The Ultimate Offensive Weapon

tortilla-chipsAt breakfast this morning I announced that I am no longer buying tortilla chips.  My husband and I can’t handle having them in the house.  Period.

This may seem extreme – and if you saw my pantry, you might think that I am.  It holds no sandwich cookies, no breakfast pastries, no peanut butter with sugar added.  Most of what you’ll find there is pretty darn healthy.  It’s not that we are saints when it comes to our food choices.  It’s that I understand that it’s better for me to be an abstainer versus a moderator.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the book The Happiness Project and blog by the same name recently asserted, “More people would benefit from abstaining,” than from thinking that they can consume one or two of [insert naughty food of choice] and then simply quit.

This being true – at least for me – then it’s best to have the chips stay on the shelf at the grocery store versus having them taunt me from my pantry shelf at 8:00PM each night.

Not buying chips is what Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney describe in their book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength as an implementation plan.

It’s easier to resist the temptation to go into debt if you enter the store with a firm implementation plan, like, If I shop for clothes, I will buy only what I can pay for with the cash in my wallet.  Every time you follow this kind of rule, it becomes more routine, until eventually it seems to happen automatically and you have a lasting technique for conserving willpower: a habit.

As they go on to say, “Precommitment is the ultimate offensive weapon,” and I am precommitting to abstain from chip eating.

We’ll see how that goes.

Savoring the Moment

This weekend we had one of those too rare family meals where everyone stayed at the table for hours after the food was gone.  I recently learned that my son’s girlfriend hadn’t seen any pictures of him when he was little, so out came the photo albums… along with many stories to tell.

I hope we didn’t bore her.  For the rest of us, it was clear that we were relishing our precious memories.  Having the chance to share those with her anew made us cherish them even more.

Savoring, as we did over our extended meal, is an activity that brings us happiness in the present.  According to Marin E. P. Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness, happiness in the present is part of the three-legged stool of happiness.  (The other two are “satisfaction about the past” and “optimism about the future.”)  We can actively pursue savoring through these five techniques:

  • Sharing With Others: This is what my family did as we shared photographs and memories.
  • Memory Building: Whatever is happening, take a moment to preserve it in your memory.  This could be done by taking a mental snapshot or by obtaining something physical, like a souvenir.
  • Self-congratulation: To quote Dr. Seligman, “Don’t be afraid of pride.  Tell yourself how impressed others are, and remember how long you’ve waited for this to happen.”
  • Sharpening Perceptions: This is all about paying attention to the details.  What spices can you taste in your meal?  How does the house smell when you arrive as a guest?  How does one side of your body feel versus the other while you sit by a fire?  Can you pick out the harmony in a song?
  • Absorption: Just as it sounds, allow yourself to be absorbed in the moment.  Don’t think.  Simply feel it.

Any of these activities is something each of us can do on the spot, right now.  More importantly, we can choose to savor moments when we’re not feeling happy in the present.  Try it out and you’ll likely find that this list will turn a sullen mood around.

Responding to Setbacks

As you may have gathered from the posts I publish here, I’m a positive person. Because I focus on goals, taking risks, going for it, finding the silver lining, sharing compliments, being grateful, and so much more; I sometimes get comments from people that imply that my life is charmed and lucky – somehow disappointment and setback free.

Whatever.

I’m here to tell you that plenty of disappointments come through the Baana household. We disappoint one another. Friends and circumstances disappoint us. We live in Fargo so the weather regularly disappoints!

What might be different is how we react in our disappointment. Sure, at first we may rant, scream… even swear. Or pout. And then we continue to love each other, our friends, and even Fargo.

When it comes to circumstance, we need to move past the setback and move on. I’ve mentioned before that during these times my favorite question to ask is, “What have I learned from this experience?” As that question is answered, I see the reason behind the setback and figure out how to apply the learning going forward. At least I like to think that’s what happens. Sometimes the pouting goes on for a while before I get to that enlightened moment.

It goes back to what John C. Maxwell points out in his book Failing Forward: the key to overcoming disappointment/failure/set-backs doesn’t happen by changing circumstances. It begins with a personal desire to be teachable. It begins within us.

