Everybody has an “A”. An “A” is your current stage in life. It is where you are at right now. Whether we are talking about your personal relationships, your career or your religion. “A” is the point you are at-at this particular moment.

“Z” is your ultimate destination. Not a lot of people have a clear-cut destination in mind. This is very important. If you do not know where you are headed, or where you would like to be, this article will be of no assistance to you. Having a destination in mind is important. Having goals is what life is all about. If you are not set on accomplishing something, you are just going through the motions.

This article is not about setting goals. I have talked enough about that in recent postings. This article is about the intermediate steps or the process in accomplishing large goals. This article assumes that you know where you are and where you would like to be. This article will help you take the “in-between” steps. From “A” to “Z” – focusing on “B” through “Y”.

“B” through “Y” is often the hardest thing to master. It’s easy to analyze where you are and it is easy to come up with where you would “like to be”. It takes dedication and tons of work – to work through the minutiae between “A” and “Z”. This is the boring stuff. The work that has to get done. It’s the “grind” that you hear talked about. These are all of the hours that Muhammad Ali spent training to become the best boxer of all time. This is all the pain, physical and mental, that he endured long before anyone recognized him as “The Greatest of All-time”. These are all the writing sessions that Stephen King has done, in a room by himself, before he was a multi, multi-millionaire. This is the stuff that nobody wants to address on the road to success.

To determine what intermediate steps you need to take, you need to get your math book back out. You have to create meaningful intermediate goals and measure (so incredibly important) your progress obsessively. You must be obsessed with numbers. You must get lost in them. Everything big can be broken down into a series of small activities. When I worked in the financial industry, we would break our annual net-income goals into specific number of sales calls each day. That way, at the end of each day you could celebrate your little victory of hitting your daily sales-call target.

My dad’s engineering firm is no different. They design the entire mechanical systems for hospitals and colleges. These are huge projects but every single project has a deadline. Every intermediate step is outlined. They know exactly when they have to be 25% completed, 50% completed, 90% completed. These intermediate deadlines are important beyond measure. These are the tricks that help us overcome our own procrastination. W “Conservation of Energy” mode that we get into – where all we want to do is sleep, watch movies and put off everything important in our life. Don’t lie – you do it, I do it, we all do it. Let’s get that out of the way.

Creating intermediate deadlines and checkpoints is what turns dreams into accomplishments. You cannot finish writing a book without all of the tough days between start and finish. You cannot become the next Michael Jordan without hours upon hours in the gym, by yourself, while nobody is watching, working on your skills. There is no avoiding it.

To become truly successful, you must plan, re-plan, alter your plans and focus on the intermediate. You have to abandon plans that are not working for you and continuously create new plans when you are not seeing the results you want. When you have a strong “Z”, or a strong end-goal, persistence will follow. You will test millions of iterations to find the path of least resistance to accomplishing your goal. Now I say, “least resistance”, meaning just that. There is still going to be resistance. There are still days where you won’t “feel like it”, or days that you feel you are losing your momentum. These are the important days. These are the days you must reconnect and stay focused on the plan. Stay focused on those intermediate targets. These intermediate targets are like checkpoints. They are smaller accomplishments that add up to the large accomplishment you are aiming for. They help you reenergize for all of the work ahead of you.

“B” through “Y” are the steps that nobody talks about. You hear of someone becoming wildly successful but all of the tough days and setbacks are glossed over. Success is not accomplished in a straight line. There are setbacks, tough days, feelings of defeat – but the strong survive all of those. The best way to overcome these is to break that big goal into a series of smaller ones. Focus on manageable targets. Take baby steps. Measure your progress and celebrate the little victories. If you focus on these little victorious enough, you will look up one day and you have exactly what you have always wanted. You will reach your “Z”.