Hello from Woodstock – the dairy capital of Canada. I’m a little over 4,000 miles total into my road trip and I’ve been to both the Mexican and Canadian borders so far and I’ll be enjoying the Canadian snow and ice for the next few days – turns out it’s a little colder in Canada in January than it is when I last visited in August. Back then, I was able to snap a photo with Woodstock’s pride & joy – the SpringBank Snow Countess – the World Champion Lifetime Butterfat Producer. Impressive, eh?
Read these two sentences:
- In general, being specific is better than being vague.
- 93% of the time, being specific is 27.8 times better than being vague.
Which sounds better?
You’re a smart reader so you probably noticed the innate irony in the first statement. You also probably noticed how much better the second statement sounds. Why? It has 2 very specific numbers relating to the statement rather than just generally glossing over an widely accepted fact or thought.
Staying with the dairy theme consistent with Woodstock, Canada which of these two sentences sounds better?
- The SpringBank Snow Countess produced a lot of butterfat & milk.
- The SpringBank Snow Countess produced 9052 lbs of butterfat and 207,505 lbs of milk.
Once again, specificity wins out. Heck, even if you don’t care about dairy, farming, or cows [I don’t], the specificity of the statement makes it impressive.
I’ve talked about being specific a lot before, but I’ve still been vague about my plans this year. It’s time to change that. You’ll notice under my “Upcoming Impossible Things” on my sidebar, I’ve changed a few things:
- Instead of talking about running a half-ironman sometime this year – I’ve changed it to a specific time – October 2011. I have a few dates I’m working through, but I will run a half-ironman before the end of October 2011.
- Instead of saying “I’m coming out with a Manifesto” like I have for a while, I’ve changed it to “The Impossible Manifesto will come out before the end of February, 2011.
- Instead of talking about running a marathon in the spring sometime this year, I’ve set a date – May 15, 2011. That day I’ll be running 26.2 miles in the Rockford Marathon [coincidently, the same day as Johnny]. Come that day, I will be covering the 26.2 miles whether I have to run, walk or crawl it.
Why Specificity Matters
Specificity does three things:
A lot of people don’t like limits – they want to be free, so they refuse to let anything constrain them. I totally understand that mindset, I used to allow outside limitations hold me back for no reason. But letting outside limitations hold you back is different than purposely creating limitations in order to accomplish a goal. Outside limitations with no purpose are easy to accept but are seldom useful. However, when you create limitations for yourself in order to accomplish things you want to do, self-imposed limits can help you do extraordinary things.
When you say something is going to happen and commit to doing it by a specific date, it creates a specific time frame to hold yourself accountable to. It’s not so easy to let yourself slip on goals when you’ve told people that you will be accomplishing it by a specific date. Not only does it make you confess when you fail spectacularly, but it also…
Saying “I want to do x” by the end of 2011 is easy. Doing it is harder. Being specific with your timeline gives you an end date. It’s a lot harder for met to put off running when I know that on May 15, I’m going to have to run 26.2 miles whether I’m ready for it or not. I can either choose to do it and not be able to walk for a month, or choose to do it and be a somewhat functioning human being at the end of the day. Somewhat functioning seems much more appealing to me at this point, and having that date looming creates an urgency that means I’ll be going running as soon as I hit “publish” on this post.
Specificity matters and I’ll be sure to be more specific with my goals here at BIT concerning what exactly I will be doing and when I’ll be doing it by. What things do you need to start being specific about?