Continuing to paraphrase from the book… If you’re willing to do that, then you’ll be able to handle the disappointments, setbacks and failures that come your way.

Time To Execute

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. ~Colin Powell

Oh, yes.  We must work to achieve our dreams.  We must execute.

Have you worked in an environment that lacked execution?  A place where a lot of talking without a lot of action was the norm?  A friend of mine recently moved on to a new employer because of the lack of execution at his company.  For those of us with a propensity to action, lack of execution can be excruciating.

That said, from time to time we all fail to execute, do we not?  Procrastination is tempting when action is difficult, unpopular or boring.

In Creating a Charmed Life, author Victoria Moran reminds us to “take the next action life presents.”  This comes from the chapter Do the Next Indicated Thing – a mantra I recite when I simply don’t feel like executing.  Often, that next indicated thing is something small: wash your face before you go to bed; gather the ATM receipts before you go to the bank; plan this week’s meals before going grocery shopping; create an agenda before running a meeting.  These are the small steps taken to move toward goals.  Steps to move toward checking items off our to-do list.

It’s Monday and a perfect time to plan your execution strategy for the week.  What have you been putting off?

It’s time to execute.

Count Your Blessings

A week focused on being grateful must include the “Three Blessings” exercise.  I’ve mentioned it before and here I go again because doing this will change your perspective. Gratitude and thanks have been frequent topics on this site and regular readers know how strongly exercising gratitude contributes to our overall well-being.

In Martin Seligman’s most recent book Flourish, he builds on the Positive Psychology movement with concrete, research-based activities each of us can do to not simply be happy, but to flourish.

Because we spend so much time focusing on the negative (we do, you aren’t alone on this one), taking time to focus on positive events in our lives helps to add balance.  Ready to improve your well-being?  Here’s what Seligman suggests:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep.  Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.  You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote.  The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?”  For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up some ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week.  It will get easier.  The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.

This activity is appropriately called the “Three Blessings” exercise.  How wonderful to set aside time each day to count our blessings!  We have so many…

You can find all books mentioned in this blog online at the Coach Carolyn Store.

Relax, My Child

It’s the last day of summer vacation for Fargo kids.  Since I work from home I’ve had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time with my teen and his friends over the summer months.  They are at that age where they’re constantly moving with high energy.  Even so, it’s rare to see them not engaged with some sort of electronic device.  And I, like many parents, try to remember to suggest a break from all things plugged in or charged from time to time.  It happens, but not often enough.

How can they ever relax?  True, my son could pop in his ear buds, close his eyes, and listen to soothing music.  Yeah, right.  OK, so maybe it is an uphill journey to get a teen to relax.  However, it’s a journey that parents should encourage children to take.

Most of us who have teens grew up during a time when we had to figure out what to do when it came to play.  There were stretches of silence and boredom and solitude.  Whether we liked it or not, this was a kind of forced relaxation.  Not so with our kids.

Fast forward and as adults we are reminded of the importance of relaxation because of the health and emotional benefit this time of renewal brings.  Think of how much harder it will be for our young adult children to relax when they’ve rarely done so throughout their lives.

In her book Simplify Your Life, Elaine St. James encourages us to “Teach Your Kids the Joy of Solitude.”

…teach them how to spend a quiet afternoon at home.  Set up a regular time in their week where they can be away from the unremitting influence of their peers, as well as away from the pandemonium of the electronic age.  Fortify them with good books (but no TV) and thoughtful meditative exercises they can do, so they get in the habit of personal reflection, and of seeing answers within their own heart.

Once your children learn the joy of solitude, it’ll be a gift they can carry with them throughout their lives.

A gift.  No, my kiddo won’t feel like it’s a gift when I suggest he does nothing for a while.  My hope is that one day when he’s an adult and needs to break free from the stress of his days, perhaps then he’ll look back and thank his mom for allowing him to be alone with his thoughts and reflections.  Until then, I’ll continue to encourage him to relax on his journey.

The Gift Of Choice

Thinking about choices this week and going back to remind myself – and you – of what a gift it is to have choices in front of us.

