Success Skills

How to Create Successful New Year’s Resolutions

What Makes a Successful Resolution?

Every year, people make New Year’s Resolutions – losing weight, exercising more, swearing less – all different kinds of resolutions. And usually, by about 3-4 weeks into the year, those resolutions have fallen by the wayside, to be chalked up as “Oh, well, better luck next year” (if you’re an optimist) or as proof of failure (if you struggle with that inner critic). It’s 2 weeks into the New Year – how are you doing so far?

The question is – how do you make a resolution that you can stick to, that actually improves your life and creates a more successful year?
new-years-resolutions

3 Keys to Resolution Success

  1. Limit yourself to 3 resolutions or fewer
  2. Be clear, specific and measurable with your resolutions
  3. Make resolutions that are tactics and actions not goals

Limit Yourself to 3 Resolutions

Too much change, too fast is a recipe for failure.

As human beings we resist change and we especially resist radical change. Smaller, more incremental change can short circuit this resistance. So limit yourself to 3 specific behaviors that you think would make a significant difference, but make them smaller in scope.

For example, if your goal is to improve your fitness:

  • If you never work out at all, resolve to work out for 10 minutes a day (Instead of 2 hours a day which would be too much)
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. (A specific behavior)
  • Park at the back of the parking lot instead of the closest spot you can find. (A tactic to increase your daily step count)

These are 3 simple, small steps that will improve your fitness level without changing everything all at once. And notice, each choice was clear, specific and measurable. You may find that the 10 minutes expands naturally. Let it – that’s OK – but don’t mandate a huge chunk of time that you won’t be able to live up to.

Choose Clear, Specific and Measurable Resolutions

This seems pretty self-explanatory on the surface – so why do we have so much trouble with it? For example – do you have the words “less”, “more”, “longer”, etc. in your resolution? Those are comparative words and are inherently NOT specific.

To make a resolution specific, use a measure that you know you’ve either done or not done. For example, instead of “Exercise more,” how about “Exercise 3 times/week.”  Can you feel the difference between those two things?

If you’re not sure if your resolution is clear or specific enough – give it the success test. Will you know on any given day if you were successful in fulfilling a resolution?  If not – get more specific.

Resolutions Are Tactics and Actions Not Goals

In Goals and Actions and Strategies, Oh My! I clarified the difference between those terms. You may find it helpful to read that post as well before crafting your Resolutions.

Definition of a Tactic:

an action or method that is planned and used to achieve a particular goal

So to be clear – a resolution is not an objective or end result. It is the action or methodology that you believe will put you on the path towards your goals. So take a look at your resolutions – are they in alignment with a goal or goals? Will they move you forward towards what you want in your life for this year?

How to Implement your Resolution

Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. You’ve chosen 3 (or fewer) simple actions or behaviors. You’ve made them clear, specific and measurable. You’ve clarified that they will indeed lead you in the direction of your goals for this year.  Now what?!?

Start today

Whatever day today is. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first or the 15th. It doesn’t matter if it’s June!!! Today is the first day of the rest of your life, right? Isn’t that how the saying goes?  Start today.

Forgive Yourself

If you choose not to keep your resolution one day. Or maybe you forget. Or you only get to part of it. That’s OK – forgive yourself. If you use that as an excuse to stop, if you use “doing it perfectly,” as a reason to not do it at all, then you are not going to reach your goals.

Are you willing to not reach your goals?!?

Instead, say the following, “I recommit to doing this resolution now. I’m starting again, now.”

I heard somewhere (I wish I could remember where), a story about how this person quit smoking cigarettes. At first he decided to quit once a week. On Monday. “OK – It’s Monday, I’ve quit smoking!”

At first, it only lasted one day. He was smoking again by Tuesday. But after a few months or so of quitting every Monday, he had gotten up to 7 days without a cigarette. So that next Monday, he quit again… Pretty soon, he was only having to quit on the first of the month. Then, the first of the new year. Then he stopped thinking about it all together – because he didn’t smoke anymore.

