Become the Person You Want To Be

Dear Springboard:

It’s only the end of February and I’ve already given up on my lofty “goals” for the year.

I’m not losing weight, exercising or even meditating.

Plus, I’m not listening better to my staff members as I had promised.

It feels crazy to give up already.  How to make the changes I say I want?

Sign me,

Not in The Habit

Dear NiTB:

You’re not alone. There is a reason why gyms sell annual memberships.  They know the crowd will have thinned by this time of year to just the consistent regulars.

It’s interesting that you sign off referencing “habit.”  A core message of the current best seller Atomic Habits, by James Clear, is that even small changes (hence, atomic) with small incremental increases over a long time can yield significant gains.

Imagine getting 1% better every day for a year.  Or, if you shifted your direction on a map by 1 degree and progressed that way over a long period of time, you would end up in a very different place.

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The book suggests we look at systems versus goals.

With goals, we have a metric to achieve and once we’re there, we create another goal and so we’re always in pursuit of what we think will make us happy.  The satisfaction of achievement is fleeting, and elusive.

Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.  A system consists of the action steps we take in pursuit of a goal.

I remember an English teacher in high school telling me: do the work and the grades will take care of themselves.

How do we create a system and what sustains it?  Our individual system will be the outgrowth of our personal set of beliefs and so it becomes about our identity.

A personal example is that my number one rule for myself is to show up.  That becomes:  I’m the type of person who is a dependable because I am very consistent in showing up.

When we repeat behavior, it becomes a reinforcing loop. Habits shape identity, and identity shapes habits.

Over time and with consistency, one is no longer looking for a change, but instead just acting like the person they believe (or want) themselves to be.

True behavior change is about changing our self-identity. The reason we stick with a new behavior is that it becomes part of our identity.

And so it follows that the biggest barrier to positive change is identity conflict.

Good habits can make sense rationally, but if they conflict with our identity we will fail to maintain them.

The bottom line with atomic habits is that they are not about having something. They are about becoming someone.

Here’s an interesting and individually challenging dynamic to this: to get the results we want, it requires we create a system based on honoring values we say (if only to ourselves) are key to us; it means we must demonstrate our commitment to a value or principle and be faithful about it.

How to act on this?

The author’s two-step process for change is:

1.    Decide the type of person you want to be (honoring your values and principles)

2.    Prove it to yourself with small wins

Not sure when to begin to answer the first question? Ask yourself:  what kind of person could get the outcome I want?  What would _________ do?

For a deeper dive and a practical understanding of how to act on these ideas, I suggest checking out the book.

It breaks down how a habit is constructed with a cue, craving, response and reward.

Plus, there is considerable discussion on the strategies involved in the recommended four steps to creating a positive habit.

1.    Make it Obvious – Ensure the cues of good habits are visible.

2.    Make it Attractive – Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

3.    Make it Easy – Prepare your environment to make desired actions easy (leave exercise clothes out, e.g.). Downscale habits until at least a portion can be done in two minutes or less (very doable as an initial start and later as a minimum for continuity).

4.    Make it Satisfying – Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete a habit. Track your habits to monitor progress. Never miss twice in a row because missing becomes the new habit.

We’re not throwing goals out with the bathwater.  Goals still have a role and are good for setting a direction. The key is that systems are better for making progress.

The invitation is to decide what kind of person you want to be and then live into it with value-based habits.

To successfully make big changes. . .

. . . start small.

Let Go. . . Or Be Dragged

Dear Springboard:

My boss runs a weekly meeting with all of his team.  We’ve been meeting first thing Monday morning for as long as I can remember.  

Last month, he changed the time to Friday.  He said it’s so we can review the current week, get set up for the coming week, and remove any barriers to our jumping in Monday morning.

I’m having trouble getting used it this change and am feeling a little resentful about it.

Sign me,

Liked the Way It Was

 

Dear LTWIW:

You’re not alone in struggling to embrace change. Change can be challenging:  it requires us to let go of what we know and take a risk on an unknown. One fear is that we may lose what we have and not get what we want.

While the personal experience of change can be very complex, I want to focus on one aspect of it: Letting go.

We get attached to what we know and find comfort in that familiarity and this is true even if we have complaints.  Think of all the things we hang on to even when they don’t serve us anymore.

When I make a mistake, I beat myself up.  Sure, it’s useful to acknowledge the misstep and learn from it.  So, when am I going to put down that big stick and practice some self-compassion and let go?

When someone wrongs me, I get angry.  In my resentment, I relive the negative experience again and again – all without any impact on the other person.  When will I have the courage and intellectual honesty to find and accept my role in it and then let go?

When I assign a task at work (or make a request at home) if I don’t feel confident about the outcome, I might micromanage the follow through. That usually backfires and generates conflict which interferes with the result I’m seeking.  When will I take actions and let go of the results?

