THE BLOG
08/06/2012 01:17 pm ET | Updated Oct 06, 2012

Scratching an Itch, the Secret to Success

Achieving a goal follows the same formula for just about everything. It is a cycle if you look at it closely. It all starts with inspiration, followed by motivation and determination. But after determination comes effort, and this is where most people falter. You see, effort is really the key component of the cycle of success, because even if you are inspired, motivated, or determined, you will not succeed if you don't put in the effort. Effort is the last step of the cycle before accomplishment.

Everything that you need to learn about effort you can learn from having an itch at the center of your back that you can't reach. Think about it. When you get that itch, you just have to take care of it or it will drive you crazy. You first try to reach back with your hands, but you just can't quite get there. Next you try using a pen or a stick, but you can't get the whole area just right. Now you rub against a wall or some other angled object; this helps, but not quite since the wall isn't sharp enough.

Maybe you're lucky and you find your spouse or a friend and ask them to scratch it for you... this works. Or maybe there is no one around so you fashion some type of instrument into a makeshift claw and you get to it. Later, you go out and buy a backscratcher so that you're prepared if it ever happens again.

What you did here is solve a problem by applying the effort and adjusting it to make it work. What prompts effort is the urgency of the matter: "How badly do you want the prize?" Plus, you know that if you apply the effort you will get the results... the itch goes away.

Look at how you solved the problem. You first tried to simply reach for it. We often try the simplest solutions first, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is a law of nature that everything tries to take the path of least resistance; water is a great example of this. But the problem occurs when we try to take the easiest path and it doesn't work out. This is where determination tends to slip for most people. THIS is the turning point and the spot where I hope you will learn to be different.

If the simplest solution does not work out, then you need to ask yourself "how bad do I want it?" and if the answer is "pretty bad" then you need to get creative. In our back scratch example, you next try to use some sort of instrument. But since this may not be the best instrument for the job, you may solve only part of the problem.

Now, in your quest to reach back scratch nirvana, you find a sharp angled wall or corner and you do the back scratch boogie. This works better, but it's not precise and it's not going to pinpoint the area of concern. Again, you are still making progress.

Luckily you found someone who can scratch your back, and when her or she does so, they get some of the area just right, but they leave the other parts untouched. You see, they can't really tell if they're getting it exactly right, you have to guide them. Also, for some reason the itch always travels when you scratch it leaving the scratcher lagging behind the areas where the scratchee needs it most.

Finally the itch goes away temporarily, but you know someday it will be back with a vengeance. Rather than go through all that effort again, you buy a backscratcher specifically designed to scratch your back in the areas that you need it the most. Now you're in control.

There is a lot to learn from the need to scratch your back. First, understand that how long you persist in your effort depends on how badly you want to achieve the intended result. If you want it bad enough, you will stick with it until you're successful. You need to find the passion in what you want, otherwise you will abandon the fight.

Once you're passionate about achieving your goal, you plan your effort. The key steps are as follows: 1. try the easiest route, 2. use what is available to help you, 3. create something new, 4. ask others for help, 5. prepare yourself to manage future obstacles. These are all the steps that you took above when you had an itch to scratch. These are the same principles that apply to accomplishing any goal; you just have to find the right itch.

For more by Will Aguila, M.D., click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.