So, just keep choosing the action or tactic. There is no failure. This next moment is another opportunity to choose.

But also – you can think of each resolution as an experiment. You choose a particular resolution because you think it will have a particular impact on your life. But what if you’re wrong?

This year, I made a goal to read 1 book a month that is not strictly entertainment – they can be self-improvement or inspirational or skill building books. They could be biographies or histories or science books. But not mysteries or romance or science fiction!

Then, I resolved to read these books on my lunch break. (Notice the difference between the goal and the resolution)

But here’s the thing – I don’t want to read stuff that’s “good for me” on my lunch break. On my lunch break, I want to be ON A BREAK!! And so the resolution lasted about a week and the second week, I just couldn’t get myself to do it. Does that mean I’m a failure? Should I give up on that goal? No, I need to choose a different tactic. Find time slots that are not break times to do that reading. I didn’t fail – I just chose the wrong tactic. A different method can still get me to my goal. But if I look at it as a failure, if I judge myself harshly – then I won’t even try a different tactic. The key is to think of it as an experiment – if it doesn’t work, try something else!

So please share with me in the comments – what actions or tactics are you choosing to make this your best year ever? And come back and tell me how it goes!

10 Ways To Improve Your Presentation Skills

presentation skills, success skills, Forbes

As a Forbes Coaches Council member, I was asked to give a short answer to this question which was compiled with other council members and published.

My answer is #3 – I hope you get value from it!

Knowing how to deliver an idea is beneficial, no matter what line of business you’re in. But if you’ve tried everything in the books to improve your presentation skills and are still met with the kind of anxiety that causes you to break out in a cold sweat and stumble over your carefully planned words, it’s time to try a different approach.

Remember, speaking in front of people is a skill, not an innate ability. To help you nail your next presentation, 10 Forbes Coaches Council members offer their professional advice below:

Read more at http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2016/06/13/10-ways-to-improve-your-presentation-skills/#6fee1616c871

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When Bad Things Happen, Part 2

This article is a sequel to the July 2013 Newsletter Article, When Bad Things Happen.  Of course, I meant to get back and complete the article the very next week.  Ah, the best laid plans…

But better late than never, right?  I recommend you go back and read that article to give you the back story and context for this Part 2.

In Part 1, I talked about 2 things I learned from an experience that helped me get out of the Pit of Despair.  Here is the third and perhaps the most deeply profound learning for me.

What Are You Making it MEAN?

emotional intelligence, success skillsIts important to understand how your brain works.  The human brain is a Meaning Making Machine.  The brain takes in literally billions of bits of information every day from your physical senses.

It is the brain’s job to interpret that information, to make sense of it so that you can survive, both literally and figuratively.

Which means your brain has to do two primary things:

  1. Determine what information is important or deserves your attention (think signal to noise ratio)
  2. Determine what that information actually means in terms of you, the world and your place in the world.

It’s that second step that usually gets us into trouble.  As I mentioned in the first part of this article, we are very uncomfortable with the unknown.  That’s just human nature.

And we have survived and evolved as a species because our brains successfully made life and death decisions with limited information. (The bush is shaking, there’s probably a lion waiting in ambush!)

So our brain has evolved a predictive capacity or the ability to extrapolate based on limited information, using your expectations, beliefs and past experience (which together make up your context – the environment in which meaning is determined).

Inspirational-quote-by-Siddhar-But this extrapolation is mostly happening at the unconscious level and is presented to our conscious mind as “The TRUTH.”  Unfortunately, it is often these “truths” that propel us into the Despair Pit.

It is useful to remember that these truths are anything but.  They are constructs based on limited information plus your self-constructed context.

Don’t mistake the map for the territory!

Instead, approach these “truths” with curiosity and ask good questions.  Here are a few that I’ve found useful.

“Now What?” Instead of “Why Me?”

