Give Yourself an ‘A’

How to get the thing you want!

close up of human hand
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This is a real rule breaker for some. You can’t just give yourself an A. You have earn your ‘A’. But bear with me as I walk you through quite a powerful formula for achieving a goal or a series of achievements.

How Does This Work?

We’ve all heard of goal setting. This is goal setting in reverse.

‘Giving an A’ is projecting into the future about a significant goal or achievement that is important to you as though you have already achieved it.

It could be any number of things. You then work backwards to determine all the things you ‘did’ to ensure you achieved the goal.

Once you’ve done that, take one step at a time, on those things that you expect to help you achieve your goal.

As you progress, things may change but if the goal is significant enough, you’ll take the time to adjust your direction, activities and attitudes to keep you heading towards your goal.

Here’s the kicker: The time frame you have set for achieving your goal will pass. The date will arrive. Nothing surer! Will you be tracking along with that timeline?

What’s your goal?

Let’s assume it is six months in the future and you have, indeed, received your “A”.

Imagine for a moment how that feels.

  • You’ve got your driver’s licence for the first time
  • You’ve lost that nagging couple of kilos
  • You’ve presented the pitch and won

Don’t skip this part. Imagine, in the future, receiving your reward: physical, mental and/or emotional.

(By the way, it’s good to define the reward too. It may be the thing itself (losing weight, getting the license) or it may be something you reward yourself with for achieving the goal (a holiday, a new thing you’ve always wanted).

Now start writing down all the things you ‘did’ to increase the chances of the ‘A’ being achieved. This can range from simple tasks (losing weight = walk/run 4km per day for 30 days (my current goal)) to taking a course and applying the key methods learnt in the course and getting feedback from a respected peer, manager, significant other.

You can do this in one of two way (maybe there’s more, let me know in the comments). You start at the end, just before the goal is achieved and work backwards.

Or, you can work forwards, taking small steps at the start to help build momentum. As James Clear said in his post today, “plan what you can do on your worst day, make it that simple!”

Take the time to plan it out. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of steps.

Another goal of mine is to learn to touch type. My goal each day is to type for “15+1”. That is, on day one I touch typed for 15 minutes. On day two it was 16 minutes (15+1) and so on. By the time 30 days is up, I am typing 45 mins per day which, I hope, will actually see me touch type more than “hunt and peck!” I am so looking forward to that level of productivity.

A note on planning: While above I have said to plan it out and I believe that is important, you may not know all the steps at first. That is okay. Lou Tice (and many others), founder of The Pacific Institute used a phrase: “Set the goal, invent the “how””. You may not know all the steps at the start. Start with a clear goal and figure to the “first of first” steps.

I work within a project framework at work and while we plan out the project step by step as much as we can, the number of changes made along the way are innumerable. No-one is upset by that, we all expect it to be the case.

If your goal is to begin a meditation practice, it might start with getting up at 5am every day (pick a time best for you) and meditate for one minute, then two, then three.

Think of your goal and work backwards, Remember you are going to be an ‘A’ student at the end of this.

The Added Benefit

The added benefit of working in this manner is we begin to act and think like ‘A’ students. Even if we have never been one.

It is quite amazing the things you will allow and not allow once you fix your mind on the goal.

I recently decided to not buy coffee at work. I was spending something like $200 per month on purchased coffees. Many for me, and many I bought for others, so may it was about $300 per month. Add that up and you’re looking around $4,000 per year on coffee!

So, in acting like an ‘A’ student in this area, I had to change my thoughts, language and behaviour. From being known at work as someone who will regularly buy coffee, I had to lower that profile. I also had to find ways of not buying the others were. I could head out with them for the social aspect but not buy a coffee and not allow them to buy me one either – as that set the expectation I would reciprocate. Which I would because it would be awkward not to.

The benefit isn’t in becoming a cheapskate who never buys coffee, it’s more than that. It’s learning how I want to behave, how I turn up at work and manage my relationships with great colleagues through a period of transition.

