Dana's My Coach
Find your game… play… repeat.
For the Health of Your Happiness, Start Where You Are
April 11, 2020Posted by on
In the times before CoVid-19 we all had our goals, routines and “To-do” lists that seemed so important. But all that has changed hasn’t it? Before the pandemic, my list for April included getting my first colonoscopy (yes, I’m getting to that age!). Thankfully, this has slid off my priority list. What also changed is small things are now complicated. I used to go to the grocery store with relative ease–a quick stop on the way home from work. Now, the ordeal involves carefully thought out supply lists, store maps, and kitting myself out in a haz-mat suit. How times have changed! (sigh)
Goal-setting must change too. It’s easy to slide into apathy or avoidance in our haste to allay our anxiety. But researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky says happiness comes from pursuing goals and not achieving them. If so, sheltering in place may be hazardous to our happiness’ health. Rather than escapism, we need approach-oriented, pleasure-inducing, micro-goals that reflect where we are now. If, for no other reason than it increases serotonin, a feel-good natural hormone associated with happiness.
We’ve experienced a collective schock adjusting to life in a pandemic. We don’t need a challenge because we are already facing challenges. We need to start where we are now when deciding which goals to pursue For example, in a virtual interview on Seth Meyers’ show, Amy Poehler shared how she is teaching her children to sign (as in American Sign Language) anew letter every day. This is a simple, actionable, pleasure-inducing goal. Bravo, Amy! Amy is incredibly ambitious, and, under different conditions she would certainly set more ambitious goals. But she is starting where she is now.
So take small, active steps toward your goals, even when you have lingering doubts. The actions in and of themselves lead to joy and satisfaction…which drown out the doubts. Pursuing new, pleasurable activities produces a steady influx of positive feelings. Make contact with an old friend, learn a word in another language–these activities result in an upward spiral, bringing about more happiness, and subsequently more success.
To ensure you create a vision that is most likely to tap your happiness, look to science. Lyubomirsky’s research (see below for complete list) points to goal characteristics most associated with happiness. They are: make them approach-oriented (rather than avoidant-oriented), unique to you, reflect where you are now (instead of where you used to be or where you think you should be), and are broken down into micro-goals (baby steps). Also, it’s important you pursue them with commitment, kindness toward yourself and celebration.
My new goal for the month is to find the perfect white T-shirt (online shopping is a safe social distancing activity!). I will celebrate by dressing up for my next Zoom conference…
at least from the waist up!
What’s your new goal?
Not all Goals are Created Equal: 7 Tips on Creating Goals for your Happiness’ Health*
–Approach-oriented: Make approach-oriented rather than avoidant goals.
–Make it for you: Ideally your goals are uniquely, authentic to you, harmonious, and activity-based.
–Baby steps: break your dream or vision down into lower-level, concrete subgoals.
–Start where you are: Life is already a struggle for many. We don’t need new challenge, we need pleasure. Formulate your activity goals accordingly.
–Commit: By committing to take action steps toward a specific end we take charge of our destiny (a.k.a. ‘Bossing-up’)
–Celebrate: Consciously reward yourself for achieving any milestones.
–Be kind to yourself: People may feel resistance to goal-setting because they are afraid of failing and therefore suffering the self-criticism that will follow. Turn this around by committing acts of kindness toward yourself…acknowledge yourself, list your accomplishments, remember the many people who love you and believe in you.
*from Sonja Lyubomirsky’s “The How of Happiness”)
First, Get What You Really Want (Even if it Means You Scrap Your Resolutions)
January 26, 2020Posted by on
If you are reading this, you are most likely a goal-oriented person. Me too. But sometimes goals bring pressure, self-criticism and perfectionism. I prefer to approach achievement as a game and combine it with an abundance of playfulness, self-compassion, and a sense of fun. Playing games can help you learn strategy, skills, and attract friends (why else would video games be so popular?). Best of all, games make learning and achievement fun!
In essence, games are goals that give you energy.
You may already be asking yourself if your 2020 goals give you energy. If they don’t, fine! Luckily, it’s only January and you have time to recalibrate your journey for this year. Maybe you persuaded yourself to adopt a goal that sounded good, but wasn’t right for you.
For example, in a society based on consumerism, there is constant pressure to spend money. Humans are highly suggestible. We may hear someone say they want to increase their annual income and think, “Oh, that’s a good goal!, I’ll do that too!” The pitfall in this case is if it doesn’t give you energy, it may be difficult to achieve and even more difficult to enjoy. You need to learn how to spend your time as you earn more money. Otherwise, the goal will not likely be satisfying nor even attainable for you.
