“Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a ‘nervous system’, to coordinate its actions” ~ Bill Gates, co-founder Microsoft
Are systems really that different than goals? On the surface they sound similar, don’t they? Yet how many goals have you set but never achieved? How does that make you feel? Like you’ve failed and are always starting over, right? In contrast, systems for life are daily habits, routines, processes, or practices you implement to support your intentions. And day-by-day, you reach your desired result in a much softer way.
For example, perhaps you set the goal of losing weight by a certain date. You may achieve that goal, but soon the pounds creep back on. Why? Going on a diet implies that at some point the diet ends. A lifestyle change, on the other hand, is a system of healthy eating and exercise that is ongoing and has lasting results.
Over the years, I’ve focused a lot on setting and achieving goals, developing small measurable steps and developing a buddy system. All of this is important, but it’s not effective if my strategies to achieve these goals aren’t successful ones.
What does it mean to develop systems for life?
Let me give you another example: Imagine that you want to go to the gym at 6am three times a week and you commit to doing that. You prepare your gym clothes and shoes the night before so getting dressed in the morning is a breeze. Your gym bag is ready and your water bottle is full and available.
It looks like you’ve set yourself up for success, right? But what if you decide to stay up late because you want to read 10 more pages of your book, or your friend calls and wants to talk about her ex one more time? Will you be successful at getting up when the alarm goes off the next morning?
And what if deep down you hate the gym? How long will you be able to sustain your commitment? When you associate displeasure with exercise, you unintentionally train yourself to stop doing it. If you force yourself to do it you end up using your limited supply of willpower. So what happens as a result? When you’re tempted to eat junk food you give in, negating the good that you accomplished at the gym.
How much better to create a system for being active every day at a level that feels good, while experimenting with different methods of exercise until you find the one you love. Maybe it’s something as simple as using a pedometer to count your steps. Before long your body is trained to crave that psychological boost. It builds a natural inclination for challenges that gently nudges you toward becoming more active. 10,000 steps today…12,000 steps tomorrow. That’s a sustainable system!
Don’t get me wrong. Goals are fine for getting a project finished. But they have their limitations…
- Goals remind you that you’re not good enough. You’re starting from that negative state and basing your happiness, not on the present, but on a future, which you may or may not achieve.
- Goals make you feel guilty when you don’t achieve them.
- Goals foster a yo-yo of short-term results, instead of a steady flow toward long-term progress, because as soon as the goal is achieved you revert back to previous practices.
- Goals make you feel powerless when you have setbacks. When you have systems for life you know you can pick it up again tomorrow when you feel better.
- Goals make you focus on one thing while de-emphasizing others things you’re committed to. Consequently, you’re more likely to miss out on opportunities that could be far better than your goal.
The interesting thing is that if you never set another goal, but have a variety of systems for living an excellent life, you’ll still achieve what really matters to you. When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can mindfully enjoy the moment, while making improvements at the same time.
If you’re having trouble sorting out which system you need to implement first, feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.
“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Normally, people tend to be process oriented. They write to-do lists everyday and feel like they’ve accomplished something only when they cross a line through one of the tasks. However this does little to overcome a negative attitude. To completely shift away from negativity, it’s important to become a results oriented person – someone who focuses on a desired outcome, not on a set way of getting there.
The results oriented outlook is far superior, for it gives you greater flexibility. You see the end result in your mind and you look for the fastest way to get there. You don’t get stuck when one way doesn’t work. That doesn’t matter. The result does, so you look for another way to make progress.
A results oriented outlook also fuels your passion. You really want the end result, so your energy level rises. The anticipation of the result makes the process enjoyable, even if an individual task is difficult or unpleasant. This can be illustrated by something Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness. To paraphrase his experience:
When he was still a novice at Tu Hieu Pagoda, he had to wash all the dishes for over 100 monks. They had no soap. They only had ashes, rice and coconut husks. The water was freezing cold, so he had to heat the water over the fire.
Today we have comfortable kitchens, hot running water, liquid soap, and special scrub pads. It’s so much easier. It should be a pleasure to wash dishes. In no time you can finish and sit and enjoy a cup of tea.
He said, “While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”
If we view it as a nuisance to get out of the way (a process oriented attitude), we are not alive to the miracle of life during the time that we’re washing the dishes. Thereafter, as we sit to drink tea, our minds would be racing onto the next task, hence not enjoying the moment with the tea.
However, if you want a clean kitchen that keeps your family healthy and happy (a results oriented attitude) you’ll enjoy each step that gets you closer to your objective. Wipe down the stove…that looks so good! Empty the counter of dirty dishes…wonderful! Put the dishes away in the cupboard…absolutely lovely!
Being results oriented will help you excel in whatever endeavor you choose. Here are five things to keep in mind:
Educate yourself. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the information available. Choose the best information you need right now and avoid the rest.
Find role models. Look for the best and use their example to inspire you.
