There’s no such thing as a sure deal. But you can almost always increase the likelihood of your desired outcome.
Consider a simple example for starters: Your monthly bills amount to $1,000. You’d like to cover these costs because you enjoy the comforts of having a roof over your head and food on your table. You recognize an income would enable you achieve your desired outcome.
So you acquire a full-time job that pays $15 per hour ($600/week or $2,500/month). The job does not guarantee your outcome. You still must show up and successfully administer those responsibilities the job requires. Both earning the job opportunity and doing the job both increase the likelihood of achieving your desired outcome.
Begin with the End in Mind
The surest way to achieve what you want in life is to start by defining it. Unless or until you have a sure aim, you waste energy by moving without definite direction.
Start by identifying the outcome you desire. Then work backwards.
In the example above, identifying a desired outcome is easy. You have bills which will be due each month. And you know the exact amount you need to succeed: $1,000 per month.
By defining your specific desired outcome, you’ve set the boundaries.
Define the Range of Probable Inputs
Beginning with your desired outcome sets the parameters you must work within to achieve success. Coming upon $1,000 before your bills are due this month becomes your “floor.” Any set of activities which leads to at least $1,000 per month will satisfy your desired outcome. Any set of activities which leads to less than $1,000 is out of the question.
Setting the floor allows you to eliminate “null” inputs – activities which will not satisfy your desired outcome. For instance, a null outcome would be working only one part-time job that pays $8/hour. The activity will advance you toward your goal but by itself will not satisfy your goal. So you can eliminate it as a possibility.
Setting the floor also enables you to draw a boundary around “negative” inputs – activities which will reduce the likelihood of your desired outcome. For example, increasing your monthly expenses by $1,000 is a negative input. You can eliminate activities that work against your goal.
Reduce Uncontrollable Variables
Within the scope of activities that lead to $1,000 per month, you have a lot of options. Some jobs may even offer the possibility of far more.
But what you’re after is certainty. What set of activities is most likely to achieve your desired outcome. In considering all the different possibilities, you also want to identify those which offer the fewest unknown or uncontrollable variables.
For instance, you may discover a job opportunity which promises $25 per hour of pay. On the surface this seems like a great input to consider. But if after a closer look you learn the opportunity offers wildly unpredictable hours and no guaranteed minimum – you cannot be certain this activity will increase the likelihood of your success.
You’re not just looking for possible success. You want inputs which offer you a highly probable, repeatable outcome. So you can eliminate any set of activities that do not guarantee the opportunity of at least $1,000 per month.
Test, Observe, and Adjust
As the saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” There will almost always be more than one path in front of you which offers high probability of achieving your desired outcome.
Keep this in mind as you work toward your desired outcome. If you come across a set of activities that allows you to achieve your desired outcome more efficiently, or offers you more satisfaction in the process, take it.
The more you practice working backwards from your goal, the more effective you will become at filtering activities that increase the likelihood of your success from those which do not.
At any given point in time, you’ll likely have more than one desired outcome in mind – each with varying priority. When this happens, you can evaluate each desired outcome and activity sets in isolation – or, you could redefine the parameters: only consider activities which satisfy all your desired outcomes.
Just remember, it all starts with defining the outcome (or outcomes) you want. Then work backwards.