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Coach Yourself To Achieve Goals

One of the many subjects I teach leaders, so they can be more effective in developing their employees, is basic coaching. In a recent workshop, it dawned on me that we can also use this very simple model to coach ourselves. Although I recommend that you get your own coach, this is a simple model you can utilize when you’re in a pinch.

The GROW model was created by Sir John Whitmore and colleagues in the 1980’s and it is a process to guide a coaching conversation in a more structured way. We used this model to train leaders in the FBI to coach and I continue to use it in my leadership workshops in my post-FBI career. To relate this to self-coaching, we’ll call it a coaching conversation with ourselves.

Here are the steps:

Goals: In this step, you define what you want to achieve. Once you decide on the specific goal, you then create the objectives and tasks that would need to be completed to accomplish your goal. You can use this for small goals, such as to get a report done by Friday, to big ones such as own your own business. Once you’re really clear on what you want to accomplish, you move onto the next step.

Reality: In this step, you explore where you are now. Is it realistic for you to achieve the objectives in the amount of time you’ve given yourself and with your current resources? What is working for you in achieving this goal? What is working against you in achieving this goal? Make sure to check any assumptions that you’re making during this step as well. Basically, question everything. For example, an assumption could be that you have a report due on Friday and it cannot be done in time. Check this assumption by going through your schedule and moving to the next step.

Options: In this step, you brainstorm all the diverse ways you can achieve the goal you set. Get as creative as you’d like. Let’s say in the previous step you made the assumption that there is no way you can get your report done on time; however, when you explore options, you come up with a number of creative ways you can do so – cancel your attendance at an unimportant meeting, have someone go in your place, set aside time in the evening to finish it, etc.

Way Forward: In this final step you commit to specific actions. This becomes your action plan – you will do “x” to accomplish your first objective by “x” date, and so on. You also look at the resources you will need, and the accountability support you may need to implement to ensure you get what you need done by the deadlines you’ve created. Some of us need more support than others, especially if it is a goal that we are not particularly excited about, so you come up what works for you. Accountability partners work well for this, too.

In summary – Set your Goals, examine your Reality, explore your Options, and then determine a Way Forward that works for you.

Why not try this simple model out today?

Let’s Talk About Personal Accountability

I am convinced that if every person on this planet decided to be personally accountable, we would finally achieve world peace – seriously! President Harry S. Truman was a champion of accountability. He had a sign with the inscription “The Buck Stops Here” on his desk that was meant to indicate that he didn’t “pass the buck” to anyone else but accepted personal responsibility for the way the country was governed.

Personal accountability is about following through on your commitments and doing what you said you’d do. It’s about recognizing that others are dependent on the results of your work. It’s also about open, proactive communication to keep others informed on the status of your commitments because it has a direct impact on their ability to achieve their own commitments.

Not surprisingly, accountability in the workplace is linked to higher performance. The question this brings us to is, “How do you know you’re being personally accountable?” Enter the Ladder of Accountability.

I came across the Ladder of Accountability when researching high performance. Unfortunately, I could not find to whom I should give credit for this great piece of work; however, apparently it has been utilized for many years in business courses across the globe.

The Ladder of Accountability has eight rungs:

  1.  I Didn’t Know: If you’re sitting on this rung you pretend there isn’t a problem. As if not acknowledging it will make it not exist.
  2. Blame Others: This is where you are aware the problem exists, but deny responsibility and shift blame to others. If you’ve read my book, Quit Bleeping Around: 77 Secrets to Superachieving, you know that blaming others is for losers!
  3. Excuses: When you are sitting here, you avoid responsibility by claiming confusion or incompetence. You’re avoiding tough issues and situations.
  4. Wait & Hope: When you are here, you know that there is a problem that requires action, but decide to wait and hope that things will magically improve.

All of the four rungs on the bottom of the ladder are considered “victim behaviors.” This is where your mindset is that things are happening to you – you take no responsibility for either your behavior or your responses to external issues that arise. Now on to the “accountable behaviors” where instead of things happening to you, things happen because of you.