Learning how to spend your own time doesn’t cost you money, and you can start right now! Most of our time gets spent for us by other people (and their agendas for us) or, and I don’t know which is worse, our time spends itself. Instead, learn to direct your own time. Imagine how it feels to earn, say, an extra $250 every month this year (or $2,000, or any number that works for you). Try to see and feel in great detail how your life will be different. Maybe you believe your anxiety will decrease if you earn that money. Or, maybe you will treat yourself and/or your family to a weekend getaway.
You know what? If decreasing your anxiety and spending time on get-aways is what you desire, then make that the goal! These are both measurable and achievable things to do, and likely lead to you enjoying your time more. Attaining your income goal, on the other hand, will not guarantee these things will happen. If you are committed to a stated goal (e.g. decrease anxiety, spend a weekend away) you can guarantee it will happen.
You may be more likely to reach a money (or any other) goal, if you put at least as much importance on fulfilling your heart’s desire. It’s hard to believe, I know. If you don’t believe me, try it! Set a goal for yourself to attain something that thrills you and brings you joy. At the same time, monitor your income and watch what happens. Just watch.
Be honest with yourself. If earning more money doesn’t give you energy, it doesn’t have to mean you are destined to earn the same income year after year. But rather, if you want something else even more, commit to pursuing what you really want. That way, you gain energy, instead of lose it. Playing a game that gives you energy increases your vitality and inspires new habits, therefore new opportunities open up. An indirect result may be more money! In fact, if you are able to decrease your anxiety and experience the joy of getting out of town with your loved ones, the increased confidence you feel may inspire you to apply for a new job, ask for a raise, or sell your products (if you have your own business). But first, fulfill your heart’s desire.
Learning to discern what we really want from what we think we want, or from what someone else tells us we want can be tricky. Seth Godin recently wrote a blog about hunger and thirst. If you are thirsty, all the food in the world will not help you. If you are hungry, gallons of water will not help you. Similarly, if you are thirsty and you set a goal to have more food, you are not helping yourself.
As a former mentor once said, “Please yourself by being true to your own desires. Stop yearning to live your desires. Live them. Earn money. Spend time. Have some fun. There isn’t anything more important. You are what matters. Get what you need. Live your dream. It’s a mistake not to.”
How often do you think you are able to diagnose what your heart really needs, and then set a goal to achieve it? After reading this blog, I sincerely hope your percentage goes up!
When Life and Work Become a Game
August 6, 2019Posted by on
“All the world is a stage” Shakespeare famously said. It can also be said that all of life is a game. At least it can be. Why do we like games? Playing a game brings excitement, creates unity – even between competitors – and provides a new field for learning, activity and skill development. Play unleashes the spirit. When you are in action, a whole new kind of thinking occurs, which leads to even more action, which undoubtedly leads to results. Results from our actions help us develop an accurate self-concept, and therefore effect our self-esteem.
For example, I did not realize how competitive a person I was until one New Year’s Day I sat around a table playing spoons with friends and family. There were mostly children – some as young as 6 years old – in the group and yet I gave nothing less than my absolute personal best at that game of spoons – because – well, because of my competitive nature! I didn’t hold back just because they were children! And, I thoroughly enjoyed the play.
Noticing this drive to play hard without holding back helped me see myself in a new light, and allowed me to mine a pool of personal ambition and desire. Creating games for myself, my family and my associates has, ever since this realization, become a primary focus of my life. Games are a way to frame desires, wishes, projects, by giving a specific timeline and a playful spirit to the activities.
When it comes to goals, I think people get the wrong idea. They think of things to do that they should do. However, inherent in the word game is the sense of playfulness, energy and fun. If you think in terms of games instead of goals, you are more likely to define your goals in terms of the activities you will engage in, and therefore your goals become tangible and actionable, rather than conceptual. More like a game.
To me the best part of having a game instead of goals is that playing a game lends itself to coaching, and is based on game theory. Now, I like non-zero sum games, or games where everyone wins…similar to John Nash’s equilibrium theory. This requires systems-thinking, strategy and optimism, and more importantly, playing these types of games cannot be done in a silo.
I love collaborating and strategizing with others in business projects, because then the relationship takes on a coaching quality. A coaching conversation is almost always more interesting than an ordinary conversation. High performance coaches nudge, invite or in some cases catapult you out of your concepts and into the actual world, through playful action. They discern what lights people up and design a game consisting of those activities, inspiring people to move, to play, to act. Coaches make high performance fun. Work is no longer a burden, and life becomes an interesting game. I can’t imagine living any other way!
Follow Your Bliss…And Then What?
