IDEAL, Step-by-Step

Introduction: What is IDEAL?

This article draws from two of my books: “Achieve” and “GOALS: The Course to Success.” The books are available on the Support page of my website:

IDEAL is an acronym for five human characteristics that create an ongoing process for our development and the achievement of our goals. The process may used as a model by which to plan the success of a goal.

Whatever your endeavor—to improve your health and fitness, self-development, build sales for a business, develop a skill—, your success will involve a process. The most natural process to success—personal or professional—is IDEAL, five human characteristics that you may be expressing every day.

Think about this:

  • You're not mindless; you intend;

  • You're not aimless; you direct your life along a course toward what you intend;

  • You are not idle; you engage life – every day;

  • You care about progress, so, naturally, you assess – others, yourself, and situations;

  • You learn and apply what you learn in order to improve what you intend, how you direct your life and business, how you engage, and the ways in which you assess.

The most effective means to optimal productivity is through deliberate application of IDEAL, as a process. Use IDEAL as model by which to create a plan and guide from where you are to the attainment of your goal. Your first task is to get clear about what productivity will require from you.

Actual Productivity

In order to achieve success, you must be clear about your goal and know what productivity will require of you, specifically.

Productivity is the most misunderstood requirement for success. Productivity means “standard of accomplish,” and applies to a specific endeavor – one that demands a specific level of accomplishment in order for activity to be productive (as opposed to unproductive). Results from activity must sufficiently achieve progress towards an intended aim.

Important: understand those things on which your goal or vision depend? Identify contingencies, requirements, and the degree of control that you have over the work that achieves your aim.

In order to make your best effort to be productive, know and apply the four cornerstones of productivity: plan, prepare, pursue, and progress.


A plan supports a pursuit in such a way that provides organization, direction, coordination, and structure for the requirements, safeguards, and other factors essential to your being productive.


Based on your plan, preparation involves a checklist of tasks that, as accomplished, equips you, in all respects—mentally, materially, spatially, etc.— to be productive.


The third cornerstone puts your plan and preparation into action. Here, you either achieve the results that are required by your plan, or you, through your experiences and efforts, discover what must change in order for you to be productive.


Progress involves discovery of how to improve and change toward that aim. Since discovery and improvement can pertain to anything about you or your efforts to succeed, progress may require you to make changes in any one of or several respects.

Plan Your Success

Among the top causes cited for the failure of goals, most lists found online report: “lack of planning.” The point here is simple: plan your success. A complete plan for success will cover these essential bases: what; why-not; why; and how. The plan should explain how these bases are interdependent, work together as elements that create a bridge.

What - deals with clarity of your aim and its requirements

Why-not - deals with awareness of opposition to your endeavor

Why - addresses purpose—the anchors, or motivators for your goal

How - deals with a process (steps and their objectives) and preparation for your endeavor to achieve

Start with Why-Not

A major challenge with productivity is not our lack of preparedness to work, but, rather, our lack of preparedness for why we won’t work a lack of preparation for our “why-not”, the reasons that make us our greatest obstacle to success.

In order for you to make your best effort to succeed, know your “why”, but also know your “why-not”, and prepare accordingly. If you don’t know how you could fail, you cannot put forth your best effort to succeed. Your why-not can be difficult to recognize, especially if it involves you. At the outset of planning your success, consider the possibilities of why you may not succeed, so that you can decide how to safeguard your success.

Productivity is goal and individual specific, and, therefore, must be based on requirements that account for particulars related to you—your circumstances, abilities, skills, knowledge, resources, weaknesses, opposition, etc. The point here is: respect your uniqueness – the relevant factors that make you, and your course to success, unique. These factors will include your motivation to endeavor and why you could not succeed. Prepare completely; address what is at work for you and against you.

IDEAL: The Process

INTEND: Know Where You Stand, then Plan

IIt may seem an obvious starting point, but it’s one that many people overlook: know where you stand today, before you start an endeavor. Why? Without accurate knowledge of your Start Point, planning and preparing appropriately to achieve your goal may be impossible, which could leave you at a serious disadvantage to be productive.

Don’t take unnecessary chances with your success. Be clear about where you are today, and what productivity will demand from you.

Action Items:

1. Define your goal in terms of:

(a) time

(b) quantity and/or quality/condition to be achieved

(c) cornerstones (what you know about the essential aspects of your ambition)

Or, define your vision by a complete checklist of milestones that achieve your aim.

2. Self-assess: know your Why-not, how opposition (including you) could sabotage your success.

3. Make your goal R.E.A.L. (your Why).

4. Identify RAS Considerations (requirements, agents, safeguards).

Additional considerations:

(a) contingencies

(b) expectations

(c) faith (where you have the least amount of control; where chance is greatest)

(d) possible pitfalls

5. Identify your Minimum Performance Standard (MPS): Identify the results to be achieved in terms that are appropriate to your goal:

(a) activities;

(b) quantity;

(c) frequency;

(d) duration, etc.

DIRECT: Choose Your Line (Process)

Ultimately, the purpose of a plan is to safeguard productivity, and thereby empower you to engage, endure, and improve along a course toward your endeavor. A well designed plan leads you through anticipated challenges, over pitfalls, and across a predetermined path from where you are today to the attainment of your goal.

Direct is a twofold step: (a) determine the process by which you’ll pursue your goal; and (b) prepare according to that process.