  1.  Acknowledge Reality: When you are here, you acknowledge the reality of the situation, event, or circumstances.
  2. Own It: When you are here you own the problem and honor your commitments and responsibilities. No excuses, no blaming others.
  3. Find Solutions: When you are here, you own the problem and the solution. You actively seek to implement solutions either by yourself or through others.
  4. Make It Happen: When you are here, whether or not you are the sole decision-maker, you assume responsibility for implementing the solution and ensuring its success. You are completely personally accountable.

Even the more accountable of us vary which rung they are on depending on the circumstances. For example, you may normally find yourself on the top half of the ladder, but then blame traffic for being late to a meeting, which means you dip down to the second or third rung.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to improve your personal accountability today:

  • Do I admit my mistakes, am I honest with myself, and look at what my role is when things go wrong?
  • Do I voluntarily apologize and take responsibility when something goes wrong?
  • Do I continually seek feedback from others on how I can improve myself as well as look for ways I can make positive changes in my work or home environment?
  • Do I seek out responsibility, get things done, and carefully review my bandwidth before agreeing to new responsibilities?
  • Do I meet my commitments and don’t make ones I can’t keep?

Just a few things for you to reflect on today!

Achieve More With Resilience

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi sums it up best when he says the meaning of life IS meaning – whatever it is, where ever it comes from for each individual. We have to make that meaning ourselves; each of us. Which leads us to this – the meaning you give to your life in the face of stress, setbacks and failures, can build your resilience. Us superachievers need to continually build our resilience because go after what you want in life is no easy task and often comes with much rejection and failure. But we still have to pick ourselves up and get motivated enough to continue to pursue what we desire.

It is not the events themselves that determine our level of stress, it is how we decide to view them, and ultimately cope with them. Check out Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk on stress for more information on this. Do you see change in your life as a setback or as an opportunity? Do you think of yourself as the kind of person who has a strong need for stability or one who relishes a good challenge?

The heart of resilience, like the heart of thriving, depends fundamentally on your ability to actively rebalance the positive and the negative in your life. Studies have shown the brains of highly resilient people show much less activity in the part associated with worrying and “what if” thinking. Highly resilient folks are more responsive to what is happening in reality, whether it is good or bad, rather than what might happen.

Increasing your resilience takes discipline and practice; it can be done! Two strategies for doing so are mindfulness and learning to shift your perspective. Maureen Gaffney, in her book Flourishing, states that if you develop a habit of mindfulness in your daily life, it will pay dividends when stress strikes, allowing you to observe negative thoughts without letting them take hold of you.

As for the second strategy, researchers found that resilient people stay hopeful about the future. It is this capacity to feel positive even when feeling negative that is at the heart of resilience. So a way to adapt your perception is try to see things in a positive light, then take direct action to tackle the problem.

Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, recommending asking yourself the following questions in the midst of adversity:

  1. What is life expecting of me know, at this particular moment, and in this particular situation?
  2. Given what has happened, who do I want to shape myself to be?
  3. Is there anything about this situation that allows me to do something positive that otherwise I would not or could not have done before?

There you have it superachievers, several ways to build your resilience. Choose one commitment you will make based on this wisdom today.

Use Flow to Achieve More

Have you ever heard of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow? It can be life changing once you become aware of how to harness this awesome achievement tool. Flow is defined as the experience of full and deep, enjoyable involvement in what you are doing. Not only is it great for achieving, but also for simply being happy.

Studies have shown the more a person experiences flow in their average week, the more likely they are to describe themselves as strong, active, creative, motivated, and happy. Who wouldn’t want that?

Maureen Gaffney, in her book Flourishing, discusses flow and goes over the eight elements of flow. They are:

  1. You take on an activity that is challenging and requires skill
  2. You concentrate fully on what you’re doing in the moment – no distractions!
  3. The activity has clear goals
  4. The activity provides immediate feedback
  5. Deep involvement removes the frustrations and worries of everyday life from your awareness
  6. There is a sense of control
  7. Self-consciousness disappears
  8. The sense of time is altered

Flow is why my husband and I love to do escape rooms together so much. We get locked in a room together and have 60 minutes to focus on the task at hand and figure out a way to get out together. It is a wonderful experience and something I’d recommend to anyone who loves puzzles!

