Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Willpower or Won't-power: Your Choice

At the age of 17 I asked my parents for a guitar. “No” they replied. “We bought you a piano (when I was 10) and you quit. You want to play guitar, you earn the money, buy the guitar and pay for the lessons.” I did earn the money, bought the guitar, taught myself how to play and had years of enjoyment. (I still play occasionally) But that “no” taught me more than just how to be stubborn. It taught me that if I want something I have to do the work to get it.

We live in a society that eschews delayed gratification. Everything is instant; instant food, cash, entertainment, etc. We get upset when the download speed of our computer or smart phone is not fast enough. Sadly this instant gratification has much to do with lack of success and achievement.
“Willpower is a muscle,” states psychologist Roy Baumeister in his latest book, Willpower. It gets depleted as we move through the day. The more we need to use it, it gradually weakens. Yet, it is willpower precisely that helps us complete assignments, run 10Ks, build houses, tend gardens, and do whatever else we want to accomplish in life. The challenge is that we live in a society and time where willpower is admired from a distance, but is not a constant in many of our lives. The good news from Baumeister is that when we use willpower over and over, we can strengthen it. The better news is that anywhere we practice willpower (e.g., making the bed every morning) it increases willpower in other areas.

Why does this matter to personal greatness? When I facilitate workshops on personal greatness what keeps most people from accomplishing their goals is that they aren’t willing to put in the work necessary to get things done. Though I know personally how daunting some goals seem, I’ve learned that giving up easily, or not starting at all is the surest way to guarantee that something won’t happen; that’s won’t-power. But making a choice to try, even if you might fail, provides a sense of accomplishment much deeper than just sitting and dreaming.

So, what happens when you hear “no” from someone, or even yourself? Do you become more determined to succeed, or just give up? Even trying a little to achieve what you want increases your willpower and it brings you one step closer to achieving what you hope to achieve.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Continuous Improvement (kaisen)

Are great individuals in a perpetual state of discomfort? Are they always looking for the next level to attain? These questions haunt me as I fly to Tokyo to facilitate a workshop for senior managers. I was reading a briefing sheet on interacting with Japanese in business. In the reading I came across Kaisen which is the Japanese concept of continuous improvement. Though I study and promote personal greatness, I wonder at the psychological toll of always thinking things are never good enough. Can an individual rest and be satisfied with what they have accomplished while pursuing their best? I believe so.

There is a balance that great individuals have, a creative tension that allows them to realize what they’ve accomplished yet simultaneously strive to achieve or be more. They can be comfortable in their own history, knowing that they have done what they needed to do in the past and simultaneously they long for a better future for themselves.

Many of us are too hard on ourselves. I know I am. Longing to achieve something, change our lives, make a breakthrough, or just be a better person, we don’t acknowledge who we are now and what we’ve done. Either we tend to live for the future of who we can or may be, or we give up, not wanting to live in the discomfort of realistically examining our lives. We just don’t look.

There is an old Latin phrase “En media stat virtus” or “virtue is found in the middle.” The balance can be found by loving ourselves for who we are right now with all of our flaws, foibles, folly, and success while gradually moving toward living out our personal greatness. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Yet the balance, once achieved, allows us to acknowledge the goodness of who we are, while still pursuing something more. It is the real continuous improvement and one that leads to personal greatness.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are You A Fish?

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. A. Einstein

Ever examined your life and thought you were a fish trying to climb a tree because that's what everyone told you to do? We live in a complex world that directs and pressures us from early childhood to live how society wants us to live and be what society wants us to be. Uncovering our own essence is not as easy as some might have us believe. Taking a few days to listen to our inner desires will not cast off decades of external pressure and allow us to shine in the unique light of who we really are. However, each of us does have unique gifts and talents we bring to the world. When we unleash our gifts, our lives and the lives of those around us, can be transformed.

Where do we begin? Well, the easiest way to begin is by examining our life and looking for those areas where we really shine, where we naturally enjoy doing something and we do it well. We might realize that we are a gifted listener, writer, friend, artist, or anything else. But the key is to realistically examine what we love to do and what transforms moments for us. Most likely that is our gift.

What next? Gradually we can start doing more and more of what we love and do well. Do it slowly, otherwise our family, friends and co-workers will wonder at the change in behavior, but commit to the change. Eventually we will find ourselves taking time daily to embrace our gift.