June 30, 2019Posted by on
Joseph Campbell told us to Follow our Bliss, and Marsha Sinetar said Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. Although inspiring as titles, they are not maps. In fact, sayings like ‘let it go,’ ‘conquer your fears,’ or ‘you must love yourself or nobody else will’ are just too conceptual. Practical people like me are left wondering what does that even mean?…how does one actually do that?
In other words, “what’s the plan Stan?”
I feel fortunate to have had a mentor who thrived in plan-making (he would call himself an architect) for living a fulfilling life, specially suited to each individual. If you are also tired of oversimplified advice, here are 3 important things for crafting a life and livelihood…
1- Focus on the Whole Picture, but do One Action at a Time – Rather than focusing on one specific thing, focus on multiple pieces of the whole of your puzzle (systems-thinking). “You need to focus”, is advice that sounds helpful but isn’t. It’s unhelpful because nobody does that nor do they want to. But more importantly, it’s not helpful because people interpret that to mean only focus on one of the many puzzle pieces that make up your life. Of course, you focus on one action, but that one thing is part of a big picture made up of all the parts of you. Those parts deserve focus too. True focus creates a larger perspective by organizing all the activities that go into a great life.
2- Your Enjoyment Matters – This is not fluffy, feel-good advice. Whatever makes you shine with enthusiasm and pleasure is what makes you interesting to others. Adam Lean in 10 Steps to Your First Small Business for Teens says “You are unique, you have unique skills, talents, interests and abilities. There is no one else on earth like you, so you have to come up with a business idea that is unique to you”. Transforming the activities you enjoy into products and services that benefit others is good advice for ambitious teens…and adults too! Play is the magical ingredient that brings us together as human beings. When children play they are spontaneous and authentic, and so are you. The things that delight you combine to become a service that spontaneously organizes your mind and body. This service is your organizing function.
3- Train in People Skills – Service models in our economy are rapidly changing. Harvard press refers to this evolution as an ‘experience economy in which people will earn their living by educating and entertaining’ We need to learn new social skills because we cannot deliver new services with old communication patterns. Interpersonal complications with clients, staff and team members are the number one killer of dreams, and your business. The next generation is learning to interface with new service delivery models, with what they experience, they will arise to build a global system of cooperation between entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are typically more flexible and adapt quickly, but we have to read people pretty carefully to tune into the many possible ways an interpersonal relationship can go awry.
Rapid change – like we are experiencing right now – requires agility and adaptation. Finding a map, calibrating the infinite stream of available information to fit your life, and learning to accurately read events as they unfold around you is all more important than glib cliché’s. Look at your map, make a plan, or secure a playbook, and start your game!
What’s the Problem with Your Problems?…Seriously!
March 26, 2019Posted by on
In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky says,“Happiness comes from a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile“. In other words she recommends a recipe of creating value in your day-to-day life. It sounds simple when you say it, but it is not simple to do it. A simple solution usually cannot be applied to a complicated, or a complex problem.
Therein lies the problem with problems…the solutions given rarely (if ever) match them! So, here’s how to deal with a problem such as “What shall I do with my life to make it more meaningful and to be happier?” (spoiler alert, a plug for coaching is coming)! First step, recognize this is not a simple problem, and therefore a simple solution does not apply. Second, reflect on whether it is a complicated (i.e. when the cause and effect relationship is clear to you and there is a knowable, although multi-step, solution), or complex (when the cause and effect relationship is not clear and the process for discovering and solving it are unknowable without clarification). Third, take action. If it is a complicated problem, begin the multi-step process. If in your case it is complex, learn more about the cause and effect relationship.
This can be done through coaching (yes here’s that plug!), because a coach helps you undergo a strategic series of low-stakes, fun and game-like activities to become clear on how to implement a solution to the ‘more meaningful and happier’ question (see above). Without this necessary data, you are most likely trying to apply a simple solution to a complex problem. If the answer to the question on how to livie a more meaningful life is “do what you are passionate about and do it with gusto!”, everyone would be living a passionate and meaningful life! If this is your solution, you may very well be missing some important pieces of the puzzle.
There are things that cannot be known until they are tried. Without carefully designed experiments and neutral and accurate feedback about how you feel during these experiments, the above formula is useless. You cannot know what to do with gusto if you don’t know what passion feels like? Why not? Because passion is a complex – in that it is different for everyone, and the cause and effect relationship is not clear.
A person may be passionate about rescue dogs, or trees or cooking. But what if you are not? What if you like to solve problems, or feel connected to kind people, or act goofy like a child? These are things you cannot know until you try experiments where you get to do these things. Maybe passion for you is not a huge jolt of Tony Robbins-like energy, but rather like a sweet sense of well-being and rightness in the world. In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, the author describes it as being in a stream of energy, performing at a level that challenges you, but does not overwhelm you. This is a fragile and nuanced balancing act, and a much more likely recipe for happiness and meaning in life.
