Often we think we need to make radical changes in our lives to create success, when in reality it is the little incremental changes that make the biggest difference. You don’t need to quit your job, abandon everything you know, or put your financial future at risk; you just need to start making changes in your behavior one step at a time.
What is Success?
When I talk about success I’m not limiting it to financial gain, but that will certainly be one measure. You might also define success in terms or relationships, health, skills, or peace of mind just to name a few. Another way to look at success is personal growth. Successful people are people that are always growing. Personal growth provides satisfaction and happiness, which ignites a need for more growth. Face it if you are not growing as an individual you are standing still and nothing changes.
Ways to be more successful
Think of how much you could achieve if each month you made one little change in your behavior. Each time you made one of these seemingly insignificant changes they would begin to propel you towards achieving your goals. One of the reasons you will achieve your goals is that you are building self discipline with each change. Let’s take a look look at some examples:
- I get up an hour earlier to perform my yoga practice
- I quit eating foods that contain high amounts of sugar
- I begin eating more fruits and vegetables
- I quit drinking alcoholic beverages (OK not such a small thing)
- I start going to the health club and began lifting weights
- I begin studying for a certification related to my job
- I take a class on something I’m interested in
- I learned to play a musical instrument
- I read one new book a month on a topic that will change the way I think
Peace of mind
- I quit watching the news on TV
- I meditate for 10 – 15 minutes every day
- I start watching motivational videos on YouTube (Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Eric Thomas, Esther Hicks, Wayne Dyer, or Mel Robbins)
- I started a blog to write about something I am interested in, not for other people but for myself
Don’t limit yourself
While I mentioned you can chose one thing each month to change, there is really no limit. Let’s take watching the news in the morning. What a horrific way to start your day. You are feeding your mind politics, tragedy, pain, suffering, and tons of negative things and getting little in return. So instead of watching the news, roll out your yoga mat, and while doing your routine listen to or watch something inspirational on YouTube. Now you have accomplished three things in the same amount of time and do this every day and your whole life begins to change.
We improve by making changes, some small, some bigger, but by changing. As we make these changes we are creating self discipline and it is this very fact that will lead us to great success however you define it.
Choose that one thing today that will move you forward.
I really tire of the endless dribble regarding New Year’s resolutions, and everyone making such a big deal over the year changing from 2014 to 2015. Sure it is a great excuse to drink yourself into a coma, or do some other mindless activity, but give me a break. Many people feel compelled to decide to make radical changes, and more power to you, but beware these things often go unfulfilled. Let’s take someone who doesn’t exercise regularly and then decides I am going to workout everyday and become physically fit. This will probably last about a week or two and then the person falls back into their old habits, and is now donating to the gym where they bought their membership. If it takes a new year to get you motivated then so be it, but the fact that it will be 2015 doesn’t really instill any resolve in you or will it make much of a difference.
I contend that you must keep doing the good things you have started and if possible do more of them. So if you already exercise regularly then increase the intensity or variety. If you have been working on quitting a bad habit or two, then keep it up. If you are meditating every couple of days, then build on that and do it every morning. If you are generally positive and encouraging to others, then try to be that way all the time. Think of the impact you will have when every day you stay positive during good and bad times, and you complement and encourage those around you instead of criticize. How will you feel about yourself? What will the people you live with and work with think?
It is much easier to exploit some of your good behaviors than to create brand new patterns. I’m not saying you shouldn’t choose to set a new course in your life, but don’t let the start of a new year be the incentive, do it because it makes sense and you have the resolve to stick with it. Take advantage of the good things you do, and do more of them, after all they are already behaviors that can be enhanced and with much less effort. Before you know it, all those good things you are doing are crowding out the not so positive behaviors and the world will seem like a better place. I will end this post with the following quote by Aristotle:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Happy New Year and keep doing the good things.
As the week winds down you finally get to Friday, which for many employees turns out to be the most unproductive day of the week. Most of us are looking forward to the week being over and may be even a bit burned out, and by noon productivity begins to dip. I’ve experienced this many times myself as we use what is left of our precious energy to get through the remaining hours of the day so we can get out of there. I’m going to suggest an alternative for the Friday malaise, and it has to do with using what you have left in the tank mentally and physically to do something that produces value for you and your employer.
