Monday, November 28, 2011

Reasons or Results

I just spent this past weekend attending a training program and got caught up in the concept referenced in the title of this blog - Reasons or Results.  The general principle behind this concept is that, when faced with doing something different, attempting to introduce 'new' or 'more' into your life, you can either have the results you have achieved, or you will have reasons for not having results.  But... you won't have both.

I see this all the time in coaching sessions.  I will ask a question about a particular course of action we had previously discussed, an action step that the client had determined was critical for them achieving the success they want in their life, and I get reasons as to why they couldn't, didn't and hadn't taken that step.  Sure, they all sound reasonable...
  • lack of time
  • boss dumped more work on them
  • felt a bit sick
  • wasn't sure what they were supposed to do
  • didn't have the support, resources or knowledge they needed 
  • the dog ate their homework...
You get the picture.  Reasons.  Reasons as to why they didn't take the promised action.  Reasons as to why they didn't move forward.  Reasons for not having what they desire most in life.  Reasons why they didn't do what they said they were going to do. 

The question is not whether the reasons are justified or not.  In the minds of each of my clients, their reasons always seem like the best choice at the time.  However, often the 'best' choice is simply the most expedient.  It's the most comfortable.  Making a difference in your life though is about change.  That means discomfort.  You therefore need to be vigilant when reasons start arising that prevent you from moving forward.

Sure, those reasons may seem valid, but your subconscious mind is a tricky thing.  If it sense your hesitation and reluctance to push forward, it is going to do what it can to help you out, including coming up with reasons to stay where you are.  The reasons may sound good and solid, but they are still going to prevent you from getting what you want in your life.

Instead, you need to use your conscious mind to maintain control, keeping your eyes firmly fixed on the action that you need and want to take to fulfill your goals.  Use your conscious mind to keep a firm reign on your subconscious thoughts.  Your 'reasons' are generally the explanation behind why you are not managing to reach your goals.  Each time a new 'reason' arises, examine it, determine whether it is critical or not, useful or not, valid or not and then make a conscious determination as to whether it is truly a reason to stop moving forward or merely your subconscious attempt to maintain the status quo.

Ultimately, you want your forward movement to be a conscious choice.  you can have reasons why something wasn't achieved, or you can have results, but you will never have both.  Your choice as to which you would prefer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We've Come a Long Way... or have we?

Check out this latest article in Fast Company, which highlights how pervasive the desire for boy children is around the globe.  (  Certainly, in second and third world countries the impact is clear:  higher abortion rates (now that the fetal sex can be determined early in a pregnancy), sex trafficking, rising incidence of 'missing' female children, the list goes on. 

Given the statistics outlined in the article, it's not a big leap to assume that these perspectives infiltrate the workplace, leading women to not only feel devalued but likely BE devalued, all of which operate below the radar of  'political correctness'. 

Believe we've come a long way?  These statistics would indicate we've still got a long way to go!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Preventative Action

Why does it always take something negative to happen before we take the action we knew we should have taken days, months or even years before?  Case in point.  My life, and perhaps more specifically my two businesses, is on my computer.  For my training business this means over a decade and a half of programs, files, slides and research.  I have had hard drives fail in the past, without adequate back up, and so I have an external hard drive to back things up. 

Now, I must admit that I haven't been backing things up as often as I should... I've gotten complacent.  I've tended to use the external drive primarily as a means of transporting and transferring data from my PC to my laptop for when I need to work remotely.  This past weekend though, I was hit by a trojan virus that appeared to have wiped my PC clean of both programs and files.  Not to worry though... I have my backup files on the external hard drive.  As luck, in particularly mine when it comes to technology, would have it though, I had decided to finally back up my files and my external hard drive was attached at the time of the virus invasion.  You guessed it... those files got wiped out too!

That's it... years of work... gone.  It took seconds.  Much of it I couldn't re-create without significant time and effort and it would certainly have a major impact on the product launches scheduled for January.  With some luck (positive this time!) and the help of a computer genius (previously known as a computer geek but upgraded forever to genius status!) my files were recovered.  However, the lesson was learned.  Not only was a second external hard drive purchased to ensure that a backup would always exist that was not directly attached to the PC, but a second computer as well. 

My original computer was 'older' (okay, maybe hitting the four year mark but in the world of computers it could almost be classified as ancient!!).  My lesson:  the information on my computer is too valuable for me to risk its loss.  I am now doing what I knew I should have all along, but it took the threat of its loss to make me take action.  To take THE action: the action I should have taken from the beginning but kept putting off.

Your lesson?  Certainly, make sure you are backing up your computer regularly but... there is a bigger life lesson here.  What action are you not taking today, that you are putting off, that you know you 'should'...  that you must be taking to ensure that you maintain control over your information, your relationships, your career, your life?

The following list is not exhaustive, but it's a good place to start:
  • Have you got an updated resume?
  • Do those people that matter in your life know how you feel?  When was the last time you said "I love you" to those that you do?
  • Have you been to the doctor for a check up lately?  The dentist?  The optometrist?
  • What about that weight you've been meaning to lose?
  • How's your car running?  Need a check up to ensure you don't get stranded somewhere? Need a roadside assistance membership?
You get the idea.  Often we put off the 'maintenance' aspects of our lives with the belief that we 'don't have time', that 'we'll get to it later'.  The truth is though, we will be forced at some point in time to have to 'make' time'.  When systems break down, when we lose our jobs, we become sick or our car breaks down, we no longer have the option of putting things off.  Typically, these moments will occur when we least expect them, when we have even less time to focus on or devote ourselves to them but... we will no longer have the choice of timing. 

