The 8 Principles Of Highly Effective Strategies

This article will show you how to develop and deploy highly effective strategies, using 8 basic principles. The principles apply to individuals and teams, and can be used in both personal and professional settings. The article is divided into three parts.

In Part 1, you will find an explanation of each principle along with practical examples. This will give you a thorough understanding of what to look for when developing strategies of your own.

In Part 2, by exploring some of your own unconscious barriers to success, you will gain awareness of how the principles can help you identify and breakthrough limiting beliefs.

In Part 3, you will see how simple, strategic thinking can help you get more of what you want, and less of what you don't.


noun: A way of organizing resources to consistently produce a desired result.

PART 1. The 8 Principles Of Highly Effective Strategies.

1. Acknowledge What Isn't Working

The first principle emphasizes the importance of honesty and self-awareness when assessing a situation or endeavour. It highlights the need to recognize and confront areas that are not functioning optimally or yielding the desired results.

Being honest about your starting point is essential for charting a reliable course of action. It allows for more effective problem-solving and the development of plans to address weaknesses, increase strengths, and ultimately increase the likelihood of success. By acknowledging what isn't working, you gain a realistic perspective on your starting point. This perspective enables you to make informed decisions before committing resources.

For example, imagine a business that is experiencing declining sales. Acknowledging this fact is crucial for identifying the root causes of the decline, such as changes in consumer behaviour, ineffective marketing strategies, or product-related issues. Only by honestly acknowledging these challenges can the business begin to develop a reliable course of action, such as implementing targeted marketing campaigns, improving the product, or exploring new market segments.

Or imagine a marriage on the brink of failure, because either the husband or wife is no longer committed to the relationship. Acknowledging the lack of commitment is the first step to honest resolution, no matter which path is chosen.

2. Set Clear Objectives

Designing your results in advance provides purpose and direction. Without clear objectives, strategies can become vague and aimless, hindering progress and undermining your chances of success. Aligning milestones with your ultimate objective will help you stay focused on what is most important.

By defining specific goals and desired outcomes, clear objectives guide decision-making and resource allocation. They help align efforts, prioritize tasks, measure progress, add accountability, and encourage responsibility. Having clear objectives enables individuals, teams, and organizations to work towards a common purpose with clarity and efficiency.

For example, if your objective is to increase sales by 20% within six months, that provides a clear target to work towards and helps prioritize efforts and resources accordingly.

Or if your objective is to lose weight, before you can create an effective strategy, you must be clear about how much weight you want to lose, and by when. Knowing the targets and deadlines allows you to reverse engineer your results and identify what has to happen along the way.

3. Gather Information

To follow an effective course of action, you need to know everything you can about the situation you are facing. This includes understanding your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your allies, enemies, competitors, customers or opponents.

By actively and continuously seeking relevant information, you gain valuable insights that inform decision-making. You become more confident, more adaptable, and can seize new opportunities while mitigating risks. Ultimately, this principle empowers you to develop strategies that increase efficiency, align your actions and resources with your vision, values and objectives, and achieve long-term success in both personal and professional endeavours.

For example, a business analyzing its competitors' pricing, marketing tactics, and customer reviews can gain valuable insights to refine its own strategy.

Or personally, if a person has a goal of flying somewhere on vacation, before departing they must gather relevant information about travel and accommodations.

4. Assess Your Options

What are the different ways you can achieve your outcome? What are the resources you have at your disposal? What is missing that might be acquired? Assessing your options means exploring different approaches to achieve your objectives. It involves considering available resources, potential collaborations, and identifying any gaps that need to be filled.

For example, professionally, if you are launching a new product, assessing options might include considering different pricing strategies, distribution channels, and promotional activities.

Or personally, if your goal is to buy a new home or vehicle, you might have to consider various financing options.

5. Make A Simple Plan

Making your plan simple can be more challenging that it sounds. It requires a deliberate, thoughtful approach to determine what is most essential. You plan must not only be easy to follow, it has to ensure the job gets done the way you want it done.

The definition of elegance is achieving more with less. A simple, elegant plan ensures that resources are well-managed and that everyone involved is clear about what needs to be done. It ensures all the tasks and details will be taken care of, without you feeling burdened by all the tasks and details.

To begin, list the specific steps you must take to achieve your milestones and objectives. Set deadlines. If necessary, assign roles and responsibilities to team members. Make sure performance leverage and accountability measures are in place. Remember a simple, elegant plan will ensure everyone knows what they need to do, and by when it must be done.

