A Compelling Why

We give up way too easy.  It’s simple to begin a new pursuit or activity, but often, after the fun and excitement wears off, we abandon our efforts and give up.

Perhaps we do this because there are so many things competing for our attention.  As soon as we discover something new, we’re captivated by something else that has caught our attention.  More likely, when we’re faced with actually doing the work, we quickly find out how committed to we really are… or aren’t.

I’ve struggled with starting new ventures and not following through, usually due to 1 or both of the reasons described above.  Now, before I begin a new pursuit, I determine:

  • If I has a compelling reason why I want to do it
  • If I have the commitment, as well as the time, to daily do the work required to achieve success

I’ve decided that I must have a compelling reason; a compelling “Why”.  A reason why I want this?  Without a good answer to that question, it’s too easy to quit before starting or when things start to get tough.  So, without a compelling “Why”, I move on to something else.

Once I’ve decided to start, I gauge my commitment by thinking of the acrostic FOCUS:

Follow

One

Course

Until

Successful

 

This reminds me that it is not about starting new things, but about following through on those things I’ve started until successful.  I find that if I don’t adopt this mindset, I’ll often start a bunch of new ventures but achieve success in few, if any.

 

So what about you?  Do you tend to start ventures and fail to complete them?  It could be you started without a compelling “Why” or even the commitment required to be successful.  If that’s the case, start being aware of why you’re doing something and whether you’re committed to seeing it through to success.  If you are, GREAT!  It’s time to get started.  If not, that’s great too.  Just keep looking for something where you have both a compelling “Why” and the commitment.  Then when you find it, dive in and give it your best.

Are You Squandering Opportunities to Make Memories

Last Tuesday evening at 9:30, my mom called up with an interesting problem.

My 93 year old grandma (aka Granny) had spent the last couple weeks visiting Oregon from Colorado and was scheduled to fly back home the next morning.  In order to ensure Granny had a smooth trip and made her connections, my mother was going to fly back with Granny from Portland to Salt Lake City, then from Salt Lake City to Grand Junction, where Granny’s other daughter would be waiting to take possession.  After the successful “Granny transaction”, my mother would then hop on a plane to retrace her route back to Portland.

The problem was that my mother was currently suffering from a bad bout of vertigo and wasn’t in any condition to drive a car or hop on an airplane in the next 24 hours.  Granny’s flight was scheduled to leave in less than 9 hours.  She asked if I would be willing to fly with Granny back to Grand Junction the next morning.

This was certainly not what I thought I would be doing the next day before the phone rang.  My initial reaction to the request was to think of all the things I had to do the next day, and how fulfilling this request really wasn’t possible.  As a few seconds passed and I thought further, there really wasn’t anything that was so critical that it couldn’t be delegated or even wait a day until I got back.  My initial thoughts quickly dissipated and I began to see this request as an unexpected opportunity for an adventure.  I would always have routine work related things to do, but how often would I have the opportunity for a trip like this with my lively and spirited Granny?  I said, “Yes”.  I’m so glad I did!  Not only did we make a lot of memories, we had a great time.

Granny

Sometimes our initial reaction to a new request or opportunity is to quickly determine why it won’t work or why we “can’t” do it.  I think this type of reaction serves only as a factory to crank out lame excuses to keep us from venturing outside of our comfort zone.  How can we ever expect to have new and memorable experiences if we think no further than our initial reaction telling us why something can’t be done?

Start recognizing this initial reaction in you when you’re presented with a new adventure or opportunity, and begin to think in terms of “why not?” and say, “Yes!” to these opportunities as often as you can.  Not only will you have fun making memories and experiencing new adventures, you’ll have a more exciting and interesting life as well.

It’s Time to Give Up…  or Get Creative

If you’re facing obstacles in the pursuit of a worthy goal, congratulations!  That’s normal.  What’s not normal is pushing through the obstacles with creative solutions.  Many people simply give up when obstacles occur and cease their pursuit, settling for what the way things have always been.