There are several benefits of intentionally establishing flow in your life. They are:

  • You find yourself less dependent on external rewards
  • You become capable of finding purpose and enjoyment in what you do day-to-day, even if it is difficult and tedious
  • You are more open to a variety of experiences
  • You keep learning
  • Your relationships improve
  • You are able to better manage the challenges that life throws at you

Pretty cool benefits, huh?!?  So the idea is to consciously create flow in your life by intentionally setting up the eight elements of flow. Think about how you can create flow with some of your day-to-day activities.

Clarity In Vision Will Increase Your Achievement

Let’s take a moment to look at the importance of setting a crystal clear vision for our achievement efforts. I think so often we are so focused on attaining the goals we set for ourselves that we don’t take the time to set a very clear vision of the goal. Taking the time to do this, according to Maureen Gaffney, in her book Flourishing, will actually help you achieve your goals more quickly.

Here’s why – when you supply your brain with a very clear intention, it automatically does half the work of implementing that intention for you by alerting you to opportunities to appear and rapidly processing any info that might help or hinder your purpose. By creating a clear vision of your goal, you are telling your brain what it needs to pay attention to, so it will automatically process any information that comes in regarding that vision more quickly that other information. Here’s the cool thing about that at well – your brain not only directs your attention to what you can do now, but also what you could do next.

Let’s look at the absence of setting a clear vision – you drift aimlessly without any clear idea of what you want to achieve or perhaps you’re achieving someone else’s vision because they’ve so clearly laid it out for you.

Here are a couple of strategies for setting a clear vision; first, make sure you visualize precisely what you want to obtain using as many of your five senses that you can and making it action-based. The executive and monitoring functions of your brain work better together when they are trying to produce actions, rather than thoughts or feelings. Visualizing a detailed end state of what you want will help them work better together.

The second strategy is to express what you want to achieve in a positive way so that the executive and monitoring systems can work together using less bandwidth (or energy). An example would be, I want to eat foods that are good for my body versus I want to eat less junk food. Your brain will spend less energy searching for evidence of you eating foods that are good for your body; whereas it would expend more energy monitoring whether or not you are eating less junk food.

In honor of today’s blog, I recommend you sit down and set a clear vision for each of your goals. Then make it a daily habit to revisit those visions to achieve even faster.

More Positive Emotions = More Energy

Did you know it is important to ensure you experience positive emotions in your life at least five times more than negative emotions? According to numerous research studies, 5 to 1 is the magic ratio. In Maureen Gaffney’s book, Flourishing, she makes a good case for just how much positive emotions play a part in your ability to thrive in life. She states that positive emotions broaden, build, and transform us.

When you experience a positive emotion, it puts you in a more receptive state of mind, triggering patterns of thought that are more flexible, creative, and adaptable – the thought patterns you need to achieve your desires more quickly. In addition, positivity creates energy while negativity consumes it. When you are in a bad mood, you will use up more energy ruminating in it – trying to understand why you are feeling negative and how to get out of it. What an energy vampire!

The good news is that if you have a natural inclination to the negative, with deliberate effort, you can build up the positive and reduce the negative whenever possible.

Here’s some more reasons to ensure you experience positive emotions more. Everything we are trying to achieve depends on our attention, right? IF we can focus and police our attention, we can better control our thoughts and feelings, and as a consequence achieve more. It is not the stream of events in the course of the day that registers in our consciousness, it is only what we pay attention to. This means that what we choose to pay attention to literally defines our reality. This is fine on a good day, because it is easier for us to manage and focus our attention by acting intentionally. However, increasingly we find ourselves in an uncontrolled reactive mode, especially if we are unaware that we create our emotions. When this happens our attention is scattered. Not so productive!

Superachievers have learned how to control their attention to achieve what they intend and this is done by intentionally focusing on experiencing more positive emotions – which, in turn, gives us more energy, opening up our perception to accept more opportunities, and be more creative in attaining our goals.

Think of superachievers as realistic optimists – we routinely emphasize possible opportunities and work towards good outcomes with no guarantee these will occur, especially without effort. This means we cultivate hope, confidence, and ultimately, an appetite for challenge.