Develop mindfulness. Keep your big picture vision always in sight and daily practice awareness of what your actions, thoughts, and desires are doing to fuel your passion and move you toward your goals.
Make sure you’re in tune with your inner self. Do what you’re good at, that you love, that serves others, and that fulfills your purpose. This keeps your mind, body, and spirit in balance.
Persevere. Don’t let the Debbie Downers cause you to lose focus, but hold onto your self-confidence and conviction as you strive for excellence. Never give up!
Would you like to create more excellent results in your personal and professional life? I’d love to partner with you and you expand your leadership abilities. Please feel free to contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” complimentary consultation so we can explore your options.
Do you really want to improve the quality of your life and the lives of those around you? If you do, it’s going to require serious effort to become a better version of yourself. It doesn’t work to keep living the same old stories you’ve been telling yourself for years.
What do I mean by telling yourself stories?
Every day we change for the better or worse. Over time a person can become so beaten down that they lose all self-confidence and start telling themselves that they’re stupid and they don’t deserve any better. It’s just a story, but they believe it and act in accord with it! On the other hand, shy, introverted people can build confidence and become world leaders by telling themselves that they have something remarkable to share with the world. And because they believe it, they actually do it.
As you can see, your story is formed by how you view yourself and how you react to the world around you. It’s very empowering to realize that you are the ultimate storyteller of your life and you can rewrite your story at anytime. Even if you’ve heard negative and limiting things your whole life, you don’t have to believe them.
How do you gain independence from your past self?
Recognizing that there are things you want to change about yourself is the first step. This discontent with self will start you on the path to becoming a new person. It won’t matter who you were yesterday. Do your best as you mindfully live in the present moment.
Yes, this is easier said than done. We all tend to bring self-imposed limitations of yesterday into today. That’s what keeps us stuck. So how do we break free?
Here are three steps to gaining independence from your past self…
- Create a burning desire to change by understanding your “why”. You may want to exercise daily, write a book, or start a business, but until you know “why” it’s so important to you, you won’t have the motivation to make it happen.
- Envision exactly what your life will become. Start planning. How will each day be different? In great detail, list the ways your life will be better tomorrow and five years down the road. It works a lot better to set intentions as you move toward these goals. Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll create momentum. Each day you’ll like yourself better. Even if you stumble or fall back into old patterns, you’ll be able to pick yourself up and keep going, because you’ve had a taste of becoming the person you want to be and you’ll see it, not as a failure, but as a learning experience.
- Rewrite your story. Start living the life you want. Trade in your jeans for the dress slacks that make you feel like a professional businessperson. Treat yourself to a monthly massage. Eat healthier. Get up earlier and enjoy more productivity. Speak positively of others and of yourself, not allowing any negativity to enter your story. Step by step, create the life that you want. Believe you can and you will achieve the progress you desire. Because you’re really enjoying the improvements in your life, you’ll look for ways to continue on. Your new story will work for you, because it’s in alignment with your desires and actions.
Don’t allow a moment, a situation, or an experience to define who you are. You may have a moment of depression, anxiety, or anger. But that’s not who you are. You have the power to identify what triggers those emotions and you get to choose how to deal with those emotions. Take my 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment to see areas in your life where you want to rewrite your story to become the best you possible. Click here to download your free copy.
Are you a fan of the Olympics? I’m constantly amazed at the skill and dedication these athletes bring to their events. How do they do it? More importantly, how can their example help “ordinary” people be successful in life? Of course, they train for years, but the significant key to success is that they’ve developed an essential mindset – they’ve embraced the concept that failure leads to success.
Normally, how does failure feel? Even now as you think about it, does the heavyhearted feeling come creeping back? Do you sink into your chair as you relive the embarrassment and discouragement? Many people view failure as something to be avoided at all cost.
But highly successful people, no matter what their field of expertise is, know that failure is essential for success. But knowing it and embracing it are two different things. What’s their secret? The strongest predictor that failure will lead to success is when people have resilience and perseverance. They just never give up because they know that everything they experience teaches them something and gets them one step closer to where they want to be.
This attitude toward mistakes and failure makes all the difference in the world. Those who excel in life have worked hard to develop this attitude that hardships, obstacles and challenges are opportunities for learning lessons about themselves and the world around them.
An interesting example of how failure leads to success is that of Lex Gillette. He’s a silver and gold medal winner from past long jump competitions and will be representing the U.S. in the 2016 Paralympics. He is also completely blind! He trusts his coach to set him straight for each sprint and guides him with clapping and cries of “Fly, Fly, Fly” until he reaches the spring board. (Watch it here.) Before each competition they walk around the boundaries of the sand pit to help him create a map in his mind. What powerful proof that mastering your inner game really works!
He hasn’t gotten to where he is without his share of failures, however. And he makes this interesting observation, “Failing at something is essential. You go through some sort of hardship, and it helps catapult you to a higher level. I’ve had a number of failures in my life, and I’ve been able to tap into that inner strength in order to come back and be resilient. I see failures as stepping stones and things that I’ve had to do to get to my destination.”