When we face obstacles, it feels like a fork in the road where we can make one of two choices:

  • Get creative and adjust our approach.
  • Return to the status quo.

If you’re pursuing a goal, it’s probably because you’re tired of the status quo.  Therefore this choice should be pretty easy.  It’s time to get creative.

So what are some things we can do to spark creativity, so that we can push through obstacles and challenges?  Here are 3 suggestions:

 

  1. Come up with 10 ideas to a problem every day. This comes from James Altucher on the Ask Altucher podcast, where he says coming up with 10 ideas a day will help you “flex your Idea Muscle” and cause you to become better at generating ideas becoming more creative.

 

  1. Ask for ideas from others. Don’t critique their ideas or say why they won’t work.  Rather use them as building blocks for new ideas that can lead to creative solutions.

 

  1. Read or listen to books, blogs, or podcast that talk about creativity or how people solved problems.

 

One more suggestion to become more creative in the face of obstacles is to remember why you’re in pursuit of your goal in the first place.  Think about what motivated you to get started, and specifically what you’ll give up if you do indeed give up on this pursuit!  Then ask yourself, “Am I fine with going back to the way things have always been?”  For me, the answer is always “No.  I wouldn’t be fine with that.”  This answer provides me with the direction and motivation I need to press on and move ahead.

 

No matter what you’re pursuing, the probability that you’ll face obstacles is high.  Be aware of the certainty of obstacles, when you begin your next goal.  Doing so will enable you to think creatively from the outset about how to will overcome these obstacles when they arrive.

 

 

 

Shut Up or Do Something

It’s easy to complain, and most people don’t need much practice to get good at it.  Sometimes complaining to the appropriate people is the right thing to do, like when you receive a bad product or service or experience poor treatment from a merchant.  In these circumstances we should complain, but we should always do so respectfully with tact and the right motive.

However, I think we often complain:

  • About people or things that have always been the way they are.
  • About things we have no intention of changing.
  • To any listening ear that is willing to hear us complain.

What good does this do?  How does this benefit you? Complaining like this takes away your power to direct the course of your life and instead fosters a victim mentality.  Unless complaining sparks action, it serves only to ensure you get more of what you’ve always been getting.  It’s also draining to you and others around you of energy and optimism.  Worse yet, it signals to others that you’re not a person of action, but merely a chronic complainer.

Instead of just complaining, try taking action that will improve the situation you’re complaining about. Why allow yourself to be just another complaining voice? The next time you find yourself complaining for the wrong reasons, add the following closing statement to the end of your complaint:  “…and this is what I’m going to do to make it better…”  Then do it!

Try this for the next week and observe the results.  At the very least, you’ll most likely gain a great sense of accomplishment and an improved attitude.  You’ll also find yourself becoming a person of influence, impact, and action.

How to be an Idea Machine

I’m trying to get better at coming up with ideas.  When trying to envision something that doesn’t exist, or isn’t your current reality, it’s extremely easy to say, “I don’t know” and give up before we even begin to think.  But that response doesn’t cause change or improve your situation.  It merely keeps you where you are, which is fine, unless you’re looking to make a change.

There are 3 truths about generating ideas that I find helpful as I attempt to improve my ability to come up with ideas.  They are:

  1. Most of your ideas won’t be any good. I find this liberating because it frees me up from thinking that all my ideas need to be stellar.  Instead, I can just focus on coming up with a large quantity of ideas for problem.  From that quantity, there he is bound to be something that creates the spark of a good idea.
  1. You don’t need to come up with original ideas. Instead, build on existing ideas.  Take prepackaged salad you get at the grocery store.  There’s nothing new there: chopped up lettuce.  The idea was to do the chopping for the customer so as to be more convenient.  Sounds like a good idea to me!  And from the number of stores that carry bags of chopped up lettuce, I’d say a lot of other people thought it was a good idea too!
  1. You can get better at coming up with ideas. The three best ways I can think of to do this are:
    • Every day, come up with 10 ideas for a problem you’re facing.
    • Read books or listen to podcasts in your area of interest on a daily basis.
    • Be curious about life. Observe similarities between different events, scenarios, or problems.

