Blueprints Aren’t Just For Buildings
Amazing homes connect with your soul. The rooms just feel right.
I felt wonder the first time I walked through the front door of our home. I knew it was different, unique.
Later on, when the prior owner gave me a set of blueprints, I finally understood why the home felt so right. The original homeowners didn’t just slap a house together—they hired a great architect to think things through, to design something timeless. Through the careful details and well thought out plans, I could see that our home was built with intention.
Our lives are no different. Not only do we have to design what we want them to look like, we’re also in charge of getting there. That’s where the Life Blueprint comes in.
More than a decade ago I left my company job behind to build Bunnell Idea Group (BIG). A few years into it I got to the point where I was keeping myself busy, but it wasn’t growing, I plateaued. I needed a plan, a blueprint.
I created a clear vision for the company I wanted to build and the life I wanted to lead while building it. In the process I designed my own system for creating such a vision: I called it a Life Blueprint. Here are the three steps you need to create your own Life Blueprint.
STEP 1: THINK BIG
Goal-setting is vital. Research into the effectiveness of goal-setting gained momentum in the 1960s. Psychologists wanted to understand why some people perform significantly better, both personally and professionally, than the rest of us. Many studies were performed over the years, but macro answers remained elusive. Then researcher Edwin Locke* reviewed over one hundred studies performed and found an extremely strong statistical correlation between goal-setting and performance. Taken together, the research made clear that writing down the things you want to accomplish increases your odds of success at doing those things.
What do you want your life to look like? Pick a specific time frame—goals thrive on specificity. Describe every aspect of life you can think of: career, family, leisure, and so on. Then share your vision with those who will be with you on your journey.
STEP 2: START SMALL
If you’ve set big, hairy, audacious goals, you’re doing well. But that can be overwhelming; you have to break it down. Teresa Amabile’s aptly-titled book The Progress Principle* details that workers focused on making small, incremental improvements—and celebrating their progress frequently—are both more productive and happier.
The goals set the direction, and the incremental progress over time gets you there.
Now that you’ve defined what you want your life to look like, break it down. What are the interim steps along the way? If you picked ten years as your time frame, what are the super small things you need to do weekly to get there? Define the path.
STEP 3: SCALE UP
A few early successes create psychological momentum. It turns out that a couple of quick wins not only make you more likely to continue doing a certain behavior, they even make the activity feel easier. In short, early success breeds long-term resilience.
What can you start with today that puts you on the path to progress this week? What’s the first, smallest thing that will get you going?
Make it easy to be successful—fast. Reward yourself and start building momentum immediately. This will build psychological momentum. The key is to start small, and in the direction of your goals.
The Life Blueprint changed everything for me. The progress that happened afterward didn’t come because of some phenomenal stroke of luck—although I’ve been very lucky. Or through Herculean effort—although I’ve put in plenty of midwestern-y good, hard work. The progress occurred because I was always moving in an incremental fashion toward my vision.
The secret to sustainable success is threefold: (1) clear, ambitious goals to know where you’re going; (2) broken-down interim goals to connect the dots; and (3) well-designed habits to keep you moving through thick and thin.
Think big, start small, scale up. The combination is unstoppable.
*For Locke’s original study on the power of goal setting, see Locke, E. A., Shaw, K. N., Saari, L. M., & Latham, G. P. (1981). Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980. Psychological bulletin, 90(1), 125.
*For a summary of Teresa Amabile’s work on incremental progress I highly recommend: The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.