When hanging out down there in the despair pit, we are often asking really poor questions.  The most common is some version of “Why me?”  Instead, try asking, “Now What?”  That conversation might go something like:

Now that these circumstances/challenges/obstacles have happened, now what?  What can I do, right now to:

  • protect myself?
  • feel better?
  • change my circumstances?
  • continue to pursue my goals? And so on….

Can you see how asking these kinds of questions instead of “Why me?” could show you the path out of the despair pit?

What is the belief?

Once you’re in a more stable place and you’ve taken care of the business you need to take care of, and you’re ready to do some transformational self-examination, a good question to ask is

“What is the belief that’s being triggered?”

(If you don’t know what that means, click the link and read a good article explaining the concept around triggering).

In my experience, when I’m having a really strong emotional response to my circumstances, there is often a belief underlying that response that is being energized by the current circumstances.

If you’ve ever been in a musical instrument store when someone strikes a tuning fork, you’ve heard how the different instruments will vibrate in harmonics to that tone.  A similar thing happens when your external circumstances trigger your inner beliefs.  It may not be logical, but in some way your brain has created a connection between what you are perceiving and your past experiences and/or beliefs.

So, if you can identify which belief, expectation or past experience has been triggered at the unconscious level and make that dynamic conscious, you can use that awareness to begin to understand it and even shift it if you choose to.

Reframing

One of the best ways to make that internal shift is to remember that the context you are using to create your experience of your circumstances, to make that meaning is a subjective framework and not TRUTH.

What could you make it mean?  Because if it could mean many different things, could you choose a different meaning?  And if you can choose a different meaning, why not choose a meaning that creates a more positive and functional experience, a meaning that guides you out of the despair pit, or even allows you to avoid the pit altogether?

This is called reframing.  You are seeing the picture of reality in a new context.

Think about a circumstance you’ve had recently that was perhaps painful.  How could you reframe that experience in order to feel better and more empowered to be constructively responsive to those circumstances?

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Goals – What Are They Good For?

I’ve been reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink.  I expect I’ll be writing an article about Motivation when I’m done with it.  But while the book does question the value of setting goals, I am still a big fan of them.  In Drive, the studies seem to discount the value of external drivers toward accomplishment.  And I agree that externally motivated goals are not the way to go.

Goals, Vision, PlanningBut that’s not how I teach you to write goals.  A well-written goal must include your internal motivation, your experience of what your life will be like when you have accomplished the goal.  Because while we benefit from external rewards.  We are driven by our internal needs.  Your goals need to reflect and express your life’s purpose.  And when well-written, I believe that goals allow us to create our lives with volition.

In my experience, goals serve two main purposes:

1 – Definition of Your Path and Your Direction

When you set a goal, you are by its very definition determining that you are going in this direction and you are not going in that direction.  The more specific the goal is, the more defined your direction and the more options you have eliminated.

I believe that’s a good thing.  Very often people become completely paralyzed because they have so many choices, they don’t know where to start and so they just don’t … start….

In my experience with clients and in my own life, it is better to start down a road in a specific direction and change your mind than it is to wait until you know for sure.  Very often, if you begin to move in a particular direction, you can discover information that you would never discover if you wait.  Finding out that this path is the wrong path is extremely useful information. You can decide what you don’t want, which can lead you to more specifically determine what you do want.

And you will develop skills in the process that will greatly enhance your abilities to create success once you clarify your path.

I don’t believe there are any mistakes in life.  Because as long as you are in a learning process you will benefit from your experiences.  And your experiences will feed the next choice.  I have often “accidentally” discovered an amazing opportunity that I would never have seen had I been waiting for the “right” path.

2 – Placing Your Order With the Universe

So, first, I believe in the Law of Attraction.  As a reminder, here are the two main tenets of that law:

  •   What you focus on expands
  •   You get what you expect

So, in terms of goals – when you are focusing on your goal, you are actually expanding your opportunities in that direction.  And since by the very action of setting a goal that you believe is achievable within the time frame you’ve set – you are setting the stage for the achievement of the goal – because you expect it.