How do I feel each time I’m asked if I want a coffee? What will I say? Will I offend some? Do I just tell them straight out, “I’m not buying coffee for a month”?

What if I screw up?

Restart!

A goal isn’t lost completely based on a couple of backwards steps. In his book Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz said a habit begins to form around the 21 day mark. That is beginning to form as in, not set in stone. This takes time.
It’s like year 12 students being told their final exam is the most important thing they’ll do in their lives. (at least here in Australia)

And so…
Giving yourself an A is a liberating exercise. Because you get to choose what you want the A to be about. You have total control over that.

Set the goal and invent the “How”!

Write down the goal, read about it every day. I find when I do that it is easier to maintain the momentum towards the goal. When I don’t do that, I lose momentum and, if I miss long enough, I forget about the goal itself.

Here’s a tool I use when I interview candidates for a role (or am interviewed for a role):

STAR: Situation, Task, Actions, Result or, if you’re working backwards from the goal: RATS!

  • Situation – where you find yourself and not having the “Thing” – the goal.
  • Task – the overall activities you need to do to achieve the Thing!
  • Actions – mini tasks. What do you need to do to complete each Task, if there are multiple.
  • Result– the Goal or the Thing.

Lastly …
If I was figuring out the goal prior to starting the STAR approach, I’d describe the goal in as much detail as I could.

For example:
GOAL: I want to lose weight (actually x kg, be specific). I want to lose weight because … and away you go describing in as much detail for you how good this is going to be, why you want to do it and the benefits you’re going to enjoy.
And then…

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Actions
  • Result.

No Comparions

You be you!

cheerful pregnant couple touching tummies and making grimace while standing near white wall
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A quick back story:

Years ago I was in a church where there was the discipline of morning prayer. You could do this at home but, if you were a “disciple”, it was better to be seen at the church building praying, anywhere from 6am to 8am.

The discipline of a morning meditation* was really good. The need to be seen? Not so much. In fact, if you missed attending for a couple of days you got the “didn’t see you at morning prayer, brother!” So there was this expectation and, as young me, there was always the pursuit of trying to be better. Again, nothing wrong with that.

One day, I overheard a friend say he got up at 4am to pray. Holy prayer mats, Batman!

Not to be outdone, I also got up at 4am to pray.

This was hard! Partly because of another church custom: fellowship.

This was coffee and food after church to be friendly to others, encourage each other and build relationships. Another plus for church and similar communities.

But going to bed after 10:30 and getting up at 4am was a tough gig. Not to be deterred, I stuck it out for a couple of weeks. But in the end, it was too much. I had to pack the 4am starts in and try and be a normal person.

A month or so after that, feeling like a failure in my prayer habits and clearly a very unspiritual disciple, I mentioned my efforts to my friend.

He laughed: “You obviously didn’t hear the whole conversation!”

“Oh?”, I responded, wondering what I had missed.

“Yeah, what I was saying was I had got up at 4am one time to try and it was hopeless. It was stupid. I get up at 6:30 every day!”

Needless to say we both had a good laugh!

It’s obvious to say we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others but we tend to do this without thinking.

Here are some things to consider next time you’re scrolling Social Media:
  1. What is their background? What do they bring to the situation you don’t know about?
  2. What do they not say? This isn’t the sin of intentional omission, it could simply be they have information, skills, knowledge they take for granted they wouldn’t even think to share. For example a blogger with experience in journalism.
  3. What effort do they put in that we can’t see? We only get to see the end product in many cases. I like it when people on YouTube give us a behind the scenes look at their set up. It brings a whole lot of context.
  4. Don’t be a literalist. This is taking everything at face value. It becomes a binary argument: this OR that. Rarely is that the case. There are so many shades of grey! (More than 50, I’d say!)
What to do:
  1. What do you admire about the person? Admiration is great, we need role models. What attributes do you see that you would like for yourself. Write them down.
  2. Allow space for yourself. You are not, and cannot, be them. You can be you. What does that mean? Write it down.
  3. What are your goals in this area? Have you defined them clearly? Write them down.
  4. What tasks need to be addressed for you to fulfil #2? (you be you)
  5. What actions can you take to start completing those tasks? When can you do the first of those tasks?
To Finish

Another erroneous comparison I have made.