Life is more fun when you’re engaged and using your mind to chart the course for the life you want to live.  Begin developing your ability to generate actionable ideas and take charge of the direction you want your life to go.  That’s what successful people do.  People like you.

How to Get Unstuck

Sometimes I get stuck.  Occasionally, I’ll have a goal I’m working toward, but then I find myself getting stalled out and not making minimal to zero progress for a few days or even weeks.  It’s frustrating! What I’ve discovered recently is that there is an actual force that keeps us from moving forward.  That force is called resistance.

Resistance is anything that distracts us and takes our mind and effort away from moving toward our goals.  Steven Pressfield field wrote a great book about resistance titled Do the Work.  I read this book last week and it was eye-opening to see the role resistance plays in my own life.  The biggest take-away from this book was to be aware of when resistance is blocking my efforts.  When I’m aware of the presence of resistance, I can recognize it for what it is and begin to take steps to push through.

Pushing through resistance is actually fun, as well as motivating, because when I do, it feels like I’m making real progress toward my goals.  The following are some ways you can push through resistance:

  • See the big picture.  Know where it is that you want your goals to take you and have a clear picture of what that looks like.
  • Know why you want to achieve your goal.  Are you frustrated by your current situation, or feel like you need to be doing something better suited to how you are geared?  Whatever the reason, be mindful of it.  Always know the why behind the goal.
  • Understand the cost of not taking action.  Know that nothing will change until you cause something to happen.  No action = no result!  Are you OK if nothing changes?
  • Determine what steps you can take today.  It doesn’t have to be a large step.  Even a small step in the right direction is still a step in the right direction.
  • Just do something!  Commit to taking action every day, whether you feel like it or not.
  • Be motivated by the progress.  After you’ve strung a few days of successful progress together, look back to see how far you’ve come.  Be motivated by the progress and commit that you will not break the chain of daily progress.  You are not required to do everything in a single day, just plan on doing something every day.

It’s now time to punch resistance in the face with clear vision and by taking action on a continual daily basis.  What are you waiting for?  All that separates you from your goal is a thin veil of resistance.  Start punching through today.

 

Have a Plan… but be Ready to Adjust

I like having a plan.  Whether it’s for a project, an event, or for attaining goals for the year, a plan provides a course of action to get from where I am to where I want to go.  However, in my experience, I’ve realized that even the best plans often need to be adjusted not long after they’ve been started.

That often happens to me with projects at work and events and goals at home. A plan gets created and as soon as it gets started, some change or unexpected piece of information comes to light which causes an alteration to the plan.  It’s the nature of getting from Point A to Pont B in any endeavor.  Unexpected items come up and adjustments need to be made to the original plan in order to continue moving forward.

I used to get really frustrated when this occurred.  It wasn’t until after I realized that change and the unexpected were normal parts of executing a plan that I started becoming less frustrated when adjustment were needed.  Now, when the unexpected comes up, requiring a change to the original plan, it feels normal.  This perspective has allowed me to focus on what adjustment needs to be made rather than being stalled out because I’m too frustrated and focused on the fact that everything didn’t’ go according to plan.

What project, goal, or event do you have coming up that could benefit from a plan?  Whatever it is, create a plan that will take you from where you are to where you want to go, and get started, with the realization that you’ll need to make adjustments along the way.  Knowing this will keep you from getting flustered when plans change and also cause you to experience greater achievement and growth as a result.

Listen to People Who Challenge Your Thinking

How often is your thinking challenged in the course of a day, week, month, or year?  Are you regularly exposed to ideas and opinions that differ from your own, or do you usually listen to and communicate with people who think just like you?

I enjoy podcasts and have several that I subscribe and listen to each week.  Some of my favorites are the ones where the show host interviews a guest who tells about an accomplishment of theirs, and how they went about achieving it.  In these interviews, people often share their ideas and beliefs.  I like hearing the different thinking the guests bring because it allows me to be exposed to people and ideas that I might normally not be exposed to.