I look at goal setting as placing your order with the Universe.  You are inviting the Universe to align with your intentions and support you in manifesting what you want.  You’ve heard the expression – be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.  That’s what this is.

And it’s better to place a specific order than a general, vague order.  Think about it.  What if you went into a restaurant and said to the waiter, “Hello, yes, I’d like some cow, please.”  Do you know what you’ll get?  You might get a steak, but you might get tongue (yech!).

On the other hand, if you say to the waiter, “I’d like a filet mignon, with a baked potato, sour cream on the side, and an order of steamed broccoli.”  You’re more likely to enjoy that meal.

So, what are your goals for 2013?  And does this help you begin to think more specifically and clearly?  Please share your insights!

How to Use Goals, Actions and Strategies to Craft a Plan

In Part One of this article – Goals and Actions and Strategies – Oh, MY! – I clarified the differences between goals, actions and strategies and talked about why that is a difference that makes a difference.

In this article, I’m going to explain how you can design a plan that employs all three aspects.

In my experience, most people have a focus level that is their comfort zone.  There’s the big picture thinkers and the detail-oriented folks.  Which are you?

Big Picture Thinkers

goals actions strategies vision planning

  • You are a dreamer.
  • You are excited by big goals for the future.
  • You love new ideas and starting new projects, but when you get bogged down, you just go on to start another project.
  • You have little patience for the details – the details seem hard and even boring.
  • You get overwhelmed easily by details
  • You are often unhappily surprised by the outcomes of your big plan, because you forgot a simple detail.
  • You make a lot of big plans, but don’t seem to get very far in executing those plans.  And usually those big plans are very sparse on the details.

You love to fantasize about your big success, but when you look around, you don’t understand why you’re not there yet.

music business coach, success, promotion, marketing, artistsDetail Oriented Folks

  • You love to feel busy.
  • You are constantly thinking in terms of, “What should I do?”
  • Thinking about long term goals feels uncomfortable, even frightening.
  • You’d much rather focus on this email, that paperwork, those phone calls…
  • You have lots of lists and every time you listen to an expert or read a book you add lots of items to those lists.
  • You can tend to over think things and feel the need to get all the details and plans perfect before taking action.

You work really hard all day long, but when you look around, you don’t understand why you feel like you’ve gotten nothing accomplished.

I don’t think either focus level is right/wrong or good/bad.  Actually, in order to be successful in life and in business, you need to be able to pull focus. You need to have some facility with both levels of thinking which will enable you to think big, create useful plans and then implement those plans to take consistent and productive action.

Whether you go from microcosm (the details) to macrocosm (the big picture) or vice versa, when designing your plan doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that:

  1. You create the big picture outcome (goals and vision)
  2. You choose some guidelines for making decisions (strategies)
  3. You develop a step-by-baby-step action plan for accomplishing those outcomes with a specific order and time frame to get you from where you are now to where you intend to be
  4. You implement that plan on a daily basis
  5. Assessing and adjusting as you go

goals, plans, vision action

Start with Your Comfort Zone

The order is less important than doing all 5 parts.  If you’re a big picture thinker, start with the big picture, but don’t stop there!  And if you like the details, but thinking big scares the bejeezus out of you, then start with the details and extrapolate out.  Here’s how:

If You Start with the Big Picture

Close your eyes.  No, wait, read this part first, THEN close your eyes!  OK, think about one year from now.  And as you’re imagining one year from now …

  • What do you see around you?
  • What do you have?
  • Who are you working with?
  • What are you doing?
  • What do you hear?
  • Get specific.

Now, open your eyes and write down everything you saw.  Do it in bullet point form.  Create a brainstormed list of all you want to have and be.