Who’s feeling motivated to go out and achieve now? I definitely am!  Let’s do it!

Suffering From Amygdala Hijack?

Part of being successful in life is maintaining control of our emotions. Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence model had four parts: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and social skills. In Maureen Gaffney’s book, Flourishing, she discusses just how important emotion management is to be happy in one’s life and I wanted to share her work with you as it pertains to your achievement efforts.

We can easily lose ourselves to our emotions if we aren’t fully aware of how our body and mind work together to protect us. And even if we are aware of this, it’s still hard to overcome the effect emotions have on us at times. This is where amygdala hijacking comes in –  our amygdala can set a reaction within our body to an event before the thinking mind has an opportunity to become aware AND once a strong emotion is turned on, even the thinking brain has trouble turning it off. Have you ever gotten very upset or angry at something someone said or did and later, when you had a chance to reflect on it, you’re not sure what happened? You’ve been hijacked by your amygdala.

The amygdala sets off an emotional response before the thinking brain has had an opportunity to fully understand the signal it has just received – the amygdala is literally reacting in a thousandth of a second, sending signals throughout your body to mobilize to either flee or to fight. So, by the time your thinking brain figures out that the event isn’t worth a reaction, your body is still raging with adrenaline and it takes a while to work all of that out of your system.

Here’s what happens – you find yourself in a new situation, such as someone rolls their eyes in a meeting while you’re speaking. Your thinking brain doesn’t have a chance to reason it out, such as “they may not have been rolling their eyes at you.” The eye roll goes into your brain, then your amygdala quickly searches your data banks for a time this similarly occurred in your post. It finds something close, perhaps your teenage daughter rolling her eyes at you when you were scolding her and sends out signals to the body to react to the experience now as you did in the past – even though you may have no conscious memory of the previous situation, much less how you reacted then.

Fun fact – events don’t cause positive or negative feelings, we create them ourselves by the meaning that we give them. And as you now know – we don’t even have to be consciously aware of the meaning that we’re giving these events.

Here is the process we go through when judging whether or not something is good or bad and how we are going to react to it: first an event occurs, then we feel an onset of emotion (this is the amygdala at work); we have an automatic interpretation of it; we experience a physiological response; THEN we actually develop thoughts about it and take action. So, someone rolls their eyes at a meeting, you’re not aware of the process just described until you feel the physiological response to it. This is the point that you can also negate the hijacking before it fully takes place. So instead of going into that automatic reaction when the individual rolls their eyes while you’re speaking, you notice that you feel anger (or whatever feeling you can relate to), and you use that as a signal that your amygdala is trying to hijack you and stop the process. Here’s how it plays out – I notice the eye roll, I can feel a tightening in my chest and jaw (because that’s how I react) and I use this as an awareness trigger – “wow! I just got triggered and I’m going to calm down and not react until I can have a moment to figure out what is going on.”

Essentially folks – you create your emotions, so you can control them. Pretty cool, huh? Especially if you thought you couldn’t control your emotions and had to go with them whenever you felt them. No so – time to take back control of your life. Some strategies for doing so are, meditation – Meditation is a strategy for pretty much any time you are trying to take better control of your mind or body. Another strategy is to have some sort of gratitude practice. Maybe it’s every morning or evening, but sometime throughout the day, listing the things you’re grateful for. Another one is good self-care – if you’re not taking care of yourself, you are more apt to simply be in reactionary mode.

Lots of info today superachievers! Decide on one commitment you will make today to improve your life based on what you just learned.

Increase Your Self-Control To Achieve More

I recently listened to one of the Great Courses on Audible – the Science of Self-Control by Dr. C. Nathan DeWall and wanted to share some of the research he presented because it has serious implications for you if you’d like to step up your achievement efforts. First, research findings indicate that a bigger predictor of success – bigger than your IQ, is your ability to delay gratification. This makes sense – the more self-control one has, the few problems they have – personal problems, relationship problems, and problems functioning within society. Although the absence of problems does not a superachiever make, so let’s look at this in more detail. Once you set your sights on what you want to achieve, you will have to delay gratification A LOT to go after your goals. When a superachiever is going after a goal, they can’t give in to that desire to binge watch Netflix instead of putting in the hard work associated with accomplishing what they desire.