Take a look at our friend Darren Peterson, creator of Circus Chickendog, to give you a real-world example of how this process of – 1) recognize, 2) reflect and 3) act – looks like. He loves rescue dogs, acting goofy like a child and being around kind people. He’s found a way to bundle these things together in a meaningful way to create happiness in his life and for large numbers of children and adults who come to see him and his animals perform. The shows did not develop overnight, but rather grew organically over time with each discovery of important information to what creates meaning and happiness for him as an individual. Before the act came into existence, it was a complex problem with an unknowable solution. Now, how to combine various passions into projects that lead to meanningful happy activity, is a known (and delightful)N solution.
Whatever your various interests are and whatever sensation you are driven to seek, there is a way to understand more about the cause and effect relationship about how you feel when you do these things, and how you could replicate these activities to create a more meaningful and happy life. You probably know someone who is a coach who can give you some feedback, (there are alot of us, these days!) You can also contact me for a free mini-coaching session to begin to discover where the lights are that can lead to your passionate, meaningful life. And, if you prefer to undergo this process in the company of like-minded individuals with a clear blueprint, join the Entrepreneur Business Coaching Series now!
In closing, here are a few of my favorite quotes by Michael Quinn Patton:
“Watch for, nurture and support the conditions that generate flow and lead to tipping points.”
“Don’t expect to get it right the first or second or third or fourth time. Indeed, keep questioning what it even means to get it right.”
“Learn to live the paradox of action as reflection, and reflection as action.”
Do Your Mantras Need a Re-Do?
January 24, 2019Posted by on
What We Say to Ourselves Matters…but we don’t spend a lot of time designing the scripts we hear in our head. It’s like improv in that we don’t plan it, but in the absence of developing new skits (or even having script-writers!), the same skit tends to play over and over again. If the scripts that play in your mind are like mine, the same ones get old and tired, and, well, they need a re-do!
Even if the mantra playing in your mind works for you, you still may want to give it a re-write. Whether or not you’ve ever thought about putting some intention into your thoughts to help you organize yourself in a particular direction, here are some tips to do so!
3 Ways to Tune-up Your Daily Mantras
1-Speak in the present: if you want to make healthier choices, for example, and your mantra is “I will make healthy choices” it is not as powerful as “I make healthy choices”. The word ‘will’ implies the event is going to take place sometime in the future. Whereas, “I make” implies it is happening now, already. Thus programming you for immediate adoption of the desired behavior.
2-Make it specific and do-able: if you want to spend more time with your family, you need to state when and how you plan to do it, as if it’s happening already (see #1). For example, “I commit at least 30 minutes every day to eat a meal with family members.” Similarly, if you commit to not doing something, that is not do-able, it is only not-doing-able. Rather than “I’ll spend less time working”, you can commit to time for reading or walking in the woods (or whatever it is you do want to do, and not what you don’t want to do).
3–Show gratitude for what is already happening: If I want to feel better about (or less critical of) myself, it is powerful to show gratitude for how good I do feel (even if I want to feel better). For example, “Thank you that I love and accept myself.” In saying a mantra like this, I am already showing love and acceptance to myself. Just by saying the mantra, I am doing what I am saying I do. Doing this and doing it with gratitude sets a powerful intention!
Your Strength is Strange, and That’s a Gift
November 22, 2018Posted by on
Human Development theories are based on the idea that each person has a unique bundle of talents, desires and drive which align with purpose and with nurturing, can grow into fruition (a.k.a. self-actualization).
In business, this bundle of unique qualities equates to an innovation…an innovation that can be leveraged to your advantage. In a team, your uniqueness is your contribution to the team. It is something noone else can bring to the table, only you. Personally, your ability and receptivity to allowing your uniqueness to inform and source your purpose, and therefore your lifestyle, is rewarding and happy-making.
Despite the benefits, it can be a struggle for people to see what their unique talent might be, thereby preventing them from feeling purpose-full, and joy-full. We cannot easily see our own gifts because we camouflage the unique part of us from ourselves. It may be helpful to know why…Here are three reasons.
We learn from an early age, to try to ‘fit in’ and ‘act normal’, as explained in this brilliant video by JP Sears. This does not help us figure out and appreciate how we are unique, it only teaches us to ignore, disguise or suppress our specialness in order to fit in. This ‘disease of being normal’ as Sears calls it, may even cause us to feel ashamed about our unique qualities. Naturally, we hide ourselves so we don’t stand out.
