Want to Reach Your Goal? Know Where to Keep Your Eyes
Want to Reach Your Goal? Know Where to Keep Your Eyes
Goals. Objectives. Ambitions. Dreams. All of these things have one thing in common, namely, a desire for their manifestation. There’s a way that each of us – no matter who we are – wants these things to become our reality. What we’re talking about is achievement, accomplishment, that sense of success.
This summer, the topic of goals and achievement has been taking up a lot of brain space for me. Like most people I know I love setting goals; more importantly, I love achieving goals; and, sometimes, especially when goal-achievement seems elusive, there’s a way that I want to abandon ship. While I know that there is something to be said for knowing when to let go of a lost cause, I also know that there’s more to be said for sticking to your guns, for seeing a plan through to success. So how do you do that? How do you stay the course, when the end seems so far away? Or when your work seems to be yielding less than desirable results? The key lies in a classic “both/and”. Let me explain.
When it comes to goal achievement, conventional wisdom would have us maintain our focus on the desired end result. “Keep your eye on the prize” is the cliché, right? In other words, you are taught to keep your attention entirely on the goal you’ve set. You’ve also been told to celebrate your successes along the way to the ultimate goal, right? That’s where the potentially derailing challenge exists. Often, in celebrating your successes along the way, you end up taking your eye OFF the ultimate goal. That moment of averting your gaze can be enough to hold you back from achieving your goal, or at least to delay your achievement. Given that this is the result, one of two things tends to happen: you either forget about celebrating the successes along the way (because you don’t want to stop for any length of time), and thereby lose steam and fall short; or,you’re so busy celebrating the successes along the way, that your eyes are rarely on the prize, which results in losing sight of whereyou’re headed and not getting there in the end.
So, what’s the solution? It boils down to this: you’ve got to develop your capacity to HOLD IT ALL energetically. There’s a way that you must be completely, 100% aware of where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re headed, all at the same time. Celebrating successes along the way does not mean that you take your eyes off your destination. Instead, it’s about marking the success as you continue to move forward. Think about any of the runners in any sporting event; if and when they choose to turn and look behind them, they lose focus, they lose speed and they potentially lose the prize. If, instead, they mentally “check off” each and every milestone, they are in essence celebrating even as they keep pushing ahead. It’s a brilliant strategy.
One final word about “keeping your eye on the prize”. I’d never really thought about this before, however, during the last summer Olympics this idea was drawn to my attention – and I’ve not forgotten it since. For athletes who run in dash events, the competition is really, really stiff. The difference between those in first and second place is a matter of milliseconds. During one of the dash races in the last Olympic games, it was noted by the commentators that what set the winner apart, was that sheran “through the finish line”. In other words, although the race was a 200-meter event, the winner very obviously was running well beyond 200 meters. Her eyes were fixed beyond the finish line. The second place athlete, however, was aiming for the finish line. Shouldn’t that have been enough? No, it wasn’t; and it isn’t. Why? Because when it comes to goals, there’s a way that your mind and body start to slow down before the finish, knowing that you actually need time to come to a stop. As a result, if your eye is on the finish line, you’ll slow down before that, stopping short of your desired objective. If, however, your eye is beyond the line, you’ll keep racing, giving yourself that critical edge in the end.
Bottom-line: if you want to achieve a goal, any goal, you’ve got to keep your eye on the prize, your head in the game, and your awareness on the entire journey. You’ve got to celebrate all that you’ve accomplished, even as you continue to move forward. When it comes right down to it, you’ve got to keep moving, no matter how tempted you are to let go. Go ahead; take that break, celebrate all you’ve accomplished, but don’t lose sight of the end-result. Holding it all together will ensure that you can celebrate it all together. I know. I’ve been there; I’ve done that. And I’m still moving forward to my ultimate goal.
When Risk-Taking Backfires
Risk. It’s a concept that some are more comfortable with than others. Although we often equate risk with dare-devil type personalities – those who engage in activities where the outcome isn’t guaranteed to be positive in any way, shape or form – at very heart of it all, risk-taking is about making yourself vulnerable in the face of something.
One of the things that is generally acknowledged as fact is that a life well-lived involves an element of risk. Calculated risk can be a very good thing; it’s that scenario in which you aren’t sure of the outcome, but you weigh out the pros and cons of your choice, decide that the pros outweigh the cons in some measure, and then go for it. The thing about “risk” is that by definition there are no guarantees. Sometimes, despite having weighed the odds, even the most well-calculated risk can backfire. I know. I had this very experience recently.
