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  • Building Consistency with a Tracker

    Three reasons to track your goal progress. In the last few articles, I posted about: -> How to identify what game you are playing (aka. you’re goals - check it out HERE), -> Then I wrote about how to create ‘rules for engagement’ to help you achieve your goals (HERE) -> Next I discussed how to consistently take action on your goals by using routines and streaks (HERE) For this article, I’m going to talk about the importance of keeping score and why you should create a Tracker. Reason #1 - Accountability When you begin to take action on a new goal, you have initial excitement and energy. This is due to a concept called the “Fresh Start Effect.” This can be used to our benefit to help kick-off the effort needed to achieve meaningful goals. However, after about 2-4 weeks, (sometime sooner), we realize how hard it is to stay focused and disciplined. We may even realize we were too ambitious or optimistic about our goal. Keeping score of our efforts makes it a bit harder to ‘just’ give up. For example, if you are using a printed calendar or an app tracker, you really WANT to check it off. It doesn’t feel great to NOT put an ‘X’ in the box or check off the day. The tracker may act as an Accountability partner to motivate you to get it done. Reason #2 - Builds Trust + Confidence When you complete the action needed to help you achieve your goals and you check it off on your calendar or app tracker, you start to build trust and confidence in yourself that you CAN do it! It’s hard to take consistent action in the beginning, but when you visually see your progress collecting, you are showing yourself that you CAN and ARE doing it. This can help you keep going. If you don’t keep score and don’t have a visual, it’s easy to forget about your successes and only focus on your failure. It's easy to think you are failure when you don't have a tracker or way to keep score. If you can't see it, it's hard to believe you have what it takes. Prove to yourself you can do it, track it, and then celebrate your progress! Using a tracker or scoreboard build trust and confidence in yourself! If you removed the scoreboard from your favorite Football team's field - would you still watch them play? Reason #3 - Data Analysis By taking consistent action and tracking it, you are essentially collecting data – personal data about the effort you are putting in to achieve your goals. Over time, you will begin to see if the actions you are taking and the effort you are making are making a positive difference or not. If you feel you are gaining progress on your goal, then your data will ‘show and tell’ you that you should keep going. If you don’t feel like you are gaining progress on your goal, then your data will show you that you need to adjust the actions you are taking, try something else, or keep going. A good rule of thumb is to stick to consistent action for at least 3-4 weeks and see if that creates positive movement on your goal. If you aren’t seeing traction, then after 4 weeks consider adjusting the actions you are taking. Your tracker will help you see if you are winning or not. How are you going to keep track of your goal progress? Which is your favorite way to keep track? Physical calendars? App trackers? Collectively with a group of friends? Reminders in your calendar? On a sticky note? There are so many ways you can keep track. Pick one method and try it for a month.

  • Habits, Routines, and Streaks, OH MY!

