Focus. Perspective. Skills. And those are just a few of the benefits.
Motivation is great. Literally billions of dollars are spent each year by people trying to build their motivation. Toni Robbins, Jeff Keller and others have made fabulous careers helping people maximize their motivation. In truth, part of what I do with my clients is help them focus their motivation on their own success. All of that is good and useful but your environment may be as, if not more, important as your motivation.
By environment, I’m not talking where you live. It is more about how you choose to live. The first big choice that determines your environment is the people who choose to spend your time with. Jim Rohn once said, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Are you choosing to spend your time with positive people who are looking to progress in their lives or are you spending time with negative people who never met a situation without a fault? Yes, your family and co-workers have been chosen for you but you still have a lot of flexibility about which family members and co-workers you spend more time with. Choose the ones with a healthy outlook on life.
Another big component of your environment is how you set up your office and home. Look at your living room. Are all the chairs facing each other to encourage discussion or are they all facing the television? Is your dining room table ready to welcome everyone to diner or is that where bills and homework are piled up, making a family diner all that much more effort. How big are your plates? Really. Professors Brian Wansink and Roert van Ittersum studied how plate size affected people’s estimate of what a healthy portion was. The bigger the plate, the bigger a healthy portion was. People are likely to each 30 percent or more more when their plate is larger than when they eat off of a smaller plate. In that study, they weren’t even asking people to limit their diet. They were simply asked to eat until they felt satisfied.
So what do we do with this information? Set up your environment to align with your goals. Your environment needs to make actions that are inconsistent with your goals more difficult and actions that support your goals easier. You can set up your environment to address you weaknesses. For example, I lost 50 pounds last year. I’m motivated to lose a bit more but I have a weakness. I’m a grazer. I work out of my home, which means I’m in and out of my kitchen a dozen times a day. Each time I pass through, I grab a handful of something. It is such a reflex for me that no amount of motivation can over come it. Knowing that environment plays a key role in actions, I addressed my environment. First, grazable foods are no longer allowed on the counter tops. They can go in the fridge or cupboards but they can’t be where I see them. Also having to get into the cupboard or fridge is just one more step in making the conflicting action more difficult. Second, we now keep healthy grazable foods. I used to go through 1500 calories of raisins a day. Motivation and willpower cut that down to around 500 calories but stopped there. Now, I go for grapes. Third, I used to keep some of my work supplies in the kitchen, making my go into the kitchen a couple of extra times a day. I pulled those out of the kitchen. Fewer trips into the kitchen means few grazing handfuls.
Think about the actions you need to take on a regular basis to reach your goals and those actions you need to do less frequently. Whether it is financial, career, health, personal or relationships, there are daily things you could do better. Identify obstacles and opportunities. Then adjust your environment to support your desired actions.
As unavoidable as stress is, there are science-backed ways to manage it.
Every few minutes, sometimes a few times a minute, an update screams for my attention. My phone buzzes for texts, beeps for emails and does this weird injured bird sound when LinkedIn or any of my other apps sends an update. My Linkedin page is filled with updates from people I networked with but barely know. My other social media keeps me updated on companies and interests I had weeks, months or even years ago. Some of the information is relevant but most is redundant. Each of these beeps, dings and chirps were things that somehow I either directly asked for or, at least, permitted to happen.
A Stanford University study (and many other studies) proved that multi-taskers are simply less efficient than people focusing on one task at a time. Other studies show that creativity and problem solving also decline when a person multitasks. The brain can only focus on one thing at a time. It also takes time to stop a task, switch to another task and get up to speed in the next task. These are waisted precious moments of creativity lost forever. Ok. A little dramatic but true. We are simply more efficient, effective and creative when we focus on one thing at a time.
My clients who are not moving forward on their goals generally fall into one of three categories: 1.) they have an internal block – perhaps lack of confidence, fear of unknown, etc. 2.) they honestly don’t know what to do and 3.) they aren’t able to focus on the task at hand long enough to make progress.
For those clients who fall into the third category, I recommend four things. First, go through all of your social media and unfollow anyone and anything that you are not emotionally invested in having constant updates on. Second, go through your email and unsubscribe from every unnecessary auto-email. Third, turn off auto-notify/auto-alert on every tool you have. Fourth, practice turning off the phone and simply focusing on the task at hand for 25 minutes at a time. Set a timer. Check no email, answer no calls, don’t scan any social media. After the timer goes off, then deal with any of the above and, please, stand up and stretch for a minute. Seriously. Then back to work for another 25 minutes.
In many cases, this is all it takes to add hours of productivity to someone’s day. Imagine how much more successful you would be if you could add two hours a day to your productive clock.
Beliefs that lead to success.
Many self-help gurus preach that simply being motivated is enough to overcome any obstacles in your life. If you aren’t reaching your goals, they teach, then you simply aren’t motivated enough. And, by the way, they have a book to sell you or a class to offer to really ramp up your motivation. Maybe a week in Fiji walking over hot coals is just what you need. So, no. Motivation is not enough.
I am a big fan of motivation. By no account am I saying that motivation is unimportant or ineffective. I am saying that motivation alone doesn’t move mountains. Even mountain size motivation won’t do it. Most goals that are significant in our lives require effort over longer periods of time. You don’t launch a business, learn a language or drop those pounds with an intense five day seminar. . . . . at least not if you plan on maintaining or growing your success.
So if not motivation, what helps my clients become successful? Before I get to that, let’s talk a little about psychology. You can think of your thought process as having three distinct personalities. There is the Cool Calculator. The Cool Calculator sits in your frontal lobe and thinks very rationally about what is best for you. It weighs cost versus benefit and creates action plans. The Cool Calculator isn’t bothered by weakness or emotion. The second player is The Toddler. The Toddler is emotional. The Toddler is very much in the moment. Long range plans or balancing cost and benefit are beneath The Toddler. It simply wants what it wants and it wants it now. The third player in your own personal psychosis is The Traditionalist. The Traditionalist has the easiest job of the three. The Traditionalist simply responds to every situation by saying, well this is what we have done in the past. This is what we ALWAYS do. Every thought you have and every decision you make has a little of each of these three players. Sometimes the Cool Calculator is a little more powerful. Sometimes it is The Toddler. Frequently, especially when you aren’t thinking about the situation very much, it is The Traditionalist.
Each of these personalities respond to different tactics. The Cool Calculator will respond to determination. The cold weighing of cause and affect works well for the Cool Calculator. The Toddler is swayed by motivation. Big grandiose visions on a dream board can sway even the grumpiest of Toddlers. The Traditionalist responds to positive habit. The Traditionalist doesn’t worry about the end game or the results. All The Traditionalist cares about is what we always do.
Knowing this, craft your goals and action plans to utilize motivation, determination and positive habit together. Each of these will help a different one of your personalities to move toward the final vision.
No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.- Mark Twain’s Speeches (1923 ed.)
While Mark Twain was referring to a pause in a play or story, a rightly timed pause is powerfully effective in many aspects of life.
In conversation, most of us spend the time the other person is speaking planning what we are going to say next. Instead, listen to what the other is saying, pause and then respond authentically.
When a boss just drops a bombshell on your desk, don’t go straight fight or flight. Instead pause, think about why this is happening and how this situation might be turned into a positive and then respond.
Take the time. A deep breath’s worth. Take your rightly timed pause. Your life will be richer for it.
The thoughts we dwell on and the actions we take, every day, are the biggest factors in how much we achieve.