It's gotta be fun to be Tim Ferriss. The best-selling author also hosts a popular podcast that features in-depth conversations with an incredible range of super achievers, from sports stars to artists to billionaire businesspeople. These chats regularly unearth nuggets of advice gold, including tons of tips on how to be mentally tougher. Ferriss recently rounded up a bunch on Medium.

Some of them seemed more inspirational than actionable (thanks, former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink for this hot tip: "If you want to be tougher, be tougher") but one bit of wisdom stuck out to me as a potential game-changer. It's a simple mental shift that Ferriss claims can make you wildly more likely to achieve your dreams.

"Is that a dream or a goal?"

The advice comes from a somewhat unlikely source, professional wrestler and WWE executive Paul Levesque (also known professionally as Triple H). I've never watched a professional wrestling match in my life, and don't plan to start anytime soon, but nonetheless Levasque's advice struck me as profound. If you want to accomplish big things, he told Ferriss, it's time to swap your dreams for your goals:

[Evander Holyfield] said that his coach at one point told him, something like his very first day, 'You could be the next Muhammad Ali. Do you wanna do that?' Evander said he had to ask his mom. He went home, he came back and said, 'I wanna do that.' The coach said, 'Okay. Is that a dream or a goal? Because there's a difference.'

I'd never heard it said that way, but it stuck with me. So much so that I've said it to my kid now: 'Is that a dream, or a goal? Because a dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve.' I always looked at my stuff that way.

The people who were successful models to me were people who had structured goals and then put a plan in place to get to those things. ​

Achievement is all about the process.

The advice might come from fighters, but the idea of breaking down a dream into a realistic step-by-step series of goals could be applied to basically any endeavor. And athletes aren't the only ones who swear by the approach. Blogger James Clear (who, full disclosure, also seems to be a bit of a fitness fanatic), has recommended a similar shift. To make it more likely you'll achieve your aims, don't focus on the end point, he has advised. Instead zero in on the process you'll use to get there.

"A better way to approach your goals is to set a schedule to operate by rather than a deadline to perform by. Instead of giving yourself a deadline to accomplish a particular goal and then feeling like a failure if you don't achieve it, you should choose a goal that is important to you and then set a schedule to work towards it consistently. That might not sound like a big shift, but it is," he writes.

What both these bits of advice have in common is a focus on crafting a step-by-step path to follow rather than an obsession with visualizing your final aim. In short, both recommend swapping your dreams for goals. That way you'll do less daydreaming and more planning. It's a down-to-earth suggestion that basically anyone can implement to become instantly mentally tougher.

Published on: May 18, 2018