The suggestion is to devote as much of the day as possible to planning and cleanup activities. So instead of watching the clock and generally wasting time waiting to get the hell out of there you have something to do that occupies your time and can help you achieve your goals. The following activities and benefits provide the basis for making Friday a productive day versus a waste of time:
- Activity: Plan out all your meetings for the upcoming week, schedule your conference rooms, and align your calendar with your to do list. Benefit: This sets you up for success on Monday and you now have a well thought out plan of attack for the week.
- Activity: Cleanup your email, file everything in folders, respond to any outstanding emails, and delete all the stuff you don’t need. I try to get it down to maybe a dozen messages in my inbox. Benefit: Again you are doing some pretty easy work, and when you come in on Monday you start with a clean inbox. This allows you to focus on the present and the future and not have to deal with unread emails from the previous week.
- Activity: Update your to do list or project schedules, adjusting due dates, adding tasks, and marking tasks complete. Benefit: Now instead of spending precious time next week you have a current to do list and project schedules. While this takes a bit of thought and planning it is not overly taxing.
- Activity: Last but not least plan out what you will do this weekend, if you are like me you have been so busy all week that you haven’t had time to think about what you want to accomplish this weekend. I use an app called Wunderlist for my personal to do list manager because it is simple and works on various devices like my notebook computer, chrome book, and my android phone. Benefit: Instead of ending the day and having no plans for the weekend you now have a pretty good idea of the things you would like to accomplish and planned some recreational time.
None of the above mentioned activities require a lot of brain power, but they all provide value and set the stage for a more productive upcoming week. Because we are generally low on energy, focus on the planning and cleanup activities if you can, and save the stuff that takes real effort for Monday through Thursday. We all need some time to reflect and plan; contrary to what you may think this investment will pay dividends over time. The trick is to take care of the critical things on Friday morning and then if possible devote the afternoon to these these planning and cleanup activities.
I realize this doesn’t apply to all roles and jobs, but there are an awful lot of occupations where this can work.
Have a great weekend, I need to start planning.
Being the over planning person that I am, I scheduled Monday through Saturday mornings for yoga and meditation. Yes I actually created an appointment in Outlook which of course syncs with my phone, but there is one problem today is Wednesday and haven’t hit the mat yet this week. So I have managed to make some sort of excuse three days in a row. Maybe I just have an issue with mornings, but I’m not sure that is the issue. Well if this is about excuses then early in the morning could qualify as one. Here is the definition I found of excuse used as a noun:
“A reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.”
The above definition best describes how I have justified not pursuing goals by providing some reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify my behavior. Does any of this sound familiar? Make great plans and then fail to execute, and come up with various excuses which of course you know are pretty much bullshit. So what do we do about this common phenomena?
- Realize you are doing it. This is generally pretty easy because the excuses are accompanied by periods of guilt and self loathing.
- Once we realize it, then stop it! Move on with your plan and stop using the excuse.
- Analyze your excuse and determine if the goal was unreasonable or you were not committed to it.
- If after you have analyzed the excuse and the goal then decide if the goal is worth the effort and move on.
Remember that most excuses are a way to avoid something that is uncomfortable, and that would probably be enjoyable once you actually got started. Examples of this might include getting out of the door to go running, attending a party, and yes performing your yoga practice. All three of these are perfect examples of activities that once you start them you find they are very enjoyable, but often your mind says I don’t really want to do it. So this hesitancy to move forward is probably a trigger for creating an excuse, so remember if there is some minor discomfort associated with an activity then push forward and don’t allow yourself to make an excuse.
The world is filled with people that have failed to achieve their dreams and goals as they fell prey to their favorite excuses.
I lived a great many years in a dual existence; on one side was the healthy Joe who worked out almost every day, took vitamins and supplements, and tried to eat the right foods, and on the other side was Joe the partier. Joe the partier seemed to be happiest spending time smoking and drinking. Both the good and the not so good Joe had firmly entrenched habits, and this continued on for many years. More recently there came a time when I asked myself are you all in? With one foot in the fitness and health world and one foot in bad habit land, a choice had to be made.
