What a Difference A Week Makes

My wife and I got a new cat 2 weeks ago.  We named him Chewy.  The 1st week was rough!  Chewy had a traumatic introduction to our house and also destroyed a piece of furniture via bodily functions.  I was extremely frustrated.  All I could see was a future of destroyed furniture and a cat that didn’t like being in our home.

In an effort to start over, we moved Chewy into the spare bathroom with his food, water, litter box, bedding, and toys.  We also spent time in there with him every day and re-started the slow process of building trust.

Since being in his own space, and coupled with our consistent effort, Chewy has become very comfortable and affectionate with us.  He is adapting well and is a totally different cat than he was a week ago.

This experience reminded me of other times when I have been in frustrating situations, or ones that were not what I was expecting.  In those moments, it can be hard to see past the present situation and into a brighter future.  However, I think being able to have a long-term perspective while in the middle of a bad situation is crucial.  Keeping a longer-term perspective helps us stay motivated to take the necessary actions today that will lead us to the brighter future we envision.

As we all know, not every difficult situation is rectified with a week.  Some situations require a longer timeframe.  Others require much longer timeframe.  But nothing happens, nothing changes our situation, when we fail to take the necessary action to move us forward.

Today’s frustration can be distracting and, if we lack a long-term perspective, that frustration can keep us from doing the work required to pave the path to our better future.  That’s why it’s so important to see beyond our current situation.  For it is multiple days of consistent effort in the right direction that will one day cause us to look back and say, “Wow!  What a difference a <insert timeframe> makes!”

How Will You Live Them?

According to the World Health Organization, the overall life expectancy in the United States is 79 years.  That’s a long time!  What’s encouraging to me is no matter what our life expectancy, we get to choose how we live our years.

Think about that for a moment.  We get to choose:

  • How we will spend our time
  • What areas of interest we will pursue
  • What we will study and learn
  • The skills we will develop
  • The attitude and world view we will adopt
  • How we will treat others
  • Our level of intellectual development and learning
  • Who we will spend time with
  • What contribution we will make in the world
  • The experiences we’ll have
  • Whether or not we will stretch out of our comfort zone

What a significant and exciting responsibility!  We get to choose what we do with our years and how they will shape us, now and in the future.

Last Sunday, my pastor was preaching on a similar topic regarding life expectancy and what we do with the years we’re given.  During his sermon, he made the following statement:

Don’t live one year 79 times.”

That got my attention.

The statement reminds me that as we get older, we are not required to grow, develop, discover, learn, and get better with each passing year.  That’s optional.  It is something we get to decide to do, or not.  I am also reminded that growth is not automatic.  Getting better as we age doesn’t just happen; rather it takes intentional action from us.

What is automatic is being exactly the same at the end of a year as you were at the beginning.  Unless we decide, and take action on how we will spend our years, we can be assured we will be exactly the same this year as we were last year.  And so on, for as long as we choose not to be intentional with how we spend them.  Without intentional effort, the current year will look just like the previous one.

What are you looking forward to in 2016?  Is there anything you’d like to attain, learn, experience, or become this year that you didn’t in 2015?  If so, start planning specific actions you can take throughout the year to become better this year than you were last year.

Seventy nine years is a long time, but it sure feels like they go quick; and even more so the older we get!  Let’s decide today to learn, grow, and become better as we get older.   Aging and getting better doesn’t always go hand in hand.  If we’re not intentional about getting better, then age comes alone.

Daily Behavioral Goals

I’ve been thinking about my goal setting for 2016 and have decided to try something a little different this year.  While I will still have goals in the 7 areas of Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life, I think I’m going to also adopt some daily behavioral goals that I can focus on every day.  Here’s what I’m talking about.

Usually my goals consist of targets that I’m trying to achieve in a month, quarter, or year.  That’s good, but I also want to have goals that will help me daily to become more like the person I want to be.  For these areas of my life I am putting together behavioral goals that I plan on demonstrating every day.

For example, a behavioral goal I have for the year is to be a more engaging husband.  The behaviors for achieving this goal look like one or more of the following:

  • I will make sure I’m giving my wife at least 15 uninterrupted minutes every day where I am communicating and giving her my full attention.
  • My attitude toward her will be positive and liberally sprinkled with words and actions that show love and acceptance versus judgement and frustration.
  • My thoughts toward her will also be positive and I will not expect that her thinking or actions should be the same as mine. See last week’s blog.

When I lay my pillow down at the end of each day, I will easily be able to tell whether or not I achieved my goal of being a more engaged husband.  All I have to do is ask whether or not I did one or more of these behaviors today.  If the answer is, “Yes”, nice work!  I achieved my behavioral goal that day.  If the answer is, “No”, then I have an opportunity to do better at it the next day.  What’s cool is that even if my answer is, “Yes”, I still have an opportunity to do better the next day!

Daily behavioral goals give you immediate feedback.  They can also pave the way for stringing several days of success together, which will ultimately lead to the formation of a good habit.  With each good habit we work toward and form, we become more like the person we want to be.  We become an even better version of our self.

Are there any behavioral goals you’d like to start working on that will help you form some good habits?  I’d suggest starting with just one and focusing on it for several weeks until you start having several days of success, then focus on another behavioral goal.  Repeat this process until December 31, 2016, and then on January 1, 2017, begin the process anew.

Use the power of daily behavioral goals to get immediate feedback as you journey toward being the best version of yourself.  There’s no need to wait for 1 year to see if you’ll hit your goal.  You’ll be able to tell as soon as you go to bed this evening.

