Do you suffer from any of the following:
- A cluttered house
- Forgetting important dates or events
- An out of control email in box
- Not knowing what you need when you’re at the grocery store until AFTER you get home
- A car full of junk
- Not knowing where you put your keys
- Forgetting the login and password you picked for a specific website
If so, it may be the result of not having systems in place for certain areas of your life. What I mean by a system is simply a set of behaviors you regularly perform for a specific situation. Here’s what a system might look like in a real-life scenario.
Let’s say my house is always cluttered and messy, which causes me to feel frustrated. A system for keeping my house from being cluttered would involve adopting and maintaining behaviors like:
- Assigning a specific place for each of my items
- When I’m done using something, instead of laying it on the first convenient place I can think of, I will put it where it belongs (e.g. Dishwasher, laundry bin, closed, garbage, recycle, closet, etc.)
- I will regularly go through my things and get rid of anything that I no longer use so that my house stays free from unneeded items.
A system like this identifies clear behaviors that will yield the outcome you desire.
When I don’t have systems in place, or don’t follow the systems I do have, I tend to do what’s most convenient at the time. Operating by convenience rather than by established systems tends to cause parts of my life to feel out of control and chaotic. Without specific systems in place, anything goes! Clothes go on the floor, dishes stay in the sink, and important things become forgotten or left undone.
Do you have areas in your life that would benefit from some new systems? If so, start with just one area you’d like to improve and do the following:
- Envision the outcome you want
- Create a system of behavior that will achieve that outcome
- Work the system
Chaos and disorder are almost always the result of a system that needs to be put into place or a bad system that needs to be revamped. Start adding systems to your life to remove chaos and disorder and begin enjoying a less stressful existence.
There was some good college bowl games played on New Year’s Day 2015! Ohio State and Alabama played a close game in the Sugar Bowl that went down to the last play, and Oregon dismantled Florida State in the Rose Bowl, breaking a Florida State 29 game winning streak in the process. Despite the differences in each game, there was one aspect that was exactly the same: Each team knew the significance of the goal line.
I love the name: “goal line”. It very clearly states the objective of the entire game for each team, no matter what side of the ball they’re on. For the offense, the objective is to cross the goal line and score points for your team. For the defense, the objective is to keep your opponent from crossing the goal line and scoring.
The goal line is a very clearly defined critical reference point that each team is striving to cross or protect. There is no question from anyone, on either team, as to the objective of the game and the goal they’re working toward.
Imagine if there was no goal line in football. The game would be confusing and chaotic, with no one really knowing what they were supposed to be doing or what the objective of the game was. It can be like that in our own lives without clearly defined goals. If we don’t know what goal lines we want to cross for our lives in 2015, we will be unclear and confused as to our daily direction. In addition, unless we’re content just drifting through the year like a leaf in a stream, going wherever the current takes us, we’re going to be disappointed on December 31st 2015 when we realize we haven’t made any progress or significant changes in our life.
What goal lines have you defined for yourself for 2015? Do you know what you’re moving toward achieving throughout 2015? If so, great! Begin taking steps every day to move ever closer to crossing your goal line. If you haven’t determined what your goal lines for 2015 are, it’s not too late. Spend some time deciding what you’d like to accomplish this year and clearly define what success in those areas looks like for you. The definitions you create will be your goal lines. Your objective for the year will be to make incremental progress toward crossing them.
With 2014 drawing to a close, many people have begun setting goals for 2015. I like setting goals for the coming year. It provides direction, purpose, and focus for the next 12 months. However, sometimes it can be frustrating when we don’t see immediate results, and it feels like we’re not making progress as quickly as we’d like. When this occurs, I think we can gain great perspective and encouragement from the sport of American football.
The objective of American football is for the offense to advance the ball down the field and into the end zone for a touchdown. What’s interesting, from the standpoint of pursuing goals, is the process for advancing the ball. In its simplest form, the offense:
- Huddles up to hear the play (the plan) that will be run on the upcoming down
- Lines up and executes the play
- Examines the results, makes any necessary adjustments, and runs another play
That’s so similar to the process of pursuing a goal we’ve established. While pursuing a goal we:
- Create a plan for achieving our goal
- Execute our plan
- Examine our results periodically, make any needed adjustments, and continue forward with our plan
We continue this process until the year is up or the goal is achieved. In either case, we continue the pursuit of our goal, or define a new set of goals and advance toward their achievement.
It’s pretty uncommon in football that the offense will throw the ball all the way down field and score a touchdown every time they have the ball. Likewise, our big goals are rarely achieved on our first attempt. They usually take time and consistent effort, as well as an occasional tweaking of our plan, rather than one quick heroic effort. That’s how the majority of touchdowns are scored and how goals are achieved.
As you set your goals for 2015 and create plans to achieve them, remember the following: they will take time to achieve and adjusting your plan is part of the process. If you stay committed to the process, I have now doubt you’ll achieve the goals you set.
Have you ever hopped in the car with somewhere important to go and just found yourself driving around and never making it to the destination? It may be somewhere we’ve been multiple times, or it may be somewhere we’ve never been before. Regardless, when we get in the car and start the engine, we usually know where it is we would like to go, so our probability of getting to our destination is quite high.
What about a meeting, appointment, or important phone conversation? How many times do we begin one without really knowing or specifying what a successful outcome looks like, leaving others in attendance to think to themselves, “Where is this going”? I think the best way to avoid this scenario is to ask the people in attendance for their expectations.
Business consultant Ray Edwards addressed this in a recent podcast (time remaining 6:03), and I thought his insight was significant. At the beginning of any call he has with a client he asks, “So that we get the most out of this call, what’s the most important thing that needs to happen on this call?”