When we meet someone who has uncovered and uses their gift we know it. They live with energy and zeal, and they always try to be true to their gift. They don't try climbing trees, when they know they are a fish.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In a fog?

Walking along the boardwalk last week in Asbury Park, NJ I was enveloped by a dense fog rolling off the ocean. At times I could not see 15 feet in front of me and then it would clear a bit. The fog altered my vision, changed my direction and hindered a direct path to where I wanted to go.

Though the fog off the ocean was beautiful it reminded me of how we can be caught up in a personal fog obscuring who we really are from ourselves. Great individuals have a clarity and frankness about who they are, what they've accomplished and what they have to do next. One of the inhibitors of personal to many of us is that we don't really have a clear view of ourselves.

For some of us our "self-portrait" has been created by what others have told us. Outside perspective and feedback is important, but people also tend to tell others what they "should" do and how they "must" act. Taking on those demands we can mistakenly alter our own focus and clarity of who we are and what we are called to do. Additionally we can be our own fog machine. Being overly optimistic about our skills and abilities can hinder rather than help us.

Being totally honest with ourselves about our skills and abilities is a step toward our personal greatness. Once we look clearly at ourselves we understand the assets we have and also the liabilities, the strengths and weaknesses. That is when we can plan and move forward.

A foggy beach can be a peaceful experience, but not a foggy self-awareness. If we are honest with ourselves, we will be more at peace and be better able to focus on where we want to be and what we need to get there.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Take a Break. Achieve Greatness

Labor Day is past and most of us have returned to our rapid pace lives. But some of us never stopped or even slowed down. Though we are approximately 23rd in the world in productivity the United States is first in the least amount of vacation taken. Yet I'll be the first to admit that it feels good to accomplish things, to work hard and see something at the end of the day. Just sitting around is not my idea of a good time. And people always challenge me that you won't get to greatness by relaxing. Well, we might want to rethink that idea. I know. It seems crazy to encourage people to find their greatness on one hand and tell them to relax on the other. There is a place for both. And, there is some good evidence that relaxing, even in small amounts, can change our productivity. There is an article in the June 2010 issue of Educational Psychology that highlights a very interesting study. With exams approaching, G√ľnter Krampen, Ph.D. taught a group of students how to do a relaxation meditation. All of the students in each grade took the same exams and then were given 4 minutes to relax. At the end of the 4 minutes they could look over their writing one more time before handing it in. The group trained in relaxation mediation did better initially on the exam, but after using the 4 minutes for relaxation meditation, they made more corrections and better ones than those who were not taught relaxation meditation. Overall, they outperformed the control group significantly. The past few months have taught me something. I don't remember how to relax. Perhaps I knew it once, but I've forgotten it. Yet now, as I try to recover relaxation I am finding myself more productive, creative and less tense. So, getting to greatness by taking a break now and then... there's an idea to pursue.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Good Enough Is Not Enough

Two days ago I posted the following quote by Charles Kendall Adams on The Greatness Project Facebook page. "No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him or her: it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required, that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction." Yet we live in a society seemingly focused on delivering what is just good enough. Some people barely give what is expected of them, yet expect high praise or high pay in return.

For a moment think of those you've encountered in the past week who've gone over and above what they were supposed to do. Some of the waiters, delivery men, artisans, and professionals stand out in my memory because they didn't just offer what they were supposed to, they went above and beyond what was required.

Great individuals desire to pursue excellence and that desire drives them to outperform others rather than offer a mediocre service, product or effort. When you encounter them you are changed for the moment because you see the higher possibilities for yourself and everyone.

Perhaps the important question is how do people experience us? Do they experience someone who goes above and beyond and transforms the moment? I have found that when I give the extra effort in almost anything, whether or not someone notices, I feel the elation of giving it my best and not just giving up when it is good enough.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Latest Article on Positive Psychology News Daily

Though I wrote about the motivation of a child, Edward Deci's research can easily be applied to yourself, or your company. Click on the link Moving From "I Must..." to "I Want To." for the article, or go to www.positivepsychologynews.com. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

There's Got To Be a Morning After

Keeping healthy has been a life-long activity. But now that I'm 54 it takes on added importance and added challenge. I'm no olympic athlete, and not even a top amateur, but I'm consistent in my physical pursuits whether basketball, tennis, biking or running. What I've learned from great individuals is that they are consistent about practice and performance no matter what their area of focus. But sometimes it's just hard.