 

 

Goals Alone Won’t Do

Everyone likes to have goals.  There is something exciting and encouraging about looking to the future and envisioning how it could be.  However, just having a goal is not enough, at least if you want your goal to become a reality.  The setting of a goal is easy.  Creating a plan of action to achieve your goal can be challenging.

I was listening to Jeff Haden on The Learning Leader Show podcast talk about the importance of having an action plan with steps you can take that will move you closer to the attainment of a goal.  This was information I’ve heard a zillion times, but this time, it was like hearing it for the first time.  It’s weird how that works!

Like most people, I’ve been guilty of setting goals and not following through with them.  I love the end of the year because I focus on what I want the next year to look like and write down a number of very specific goals.  Some I achieve, and others I lose track of or don’t make the progress I’d like to.

Upon hearing Jeff’s message, I realized that in all the goal setting I’ve done, I have never actually written out the specific action steps and timeframe to accompany the goal I’d like to achieve.  No wonder several of my goals are unattained or forgotten.  If I don’t identify what I need to do to attain them, it’s largely just wishful thinking.

It got me thinking, in order to help me reset my existing goals, and get a jump on the system I’ll use for next year’s goals, I think I need to integrate the following concepts:

  • Describe the specific goal
  • Determine the action steps I’ll need to take to achieve the goal
  • Make a plan to take these action steps on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
  • Revisit this plan at least weekly

In addition to the above concepts, it also seems important to break up large goals into a series of smaller goals that take less than 90 days to achieve.  Larger goals that take 12 months to achieve can feel overwhelming or breed a false sense that they can be started later since they won’t be realized for quite some time.   When broken down into a series of smaller goals we increase the likelihood of building momentum having early success.

If goals are worth having, then we should have a process in place that ensures the greatest probability of seeing them fulfilled.

The next time you’re setting goals for yourself, try integrating these ideas.  The only thing that stands in the way of where you are and where you want to be is the actions required to get there.

You Already Know

My wife has been traveling for work a lot lately, so she’s interesting in looking for tips to help her pack lighter or more efficient.  After she had looked up some tips on-line I asked her, “So what did you learn that you can start applying?”  Her response was, “Nothing I didn’t already know.”

That response got me thinking.  How many things do we already know we should be doing, that we aren’t?  My guess is that in the gap between where we are and where we want to be, we already know the steps we need to take to get there.  At a minimum, we usually know the specific step we should take right now.

The real question then becomes; what’s keeping us from doing what we already know we should be doing?  There are several potential reasons, such as:

  • Fear – of all sorts
  • Indecision
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of focus
  • Laziness
  • Maybe we just don’t feel like putting forth the effort

So there we sit, where we’ve always been because we know what we need to do, but don’t do it.

Think about that.  When we already know what we need to be doing to achieve a desired outcome, and fail to act, the only thing standing between us and our goal… is us!

What do you already know you should be doing, that you currently aren’t?  Do you already know what you need to be doing in order to:

  • Improve a relationship
  • Get in better health/shape
  • Manage your finances better
  • Advance your career
  • Improve yourself intellectually or spiritually
  • Live the life you desire

If you answered, “Yes”, then starting today, get out of your own way and do what you already know you need to be doing.  You are not only the biggest obstacle to overcome in achieving your dreams; you are also the greatest force to bring them about.

Connect Around a Common Interest

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

~Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

I had 2 opportunities this week to talk with people who were as excited as I was about a common topic.  The first opportunity centered on a software tool called QlikView.  The other was around the area of personal development.

In both cases, there was an excitement as we discussed our common interest.  Ideas were shared, questions were asked and answered, problems and setbacks were discussed, and suggestions for improvement were provided.   I loved the exchanged because I felt like I was not only heard, but I got to give value to the other people, as well as receiving value from them in return.  Those exchanges were highlights of my week.

It reminds me how important it is to spend time with people who are on the same path as me, in an area where I want to improve.  Some of the benefits of doing so include:

  • Being exposed to new thoughts, concepts, and ideas
  • Deepening your understanding of the topic
  • Sharing what you’ve learned with others
  • Being able to ask questions to someone who can potentially help you or point you in the right direction
  • Making connections with people who share a common interest
  • Increasing your network
  • Hearing what other people are working on, struggling with, or discovering in the same area as you
  • Feeling like you’re on a journey with others instead of being isolated and traveling alone

Those conversations this week were very rewarding, and left me wanting more interactions just like those.  I’ll certainly be looking for similar opportunities, only at a higher frequency per week.

Be on the lookout starting today for opportunities to connect with others around a common interest.  Not only will you have fun discussing it with someone else, you just may have the knowledge and experience someone else needs to hear in order to get unstuck.

What Do People Think

What Do People Think When They Hear You Coming

~Joni  Eareckson Tada

What do you think when you ponder that question?  Are you a value-add in that people are glad to see you and your presence is welcome, or is your presence seen as something that is an unwelcomed interruption?

If your answer to that question left you feeling slightly uncomfortable, and you’d like to improve the likelihood that you arrival will be seen as a welcomed event, try practicing the following suggestions during your interactions with others:

  • Take an interest in others and what they’re interested in, instead of focusing on your own interests.
  • Be kind to people and show them grace, because we may not know what they’re going through.
  • Look for the best in others instead of the worst, because we tend to find what we’re looking for.
  • Offer sincere praise or appreciation; most people probably don’t get enough of either.
  • Give them you undistracted attention; by doing so you’ll communicate that they’re important to you.

We all want to be viewed as a value-add, and someone whose presence is appreciated and valued.  The best way to cause this is to value others and communicate that by showing them kindness, appreciation, attention, and respect.

Look for opportunities to put these suggestions into practice starting today.  When you do, people we will look forward to your arrival.