Tag Archives: Change

Is that a reason or an excuse?


When we list out what our obstacles are, when we list out why we haven’t succeeded, does that list consist of real obstacles or excuses?  A client tried telling me how her contractors were dictating her schedule.  When I asked why, she had a series of reasons.  Her poor communication style.  It is how the industry works, etc.  Then I listed each reason back to her and ask, “is this an excuse or is this a real obstacle?”  With each one, the answer was that is was an excuse.  It was an excuse that allowed her to not engage her contractors.  Once she was able to admit that she was making excuses to avoid the conflict, we created a series of tactics that allowed her to stand up for herself without creating the conflict she feared.  We also role played the smaller amount of conflict that would happen.  We built up her confidence, improved her motivation, gave her tools and (most importantly) removed her excuses.  The contractors continue to work with her and they no longer dictate her schedule.  I have an excerpt of where some of these excuses are coming from here: Voices within.

List all of the reasons that are holding you back.  For each one, decide if it is a real obstacle or is it an excuse.  Then, create strategies to engage each item on your list.  Even though it may be an excuse, you are still going to have to deal with it.  It will take effort. You can use some of these techniques to get yourself moving.



Voices Within – excerpt


Wolski Success Partners Voices Inside Presentation

The negative thoughts rushing through your mind are not the enemy.  They are not things to be fought, rejected or contained.  They are protective instincts triggered in physical structures of your mind.  Just because they are part of you and are trying to protect you, doesn’t mean that they are right.  You get to decide which of these thoughts you focus on and turn into action.

Share if you know someone who needs help with their own internal voices

Interrupt Yourself

file0001382919230Your life, your schedule, your habits and your brain all conspire to keep the status quo. We are squishy machines, biologically tuned to keep doing what we typically do as efficiently as the brain can manage. Like Pavlov’s dogs, our brain notices repeated triggers and starts producing hormones key to emotions based on what hormones are normally triggered in the trigger situation. For example, hate your job? Feel depressed, stressed and frustrated at work? Your brain will identify triggers on your trip to work and start releasing cortisol, the primary stress hormone. What you do reinforces how you feel and how you feel reinforces what you do. Most people follow the same routine throughout their lives. They eat the same meals. They have the same reactions in certain situations. They hang out with the same people and talk about the same topics. Yes. This changes slowly over time. Unfortunately, many people hate where they are in their lives. They use caffeine to get them through the day and alcohol to help them sleep at night. Perhaps they through in pills or therapy just to be able to maintain their miserable position in life. The key to improving this situation is to interrupt these habits that reinforce your status quo. Start by making easy changes. Get to work at a different time each day, take a different route and listen to comedians on the ride to work instead of talk radio. Go out to lunch with different people. As you start to make changes, notice your stress triggers. What situations are causing you to have stress reactions? What is your body telling you? Once you know your triggers, you can create a short term and a long term solution. For the short term, work on how you react to those triggers. Interrupt your triggers and reframe your reactions. For the long term, identify the source of your stress. Either change the root cause of your stress or embrace it.

What is your yardstick?

How do you know when you are successful?  How do you know if you are “good” at something?  Are other people better at something than you are?  A “yardstick” helps you answer all of these questions.  Basically a yardstick is a measurement you pick before you start something that tells you if you are achieving the results you want.  Your yardstick must be consistent with your goal.

A yardstick works in both personal and professional lives.  For example, if your goal is to be president of the company, your yardsticks might include being the first one in the office every morning, being the go-to-person for your boss, getting promotions every year, etc.  If your goal is to spend as much time with your family as possible, then your yardstick is when you choose family over other activities.

There are two important things to NOT do.  One, do not apply other people’s yardsticks to your own life.  Other people have defined their goals differently than you.  They have prioritized different aspects of their lives.  Two, do not apply your yardsticks to other people.  What you value does not apply to them.  They have every right to choose their own yardsticks.

The opposite of “conflict” is not “surrender.”

A new client of mine has always been the peacemaker.  She’s been the one at home and on the job who made things happen by avoiding all conflict.  Now she owns the family business and she still avoids conflict.  When the contractors don’t turn in their reports on schedule, my client will still do whatever is needed to make sure they get paid on time on time.  When an employee doesn’t get important tasks done on time, she’ll simply say to do it now and then will put in extra effort to make sure everything is done and monitored going forward.