In this particular case, the risk I took was one involving a relationship. I chose to address a concern with an individual, in a group environment, and the entire scenario went sideways – fast. Despite my choice to be grounded, direct, firm and simultaneously as soft as possible in my approach, my impact was anything but grounded or soft. The person on the receiving end of my address “exploded”, resulting in an energy of palpable tension in the space. I took a risk, and it didn’t pay off – at least not in the way I would have liked.
So, what did I learn from the experience? What do I know now about risk-taking that I didn’t really know before? Here are a few of the tangible lessons that I’d like to share with you:
- Risk is risk. Sometimes, despite weighing the odds and determining the “best” course of action, the outcome is less than desirable.
- When you take a risk and put yourself out there, some will respect you for it.
- When you take a risk and put yourself out there, some will despise you for it.
- Taking a risk requires commitment; if you’re going to take a chance, you need to “stay the course”, even if things backfire.
- Commitment does not mean being pig-headed; if you’ve made a mistake, you need to own it and move on.
- Commitment does mean standing your ground – with integrity. It’s not about making others wrong, it’s not about losing your cool, and it is about being patient and grounded.
- Once you’ve taken a risk, regardless of the outcome, give yourself time to let things settle.
- If things go well, celebrate your success graciously.
- If things go sour, take time to evaluate –don’t sulk.
- Once the dust settles – good or bad – learn the lesson and move on.
Bottom-line: risk-taking is about living your life with purpose, with intention and with a view to stretching yourself. It’s about showing up fully and being all of you, in any circumstance. Sometimes the outcome will be greater than you could have imagined. Sometimes it will backfire. And when you take the time to learn the lesson from the experience, regardless of the outcome, risk-taking with clarity is always worth the price you pay.
The Secret to Making Guilt-Free Choices
Guilt. For professionals from all walks of a life, it’s a quality that seems to accompany many decisions. The never-ending pull between work and home, between project X and project Y, between self-care and completing a work task virtually ensures that no matter what you choose, guilt will ensue.
Here’s what I want you to know: it doesn’t have to be this way.
Guilt is a quality that rears its head when you are uncertain of your choice and therefore less than 100% committed. Guilt masquerades as being rooted in a feeling of conflict, but the truth of the matter is that it’s rooted in lack of commitment. When you are full committed to a choice, whatever that choice may be, guilt dissipates.
So, how do you turn up the dial on your commitment? As with so much of what I share, you need to be really clear on what it is you value. Understand your values, then make your choices based on those values with 100% commitment. In other words, whatever decision you make, once you make it, throw yourself “all in”.
Here’s an example to help illustrate the point: many professionals often feel the conflicting pull between home life and professional life. Your child is sick at home and you have a budget meeting at work. There’s a sense that you’re needed in both places, right?
So, ask yourself: what do I truly value here? What matters in the big picture? Release all judgment and notice your true answer. Now, make your choice accordingly. Whatever you choose – whether it’s to go to the meeting or to stay home with your child, get 100% behind your decision. If you choose to go to the meeting, allow yourself to be fully present in that forum, knowing that you’ve made a values-based choice. Similarly, if you decide to stay home with your child and reschedule the meeting, be 100% with your child, and forego any and all things budget-related for the time being.
Bottom-line: guilt need not be part of your professional experience. The secret to minimizing guilt, is to maximize your commitment. Ensure that your choices are solidly rooted in your values. Then get behind those choices with 100% commitment. Learn to live with an “all-in” energy, and notice your experience of guilt become a thing of the past.
Understanding the Gift of Today
My latest invention is a TODAY LIST. This is a fairly recent addition to my unique repertoire of terms (I love to make up words as circumstances require). In a nutshell, a TODAY list is a more relevant form of a to-do list.
Likely, a to-do list is something you can relate to. Almost everyone I know has one, and if they don’t, they’ve got some sort of equivalent. Perhaps it’s a pile to tackle, a file folder to get to, a wad of sticky notes covering a desk – all things to be tended to and taken care of, in service of whatever it is that the bigger picture holds in your world.
Such lists or their equivalent can be a god-send. It’s a place to dump that swirling muck of things that take up brain space, and a way to ensure that things that need to be tended to don’t get forgotten.
When it comes to to-do lists, one of the things to remember is that the list is in fact never-ending. There is always something to do, and so it behooves you to cut yourself some slack in allowing the “master list” to carry over from day-to-day, existing as a never-ending work-in-progress.
That being said, there’s a bit of a paradox at play. As much as it can serve to remember that the list will carry over, it also serves really well to remember that the only time you can truly get anything done is TODAY. Hence, the TODAY list.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t plan. I’m not saying that you can’t think ahead. Visioning and dreaming and planning are really, really good strategies for enriching the life you live. However, when it comes right down to it, TODAY –and in fact, this moment – is the only time that you can truly be sure of getting anything done. So, it is essential that you stay fully grounded in this moment.