The Gift of Decision Making Originally posted 7/13/2011

I am, as always, about halfway through reading four different books. I also have several un-read books on my yet-to-read shelf and a reading list at the ready on my nook. So when I knew that this week’s topic was going to be decision making, I finally picked up Get Off the Fence by Rhoda Makoff, Ph.D. and Jeffery Makoff, ESQ. I’m not done (see sentence #1), but I think this one will end up on my list of recommended readings.

At the very onset of the discussion, the Makoffs remind the reader that being able to make big decisions is a gift. It means that we’re alive; that we have choices. These are good things.

When was the last time you felt like a big decision was a good thing? OK, if your last major decision was to get married or have a child, of course it was good. But even those good decisions can leave us agonizing over whether our choices are the right ones.

The Makoffs also share a quote from General Omar N. Bradley who led the D-Day invasion of Normandy that marked the turning point of World War II in Europe. He said, “This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: We are given one life, and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind or whether to act and, in acting, to live.”

Please, go back and read it again. And maybe one more time. The more I read it, the more power his words seem to have.

Will you wait to for circumstances to make up your mind?

Or will you act and, in acting, live?

It is our decisions that define who we are. Letting circumstance or other people make our choices permits those things to shape our lives.

Making your own big decisions is a gift that allows you to have the life you choose.

Coaching: Habits

While we all likely have bad habits we’d like to get rid of, the focus this week has been on creating new habits versus modifying old ones.  If you would like to explore ideas on how to change your current habits, pick up a copy of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business to learn more.  For now, let’s look ahead to see how some new habits can be added to our daily routine.

Here we go….

What new habit or habits would you like to create?  Maybe you’d like to get to work on time, workout every day, get out of the office by a certain time, or incorporate healthy snacks into your day.  Pick one habit and then let’s go through the process of setting up a new habit.

First, what will be your cue?  As I learned about cues, I realized that these are very similar to primers, which have been discussed here before.  What can you put in your way to kick off the habit?  Setting an alarm on your phone?  Having a reminder pop up on your computer?  Setting an apple on your desk?  Pick whatever will work for you and your new habit.

Skipping ahead in the process, now think about what your reward will be.  It has to be a good one, a real reward for you.  If you make it to work on time, then you can grab your favorite coffee.  If you workout every day for a week, then you can reward yourself with $25 going into a clothing fund.  Whatever it is, be sure that it’s something that’s good for you.  It can be simple.  We brush our teeth every day because of that minty tingle that we get when we’re through.

Finally, do the routine.  Do it daily and as you do, keep your mind on the reward.  If it’s easy for you, great!  If it’s hard, be sure to apply the belief that you CAN make it happen.  If you tell yourself every day that you’ll never be able to get to work on time… you’ll be right.

Create a cue.  Do the routine.  Reward yourself.  And believe.

Creating New Habits

Oftentimes habits are seen as negative as we think about all the bad habits we have (or think we have).  That aside, habits are necessary.  What if you had to actually make a decision regarding whether to brush your teeth today?  Or had to think about each step in the process of backing your car out of the driveway like you did when you were a beginner?  If our lives weren’t routine we’d be exhausted from all the willpower needed to navigate through the day.

When we encounter a new task, our brains light up as we navigate the unknown.  The more we do the task, the less brainpower it takes.  Because of this, on our commute we’re able to think about what we need to get done at work for the day instead of paying attention to each driving maneuver we make on the way there.

Any task that converts to a habit draws less on our willpower, leaving more for us to use in other ways.  So, how to create a new habit?  According to The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, it’s as simple and as difficult as this:

Want to exercise more? Choose a cue, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout.  Then think about the smoothie, or about the endorphin rush you’ll feel.  Allow yourself to anticipate the reward.  Eventually, that craving will make it easier to push through the gym doors every day.

Cravings are what drive habits.  And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier.

It’s this cycle of “Cue – Routine – Reward,” topped off with craving the reward, which fuels all our habits.  Good or bad.

Finally, we need to believe it can be done.  Without this important piece, our new habits fall apart when we encounter stress.

Create a cue.  Do the routine.  Reward yourself.  And believe.