I follow Yiannis Christodoulou, on Twitter (@Yiannis_83). With 83 being in his profile I assume he is 20 years younger than me. He is quite the accomplished triathlete in his age group. But I assumed he had been doing this since he was a kid. I assumed he’s been brought up swimming, running and riding for decades!

If I compare myself to him, I probably can’t emulate his feats.

Au contraire!

Read his tweet of 4 days ago:

Used with kind permission from Yiannis


He only started swimming 10 years ago! And he started to run! And yet he has achieved so much!

We can be very fickle.

We see people who have made it and we think we can do exactly the same, without knowing their background.

We also see people who are accomplished and we think we can’t emulate them, without knowing their background.

If that isn’t an endorsement for you be you, I don’t on know what is.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

Admire their feats, sure and now start where you are.


*Funny that back then we referred to meditation as new age woo-woo! (Maybe they still do!) πŸ™„

Also, thanks to Yiannis for allowing me to mention him and his success in his journey!

Effective Goal Setting

broken glass on wooden surface
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Imagine you come home from work tomorrow night and, as you pull into the driveway, you notice a window has been broken. Not cracked, there is a hole in the window. The weather can get in, as can nosy neighbours and some ne’er do wells!

What do you do? You (hopefully) take action to fix the window.

Why? Because a broken window is classified as “wrong”. A fixed window is “normal”. A broken window is not.

When it comes to goal setting, you want to either:

  • get back to normal (i.e. fix the broken window) or;
  • create a new normal – do  something new with the window

As humans, we gravitate to normal, our comfort zone. Normal is deemed as safe. But what I view as normal and what you view as normal is likely very different. Therefore, normal is not arbitrary. This is great news because we can pick the new, better normal and work towards that. Maybe I’d like to have more of what you’re thinking.

And to create a new normal, we need a new problem.

As with the broken window, if we see a problem, we look to fix it. It’s automatic. See broken window, fix broken window.

We work to fix the things that are without or control.

And problems, like the broken window, create energy, an impetus to fix the problem. 

What is my point?

With regards to goals and making plans for things to change, we need energy. Ergo, we need a problem!

“Tell me what you want, what you really really want!”

Spice Girls

If we want to travel overseas for a holiday, most of us have to change our spending and put funds aside for the trip. This, in itself, becomes the new normal. It’s hard at times but we need to decide if we really want the trip and to make the necessary changes. If funds are short week to week, it can cause conflict. It’s called sacrificing and we all have different levels of sacrifice!

But we make the sacrifice if we want the holiday! And then, one day, we step on to that plane … πŸ˜€

And so, with goal setting, we need to change what is normal in order to achieve the goal.

Different isn’t always better but better is always different!

unknown

The “Holiday”
Imagine the change you want is the holiday. How do you plan for the holiday?You probably:

  • select a destination
  • check flights or journey options
  • review your budget
  • look up places to visit
  • book accommodation
  • create a spreadsheet to track things like packing, destinations, costs (no-one does that do they? *cough*)
  • you talk to people about it (endlessly!)

All of these actions to a greater or lesser degree, create energy. This energy provides the fuel to make your goal a reality. Hey, even planning for a well deserved holiday can be stressful and sometimes we think it’s just not worth the hassle – but it is and we endure!

What is your goal?
Can you adapt the above points to your goal? More than likely.

How much do you want your goal?
If the energy is there, you’ll achieve your goal or get very close to it. Even a holiday might need to be changed if something doesn’t work out and you can’t influence it. (I’d be on the next plane to Germany if Covid cases weren’t on the rise!)

Conversely, if there is no energy to change, the goal is likely to remain a goal. But, in the same way, if your goal is something you are prepared to sacrifice for, talk about, track progress and make it part of your “normal”, it’ll happen almost magically.

How do you achieve your goals? Let me know in the comments.