Bottom-line: planning is a good thing. And, when it comes to getting things done, the better thing is to be fully focused, 100% committed and present in this moment. TODAY is the only time you’re guaranteed for sure. So, morph your to-do list into a TODAY list, and then, get cracking.
The Secret to Optimizing Productivity
In my world, busy has been the name of the game. This busy-ness has left me feeling somewhat discombobulated at times, as evidenced by the fact that last week’s ezine and blog never did get written! My sincere apologies to each of you for that oversight. As organized as I endeavor to be, sometimes schedules just get the better of me. That being said, I have discovered a secret to getting back on track. Want to know what it is? Okay, I’ll tell you.
STOP and UNPLUG.
That’s right, if you want to ensure that busy-ness doesn’t get the better of you, then it’s imperative that you force yourself to disconnect from time to time. I know for many people, this seems counter-intuitive. After all, there are things to be done, deadlines to be met, projects to be completed. I get it.
And yet, our very busy world of endless “connections” is a constant drain on our productivity. As such, the longer we go without stopping, the greater the span of time between our “unplugged” moments, the less productive we actually are. So, if you want to optimize your productivity, you’ve got to unplug from time-to-time.
What does it mean to unplug? Turn off the computer. Close down your email and social media accounts for a bit. Put your phone out of sight and go for a walk. Get out from in front of the television and have a real, face-to-face conversation with someone, anyone. This time you spend NOT working on your projects, and NOT plugged into some device will actually restore you in every way.
All of a sudden, that task that seemed to be taking forever to complete? You’ll be wrapping it up in no time. That problem that had you stumped? You’ll find a solution, quicker than you’d have thought possible. That thing that seemed like an insurmountable obstacle? Now it simply feels like a little bump on the road to success.
Bottom-line: we live in a busy, continually connected world. The connection, however, is outside of ourselves and needs to be turned inward to keep us all as productive as possible. So go ahead; unplug. And feel yourself recharge like you never thought possible.
Relationships and The A-Word: What You Need to Know
Many of my articles deal with leadership and/or relationships. Given that these are the areas of focus in my coaching practice, this is not surprising. Truthfully, the two areas – leadership and relationship – actually go together. The very best leaders are those who understand the value of relationships and who know how to build, maintain and navigate relationships. The ability to do all of this relies on one key quality more than others. This is the quality known as ACCOUNTABILITY.
ACCOUNTABILITY is a word that hovers out there in the world, and that most acknowledge as a good thing. That being said, do you know what it actually means? Can you explain to someone what it is to be truly accountable? If you can’t, it’s time you learn. Because without understanding accountability, you will keep running into challenges with your peers, your colleagues, your direct reports and any other relationship that is part of your life.
At its very heart, being accountable is about responsibility. It’s about taking ownership for who you are, what you do, what you say, and how you show up. Accountability requires you to be aware of how you affect the world around you, and own your impact.
Such responsibility exists on two extremes. It’s about owning all the stuff you do well, your successes if you will. And it’s about owning when you make a mistake, when you drop the ball. Understand, being accountable isn’t about being arrogant, nor is it about putting yourself down. Ego has no place in the realm of accountability. Instead, being accountable means you can and do own your impact while simultaneously holding an awareness of how such ownership allows you – and your team, family, project, whatever – to move forward.
Sometimes, admittedly, such accountability takes a great deal of strength, particularly when it comes to owning your mistakes. There’s something about publicly saying “I messed up” that is difficult for most people. Not surprising, when there’s the very real possibility of being told off, or blamed by others, or otherwise held in contempt. The truly accountable person, however, is able to own their mistake – take responsibility – without beating themselves up, or allowing themselves to be beaten up by others.
Bottom-line: if you want to be a leader, or if you want your relationships to be truly effective, you’ve got to understand what it means to be accountable. You’ve got to own all of who you are, what you do, how you show up, when you succeed and when you fail. Accountability in all its forms is one of the keys to success. Learn how to be accountable, and you will be a model of effective leadership.
Nothing to be Grateful For? Be Grateful Anyway!
Lately I’ve taken to being pretty public about my gratitude. Every morning I sit down with my journal and write down my musings, always ending with notes of gratitude. Sometimes I follow this up by meandering over to my Facebook page and sharing my gratitude with my Facebook community . Which has caused a few people to look at me in wonder and ask: “Really? Gratitude? Everyday?” And my answer is a simple, “Yep.”