Secondly, our unique and quirky talent may not be as exciting or glamourous as we would hope. Take me, for example. I have a talent for bringing organization and intention to projects and interactions. I also have a great ability to be very serious, orderly and focused. Sounds sexy, right? Not!
Needless to say, no one has ever accused me of being a party animal. In fact, I’m usually the one at the party trying to organize people, improve the food service systems, or warn the hostess of safety hazards.
Luckily, there are people in my life (like you) who bring out the playful, less meaning-laden, side of my nature; and who also appreciate the thoughtful, complex and serious part of me. It’s taken a long time, but I’m able now to see these quirks as strengths, and to see myself as different in a good way, because of how I look at and think about things.
We may make such judgments about the value of our abilities based on societal views. In this skit ‘Teaching Center’, comedians Key and Peale are sportscasters talking about teachers as if they are sports superstars. The gag is funny and ironic because it’s so different from what our society as a whole actually does notice and value…superstar athletes. Sports and athleticism are fantastic, but what if we could reward, notice and appreciate everyday people who contribute to others – like teachers do – just as much?
A third and final reason we don’t recognize and appreciate ourselves is that the special and unique thing about us is not special and unique to us. For us, it is normal, because we experience ourselves doing it every day. You may even think that everyone has this ability. Only when someone who recognizes distinctions and patterns gives you feedback will you believe it is. But even then, you may try to deny it and stay hidden.
For example, during a recent interview, a client was acknowledged for her ability to inspire people to spontaneously burst into song. This happened wherever she went. She explained (and this was most likely her rational mind talking) it was because she had studied and trained for song-leading. It was hard for her to see that there is something magical and melodic about how she carries herself, moves, her expressions and tone of voice that creates a visceral effect…resulting in a high likelihood that people around her burst into song at the slightest urging. I’m sure many people have studied the art of song-leading, but this woman has a truly natural gift, which she tried to explain away as something not-so-special!
Now you have some explanations for why we keep our talents hidden – we are conditioned to do so by society, we are secretly afraid that what is special about us is not special enough, and, we can’t see what is special about us because we know ourselves too well.
Now the question is, what can we do to turn this around? What if you really look at what is unique about you, and celebrate it (even if it’s not glorious and profound, but rather frivolous or …shall we say… ‘under the radar’)? What if instead of punishing children for ‘acting out’, we sometimes appreciate how unique and unpredictable they are? We can reward innovation, we can reward our human-ness, and we can reward each other by sharing what is strange about us. We can even keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive by giving thanks for our strange-ness and gifting others by sharing it with them.
A New Approach to Goals…From a Reformed Achiever
October 18, 2018Posted by on
As someone who is used to achieving my goals, I can tell you I have changed my ways. Or, at least am trying to. Reaching goals has been almost compulsive for me. I love to be accountable…I love to cross things off the list…like an addict, I guess you could say I am in recovery from my former achievement-oriented lifestyle.
Now, rather than reaching benchmarks with dogged determination and immediately sprinting on to the next one, I blend enjoyment and celebration with the goal-forming and achieving process. I even create goals that are enjoyable and celebratory in and of themselves!
Recently, I saw a colleague who had worked with me for many years in the past. I told her about writing and publishing my latest book. She said, “How many do you want to sell and by when?” Her question caught me off guard, even though it shouldn’t have. After all, this is the type of question I have been asking people, (including myself) for a long time!
When I said, “I don’t know,” she looked shocked. This was so unlike my former goal-driven self. Why the change? Previously, I set goals based on my will (which is pretty strong). Now, I allow my will to have a voice (i.e. asking myself ‘what do I want to do”?), but now I allow another voice. It’s not so clear and loud, but it speaks to the natural and organic order of things…the flow if you will.
For example, if you ask a gardener for her goals with the flowers, she would probably not say, “To produce flowers for two dozen bouquets by the end of the month.” If she wants to do that, it’s great. However, a more powerful goal is in alignment with a natural procession of growth.
If flowers take a full cycle to bloom, how many would you need to plant in the fall to have at least 6 flowering plants by spring? A quantifiable goal like how many to plant is fine, but, how about a quantifiable goal on quality?
How would it be to find as many ways to enjoy the process of flower-growing as possible? What about creating a photo-journal of the planting and growing?, Or, give before-and after-garden parties for your friends?
Having my own business for so many years helped me understand the importance of making linear goals and converting them into games that are fun, inspiring (to you and others around you), and help keep your focus on productivity. At this time in life, I notice that the how of goals is just as important.
As Steve Nakamoto points out “The dimension of the reward is proportional to the size of the challenge, not the size of the fish.” I think this means choose challenges wisely, choose what is likely to bring a sense of reward equal to the size of the challenge. After all, the reward is what makes a game worth playing. In the process of play, very important things happen!