Dr. DeWall also shared both good and bad news in his lectures – our ability to control our impulses is based on a limited energy source. This means that our finances, diets, relationships, and goal going after selves suffer when our mental energy is depleted.  That is the bad news; that we only have so much energy to help control our impulses and, therefore, delay our gratification. The good news, however, is that the self-control system is a like a muscle that can be developed further by us working hard to build it up over time. In addition, the mental energy required to maintain our self-control can be recharged when it gets depleted. This requires a high-level of self-awareness, which as we know is the first step in being successful in anything in life.

Here are some suggestions Dr. DeWall provided to recharge the mental energy required to have sufficient self-control to maintain your superachieverness. First, when you start feeling your energy dropping and you find yourself wanting to grab the nearest sugary or caffeinated treat to get your energy up – use some sort of metabolic booster instead – this could be eating some protein, ensuring you’re hydrated, going for a brisk walk, or taking a nap. This will help recharge the mental energy required to maintain your self-control. Another quick way to maintain that self-control is affirmations; in this sense, thinking about those values and beliefs that are important to you. Such as: Having good health is important to me or I am debt-free and saving for my future – when you feel that desire to just give in.

There are also several ways to prevent or minimize the mental fatigue that leads to poor self-control. Dr. DeWall calls this mental conservation strategies. He states that monitoring is a huge mental conservation strategy. Monitoring what you think, feel, and how you behave is important and the more you do it, the more you control what you’re tracking. For example, people who track their weight every day weigh less on average than people who do not.

Another mental conservation strategy is to control your environment. Remove items that tempt you so you don’t have to use up your mental energy avoiding that temptation. For example, remove unhealthy snacks from your home – make it much more difficult to access them. Another example: although I do love working from home, sometimes I go to the local library when I want to focus on my writing so I will not be tempted by all of the other projects I could get into when working from home.

A final strategy Dr. DeWall mentioned was to reduce the number of decisions you have to make throughout the day. One way to do this is creating what he calls Implementation Intentions. Essentially these are “If, Then” statements that you’ve already made a decision about, so there is no mental energy expended on them. An example of a couple I’ve created for myself – If it is 7:30am, then I go to the gym. Or If I want something that is not in my weekly budget, then I will wait 7 days before purchasing it.

In summary, you need to become a better mental energy accountant to increase your self-control muscle. I have a really cool energy management system coming out in Spring of 2018 that will help you do just that. Essentially, you will need to list out your activities for the day, week, and even month, and identify the mental energy you’ll need for each of them. You then plan your activities around your expected energy levels.

Dr. DeWall stated that when people anticipate activities that will require self-control, they conserve their mental energy better. Pretty cool, huh? So until my ME² system comes out, please think about ways you can conserve your mental energy and maybe even come up with some IF THEN statements of your own today.

Quit Shoulding Yourself!

Have you ever found yourself trying to enjoy some “found” time? For example, you were able to get off work a little early or it could even be the weekend and you just want to binge watch the latest season of Stranger Things or whatever Marvel series is out on Netflix.  So you settle into doing whatever you feel like doing and then your mind starts in on you. You have some free time now, you SHOULD be doing your errands, or your chores, or working on that paper or project. This is called shoulding yourself. Yes, I’m having a little fun with the term, and it is true. This is an example of your mind getting in your way. The majority of the time, when you hear the word “should” in your thoughts, I can pretty much guarantee it is what we call in the coaching world, a saboteur or gremlin, one of those voices that we’ve developed to help us survive childhood (even if it was a good childhood) and is now getting in the way.

