Tag Archives: Change

Are you living a life of distraction?

Does this sound familiar? You are working on a project, music is playing. You make it a few minutes but social media chimes that a “friend” has posted something. You check it out. More than a few minutes later you get back to work. Before you accomplish too much, someone texts or IMs you. Your day continues with this constant interruption and it is finally to come home. On the drive home, you listen to an audible book, which is interrupted several times as you are texting to firm up your dinner plans….using appropriate hands free technology, of course. Eventually you get to exercise, popping in another audible book or watching TV the whole time.

I’m not criticizing. I understand completely. I counted my interruptions the other day. Just in my regular job, I averaged 150 incoming email a day. I also had 80 outgoing emails, thirty IM conversations, 15 texts and ten phone calls. This didn’t count the meetings I was in, the hallway conversations or anything related to my personal life. I was distracted.

Distractions can be a addictive. Every little ding, beep or post releases a little dopamine. Sitting quietly alone with your thought can becomes an odd feeling, like accidentally meeting a childhood friend you’ve lost contact with.

Turn off some of your notices. Cancel some of your email subscriptions. Let some texts sit unanswered. Turn off all electronics for a few minutes a day and just be alone with your thoughts. There are great things happening in your head. Be quiet and present once in a while to hear what your mind has to say.

What’s your destination?

What is your destination?  Do you know?  Are you letting the the route dominate your mind and forgetting what’s really important. And I’m talking metaphorically.

I’m a planner normally.  Well by comparison to my wife, I fly by the seat of my pants but by most standards I’m a bit obsessive with plans.  When my wife and I vacation, we know where we are going to stay and have the hotels booked in advanced.  We know the things we want to see and I’ll have their websites, locations and hours tucked away in my files.  We have a pretty good idea of where we will eat by meal.  Once we start the vacation, many of our plans go out the window as we adapt to the flow of the vacation.  Winston Churchill once said that, “Plans are of little importance but planning is essential.” Whenever you need a good quote either Churchill or Mark Twain typically come through.

Why am I telling you about our vacation planning? Sometimes having a plan can be detrimental to achieving you goal. Sometimes you keeping working the plan even though the situation has changed. In our vacation planning, our goal isn’t to get to the top of the Washington Monument. It is to enjoy ourselves, to bond with the kids and to taking a break from our normal stressors. Making it to the top of the Washington Monument is an exciting thing but with the kids would rather just play in the pool, that may be a better path to our destination.

I’m reading, “Take off your shoes” by Ben Feder. He is telling a story of taking a sabbatical from a high power executive career. The main purpose is to reestablish family relationships and connections. On their way to their destination, Bali, they took a two week safari in Africa. Ben talks about getting anxious that the safari is delaying his family from their destination. He was getting fixated on his path, not his true goal. Bounding with his family could be done in Africa as easily as Bali.

The lesson is to not let you plans and planning to get in the way of your goals. Focus on what is important to you. Situations change and so must your plans.

Can I ask a bigger question

Too frequently, we get stuck in a small thinking just because that is where our idea started. An entrepreneur may review is P&L and realize he’s spending too much on hotels when he travels, so asks the question, “how can I pay less for my hotel stays?” That is a fair question but is it big enough. Instead the entrepreneur could ask, “how can I reduce my travel expenses?” The difference in the two questions may not seem like much but they can lead to very different answers. In the first case, then entrepreneur may try to negotiate better pricing or travel on cheaper days. In the larger question, the entrepreneur may question is some trips could be replaced with Skype calls or trips could be combined.

On a personal level, someone trying to get into shape may ask, “how can I make my workouts more intense?” A bigger question might be, “how can I adopt an active lifestyle?”

When you discover an obstacle or opportunity, pause for a few minutes and ask yourself, “can I ask a bigger question?”

Turning stop goals into go goals

Whether in business, relationships or personal lives, there are two broad categories of goals around making change: stop and go.