Often times, the ideas and beliefs being shared don’t align with my own thinking.  This challenges me to examine my thinking and ask myself why I think the way I do about a certain topic.  It’s been fun and has really expanded my thinking and ability to better articulate why I hold the thoughts and beliefs that I do or don’t hold.

It’s easy to dismiss someone or something that you don’t initially agree with, but I’ve often found that when I stop and listen with the curiosity to understand a different idea, a surprising thing happens: I actually begin to think.  I think about whether:

  • There is truth to their point.
  • Their thinking reveals holes in my own beliefs the thinking.
  • What they say bolsters or solidifies my current thinking.
  • There is any nugget I can take from their idea and apply in my life to help me achieve the results I desire?

We all have opportunities every day to be exposed to new ideas through the people we interact with, the books we read, and the media we watch and listen to.  Begin being mindful of the people that make you think, and start listening to them.  You certainly don’t have to agree with them, but at the very least, allow their ideas to engage your brain and cause real thinking to occur.

Don’t be too eager to automatically dismiss an idea that doesn’t completely align with your current thinking, or that is new and different.  Instead, examine the idea through the lens of your own life and see if there might be some pearls you could begin to apply.  You may be surprised by new options and opportunities that were never possible as a result of your old thinking.

How Are You Growing?

What do you look for when you set goals for your life?  What are their attributes?  Are they:

  • Easy to attain?
  • Within your comfort zone?
  • Not too challenging, so as to be assured of success?

If these were the types of goals I had set, or if I hadn’t set any goals at all, the question I’d be asking myself is, “If I’m not challenged, how am I growing?”

Part of growing and getting better at something, or getting better at life in general, is to do things that challenge us.  When we’re challenged by a new thought, goal, or idea, it causes us to do things differently than we have in the past.  That difference often causes discomfort, and that’s good.  While this discomfort is not always enjoyable, many times it is what leads us to the greatest growth and positive change we experience in our lives.

Take getting into shape, for example.  You can go to the gym and keep lifting the same light weights you started with and do the same light-level cardiovascular workout you’ve always done, because it is easy and you know you can do it, but how are does that help you grow in your strength and endurance and cause you to become the healthy individual you desire to be?  Where’s the challenge?  Where’s the growth?

Knowing that when we are challenged, growth occurs, where in your life could you stand to be challenged?  What challenging goals can you set for yourself today that will cause you to grow into the person or life you seek?   Once you’ve set those goals, decide in advance that you’ll persist through the discomfort that will occur when you are challenged, and know that doing so will result in rapid growth toward the person you’re striving to become.

Small Efforts Can Yield Big Results

Recently, I joined an online auditioning site for voice over (VO) talent.  The site provides a way to bring VO talent together with clients needing VO services.  Before joining this site I spent very little time actually practicing my VO skills, since I was primarily focused on where to find clients.  As a result, my VO skills didn’t improve as much as I would have liked.

Immediately after joining the site, I created a system for myself where I audition for a certain number of VO gigs per day, every day.  It’s not a large number of gigs.  It’s actually on the small side.  However, one thing I’ve been surprised by is how much my reads have improved after such a short time of consistently following my system.

The act of daily auditioning, which equates to practice, has started to compound.  It’s this compounding effect of relatively small numbers done consistently over time that will yield significant results.  This principle is true for anyone, whether you’re seeking to improve your VO skills, lose weight and get in shape, start a business, or become a better parent, spouse, or friend.  Never underestimate the power of small effort consistently applied over time.  It’s an often overlooked strategy.

Are there areas in your life where you could stand to make progress, but perhaps feel you can’t commit large amounts of time to commit to it?  Decide on a small amount of time, or other measure of output, that you can commit to working toward your objective on a daily basis, and get started today.  Don’t worry about how small your efforts are, or how big your objective is.  Just focus on causing a consistent effort.  You’ll be amazed at the progress you make in 1, 6, or 12 months and beyond.