The 6 DIAKADI Elements | Focus and Passion

Author: DIAKADI Founder and Owner, Billy Polson

I was at a family cookout in the East Bay last weekend  relaxing and eating a big grass fed burger when one of my cousin's turned to me and asked, 'So what are your goals for next year?' He knows about my often zealous goal setting history. Standing there chewing I could feel my stress hormone levels go up as I thought, 'Holy cow, what the heck am I focusing on for next year?!' A rush of ideas came into my head of the amazing things I would like to do in my workouts, travel, business, cooking, and life in the coming year. Until reality set in and I thought 'how will I find the time?'

I have an annual tradition, as many of us do, of setting life goals for myself each year. As year end approaches, I take the opportunity for both myself and my clients to step back away from workouts and life and review the successes we achieved this year, the areas which still need some work and the new directions we want to head in. I consider it an ideal time for identifying some key priorities to focus on for the coming year. But goal setting can be a dangerous double edged sword for the delightfully crazy over-achiever like myself.

I believe there is a delicate balance between (1) coming up with big plans and ideas for your life while (2) avoiding over-planning, 'over-goaling', and under achieving.

Zen and Goal Free

There is one school of thought that says goal setting should be avoided because it pulls you out of enjoying the moment you are in. I follow an insightful blog called Zen Habits that consistently sends me key reminders and ideas on fighting the battle against stress and over-scheduling in my life. ZH creator and author Leo Babauta recently wrote how he had decided to stop setting goals in order to 'let go of future-focused thinking and focus on what inspires and excites (him) now'. Well as my Mom would say "Leo, bless your little heart." (It’s a southern thing.)  I truly wish I had the ability to release the 'control reigns' of my life to that degree, but The 6 P's I hear constantly from my husband and co-owner Mike Clausen just won't allow me to let go of that much 'control'. (You know the 6 P's right? 'Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance'. Now that is some insightful stuff!)

So I propose a meeting somewhere in the middle, half way between the level of Buddha and the level of complete adrenal depletion. As Leo explains, it is very important to recognize when goal setting and future planning 'checks us out' of the present so much that we begin missing out on the enjoyment and the success we find in our current activities. My favorite example of this recently occurred while I was on a beach vacation with my friends. Sitting and facing the ocean, hanging out in board shorts with my feet in the sand, a tumbler of Cava in the cup holder of my chair, I pulled out my iPhone and started searching online for airfares and planning my next vacation.  C'mon man... enjoy the moment. Sit in the sun and breathe. At the least save the planning for when you are sitting in that depressing airport lounge waiting to board your plane to come back home. As my very wise client Dave McKew told me, if you come back from vacation with a lap top tan line on your thighs, then you may not have mastered the idea of living in the moment.  (Stay tuned for an up-coming blog segment with insight on how to stay in the moment.)

How to Successfully Set Goals

Step 1: Sometimes You Gotta Take Stuff Out to Put Stuff In

The first step in setting your goals starts with looking at your current schedule and lifestyle. How packed is your life right now? Are you running full sprint every day to complete what you have on your to do list? If your life is already at full capacity, then your first goal must be to make time for yourself. And for maxed out folks, I highly recommend that the goal list stop right there. Making free time and breathing room in your life may often take a while from planning to achievement.

Maxed out or not, use a review of your current schedule to remove activities from your life that are no longer needed. This will help you 'open' time in your life as 'free time' or as time for achieving new goals. Removing items can mean to complete them, such as finally setting aside a weekend to clean out your closets. Or there may be some items that you just need to stop doing each week or day. My vote for the most commonly needed dismissal item is television. Do you really NEED to watch that huge list of TV shows stored on your DVR every week? Will the world REALLY end if you don’t find out what happened to Serena van der Woodsen and Chuck on Gossip Girl?

An insightful way to decide on which activities to remove from your life is to make a complete list of how much time you are spending on unique activities each week. (ie. Watching television, commuting, reading, working, working out, free time that is left unscheduled, etc.) This can often be a fun and quite revealing exercise for people. After creating the list and fully reviewing your current schedule and life, decide (a) what needs to be cleaned out, (b) how much free time you would like to leave open and unplanned (Very Important!), and (c) how much time you can set aside to add more goals and activities to the list.

