Read an Excerpt
Defining What Matters Most
Tough stuff first. I'm not going to lie: The first day's assignment is the toughest and the most important. The good news is this is also the most important day of this challenge. The work you'll do today will influence every area of your life for the rest of your life.
Mastering goals is simple. Anyone can do that. And plenty of people do, only to find they've arrived but feel lost, lonely, deeply dissatisfied, and living a life devoid of balance.
What Day 1 of the Push Plan teaches you to do is identify your goals. That takes more thought, more reflection, more work. But don't stress. I'm here to lead you through the process, and you won't believe how much more focused and energized you'll feel once it's done!
Lessons from a Toddler's Toy
We all know the Shape-O Toy--that bright red, blue, and yellow plastic ball that teaches little kids their shapes. Either we had one or we got one for our kids. The Shape-O ball comes with 10 plastic shape pieces--a star, a circle, a triangle, and so on--that the child pushes through openings in the ball that are the same shape as the pieces.
The toddlers select a piece and then press it against the opening they believe the piece will fit through. No matter how much they push and turn the shape, the star piece won't fit through the circle hole, right? The square piece won't fit into the opening made for a triangle. And so on--the pieces simply won't "fit" until they're pressed against the right opening in the ball.
But by the time you're 3, you've figured out you can cheat! Pull on the ball's yellow handles, and the ball splits in half, allowing you to shove anything you want into the center.
Unfortunately, that's how most people decide if a goal or an opportunity, or even a mate, is a good fit. They make it fit. But alas, sometimes they "cheat"--and who they're cheating is themselves!
Wouldn't it be great if you had a simple tool, like a Shape-O ball, to know if something was going to be the right fit (she asked excitedly, knowing there is such a tool!).
The first step in reaching your goals is setting ones that are a good fit. Whether you focus on health and fitness, business, marriage, faith, or parenting, before you set goals, you need to have a better system of identifying which ones will fit.
Call them your defining values, your principles, call 'em what you want, but for our purposes we're going to call them your "life priorities."
So many people set and achieve goals only to find they're no happier than when they started. That's because most people never take the time to sit down and figure out who they are and what's really important. In other words, they never create those shapes on the outside of a Shape-O ball, so they have nothing to press against.
I define intrinsic priorities as areas of critical importance so ingrained into who you are that you really need no accountability to honor their place. In other words, these intrinsic priorities don't even need to go on your life priorities list. You honor them naturally.
For example, you might be surprised to know that health and fitness don't go on my formal life priorities list. My hope is that health and fitness at some point in your near future become intrinsic priorities.
I did this priorities exercise with a small group of business professionals, many of whom also happen to be devout Christians. Only one listed "faith" in the top three priorities. When I questioned the others about their decision to leave their faith off the list, one member rather confidently replied, "You know, it's such a part of who I am, I didn't even think to put it in the list."
Perfect! Certain intrinsic priorities have become a part of your fabric. Being a kind person, working to treat people with fairness, those things are intrinsic priorities. I feel as though I need no accountability. I'm perfectly happy with the amount of attention I give this area. No more. No less. So if your intrinsic priorities are who you are, the balance is just right and you already live according to that priority. It doesn't need to go on your list.
But say, for example, building your business is something that is important to you but you need to give it more energy and time, then you are not living according to your top priority, and building your business needs to go on your list. Intrinsic priorities are part of your fiber, a part of who you are.
In the worksheet below, you will write out your priorities, what's important to you, the compass by which you direct your life, your values, what gives you joy, what gives you purpose, what gives you pride. Understanding your priorities is the first step in restoring life balance.
PRIORITIES: THE SHAPE-O BALL EXERCISE
Only when you know what (and who) is most important, with clarity, should you set goals and take action. To truly be successful, you need to match your goals with your personal priorities.
Clearly defined priorities allow you to easily identify your most effective use of time and your most valiant pursuits, thus simplifying life's toughest decisions. Once you've identified your priorities, you've, in essence, created a Shape-O ball for your life.
Say your number-one priority is to be actively engaged and to spend more time with your family, or maybe you want to devote additional hours at work to get that promotion. In that case, setting a goal to win a fitness competition is a poor choice. No matter how hard you push the goal of "9 percent body fat" against your Shape-O ball, it will never converge with your most important current life priorities.
You're seconds from starting an exercise that will allow you to quickly match up your goals and immediately know if they fit. To get the most from it, you need to write it on paper and not just in your head. Know how your goal is going to fit before you pursue it.
Believe me, this exercise works. I recently spoke to a group of insurance executives and took them through the process--actually made them write it out, as you will. After my speech, one of their top-level professionals approached me, a big smile on his face.
"I just have to tell you," he said, stunned but excited. "That exercise helped me make a decision I've been struggling with for more than 10 years. I've been chasing the wrong dream, and I never really understood that until today, when you had us write out this exercise."
He went on to explain that he was being held prisoner by a high-paying career that gave him no joy and kept him from his family. He worked long hours, sometimes 7 days a week, and the trappings of money combined with the distance between him and his family had created a lot of unhappiness.
Later, I found out he had quit his high-paying career to become a professor of music. I don't know him personally, but I'd bet my life savings he's living a more balanced life!
How My Homework Helped Me
Every person who has completed the priorities homework and created a top priority clarity statement has told me the process has given them the tools to revisit long-standing tough decisions, reevaluate their path, and gain the confidence they needed to know they were making the right decision.