Let me give you a common example of a potential saboteur for us superachievers. Shirzad Chamine, in his work on Positive Intelligence (you can check out his website at positiveintelligence.com), has identified 10 general categories of saboteurs developed by individuals. One of which is the Hyper-Achiever, this saboteur equates self-worth with achievement. This is also the little bugger behind overachieving. Notice I didn’t say superachieving – overachieving is when an individual is driven to achieve for external validation of their self-worth whereas a superachiever is internally validated and achieves because they want to make a positive impact on the world while growing themselves in the process. Back to the Hyper-Achiever saboteur – if you have this voice in your head, you most likely developed it because you somehow equated your achievements as a child with love received. Maybe you got more attention or massive celebrations when you made the honor roll – you’re the only one that can really figure out why you developed it – either way, let’s look at the results of developing this saboteur. If you have the Hyper-Achiever saboteur, when you sit down to relax after a long week, it’s voice starts whispering that you should be working on your goals – you have things to accomplish. You shouldn’t be taking a nap, you still have things on your to-do list for today. Of course, there are other saboteurs that will do the same thing to you. For example, the Pleaser saboteur is the voice you’ve developed because you have a belief that you should take care of others – even to your detriment. So when you sit down to relax or spend some time goofing off, this one is saying that you should be helping so and so with this or that, or some other form of shoulding.

Hopefully you get the idea – now I really pay attention when I notice my thoughts using “should” a lot. Hmm – this must be a saboteur, what’s going on here? Unfortunately these negative voices that we hear will never fully go away. I like to think of them as toddlers. If you’ve ever spent time around a toddler, you know that if they are having a tantrum, you either ignore them or distract them, because there is no way you can logically reason with a toddler – they haven’t developed that ability yet. I’d recommend you go to positiveintelligence.com/assessments and take the Saboteur Assessment created by Shirzad Chamine. You’ll get a really neat report that tells you which saboteurs you most likely have, how you potentially got them, what they are probably saying to you, and ways you can minimize their impact on you.

The best strategy for quieting these voices is mindfulness. Some sort of meditation practice – whatever best works for you. I recommend you listen to my Quit Bleeping Around® podcast interview with Sam Shelley of Head Trash Anonymous. He took me through one of his mindfulness sessions – I wasn’t sure what to expect since I had already been working on quieting the voices for a few years now, but even he was able to help me free my mind more.

The bottom line here folks is that you need to stop shoulding yourself so much and I’ve provided a few strategies in this blog for you to do just that! Now come up with what works for you to quiet those voices.

Obsessing About Achieving?

Us superachievers can get a little obsessive about our goals. So much so that we can push ourselves into overachieving – that point where we’re not really happy unless we are achieving what we set out to achieve and we tend to forget about ourselves and our self-care in the process. Let’s be honest, one of the things that makes us so good at superachieving is once we set our eye on the prize, that end goal that we’ve identified, we go into production mode and nothing can stop us from achieving what we desire. And I do mean nothing – not even ourselves.

I have set some pretty lofty goals for some more products and services I want to provide to you in 2018 so I am fighting with this as I am writing this blog for you. You know how we get – as soon as we wake up we’re ready to tackle the project that will help us achieve the goal, so we jump right on it, maybe even forgetting to eat breakfast. Then we look up and it has been several hours. Have I eaten anything? When was the last time I went to the bathroom? Am I drinking enough water? Have I even moved?

See, our drive to go after our goals is both a gift and a curse. We walk a fine line at times between superachieving and overachieving and it we are not constantly vigilant of where were are in relation to that line, it is very easy to lose ourselves in the achievement process. I am still struggling with finding my way in this process and I can share what I’ve learned so far –  that awareness is both the biggest and first step you must take. Realize that once you set a goal for something that you really want, you have a tendency to lose yourself in it. For example, I am deep in production mode creating more online courses, coaching programs, and a new time management system for you right now. I know that I can get obsessive about getting them created for you, so I am checking in with myself multiple times a day. I am tracking how much I move throughout the day, how much water I am drinking, and my food intake. Monitoring these things is a way to ensure that they are not forgotten.

As I am also still struggling with this one, my advice at this point is to be very careful of what goals you choose to pursue – make sure they are in alignment with your values and you have a clear vision of your end state and once you do set your goals, make sure a part of that goal is monitoring yourself during your achievement efforts. Self-care should be one of the top daily tasks that are part of that goal achievement. My high-achiever coaching program steps you through this process. If you’re interested in learning more, go to christinaeanes.com/coaching to check out the curriculum.

Until next time – monitor yourself people! Self-awareness is the key to going after your goals, accomplishing them, and then making sure you’re in top shape to go after the next set of goals.

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