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How to Give Instructions

How to Give Instructions

There’s a common story in America about a hapless tourist asking a Maine farmer for directions. After thinking a moment, the farmer rattles off a lengthy lists of directions along the lines of “…take the old side road up a ways past the Anderson’s farm and turn left when you see Smithy’s cow. After a while you’ll come to a broke-down truck, turn right and cut across the Kingses’ back lot to…”. Inevitably, though, the farmer winds up concluding “but you can’t get there from here!”

Much of our daily communications consists of giving instructions, whether helping friends find our new house or office or writing a manual for a new product or helping a jury decide the guilt or innocence of the accused. The popularity of blog posts (like this one) with titles that tell you “how to” do something, and even whole sites like Instructables.com and WikiHow.com, suggests the importance of good, clear instructions.

And yet, so many of the instructions we get are so bad. Electronics come with poorly translated manuals that are often more humorous than useful; software comes with thick manuals that sit, unopened, beside our computers for years; we finish assembling our flat-pack furniture with a handful of extra parts and doors that don’t close right; and so on.

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Giving good instructions, whether written or spoken, requires a certain kind of mindset, one that few of us can hold onto for very long. It is hard to put ourselves in the place of a person who doesn’t know how to do something — especially when we can do it so easily and with little, if any, thought. The Yankee farmer in the old story above gives great instructions — for himself. For the tourist, though, the instructions are meaningless — they depend too strongly on local knowledge that the outsider would have no way of knowing. He truly “can’t get there from here”, not without the local’s specialized understanding.

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In his book Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Learning to Give, Take, and Use Instructions, Richard Saul Wurman outlines a simple set of conditions that a good set of instructions must meet (no matter how complex the desired outcome is). In order to be effective, a good set of instructions must provide information about six things:

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  • Mission: What do the instructions show me how to do?
  • Destination: What will I see, hear, experience when I’ve followed the instructions?
  • Procedure: What are the exact steps I need to follow to reach the destination and accomplish the mission? What tools and equipments will I need? What special information do I need to finish?
  • Time: How lon
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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

4. What are my goals in life?

Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

6. What do I not like to do?

An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

“What do I want to do with my life?”

So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

Reference

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