Stop goals are simply that, things you want to stop doing. Stop blowing up in meetings. Stop over eating. Stop taking on too many tasks. Stop taking your relationship for granted. Stop procrastinating.

Go goals are about things you want to start doing. Start speaking up. Start eating better. Start being proactive.

The two goals use different parts of your mind. Stop goals are mainly about using willpower and must be constantly applied. Stop goals are usually about breaking existing habits. Go goals rely more on creativity and starting new habits.

Research has shown that people using go goals are more successful than people who are using stop goals. Also people are more likely to give up on stop goals because it is more obvious each time they fail while go goals are are more about successes.

So. What do you do with this information? How can this improve your life? When you create a goal, be sure to turn it into a positive goal. For example, don’t have a goal of not eating that triple bacon cheese burger. Instead have a goal of eating a salad. Don’t have a goal of showing up your coworker. Instead have a goal of getting the most out of the team. Don’t have a goal of stop being so negative. Instead have a goal of being more positive.

Ask a little question

I was rereading Zig Ziglar’s Selling 101 on a beautiful but cold Sunday afternoon. If you are in sales or marketing it should be required reading. If you are in any roll where you must influence others (teaching, healthcare, hospitality, parenting), you really should read it as well.

It in first two pages good ole Zig gives a great story. He tells of how Aristotle theorized that two objects of the same material but different sizes would fall at different speeds. Centuries later at the University of Pisa, Galileo proved this theory wrong by dropping two different sized objects off the Leaning Tower of Pisa and they hit the ground at the same time. Even with this obvious proof, the University of Pisa still taught Aristotle ‘s incorrect theory. Why? Because Galileo convinced the University but didn’t persuade them.

What’s the difference? Convincing someone consists of telling or showing them something. Persuading someone consists of asking them questions and letting them figure it out for themselves.

How could have Galileo persuaded the University years ago? He could have asked the students to come up with ways to test the theory themselves.

Why did I talking about a “sales” book on a blog about coaching and personal/ professional growth? Asking a question!!! Because coaching is largely asking my clients questions and then holding up a mirror so they can see their answers. You don’t necessarily need a coach to do that for you. Ask yourself hard questions about who you are and who you want to be.

New plan

How I work with my clients has evolved over the last couple of years. Originally, I only offered weekly hour long sessions with a mix of live and virtual interactions. However, we covered too much in an hour so that many of my clients felt overwhelmed with the homework they had to do.

I started offering a biweekly hour long call, only via phone. That gave my clients more time to do their homework. Unfortunately, that also meant a loss of accountability. To help with that, I added text and email support between calls. Some clients go for the weekly offering, especially in the beginning but most prefer biweekly.

Now, by client request, I’m adding another option. I’m offering a weekly 30 minute call supported by text and emails in between. The thirty minute format will require that we really stay on task and will help prevent my clients from taking on too much in between sessions. The text/email also adds accountability. I’m really excited about this new option.

Reach out if you are stuck and need someone to help push and drive you out of your slump.

Please share this post. You never know who in your life is floundering and needs a hand or a boot on their behind.

Reinvent your life in four steps

Some times it takes the world slapping us in the back of the head (hopefully figuratively speaking) to realize what we are doing isn’t working anymore.  Who we’ve become isn’t who we want to be.  Losing a job, having spouse leave or just watching something amazing you’ve worked for fall apart can be scary.  It can also be an amazing period of self-realization.

So what do you do when you, the real you down deep in your psyche and not the “you” everyone else in your life sees, has become the square peg being shoved into the round hole of your life?  Realize it is less about reinventing yourself and more about reinventing your life.

1.) Do no harm – The first thing you need to do is to stop the damage, if there is any.  Sometimes we’ve been shoved so far into that round hole, damage is being done.  This could be over spending or pushing away loved ones or even just copious amounts of self-medication.  If you are doing anything that could cause lasting harm to yourself, your life or anyone else, work on that first.

