Whatever it takes

If you want to accomplish any goal, consider these three questions:
#1 How important is this goal to you?
#2 Do you really think you can do it?
#3 Are you committed to doing what it takes?
If the answer to #3 is no, revisit #1 and #2.
To really benefit from the first question, write about it.
Write down all the reasons you have for wanting to do this.

Be completely honest and don’t leave anything out just because it’s not a “good” reason. It is very important that you do this in writing, because then you can refer to your reasons repeatedly throughout your quest for this goal.

The second question is more complicated than it looks, because everyone has doubts, and your confidence level fluctuates quite a bit throughout your life, even throughout your day. It is so crucial that you give this question some thought though, because if you don’t believe you can accomplish your goal, one thought will keep undermining every attempt you make – “Why bother?” If you DO truly believe that you will accomplish your goal, every mistake or setback is seen as a valuable learning experience, as much a part of the process as the intermediate successes. This difference of perspective may be the single largest factor in why some goals are reached and others aren’t.

If you have a list of reasons for wanting to reach your goal, and you believe you can do it, then ask yourself if you are going to do what it takes. Make yourself a promise, again in writing, that you will do this thing. This commitment you make to yourself will keep you going. Refer to it and your reasons from question #1 often.

It is very hard to ignore good advice when you keep reading it again and again, especially if you wrote it! Make reviewing this promise part of your daily routine. Put the tremendous powers of suggestion and habit to work for you.

10% Happier

Great quote from this interesting article: “ I believe there is a one word explanation for why meditation is taking off in the corporate world: science.”



There is one crucial condition that must be present in order to optimize performance, in sports, academics, work, or anything. The participants are challenged, so their best effort is required for them to do well, but the task is not so difficult or the goal so unreachable that it induces too much anxiety which becomes a distraction. When this optimal level of tension is reached, the participants are FOCUSED COMPLETELY ON WHAT THEY ARE DOING, and have the ENERGY to do it well. This experience is called “flow”, or being “in the zone”. This flow experience is one of the best things about pursuing a goal. Young people naturally seek this level of difficulty when left alone. When a child is making every single shot in basketball, she starts to back up a little. If she misses every shot, she moves closer to the basket. This simple process is something we all repeat in many areas throughout our life, and it is a very effective strategy for setting and reaching goals. However, adults often can’t simply choose an easier goal if the task at hand is very difficult. But there are ways to manage anxiety to bring it down into the optimal range. 1. Use relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing. 2. Consider the very next step in the process, instead of the entire project. 3. Ask for help, advice, or encouragement. 4. If you have a perfectionist streak, think about what is really required to meet the goal and what part you are adding to it that is unnecessary.

Glory days

Remembering past successes can boost your confidence and keep you motivated to keep striving to achieve your goal. This is true even if your current goal is very different from others you have achieved, because you will need to draw on some of the same character traits, gifts, and skills to be successful.

I have never run a marathon before, but I did graduate from college, and pass the exams to become an actuary. Both of these accomplishments required commitment and consistent effort, just like the marathon does.

Another example is this blog. I have tried blogging before, and never had many followers and so gave up on it. But I think of other goals I had, like quitting smoking, that took several tries before I was successful. That gives me faith that I can be successful at this as well.

There are always ups and downs. There are successes and setbacks. Learn from them both.


Being thankful is an antidote to self-sabotage. If you have made some progress towards your goal, and you routinely take a minute to say thank you and to enjoy that accomplishment, you’ll be less likely to fold your cards and give up when it gets really difficult.

Someone once suggested that I say thank you for the things in life that came my way that I did not want. I don’t hear this message often, and so I don’t do it often, but it is a very useful practice. Hardships do provide blessings. They make us more empathetic to others. They remind us to reach out to those we love for support, which strengthens those relationships. Or they show us that we need to develop a stronger network of support, even if it means getting out of our comfort zone and meeting new people. We learn from these experiences how to handle painful emotions. We discover we are stronger than we realized.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Some of us have a very strong resistance to positive self-talk.  Watty Piper’s classic, “The Little Engine That Could”, in which a train keeps repeating “I think I can” to get himself over a big hill, is a children’s story after all.  Shouldn’t we have outgrown the need for that sort of thing?

There are a couple of reasons why encouraging ourselves (in our thoughts, in writing, and even talking out loud) is worth trying.  The first is, it works.  It helps us reach our goals by increasing our belief that we can and will reach them.  This belief is essential.  It is very hard to summon our best effort if we don’t think the desired outcome is attainable.

The second reason that self-talk is important is that very often we are already talking to ourselves without realizing it. Most people are much smarter and far more capable than they think they are. Self-doubt is a very common part of the human experience. Not everyone is aware of it or admits to it, but many of us are living it. Negative messages play frequently throughout each day, but they are often so familiar that we don’t even notice. Be deliberate and consistent about choosing new messages to repeat to yourself. Choose a positive message that serves you and will help you reach your goals – I think I can.

