Self Improvement: Gap Analysis: a Strategic Way of Achieving More Goals
How can you be happy?
Google this and you’ll find a bajillion articles from life coaches, each with their own set of tips, strategies, and weird practices (like thanking your clothes after you wear them – seriously).
I have a much simpler answer – one that doesn’t involve having conversations with your clothes.
Check it out:
There’s who you are right now, and there’s who you want to be.
That distance between them is called THE GAP (no clothing store jokes plz).
The more you can close that gap, the happier you’ll be.
Sounds simple enough, but how do you actually close that gap?
How do you go beyond boring cliches like “work harder” and “stay persistent”? You’re working hard as it is, and the idea of just “working harder” won’t do it for you.
I want to introduce you to a process I’ve used the past few years called a GAP Analysis.
It’s a framework developed in the business world for helping companies maximize their performance.
You can use it in your own life to close the gap between where you are now and your own happiness.
Why should you even bother with this?
Because anyone can set a goal, but a goal by itself is meaningless. Setting a goal doesn’t change anything. I could set a goal to be the next Elon Musk, but that doesn’t mean jack unless I do something about it.
You need a SYSTEMATIC PROCESS for achieving your goal. A process that GUARANTEES you’ll make forward progress.
This is where a GAP analysis comes in. It’s a way of thinking and acting that will get you from here…to there.
1. What’s The SPECIFIC End Result You Want?
“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”
Clarity is a weapon.
You can’t get your desired outcome unless you’re specific about it.
It’s the difference between, “I want to lose weight,” and, “I want to lose 12 pounds by January 1st, 2019.”
It’s the difference between, “I want to build my brand,” and, “I want to have an email list of 50,000 by January 1st, 2019.”
It sounds simple, but some people refuse to be clear and specific. I think it’s a psychological way of not holding themselves accountable.
No one likes the feeling of failure. Setting vague goals people frame any result as a victory.
But that’s only hurting yourself.
Be so specific about what you want that there’s no “opinion” about whether you achieved what you want.
You either achieved it or you didn’t. You can’t lie to yourself.
2. Where Are You Now?
You need to know EXACTLY where you currently are.
And you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t pull any punches to make your ego feel better.
This means accepting the reality of your current situation, the resources you have, and your constraints.
Don’t be like that old Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley who would always say to himself, “I’m good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
You need hard data that tells the truth and you need trusted advisors to tell you the good, bad, and ugly about yourself.
Someone who will say, “Look, you’re really good at this, but honestly, you suck pretty bad at this.”
Will it sting? Yeah. But it’s necessary to get clarity.
I see people set unrealistic outcomes all the time.
They want to make $10,000 a day profit in affiliate marketing within 6 months.
It’s not impossible, but where are you right now?
It’s hard if you only have a $500 budget, no additional disposable income, and no mentors.
Before you can close the gap, you need to know just how big the gap really is.
Once you’ve stared down into the canyon between you and happiness, you can figure out how to build a bridge.
3. What Are the Obstacles In The Way?
Now you need to identify the main obstacle in your way and laser focus on conquering it.
It’s like in a video game. When I play Overwatch, there is always ONE goal, like capturing an area. When I unleash my Zenyatta fury, I am laser focused on taking that objective. That’s all that matters.
Same thing when it comes to closing the gap…
One trick I like to use is asking, “Why?” over and over again.
It helps you figure out the real problem. The problem at the root of all the problems.
Let’s say you want to become an affiliate marketer, but you haven’t launched any campaigns yet.
Let’s apply the, “Why?” strategy:
“I haven’t launched campaigns yet.”
“I don’t have the budget.”
“I don’t have disposable income.”
“I don’t have a job.”
“I don’t have reliable transportation to go to a job.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. I know there are probably 100+ obstacles in the way, but focus on just ONE.
You need to figure out what the REAL PROBLEM is.
Here’s another example:
John wants to lose weight. He’s tried in the past, failed, and now realizes that the real problem is that he’s in an unsupportive environment.
He lives at home with his family and everyone’s struggles with being overweight.
They make fun of him for trying to lose weight. They cook unhealthy food and guilt him into finishing everything.
He’s doomed if he focuses all his energy on the perfect workout plan because that’s not the REAL obstacle. No matter how much work he puts in, he won’t succeed until he solves the real problem.
He needs to get the support of his family or move out.
That’s what it means to understand the real obstacles.
4. What Solutions Can You Brainstorm?
Not it’s time sit down and brainstorm solutions. You’re going to come up with a bunch of different ways to conquer your obstacle.
But, when you brainstorm ideas, you need to be aware of two things that can hinder your progress.
The first is INCORRECT assumptions.
Look at the statement “I don’t have reliable transportation to go to a job.”
The assumption is that you need transportation to get a job.
Is it true?
No. There are dozens of real jobs (no, not filling out surveys or entering contests) where you can earn money working from home.
The second issue is that people focus too much on outside forces.
All of us are where we are because of our own choices.
Take responsibility for those choices and brainstorm your way to a solution.
An example of a brainstorm:
- Could you find remote work online as a freelancer?
- Could you take public transportation to work?
- Could a friend or carpooling service could take you to work?
- Could you find a job that’s walking or biking distance? Could you skateboard to work?
5. Who Do You Know That Has Insight On This Subject?
I like shortcuts. Faster and easier is always better.