2.) Make a little space – Life and habit conspire to keep us doing the same thing we’ve always done.  Change takes effort and effort takes time.  Odds are pretty good that your life is full.  Now it may not be full of what we want it to be full of but nature abhors a vacuum.  Decouple yourself from something.  Say no to a commitment and walk away.  Carve out a little time where you can work on you.

3.) Understand what you want/what you value – It is very difficult to find or create your own square hole if you don’t know what it looks like.  This can be a major step.  Talk to different people.  Read different books.  Keep a journal of things that excited you today.  Do the 20 in 20 exercise.  Make a list of things that you value and keep it handy when you are making decisions.

4.) Take action – Start small but start making changes today.  You don’t necessarily need to change cities or quit your job to start having a new life that fits you.  Remember, it is as important to stop doing things that aren’t right for you as it is to start doing things that bring meaning to your life. Progress not perfection.

What is your story about reinventing yourself?

20 in 20

I’m sure I’ve written about this tool, trick, hack before but it definitely is worth repeating. It is probably the most useful bit of homework that my clients enjoy. Well “enjoy” might not be the right word. Maybe “productive”.

Basically it is a free writing exercise with a few bounds. It can be used to push for creativity or for honesty. It can bring world peace. Ok, that might be a little hyperbole but it is a great tool that can help you push back limitations.

Go to a quiet place with few distractions. Put your cellphone on silent. Set a timer for twenty minutes. On a piece of paper (yes I recommend paper for this task) write across the top the problem you are trying to solve. Well it could be a problem or a challenge or an exploratory question. Then for the next twenty minutes write out as many responses as you can. Aim for twenty responses. To get twenty, you don’t have time to judge, edit or criticize your responses. Don’t put a lot of thought into any response because the clock is ticking. Remember you are not looking for quality responses, just a lot of them.

After the alarm rings, put the paper away without reading it. Let a day pass. Do things that allow your thoughts to flow. Really how many great ideas come to you in the shower or waking from a dream. Then go back to the paper. Read over your responses without editing or judging them. Set the timer for another twenty minutes. Try to add more responses or flesh out the responses you’ve already wrote down. At this point, you are adding, not editing. No criticism.

Let one more day pass. Go for a walk. Now reread all of your ideas. Circle anything that speaks to you. Pick the three best responses. Also pick the wildest response and the most “out there” response. Set your timer on last time. Now take those final five responses and add as much to them as you can. Include things you circled on responses that didn’t make the cut.

This is a great tool for “questions” like:

1.) What do I want to accomplish this year?

2.). Why do I hate my job?

3,) How could I get more customers?

4.) Why is my boss acting like a jerk?

5.) Why should I take this job?

6.) What would make me happy?

As you can see, it has a wide range of uses. It helps you tap into your subconscious and trap your underlying thoughts in writing.

You can do anything

You can do anything you set your mind to but you can’t do everything. Really.  The clue is right there in the sentence.  If you are trying to accomplish everything than you really haven’t set your mind to something.  You can have more than one goal but it definitely helps to be able to pick out a few top priority goals to work on.  The tricky part is how to determine what to set your mind to.  That is, what are your goals.

I’ve come across a great little game to help people prioritize their goals.  Take a pile of index cards and write out possible goals, one to a card.  Try to be very specific with each card.  Instead of writing, “make a lot more money” write “make $10,000” a year.  Adjust to your own income level.  You can put goals that cumulate on multiple cards, so you could have five “make $10,000” index cards or “lose 10 pounds” for example.  It helps to put a time limit on your goals.  For example, you might want to focus on goals you could achieve in the next year.