Conflicts have been avoided but at what cost?  My client is exhausted.  She knows she should be spending more time developing new business but all of the extra work and interruptions has made it impossible for her.  Avoiding conflict may have helped her avoid small periods where period are unhappy but now she is unhappy pretty much all the time.  It is costing her sanity and business.

Our first task was to show her the cost of conflict avoidance.  Next, we developed a series of processes and rules that made some of the conflicts unnecessary.  Finally, we practiced ways to address a situation where instead of having a conflict with the other person, you recruit them to be part of the solution.  It has only been a few weeks but the small changes are adding up.  At our last session, she told me that she was able to bid on a half-million dollar job that she would have had to pass on without our improvements.  This is only after two sessions.  I can’t wait to see what she is going to be able to accomplish after a couple of months.

Training cats, changing people and other pointless exercises

My clients frequently ask me how to change someone else; an employee, a partner or even their boss.  Unfortunately, you can’t change other people.  It simply can’t be done.  People will only change if they want to change.  They have to want it and want to change more than whatever rewards they are currently getting.

We have a hard enough time trying to change ourselves.  Only 8% of people are successful in achieving their own New Year’s resolution.  It takes most people seven or more attempts to change something about themselves like losing weight or stopping smoking.  Those activities are pretty easy to see and, therefore, are easier to change.  Trying to change something that is more subtle, for example being too negative, is even harder.  If we fail so consistently at changing ourselves, imagine how difficult it is to attempt to change other people.

Attempting to change someone is like attempting to train a cat.  Cats don’t train well.  Cats do want they want and why they want it.  My kids do watch a show, My Cat From Hell, on the Animal Planet.  It stars Jackson Galaxy, a self described cat-behaviorist.  Each episode Jackson goes into two households with completely out of control cats and in two or three visits, he completely trains these cats.  When you study what Jackson does though, he doesn’t train the cat.  He modifies the cat’s environment to encourage the cat to want to change.

Let’s examine what Jackson actually does with the cats.  He follows a pretty consistent technique and gets results nearly every time.

1.) De-stress the environment – The first thing Jackson does if find ways to make the cat less stressed.  Stress causes poor decision making in both cats and people.  Jackson de-stresses the environment by adding kitty little boxes, blocking views of neighborhood cats and adding places where the cat feels protected and safe.  Additionally, Jackson will include outlets for the cat.

2.) Improve communication – Then Jackson teaches the owners how to communicate with the cat.  With cats, communication is largely about body language.

3.) Create routines – For example, play with the cat and then feed the cat.  Routines provide a level of predictability.

4.) Change the payoff – Jackson also provide treats and other rewards for positive behavior.  He also removes incentives for negative behaviors.  The change in the reward system helps make the cat want to do positive behaviors.

While you can’t change your employee or partner, you can use a lot of Jackson’s technique to get different outcomes.  You can not change someone.  You can, however, change the environment and reward system to get different outcomes.

20 seconds to happiness

Around 40% of all of our daily activities are habits.  That is 40% of the time, we are not making conscious decisions about what we are doing.  This is actually a good thing.  Habits are efficient.  Thinking is exhausting.  It consumes energy and willpower.  Think of thinking/decision making as a resource and we can only use up so much of that resource a day.  As with any resource, we want to use it as wisely as possible.  Habits let us save the thinking/decision making resource for the more important decisions.

So habits are good . . . . . . . well sort of.  Habits are good at making conserving our thinking/decision making resource.  Whether a given habit is a good or bad decision, depends on whether the outcome of that decision is consistent with your long term healthy goals.  So much of our success depends on ensuring our habits are supporting our long term goals. 

According to The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Anchor we can change our habits with really small changes.  Shawn argues that if you make good habits 20 seconds easier to accomplish you are significantly more likely to  actually do that habit.  He uses his efforts to practice guitar as his habit.  Simply by getting a cheap guitar stand and moving it to a more convenient location was all it took to start practicing.  Similarly, making a bad habit 20 seconds harder to accomplish makes it much more likely we will not do this habit.

We can apply this lesson in our personal habits, our professional habits, our team habits and even in our customer habits.  Big changes come from small changes consistently applied.  Look at how you can make good things just a little bit easier and make bad things just a little bit harder.  That little bit will accumulate over time.  It will make a big difference in your life.  Just start today.