I came across another good blog post on this topic:


The fourth question

This blog’s featured post starts with the following three questions to consider about your goal:

#1 How important is this goal to you?

#2 Do you really think you can do it?

#3 Are you committed to doing whatever it takes?

Considering, writing about, and discussing these three questions can motivate you to achieve your goal.  There is another important question to ask yourself: 

Do I think I deserve it?

The question is about what you THINK right now.  Identify your current beliefs about what you deserve, without pondering whether or not those beliefs are fair.  This objective look at your own thinking can be very helpful, because it is your thinking that will influence your behavior and the outcome.

If you do not think you deserve to achieve your goal, talk about that thinking with someone.  Talk about it with several people – people who care about you, someone you trust, a trained professional. Make changing your thinking your first priority.  Once you think you deserve to achieve the goals that are important to you, reaching all of them will be so much easier.

One stride at a time

I signed up to run the Boston Marathon in April 2020 as part of the team that is raising money for Boston Medical Center.  The fundraising page is at the bottom of this post if you would like to donate.

I have run a few 5K races, and one 10K, but I have never attempted a marathon before.  And when I do run long distances (12-13 miles), I tend to run out and back, or in a circle.  I took a look at the map of the marathon course, from Hopkinton to Boston.  On a map, 26 miles in one direction looks really far.  I know that 26 miles is 26 miles, but when I looked at the map it struck me that this is a distance people usually drive, not run.  I’m hoping to finish in about 4.5 hours.  How am I going to do that?  One stride at a time.  How am I going to get my legs ready?  One long run at a time.  I increase a little bit each weekend when I go out, and I feel okay.

It is easy to get overwhelmed with a goal, especially one that will take a while.  You look at where you are and where you are going and get focused on the magnitude of it, the length of the journey.  That is your mind making it far more difficult than it is.  All you actually have to do is take the next step, and keep on going.



The biggest difference between our academic years and the years that follow is that we get to choose what data we input into our brains.  This is a very important decision, because the information we hear or read many times is the information that actually sticks.  Occasionally we may read something or hear something that is so important and useful that we immediately put it into practice and it changes our life – an amazing Ted Talk or something.  But not usually.  Unfortunately, we have not evolved that way.  The things we remember most easily are the painful things, because we need to avoid dangerous situations in the future in order to survive.  The really useful stuff, that can help us reach our goals, needs to be drilled into us in order for us to remember it and act on it.  That is why it seemed like our teachers were constantly repeating themselves and we learned the same things every year.  They knew what they were doing.

Finding the right information will help you reach your goal, but only if you remember it and remember to act on it.  So when you find something that works for you, read it again, and then read it again.  It will help you remember, and also remind you why it struck you as important in the first place.  It will motivate you to act on it.  This is especially important if reaching our goal involves a change in our habits.  We tend to repeat the same patterns of behavior.  We tend to repeat the same decisions, without a very determined and persistent effort to change.  So choose your curriculum, educate yourself, and keep reviewing the information that will help you reach your goal.

These are some useful books I have read.  Some of them I have read multiple times.  Some I am due to read again.

The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge, by Klontz, Kahler, and Klontz
Getting Out from Going Under by Susan B.
Good to Great by Jim Collins
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
60 Seconds and You’re Hired! by Robin Ryan
Winning by Jack Welch

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Experience, Strength, and Hope by A.A.W.S.
Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes
Just One Thing by Rick Hanson
The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
10% Happier by Dan Harris
The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D.  – page 19 – “Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.  It is the only decent way to live.”

Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, and McMillan  – page 25 – “The skills required to master high-stakes interactions are quite easy to spot and moderately easy to learn.”
The gospel of Matthew
Independent Enough by Larry Shushansky
Loneliness by Cacioppo and Patrick
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Steven Covey

Aging Well by George Eman Vaillant
Diet Free by Zonya Foco
The Promise of Sleep by William C. Dement
Run Less, Run Faster by Pierce, Murr, and Moss

I know.  I should lighten up and read a novel once in a while.  I’ve been told that more than once.

What books have helped you reach your goals?  Please comment to let other visitors know the most influential and useful books that you have read.

Saying no

To reach your goal, you may have to spend less of your time, money, and energy on something you are currently doing. Something has to give. Give a little thought to what you do for other people, and whether or not they could do these things for themselves. I am not advocating selfishness, or neglecting responsibilities. I am suggesting a pause, to think, in between “can you help me out?” and “sure”. Many times, when we let someone fend for themselves, we are actually doing them a huge favor. They may figure out another way, learning a valuable skill or gaining knowledge in the process. They may ask someone who is better able to help them, strengthening that relationship. We are also modeling behavior that could be very useful to them in the future, when they are asked for help, and need or want to say no. It is natural to want to help, and volunteer, and give of yourself. Just be selective, and don’t over-commit. Review your reasons for pursuing your goal. It is important to you. You don’t need to be frantic or obsessed about it, but you do need to make it a priority.