Play expert and psychologist, Dr. David Elkind, says “Within the context of play you learn how to initiate, maintain and terminate relationships…you learn to suggest ideas and negotiate themes or games.”
If you can create linear, tangible goals that make you feel alive and excited (and maybe a little afraid), you are on the right track. If you have not yet learned or received enough support on how to combine the left and right brain ideals with goal-setting and entrepreneurship, with a little practice you can learn!
Coincidentally, the day after that meeting I reconnected with a former client. We were having a delightful time catching up over lunch. As I shared what I had been up to she became interested in my book and asked if she could buy one. I had one copy left in my car and sold it to her right there in the restaurant. It was a most enjoyable book-selling experience! That is the how of book-selling for me.
So, in answer to my colleague who asked ‘how many and by when?’ I now have an answer, ‘by enjoying my life’!
You Know It’s Working When … A Simple Guide to Behavior Change & Goal Achievement
July 24, 2018Posted by on
People like to do what they know they are able to do. Conversely, people don’t like to do what they don’t know they are able to do. When trying to change your own or someone else’s behavior, knowing the desirable behavior is not enough to lead to change. Knowing and liking are totally different things.
If people only like doing what they know they can do, it explains why most of us continue with bad habits even when we know they’re bad! A new behavior is daunting, because we don’t know if we can do it, and that makes it un-likable!
What’s the good news? Now you know why it’s hard (impossible) to change habits! You can easily see why people seem to be doing things that don’t appear healthy, engaging or even fun. People just do what they know they can do, what they have always done. For them (or you), it’s better than doing something un-likable.
What’s the bad news? Knowing the answer is totally different from liking the answer…it’s still really hard to change habits and behavior!
Even more good news though, is if you are a person that likes improvement…either in your own life of the lives of people around you (or both)…you will want to learn to simplify the process for behavior change and goal achievement.
People expect to fail at new things, and most behavior choices are unconsciously based in fear. However, if a change-maker shifts this fear into the expectation of success, activities that previously seemed un-likable, may become inherently likable.
Nothing succeeds like success. Therefore, knowing you are able to do something creates an expectation of success. Whether you are trying to change an undesirable personal habit, your child’s behavior, or an entire organizational system…the hindrances are the same and the catalysts for successful change are the same.
When you break down a habit into the vital behaviors and the moments in which decisions are made to engage in the behavior, AND can measure the progress in these two areas, your confidence in your ability to change will grow. Therefore, the un-likable becomes likable!
You might think investigating and planning around these important factors, although it most assuredly will lead to successful (and sustainable) goal achievement, just takes too darn long. And frankly, you may think, who has time for that?
A more important question, however, is: do you have time to enjoy reaching your goals or not? And even: How much money and time do you spend on trying to change your own or someone else’s behavior to no avail? For how long have you been doing it and how much longer will you continue to do it?
Now, think about investing a few more weeks and coming up with a well-thought out change management plan and compare the two. If you are not willing to do the latter, you are really not engaging in behavior change, but merely toying with it.
If you’re still reading, you are up for what it takes. Congratulations!
First, discernment is your main weapon. Discern what is hindering behavior change, and what is promoting behavior change. To make it simple, I’ve supplied a list of most common hindrances and promoters of positive behavior change. They’re short lists, but remember this is the ‘simple’ version!
Hindrances to Successful Change:
1-Believing Bad Data or No Data
2-Wrong Goals or Unclear Goals
3-Absence of Social and Environmental Support
1-Believing bad data or no data:
To put this simply, we believe what is not true. Today people are constantly exposed to a great many streams of information and are forced to make unconscious choices about what they tune into and believe. This is highly subjective and usually not helpful. It is likely these unconscious choices are leading to reinforcement and entrenchment of current behavior. Further, when people inadvertently collect data on what they have already tried, they are usually confusing doubt and resignation (again subjective and not accurate…or ‘bad’… data) with actual data.
For example, let’s say someone wants to lose weight so they can enjoy looking and feeling better. They weigh themselves after some weeks of dieting and find they have not lost weight. They become discouraged and give up the diet. There are several problems with this type of data-gathering in decision-making.
Your first question is: are you measuring the right thing? Secondly, is your measurement subjective or objective? Consider: is weight really the best measure of weight loss and feeling good? Actually, no. Measuring inches, body mass index (ratio of fat to muscle) and water weight, as well as energy level, emotional wellness and how your clothes fit are all measures that are possibly more important and accurate than your scale. (How old is your scale anyway?…)
Testing for allergies and how you metabolize different foods is also an important element in weight loss. If you suffer from food addiction then weight data should not even be what you measure, but rather decdecreasing the likelihood of binging behavior.