Interestingly, Michelle Segar, a motivation scientist and director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan, noted that once a person fails, “you don’t have that fear over your head anymore, then you can really focus.”
Another study interviewed 10 Olympic gold medalists and found that they all consider failure to be essential to winning their gold medals. “The majority of participants stated that if they had not underperformed at a previous Olympics, they would not have won their gold medals.”
The researchers hypothesize that learning from previous failure happened in two ways: 1) the athletes focus on why they feel distressing emotions, not on the emotions themselves, and 2) they distance themselves psychologically from the negative experience. They think about what went wrong and use it to propel themselves toward success in the future.
The only way to truly fail is to give up and do nothing —failing to properly prepare, failing to give it your all or failing to learn from past experiences. Would you like to learn how to reframe your thoughts so that every failure leads to success? Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) is a highly effective set of tools for accomplishing this. Please join us for the fall session of our Foundations of Life Coaching and NLP Class. Click here to learn more or contact me with any questions. It’s going to be a life-changing experience!
Have you ever tried to suppress the excitement of a group of little children as they wait for a treat they really want? It’s not easy is it? The more you shush them, the more they wiggle, giggle, and chatter. You have more success if you channel their energy toward another activity until the treat arrives.
Similarly, trying to suppress your own feelings of anxiety, stress, and frustration is like trying to put a lid on the excitement of a group of children. Suppression doesn’t work. Yet that’s how many people try to force themselves to be calm under pressure. And, as a result, they feel like a powder keg ready to blow.
A more effective approach combines channeling your physiological responses, thoughts, feelings and attitudes into productive activities. Rather than telling yourself all the things that can go wrong, you’ll be able to think about how things can go right. No longer will crises push you into a panic or state of paralysis, instead you’ll see that overcoming challenges starts to excite you, which actually gives you an inner peace and calm.
Here are some tips on how to stay calm as you channel your physical and mental responses into more productive activities:
- Understand what’s going on in your body. Stress and anxiety trigger the “fight or flight” response. Your brain perceives a threat and starts to produce hormones that tell your nervous system it’s time to get ready for action. Yet in many life and business situations, you can’t start fighting or fleeing. Consequently, your body doesn’t get to release these feelings. As a result, you end up with your brain and body in a feedback loop, freaking out. That’s when you say and do things you regret.
- Breathe deeply and slowly. Break the body part of the feedback loop by consciously breathe slowly and deeply. This increases the oxygen in your system, which calms the fight or flight reaction.
- Label the emotions. Break the mind part of the feedback loop by assigning labels to the emotions you feel. This moves you out of the “fight or flight” mode accessing the neocortex which allows you to think more clearly and productively about the issue at hand.
- Re-label your emotions. Next, eliminate the emotional triggers that caused the “fight or flight” response. For every emotion you identified in step 3, re-label it with a positive emotion. For example: fear becomes anticipation; frustration becomes desire; worry becomes concern; dread becomes caution; alarm becomes curiosity and so forth. By re-labeling your emotions, you’re convincing your brain that this isn’t really a dangerous situation but rather a situation you can learn from and enjoy.
- Put things into perspective. Stop over thinking and overreacting by asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? Will this matter in five years?”
- Recognize that people are less focused on you than you think. You may see yourself as the center of attention. However, everyone else is focused on improving the situation not on you. The more you feel judged by others, the more intense your anxiety. Re-direct your mind from yourself onto becoming part of the solution to the problem at hand.
- Magnify your logic. When you bring logic to the forefront, you can maintain the right frame of mind. It forestalls the panic and anxiety as you dispassionately observe what’s really happening. This increases your awareness of the big picture view, seeing all the moving parts of the situation and their possible consequences.
- Take action. Procrastination is the enemy of calm, because it feeds the negative thoughts. Instead, empower yourself by turning anxiety into excitement. You’ll rise above the challenge and see your performance improve dramatically.
It takes time and effort, but you can develop the ability to positively look at each situation as an opportunity to turn anxiety into energy and excitement. I’ve found that there are a number of life pillars or core beliefs that will assist you in staying calm under pressure.
- Have an understanding and practice of mindfulness.
- Practice daily instead of waiting for a crisis to happen. It’s like getting ready for the Olympics – it would be silly to start training the week before.
- Increase awareness through deliberate practice. Practice needs to be specific in order to be effective. For example, when you’re practicing slow, deep breathing, notice your heartbeat, identify your emotions, and so forth.
- Become really good at predicting. Acknowledge that there are situations that make you feel pressure. Identify when, where and how it will show up (know yourself!) and make it part of your life cycle instead of avoiding it.
- Keep your energy focused on the things you can change.
An effective way of learning these life skills is through Neuro-Linguistic Programming. My colleague, Nando Raynolds, and I are starting our fall classes September 15th, so there’s still time to enroll. Learn more about the benefits of NLP trainings and what we’ll be teaching by clicking here. Or contact me with any questions you might have.