Yesterday I spent 7 hours cleaning out my basement. We rented a dumpster and loaded in all of the crap that had been left by the previous owners; doors, old wood, windows and much more. We filled the dumpster in one day! Okay, then comes this morning. Getting out of bed I could hardly move. I thought about running and thought "no way." But finally I put on my sneakers and said to myself, "at least go for a good walk." About halfway through the walk I felt limber enough that I started running. I was surprised at how good I felt afterward.

What I've learned is that if you want to be great, heck, if you even just want to be good, consistency matters. But what really helps is to do something, anything, that moves you toward whatever you want to be good at. And, let's face it, for all of us there are those mornings when we don't feel like doing anything. But you know what? Lace up the sneakers, pick up the pen, sit down at the piano and just start. Even doing a little will make you feel much better and you will be better for it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Little "p" Passion

"Follow your passion." Isn't that the advice we hear from so many motivational speakers? Well, the research does support the fact that individuals who have Passion for what they do tend to outperform others. But how do we discover our Passion? I've found it's not as easy as it's made out to be. I keep waiting for some sort of sign, a billboard would be nice, that says "Scott, here is your Passion for your life." Then I'd be all set. What I believe is that we won't find it, we have to choose it. So, how do we go about choosing our life's Passion? Choose little passions.

All of us know what we love to do. Come on, with a little thought, everyone of us can think of something we love to to. What I believe is that we all have little "p" passions. These are things we love to do, but they aren't big enough to be our overall goal in life. However I think they can lead us to our life Passion. Choose one passion each day to focus on and see how your day changes. Today I'm focusing on enjoying each moment. It is a passion of mine though I'm not too good at it. But I find when I focus on this passion, I'm more motivated throughout my day. And it's telling me more about how I want to live my life. Maybe I'll find my big Passion. For today, the little passion is enough.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I've Got Some Bad News That is Good News

Last week I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a workshop on story-telling as a business strategy. It is amazing how people say they want feedback, but only with a certain focus. Though I try to maximize performance by the feedback I provide, I have finally learned that I've got to change my language so people will hear what they need to do to be successful.

In the session we started by training participants on how to create and tell the best business stories. Subsequently we trained them to be trainers in their respective regions. Within the process we required them to "teach back" what they had learned from us. As the "expert" they wanted me to give them feedback on how they did. I identified what they had done right and encouraged them to continue to do what they were doing. Their comment at the end of the day was "We wish we had more critical feedback."

Why do people only think that feedback is valuable if it is critical; not just critical, but negatively critical? The studies point to maximizing success by identifying what is going well, identifying why it is going well and making sure more of the success factors happen. All of that feedback is about good news. Yet it seems difficult to hear it. Our ears don't hear positive feedback as "critical" and yet it is critical to success. Just focusing on what is going wrong only promotes average behavior. The highest achievement comes from analyzing and maximizing successes.

So, two things have to happen. The first is that all of us, myself included, have to start hearing positive feedback as critical; it is critical to optimum success. As for me, and those of us asked to give feedback, I'm going to start telling people "This is critical. You're not doing enough of (fill this in with the successful behavior). Start doing it more." Maybe if I say the good news as bad news, they might listen to the feedback and do something different. Or not.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Taking Strengths Theory to The Next Level

This article has been published in Positive Psychology News Daily (www.positivepsychologynews.com) and is a review of a new article on strengths theory.

Early in 2001 I picked up what was then a brand new book by Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths. Immediately upon reading it I was hooked on strengths theory. Over the past 10 years as an enthusiast and a practitioner, I’ve run workshops, coached people, and continued reading anything about strengths. I wrote an article recently for PositivePsychologyNews.com about what I’ve learned from practice, "What Do You Do With a Strengths Assessment?"

Now Robert Biswas-Diener, Todd Kashdan, and Gurpal Minhas are about to take strengths theory to the next level with a new article titled A Dynamic Approach to Psychological Strengths Development and Intervention scheduled for publication in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Having had the privilege of reading an early copy, I can tell you that it is worth reading.

The authors begin with an excellent summary of the research on strengths theory. Their focus turns quickly to the current state of strengths interventions and the practitioners who are applying strengths’ assessments in their professional capacities. Though the authors acknowledge practitioners as the front line for applying strengths theory, they caution that both the offering of theory and the interventions themselves need to be properly applied, and both need to be accompanied by data collection to evaluate their efficacy.