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Self-limiting beliefs hold me back and I can let them defeat me before I even try. I need to let go of the self-doubt and remember examples of personal positive experiences to shore up my self-confidence.

Expectations can be a set up for disappointment. I need to let go and start with a beginner’s open mind.

At this time of year, children are returning to school and parents need to let go. Kids leave for college to become young adults and need to let go of their high school years.

In my executive coaching, my niche is to support managers as they transition to roles of greater responsibility.

To be successful, they must let go of some familiar ways of managing to make space to be available for new ones.  Examples include more delegation, coaching their direct reports to their own solutions, intentionally shifting to a broader, more strategic perspective.

The more I think about it, the longer my list gets of things I want to be able to let go of.  There are a few that I do want to hold tight:  my key relationships and the core values that inform my purpose and day to day decisions.

I want to develop the capacity to both fully engage and appropriately let go.

Yes, there is an inherent vulnerability in letting go.  I like to believe the future is friendly and it’s worth the risk.

So LTWIW, while you may have liked the meeting schedule before, the invitation to you now is to accept that we live in a rapidly evolving world that rewards flexibility and resilience – in a word, agility.

 

5 Steps to Get More of What You Want

Dear Springboard:

Last week, I gave my first presentation to the leadership team.  I’m new to the team and I laid out my plans for the next 12 months.  

Overall, it went well. I made some good points and there was vocal support for the changes I proposed but there was one part where I stumbled and it was really awkward.  

I can’t get that out of my head.  It’s all I can think about.

Sign me,

Obsessed and Not in a Good Way

 

Dear OANIAGW,

First off, I’m glad the meeting went well.

Internal presentations are important as they are sometimes the only, or major, impression that some key co-workers have of us.  And, we know perception is essentially reality.

Plus, none of is perfect and the fact that your presentation wasn’t flawless just confirms that you’re human like the rest of us.

AND, I want to urge you to focus on what went right and build on that.

It sounds like 95% of it went well and you have fallen into a trap of focusing on the 5% that didn’t.

If you believe that what we focus on gets bigger, then bear with me as I introduce you to Appreciative Inquiry, or AI.

AI comes from positive psychology. The basic message is this:  instead of looking for problems (and finding them!) and then developing solutions to those problems, AI seeks to identify what has gone well (appreciate) and then analyzes and develops a strategy (inquiry) to get more of it.

While this mindset is usually applied to organizations and change management efforts, I think it can be applied at an individual level as well.

Let’s explore how to build on the 95% that did go well.

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The AI model provides a useful structure and has five steps:

DEFINE: What is your topic? 

Let’s say business presentations.

DISCOVERY: Appreciating the best of what is.

Specifically, what is it that went well? Reflect on your own efforts, how others contributed and any systemic (organization) factors that were helpful.

DREAM: Envisioning what could be. Imagine an ideal outcome.  What does it look like? Feel like?  How have you contributed to it?  Who else has had positive impact and it what way? Recast the issue from a problem to be solved to an affirmative topic.

DESIGN: Co-Constructing what should be. Look for examples of what has occurred that you want more of.

Draft some affirmative statements (also known as provocative propositions) of what you want to realize.

Then, check these statements to make sure they are challenging, innovative and a stretch; they are grounded in examples of what has actually happened; they resonate and there is enough passion to persevere; they are in the present tense (as though they were already true); and, while they are bold, they are achievable.

DESTINY: Create what will be.

Into action! Whether you are working with others, which is a big advantage as a group’s energy helps propel the effort forward, or on your own, the fact that the desired future is derived from reality (what has already occurred), we know we can achieve our goal.

Even if your Destiny is mostly your own objective (such as your future business presentations), collaborating is an advantage in achieving success.

You don’t need to do this, or anything for that matter, alone.

My advice is to stop looking for problems to solve and instead mine for the gold in your positive experiences.

You don’t even need to let go of thinking about the bad 5%.

If you really focus on what you want more of (a shift in your obsessing), the negatives will just slip away. . .

Manage Your Hidden Fears For Greater Success

 

Dear Springboard:

I was running my staff meeting last Monday and it was going fine until we got to “John.”

We went around the table and everybody was prepared with their updates but when it was John’s turn, he was clearly winging it. I was more than a little angry and I really let him have it.

I told him right then and there that he needs to shape up or else. My boss was sitting in for this meeting (which he almost never does) and I wanted my boss to know that I wouldn’t tolerate that sort of sloppy and disrespectful performance. 

Afterward, my second in command pulled me aside and told me that I overacted and based on that overreaction, I was the one who ended up looking like the problem.

How is that possible? He wasn’t prepared and I’m running the show!

