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How do some people achieve extraordinary levels of success when pursuing their passions while others chase their dreams but never reach any finish lines?  

The secret, according to entrepreneur and bestselling author Gary Keller, is that they have one thing – a visionary goal for their lives – that influences every decision they make. Regardless of what happens, having that driving force keeps them on the right path.

This month we chose The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan to learn how to find our one thing and how to use it to transform our lives. Here are my five favorite lessons from the book:

#1 What is Your One Thing?

What is the one thing that you are the most passionate about? Throughout the book, Keller emphasizes that before you can make any significant progress in your life, you need to know what you are aiming for.  

While it may be challenging to pick the passion that is the most important to you, it is the only way to achieve high levels of success. With the exception of rare, extraordinary individuals like Elon Musk, people can’t become masters at multiple things at the same time.

Your answer doesn’t have to be career-related. If family is the center of your universe, your one thing could be being the best parent you can be. Or, if you have a passion for helping people in a specific way, your one thing can be about helping an organization related to your cause. The important thing is that your one thing inspires you to wake up every day and give your all pursuing it.

If you don’t know what your one thing is yet, Keller recommends starting by heading in the direction that you want to go. Learn as much as you can about your area of interest and once you figure out what makes you feel the most alive, that becomes your one thing.

#2 Chase After “Big Specific Goals”

Once you’ve chosen your one thing, you need to create goals that will help you achieve it. Keller argues that the best goals are big and specific.

Big specific goals are:

  1. Big enough that you currently don’t have the skills to achieve them and will force you out of your comfort zone.
  2. Specific enough that you can identify clear actions steps.

Once you know your goals, write them down. Keller cited research from Dr. Gail Matthews of the Dominican University of California that found that people who write down their goals are 39.5% more likely to achieve them. The effect is even more powerful if you share your goals with someone else. It may feel nerve-wracking to tell people about goals you may not feel confident you can achieve, but knowing they are going to hold you accountable is a great way to ensure your success.

#3 Live by the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle is simple: different activities generate different amounts of value using the same quantities of time and resources. This principle was created by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto and it is the basis for was it popularly known now as the 80/20 rule. It’s the idea that approximately 20% of what we do (our most important tasks) generates about 80% of the value in our lives.

One of the greatest inhibitors to success is the belief that we need to give everything our all. While it sounds like a great aspiration, our lives are too busy to give every task 100% of our effort. Instead, we complete everything at an acceptable level of quality while excelling at nothing.

To achieve your goals, you need to identify the 20% of tasks that generate most of the value in your life and invest your best energy into them. Doing so will require that you set boundaries and eliminate tasks that don’t add any value – this includes saying no to requests from people that aren’t absolutely necessary for you to say yes to.

#4 Don’t Fall Victim to Productivity Myths

Being busy and being productive are two completely different things. Being busy means you’re doing things; being productive is doing things that have a positive impact on your life. In an effort to have it all, many people fall into two productivity traps:

  1. Living their lives according to to-do lists.
  2. Believing that multitasking is an efficient way to complete tasks.

The problem with both of these tactics is that they help people manage their busyness not prioritize for productivity.

The majority of tasks on to-do lists fail to generate meaningful value and research shows that people who multitask perform worse than those who complete tasks one at a time.

Keller suggests that you replace those practices by determining what are the most meaningful projects and relationships in your life and making it your priority to invest time in those things every day. When you do, focus on being present in the moment; the most important parts of your life need your full attention to thrive.

#5 Choose Your Daily Domino

Once you know your one thing and the other most important elements of your life, it’s time to incorporate these lessons into your everyday life. Just like how your one thing guides the trajectory of your life, every day you need to choose the one thing that you need to complete to move yourself one step closer to achieving your goals.

Chosen correctly, that one thing will set off a domino effect that leads you to accomplish more than you thought you could possibly derive from a single action.

For example, say your one thing for the day is to attend a networking event. Even if you only make one or two lasting connections at that event, those people can introduce you to more people and resources, who then do the same and the effects of that one thing continue to multiply like the impact of the first domino in a long chain. Or, your one thing could be to sign up for a class or read a book. The knowledge you learn may inspire you to approach your goals in a new way and speed up your success. The key is to choose daily dominos that have long-run impacts.

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