And one more thought... If you find you are consistently setting the same goal(s) year after year and it is not being achieved, then one item on your list should be to look closer at these 'carry-over' goals to study the 'blocks' that are preventing you from their successful completion. It could be something as easy as not having enough hours in the day or something as intense as fear or doubt that you have wrapped around the goal's completion. Either way, taking time for a deeper look into the problem will definitely be a worthy item for your final goal list.

Step 2: What If's and Big Cloud Ideas

Now to the fun list! What changes or additions would you like to make in your life, health and body? I like to start with a big, outside the box brainstorm on paper with what I call 'big cloud' ideas and what Zen Habits calls 'what ifs'. These are big dream wish lists like, 'I want to work for myself' or 'What if I went on a leave of absence and traveled the world for 6 months?'. I recommend making this list as big and broad as you want. You want to get all the dreams and hopes and random thoughts out on paper as possibilities.  Consider all of the 6 DIAKADI Elements when brainstorming ideas: Focus and Passion (What drives and motivates you in life?), Fuel (Nutrition), Movement (Fitness and Exercise), Restore (Energy building activities like sleep, yoga or meditation), Balance (Keeping your stress levels low and not over-booking your life), Teamwork (Nourishing your relationships with friends and family).

And do not dare discount a possible idea because you are scared to try it. As I always say, 'Never Make Any Decision Based on Fear.'

Next, try to prioritize which of these big ideas are the most important to you. Which idea will bring you the most positive change and impact in your life? Which of these tasks are related, meaning that you must complete one of them in order to make another one of them possible?

Lastly, using your priority as a guide, try to begin breaking these big cloud ideas down into baby steps leading to the final product. It will be these smaller steps that we will use to start making your initial goal list.

Step 3: Bigger is NOT Always Better - Decide on an Achievable List

Building on the lesson from Leo and Zen Habits, I used 2011 as a year to learn the power of less is more. Being an enneagram 7 this was freaking tough for me! Previously, I would map out 5-10 goals each year that I wanted to achieve. I would then spend the year maxed out to the gills, running and gunning through work, life and commitments. And lastly, I would almost always have 2-4 things on that list that I never got to due to lack of time. In 2011, my experiment was to see if I reduced my goals to less than 5 while ALSO scheduling 'free' or unplanned time for myself, if I would come out of the year not only achieving my goals but also enjoying the day to day more, lowering my stress levels and having a stronger, healthier body to boot. Check. Check. And check! I cannot begin to describe how much better it feels to set and achieve a small set of goals while at the same time having free time to enjoy the random activities of the day to day. So lesson learned for me. Whittle your 'big cloud' ideas and your list of small steps down to a finite set of exact goals to focus on. Maximum, give yourself 5 goals. Do not over-book your life. Save time for yourself to breath. Just give it a try. Trust me on this one.

Step 4: Where Do I Start? Prioritize and Schedule Your List as Needed

You are almost there. Now take your list of goals with the priority you placed on them and start coordinating them with your schedule, your calendar and your work load. Look at your daily and weekly life and come up with a plan of when you can fit these new areas into your lifestyle. This may have a seasonal element to it as well. For example, each year

from December to April I have one top priority that supersedes all goals and lists... Snowboarding. So for me, all classes, studying or business development goals are scheduled during the spring, summer or fall.

I also recommend typing out your list and placing it where you will often run into it or refer to it. For some people this means setting a monthly calendar pop-up reminder with their goals. For others this means putting one goal on your calendar each quarter and putting your focus on that individual goal completely. For me, I have a printed list of my goals pinned to my bulletin board at work. It may sit there for weeks without notice until it randomly catches my eye as a reminder. But trust me, those goals are always rolling around in my head.

Now you have done the first step of setting your course. My final piece of advice comes from my very close friend Doug and that is to 'Enjoy the Ride'. The journey you will take to achieve your goals is often more exciting and rewarding than the success in the achievement. So enjoy every step of the way. Good luck!