    Leveraging Habits, Routines, and Steaks to Help You Achieve Your Meaningful Goals We all want to achieve meaningful accomplishments in life. So, we create goals for ourselves. Next, we need to identify what actions and processes we can take to achieve the goal. Let’s talk about habits, routines, and streaks. HABITS vs. ROUTINES 21 days is the time it takes to create a habit, or so the researchers say. I cannot say in full confidence that I have ever created or broken a habit in 21 days. That just seems outright bonkers. And by habit, I mean, a behavior repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously, without thinking about it. Other research suggests that the average time to create a new habit is 66 days. But, again, I can’t think of a single thing in which I have created a habit in 66 days. The fastest time I think I’ve done anything consistently, certainly not subconsciously, is 90 days. And even then, for it to really become sticky and a part of my life, it’s taken a full year of intentional action. It's easy to feel like a failure or that you are an imposter if you can’t develop a habit in 21 or 66 days. It certainly feels like everyone else in the world is somehow able to do it because it’s mentioned in almost every flippin’ New Year's Resolution or Habit-related literature. I believe we are all trying to take advice that no longer works. The world today is noisy, distracting, and fast. The average American is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 messages daily, and less than 100 will be remembered. Think commercials on TV, on the radio, on billboards, emails from work, emails for things you signed up for, emails from your kid’s school, spam, more email advertisements, newsletters, social media, pop-up advertisements on social media, text messages, phone calls, app notifications, etc. Do you know the average human attention span? I hate to break it to you, but a goldfish beats out the human attention span by one second. We lose to a goldfish! Our attention span is eight seconds, while a goldfish is nine seconds. That’s just as bad as losing to Dory in Finding Nemo – “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” [While Dory isn’t a goldfish, she does have short-term memory loss in the movie.] If we look at the foundation underneath what it takes to create habits, there are two things: routines and consistency. THAT is what we should be focused on. Building a consistent routine, that we can stick to, to help us achieve our goals. Look at your goal. What routine do you need to help you achieve it? Should you block time once a week or twice a week? Is there a better day of the week that works best so that you can consistently take action? What consistent action can you take on those days? For example, my goal is to read 25 books by the end of the year. Monday and Friday tend to be my slower administrative days. If I think about what consistent action I can take on those days, I know I can commit to reading for 20-30 minutes on Monday and Friday mornings. So, I have blocked my calendar to do that. Rather than obsess around building habits, challenge yourself to build a consistent routine. Now, comes the hard part – sticking to the consistent routine, which is where streaks come in. STREAKS Streaks are used in video games and game apps based on game design theory to motivate and create behavior change. The idea of a streak is to take consistent and consecutive action. Once you start a streak, you don’t want to break it. And once you start a streak, you are usually invested to try and maintain that streak. Jerry Seinfeld kept a streak of practicing one joke per day. He would track it on a calendar, and each day he practiced, he would put a large X in the calendar box. As he looked at the X’s, he realized it created a visual chain. His motivation was to not ‘break the chain.’ I can’t imagine practicing a joke every day ever became a habit, meaning something he would do subconsciously. Practicing a joke is an action you would need to intentionally think about doing, daily. You need to think through which joke to practice and find time to practice it. Keeping a streak is intentional. You have to think about it to make sure it gets done. Duolingo, the popular language lesson app, is well known for its streaks. To help you learn a new language, Duolingo recommends practicing for 5 minutes or more per day. The app helps you keep track of your streak. Practicing daily isn’t a subconscious action either. You have to be intentional to practice and ensure you keep your streak. Streaks may never become subconscious and, therefore, may never become a habit, and that’s the point. You keep a streak so that you STAY INTENTIONAL in taking the action needed to help you achieve meaningful goals. If you habitually practice jokes, are you even paying attention to what you are doing? I doubt it. If you want to become a comedian, why would you want to practice jokes absentmindedly? Oh! It’s just a habit. Wait, what? How is that helping you achieve meaningful accomplishments in your life? What action can you turn into a streak to help you achieve your goals? Jerry Seinfeld kept a streak of practicing one joke per day. DON’T CREATE HABITS, CREATE ROUTINES AND STREAKS. To achieve meaningful goals, you must be intentional and purposeful. Identify a routine that will work with you and enable you to take and keep a consistent streak of action to help you achieve your goal. Once you start, don’t stop! Find a way to track your progress. You can use a physical calendar like Jerry Seinfeld, or you can download an app, such as Streaking. Going back to my goal of reading 25 books this year. I have 20-30 minutes blocked in my calendar on Monday and Friday to read. To turn this action into a streak, I plan on keeping track of my progress on a printed calendar. I prefer to have a visual on my desk to help me remember. Other people may prefer to put reminders in their phone or leverage an app. I plan on keeping this streak for three months, roughly 90-days. At that point in time, I’ll review my progress and see if I need to make any adjustments. [to learn why I'm putting a deadline on my streak, read below.] ADDITIONAL TIPS ON STREAKS. Streaks can be extremely motivating. Once you are invested in your streak, it can motivate you to get off the couch and act because you don’t want to lose your streak. Conversely, they can also be extremely demotivating if you break a long streak. For example, I was on a 160+ day streak with Duolingo, learning Italian. I was consistent and gaining progress and momentum! Every blue moon, I would forget, and thank goodness Duolingo offers Streak Freezes, which can be used if you accidentally miss a day. (You earn streak freezes by being consistent and maintaining your streak.) Well, I accidentally missed one day and then another, and didn’t have a Streak Freeze to use and completely lost my streak. It was demoralizing! All that hard work lost. Sure, you can say – So what? Just start over… But, it can be hard to overcome that emotional loss and re-motivate yourself to start over. It was a solid 6 months before I attempted to try again. At that point, I was re-motivated and ready to try to beat my last streak! A learning from this experience is that I like to put a deadline on my streaks. Once I’m at that deadline, I ask if my streak still serves me. I give myself an out. If it’s working, I extend my deadline. If it’s not working, I will look at other actions or routines I can create to help me achieve my goals. It’s always better to adjust than give up. When will you create your routine and start your streak?