I know it seems bizarre, especially because those same folks are aware of various challenges that I choose to share. Writer’s block; migraines; sprained ankle; overwhelm; uncertainty; loneliness; never ending to-do lists. I’m human. These types of challenges are normal. And, one of the things I’ve learned is that no matter what challenge you’re facing, no matter how tired you are, no matter how confused or bewildered or frustrated, there is something gratitude-worthy for you to acknowledge, if you choose to see it. Moreover, taking the time to express your gratitude is one of the keys to success.
You see, the expression of gratitude is about perspective. It’s about understanding that you have options in your life, and that the options you choose to engage with in any given moment are the ones that end up defining your experience. When you look at your options, and you find the aspects of each option that are gratitude-worthy, all of a sudden life feels a little lighter, a little more manageable, and – dare I say it – a whole LOT better.
When it comes to your professional world, the ability to express gratitude can be a powerful skill, one that propels you toward success. Such gratitude is not about looking at a rosebush and seeing roses without thorns. It’s about seeing both and choosing to focus on the thing that raises your spirits, elevates your mood, places you in a better frame of mind (which, for most people, is the roses). When you’re in a better frame of mind, you’re able to make better choices. This in turn means you’re able to move forward with greater ease. Understand?
No matter what is going on for you, in any given moment, there is something to be grateful for. Your responsibility is to find that thing and put your focus there. Feeling overwhelming fatigue? Be grateful that the sun is shining or for a soft pillow on which to rest your head. Raining for the 5th day in a row? Be grateful that the plants are growing, and that you have an umbrella. Realizing that you’ve got 20 things to do in a day that only allows for you to do 10? Be grateful that when it comes right down to it, it will all get done in some way (even if it means that some of those items will carry over to tomorrow’s list).
Bottom-line: gratitude is not to be ignored as a valuable tool for the achievement of success. No matter who you are, no matter what you’re facing, you have things for which to be grateful. Learn to express that gratitude. Put your focus on those things. And then notice how your list of things to be grateful for actually expands. Gratitude: it’s a phenomenal experience!
A Simple Strategy for Eliminating Fear
So, over the past week – actually, if I’m really honest, it’s more like the past month! – I’ve had a few experiences that have left me feeling fearful. Some have been about health, some have been about relationships, some have been about circumstances, some have been about things that aren’t quite so tangible. All, however, have left me feeling a wee bit stuck at various times, and certainly unsure of how to proceed effectively in my life.
One of the things I’ve learned over time is that fear is often a great big shadow. In other words, the fear in your mind is often bigger – or feels bigger – than the thing, the experience that is the source of the fear in the first place. I know this. And yet, despite this knowledge, fear can still stop me dead in its tracks. Not helpful.
At various points in my life, I have been forced to deal with fear head on. Many would advocate for this as an effective fear-busting strategy. And to some degree, I would concur. The question that arises, however, is what does “dealing with fear” really entail? Well, this week, I think I stumbled upon a really simply variation on the theme. In a nutshell, you talk about it.
That’s right; giving voice to whatever it is that has you running scared takes away the power that it has.
It’s kind of strange, but what I’ve noticed in every scenario in which I’ve been afraid is that, when I’ve named the fear out loud, when I’ve shared the concern with someone else – even if it is only my reflection in the mirror – the powerful energy surrounding the fear disappears. The fear grows smaller and I’m able to see clearly. Moreover, I’m able to move forward rationally. Which is a good thing.
Now, I would suggest that you choose your confidants wisely. Some people are fear-mongers, and while naming a fear can dissipate its power, it doesn’t necessarily work so well if you’re talking to someone who’s determined to keep you small, stuck or otherwise prevent you from making progress. Essentially, you want to voice your fears to trusted allies and souls that are supportive of who you are and what you’re up to.
Bottom-line: fear is a powerful deterrent. It’s supposed to be. Fear is that thing that keeps you from engaging in hazardous activity. And, at the same time, your brain has this uncanny ability to take a small fear and make it feel monstrous. The way to overcome this tendency is to speak. Give your fear voice and take away its power. It’s a simple solution — and a highly effective one.
More About Impact
Last week I shared some thoughts with you about the concept of impact. In a nutshell, you have a critical responsibility to know the impact you want to have, be aware of the impact you do have, and accept full responsibility for both. My hope is that you were able to play with the information I shared, and implement some of the suggested strategies for doing so.
That being said, I realize that there is a little more for me to share. There’s something about impact that needs to be addressed from another angle. You see, while it’s important for you to take responsibility for the impact you have on others, it’s also vital that you take responsibility for managing the impact that others have on you. Let me explain.
