Think about how you found this article. Was it from a search? Or following a link? How did your system for finding information bring you here? By your choices, on- and off-line, you construct the systems you need to live, learn and work.

Choosing

In his book, You Are A Writer, Jeff Goins talks about going from wanting to be a writer to being a writer. Along the way, he provides lots of practical tips and techniques for making the switch. Jeff’s lesson is that all it takes is a small shift in thinking, a choice, to open up big opportunities.

A small shift in thinking will give you the ability to create the systems that best suit the way you want to live, learn and work. You can choose to design your systems instead of settling for what happens to you. It all starts with becoming aware of how you interact with the people and things in your life and making deliberate choices.

Epicenter

You are the center of everything – you probably knew that :-). Think of everything and everyone you interact with as being connected to you. Each of those connections is your interface to that system. An entrepreneur is connected to her business. A father is connected to his children. You are connected to many systems and play a different role for each.

At the very center of all these systems is the most important system of all: You. You are a complex, self-organizing system of knowledge, habits, desires, perceptions, organs, blood, sweat, and tears. You consume inputs like food, drink, knowledge, entertainment, and the things others say and do. You output your thoughts in written word and speech and physical actions.

Your Goal and Getting There

Any road will do if you don’t know (or care) where you’re going. Serendipity can happen on that road, but don’t count on it. Choose what you want, your goal. Can’t decide? Then list off a bunch of goals that you want to achieve (my list is pretty long). Pick the most important goal – the one that makes all your other goals possible.

Draw five columns on a piece of paper (landscape – sideways – will be best) and number them 4, 5, 3, 1, 2 from left to right and write number 6 at the bottom of the paper. (Yes, sometimes you have to tackle hard problems in what appears to be the wrong order.) Write down your goal in column 1. In column 2, write “Things I will be able to do” and list below all the things you will be able to do once you achieve the goal. In column 3, write “Things I need to achieve the goal.” And list below all the things you must have or learn or change about yourself in order to do the things in column 2.

Congratulations! You’ve just designed your future you! Now, let’s design another system that will get you there. In column 4, write “Things I have and can do now” and below that, write “168 Hours per Week” and list below everything you have right now that will help you get started. Skills, knowledge, relationships, and other things you have like money or equipment.

Writing it down is important, but that’s only part of getting there. In column 5, write “Getting There (First Steps)” and list below the first step needed to get one of the things in column 3. For example: I need to learn a new skill; I can get that by using some of the 168 hours in each week and some of my money to enroll in a course.

Action and Habit

At the bottom of the page, by the number 6, write “Schedule It & Take Action!” Take everything in column 5 and schedule it. Yep, put it right there on your calendar with all your other important stuff, like Aunt Mary’s birthday. If you need to learn something to get to your future you, schedule time for it every day. If you need a better relationship with your spouse to get there, schedule time for making it better. You can’t do everything at once and you only have 168 hours each week, but you can get started by scheduling the first steps.

“If you do anything long enough, it becomes habitual,” says Goins in You Are A Writer. And as I said above, habits are a big part of the system that is You. Habits are the gears that turn goals into accomplishments. They turn automatically and help you put your attention on other important matters, like choosing the next steps to your future You.

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