What a great question to ask! This question is applicable not only for phone calls, but also for meetings and appointments. The question allows everyone in attendance to know the desired outcome the appointment was created to achieve, as well as creating a framework to keep the appointment on task. I’ve already asked this question once this week, prior to a scheduled meeting, and found the insight I received enabled me to better participate.
If you find that your meetings, appointments or important phone conversations lack direction or a specific outcome, try doing one of the following before the meeting:
- Describe to the attendees the desired outcome of the appointment. This is most applicable if you scheduled the appointment. It lets everyone know why they are there.
- Ask attendees if there is any specific outcome they need from the appointment.
Asking this simple question, or stating a desired outcome at the beginning of an appointment, will bring focus and efficiency that may otherwise not be present. Not only will your appointments be more successful, those in attendance will appreciate being asked what is important to them.
“You can get anything you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”
~ Zig Ziglar
This is a classic quote from legendary speaker Zig Ziglar that I have been aware of for several years. While I have always understood what Zig was saying in this quote, I never really got it until this week, when I was awarded my first voice over job.
The experience was an “ah-ha” moment for me. I wasn’t awarded the job because I had a better voice than anyone else who auditioned. (I’m not bad, but I’m no Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones!) The reason I was selected for this job is because I was helpful to the client.
The audition notes stated that the client would be open to suggestions for improving the script. Since they asked, I made some changes to the script, which caused it to read better, without changing the spirit of their message, and submitted my audition. When I was awarded the job, the client mentioned they liked that I had taken the time to make changes to the script and liked how it now read. It felt good to be awarded the job, but it felt even better to know that I added value to the client’s project. I felt good knowing that I had helped them.
This experience reminded me of Zig’s quote and the truth behind the principle of being helpful and useful to others first, rather than first seeking what we want and what we can get for ourselves.
Where in your life do you have opportunities to be helpful to others? I’m not talking being helpful in a manipulative way, where you expect something in return. I’m talking about offering your skills and talent to others to help them with their struggles and challenges. Begin looking for opportunities to be helpful to those around you. Not only will it make you feel good and benefit those you’re helping, you’ll most likely find that others will be eager to help you get what you want as well.
I love to hike, and since I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I’m fortunate to get a large dose of natural scenic beauty on a regular basis. My favorite hiking destinations are the ones that reward hikers for their effort with a commanding view and breathtaking scenery. Starting early in the morning on a challenging hike to a much anticipated viewpoint is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. The anticipation of the view and then finally seeing it with my own eyes is exhilarating. For me, it’s one of those events that make me thankful to be alive.
Three Sisters Wilderness
One thing I’ve noticed about myself in recent years is that when I reach one of these viewpoints, I immediately begin taking pictures of the scene. Depending on the view, I can easily take over 100 pictures in my attempt to capture the beautiful scene before me. I don’t want to miss a single detail!
Inevitably, after several minutes at my feverish picture-taking pace, I begin to hear a voice inside of me saying, “Hey, enough pictures. Just stop, and take in the experience.”
At that point I put the camera away and just take in the experience with all of my senses. I literally feast my eyes on the scene before me, noticing shapes, colors, contrasts and myriad other details that I had missed while seeing it through the screen of a digital camera. I listen to the whooshing sound of the wind as it blows through the tops of pine trees or across the face of a rock-exposed mountain. I hear the unique sound that a river makes as water curls over a rock and collapses back on itself. There are also the tactile feelings and fresh smells of the surrounding environment that make for a complete experience. All of these things I would have missed, had I continued taking pictures.
Those hiking experiences always cause me to wonder what else I may be missing out on in my non-hiking life when I don’t stop and take in the experience. Where am I busily rushing around, forgetting to stop and enjoy the surrounding environment, event, or people I’m with? Hiking is good for me in that respect. It provides me with a mental reset, a reminder to be mindful about taking in the experience, no matter what I’m doing.
What about you? Are there areas of your life where your too busy “taking pictures” that you’re forgetting to stop and take in the experience? Start becoming mindful about what you’re doing and who you’re with. Decide now that although you’ll take some pictures along the way, you’ll also be sure to put the camera down and take in the experience as well.
Have you ever been overwhelmed by a large number of choices available to a decision you had to make? I have.
I can remember, several years ago, when my wife Mickey and I trying to decide what color to paint some rooms in our house. There were so many choices at the paint counter. Who knew there were 10,000 shades of brown to choose from! We couldn’t decide which color would be “just perfect”, so we ultimately put off the decision until the following year, where we would again repeat the process for a few more years.
The same thing has happened in selecting travel destinations. There are so many great places to go that Mickey and I, in the past, had a hard time picking a destination. As a result, we’d put off a decision and wind up not going anywhere for the entire year. We missed out on a lot of opportunities to travel and see new things as a result of the indecision caused by being overwhelmed with choices.
Here’s something I’ve learned through these experiences: It doesn’t matter that you pick the “perfect” color or travel destination. What matters is that you make a choice and move ahead.
It helps to realize that for a large majority of the choices we have to make:
- There isn’t just one, single, perfect choice.
- If we make a bad choice, we can always re-evaluate and make another choice later.
- The most important thing is to make a decision and take action.
Is there a decision you need to make where you’re overwhelmed with a large number of potential choices? If so, realize that there are likely several great choices you can make, versus only a single, perfect choice. So make a choice and take action today. You can always make a different choice later. However, you’ll probably find that the choice you initially made was indeed a good one, if not great or even perfect.
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:
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.