  • Creating "Rules of Engagement" for Goal Achievement

    2 Tips + 1 Fun Fact for creating a successful goal. Once you have identified your goal, it’s time to identify the Rules of Engagement. The rules will help you define success. What exactly does success look like when you achieve your goal? What actions do you need to take to be successful? How will you win? Here are three tips to help you define your success. Tip #1 - Put a number on it. There is a corny connection here, but when speaking of ‘Rules of Engagement’ and this tip of ‘Put a number on It,’ I immediately think of Beyonce’s song: Put a Ring on It. Sing it with me! “If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it” Translate this song into goal setting…. "If you liked (your goal) then you shoulda put a number on it." The majority of goals that we set are loosy goosy. Meaning, we aren’t specific enough. For example, I have a goal of reading a stack of books I collected over the recent years, I might say: “My goal this year is to read more books.” Ok, well how many? If I read one (1) does that equal success? For some people, that may indeed be a success. Great! Then add that number to your goal. In my case, success equals reading 25 books this year. By finding a way to track your goal, you increase your understanding of what success is and, therefore, your likelihood of achieving that goal. Tip: Try to avoid a percentage. Numbers are concrete, and don’t lie. Using numbers is a quick way to tell if you are making progress. Percentages typically require a calculation and are generally harder to tell if you are winning. For example, If I decide to read 5 books in 3 months, I could track the number of books I’ve read by saying 1 or 1.5 out of 5 rather than 20% or 30% out of 100%. When you use a percentage, it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal, which in this case is 5 concrete books. Turning a number into a percentage becomes a science project and confuses the mind. Keep to straightforward and use numbers. Sometimes, you need to get creative with using numbers. An alternative way to track could be by number of pages read. Let’s say the 5 books equal 500 pages. Keep track of the number of pages you have read on your way to 500, for example, 112 out of 500. Challenge yourself to put a number on your goal. Tip #2 - Cut your goal in half or give yourself twice the amount of time. When we set our goals and put a metric to it, human nature is to go big. The goal is usually created in a vacuum, meaning, we don’t consider or create space for any bumps in the road or conflicts. A good rule of thumb is to cut your goal in half or give yourself twice the amount of time to accomplish it. We may not realize our goal was too lofty until about two-weeks in. Author Jon Acuff writes in his book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, that "our brains are hardwired to be confident about our abilities and chances of success." That's why we create goals to run a marathon when we haven't finished a 5K yet! It's great to be ambitious! But, when we realize we may have been too ambitious, avoid quitting and adjust our goal instead. Adjustments are better than quitting. Don’t give up! For example, I originally set my book reading goal to 25 books in 3 months. Becaaaause I was excited about all of them and was really eager to read them!! But…life gets busy, and after two weeks, I realized I was wayyyy too ambitious, and I needed to extend my time. I looked at what took place over these last two weeks and realized the more realistic timeframe is 6 months. I returned to my calendar and remembered a few business and personal trips that I have planned, which will also provide challenges in achieving my goal. So, if a more realistic timeframe is 6 months, then I really should aim for a year to read 25 books. [I have to remind myself of my own advice at times!]. If I achieve the goal before the end of the year, then awesome! I will feel super successful and may even throw in an extra bonus book! I would rather have that feeling than of a quitter. Hard truth! The important note here is to try to avoid quitting! Adjust your goals instead. It’s ok to adjust the goal based on new learnings. The important thing is to keep going. "Our brains are hardwired to be confident about our abilities and chances of success.” Jon Acuff, author of Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done Fun Fact: National Quitters Day is two weeks after New Year’s Resolutions are made. I'm not sure this is exactly a 'fun' fact, but it is indeed a fact. In my experience coaching over 70,000 leaders on setting and achieving goals, it takes 3 weeks to establish a new routine to help you achieve your goals. Push through the first 3 weeks and it will start to feel easier. It will not become a habit yet, and quite frankly, it may never become a habit. That’s ok. Focus on building successful routines. Building routines will help you build eventually sticky habits. You've Got This! Go back to your goal and make a few adjustments based on your recent achievements, or misses. Put a number to it and give yourself the realistic grace of extending the deadline. And, keep going! You've got this!