For example, personally or professionally, a detailed Project Plan could include tasks and deadlines to make sure everything is completed on time and on budget, by whomever is responsible. In your plan, keeping leverage on individual performance could include identifying personal reasons for success, offering rewards for good behaviour, and establishing consequences for poor behaviour.

6. Deploy Your Plan

This principle is all about taking action. Massive action. Taking massive action means committing wholeheartedly to the execution of your plan, leaving no room for hesitation or complacency, and doing all the work required to overcome inertia and start gathering momentum. It involves dedicating your energy, time, and resources to bring your plan to life. As unexpected challenges and opportunities will arise, execute each step of your plan while remaining proactive, adaptable, and resilient. Be bold. Decisive.

In the the face of adversity, your resolve must be unwavering. This means having the mental and emotional strength to persevere, bounce back from setbacks, and learn from failures. As you encounter obstacles or setbacks, maintain a resilient mindset that fuels your determination to keep moving forward. Adapt, learn, and grow from each experience, using them as opportunities to refine your approach and strengthen your resolve.

For example, if you are launching a marketing campaign, start executing the planned activities, monitor their performance, and adjust strategies based on real-time feedback and results.

Hell, even if your only plan is to sit at home and watch a movie, in order to deploy your plan at the very least you must turn on the TV.

7. Measure & Modify

This principle is all about noticing your results, and seeing what improvements you can make. Continuously measure your progress against your objectives to assess the effectiveness of your strategies. This way you can make adjustments and modify your approach as required. Regular evaluation ensures that you stay on track and that your strategy remains effective. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate milestones and make necessary modifications. KPIs highlight opportunities to learn from your mistakes and make improvements moving forward.

As a professional example, if a website's conversion rate is below expectations, analyzing metrics and user behaviour can guide adjustments to improve conversion.

Or, if someone is learning to play piano, they might track the number of hours they practice doing scales each day. Observing their own progress, they might modify their approach by learning specific songs, watching instructional videos, or working with a music teacher.

8. Try UNTIL!

The principle of "Try UNTIL!" emphasizes persistence and determination. It means being fully committed. It means never giving up until the desired outcome is achieved. Think of it like this:

How long would you give your child to learn how to walk, before you wrote him off? Before you said "I guess walking just isn't going to happen for him." You'd say "That's ridiculous. My child is going to try UNTIL he gets it."

That's the magic formula. Try UNTIL!

The 8 Principles Of Highly Effective Strategies

  1. Acknowledge What Isn't Working

  2. Set Clear Objectives

  3. Gather Information

  4. Assess Your Options

  5. Make A Simple Plan

  6. Deploy Your Plan

  7. Measure and Modify

  8. Try UNTIL!

PART 2. Breaking The Inner Limits Of Your Success.

What Isn't Working?

Before developing any plan or strategy to produce the results you want, a good place to begin is by confronting your own resistance to success. Your own internal resistance can manifest in many ways. Self-doubt, fear of failure, procrastination, avoidance, denial...

As the saying goes, sometimes "You are your own worst enemy." Unfortunately, most of your resistance is subconscious. That means you are often unaware of holding yourself back. Strange as it may sound, no matter how much you are determined to succeed, there is always part of you putting on the brakes. That's the part that doesn't want you to get hurt, doesn't want you to fail, doesn't want you to lose or risk anything, doesn't want you to move forward. That's the part that is subconsciously protecting you. The part that is often stopping you before you even start. Without you even knowing it.

Internal Resistance.

Without addressing internal resistance, you can not prevail over external resistance. So how do you quell your own resistance? How do you command your thoughts when they seem to rebel against you? How do you manage your feelings, when you are not feeling the way you like? How do you take action, when part of you doesn't want to?

You start by being clear and honest with yourself. Just seeing things as they are. No better, no worse. Of course, given the subjective nature of perception, being objective isn't always easy. Especially when you are trying to be objective about your own thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Cognitive Bias.

There are countless ways a person can be influenced or biased. The term 'Cognitive Bias' describes how the human brain can often make mistakes, affecting perception, memory, reasoning, judgment, and decision-making. Some examples of cognitive biases are:

  • Confirmation Bias: The tendency to seek information that confirms preexisting beliefs.

  • Negativity Bias: The tendency to give more weight or attention to negative information or experiences compared to positive ones, leading to a skewed perception of reality.

  • Availability Bias: The tendency to rely on readily available information rather than considering a broader range of evidence.