Once you’ve got your list:

  1. Go through and turn each bullet point into a specific, measurable goal with a deadline.
  2. Group those goals together by category (such as fitness and health, business, relationships, etc.).
  3. Within the business category – you can use the 5 Hats of the Business Owner to group your items in more specific categories.
  4. If you see other goals that need to happen in order to create that goal, add them to your list.
  5. Put the goals in the order that makes the most logical sense
  6. Then break out the objectives and action steps for each goal.

You will end up with a specific, step-by-step actionable plan for each goal.

Now if that feels overwhelming, don’t do it for each and every goal.  But do it for the first group of goals that put you on the road to those longer term goals.  What are the goals that need to be accomplished in the next 3-4 months?  Develop a plan for each one of them and then get busy making them happen!

Or You’re Starting with the Details

To do listIf all you think of when asked “What do you want?” is all the stuff to do, all the steps to take, all the different things you’ve been thinking about, “If I only do these things, I’ll be successful.”  Then start there.

Make a big brainstormed list of all the actions, all the steps, all the ideas of actions, all the things people have told you that you have to do.  Make a big list.  Now I recommend doing this in excel, where column A is your long list of stuff to do and each action item is in a separate row.

Now, take that long list and:

  1. In Column B, put the categories of your life each action falls into (such as fitness and health, business, relationships, etc.) and again, you can use the 5 Hats of the Business Owner to break out the work category further.
  2. Then, use the sort function in Excel to sort by category.
  3. Cut and paste the sorted list into a separate worksheet for each category.
  4. One category at a time, ask yourself, which actions go together?  And group them together.
  5. And then ask yourself, if I do these 6 actions that seem to go together (for example) what will I have?  What will that give me?
  6. Write a specific and measurable goal or objective to express that.
  7. Put a deadline on that goal and add start dates and completion dates on each action.
  8. Fill in any actions that are missing in order to create those goals
  9. Think about all those goals together, and create a vision of what that life looks like.

And here too, if creating a full-fledged plan with start and end dates on every action feels overwhelming, just work with the goals for the next 3 months.

StrategyWhere do Strategies fit in?

Strategies, by their very nature, fall into the category of big picture thinking.  Because they apply to everything.  When you choose a strategy, it will effect:

  • How you state your goals
  • Which action items you choose when creating your plan
  • How you implement your plan

For example, if you have a strategy of

Always be learning!

And you apply that to your goal.  It might change:

A CD of toe tapping songs

to

A CD of toe tapping songs with expanded musical influences

Your action plan might include studying Cuban and Jazz music styles in order to help you expand those musical influences.  It might also include taking a songwriting class or studying recording techniques.  It might include participating in a songwriting circle to get ongoing feedback on your writing.

Without that strategy, your goal and your actions might be very different.

So, start with creating a few strategies and test them out.  Apply them to your goals and action plans and see how they change.  And work with them for a few weeks to decide if you like how the strategies are affecting you and whether you want to keep them or change them.

It’s also an interesting question to analyze what strategies are you currently using, unconsciously?  But that’s a subject for another time.

What are your goals, actions and strategies?  I’d love to hear them!

 

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Are Goals Really Necessary?

I was having a conversation with a client the other day.  He’s an engineer and is always working on cutting edge, invention type stuff.  He said that setting goals doesn’t work in this type of  design.  Because when you are inventing something for the first time, you don’t really know what you’re going to end up with.  And that it rarely looks like what you were thinking about inventing when you started out.

I suggested that you had to at least have some general framework of what you were creating.  Even if only in terms of a problem you’re looking to solve, otherwise how could you even begin? I suggested that setting an umbrella goal, a goal that determines the general direction is better than no goal at all.

Create Your Vision, Goals, DreamsAnd if you up with something different than you expected, that’s all good.  It doesn’t invalidate the original goal – you just assessed and adjusted as you proceeded down your path.  That’s step 6 in the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Roadmap to Success!