It’s why the “Skip Intro” button on Netflix is the greatest invention ever. Just get me to the show.
Same for business.
I don’t have time to make mistakes and I don’t like learning the hard way. Give me the lesson without the pain.
You have a problem? Somebody out there has already faced it and solved it. Learn from them instead of trying to figure it out yourself.
It’s a shortcut to closing the gap.
Take a look at your social circle. Who might know how to solve your problem?
Don’t be shy to ask for help.
Honestly, I’ve always hated asking people for help.
I didn’t want to feel like I’d “owe” anyone anything.
Can you relate?
But if you don’t ask for help, you’re not going to get past your obstacle.
Another option is to pay for an answer.
Let’s say you have a startup and want to raise funding. But there isn’t enough time for you to go out there and learn how to raise money.
You need the money ASAP.
But there are people on sites like Clarity that are experts in the subject. You can pay them to help solve your problem. (GO HERE: https://clarity.fm/browse/funding)
Some people have a weird mindset about paying for advice. Like it’s cheating or something.
But here’s how things may turn out for you…
You have to raise a round of capital. You stick to reading stuff online because you don’t want to “cheat”. You raise a round of capital. You end up raising no money because your pitch sucks.
You have to raise a round of capital. You spend $2,000 on advice from experts. Guys who have done this before and they adjust your pitch.
You’re out $2,000.
You raise $1 million dollars.
Sometimes it’s worth it to pay to play.
6. Design the Machine
I’m a huge systems guy.
You don’t achieve your goals by doing something one time. Rather, it’s performing a set of actions consistently.
This is the part where you plan and design your “machine”.
I learned a concept from Eben Pagan called Inevitable Thinking.
How can you design a system that guarantees your end result? Don’t think realistically at this point. If you had zero limits, what system would you design?
Design the perfect machine without constraints.
An example from my life is that I want to win more local Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments.
What system could I develop that guarantees this?
- I can go to class 8 times a week.
- I can lift weights twice a week.
- I can get a private lesson every week.
- I can do 30 minutes of daily Yoga to become more flexible
I know that if I followed this machine I would win more local tournaments. In fact, I guarantee it.
The problem is that I can’t follow this machine.
I’m 33 years old and can’t handle this workload unless I take steroids. It’s also more of a time commitment than I want to make since I have other goals.
I like to design the perfect system, and then scale it down to be more realistic.
For example, instead of doing a private lesson every week I can do one every month. Instead of going to classes 8 times a week I can start at 5.
The key is to end up with a realistic machine and see if it actually moves you towards your goals. Once you see results, you can increase the activity of the machine.
7. Take Action
The machine is useless unless you actually execute. You need to turn the machine on and start using it to close the gap.
This means you need to do the work.
My advice is to start slow.
A few years ago, I discovered meditation and was so excited. I told myself that I’d meditate 30 minutes a day. That was the machine I designed.
The problem? I actually only meditated 30 minutes a day, maybe twice a week. I’d get intimidated at the thought of meditating 30 minutes a day.
This pattern happened for 6 months straight.
One day I read about the power of “baby steps.”
I scaled the machine down to 10 minutes a day. I could do that.
It’s been several years and I’ve logged around 150 HOURS of meditation. I was only able to do that because I took consistent action.
Another way of thinking about this is to create a machine that’s sustainable. The machine sucks if it breaks down all the time.
I could train BJJ like a madman, but then injuries from overtraining could take me out for months.
8. Measure Results
How do you know if the machine you designed is actually working? You need to measure the results.
The biggest mistake I see people make is that they only measure the LAGGING indicators. Lagging indicators are things that change AFTER you’ve been doing something for a while.
Lagging Indicator: Your Weight
You want to focus on and measure the actions that LEAD to your weight changing.
Leading Indicators that affect your weight:
- How much you’re sleeping every day
- How many calories you’re eating
- How often you’re working out
- How many steps you’re walking a day, etc.
Let’s say you want to grow your YouTube Channel.
Lagging Indicator = Your Youtube Subscriber Count
Leading Indicators that Affect Your Youtube Subscriber Count:
- How many videos you’re posting a week
- How many “collaboration” videos you’re doing a month
- How many comments you’re making on similar channels
Track the activity of your leading indicators and see if it affects the subscriber count.
To determine if your machine is working, you need to measure the actions that lead to you closing the gap.
9. Reflect and Revise
You’ve taken action. You’re measuring some data.
Is the gap closing? Are you moving closer to your goals?
This is the most important stage.
If the machine isn’t working then you need to change your strategy or increase the activity. I’ve noticed a lot of people mistaking low activity for bad strategy.
It’s like someone working out once a week and then complaining that they’re not getting results. They’re not doing it enough. Or like someone launching four eCommerce campaigns, failing, and saying that Shopify is dead.
You need to look at the data, find patterns, and then revise your strategy or activity.
There are a thousand ways to approach success. I think most of the success teaching these days is wayyyyy too simplified. They just say you need to “stay motivated” and “be persistent.”
What’s more important is problem solving. If you’re not where you want to be, sit back and ask yourself why.
Brainstorm. Conduct experiments. Keep track of data. Close the gap.
- Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe
- The Road Less Stupid by Keith Cunningham
- Principles by Ray Dalio
Featured Image by Mooshny