Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to Set Goals ... And Fail (Part 2)

So, a few months ago, a relative was talking to me about all the life changes he wanted to make. He wanted to go back to college, re-up his pilot's license, find a girlfriend, stop smoking, and maybe take some steps to improve his general health (high blood pressure and diabetes).

He had time off work coming up - about a week - and figured he could check one task off his list each day. ROFLMAO doesn't begin to cover my reaction. Well, my inner reaction, anyway. I've discovered that when you are a professional anything, except maybe a podiatrist or dermatologist, nobody you know ever considers what you might have to offer. So I knew he wouldn't ask me for any input, and I knew that whether I offered it or called him an idiot, it wouldn't matter.

So I let him start his way. On day 1, he realized that "going back to school" wasn't something he could make happen in one day. He had to deal with financial aid paperwork (please allow 60-90 days), get transcripts together (please allow 30 days), and figure out what courses he could take, that he wanted to take, that would fit with his work schedule. He moved on to getting his license renewed. A phone call revealed it would take several flights - dozens of hours - in a plane, at his expense. That wasn't within the budget at all. The whole girlfriend idea began late on day 1, with him getting himself registered on a two-bit dating website, and spending the rest of the night surfing through photos.

In short, no progress. Day 2 wasn't particularly productive, nor was day 3. On day 4, it occurred to him that biking and walking might be good exercise, so he took a 15 minute bike ride. It didn't seem to have an immediate effect on his blood sugar, so the bike went back into the garage to gather dust.

You get the idea.

But more importantly, do you see how he set himself up to fail?

He allowed himself to be intimidated by the whole, big goal instead of the small steps he could easily do one at a time. He got impatient and lost focus of what was most important - making progress. Then, when he didn't see immediate results, he lost all motivation.

Now, most of us, by now, are capable of setting goals in a much more effective way. But this experience can still happen. We have to remember that even small steps are still steps - they count! We have to remember to keep our focus on the goal, not the hassles or distractions. And that's where a coach is so helpful - reminding you of your purpose and keeping you motivated and focused.

If you need me, you know where to reach me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

5 Ways to Set Goals ... And Fail

It's my experience that most people are fully capable of setting some kind of goal. It's also my experience that most people forget one or two details that make the difference between success and epic fail! So without further ado, here are five ways to set goals and set yourself up for failure:

1. Be vague. "Lose weight" is a really flexible phrase. It could mean anything. You could lose a pound and congratulate yourself, right? It you want to fail, you should never be specific about how much or when.

2. Don't measure your progress. Who wants to be bogged down with that? You'll probably have a good idea about whether you're making progress or not, so why spend extra time reviewing?

3. Don't worry about taking action all the time. It's a goal, not a life-or-death thing. You can take days (weeks, months) off and still make progress. It's all about wanting to, isn't it?

4. Aim for something completely unrealistic. Like they say, aim for the moon and if you miss, you'll still be among the stars. (Of course, the stars are nowhere near the proximity of our moon, so technically, if you miss, you'll just be floating in orbit like all the other space junk.) Keep telling yourself that, cupcake.

5. Never ever set a deadline. Nobody works better under pressure. Isn't it more freeing to have the rest of your life to work on your goal? No rush!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Relatively New View of Procrastination (Part 3)

It doesn’t matter why we do it; the point is, if we want to accomplish things that are important to us, we can’t afford to do it.

So the question is, how do we quit doing it?

And the answer is, by reversing the behaviors that got us into the habit.

We need to re-develop a sense of urgency. I’m amazed when I have a client who seems to take his or her bad habits and troubles so lightly they can procrastinate indefinitely. We also need to stop making excuses. Words have never spoken louder than actions.

You’ve probably heard or read by now the motivator about the lion and the gazelle. (Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.)

You don’t have to run. Unless that’s your thing, of course, then by all means, run all you like. But you have to do whatever it is that you do. Whatever actions are required to get you toward your goal or help you fulfill your purpose.