In the same way that you have an impact on others, the people in your world are having an impact on you. Always. Some people raise your spirits, some bring you down. Some make you nervous, some lighten your load. Some cause visceral tension, some bring the equivalent of sunshine into your life. These are all examples of the impact of others, and it’s essential that you pay attention to such impact – ALWAYS.
Your objective is to surround yourself, as much as possible, with those who have a positive impact on you. What you want is to be impacted in such a way that you show up at your very best. This is not to say that you don’t want to be challenged, or angered, or saddened by others. But it’s about noticing impact patterns. Here’s an example:
I have had people in my life who constantly “bring me down”. These are individuals who are caught – or seem committed to being caught – in a negative warp of some sort. Their language reflects this negativity. Perhaps they’re regularly sarcastic, or use put-downs, or mock others, or seem determined to see roadblocks where you would rather explore possibility. As someone who’s aware of the impact of others on my life, and who’s aware of the impact I want to have and experience, it is my responsibility to notice these patterns, and minimize my time with such individuals.
Don’t get me wrong. These people are not to be avoided altogether. These people have a right to their perspective and their impact; what you have to do is determine whether or not you are going to allow their impact to become pervasive and by extension adversely affect your world.
When you look at the relationships in your life – professional, personal, whatever – ask yourself: does this person raise me up? If so, in what way? Does this person bring me down? If so, in what way? Is this a pattern of impact that I’m noticing? Or is it a one-off, situational experience? If it’s a pattern, why do I allow it to continue?
Bottom-line: part of your responsibility around impact includes being accountable for how you allow others to impact your life. When you notice yourself continually feeling drained by another’s presence, ask yourself if it may be time to step away from that dynamic? If stepping away isn’t possible, for whatever reason, ask yourself what you can do to mitigate their impact. When it comes right down to it, it’s all about ensuring that you way you show up is optimal for whatever your intention might be. And taking responsibility for how others affect your way of being, totally matters.
What’s Your Impact?
Several years ago, when I was participating in a powerful leadership program, I had the opportunity to learn about the importance of impact. The nugget of my learning was that we all have an impact, and as leaders we have a responsibility to know what impact we want to have, to be aware of the impact we do have, and moreover to take complete and totally responsibility for the impact we have as it happens.
Since that time, I have had opportunity everyday to play with the concept of impact. I get to notice and play with my own impact. I get to observe and respond to the impact of others. And I have come to understand how powerful a concept this “impact” thing is.
Every single one of us is always having an impact on the world around us. ALWAYS. What we say, what we do, what we don’t say, what we don’t do, how we say things, how we do things – essentially how we show up – leaves a mark on the world around us. This is impact.
So many of us go through life with very little thought to the impact we’re having. We speak and act without paying attention to how our words and actions land out there in the world. We don’t notice when we create waves, or when our words or actions land with a thud. Perhaps more importantly, because we don’t notice, we don’t take responsibility. This is the piece that is so detrimental to the relationships in our lives. This is the piece to which I want to draw your attention.
Now, understand me. I’m not suggesting that you are responsible for the reactions and feelings of others. How people choose to respond to your words and actions is a reflection of who they are and where they’re at. That being said, you do have a responsibility to be aware of the impact you’re striving to create, and to stick around and notice whether or not that is, in fact, what got created. If for any reason it is not what was created, then you have a further responsibility to do what you can to change the impact so that it is what you want to create.
So, here’s how awareness of and accountability for impact can play out. If you’re angry, say something – and notice how it lands. If it lands in such a way as to damage the relationship, take ownership of whatever your piece is in that. If you’re meeting a friend in a coffee shop and your conversation starts to get super-loud to the point that it’s disruptive to others, be aware of that –and shift it. If you walk into a room and the buzz of conversation stops, ask yourself, what is it that just happened? What is your role in creating this silence? Don’t make stuff up; ask others about your impact. Learn about how you’re shaping the world around you.
On the flip-side, you’ve got to be aware of how you are being impacted by others. If you find yourself in a situation and playing small – what’s that about? If, every time you interact with a particular individual, you come away angry or drained, ask yourself what this person’s impact is on you? And, perhaps more importantly, why you’re allowing that impact to continue? When it comes to impact others have on you, you want to ensure that those who raise you up, challenge you, bring out the best in you, is who you’re allowing to impact you.
Bottom-line: it’s time to stop walking around and acting as if your actions and words, and the actions and words of others, are hanging out in a consequence-free bubble. You are surrounded by others and your presence leaves its mark on those others. Similarly, their presence leaves its mark on you. Know what you want your mark to be and, as corny as it sounds, how you want to be marked. Be aware, and then be accountable, both to others and to yourself. Take responsibility for your place in your world. This is the hallmark of effective human interaction.