After we finished our session, I got to wondering about this and thought, perhaps that’s one of the challenges for artists as well.  If you’re sitting down to write a piece of music, do you know what you want to end up with?  Or is discovering the music part of the process, just like discovering a new invention?

And even if you don’t know what you’re going to end up with, don’t you need to start with at least a framework?  In music, don’t you at least start with a key, a mode?  Do you decide the rhythm or B.P.M.?  With a painting, do you start with at least the size of the canvas?  What medium you’re going to use?  The style?

Don’t you have to start with some general idea of what you are creating, even when you are inventing something from scratch?

What Does This Have To Do with Goals?

This process is true with all goals, not just in design but in all areas of your life.  You are inventing something from nothing.  You are bringing choice and direction to your path in the present and creating the vision of your life in the future.  The pursuit of your goals is always an invention of something you didn’t have before.  And you won’t really know what you have until you are there.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know.

Goals are Always a Leap of Faith!

But that doesn’t mean you don’t set Goals, specific and measurable.  As you work through the process of birthing those goals, you will hone and sharpen them, even completely rewrite them.  But if you don’t set specific ones now to the best of your ability, with what you know to be true now, then you won’t get to work bringing those goals into fruition.

So what if it changes as you go?  That neither lessens the validity of the goals you set today nor undermines the life you are creating for your future.  It’s just part of the process.

What are your leaps of faith for 2013?

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Goals and Actions and Strategies – Oh, MY!

I was on the TAXI Forum and I came upon this thread “Post your Goals after attending the Rally” (the yearly conference for TAXI Members). While reading through people’s responses to the question, I noticed that most posts were a combination of goals, actions and strategies, with the posters conflating their intended actions, strategies and goals as if they were all goals.

I believe that this confusion can actually create some of the struggles and road blocks that many of you experience as you pursue your dreams. So, in this article I will explain the difference and why it matters.

In short, the difference is:

  • Actions are WHAT you do
  • Strategies are HOW you do
  • And Goals are WHY you do

Strategies

“Henry Mintzberg from McGill University defined strategy as ‘a pattern in a stream of decisions’.”

“In game theory, a strategy refers to the rules that a player uses to choose between the available actionable options.”
Wikipedia 

So, strategy has to do with:

  • Your methodology
  • How you choose to think about your goals and actions
  • And the underlying principles you use to determine which path to take to achieve your goals

Strategies affect how you prioritize each project in the larger scheme of things as well as which options you choose in your pursuit of your goals.

Actions

“Basic action theory typically describes action as behavior (emphasis added) caused by an agent in a particular situation. The agent’s desires and beliefs (e.g. my wanting a glass of water and believing the clear liquid in the cup in front of me is water) lead to bodily behavior (e.g. reaching over for the glass). In the simple theory (see Donald Davidson), the desire and belief jointly cause the action. Michael Bratman has raised problems for such a view and argued that we should take the concept of intention as basic and not analyzable into beliefs and desires.

In some theories a desire plus a belief about the means of satisfying that desire are always what is behind an action.”
Wikipedia 

Belief, emotional intelligence

 

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it is your beliefs about yourself, the universe and your place in the universe, as well as your emotions induced by your beliefs which, at a minimum, color your actions and more likely completely determine which actions or behaviors you choose.

Although these choices are generally occurring in your unconscious mind. These behaviors then lead, seemingly inevitably, to your outcomes.

 

Goals

“A goal is a desired result [snip]. It is roughly similar to purpose or aim, the anticipated result which guides reaction, or an end, which is an object, either a physical object or an abstract object, that has intrinsic value.”
Wikipedia 

 

So, a goal is an outcome, an objective. It is the result you seek. But very often when asked, “What are your goals?” People respond with their actions and strategies. I elaborate on how I design goals with my clients in “Goals and Success”.

So, what does it matter?

Well, if you are only focused on WHAT to do, without a clear picture of the PURPOSE, it is very easy to become confused, discouraged and even completely derailed.