I know it’s hard getting up a little earlier. Do it anyway. I know it’s tough, using the remote to turn the TV off and getting up to go for a walk. Do it anyway. I know it can hurt a little to give up bad habits. Here’s a band-aid; now do it anyway. Nobody said you had to like the process (although it won’t work if you can’t appreciate the end result).

As my pirate friends say, better step to!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Less-Old View of Procrastination (Part 2)

In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, we can read about Jesus recruiting Simon and Andrew (and other disciples). He says “Follow Me,” and immediately they got up from whatever they were doing and followed Him. Zero procrastination.

I can't believe the things that Simon and Andrew didn't do when they walked away from their livelihood. It's amazing!
• They didn't turn in their two week notice.
• They didn't sit down with their lawyer and redo their wills.
• They didn't shut off the gas and water at the house,
• They didn't cancel their subscriptions to newspapers and magazines;
• They didn't rush home and do laundry.
• They didn't take out an ad in the Capernaum Daily News to sell their boats or their houses.
• They didn't go to the Post Office and fill out a card to have their mail forwarded.
• They didn't ask their friends up to join them for a farewell party.
• They didn't ask Him about a retirement, medical, or dental plan.
• They didn't even ask where they were going; how long they were going; why they were going; and a million other questions that you and I would have to know before we made such a move.

This contrasts a lot with the response Jesus gets at Luke 9:59. This guy can’t do it. He’s busy, you see – he’s got his aging father to take care of, probably a lot of family business, lots of details, and, and, and.

Some people are too busy to get things done. They procrastinate by being busy, not by being lazy. If that’s you, you’re fooling yourself thinking you’re being productive, if you aren’t doing what’s important.

You’re actually sabotaging your purpose – and yourself. There was a study a while back that found an interesting link between regular procrastination and an increased rate of colds, flu, insomnia, general bad mood, and unexplained gastrointestinal problems. Got a physical problem for no reason? Maybe it’s time to take action!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Day In The Life - Isn’t This Fun?

A client emailed me with a concern about her progress. She’s discovered that there is a particular action she keeps planning to take, but somehow hasn’t been able to accomplish.

I called her to find out more. At first, she had lots of excuses for not performing this task, but then she ran out of excuses.

“This would take you less than five minutes,” I said. “So, why haven’t you done it?”

“I told you already,” she said, sounding exasperated.

“No, you’ve told me some great excuses. But you haven’t given me the real reason. What is it about this task that makes you not want to do it?”


“We already know it’s simple. We know it’s not time-consuming. It looks like the only reason you haven’t done it is simply because you don’t want to.”


More silence.

“No,” she finally said. “I don’t want to. It’s not fun.”

Fun? I am SOOOOO glad I have a mute button on my phone. ROFLMAO doesn’t begin to cover it. But I am a professional so of course I recovered quickly, before she could suspect anything.

“Ahem. So, for you to accomplish something, it needs to be entertaining?” I’m a coach; it’s part of my job description to clarify.


“Well…apparently,” I said. “But is it fun to get up and go to work on Mondays?” I asked.

“Eeew!” I took that to mean no.

“Uh-huh. But you do it anyway?” I had always assumed, but maybe I was wrong.

“Of course!” Now she’s getting huffy with me.

“You have a 45-minute commute, you work eight-and-a-half hours, you have another 45-minute commute. And you’re letting this two-minute task screw up everything you’re working for?” This is the less-pleasant side of coaching; drill sergeant, which is also part of my job description. “You didn’t tell me your goal was to do fun things.”

“But, I thought I’d like doing all the stuff.” Now she’s getting whiny.

I thought of telling her that you aren’t supposed to like it, that it’s supposed to be tough – a character-building experience. Like my 100 sit-ups every day. But just as quickly it occurred to me that I haven’t done 100 sit-ups in my life, let alone every day, and another part of my job description is to be generally honest, so I didn’t go there.

“Would you like to be able to check that task off your list and move on?” I asked.

