I often talk and write about different aspects of being successful and how to achieve at a higher level on a more consistent basis. I recently ran across two different sources that highlighted a common theme I often address. Taken together, they clearly create a triangle that almost guarantees the level of success we want by addressing behavior, taking small steps to larger goals, and moving from comfort to change.
Our behavior determines how we move forward in life. This sound like common sense, but I am talking about the behaviors we tend to overlook. I’m talking about our habits. Those actions that are so routine we either:
- ignore them and don’t realize their effect on our goals
- make excuses for them because they are “just who we are”
I wrote an earlier post titled: Choosing Your Limitations that discussed this very thing, but I heard a quote as I listened to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast episode Micromovement and Microprogress featuring Stefanie Frank that stated it perfectly. She credited a couple psychologists (names not given) at MIT. The quote “mostly what we do is what we do most of the time” really sends home the message that if we continue to practice bad habits, aim small, and doubt ourselves we will inevitably end up struggling, failing, and never taking a chance on our ability to do something great. It is essential to honestly examine our habits and determine if they are helping or hurting what we truly want to accomplish. Then it is our responsibility to act by continuing the positive and ditching the negative because in the end we are what we do.
I have done a lot of writing about this area. A recent example is Continuous Improvement Instead of Overnight Success. We all often set goals and fall short because of the mundane march toward the finish line. In the book The Power of Moments, Dan Heath and Chip Heath discuss the impact of creating moments of pride for ourselves by making “meaningful milestones” or multiple “finish lines” on the way to accomplishing a larger goal. We do break goals into actions steps, but it is so important to set our perception to the idea that action steps are goals within themselves. When we do this, we stay engaged due to the smaller victories along the way that actually better prepare us for achieving the end result. A great example of this in action is the existence (and addiction to) all the electronic badges (fitbit, click recognition, etc.) and awards (boy scout badges, fit into an old outfit rather than count pounds lost, etc) we get to continue working at getting better. The point is, it is easy to fall into a rut, lose sight of the goal, or become overwhelmed with the difficulty. We need to combat this by creating victories along the way that enable us to celebrate and stay engaged.
The majority of the population dislikes change. It is uncomfortable, but essential if we are to stay current, effective , and successful. I touch on this in an earlier post titled When Is It Too Late? To be clear, I’m not talking about change for the sake of change. That is something entirely different. I’m talking about the type of change that while well thought out, possesses a little of the unknown and messiness due to changing factors and the need to continuously adjust to find the wisest practice possible. What I just described is scary. The key is to take that fear, confront it, and understand that it is more about being nervous. Fear often paralyzes where nervousness keeps us alert and performing at a higher level. The trick is to use that nervousness to better prepare, ask more meaningful questions, and be alert to possibilities. Fear comes from our primitive brain and nervousness employs more of our higher level thinking brain. Embracing that helps us proactively address situations and be intentional with our actions.
Success boils down to acting intentionally. If we are not intentional with how we behave, spend our time, plan, and change; the ability of us to reach our long term goals vanishes. It’s not that we do not have enough hours in the day. Its about not using the hours we have in a way that benefits our desired outcome. You can depend on nothing but your plan, and no one to implement it but you.Challenge
Examine your habits. Over the course of the next three months replace two bad habits with two good ones. It is too hard to just stop doing something. Instead, focus on creating something in its place.
Set up Challenges. Select one of the longer term goals you have. Set up three smaller challenges along the way that you must complete to show progress.
Make a change. Try something different that is tied to your goal. Step outside your comfort zone and embrace being nervous instead of being scared.