Creatures Of Habit

What new habits would you like to have in your life?

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, it’s no surprise to you that human brains fascinate me.  I missed my calling and should have been a psychologist in a laboratory pouring over research and brain scans.  So just a few chapters into Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, I’m hooked.

Duhigg tells the story of a man who lost a portion of his brain to a virus and because of this, lost his short-term memory.  If you were to meet him and have a conversation, 10 minutes later you would be new to him again and he would reintroduce himself to you, the memory totally gone.  He could, however, still learn new habits.

Tasks repeated routinely – such as his daily walk or making breakfast – could be completed successfully.  This was possible even though he couldn’t tell researchers where he lived or even how to get to the kitchen from another room.  He couldn’t explain how or why he did what he did, but he could do these things, nonetheless.

Of course, we’re the same way, too.  Why do we choose the same soda every time we are at a vending machine?  Sure, at one point we made a conscious decision but now it’s habit.  As is how we load the dishwasher.  Or the route we run.  Or what time we go to bed.  Or if we brush our teeth before or after showering.   As told in The Power of Habit:

One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

This is all interesting stuff, but what can it mean for us as individuals?  It has me thinking about my habits that exist but also has me contemplating what habits I’d like to create.

Ending where we started, what new habits would you like to create in your life?  More on how to do that – and why we would want to – tomorrow.

Exploring The Power Of Habit

An apple a day…

Writing posts for this blog has become second nature after doing it so long.  A habit, you might say.  And yet… well, I find it interesting that during this week when I intended to write about habits that I completely forgot about writing a post until well into the afternoon yesterday.

In any event, I’ve been thinking about habits – both good and bad – as I have Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business on my reading list and have been checking out various articles on the topic.  In just about every mention of the book, the example of the American habit of brushing teeth comes up.

It’s amazing to me that 100 years ago hardly anyone brushed his or her teeth.  Seems hard to imagine, doesn’t it?  But it’s true.  It wasn’t a habit that we had, collectively, at the time.  It took a brilliant marketer to figure out how to make it a habit for a nation – and for generations.  What an impact.

If the habits of an entire country can be changed, I imagine that the habits in my life could be changed as well.  Bad habits could be discarded.  Good habits could be created.  Even more intriguing, if one individual could persuade so many people to change their habits, maybe there’s a way that I could influence the habits of other people as well.  And given that, who has influenced my habits?

This is all relevant because anything that we do out of habit draws less from our willpower, leaving more of that available to us for the tough stuff we need to get through every day.

So what is a habit and what should become one?  We’ll learn more about that together this week.

Coaching Challenge: Sharpen The Saw

According to Stephen Covey, sharpening the saw is what we do to renew ourselves – our resources, energy and health.  Many years ago when I had a Covey planner, there was a place to note what had been done each day to sharpen the saw.  Every day!  Do you do something to renew yourself each and every day?  No?  Me either.

Perhaps it will be enough to engage in personal renewal once a week at first, then expand as these new exercises become habit.  Today let’s focus on a few ideas to sharpen our proverbial saws.

Here we go….

  • Physical renewal: If exercise still seems like something that you simply can’t make time for, begin with taking 10,000 steps a day.  Pedometers are inexpensive and easy to conceal.  Instead of sitting while you take a call, pace.  While waiting for your kid to finish music lessons, walk.  Take an oath to move instead of sit.
  • Mental Renewal
    • For those readers of faith, prayer can be a time for mental and spiritual renewal.  Meditation and yoga can provide the same benefits.  In Creating a Charmed Life, Victoria Moran advocates “taking ten” each day, stating that “the surest way to access [your] energy… is through silence, through taking a specified amount of time each day for mediation, prayer, journal writing, or inspirational reading.” Later she continues, “Even if your busyness tells you that you can’t afford to take quiet time, know that you can’t afford not to.”
    • In addition to prayer and meditation, reading revives us mentally as well.  Finish up those books you started.  Go grab or download that book that’s been on your reading list for far too long.  Subscribe to a magazine that has to do with your industry or business.  Read them.
  • Spiritual Renewal: As you’ve seen here more than once before, the authors of Creating Your Best Life tell us that “researchers who studied adult men in Michigan found that those who volunteered their time, money, and energy felt happier than—and also outlived—their less altruistic peers.”  Give of your time and you receive benefits beyond what you would ever imagine.

