It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that has so captivated my attention and motivated me to action as, The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller (founder of Keller Williams Realty) and Jay Papasan.  I think the lessons in the book are so valuable, that everyone can benefit, so I wanted to share them with you.  Here are the Big Ideas that have so powerfully impacted me.

The Domino Effect

Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life. Did you know that a domino can topple another domino that is 50% larger?  Experiments have been done that started with a domino just two inches high, but the chain reaction of succeeding dominos, each 50% taller than the previous, resulted in toppling a domino three FEET high. Success works the same way – it is sequential not simultaneous.  The key then is to identify the ‘lead domino’ each day, and focus all your energy on it until it ‘falls’.  How do we do that?  By asking the Focusing Question.

The Focusing Question

The focusing question is what lies are the heart of The One Thing strategy, and it is my biggest take-a-way from the book (although there are many).  It has been said the quality of our life is determined by the quality of questions we ask.  And really great questions, lead to really great answers. When we ask the most powerful question possible, the answer can be life changing.  The powerful question that Keller offers is this…

What’s the ONE Thing I can do

such that by doing it

everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

 The question may seem simple, but as I have been applying it in my own life, I have experienced its power first hand. Let’s parse it out a bit to help us unpack its power.  The first part is – What is ONE Thing I can do?  Notice, it is just ONE thing.  It is not a list of one things.  Just ONE thing.  This helps us to become laser focused in our actions.  The next part is – Such that by doing it – this indicates that we are about to apply some important criteria to our answer. The third part is – Everything else will be easier or unnecessary. –   This is the part of the question that helps us find the most leveraged action.  This is the most fun part of the question for me.  I think to myself, “Wow, there is actually something I can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary.”  I want to get to that answer, to that ONE thing.  And knowing the power of that ONE thing to topple a whole bunch of other dominos, I’m motivated to stay focused on it until I ‘knock it over’.

Now, the real power of the focusing question is not only that it can help us identify the first and most highly leveraged ‘domino’ of the day, but that it can help us identify the ‘Big Dominos’ of our life as well.  Keller says that the secret to achieving extraordinary results is always to ‘Go Big and Act Small’.

Go Big and Act Small

The first place to apply the focusing question is on the BIG picture.   What’s my ONE thing?  What is THE thing that lights me up?  What do I LOVE?  What am I called to do and be?  Use this question to create a clear Vision for your life.  In a minute, we’ll get to how we apply this question to different areas of our life, but for now the focus is, what is my ONE thing?  What is my WHY as Simon Sinek could put it.   

The BIG picture is our starting point. Now it’s time to go small.  Next we ask ourselves, given my ONE BIG Thing, what’s the ONE Thing I can do right NOW, such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary.  It may feel like a big leap to go from my ONE BIG thing, to what I should do right now, and that’s where Keller gives us a really powerful tool called “Goal Setting for the Now”    

Goal Setting to the Now

Here’s how it works…  Choose one area of your life – work, fitness, relationships, spiritual life, etc. and use the focusing question to state your ‘someday BIG goal’ – i.e. What’s the ONE Thing I can do someday (in that area) such that if I do that ONE Thing, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? Then continue to ask yourself the focusing question sequentially until you get to this moment – i.e. Based on my someday goal, what’s ONE Thing I can do in the next five years? Based on my five-year goal, what’s ONE Thing I can do in the next year? Based on my one year goal, what’s ONE Thing I can do in the next month? Next week? Today? And finally, based on my goal for Today, what’s the ONE Thing I can do right NOW?

I found this to be a powerful exercise.  Here’s how the exercise looked for me when I applied it to my Fitness Goals one day last week.

Goal Setting to the NowSomeday Goal –  Supple joints that move with fluidity; Strong Muscles that put me in the advanced strength category for my age and weight; Stamina so that I can easily run a mile on the trails.

Five Year Goal – Compete in a competition that requires me to be supple, strong and have stamina – Cross fit? Spartan? Power lifting?  Not sure yet what kind of competition.

One Year Goal – Hit at least the intermediate strength category for my weight in the nine key lifts.

Monthly Goal – Receive 1:1 coaching in proper technique for all nine lifts.

Weekly Goal – Go to the fundamentals of lifting classes every night this week at 6:30 at the Cross Fit gym.

Daily Goal – Get to the gym at least 30 minutes early to warm up on row, wall squats, overhead squats, foam roller.

Right NOW – Print out the strength standards and write down the specific intermediate strength goals for my weight class.

You get the idea.  I invite you to go ahead and give it a try.

If you’d like to give this a try, Click here to download a Goal Setting To The Now worksheet.

Protect Your Time

“Productivity isn’t about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil… It’s more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time.” ~ Margarita Tartakovsky

The next step after you’ve identified your ONE Thing for the day, is to fiercely protect your time. Keller suggests we do this by time blocking – i.e. blocking out a certain time of the day to work only and solely on our ONE Thing until it is done.  Literally make a date with yourself and your ONE Thing each day, block it out on the calendar, and then protect it.  Don’t schedule a meeting, don’t go for coffee.  Give yourself the gift of that focused time. Once your ONE Thing is done for the day, then you can devote the rest of your time to ‘everything else’.  Most of us, myself included, tend to get caught up in the ‘everything else’ first, and maybe we have time later for our ONE Thing.  Since I have been blocking my time, I have had a powerful shift in my productivity and sense of accomplishment.

Apply The ONE Thing to Every Area of Life

I have to admit, asking the focusing question and getting to the ONE Thing each day, feels so good, it can get addictive… in a good way!  Keller suggests that the final step is to begin to develop a ONE Thing mindset and apply it to every area of life.  For example, here are some great questions he suggests (just tag onto the end “such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?) What’s ONE Thing I can do in the next 90 days to get in the physical shape I want…? What’s ONE Thing we can do this week to strengthen our marriage…? What’s ONE Thing we can do tonight to support our kid’s schoolwork…? What’s ONE Thing I can do today to complete my project ahead of schedule…? What’s ONE Thing I can do before my next review to increase my value to get the raise I want…? You get the idea.  Using the Focusing Question in every area of life is an incredibly powerful tool that, if we choose to use it, can create extraordinary results on every front.

Ask Yourself

Extraordinary results don’t happen by reading a book or a blog post. So I invite you to give yourself this gift.  Ask yourself… What is my BIG ONE Thing in life that lights me up?  That makes me come alive?  That I feel is my purpose and my passion? Such that if I do that ONE Thing, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Given my BIG ONE Thing, what is the ONE Thing I can do RIGHT NOW, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Recognizing that creating extraordinary results requires that I fiercely protect my time each day to accomplish my ONE Thing, I will block off the hours of ___ to ___ each day to devote to my accomplishing my ONE Thing.

Now have fun creating extraordinary results, as you focus on YOUR ONE Thing.

I encourage you to put this into practice right NOW. Click here to download a Goal Setting To The Now worksheet.