Being objective means being unbiased and impartial, relying on facts, evidence, and logical reasoning rather than personal opinions or emotions. But even striving for clarity, you may unintentionally introduce your biases, preconceived notions, or emotional responses into your assessment of a situation. These subjective influences can cloud your judgment and hinder your ability to see things clearly.

What to do? Look a little closer...

Thoughts About Your Thoughts...

  1. Regardless of the events or circumstances, no matter how productive you intend to be, you are often distracted or misled by your own counter-productive thoughts. This is natural. Nothing to be alarmed about.

  2. Part of your mind's function is to constantly present you with opposing points of view. Having opposing thoughts helps you to assess what is true for you. What makes sense to you. What is real. Useful. Practical.

  3. Whatever happens, it is the meaning you give what happens that determines your course of action.

  4. The meaning you choose to give to things is always based on the context you are holding at the time. Even when you are unaware of your context, and unaware of choosing any meaning!

  5. Context can be is defined as the parameters that constrain meaning. If it helps, think of context as where a person might be coming from when they speak or act. A person's context defines how they are being, or the role they are playing at any given time.

  6. Because all meaning is context dependant, your context is the filter that determines how things can occur to you.

  7. Your context limits the thoughts and feelings you can have, the actions you can take, the results you can produce, and the things you can experience.

  8. It is impossible to always be objective about yourself. This means sometimes your context is more obvious to others than it is to you. Especially when you are coming from a place of ignorance or fear.

  9. The way that things occur to you is usually unconscious. Therefore, many of the things you do are also unconscious.

  10. You do not know what you do not know. Nor can you prepare for what you do not know. Nor can you change or fix what you do not know.

What Are You Certain Of?

To begin, simply have a look at whatever isn't working for you. There you can be clear about whatever is standing in your way, and more importantly, the meaning you are giving it. The meaning that you give to things serves to give you certainty.

When it comes to taking action, having certainty is useful. The less certainty you have, the less action you will take. On the other hand, certainty kills possibility. It limits what can be conceived, believed and achieved. That can be a problem.

For example, have you ever tried talking to someone who was so certain of their beliefs you could not get through to them? Have you ever been that way yourself? Totally inflexible? Stubbornly attached to a single point of view? Feeling absolutely certain you were right, only to find out later you were totally mistaken?

What Are The Constraints?

Always needing to be right is just one of many barriers to success. Fortunately, simply by acknowledging your mistakes, your mind automatically starts generating possible explanations and solutions. Naturally, it will offer many thoughts about what you can and cannot do.

The challenge lies in discerning the value of those thoughts—some will be good ideas, others bad—leaving the choice to you. Which brings us to the internal limits, boundaries or constraints that can influence your decision-making.

The theory of constraints is a management approach that identifies and addresses limitations hindering overall system performance. It aims to enhance performance and effectiveness of a system by strategically resolving bottlenecks.

Though typically used in business and organizations, the theory can also point to the limiting beliefs of individuals. While everyone has their own limiting beliefs, there are some universal challenges to making good decisions:

  1. How do you know which of your thoughts to believe?

  2. By definition, whatever is in your blind spot is something you cannot see.

  3. You must often make decisions lacking vitally important information.

  4. You must often make decisions in the face of danger. Both real and imagined.

  5. How do you use your thoughts to objectively assess your thoughts?

This is only what is going on for you internally. Externally, there are countless things constraining and even directly opposing all of your best efforts.

Whose Responsibility Is It?

Regardless of the circumstances, once you have acknowledged something isn't working for you, changing it is nobody's responsibility but your own. That means you not only must be clear about other people's contributions to the problem, you must accurately assess what you are contributing to the problem. Again, usually what isn't working for you is simply the meaning you are giving it.

What Are The Consequences?

Sitting down to write this article I got stuck believing my own bullshit. For several hours, it seemed the most difficult thing in the world was writing something helpful about developing strategies. The operative word here being seemed.

Was writing this article truly the most difficult thing in the world? Of course not. That was just something I was making up. A story about how it was occurring to me at the time. The thing is, even though part of me knew my story wasn't true, that didn't stop another part of me from totally buying in to it. In other words, consciously knowing the truth — 'I can do this' — didn't stop me from unconsciously subscribing to the lie — 'I can't do this!'