Maybe you truly can’t find time to sharpen your saw every day.  But every day that you can will be a day that you will be more effective in all that you do.

First Things First, Sharpen The Saw, and The Abundance Mindset

Today’s topic was all cued up and ready to go… and then I heard about the passing of Stephen Covey and felt it would be more appropriate to reflect on what his work meant to me.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was the first business book that had an impact on my career.  It was the first business seminar I experienced; the first opportunity I had to focus on personal development outside of academia.

What an amazing foundation on which to build a career.  Because of this early learning, putting “first things first” and understanding the importance of “sharpening the saw” are fundamental to how I organize and prioritize my activities and life.  I try my very best to focus on what is important versus what is urgent.  And time for rejuvenation is always a part of my planning.

Above and beyond the specific seven habits, Covey also introduced the idea of the abundance mentality.  On The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Wikipedia page, the abundance mentality is described as this:

Covey coined the idea of abundance mentality or abundance mindset, a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and success to share with others. He contrasts it with the scarcity mindset (i.e., destructive and unnecessary competition), which is founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning (in some way or another) in a given situation. Individuals with an abundance mentality are able to celebrate the success of others rather than feel threatened by it.

Expect that everyone can win.  Sharing information and helping others doesn’t mean that we have less; it often means that we have more.  Celebrate success even when it isn’t your own.

What a legacy to leave.  Thank you.

Why Be A Mentor?

After reading yesterday’s post, maybe you’re thinking that you do, in fact, have something to share. Something valuable that can be passed on to others around you.  And then, perhaps, you’re also wondering when you’d actually find time to do that. Frankly, you might be wondering what would be in it for you.  Why bother?

As I’ve mentioned here before, when we give back it’s more than just what we are doing for the other person or people involved.  We do get something in return.  According to the authors of Creating Your Best Life, “Researchers who studied adult men in Michigan found that those who volunteered their time, money, and energy felt happier than—and also outlived—their less altruistic peers.”

As a big proponent of happiness and longevity, this alone gives me reason to find a way to mentor others.  Need more?  In his online article Nine Reasons Why Mentoring Matters to You, Kevin Eikenberry provides a strong argument for taking the time to mentor, including:

  • You’ll develop a close relationship with your mentee.
  • You’ll be re-energized personally.
  • You’ll increase your commitment to your own career and organization.
  • You’ll learn more by talking about and teaching things.
  • You’ll expand your impact in your organization.
  • You’ll enhance your self-esteem.
  • You’ll increase your skills.
  • You’ll grow more confident.
  • You’ll leave a legacy.

Of course, our mothers would tell us that we should simply give our time out of the goodness of our hearts.  However, when it comes to the difficult decision of where and when to give of our time, having a few selfish reasons to do so can help push us to making a commitment when we might have otherwise skipped the opportunity.

I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring young mothers through the Jeremiah Program.  To learn more about these efforts, check out the Jeremiah Program Facebook page.  Please “like” it and share it with your friends as well!

Play Goals

We do not quit playing because we grow old; we grow old because we quit playing.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Happier people make time for playing in their lives.  Children are natural players.  Unfortunately, as we age we forget how to play and most of us rarely prioritize it.

Why bother with what seems like a frivolous activity?

In the book Creating Your Best Life, Caroline Adams Miller and Dr. Michael B. Frisch describe the benefits like this:

Playing games and being spontaneous make us smile.  Play goals also often involve learning new habits, making friends, getting fit, laughing, and exploring the world.  Psychologists note that humor is one of the most powerful antidotes to discouragement and pessimism.  Play also often puts us in a state of “flow” – where time stands still and we are completely engaged in the challenges in front of us – and it helps us restore our equilibrium and simply unwind or recharge our batteries when we need it most.

Play goals?  When I first read this – and even now – those two words stood out for me.  Who sets goals to play?

As I think about how I could bring more play into my own life, a few ideas have come to mind.  I’ll share them in hopes of getting your own creative ideas flowing.