If you don’t know WHY you are taking these actions, if it gets hard to take the actions or they don’t work out they way you think they will, then you may give up entirely.

But when you are clear about your objective, your WHY, then if one action doesn’t get you there, you simply find another way. You think about your strategies. You brainstorm your options. You ask for help and advice.

You figure it out!

But if you are only thinking in terms of actions – then what happens when the one idea you had of something to do doesn’t work out? Well, what else is there to do, but quit?

Having a strategy may help you think of other things to do, but how do you evaluate which are the right things to do and when is the right time to do them, if you don’t know what you want!?!

Or as one gentlemen said to me in a workshop years ago – if I don’t know where I’m going, how will I know when I don’t get there?

If you still aren’t sure whether you’re thinking in terms of goals, actions or strategies – share them below and I’ll be happy to help you figure it out!

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The Devil on Your Shoulder

In my life, I’ve done a lot of work with the critic’s voice, learning techniques and getting quite good at transforming my inner critic to support and inform my forward progress (rather than criticize and impede it). I’ve gotten to the point where, these days, I rarely hear a critical voice in my head.

inner critic, devil on your shoulderAnd in that silence I’ve become aware of a different voice – I call him “the devil on my shoulder” or “rebel without a cause.” I grew up watching the old 1940’s Bugs Bunny cartoons on Saturday mornings. So, the image of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other has stayed with me. But this is not the devil telling me to hurt someone or retaliate for some slight, real or imagined. No, my devil tells me to do things that are bad FOR ME. Does this sound familiar to you, or am I the only one?

My devil tells me not to exercise. Or go ahead and have that ice cream (even though in 2 hours I’ll be doubled over in pain from it.) He tells me it’s OK not to do my finances or deliver on my promises (like writing this newsletter, for example). And sometimes he just says, “Come on! Let’s be bad.” (Hence the “rebel without a cause” moniker – think James Dean.)

I’ve spent the last few months, first becoming painfully aware of how much this devil gets in my way of having the life I want, the body I want, the income I want. This devil actively advises me counter to my own best and highest interest. And about a month ago, I decided, I’ve had enough. It’s time for this devil to get the hell off my shoulder!

But how?

One thing I know, when dealing with procrastination, there is always an underlying issue.  And the only way to stop procrastinating is to deal with that!  So, I started working with the devil and I thought you might be interested in the techniques I used and the discoveries I made – in case you’ve got one on your shoulder!

The first technique I used was to talk to a dear friend who also has a background in NLP and ask for some support. We came up with a question for exploration:

What is the underlying belief that drives the devil?  What master does he serve?

And then I re-instituted writing morning pages. If you’re not familiar with morning pages, it’s an exercise from The Artist’s Way. I faithfully wrote morning pages for most of the 10 years I was ill, but have dropped the habit over the last few years.

So, every morning, I wrote. I didn’t right about the question, necessarily, because morning pages are 3 pages of whatever. You write for three pages – and you just write – whatever comes out of the pen. But I did remind myself of the question before I started writing. Just threw it out there. And then I wrote. I did this every morning for several weeks.

I discovered a few things along the way. I was reminded of what a tremendous stress reliever the morning pages are. I was reminded of how they cleared the space for me to have a more productive day. I started having and remembering more of my dreams and writing about them in the morning pages. Very little of this directly addressed the question or issue at hand. But I was clear I was working through something – because those dreams were wild!

And then one morning, while in the shower, I saw it. There were really two beliefs driving the devil. One was “I don’t want to become my Mother.” This surprised me, because my mother and I are quite close now. But, growing up I definitely had issues with Mom. We fought like cats and dogs. Mom was the super Mom of the 1970’s. She worked full time, she cooked dinner every night, and she did our laundry. All my friends loved her because she truly cared.