The goal on your goal cards, is to have, at least, twenty cards.  Feel free to overachieve.  Here are some prompts to help you fill out as many cards as you can:

Financial goals: making more money, saving for specific goals, increasing retirement, paying down debt

Health/fitness goals: losing weight, increasing ability (jogging more miles), lowering cholesterol, playing with the kids

Romantic: number of dates with spouse, getting a spouse, divorcing a spouse

Spiritual: attending church, praying, going on a retreat, taking a trip, meditating

Stress reduction: having flexibility at work, finishing nagging tasks

Growth: taking a class, reading a number of books a month

Joy: spending time with friends and family, getting a pet

There really isn’t a limit to the types of goals you put on your cards.

Once you have your cards all filled out, shuffle them face down and deal yourself five cards.  (If you really overachieved on the number of cards you wrote, you may want to start with eight cards in your hand.)  Look at that hand.  Is this the hand that equals goals for your next year?   Take a card from the deck and add it to your hand.  Now choose one card to discard.  Repeat with every card in the deck.  Your final hand is your hand of goals for the next year.

To really make it challenging, after you try it with five cards, reshuffle the entire deck (including the cards in your hand) and try doing it again but with only three cards in your hand.

What is your final hand?  Post it in the comments.  Sharing your goals can be a great motivator.

Pleasure with Pain

If you break motivation down into it’s simplest form, we are motivated to either seek pleasure or avoid pain.  Now I know many of you are rejecting that, saying that you are much more complex than that but stick with me for a minute.  Pleasure can include everything from a taste of a delicious juicy hamburger with tempura fried bacon on it (yes, tempura fried bacon exists, I’ve had it and I’m obsessed) to love.  Pleasure includes security and peace.  Pleasure can also include spirituality.  Pain on the other hand isn’t just limited to physical pain.  It can include fear, embarrassment, social rejection, insecurity, hungry, loneliness, etc.  The list can go on quite a while.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t so simple as that.  How do you stack up pleasure that will happen six months from now vs. pain happening today, for example dieting and exercising for six months so that you can look good for the upcoming high school reunion?  How do trade off one pain vs. another, for example my back hurts right now and I know 30 minutes of stretching will help…..but I don’t really like the stretching either?  How do you exchange one pleasure for one pain, for example spending on a big celebration when money is tight?

It is ok to allow our subconsciousness to handle these decisions of which pleasure to seek and which pain to avoid as long as we are ok with the outcomes.  Really, your subconscious is making hundreds of decisions a day and you don’t want to get stuck in trying to analyze each and everyone.  When you are not happy with your situation, whether it be financial, relationship, health, etc., stop and consider which decisions are leading you in the wrong direction and why you are making that decision.  It might be helpful to try to frame those decisions in a trade off between pleasures and pain.  You might have to ask yourself “why” a few times because most people are slow to admit what is really going on in their decision making.  Once you understand the tradeoffs, then work to enhance different pleasures, minimize different pains and (frequently) work to pull future pleasure into the moment.

Examples help.  I was telling the truth, my back is killing me right now.  It is a chronic issue that comes back a few times a year.  This one is as bad as it has gotten in probably the last five years.  Nothing to do but stretches.  My wife has a yoga video that does wonders for my back…….but I really don’t enjoy it.  So I have a literal pain, my back.  Seems like I should be able to jump up and fire up that video.  Why aren’t I?  Well, I know from experience the yoga tape won’t make my back feel better right away.  So the pain avoidance isn’t really an immediate pay off.  I find yoga to be pretty boring.  I know my yoga loving friends tell me I’m not doing it right if I’m not loving it but I don’t love it.  There is a certain level of mental pain that comes along with doing yoga for me.

So how do I motivate myself to go do those stretches, well in this case I brought in another pain, social embarrassment.  By writing and posting this, I sort of have to go do the yoga.  If I don’t, I’ll be a bit embarrassed that I let my laziness and procrastination let me sit here in pain.  Alright.  I’m going to go do some downward dogs.

Comment if you need some help affecting change.  Please share.  Imagine the pleasure you’ll get if this helps someone you know.