Harnessing the Power of an Ancient Hero to Achieve Your Big Goal
“Me alone she bade to listen to their voice; but do ye bind me with grievous bonds, that I may abide fast where I am, upright in the step of the mast, and let the ropes be made fast at the ends to the mast itself; and if I implore and bid you to lose me, then do ye tie me fast with yet more bonds.’” —Homer, Odyssey, Book 12, line 160
Welcome back, class!
In this lesson, we are going to learn how to use Ulysses Pacts to help us tune out the numerous distractions that life can throw our way and remain committed to our Big Goal.
Even Ancient Heroes Needed Help Binding Themselves to Their Goals
In the ancient Greek epic, the Odyssey, Homer writes about a hero named Odysseus (also known by his Roman name, Ulysses), who overcomes numerous enormous challenges in order to accomplish his Big Goals. One of Ulysses’s Big Goals is to sail across the sea and hear the sirens’ song without allowing it to lure him or anyone in his crew to their deaths. To do this, Ulysses comes up with a brilliant solution: He orders his crew to pack their ears full of wax, tie him to the mast of the ship, and refuse to untie him until they reach their destination. His plan works, and as his loyal crew sails through the siren-infested water, Ulysses is able to hear their beautiful music without leaping off the ship to his death.
Like Ulysses, as we work on our Big Goals, we’ll sometimes have to contend with distractions that threaten to lure us off track. Luckily, just as Ulysses cleverly enlisted the aid of his crew to help him withstand the sirens’ song, we, too, can request assistance from our friends to help keep us bound to our Big Goals. We call this request a Ulysses Pact.
Making a Ulysses Pact
There are four steps to making a strong Ulysses Pact:
Step 1. Share Your Big Goal. When you decide what your Big Goal will be, you must share your Big Goal and the rationale behind it with your friends and colleagues. By disclosing your Big Goal to your friends, you are doubling down on your commitment to achieving it. If you slip up, then you’ll have the help of social pressure and your friends’ encouragement to get back on your feet.
Step 2. Find an Accountability Buddy. Since your future self isn’t physically here to penalize you for not working toward your Big Goal, you will need an Accountability Buddy to fill that role. An Accountability Buddy is somebody who can reliably keep the best interests of your future self in mind even when your present self is having a moment of weakness. Talk to the people with whom you’ve shared your Big Goal in step one, and pick someone whom you can trust to help keep you accountable. When you ask this person to be your Accountability Buddy, you don’t have to frame it as, “Will you be my Accountability Buddy?” You can simply ask, “Will you help me accomplish that goal I told you about by letting me send you progress reports and giving me a hard time if I slack on my goal?”
Step 3. Create a Penalty. Then, figure out a penalty that you will incur if you stray from your Big Goal. Be specific about what Critical Actions you plan to work on, so your Accountability Buddy can hold you to your plan. (One penalty I suggest is if you don’t work on your goal during your allotted period of time, then you must pay your Accountability Buddy 3% of your weekly earnings for each time that you ignore your goal. So if you make $500 per week, then you have to pay $15 for each time that you bail on your goal. This type of penalty is effective because while it hurts, it’s also a tangible reminder that you’re cheating your future self.)
Step 4. Set Up a Regular Review Period. Consult with the person you’ve chosen to be your Accountability Buddy regularly to make sure that you stay on track and are working on the Critical Actions you must complete to accomplish your Big Goal. It’s one thing to fail yourself, but it’s a whole different thing to fail someone you care about. This progress review process doesn’t have to be in person; it can take place over the phone, through text messages, or even over email.
1. Tell your good friends, close coworkers, and family members about your Big Goal. You can copy the template we created in the Goal Journal to email your friends about your Big Goal.
2. Set up a penalty for skipping a day of progress toward your Big Goal. For instance, commit to giving 3% of your weekly salary to your Accountability Buddy (or to a charity of your choice) every time you miss a day.
3. Find an Accountability Buddy to help you stay committed to your Big Goal and keep you honest about your penalty.
4. Schedule regular check-ins with your Accountability Buddy to make sure you are staying on track for your Big Goal. These check-in times should work for both you and your Accountability Buddy.
5. Make sure to track your progress in your Goal Journal. If you aren’t able to work on your Big Goal for one of your scheduled days, then write down why you were unable to make the progress you intended, as well as what you will do next time you encounter this same hang-up, to ensure that you can meet your target in the future.
In our next lesson, we will learn how to unite our past, present, and future selves to increase our chances of success.
Jordan Thibodeau and Samara Veler
Share with friends