Learn to manage the timing of these critical moments by taking the preventative action you know you need to, you know you should... NOW.  It just might make those moments, if not a thing of the past, much easier to get through.

Now...  I think I better go call my doctor for a check up.  Hmmm...  maybe my mechanic too...

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Art of Allowing

I was flipping through emails recently when the phrase 'The Art of Allowing' caught my eye.  This concept proposes that we allow people, things and events to be as they are... not as we want or wish them to be.  In doing so, we free ourselves from the need to 'fix' things to our own predetermined sense of rightness.

Think of how much time and energy we expend in frustration and anger over people not doing as we want, as things not going how we'd like.  I see this wasted energy a lot during coaching sessions, where clients vent their frustration over someone close to them not behaving as a 'good' mother, sister, spouse, friend 'should'.  This type of thinking of course presupposes that we know the correct way to be, do or act in a given situation. 

In practicing the Art of Allowing though, we need to suspend this judgement of people and events.  We are asked to recognise that others have the right to choose their own course and that those choices may not always be in support of our desired direction.  Not choosing to move in our direction doesn't make them 'wrong', it just makes their path different.  As soon as we adopt the view that they are wrong though, we begin putting thought and energy into fixing or changing their choices and direction.  We engage our energy and action into 'correcting' their course and certainly get angry, frustrated, disappointed when they don't.

Most of us struggle at coming up with the energy we need to chart and stay our own course, let alone expending energy into plotting everyone else's.  The Art of Allowing though, frees us from fixing or changing events.  We learn to accept things as they are, not to expend energy wishing them to be different.  We fight for the right to make our own choices, to lead our own lives... the Art of Allowing asks us to remember that others have those same rights.  Learning to respect those rights is a natural corollary.

In short... I don't need to like or even approve of your choices, but I need to learn to acknowledge your right to make them.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cultivating a Success Mindset

According to a study* in the journal Psychological Science, they have found evidence suggesting that those individuals who believe that they can improve their level of intelligence are more likely to be successful over the long run.  Hmmm.

In the study, subjects wore a special 'cap' that recorded their electrical brain activity while completing certain letter puzzles.  These puzzles were specifically designed for participants to make mistakes.  What researchers found was that when participants made mistakes, their brain sent two quick signals.  The first was a quick recognition of the error (what Michigan State University psychology professor Jason Moser refers to as the 'oh crap response') and a second signal that indicated a willingness to get it right. 

Those participants with a growth mindset, a belief that their hard work will pay off for them in the long run, had a much stronger second signal and were more likely and willing to correct their mistakes.  They saw a net advantage to doing so. In essence, this group saw their errors as opportunities to grow, improve and learn, rather than an indication of their lack of capability.

It is this belief, that you can continue to learn, grown and improve that serves to establish that Success Mindset.  Successful people do not look to their failures and indications of what they can't do, but at learning opportunities.  They recognise only that their errors are indications of what they didn't know, but need to learn... and then they go out and learn it!

The Work:

  • Consider what your typical response is when you fail or miss the mark at something.  
  • What is your self-talk like immediately following such an event.  Are you more likely to to use the event to validate why you shouldn't have tried in the first place, or is your self-talk affirming instead a belief that you can do it in future with a little more direction, information or coaching?
  • If it's the former, we need to work at rewiring your belief systems, to shift your perspective to that Success Mindset.  Instead of believing your intellect is entirely predetermined, recognise that you can develop and grow your intelligence through hard work.  If you are willing to put in the work, you can decrease your margin of errors in the future.

I read the above study shortly after reading on a facebook posting the following quote.  The two fit perfectly together, and I invite you to consider this quote the next time that things don't go according to plan...
Instead of beating yourself up about the past and saying  "Damn, what was I thinking", ask a better, kinder question... "What was I learning"?

Works for me, let's see how it works for you!

* study... "Mind Your Errors:  Evidence for Neural Mechanism Linking growth Mind-Set to Adaptive Post error Adjustments" 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Marketing ourselves through Comparisons

Mired as I am right now in completing the upcoming Bragging Rights program, I found Seth Godin's blog post today - Accentuating Differences - to really hit home.  All too often, as Seth rightly points out, we attempt to distinguish ourselves through our comparisons of our skills and talents relative to those of others.
"This is just like Brand X, but 5% cheaper, 10% faster, 20% easier to use and it comes in chocolate..."
          Seth Godin
Certainly it is worthwhile to be clear about just what the competition brings to the table relative to you, but you will benefit more from highlighting what makes you different and unique, what separates you from the crowd, than by comparisons that serve to make you part of it. 

In the end we want our audience to remember us.  It is unlikely they will if we only highlight how we are like everyone else.  Use your points of commonality to indicate how you have the fundamentals, use your areas of difference to highlight how you bring 'more' to the table than others.  This is what will set you apart and get you remembered.