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One Thing – Live By Priority

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jan 25, 2016

In Purpose - The Dickens of Your One Thing, Ebenezer Scrooge discovered, life is driven by the purpose we give it. There’s a catch Scrooge confronted. Purpose shapes our lives only in direct proportion to the power of the priority you and I connect it to.

Purpose without priority is powerless.The_One_Thing_-_Extraordinary_Results-2

If you were expecting a blog on the Great Game of Business Experience as I promised last Monday, forgive. As I continued to read The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan it became clear to me I needed to continue to emphasize how important it is to tie Your One Thing to your priority.

Keller affirms the One Thing = Priority In Greg McKeown, Author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, “To be precise, the word is priority—not priorities—and it originated in the 14th century from the Latin prior, meaning “first.” If something mattered the most it was a “priority.” Curiously, priority remained unpluralized until around the 20th century, when the world apparently demoted it to mean generally “something that matters” and the plural “priorities” appeared. With the loss of its initial intent, a wide variety of sayings like “most pressing matter,” “prime concern,” and “on the front burner” pitched in to recapture the essence of the original. Today, we elevate priority to its former meaning by adding “highest,” “top,” “first,” “main,” and “most important” in front of it. It would seem priority has traveled an interesting road.”

As each day begins, you and I have a choice. You can ask, “What shall I do?” or “What should I do?” Without direction, without purpose, whatever you “shall do” will always get you somewhere. When you are on purpose, there will always be something you “should do.”  It will get you where you must go.

Living your life on purpose, priority takes precedence.


Keller asks, “Why do we set goals and create plans?” In spite of all the good answers I get, the truth is we have goals and plans for only one reason—to be appropriate in the moments of our lives that matter.

I’m often reminded of this simple fact, “The Power is in the Moment!”

Keller provides the following to help understand this concept, “While we may pull from the past and forecast the future, our only reality is the present moment. Right NOW is all we have to work with. Our past is but a former now, our future a potential one. To drive this point home, I started referring to the way to create a powerful priority as “Goal Setting to the Now” to emphasize why we were creating a priority in the first place.

The truth about success is that our ability to achieve extraordinary results in the future lies in stringing together powerful moments, one after the other. What you do in any given moment determines what you experience in the next. Your “present now” and all “future nows” are undeniably determined by the priority you live in the moment. The deciding factor in determining how you set that priority is who wins the battle between your present and future selves.”

The_One_Thing_Living_a_Domino_RunEconomists know people prefer big rewards over small ones.  People strongly prefer present rewards over future ones—even when the future rewards are much bigger. This tendency is called Hyperbolic Discounting. In Positive Reinforcement: Make it Immediate, Aubrey Daniels notes the rule on delivering effective positive reinforcement is this: The longer you wait after the behavior, the less effective it will be. Thus, the further away a reward is in the future, the smaller the immediate motivation to achieve it.

This “present bias” overrides logic.  We allow a big future with potentially extraordinary results to get away from us. Can you imagine the devastating impact living this way every day has on your future self? Remember LIE #4 – Willpower is Always on Will-Call with the 4 year old childrens’ results on delayed gratification? What starts out as marshmallows cost you much more later!

Keller offers this starting point to understand how Goal Setting to the Now guides your thinking to determine your most important priority. Read this out loud to yourself: Based on my someday goal, what’s the ONE Thing I can do in the next five years to be on track to achieve it?   Follow the figure here to learn the step by step process to train your mind how to think, how to connect one goal with the next over time, until you know the most important thing you must do right NOW.

You need to learn how to think big—but go small.


Keller notes that if you skip the steps by asking yourself, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do right now so I’m on track to achieve my someday goal?” Doesn’t work. It’s why most people never get close to their goals. They haven’t connected today to all the tomorrows it will take to get there.

I often explain to customers when we do quarterly and annual planning, “we tend to believe we can accomplish more in the short term, and less in the long term than we actually can.” 

Researchers call this the “planning fallacy” Visualizing the process—breaking a big goal down into the steps needed to achieve it—helps engage the strategic thinking you need to plan for and achieve extraordinary results. This is why Goal Setting to the Now really works.

When you determine Your One Thing, or any priority for your business, the best method to achieve it is to break it down into smaller activities.  In Align Software (Geared to following Gazelles Scaling Up Principles) the One Thing is your Parent Priority and the activities are called “children.”


I’m not sure where I first heard this "Goals that are not written down are just wishes."  In my E-Myth coaching I learned, “Documentation is an affirmation of order.” ~ Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited

In 2008, Dr. Gail Matthews of the Dominican University of California, recruits 267 participants. Participants include a wide range of professions (lawyers, accountants, nonprofit employees, marketers, etc.) from a variety of countries. Those who wrote down their goals were 39.5 percent more likely to accomplish them. Writing down your goals and your most important priority is your final step to living by priority.

Here are Keller’s Big Ideas on this chapter on living by priority:


  • There can only be ONE. Your most important priority is the ONE Thing you can do right now that will help you achieve what matters most to you. You may have many “priorities,” but dig deep and you’ll discover there is always one that matters most, your top priority—your ONE Thing.
  • Goal Set to the Now. Knowing your future goal is how you begin. Identifying the steps you need to accomplish along the way keeps your thinking clear while you uncover the right priority you need to accomplish right now
  • Put pen to paper. Write your goals down and keep them close.

Good old Ebenezer Scrooge learned more than to live by priority in Charles Dickens Christmas Carol.  He learned productive action transforms lives.  Putting together a life of extraordinary results comes down to getting the most out of what you do, when what you do matters.  We’ll look at how to live for productivity in our next blog. 

Topics: One Thing, planning, Top Priority, priority, Willpower, Power in the Moment

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1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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