Of course, we can always deny reality. Even the reality of our own abilities. But we can never deny the consequences of denying reality. Like stepping out a window and denying there is gravity. You can pretend all you want...until you hit the ground. The point is, there were consequences to believing my own bullshit. Even in this relatively innocuous situation, telling myself I wasn't ready or able to do the work, I wasted several hours of my life...

  • Feeling stressed

  • Doubting myself

  • Failing to produce

  • Undermining my success

  • Messing with my self-confidence

  • Failing to get my outcome

Of course that is only one small, personal example. Where I recommend you take an honest look is at some of the stories you have been telling yourself. What have you been telling yourself that is still creating problems? In which areas of your life have your problems been most persistent or destructive? What are the real consequences there?

How Does it Occur?

Returning to my writing example, why did I resist and fail? Why was I all stressed out? Why was I doubting myself? Here is the only reason: All of my thoughts, feelings and actions were based on the way things were unconsciously occurring to me at the time. In the midst of all my consternation, I had momentarily forgotten that I was making shit up. I had forgotten I was unconsciously narrating the way things were occurring to me.

I had also forgotten to consciously shift my perspective. Fortunately, I finally took command. I remembered I always have the power. I remembered in order to get my mind right, first I have to alter the occurring.

In this case, I chose to shift my view of writing about strategies. Doubting I had anything useful to say about the subject obviously wasn't working. To breakthrough my self-imposed limitation, I consciously altered how it was occurring to me at the time. From being impossible to being inevitable. Seeing it as impossible, I couldn't write a thing. Seeing it as inevitable, I knew sooner or later I would produce something useful.

Having the ability to intentionally alter one's own experience is powerful. Being able to transform the experience of others is phenomenal. Fortunately, you are already really good at it. You have been doing it all your life. How? Simply by asking questions.

Questions Determine Focus.

As we can see from my example, knowing effective strategies didn't stop me from rejecting effective strategies. Just like knowing I was resisting didn't stop me from resisting. After walking the dog, checking emails, having lunch, taking a nap, playing some chess, and for almost 3 hours generally doing everything I could to avoid sitting my ass down to write, I finally asked a question that got me back on track...

Ok. Enough. What is a strategy to overcome my resistance?

Asking myself that question focused all my thoughts on finding a solution. It led to even more accurate thinking, causing me to be even more precise...

If a strategy is a way of organizing resources to consistently produce a desired result, then what exactly are the resources I need to organize?

And there I had the source of it. By asking a better question, I saw the place I had to start was to organize my thoughts.

PART 3. Mastering Your Thoughts.

Thoughts Are Resources.

Many people react to thoughts as if they are commands. As if they don't have any choice about what to think or feel. Have you ever felt that way?

What if you knew that every thought you have is nothing more than a suggestion? Nothing more than a possibility that your mind is serving up, solely for your consideration? What if every thought is merely another point of view that you always have the power to reject or accept?

Even better, what if you stopped believing every thought is "yours"? What if you became more detached? What if you became more selective, practical? What if you simply chose to be a little more discerning, a little more in command of consciousness, before allowing yourself to be subject to any thought or feeling?

And in choosing that responsibility, that ability to respond in ways that really work for you, what if it honestly led to having more of what you want, and less of what you don't?

Thoughts Come In Pairs.

Listen. For every thought you have, you also have the polar-opposite thought. Even when you are unaware of it. That is because your mind operates best in contrast. It sees everything as relative to something else. Your mind understands you cannot have yes without no, up without down, left without right, dark without light, good without bad, us without them, impossible without possible. So your mind is constantly serving up polar-opposite points of view, and constantly requiring you to choose.

The challenge and opportunity is, when you don't choose consciously for your mind, your mind chooses unconsciously for you.

Your Mind Has 3 Functions.

Even without your awareness, your mind is always carrying out it's 3 Primary Functions:

  • Gather and record information.

  • Label and categorize information.

  • Assess what is real. True. Useful.

Of course, if all your thinking is being done automatically for you, then who is really in command? Is it you, or is it your mind? Are you the master of your thoughts? Or are you a victim of your unbridled mental impulses?

The Essential Conflict.

The essential conflict is that at the root of all your thinking (which leads to all your feelings and behaviour), you really have only two primary mental impulses. Let's call it your Positive and Negative mind, each wanting to have it's way with you. Your Positive Mind always has you wanting pleasure. Your Negative Mind, meanwhile, always has you needing to avoid pain. Therein lies the problem. When you only have two options, it's not really a choice. It's a dilemma.

Neutral Ground.