Intro to Bamboo SL

This is a model I’ve been playing with lately. I’ve been learning a lot about mindset, habits and behaviours and this is an attempt to learn something by putting it into my own thoughts and provide it to others.

It is developed as Bamboo SL based on the elements that create the outcomes (Satisfaction & Lifestyle) from the inputs:

  • Beliefs
  • Attitudes
  • Mindset
  • Behaviours
  • Observations
  • Outcomes

I’m planning on developing it further and the construct may change as things become clearer. (maybe Observations come after Outcomes).

Background

What got me thinking about this was that we, generally, mostly concern ourselves with external factors, particularly in business when it comes to performance and feedback. These are the behaviours, the observations and the outcomes. “I saw you do this”, “Let’s discuss the sales results”.

The Behaviours are the things we do that we and others can see. We can comment on them, whether they are good, bad or otherwise. You can get feedback on them. I’ve run workshops on performance management based on SOBs – Specific Observable Behaviours.

The Observations are similar to the behaviours but in this instance we are trying to take a step back and observe ourselves or reflect on what we did. We can then make adjustments if we want to.

The Outcomes are, perhaps obviously, the results of what we see. We overeat and the scale goes up. We diet and the scale goes down. We put in a good day at work and our boss is happy with us. We put in a bad day and the boss is less happy. (I have a friend who got a commendation the same day they got a first and final warning!) Organisations, like people, can be fickle.

My observations here are that we tend to focus on the obvious. How we feel about our day and our lot in life. Very simple observations and conclusions for the most part.

We do mull over the Satisfaction stage. Am I satisfied with my job, relationship, income, goals? Sometimes we may look at social media sites showing people who seem to be doing better than we are. Even though we know this is people on their best days, they can still trigger us and cause some dissatisfaction with our own life.

I’ve referred to Satisfaction as “The” Measure. If we are “satisfied” with our lot in life, that becomes our life. There is no need or sense of urgency to change. Even if we are dissatisfied. Read that again. We we can be satisfied with our dissatisfaction. Why?

Life is defined at the top of the image above with examples from Relationships to Finances. Feel free to substitute your own.

The Subconscious Program

Lower down we have the Subconscious program. This encapsulates our beliefs, habits and attitudes that, in many cases, reside there without scrutiny. Again we may mull over them occasionally but perhaps not as much as the external factors.

Our subconscious program, as I have (re)learned has, on the whole, been given to us by others when we were very young. We may vote the same way our parents vote. We are comfortable with similar foods (healthy or unhealthy). We may undertake similar pastimes as our parents or peer groups. Alternatively, it could also be you eat completely differently because your parents ate junk food!

Because our beliefs have been given to us, or we have been highly influenced by others, we can take life as it comes without examining some of these factors. We would do well to examine some of these and see if they hold true for us and help us achieve the Satisfaction and Lifestyle we are wanting. If not, it may be our beliefs are keeping us from achieving the goals we seek, or once sought, and now we’ve accepted our “lot”.

Example: I have a close friend who doesn’t like Mitsubishi cars. No reason! It’s a belief or attitude they have to Mitsubishis. Many years ago, when they were contemplating a new vehicle, Mitsubishis were off the list. πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ Just a belief that really has no grounding and, in this case, not an issue.

But what if we have beliefs that are issues that we hold on to that limit our progress and limit our real potential. That, to me, is worth exploring.

Summary

I believe the areas that can most influence our Life at the top of the image are, in fact, the elements at the base: Beliefs, Attitudes and Mindsets.

These elements will influence the Behaviours we are prepared to engage in, which in turn can affect our Outcomes if we are prepared to examine (Observe) those Behaviours to see if they are working towards our goals or away from our goals.

My point being, the areas we really need to examine, we generally don’t. (Or perhaps I am the sole troglodyte here!)

The good news is, once we know this, we are free to choose new beliefs, attitudes and mindsets. And, from there, begin to review our potential and re-assess the goals we want to pursue!

Now that I’ve published this I’ll find all the spelling errors. Feel free to point them out! πŸ˜‰