It's sure worked for me. Let me give you an example from my own life. My mission has always been to solve problems for people: to help people find a way to live balanced, fit, successful lives and to place the greatest amount of energy on our relationships.
To share this message on a national level without impacting my number-one priority meant I had to be creative. Infomercials were the perfect fit. Not easy to get into the business, true; but nothing worth having ever is easy. I knew success in the infomercial arena would allow me a degree of anonymity (even though I've sold millions and millions of exercise DVDs, no one really recognizes me), so this means the kids can lead a normal life. I can go to the mall or the grocery store. It's cool. The high volume of sales allows me to provide for my family in a way that enables me to be home most of the time, work from my home office, control my own schedule, and take a ton of vacations.
This little exercise has changed the lives, career paths, and fitness journeys of thousands. Read today's assignment undistracted. Grab a pencil and paper. We'll transfer this information to your smartphone, but your best thinking is done old-school style--with a sharpened No. 2 pencil and a crisp piece of paper.
Start by brainstorming your priorities. Use the space below (or better yet, create a dedicated PUSH journal so you have even more space if you need it) to list any and all areas of importance in your life today. Priorities are those things that are so important that if they were stripped from your life, you would be devastated, unfulfilled, and living without purpose. Who do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish? What makes you happy? What do you think is your purpose in this life? What gives you pride? What do you wish to be remembered for at the end of your life? What do you want people to know was most important to you? What makes you feel good about yourself? What areas of your life are of great importance yet you believe you must keep yourself accountable to honor them?
Place a star next to the five areas that are most important to you.
Now list the three priorities (in no particular order) that you have identified as most important to you. Use just a few words to identify each category, such as "faith," "family," "career," "my charity," "my health," and so on.
Rewrite the list in order of importance to you:
My number-one priority: __________
My second priority: __________
My third priority: __________
Take the priority you've listed as number one and complete the following statements:
The reason(s) I have placed the greatest importance on this area of my life is because:
I will honor my number-one priority by doing my best to:
The following action(s) would be inconsistent with my commitment to my top priority:
To honor my number-one priority, I will limit the following:
To honor my number-one priority, I need to make the following changes:
Now you're ready for the last question on the worksheet--and it's so important it gets its own section.
Creating Your Top Priority Statement
With as much detail as possible, create a "top priority clarity statement" in the space below. Here are some examples.
My number-one priority is to fortify and honor my relationship with my family by spending more time together, listening, engaging, and sacrificing to help each member feel important, admired, trusted, respected, and supported in our everyday lives and to limit activities and pursuits that might be harmful to these relationships.
My number-one priority is to build my business by being present, disciplined, and focused on serving my customers and committing to learning everything I can about leadership, management, and business success and eliminating excuses, distractions, and unproductive pursuits.
Here's my own top priority clarity statement:
My number-one priority is to be present and actively involved in the lives of my husband and children; to demonstrate through my actions that my children are more important than any personal pursuit; to work to strengthen my loving, respectful, and supportive relationship with my husband as a means to provide the best possible environment for my family; to raise self-sufficient, confident children who believe they can do anything; to limit any activities, pursuits, or relationships that might take me away from my family; and to weigh all decisions against what would be helpful, harmful, or indifferent to my family's emotional well-being.
Now write yours. Take all the time you need.
Write or print out your top priority clarity statement and post it on your computer, near your desk, in your kitchen, on the inside of your medicine cabinet, and, hey, why not make it the lock screen on your smartphone? Memorize it. With this statement front and center, it's miraculous how clear even the toughest decisions become.
But when a great opportunity presented itself at a time when I was less financially secure, I had to weigh the decision against my top priority clarity statement.
In one of those periods of financial weakness, I got a call from a producer of a prime-time weight-loss competition show. The producer had seen my work and was interested in speaking to me about the possibility of filling one of the trainer spots for the upcoming season. Even though the opportunity would have helped my brand and probably in the long run made me millions more in endorsements and notoriety, in my evaluation it didn't fit with any part of my top priority clarity statement.
I politely declined and thanked him for thinking of me.
Silence. Then he said, "I'm not sure if you heard me correctly, this is for [insert name of Very Big Show About Losing Weight here]."
Now, had I not clearly defined my priorities years prior, I would have second-guessed my decision. I would have wondered if I had made the biggest mistake of my career. Instead, because I knew my priorities, it was an easy decision.
Without a clear top priority statement, I would have just thought in my head, Well, my family is my first priority, and this opportunity will allow me to better provide for them, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime op, so take it. But because I had created a clearly defined statement, I was able to quickly make what for other people would have been a very difficult decision.
I understood what he was saying. I didn't feel a moment of indecision. There was no "what if" or even a phone call to run the scenario by my husband, Bret. We are very clear about what is most important and how we have defined that. Being a present force in my children's day-to-day life would not have been an option if I had taken the offer.
When people say to you, "I don't know if another opportunity like this is going to come your way!" you tell them, "I don't need one to come my way. I am smart enough and motivated by my priorities. I won't wait for opportunities; I will create those that fit me."
You are resourceful. You're smart. You deserve the life you want, but it doesn't just "come around." You have to plan for it. Take action and keep at it. Sure, it might take longer to do it "right," but nothing beats the pride you'll have by doing it properly.
Something better, something that fits perfectly into your Shape-O ball, will come your way--and if it doesn't, you'll create it! Let's start creating right now.