Just as two warring parties can agree to meet on neutral ground to see if they can work things out, so you have a neutral place within yourself to work out your own internal conflict. You don't just have one mind. You have three minds.

  • POSITIVE MIND - Seeks pleasure.

  • NEGATIVE MIND - Avoids pain.

  • NEUTRAL MIND - Determines what is best.

At any given time, getting your mind back to neutral is as easy as shifting gears in a vehicle. The only thing to do is be mindful of your breathing.

Breathe, Baby. Breathe.

Instead of running around all freaked out and reacting to your circumstances, what are we often told to do? "Take a breath." Or even "Take a breath and count to ten." Why? To calm ourselves and take control.

If you are someone who is often anxious or uncertain, here are ten things to remember. Anytime you are feeling stressed, I recommend you read or recite this list while breathing slow and deep.

  1. There is nothing scarier to a mind than being out of oxygen.

  2. Breathing calms the mind.

  3. The mind follows the breath.

  4. When I take command of breathing I take command of consciousness.

  5. Breathing deeply will revitalize my mind and body.

  6. Breathing consciously will balance and empower me.

  7. Being calm, centred, confident, I can more accurately assess my options and choose my course of action.

  8. Long, slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing provides more oxygen to my cells.

  9. The quality of my life is based on the quality of my cells.

  10. Ok. I'm breathing. At least that much is covered.

There are many ways to breathe. Different ways of breathing cause different ways of being. If that sounds odd, try this simple exercise:

For a couple of minutes, practice long, slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Notice how it makes you feel. Then compare those feelings to the effects of breathing rapidly, or even not breathing for a couple minutes. Which do you prefer? Which is more sustainable?

As far as strategies for living go, there is really only one: Keep Breathing.

Overcome Resistance.

Author Stephen Pressfield defines resistance as the force that opposes creative work. Resistance is an internal force that manifests as fear, self-doubt, procrastination, distraction, and any other form of self-sabotage that prevents a person from doing their creative work.

In his book "The War of Art," Pressfield describes resistance as the enemy of creativity, and the primary obstacle that every artist, writer, or entrepreneur must overcome in order to achieve success. Resistance is a universal force that affects everyone, regardless of talent or experience.

Pressfield believes that resistance is fueled by our own self-doubt and fear of failure. It is the voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough, that our work is not important, or that we should wait until we have more time, money, or resources before we start.

Pressfield argues that the only way to defeat resistance is through action. By showing up every day and doing the work, even when we don't feel like it, we can overcome our fear and self-doubt and create something truly meaningful. Ultimately, according to Pressfield, resistance is not something to be defeated once and for all, but rather an ongoing battle that we must fight every day.

Take Command.

In order to overcome my own resistance to writing this article, I needed a strategy. I needed a clear and simple way to organize my thoughts. Specifically, I had to start by aligning the counter-productive thought 'How the hell am I ever gonna do this topic justice?' ...with the result I was committed to produce:

'Write a comprehensive article that helps people develop highly effective strategies, with a focus on addressing their own counter-productive thoughts, and overcoming any self-imposed obstacles or resistance to their success.'

Knowing I was struggling, the first thing I did was focus on my breathing. That didn't immediately solve my problem, it just put me in a better place to assess my options. To have a closer look at the actual battlefield and see what I could do.

Make A Simple Plan.

Begin with the end in mind. Once you have the essence of what is most important, the dates and details of your plan will become more apparent. If you are not clear, answering the following questions will help you find your way...

1. What is my outcome? What do I really want?

2. What is most important? How am I going to get what I want, and who will I become along the way?

3. Why is that important? What will life be like once I have what I want?

Take Action.

Living a life you love is simply stringing together a bunch of individual days you love. Through greater awareness, personal responsibility, and practical application of the information presented here, you will clearly see how to make better use of your resources. Not only to achieve your long-term goals, but even more importantly, to make the most of each and every day along the way.

Happily Achieve.

If you are living for your goals you are missing the point. It isn't about achieving to be happy, it is about happily achieving. Or even better, happily creating. Contributing. The challenge and opportunity for you now is to apply what you have learned. See if you can put these principles into practice. Prove to yourself you can think more creatively, act more sustainably, and consistently produce better results.

Doing so will build your confidence and momentum. Then you will not only feel happier and more fulfilled with whatever you take on, you can more effectively manage, lead, inspire, and help others do the same.

A strategy is a way of organizing resources to consistently produce a desired result.

Mike Highstead

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