But what I saw was a woman overworked, always busy and tired, doing things for everyone else but never playing and very rarely getting anything for herself. And I didn’t want to be that way! In my tweens and teens especially, I very avidly did NOT want to be my Mother. As an adult, I’ve gotten over it, of course. I have tremendous respect for her strength and resiliency. In fact, I moved in with my parents, largely to support Mom as she cares for my father through his illness. And yet, that motivation, “I don’t want to turn into my Mother!” was driving the devil on my shoulder to give me all kinds of bad advice.

The other belief is even older. My family is a very high achieving family. Both of my brothers are genius smart. And I could never quite do as well in school as they did, no matter how hard I studied. I’m no slouch academically, but I just wasn’t on their level. And no matter how well I did, there was always another level to get to, another area to work on to excel at more. And so when I worked hard, I was always expected to work even harder.

So the second belief I uncovered is, “No matter how hard I work, I’ll never get to play and have fun.”  So, why work hard at all – what’s the point? And that’s what the devil is telling me – it doesn’t matter how hard you work, it will never be enough – so why not play now. Except that “play” in his mind equals doing things that are bad for me – eating candy, playing video games, being a “bad girl.”

And in a way, he’s right. Because no matter how much I accomplish today, there is always another project, more work, more stuff to do, right? So there’s never really a time when I’ve done all my homework and now I can go out and play.

How do I kick this devil to the curb?

Here’s what I decided – I need to play regularly – not when I’m done with my work or when I’ve been a good girl – but as part of my every day and every week life. And not play the way He says, but find ways every day to do things that feel good. For no other reason than that they feel good. And I need to take breaks intentionally and on purpose – even when there’s more work to be done. I need to find things that both are “good for me” and are fun and feel good.  So, I’ve begun to look for ways to do that.

How do you take good care of yourself? How do you make time to play and feel good? I’d love your ideas!

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Get the Learning – the 5th Key to Maintaining Focus in the Face of Chaos

As I teach in How to Use Feedback and Criticism Constructively, every experience is fodder for growth and development, if you are willing to get the learning. Assessing and adjusting as you go will make you more successful, because the ability to be flexible and adapt to changing conditions is a key success principle. So, the concept of “Get the Learning” is both useful in your immediate ability to function as well as ensuring your long-term success. The first step of this Key is to be asking yourself, as the Former New York Mayor, Ed Koch, was famous for asking, “How am I doing?” Here are a few questions you can use to evaluate how you’re doing:

  • What accomplishments and successes did I have today? (no accomplishment is too small)
  • What did I think I’d be able to accomplish, but didn’t, and what a) got in the way and/or b) did I choose to do instead?
  • What worked and didn’t work, today?
  • What were the choices I made and how do I feel about those choices?  What could I have done differently?
  • What resources did I use and what resources could I have used that might have enabled me to achieve more?
  • What obstacles did I overcome and how did I overcome them?
  • What am I proud of myself for and what I am I grateful for?

These questions can be asked on a daily basis and they can also be asked at the end of the period or project as you look back at what happened. Once you’ve answered these questions – and I think it’s useful to write your answers down – you must follow it up with these two critical questions:

  • What are the over-arcing lessons and principles I can take away from today? (These should be the larger concepts that can be applied to multiple areas of your life)
  • As a result of these learnings what adjustments or changes am I going to implement tomorrow?

If you approach each day and each challenge with the mind of a student, solidify the learnings and then apply those changes in the future, you will be able to rise to any challenge, adapt to any change and succeed in business and in life. What lessons did you learn today?

Clear the Plate – the 2nd Key to Maintaining Focus

In the first installment of this series we created a big brainstorm list of all the stuff that makes up the chaos.  Just to remind you of the overview:

5 Keys to Manage Chaos

  1. Acknowledge the reality of your current circumstances
  2. Take everything off the plate that you can
  3. Ask for help
  4. Manage your emotions and thoughts through the experience
  5. Get the learning

And now for the second key:

Take it off the Plate!

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