What’s Your Trajectory?

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Movement isn’t enough…

Action isn’t enough…

Without direction.

It’s not enough to take action every day. It’s not enough to see movement every day. Unless those actions and that movement is TOWARD something.

Too many of us wake up and fill our days will a thousands tiny actions. We’re busy from the moment we open our eyes to the moment our heads hit the pillow. Yet, when someone asks, “hey, what’d you DO today?” we can barely recall.

Because we were acting in the name of acting, of filling moments, rather than moving TOWARD something.

Greatness researchers tells us it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours or about ten years of practice to achieve greatness in any field. But simple practice, action or movement won’t do. DELIBERATE practice is what’s needed. And, they describe the difference between practice and deliberate practice as repeated actions where each action is done with a specified goal in mind, analyzed, corrected then repeated with the intent of getting closer to the goal.

So, a golfer who hits 5 buckets a day isn’t engaging in deliberate practice, but rather just practice. Whereas, a golfer who hits 5 buckets and, with each shot aims to hit a flag 200 yards out, then analyzes and corrects each swing, IS engaging in deliberate practice.

The former golfer might hit balls for decades and see a modest movement toward her goal, toward greatness. While, a golfer who hits balls in a more deliberate manner will likely see far greater improvement, far more excellence in a far shorter period of time.

So, as you prepare to move into a new year, ask,

“Am I acting with deliberate intent, or am I just acting. Or, worse…reacting?”

Because action for the sake of action often keeps you eternally busy, but walking in circles. While acting with deliberate intent, where each action is designed to bring you closer to a stated goal, is far more likely to deliver greatness and success.

So, I’m curious, as you look back on 2009, what type of action has defined your year?

And, if not deliberate, how will 2010 be different?

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38 responses

38 responses to “What’s Your Trajectory?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, Daniel Kam, Richard. Daniel Kam, Richard said: Reading @jonathanfields: So, What's Your Trajectory? http://is.gd/5oufZ […]

  2. Great post Jonathan!!!

    Focused directed action is the greatest source of power in the world. We spend more time planning and acting on our vacations than we do on our life.

    Write down your long term and short term goals. Then create a plan backward from where you want to be so you know how fast, how far and what direction you need to go.

    …and don’t wait for New Years.. do it today 🙂

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Daniel_Richard: Reading @jonathanfields: So, What’s Your Trajectory? http://is.gd/5oufZ

  4. Jeffrey Tang says:

    Something I’ve been thinking about the last few months too; figuring out where my actions and decisions are taking me. In 2010, I’m definitely making an effort to lay out my goals and plan of action more clearly.

  5. I’m in complete agreement with your thoughts, Jonathan. Don’t we wish that big dreams alone will magically accomplish the things we want? It’s definitely the focused steps, no matter how small, that move us along on the path.

    The way you’ve described and differentiated between general practice and focused practice is excellent – and something that can easily get lost.

  6. Andy says:

    I’d say that the action that has defined my year is persistence, I had a task that was equivelent to nailing an octopus to the table but I got there eventually.

    I agree with Scott, why wait till New Year to get planning. If you don’t have any time, use those little bits of downtime waiting for the bus or travelling home to get it done.

  7. George says:

    True dat. If we don’t stop to think about how we use our days, they will slip through our fingers like a handful of water. This time of year is so great to stop and think about how we spent our time for this year. And, how we will make 2010 better!

  8. Srinivas Rao says:


    This ties in well to a point I’ve been working on which is a definite revenue goal for my blog. If you’ve read Think and Grow Rich, you know that daily repetition of that desired income level is what allows you to even enhance the sense of direction that you are talking about here. Then the actions you take will actually be inspired by the desire to reach that direction or goal.

  9. Dear Jonathan:

    Great reminder!This is something I became aware just recently – purposeful actions. That is how I try to make my to do list every day at night.

    Each item has to be related to my long term goals in some way shape or form. You make good point that we should be aware of the action when we are performing it to make sure that we are getting the most benefit.

    That is the hard part. It’s kind of like meditation. You could just sit there and tell yourself that you meditated instead of actually trying to concentrate and calm your mind.

    Concentrated effort is key to success in life, however, just engaging in regular practice can prove to be useful. Most of us have to start somewhere and we all learn from out mistakes as go along.