“Well, yeah! Yeah, I would!” Now she’s a little excited. This woman is an emotional roller coaster. Her drama over this was exhausting me.

“You’ve turned this little thing into a big thing. So now, when you do it, it’ll be a big accomplishment,” I began, launching into my favorite question. “Is there any reason why you can’t take two minutes, as soon as you’re off the phone, and get it done and over with?”

She agreed it would be huge and quite the relief, promised to get it done immediately, yada yada yada. So now I’m wondering why, if it’s supposed to be fun for all of us, why we don’t all get more done?!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Old View of Procrastination (Part 1)

I hope you’re sitting; I have something very shocking to tell you.

I sometimes procrastinate.

I can hear you gasping in disbelief, but I assure you, it’s true. In fact, there have been times when I creatively seek ways (and reasons) to procrastinate. You do too, don’t you. (I know I didn’t put a question mark there; it was rhetorical. I already know the answer.)

God doesn’t procrastinate. In Ezekiel 12:25, He says “I will say the word and what I say I will do; it will not be delayed.” So what do we do?

There’s a great example in Exodus. In chapter 8, we pick up with Pharaoh and his problem. The Hebrews had been in captivity for years, and God sent Moses to give Pharaoh an ultimatum. Well, Pharaoh wasn’t particularly motivated to cooperate at first, so God sent a series of plagues. The second one was the plague of frogs.

This doesn’t sound particularly devastating, but I like how this reads from the Contemporary English Version – this is verses 3-5. It says “the Nile will be full of frogs, and from there they will spread into the royal palace, including the king’s bedroom and even his bed. Frogs will enter homes and find their way into ovens and into the bowls of bread dough. Frogs will be crawling on everyone.” You couldn’t take a step without squishing a frog.

So finally Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and asked them to pray to their God to take away the frogs. And Moses said, sure, fine, when do you want me to do that? Just name the time, Pharaoh, and the frogs will be gone.

And what was Pharaoh’s response? Do it tomorrow. Frogs on the throne, frogs in his hair, frogs all over everything, but no rush, do it tomorrow.

Sometimes the problem is, if you sleep with frogs long enough, anything you’re with long enough, the thing begins to get comfortable to you.

There comes a point when you lay there in the middle of the night and you are wondering to yourself, “I wonder if I can live without these frogs. I know these frogs. They know me. They might even like me. I am not alone as long as I have these frogs.”

Obviously, that’s the kind of statement that makes your family and neighbors question your sanity. So you know something has to change. You don’t see how you could be personally responsible, so you pray for help. “I guess I need to get rid of these frogs, Lord, so if you could just do that for me…tomorrow….”

It is no accident that there’s a fairy tale about a frog who turned into a prince. Some people are still looking at frogs they kissed those frogs years ago. Well, you can kiss a frog all you want, but that doesn’t make it a prince.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Trouble in Paradise?

So, it’s day 10 of the 100 day challenge. It’s going fine. Of course, by fine, I mean that I’m really hating it and I’m hating that I’m hating it and I’m only 10% of the way in, so there’s another 90% left to hate.

What, you thought coaches were somehow immune from the challenges of life? Wrong-o, babycakes. We go through it too. And guess what. Just because we have training or experience in motivation, doesn’t mean it’s any easier to get off the couch.

Anyway, I’ve been advised to add a bit more protein to my diet, so I nuked a leftover salmon filet for lunch. And I’m having a similarly sized slab of brownie on the side. And a Pepsi. ‘Cause, dammit, I’m practically having DTs from the lack of worthless sugar today!

Did that sound whiny? Okay, how about, since I had a healthy breakfast and this lovely salmon, one brownie and one soda will not ruin my overall diet. Hmm. That sounds like rationalization. Oh wait, I forgot, I’m a professional – I can call it NLP.

Ahh. I feel better already. Maybe I can rationalize-(ahem)I mean, reframe some other stuff on my list today, too….