2-Wrong or Unclear Goals
The fatal flaw in most people’s goal-forming is that their goals often are not linked to the actual behavior that determines the goal outcome. If your goal is ‘quit smoking’, without identifying clear and measurable results, you will fail. Why? Because it is not possible to reach this goal. Do you recall what was learned about people not liking to do things that are not do-able…?
People will not take action to reach an un-reachable or an un-doable goal. What is do-able, is a specific, time-bound result. For example, 1-explore at least 3 programs for combatting smoking addiction by the end of this week, 2-decide on one by the end of next week, 3-create a timeline for completion and start the program by August 15th.
When you set a goal, make sure that you can identify three actionable steps that can be taken immediately to reach it. If you cannot do this, you have chosen an un-reachable goal.
If we continue with the weight loss goal scenario, ‘weight loss’ alone is not enough to achieve your goal. You must break down the goal into crucial behaviors (i.e. reduce ‘cheat’ meals to one per week, walk or move at least 20 minutes every day, and plan a day ahead for the following day’s meals, etc.).
What these two examples have in common is that the vital behavior is identified and the goals pertain specifically to that.
3-Lack of Environmental or Social Support
Every bad habit or behavior was created in an environment. So, the environment, and therefore the people in the environment, have to be involved in changing it. In the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything,1 the authors call this “turning a ‘me’ problem into a ‘we’ problem.”
Find a way to elicit the support of the people around you, share the goal with them. Let them know specific actions they can take to support you, and turn it into a game that everyone can play and win!
To address the structural part of the environment equation, make changes in your space so that it is easier to engage in the new habit. For example, put books or knitting needles around the house instead of ash trays or packs of cigarettes.
Or, if your goal is to snack on more healthy foods, prepare portion-size containers of carrots, hummus or nuts. (PS I am not a nutrition or weight loss expert, so please consider these examples only as hypothetical…and consult a nutritionist or medical professional for actual dietary advice.)
Promoters of Successful Change:
1-Gather and Believe Good Data (i.e. the right story)
2-Simplify, Clarify and Measure the Goal
3-Cultivate a Feeling of Control (mastery)
1-Gather and Believe in Good Data (i.e. the right story)
Each person makes hundreds of decisions every day…and the majority of them are unconscious. For example, the average person makes over 200 choices every day only in regard to food. Imagine all the other choices we make about every other behavior (when to speak, who with, how much effort to put forth and on and on!).
Unfortunately, we may not even be aware that we are making the decisions so we most certainly are not aware of why. The ‘why’ probably has more to do with information we have absorbed that wasn’t processed or analyzed, then with our own intentions. The secret is to begin to become aware of where you are getting information. Don’t rely on just one source. Question what you are believing and who you are believing. If you are not sure who or what to believe, it’s now easier than ever to do your own research. Look at scientific research by going onto Google Scholar. You can find just about any topic that’s has been studied and published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Lastly, sometimes the worst source of data is the information we tell ourselves. When we have a flop, we may make up a meaning about it that we decide is the truth. For example, if a prospect doesn’t call you back you may think, “He thinks I’m a fraud and doesn’t want to do business with me.” For some reason, this type of information seems to carry enough weight for all of us to believe our own terrible stories! The actual truth may be the prospect was busy, or needed more information and wanted to call but lost your number. Why not resist creating a news story until you actually have the facts! Or, tell yourself a story that is inspiring instead of disheartening (i.e. There is someone out there waiting for my call and they are going to be thrilled about my product!)
2-Simplify, Clarify and Measure the Goal
To make sure you are choosing ‘reachable’ goals, you have to be able to clearly determine when you do not reach the goal. For example, to ‘feel better’ is not a reachable goal because you don’t know how you feel now, and you don’t know how much better you want to feel. Instead, you could say, “My goal is to have more pain-free days per month than I currently have, starting today. Since I now have 12 pain-free days per month, this next month I will have at least 13.” This is now a reachable goal, and therefore a likable goal! This goal gives one energy and inspiration because of its clarity and do-ableness.
You also need to make the behavior that effects the goal outcome a very clear element of the goal. For example, if doing your physical therapy exercises leads to more pain-free days, make doing the exercises the goal. Make the desired behavior simple, and likely.
Further, when you accomplish this, make sure to measure it. Measuring drives behavior. There is something inherently satisfying about checking a box when you have done something. When the behavior connects to intrinsic satisfaction, you are internally motivated.
