The simpler we keep things, the less likely we are to run into problems. Even better, keeping things simple makes it easier for us to make high quality decisions on the fly. Specific, measurable goals are important, but here’s three simple rules for “playing with cars” that occurred to me recently which you might find helpful.
1. Lay a Solid Foundation.
Start with a properly maintained machine. Fix it before you fix it up. Modifications have a neat way of exploiting weakest links, and a poorly maintained machine has many. It’s more fun to drive it than look at it all broke down in a heap collecting dust. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t install upgrades in the process of maintenance, but make a reliably running, fully functional vehicle your first priority and you really can’t go wrong.
2. Know Thyself.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the awesome things everyone else is doing and find yourself wanting to do it, too. Just because everyone else is building a 10-second car doesn’t mean you have to build one, too. Same goes for that exo-caged beast with two feet of suspension travel that can climb the tallest mountain, or that $40,000 sedan that takes home trophies at every show it enters. Your machine is your machine and it will be far more rewarding if you build it for the way you use it.
Think about how you most use the vehicle. How would you characterize that use? Do you spend more time at the race track or carving your way through traffic? Is that traffic in town or out on the open road? How often do you really think you’d use all that off-road suspension equipment? How much work would it be to keep that show car absolutely perfect on the street with those animals?
And just as much as I’m suggesting it might be more fun to have a slightly slower car that dominates on the street, or a less capable rig which is more comfortable for camping, or even a moderately tarted up car that presents well but doesn’t always take home the trophy might mean you get more frequent enjoyment out of your machine, I know some people are perfectly happy being abused by track weapons in slow, rush hour traffic on a daily basis. Thus the rule – know thyself. Then build for thyself.
3. Set SMART goals.
Confident in who you are and how you most enjoy your vehicle, take your game to the next level. Set specific, measurable goals you can attain with a little extra effort. What do you want to achieve and how can you measure that achievement?
Keep your goals realistic for where you are at this stage of the game, and stick to timelines that don’t extend too far into the future. This is how you set yourself up for success. Take that vision of the ultimate goal and work your way backward from it. What can you get done this year? In the next six months? This month?
When you can see yourself getting closer to something specific – when you can actually measure progress – you become more motivated to press on. And when you can see you accomplished your “stage 1” goals, it gives you the confidence to try something even more challenging for “stage 2.”
. . .
As I was writing this, it hit me these are actually like a cycle. Start with a solid, reliable foundation, know what you really want out of your machine every day, and set SMART goals to get you there. Then stay on top of regular maintenance, look upon the now strengthened foundation you’ve built, think about how you most enjoy using this now sharper tool, and set the next batch of SMART goals to take it further.
The idea here is simple. Each step of the way, we make sure we’re building on something solid, that we’re going to enjoy often, and be able to see ourselves getting closer to the next stage of the journey. This is something I try to keep in mind all the time. I hope it helps you out in 2014.