I miss playing a musical instrument.  When I was a kid, I bounced from lesson to lesson, learning to play everything from the piano to the bassoon to the bass guitar.  I could set a goal around relearning to play – or I could pick up a new instrument again.

My workouts have become routine and a bit like work.  What could I do that would make working out more fun?  I’m going to do some research.

My teenager plays all the time – but mostly on his XBox.  I’m sure there are ways that we could play together as a family if we put our minds to it.  He’s always asking to play Monopoly! Maybe it’s time to establish a family game night.

Setting play goals.  Sounds odd, but perhaps it’s something we should all do so we don’t lose the playful spirit of our youth.

Balance Work And Play

Hey! Forget about what you think I’m going to say here. You’re thinking that I’m going to tell you to schedule more play time, do less work time. Well, that might be a good idea, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about. Turns out that the type of play you choose can help you out at work. Intrigued?

If you’ve gone to college, been away at a retreat, or spent much of any time in the business world, you’ve likely taken some sort of self-assessment that has labeled you as “ENFP” or “Yellow” or told you that you have a “Driver” personality. And while that is interesting, particularly in relation to how those around you differ from you, what else did you learn to do with the information? Unfortunately, in the context of these learning events there is rarely time to delve much deeper. Here’s one way to take it a step further to apply it in your life.

In the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment I am the above mentioned ENFP. The E = Extroversion which means that my energy increases from being around people. My job, however, rarely requires me to be physically around people. This is actually OK because it gives me opportunity to exercise part of my self/personality/brain/spirit in a way that I wouldn’t naturally be drawn to – and it causes me to grow. It also means that my job can drain my energy more quickly than if I was around people in a more consistent way.

Enter PLAY! What I choose for my leisure activities can impact the energy that work takes from me. In assessing this pattern, I know that I should schedule “play time” that includes people. And so I do! When I get my energy adequately from my time outside of work, I’m loaded up and ready to do my job even when there aren’t that many people around me. Now, if the reverse was true, adding leisure activities like reading, taking nature walks or playing solitaire would challenge me to grow outside of my comfort zone.

Are you someone who loves detail and spends all day looking at the big picture? Add needlework to your relaxation time or volunteer to do the books for your favorite charity. Do you enjoy spontaneity yet spend your days doing the same tasks over and over? Don’t schedule your free time – just pick a location and go there when you have time to explore.

And so yes, I think you should include plenty of play time in your life. Adding play that gives you something different from what you do at work might bring more satisfaction to both work and play.

To dive deeper into this topic, check out Work, Play and Type by Judith A. Provost, Ed.D.

Self-Discovery Through Failure

We often learn more about ourselves through failure than through success.  It’s true.  And sometimes painful.

As you may have gathered from the posts I publish here, I’m a positive person. Because I focus on goals, taking risks, going for it, finding the silver lining, sharing compliments, being grateful, and so much more; I sometimes get comments from people that imply that my life is blessed, charmed, lucky – somehow disappointment and failure free.

Whatever.

I’m here to tell you that plenty of disappointments come through the Baana household. We disappoint one another. Friends and circumstances disappoint us. We live in Fargo so the weather regularly disappoints!

What might be different is how we react in our disappointment. Sure, at first we may rant, scream… even swear. Or pout. And then we continue to love each other, our friends, and even Fargo.

When it comes to circumstance, we need to move past the setback and move on. I’ve mentioned before that during these times my favorite question to ask is, “What have I learned from this experience?” As that question is answered, I see the reason behind the failure and figure out how to apply the learning going forward.  Figure out what it is that I’ll do differently next time.  At least I like to think that’s what happens. Sometimes the pouting goes on for a while before I get to that enlightened moment.

It goes back to what John C. Maxwell points out in his book Failing Forward: the key to overcoming disappointment/failure/set-backs doesn’t happen by changing circumstances. It begins with a personal desire to be teachable. It begins within us.

Continuing to paraphrase from the book… If you’re willing to do that, then you’ll be able to handle the disappointments, setbacks and failures that come your way.  And you’ll likely learn something about yourself in the process as well.