    I don’t think I ever seen a person do everything right the first time around.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  10. […] Tweets about this great post on TwittLink.com […]

  11. Brett says:


    I’d have to disagree, in one sense. I’m of the school of thought that everything, on some level, should be a means unto itself. That way, we slow down, and take the time to enjoy everything that we do.

    On the other hand, I’m also a big proponent of goals, especially long-term ones. Perhaps taking the middle road between the two approaches is the best.

  12. Ralph says:

    I learned about deliberate practice from the book “Talent is Overrated” and it has changed my life. It has I’ve made sure that all of my actions are done in order to produce a specific result. Direction and vision is key! Thanks for sharing Jonathan.

  13. […] What’s Your Trajectory? Taking action isn’t enough. Having a direction isn’t enough, either. Your actions need to have direction if you want to get anywhere when it comes to your dreams. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  14. […] What’s Your Trajectory? Taking action isn’t enough. Having a direction isn’t enough, either. Your actions need to have direction if you want to get anywhere when it comes to your dreams. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  15. Hugh says:

    This is something I really need to work on. I consider myself pretty focused, but with a ton of room for improvement. There are so many times that I get home from a long day of work (I’m an employee) and, although busy all day, I feel no sense of accomplishment. There are several factors at work here, but I know that I feel so much more accomplished when I put solid work toward 1 or 2 things each day rather than just being busy running around like crazy all day. Thanks for the inspiration once again…

  16. Helen South says:

    This is a principle I use in my music practice, and to an extent in my artwork; but it’s not something I’ve applied to life in general. Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

  17. […] What’s Your Trajectory? Taking action isn’t enough. Having a direction isn’t enough, either. Your actions need to have direction if you want to get anywhere when it comes to your dreams. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  18. […] What’s Your Trajectory? Taking action isn’t enough. Having a direction isn’t enough, either. Your actions need to have direction if you want to get anywhere when it comes to your dreams. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  19. Alex says:

    Movement is NOT enough – there has to be a plan. Planning is not enough – there has to be action, movement.

    The difficult bit is to marry up the two of them!

    Or at least, that’s what I find difficult.

  20. Shannon Lutz says:

    This is right on the mark, bullseye. I want to post it to my facebook page. how can i do this???

  21. you are such a yummy writer and this is such a HUGE important topic. My question: I have a hard time measuring my actions. The measuring part of my brain was lost at birth. Can you say more about how to measure? What are you measuring?

  22. Anne says:


    I forwarded this to my son, the future professional golfer (his dream) because I like the reference. But I have to say…

    What you describe in the beginning when you say, “Too many of us wake up and fill our days will a thousand tiny actions. We’re busy from the moment we open our eyes to the moment our heads hit the pillow. Yet, when someone asks, “hey, what’d you DO today?” we can barely recall.”

    – I have to say, Jonathan, THAT is the life of a stay-at-home mom! Especially one with small children.

    Maybe that’s not your intended audience but I hope that if there are any other SAHM’s out there reading I want them to know…I feel their pain.

    I am an aspiring blogger but I am also a stay-at-home mom of four kids – I have been home-schooling for 20 years – I do the book-keeping for my husband’s contracting business – I am president of the local home-school band – I have to get my 15-year old son to baseball spring and fall – and that doesn’t even begin to address the fact that I take care of all the family finances and all the other daily/weekly duties that I am responsible for or at least have to oversee.

    So I get a little discouraged/depressed sometimes when I read other people’s blogs that say I need to be so focused etc. because frankly, I have dozens of things on my plate at any given moment. Fortunately, God gave me the gift of being a list-creator and organizer so (with work) I do prioritize and still find time to work on my future blog and take one college course per semester because I am also working on finishing my Bachelor’s degree.

    In case anyone was feeling overwhelmed, you’re welcome 🙂

    Anne @alivenkickin

  23. Helen says:

    Anne, I think we have to realize as stay-at-home parents that this is a different kind of trajectory – it isn’t the public, prestigious one that many people go after – its the quiet, behind the scenes one. Nurturing your family takes a special kind of attitude. I think it’s harder now that we are educated – I don’t know what happened to the ‘job sharing’ and ‘shared parenting’ we were promised in the 70s.

