We were at a pool over the weekend and a child was getting a private swimming lesson from one of the lifeguards. The kid was working to pass the deep end test but couldn’t quite get his backstroke right. The lifeguard told the boy, “Point your toes, when you kick.” The boy yelled, “That’s what I was doing!” That is the point when the boy stopped learning and improving. He was insistent that he was doing everything right, despite not getting the results he wanted.
How many times do we do that as adults? Whether it is from a boss, spouse, friend or co-worker, how many times has someone given us a positive critic but we took it as criticism. Sometimes it hurts to say that we aren’t doing something right. Sometimes it is hard to admit that we need to do better. Growth is hard but we can do it. Sometimes all we have to do is listen.
Achieving goals being like building a bridge is a metaphor that works on a couple of levels. First, on one side of the chasm is where you are. On the other, where you want to be. Building the bridge is the planning and hard work necessary to allow you to cross from your current life to the life you choose.
On another level this metaphor works because of the process of building a bridge. Think through the steps. First, someone figures out a need for a bridge. There wasn’t a bridge there before after all. So why is a bridge necessary and why necessarily here. Making these decisions, need for a bridge and where that bridge is needed, helps clarify and solidify the goal and motivation in a person.
Second, they plan out what type of bridge is needed and the resources required. Engineering studies are done and blueprints are chosen. Is it a quick rope bridge or an 8 lane highway? Does it need to be a temporary bridge or a permanent structure? Will it take days or years to build? How much will it cost? This step helps a person start building their plan and marshaling their resources.
Third, materials are purchased, employees are hired and work begins. This is were the first actions of reaching a goal can be seen. Most of what has happened to this point is simply talking, researching and planning. Even though the first two steps are probably more important, now others can start to see work getting done.
Fourth, while the bridge is being made the work is continually inspected and modified. There are supervisors who are constantly on the job making sure the work is being done according to the blue prints. Frequently, inspectors come out to assess the work. Inspectors are also looking to ensure that reality – the depth of the river, the quality of the soil, etc. – are what were expected. If not, the plans will change to accommodate reality. On a less frequent basis, higher level employees and engineers will also monitor rate of production to completion, cost, material consumption, etc. When a person is trying to reach a goal, they should frequently monitory their progress. Are they making the progress at a rate they are happy with? Have they correctly identified all obstacles and opportunities in the first two stages or do adjustments need to be made?
I had a great habit a couple years ago of walking in the mornings. When I say walk, it was a fast paced 60 to 90 minutes all over town. I’d come back covered in sweat and out of breath. I also came back with determination and clarity about my goals for the day. I was healthier and happier after the walks. Things happened and I got away from that habit. Here’s how I’m restarting it.
First, I’m starting small. I leave the house with the intention of a 20 minute mosey instead of a 60 minute power walk. As this becomes a habit, I’ll lengthen the duration and up the intensity.
Second, I make it as easy as possible. My sweats and sneakers are all set so I can grab them and go without walking up anyone in the house.
Third, I have a secondary goal in mind. For today, I wanted to take the above picture. On other days, I went to see how a neighbor’s new landscaping was coming in. On another, I walked by a house for sale my wife mentioned.
Fourth, I combined walking with another morning task. One of the things that got in the way of me walking is that I also started writing in the morning. By walking to get the above picture and plotting out in my head what I was going to write, I was able to accomplish both goals. By combining a couple of tasks, usually one that you want to do with one that you should do, you are much more likely to get both done. Another example is when my wife and I used to go out for Indian buffets for Sunday brunch. That was before kids by the way. We really enjoyed it be a buffet is heavy on the calories. Therefore, we combined walking with the brunch by walking to the restaurants.
Are you out of balance? Balance is not a point in time, static state. It is a process of constantly shifting and adjusting. How long could you stay up on a bicycle without movement and adjustment?
For most of us, getting out of balance is a process too. It is typically not a result of one decision but rather a series of decisions or indecisions. Most of us don’t take the time on a regular basis to stop and reassess, “Am I spending my time on what is truly important to me?”
The good news is that you don’t have to stay out of balance. Take an hour and evaluate your time vs. your values. Odds are pretty good that you are doing a lot of things, spending a lot of your resources, on activities that you don’t value. It is ok to say “no.” Drop some of your commitments. Other commitments do “good enough” instead of to the best of your ability. Find other people to take up some of your commitments.
Have you ever known the person who suddenly becomes a vegan, starts spending hours in a gym despite never being away from the couch for more than twenty minutes and loses twenty pounds in a month? They look great. They feel great and other than an annoying habit of talking about animal rights while you’re trying to enjoy a bacon double cheese burger, they seem incredibly happy. A few weeks later, their running shoes are collecting dust, they gained back all of the weight and they are eyeing your bacon double cheese burger.
When you are looking to make a change, the most important thing to consider is how sustainable that change is. Think of it this way. If you are trying to save money, if you start putting away $1 a day, you are probably not going to notice it but after a year you will have saved $365. Now if you go super aggressive and decide to suddenly start putting away $50 a week, you will notice it. But if you are only able to keep it up for a month, you have only put away $200 dollars. The little amount that you can keep doing makes a greater change than the a massive change you can’t sustain.
When you making a change in your life, start small. So small that it is easily sustainable and repeatable. Make it easy to do, so easy that you will barely notice. Once you have secured that change, you can make the change even a little larger. Not much. Over time, these little changes will add up to significant changes over time.
I’ve made my book Greater Than available for free on Amazon for a limited time. While Greater Than is a made for anyone seeking to achieve more in their life, it is very relevant for someone trying to make and keep resolutions.
This free offer is only available for a few days, so please take advantage of it. Do you know someone who needs a little help with getting started? Share Greater Than with them, especially now that it is free. We could all use some help some times.
The University of Scranton teamed with the Journal of Clinical Psychology and reviewed New Year’s Resolutions (See summary here). Only 8% of the population succeeded at their prior year’s New Year’s Resolutions. 25% of people drop their New Year’s Resolution by the end of the first week. A third of people drop their resolution by the end of the first month.
There are a number of factors influencing resolution success. A very typical issue is that people tend to NOT plan out how they are going to actually achieve their resolution. The most common resolution is losing weight. Losing weight comes down to three factors; eating fewer calories, eating healthier and moving more. To be successful at achieving a weight loss resolution, a person needs to plan out how are they going to track and reduce calories, how are they going to ensure they eat more and how are they going to move more. While it is ok for the goal to be a little lose, the more specific a person is on how he/she will accomplish the actions that lead to achieving the goal, the more likely he/she will lose the weight.
Be very specific on your action plans. Ask yourself the five “W” and an “H” questions. What are you going to do? Why are you doing this action? When will you do it? Where will you do it? Who are you going to do it with? Finally, How are you going to do it? Once you have these questions all laid out, put your action plans in your calendar and set reminders on your phone. Look over your plan. Are their any obstacles to accomplishing the plan as you laid out? Address them now. If you say you are going to go to the gym at 6 am every morning but your schedule has you getting to bed at 2 am, your plan probably isn’t going to work for long. You are better off addressing these issues before you even start.
I’ve recently published a book Greater Than that is very appropriate for achieving New Year’s Resolutions. Greater Than is the first in the series The Little Book Series for Big Success. Each book in this series is meant to be read in under an hour and is constructed in a way where you can start applying its techniques immediately. Greater Than give thirteen different tools, techniques and strategies that will help you reach your resolution goals.
Please like or share if you know someone who needs a little help with their resolutions. We all could use a little help once in awhile.