Living a Life of Maximums


Living a Life of Maximums

There is one crossroad you will come upon every day. It's a subtle intersection point that, unless you are aware enough, you might miss, walking right by and not even noticing it's there. Yet this one point, this one transition, will profoundly shape the life you'll lead: Will you succeed or suffer? Will you endeavor or simply exist?

In every action you take and in every decision you make, this crossroad will present itself. It comes in view when you must make a choice about how much effort and energy you want to expend. Do you want to get a task done as quickly as you can, with the least thought and commitment necessary? Or, do you want to put forth your very best effort, strategically allocating your time and decision making to drive toward the optimal outcome possible? Do you want to do the minimum required or the maximum possible?

These are two distinctly different perspectives. One of them, over time, will consistently yield optimal results, while the other, in most cases, will lead to mediocrity. Why is this true? For the simple reason that life is a marathon, not a sprint. As such, our ultimate successes or struggles will frequently come down to the positive or negative momentum we build through the decisions we make. Think of it this way: Your decisions and actions build momentum for the direction of your life. This is as true for bad choices as it is for good ones. Consistency can be our best friend or worst enemy when it comes to the life we lead.

What many people will choose is to take a minimums approach to the choices that they make. Thus, as they approach most things, they inherently ask themselves: *What is the minimum amount of effort that I need to put forth to get this done? What is the minimum amount of time I need to spend? What is the minimum amount of thought I need to devote? What is the minimum amount that I need to push and challenge myself?"

"Surely, it is better to pace myself," they think. "I should conserve my energy and effort, just in case something more important comes along." This would seem the prudent strategy, right?

The challenge is that minimums thinking leads people to get the easiest things done first. It causes people to pursue what is fun and enjoyable over those things that are most important and impactful. It causes people to always look for the shortcut and the easiest way out. It also causes people to endlessly chase instant gratification.

Minimums thinking is the fuel of life's great procrastinators. After all, why put in the effort today if you can wait and do something next week, next month or, even better, next year? However, history has shown that success doesn't wait for life's procrastinators. It rewards those who take action too soon and too often, rather than too late and not enough.

When you study those who achieve great things, what you will always find is that they have left minimums thinking far behind. They look at life and the choices before them through a different lens. As they approach situations, opportunities and choices, they do so with a maximums mentality. They think and ask themselves: "What's the maximum benefit I can create? What is the maximum I can learn in this situation? What is the maximum I can gain? What is the maximum I can achieve and accomplish? How will focusing on achieving these maximum outcomes improve my life? How will it create even greater opportunities for me in the future? What doors will open up for me? Who will I meet, and how will they be able to help me in my journey?"

Throughout history, great endeavors, significant accomplishments and groundbreaking inventions have certainly come about because somebody chose to take a maximums approach.

However, how can a person consistently focus on doing the maximum in every endeavor they undertake? After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, and we do need to allocate some of it to sleep.

Highly successful people recognize that not all activities are created equal. While interviewing an author in 2013, University of Chicago Professor Harold Pollack said that "The best [financial] advice fits on a 3×5 index card." This is true not just for managing your money but also for every other aspect of life. In every endeavor, there will always be five to seven High Payoff Activities" (HPAs). These HPAs yield the biggest results for the amount of time allocated.

So, ask yourself: What are your Highest Payoff Activities? What are the most important and impactful things you do for your career, your finances, your relationships and your physical health? Are you focusing on doing maximums on these HPAs? Pursuing maximums in these areas builds positive momentum and, on the marathon of life, puts you in the lead. You now stand at the crossroad. The choice is yours. It will present itself to you every day in everything that you do. Will you chase what is easiest, most fun and immediately enjoyable right now?

Are you willing to sacrifice your long-term success for the sweet taste of instant gratification? Will you take the minimums road. Now look down the other road; it is paved with your Highest Payoff Activities: things that might be outside of your comfort zones, yet create incredible momentum toward your future well-being. Are you willing to push yourself? Are you willing to do your very best? Will you take the maximums road?

Make it a conscious choice. Just always remember, if you willingly pay the dues to get what you most want in life, you will be forever grateful that you did.

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