Sign me Perplexed.

 

Dear Perplexed:

Years ago, I was out to dinner with a group of friends and “Sally” was being very difficult with the waiter.

I was embarrassed by her and I overacted and in a such a big way that it was I who became the problem. I’d like to think it was because I was extremely hungry (or “hangray”) but there was really no excuse.

As the attention shifted to me, the group completely forgot about her behavior and focused only on my behavior. It was a tough and valuable lesson.

Here’s what I know: whenever I am upset and I take the time to figure out why, it is always about my fear. It may not look like that on the surface but if I’m honest with myself, a layer or two underneath, it’s rooted in fear.

In broad terms, I am afraid of losing something I already have or, of not getting something I want.

My friend Anne took this idea one step further and said imagine a two-column grid like the one below where:

  • Relationships are personal in nature
  • Status is our public image
  • Security is about our financial wellbeing
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Now when I get upset about something, I look inside and try to figure out which of these six buttons is being pushed. It’s usually more than one.

Seeing what fears are being stirred up and looking at the dynamic with some distance and objectivity helps defuse the charge of an emotional — and fear-driven– reaction.

To apply this thinking to your situation, what buttons do you think the situation with John pushed? And, how did having your boss there influence it?

I would guess at a minimum that John’s lack of preparedness pushed the Status and Security buttons in the Losing column. You reacted strongly because you thought he was making you look bad (Status).  This reaction was intensified by your boss being there.

Because your boss was there, I think your Security button also got pushed. It would be easy to have a thought pattern that goes something like this: If my boss doesn’t think I can manage my staff, especially when he’s present, he might think I can’t meet our goals. Maybe I’m not the right guy for the job. I could lose: a promotion, a raise, a bonus, or maybe even my job.

As all change starts with self-awareness, noticing our emotional reactions is a good place to begin. Self-management is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence and a valued competency in the executive suite.

One lesson here is to pause and manage the first fear-based emotional response. (To learn more, click here.)

So, take a step back and see what buttons are being pushed.

The challenge is to just notice and let go.

Intentions Into Action

Fred is a VP at a software company.  Fred is 47, out of shape and says he wants to lose 15 pounds.  The same 15 pounds as last year and the year before that . . . and the year before that.  He likes his cookies.  Exercise and vegetables not so much.

With the fresh start of a new year, Fred was feeling optimistic and energized on January 1st. His list of New Year’s resolutions was long, lofty, and included losing weight. He does this every year – often with the same resolutions.

He sets himself up for failure and disappointment.  Every time.

He isn’t unusual.  About 40% of Americans make resolutions (60% plan to) and they tend to be health-oriented like losing weight, exercising more, or both.  Too often, they are overly ambitious, a bit vague and have no structure to support the action to realize them.

My suggestion to people like Fred is to winnow down the list and be specific.

While there might be many things Fred wants to do this year and that’s fine, today I am asking you: what is the one thing that you absolutely want to accomplish by the end of the year.  What is it and why does it matter? It will help to have an underlying reason that is bigger than the visible goal itself.

So, rather than:  I want to lose weight – I guess, because I should. . .

Instead, how about: I want to be healthy so I’m sure to see my sweet 13-year old daughter Barbara graduate/get married/have children and be an active grandparent.

It’s also helpful to mentally phrase the intention as a positive.  Instead of: I don’t want to be fat anymore.  Substitute:  I see myself as 15 pounds lighter and physically fit.

To increase the odds of success, make it a SMART goal, write it down, and then share it with another person.

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Resonant (or Realistic), and Time-bound.

So, in this case a SMART goal could be: I will exercise for one hour between 6 am and 7 am Tuesday through Friday so I can lose 15 pounds by June 30 and then maintain that lower weight.

It also increases your odds if you: 1) write it down; and 2) share it out loud with someone you trust.  Declare your intention and surrender to accountability.

7b90fc27-0afa-41f0-a9a5-2317ce316d0f.jpgPlus, how you start makes all the difference.  How long do people actually stick with their new plans?

The Statistic Brain Research Institute says:

  • Through the first week, only 73% are still at it
  • Past two weeks – 68%
  • Past one month – 58%
  • Past six months – 45%

Gyms that sell annual memberships are all too aware of these numbers.

Those stats show that the first week is critical.  Only 7 days in, more than a quarter have given up.  After two weeks, about a third have stopped.

But, after that, the falloff levels out. So, after a month, 58% are still at it and after six months, 45% are.

It’s clear that the first steps are critical.  I suggest that people like Fred give themselves relatively easy goals to start and then gradually make it more challenging.  Early wins are crucial to staying motivated. Fred might start by exercising two times a week for 30 minutes and build from there.

Back to you: what’s that one thing you really want accomplish, this year?