We all find ourselves in this situation where our positive actions are in conflict with some negative behaviors that we cling on to. These don’t need to be an addiction to substances, they may be a toxic relationship, a going nowhere job, or some other action that is contrary to the positive path you are on.
Being all in means you are willing to abandon that other side, thus ending the conflict. Every time you say no to the negative behavior you move closer to being all in. For myself I struggle with being mostly committed, and if anything I tend to go too far, but that is my psychological make-up. Some people can live a dual lifestyle, but for me this just led to self loathing and regret for every time that I failed to be all in. In Texas Hold’em going all in can mean winning or being eliminated from the game. In terms of life choices going all in can only mean winning. If you can’t live a life of making great choices 80% time, and going the opposite direction the other 20% of the time then you must make a choice. Am I all in? Am I totally committed?
So are you all in?
If you have read some of my prior posts you know that I was advocating that you set a goal each Monday that will lead to making positive changes in you life. These might be losing weight, exercising more, eating better, overcoming some unhealthy addiction, starting a business, getting a new job, repairing a relationship, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been taking my own advice and am now on my fourth goal or fourth Monday. What I have begun to realize is that most of the goals I set are ongoing and require a frequent investment in time to achieve, so they tend to pile up and require a lot of dedication to achieve them. This is a good thing, but sometimes it might be wise to throw in some easier to achieve goals in the mix. Here is an example of how you might intersperse some goals that can be more easily achieved or at least require less ongoing time to support:
Week 1: Do something everyday towards a business you have started. Clearly this will be one of those ongoing goals that requires effort overtime, categorize this as a big goal.
Week 2: Make changes to your diet to include more fruits and vegetables. This is one of those easier to achieve goals and doesn’t have a lot of overhead associated with it.
Week 3: Practice yoga six days a week. Again this is a pretty big goal and has no end date, you achieve this goal 6 days a week so we might categorize this as a big goal.
Week 4: Make a commitment to donate $500 a year to the United Way. Here is a pretty easy to achieve goal that only requires minimal effort. For those of you who work for a corporation this is simply filling out the pledge card once a year.
Week 5: Commit to calling your parents or siblings once a week. This is somewhat of an in between goal, not a huge time commitment but it does require some discipline.
These are just a few examples of goals that have an ongoing cost, and those that are a bit easier to achieve. Does the fact that a goal requires a big commitment make it more important? Maybe but take the goal for Week 2 of adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and Week 4 of donating $500 per year to the United Way; one might suggest these are both pretty important things to do. We all have limited time, so those goals with a high ongoing costs must be things you are extremely committed too. It is always a good idea to have some goals that you can achieve more quickly but that still have a positive impact on your life or the life of others.
I’ve posted a couple different times on how Monday is the ideal day to set a goal that you will work towards or maybe achieve depending of course on the nature of what you are seeking. My own score card is I have completed two of the three goals I set for myself. Instead of taking my own advice I set goals that were very difficult so 2 out of 3 is not so bad, and I have made some progress on the one that I cannot say I have completely mastered. This brings up another point about goal setting that we need to understand. It is vitally important that you set the goals so that you can begin to change your behavior, but realistically you will not always achieve them in the time frame you set for yourself. I’ve always liked the graphic below because it does a good job of simply depicting what really happens when we set a goal and work toward achieving it.
Sometimes reaching your goals and the resulting success this brings you is a messy process, so I wanted to make sure you cut yourself some slack during this whole process. I found myself questioning the order of goals I set for the 4 or 5 weeks, re-ordering them, and even eliminating some to better suite my true desires when it comes to work and my personal life. I’m sure you will do the same as you make adjustments as you think about what you really want to achieve. While it is true that we will all struggle to achieve our goals, it is no reason to hesitate to move forward. The very fact that you may find the goals you set difficult to achieve means that you have set worthy goals. Continue to have faith in yourself and your dreams. Don’t fall back into old patterns of behavior as every Monday brings with it a new start, a new goal, and change.