To Meet Your Goals, Burn Your Ships

Stop Giving Yourself a Route Away from Your Goals

Back during Greco-Roman times, a famous leader was landing a fleet of warships with thousands of men to seize land from the enemy. To ensure that his soldiers would not retreat, he commanded that the ships be burned, so that there was no turning back.

How often do you burn your own ships – cut off any avenues of retreat for your goal? Do you think that the army fought more valiantly when they knew that there was no escape? When you remove all options but one, when you limit your choices, there is a much higher chance that you will take the path that you need to so that you can get your desired results.

How many of us give ourselves an “out?” A fallback plan or a Plan B, which we will gladly take if Plan A fails.

But what if Plan A wasn’t failing at all? What if Plan A just needed more time to work (the reality of life is that no matter how hard you push anything, everything takes longer than you expect).

If you “burn your ships,” make sure that you have no way out, but in the direction that you want to go in, then you are much more likely to succeed. Give yourself an out, and you are more liable to take it instead of powering through.

This is intimately tied to structuring your life or work to get the result you want – if you are looking to lose weight, eliminate all bad food from your home and your life. If you’re going to go to the gym every day, put your gym clothes somewhere you will trip over them.

Burning your ships is an even more radical approach – eliminate any other alternative other than the one you want to take. If you’re going to ride your bike to work, get rid of your car – give it to a friend, sell it, or park it somewhere else.

Remove the temptation to take another path. Delete Facebook and any other time-sucking app from your phone. Streamline your life and work by cutting away all of the stuff that you waste your time on. Stop spreading gossip, spending time at lunch, small talking with others, and get back to work. Focus your time and your effort on the tasks at hand. Make time for the things you need to do by eliminating some of the things you want to do. Pare down your time to focus strictly on the specific tasks you need to accomplish and burn everything else to the ground.

Once you’ve done that, you won’t need to get up at 4 am to crush it – your attention will be so honed and focused that you will be able to run rings around everyone else. Forget FOMO, understand that burning your ships narrows your choices down to one, therefore making it much easier to go down that path, no matter how hard that path might have been, to begin with.


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