3-Cultivate a Feeling of Control or Mastery
People perform better in an environment a feeling of competence and mastery, informing and deliberate practice experience. Change-makers in organizations, companies and behavioral health, make sure that the participant maintains control over actions and outcomes by measuring actions and results. As mentioned in #2, the more people feel they are competent and capable of reaching goals, the more they will take action to reach the goals, and therefore, experience success. Measuring a growing ability and acknowledging when the accomplishment of an important step to reaching a goal, gives one a sense of control.
I use ‘score charts’ that hang on the wall to give team members (or children) a way to feel in control of their own choices and therefore to feel accountable for them. Recording your own measures allows you to see the impact of your work, and thereby gaining confidence in your ability to do the thing you previously didn’t want to do. Putting it somewhere that everyone can see it enables a feeling of control over the environment and enlisting others in the game.
Celebration is an element that bonds people together…and some research suggests it increases happiness2. When people are united in their joy regarding an achievement, new baby, new house, graduation, or any number of things, the bonds they form are usually lasting and invigorating. The same thing happens when we allow ourselves to celebrate our own actions. Notice I do not say celebrate our ‘success’, but rather ‘actions’. When we celebrate our actions, we our reinforcing the behavior of taking action! This is required before we can experience success, or failure, or anything! That is why it is important to acknowledge and celebrate any and all actions you take towards a goal.
It doesn’t have to be huge. For example, taking a few moments to dance around your office, allowing yourself the time to take a walk through the woods, or laying in a hammock with a glass of lemonade, these are all ways to celebrate yourself. Self-talk is also a reward. You can say, “I did the thing that was on my list!”, or, “I made the phone call I have been putting off for two months!”, or just keep it simple, “Yay me!”. This may feel silly and hokey, but just trust me. Allowing ourselves to feel good about taking action is one of the best ways to make sure you keep taking action.
Hopefully, this blogpost gives you some new ideas how to be more effective when instigating change and achieving goals…whether for yourself or your team. Although a greatly simplified list (research and literature on this topic is quite extensive!) it is still a lot to process at one sitting. If I may suggest, take one or two suggestions at a time and see what can most easily be integrated into your way of doing things. And, of course if you need support with any aspect of setting goals, creating a behavior change implementation or monitoring program, or if you simply know you need a coach, you know how to reach me, right? Dana@DanasMyCoach.com
1- Patterson, K., & Grenny, J. (2007). Influencer: The power to change anything. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
2- Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. Penguin.
How You Can Know You Really Lived…
December 21, 2017Posted by on
Nothing brings our focus to the passing of time like the approach of a new year! Yes, a year of life has passed for all of us. It’s a time to press the reset button and start anew. Tradition has us making resolutions about what we’d like to change in the future. In this case, tradition leads us astray!
In truth, making resolutions is not what leads to change. We do not change-on-demand. Instead, change happens with growth, and growth requires a special mindset. Having a mindset for growth leads us to a path. It is on this path where change, and therefore growth occurs. Finding the path is a commitment to the process as well as the outcome.
As Seth Godin says, “Start your journey before you see the outcome…your resistance wants to be guaranteed the prize at the end…but it’s entirely possible that there won’t be a standing ovation at the end of your journey…And that’s ok, at least you know you have lived.”
So at year-end, you can again try the shortcut…list your resolutions and submit your order for change. Then wait while nothing happens. Or, take some moments to inquire, reflect and find your path. Ask yourself the questions below, and take meaningful action. To find out where you are headed and how you will grow please be willing to look at the path you’ve been on already. Then you discover how to influence your path next year, and the years after that.
If at the end of next year you can say you took the risk of creating magic where there was not magic before, you can say you lived. You can do this, you know you can. And in our current connection economy, it’s a must. Life requires you to live!
Questions to ask*:
What am I better at?
Have I asked a difficult question lately?
Do people trust me more than they did?
Am I hiding more (or less) than I did the last time I checked?
Is my list of insightful, useful and frightening stats about my work, my budgets and my challenges complete? And have I shared it with someone I trust?
If selling ideas is a skill, am I more skilled at it than I was?
Who have I developed?
Have I had any significant failures (learning opportunities) lately, and what have I learned?
What predictions have I made that have come to pass? Am I better at seeing what’s going to happen next?
Who have I helped? Especially when there was no upside for me…
Am I more likely to be leading or following?
If I could reach an audience, what would I say?
If I could lead a tribe, which tribe would I lead?
Meaningful actions to take:
Learn to sell what you have made
Speak in public
See the world as it is
Find your tribe,
Find someone filled with hope and excitement and get behind them
Be willing to admit when you are lost
Be brave enough to organize, invent and create art projects…spin something out of nothing, create value where there was none before
Create something that touches someone
*Excerpts from Seth Godin Blog