Thursday.

    Thank you for putting this out there!

  6. Mia Dragostin Avatar
    Mia Dragostin

    interesting pov…win..accomplish…learn…what about some love.. or fun…or enjoyment? 🙂

  7. Christopher S. Penn Avatar
    Christopher S. Penn

    Personally, I find winning, accomplishing, and learning to be fun and enjoyable.

  8. Mohsin Rehman Avatar
    Mohsin Rehman

    This is good one

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