  • What Game Are You Playing?

    How to increase goal achievement by turning it into a game. When you are looking to set new goals for yourself, an important question to ask yourself is "What Game Am I Playing?" When a goal is framed as a game, it increases our likelihood of achieving that goal by helping you: Pick the 'right game.' Identify how to win. What are the ground rules, and what does success look like? Find a way to keep score by putting a number to it to track progress. Build a consistent training plan strategy. Build your support team. Over the next five weeks, I'll go into detail about each of these components and share tactics to help you identify what game you are playing and how to win your game. First things first, let's talk about Picking the 'Right Game.' Many times, we select a goal that we feel we MUST do. Perhaps we've tried to do it multiple times but failed. Perhaps it's something somebody told us we should do or that someone else is doing and we want to join in. Whatever the case is, if we don't WANT to do it, that's the first sign we will lose motivation quickly. To ensure you are selecting goals that you want to do and that are meaningful to you, try one of these tactics to help you narrow down your goal(s). If you don't have a clue on what you want to focus on, or if you aren't sure if you are playing the right game, follow these steps: Step #1 - Look back to look forward Look back over this past year, what meaningful accomplishments did you experience? Think through each month, what happened in that month that you accomplished, completed, built, established, connected with, etc. Consider any setbacks, what were you able to re-establish, re-connect, re-build, etc. Step #2 - Identify Top 5 Of the items you identified in Step 1, circle the top 5 that you are most proud of. You now have new benchmarks to compete with yourself to improve upon. Can you one-up yourself? If you don’t have an item that you are most proud of, that’s ok, this is your year to create one, the next few steps will help. Step #3 - Identify any gaps Brainstorm time - are there any gaps in what you have identified as accomplishments and successes over this past year? Is there anything you wish you were able to do that you were unable to, for whatever reason? Answer these questions: Now that I'm looking back, I should have done_____________________. I wish I had done ______________________. Step #4 - Benchmark and look forward Looking forward, what would you like to accomplish by the end of the year? Consider your Top 5 accomplishments, do you want to repeat or beat any? Look at your gaps, do you want to focus on any of those? What other goals do you have in mind? Step #5 - Make it sticky For a goal to stick, you must see and feel the meaning and value of it. Look at your list in Step 4, read each item again. As you read them, pay close attention to your reactions. If any item feels immediately boring, uninspiring, unmotivating, or feels too much like an obligation that you 'should' do, put a mark next to it. Another way to think about it, if you feel like rolling your eyes at any of your items, put a mark next to it. While you could focus on those items, they will not capture and sustain your full motivation and you will lose interest in accomplishing it as a goal. Identify the items that are most interesting to you. Step #6 - Narrow your focus Now it's time to narrow your focus and identify what one game you want to play. Look at the remaining items on your list. Answer the questions below and circle one item from your list. If I only had time to do one thing, which would I select? Which do I see as the most important, most valuable to focus on? What’s the one thing I want to accomplish the most? Complete these brainstorming steps, and next week, I'll provide tactics to help you build your ground rules and determine what success looks like to you.

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