    I’m often resentful of the time I spend doing menial tasks. What we are doing is creating an warm, safe home for our family, raising our kids to be happy, well-adjusted human beings, and being part of the fabric of our society. It’s important to recognize parenting and home management as a skilled and valuable activity, and demand the respect you deserve. Do the other things too, to keep your mind active and your career path open, but don’t deny the importance of home life.

  24. […] You need to get engaged with deliberate action. That is to move forward to something—have a trajectory. […]

  25. Dominique says:

    I too am needing more focused direction to get what I plan to do. Am deliberating my plans for 2010 and hopefully not get to sidetrack by competitors and other menial issues.

  26. Joel Libava says:


    I was just thinking about how I must change the way I’m doing things. (Well some of the things. I’m not a total idiot)

    Thank you for the reinforcements!

    The Franchise King®
    Joel Libava

  27. Hey Jonathan.

    Good call here about having a trajectory. When I didn’t have much of a trajectory, or didn’t seem to, small items would be a large piece of effort, because they wouldn’t be tied to a larger focus. Without that larger focus, all the things we do become big things in and of themselves, and that doesn’t help when we want to take action.

    The sooner we put up a trajectory, the better, because rolling around in a confused state might work for us in the short term, but it won’t last long that well, and others will wonder what is holding us back.

  28. […] What’s your trajactory? by Jonathan […]

  29. Laura says:

    Great article… I should post this up at my office as a reminder. I often feel like I’m just doing what I need to get through the day, and tomorrow I will begin being deliberate. Then tomorrow comes and it is the same story

    One thing I have tried to work on being deliberate about is relaxing more this year, and I will continue to work on that goal next year.

    Professionally, I need to remember to apply the concept of making sure I know my trajectory at all times. I’ve been listening to Keith Ferrazi’s books in the car and it seems to mesh very well with your article today.

  30. Tim Woods says:

    Thanks for the post. I’ve summarized the insights from The Talent Myth and Outliers, related to Deliberate Practice, which you might find useful. Some really good insights on achieving goals.

    All the best,

  31. Lucas Held says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I remember listening to a conservatory trumpet student practice a difficult section from Stravinsky’s Petrushka, The Dance of the Ballerina. The trumpeter did fine until he came to a particular passage toward the end, and then stumbled. How did he practice? He started all the way from the beginning, stumbled again, and then went back to the beginning. I listened for about 5 minutes saddened, knowing that 90 percent of his practice time was spent on what he could already do well, and only 10 percent on what he could not do.

    How interesting that the same advice was given by a swimming coach this weekend. “When I’m swimming, I’m always thinking,” she said – meaning that she was thinking about a specific aspect of her technique, one aspect at a time so the mind does not go into overload.

  32. John Bardos says:

    I have been playing guitar for about 25 years but most of it has only been playing around and not deliberate practice.

    I put my skills at about 2000 hours of the 10,000 hours just because so much of that playing was not productive and done over a long period of time.

    I think many people don’t understand that the quality of what you put into everything matters more than the total hours. People are discounting the value of things like university or getting a job, but I think the reason is that they are just wildly swinging at golf balls and not putting in the energy to improve.

  33. Lovely post Jonathan. It’s something I’m always aware of and saying to my own clients, but it’s always harder to put into practice than it is to understand.

    I have chronic fatigue syndrome which means that energy, focus and clarity are hard to come by, and that’s something I know has held me back in 2009. I certainly want that to change in 2010, I need it to change in 2010, but to a good extent I’m limited by my own physical constraints. The same principle applies, it’s just a matter of baby steps instead of the deeper strides I really want to be making.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Great addition to the convo. We all need to start where we are and do what we can. There is no blanket course of action that’s right for every person

  34. You should checkout Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. It discusses this very thing throughout the entire book.

    David Damron
    LifeExcursion & The Minimalist Path

  35. Oyun indir says:

    There are very useful and good information on your blog. thank you. I’m trying to follow your blog as best I can.

  36. oyun says:

    Thank you for the reinforcements!

  37. […] were acting in the name of acting, of filling moments, rather than moving TOWARD something.” What’s Your Trajectory?, by Jonathan Fields at Awake @ the […]