Focusing On A Deadline

One way to ensure we stay focused is to be up against a deadline.  It doesn’t matter if the deadline is given to us or if we create it ourselves, but it must be inflexible as I wrote about back in December of last year.

The Power Of A Deadline

I had the absolute pleasure of hosting a girlfriend gathering last night.  As I maneuvered the floor cleaner across the tile before they arrived, I joked about how inviting people over is a great way to get the house cleaned up.  Amazing what a little pressure and a deadline will do for our motivation, isn’t it?

It’s the same in business. When I was a project manager I found that I needed to set deadlines in order to keep myself and others on task. Even now as an entrepreneur I must find ways to hold myself accountable to be sure I move forward with the work that needs to be done.

Turns out research supports this need as well. A study mentioned in Willpower by Baumeister and Tierney shows that students with a propensity to procrastinate will push out completing work when they know a deadline is flexible. To the point, even, of leaving so much work until the end that the project cannot be completed.

Which brings us back to me cleaning my floors yesterday afternoon… I had an inflexible deadline because I knew someone would walk through the door around 7:00 PM and I knew exactly what I needed to get done before that time. So I did. Did my floors need cleaning before yesterday?  With three people and three dogs living in the house, most certainly!  But by having a deadline I finally prioritized the work.

Funny, I also finished getting my expenses into QuickBooks yesterday.  I have a meeting with my accountant today. See a pattern?

Deadlines are not just given to us by others. They are something we can create on our own, complete with accountability and the rigidity needed to make them powerful.

What work have you been putting off? Perhaps it’s time to give yourself a deadline.

Coaching Challenge: Strengths

You have strengths and you need to be using them.  Every day.  In all that you do.  This week I’m challenging you to do so.

Here we go….

  • Still haven’t taken the time to figure out exactly what your strengths are? Use one or all of these methods to find out a little more about yourself.  Keep in mind, this is NOT something you can ask of someone else – only you know what makes you feel strong so only you can do this work.  Also, each of these looks at strengths from differing angles, so it’s not overkill to do them all.
  • Find ways that you can use your strengths each day.  I described how I do it in yesterday’s post.  Of course, you can’t very effectively do this if you haven’t done the work in the first bullet.  So go, get to it!
  • As Danielle LaPorte suggests, find ways to do more of what you love each day.  I will expand that and add: find ways to do more things that strengthen you each day.  In time you’ll be doing more of what you love and what strengthens you and less of what you loathe and depletes you.

People who use their strengths are happier and more successful, more balanced and less stressed.  All fantastic reasons to focus on that which makes you feel strong.

Find Your Strengths

Most of you think that focusing on your weaknesses and improving them is the path to improved performance.  The data show that about 60% of Americans believe this and it’s even higher in a few other countries.  To be fair, there are areas of weakness I’ve worked to improve – and still work to improve – which has helped me become a better coach, leader and friend.  You can probably think of a few areas where you’ve done this, too.

If we’re lucky, when we improve our weaknesses we’ll neutralize them.  Turn the former area of weakness into “good enough.”

Do you want to be good enough or do you want to be amazing?

I think most of us would rather have amazing than good enough.  Not simply because we’d look better to others but because we FEEL better when we are amazing.  We are happier.

When we use our strengths to meet our biggest challenges, we enter into what psychologists refer to as “flow.”  You’ve been there before: those times when you’re so engrossed in what you are doing that time slips away.  You feel strong in those moments and are using your strengths.

Beyond allowing us to feel amazing, positive psychology studies show that using our signature strengths is a key component to being happy.  The work of Gallup and Marcus Buckingham shows that using our strengths is how to be successful at work and how we find balance in our lives.  If you’d like to more than take my word for it, I encourage you to check out any or all of the works below.

Finally, if you’d like to take a quick survey to find your signature strengths, navigate to www.authentichappiness.org and register for a free account. Once registered, check out the questionnaires and find the VIA Survey of Character Strengths (there’s a lot of other great stuff there, too).  You also can begin on your own by completing this sentence that Marcus Buckingham uses in his workshops: “I feel strong when I…”

However you do it, discover your strengths.