Skiers and mountain climbers refer to their “line,” a route between where they are and a destination point. The “line” may also be understood as the quickest route between two points. When planning a course to your goal, choose your “line,” the course that, through certain actions (steps and their objectives), will yield the productivity you need for progress towards your goal or vision.

Direct also involves the preparation to engage your process with whatever is required materially, mentally, and otherwise. Preparation can involve anything related—directly and indirectly—to your being productive, and include strategies, motivation, schedules, use of apps, and the development of knowledge and skills.

Action Items:

6. Choose your “line”; define the process (steps, objectives) by which you’ll pursue your success

7. Create an ARMED schedule, as applicable

8. Determine a means by which to record and measure progress against your minimum performance standard (MPS) requirement.

9. Create a Prep Checklist(for use in the Engage step). As appropriate to your goal, address each aspect of preparation: mental (orientation, motivation), material, agents, safeguards, etc.

ENGAGE: Speak in Action

When you pursue, you put your ability to achieve to the test. Success relies on your knowledge, skills, planning, and preparation; your ability to achieve relies on the collective merit of several interdependent aspects that comprise your potential. A successful pursuit also involves external conditions that can range greatly in their impact on your efforts, and may be outside of your ability to influence. Be aware of them.

Your preparation to succeed is not necessarily preparation not to fail. While these may seem the same, they demand different kinds of awareness from you. Consider their differences as you assess your productivity and options for improvement of your plan.

Engage involves the actions that will either confirm what you know about being productive or reveal what you need to know in order to gain sufficient progress towards your goal. Action is about the potential to succeed and chance to learn and improve.

Action Items:

10. Orient: know your anchors and determine your RME (required minimum effort)

11. Prepare according to the Prep Checklist developed in the Direct step

12. Get productive. Use productivity blocks (i.e., Time Blocks, Clock Days, Checklist Tasks). Be mindful of the aspects of your efforts—time, quality, skills/ability, knowledge, use of resources, motivation, etc.

13. Test strategies and document notable findings

14. Record results and other vital aspects of your efforts to be productive, especially in terms of RAS considerations.

ASSESS: Validate Your Course

The message you want from your assessments is that your course to success is valid. You want details about the merit of your plan, preparation, and efforts to be productive. Assessments will vary according to the needs of a plan. As appropriate, look for trends, red flags, and unexpected spikes. Identify areas of weakness and strength.

It may seem axiomatic, but progress is a measurement of one point to another that requires you to be clear about where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow (the point at which you reach your goal). The benefit from this step should support work in the final step: Learn.

Action Items:

15. Evaluate progress data:

(a) As appropriate, review data for S.W.E.E.T. insights, anomalies, etc.

(b) Confirm the merit of your plan, preparation, and efforts to be productive.

(c) Understand how agents and safeguards may be improved.

(d) Identify what is and is not working well in your process. Consider assessments in terms of frequency, reliability and value, as appropriate for your goal.

16. Validate your plan and activity. Evaluate across these areas:

(a) Results are reliable, not sporadic

(b) The course is independent from variables, factors that could interfere with productivity (you don't want your course to be dependent upon things that you cannot control).

(c) The plan is sustainable across the course to your goal—from start to finish.

LEARN: Means to Milestones

Ultimately, productivity achieves goals, and may require you to progress in certain ways. Progress is the key to improved performance and the achievement of your greater potential. Personally and professionally, progress—in knowledge, ability, aims, faith, etc.—is what makes an endeavor rewarding. Strive to learn, and apply lessons learned in order to earn greater achievements.

The course to success may require discovery of how to succeed or how to succeed more effectively or efficiently. Learn addresses the question of productivity and the evolution of your IDEAL plan. Learn draws from conclusions derived from the Assess step and includes others means to learning, such as through research, conversations with others, taking courses, etc., which may useful in your becoming more productive.

Learn applies to all aspects of productivity—knowledge, skills, use of tools, etc.—and considers alternatives to current practices, and whatever else is appropriate to consider.

Action Items:

17. Actively seek to improve your knowledge, plan, practices, and performance.

(a) Review findings from assessment data

(b) Dispose yourself to various and diverse information related to aspects of productivity that could aid improvements

(c) Seek various perspectives to gain a fuller perspective

(d) Draw from your experiences, research, study, conversations, etc.

18. Determine (by a predetermined criteria) how your discoveries may be applied to improve productivity.

(e) Apply TIDE: think, inquire, decide, execute (next step)

19. Evolve: revise your IDEAL plan according to your decisions.

(g) Decide what you're going to revise or implement, when, and why

(h) Note your expectations from implemented revisions:

  • will definitely improve your plan;

  • may somewhat improve your plan;

  • may not improve your plan.

(i) As possible, gain feedback. Try to understand—from an objective and reliable source—how your decisions may be improved.

20. Repeat the cycle.

Successes and failures do not occur spontaneously; they unfold across some processes. If you're interested in a certain quality of life or certain experience, such as a level of fitness, success in business, degree of learning, or mastery of some discipline, a process is the transformative means that can yield change between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. A process is comprised of a series of steps or events that, as engaged, collectively renders an outcome, results, some of which we call "successes" and others we call "failures."

Whatever name you give the results of your actions, process creates the stories of our lives. The most natural process for your development and the achievement of your goals is IDEAL. Apply IDEAL to your life and business, as a process, because IDEAL applies to you.

Get support with your personal or business goal, schedule a free, no obligation consultation with me. Schedule your call here.

Copyright © 2021 Steven Robert Young. All rights reserved.

#StevenRobertYoung | #IDEAL



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