Through an admittedly limited survey of practitioners, the authors identify the “identify and use” approach as the one most used by practitioners of strengths assessments. That is, practitioners first help clients identify their strengths and then conduct dialogues about how to use them. Though they believe the identify and use approach is practical, they advocate a more general “strengths development“ approach that will serve Positive Psychology and our clients better.

Strengths Ascent: Fixed or Not?

A major pillar of the strengths development approach is the shift from a trait-like concept of strengths to a dynamic approach. They point out that the current trait-like model states that strengths are fixed across time and situations, but they argue that a more nuanced approach is necessary to understand strengths. The common understanding of strengths as trait-like runs in opposition to the idea that strengths can be developed. They claim that the movement to a dynamic model is not a radical departure from strengths theory, but instead an extension based on new research about strengths. Their reference list is a good place to start exploring the new research.

Because of this shift in theory, Diener, Kashdan and Minhas suggest to practitioners that we offer a theoretically integrated approach to strengths development that goes beyond the common ways to develop strengths (become better at them, use them more, know when to use them). They suggest a change of focus from usage of strengths to cultivation of strengths so that clients come to fully understand the benefits, liabilities, and ideal application of strengths.

Strengths in Isolation

The authors caution that much of current practice seems to isolate individual strengths. For example, the identification of a “top strength” tends to imply that strengths exist divorced from other internal and social factors. I liked the following five concepts that they offer to practitioners and strengths enthusiasts for increasing the effectiveness of strengths interventions.

1.Strengths tilt: A key factor in maximizing strengths is the interest or natural leaning of the individual. By understanding not only the strengths of an individual, but also their interests, there is a greater possibility of full manifestation of strengths.

2.Strengths constellations: It is important to examine the ways that pairs or groups of strengths work effectively in tandem that are unique to each person. These constellations of strengths can add a deeper level of understanding to strengths theory.

3.Strengths blindness: Some individuals can have blindness when it comes to some of their strengths because they assume the similarity of everyone else. The authors suggest this as an interesting area of research. Are there, for example, strengths that are more likely to be overlooked than others? Are people, for example, more like to see their own humor and spirituality than their kindness, courage, or curiosity? The authors suggest in personal coaching, it is important to identify personal blind spots so that strengths aren’t overlooked.

4.Strengths sensitivity: The emphasis on strengths might make people more psychologically vulnerable to failure than they might otherwise be. Practitioners need to be aware of this.

5.The social costs of strengths: The overuse of a strength can have negative effects on others. There needs to be awareness about how the usage of strengths will impact others so that the person can judge when to use the strength or not.
Biswas-Diener, Kashdan, and Minhas are offering a more thoughtful, nuanced approach to applying strengths theory. They willingly admit where more data is needed, but they want to engage individuals and practitioners in developing a more complete research base that will take strengths theory to the next level. Look for the article in The Journal of Positive Psychology.


Buckingham, M. & Clifton, D.O. (2001). Now, Discover Your Strengths. New York: The Free Press.

Biswas-Diener, R., Kashdan, T. B., & Minhas, G. (in press). A Dynamic Approach to Psychological Strengths Development and Intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Use Your Power For Good

“If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all.” How many of us grew up hearing this dictum? It contains an important reminder that one of the most powerful abilities we have is our ability to communicate. With this ability we can lift people up, or keep them down; we can begin a movement, or crush a reputation; we can even encourage ourselves, or determine our own defeat. And with the ability to transmit our message to everyone on the internet, it becomes even more essential to mind what we communicate. The old rule of thumb was that if you had a bad experience you told approximately 12 people. A relatively conservative estimate states that now when we lodge a complaint on the internet, we communicate it to at least 4,000 people. So it is essential we use this power of communication for good, not for evil.

I was reminded of the power of communication last week when I was at a small Italian restaurant in Stamford, Connecticut. Immediately after being seated I realized that directly to my right, at a table with some friends, sat Frank and Kathy Lee Gifford. Not being a celebrity hound I just set out to enjoy my meal and allow them to enjoy theirs. However, because of the proximity of the tables I realized that whether I liked it or not, I could hear every bit of their conversation. This is when I was reminded of the power of communication. They didn’t know who I was. It would have been easy for me to record their personal quotes about religion, politics and family stories and place them on the internet for everyone to read. Not that they said anything wrong, but any quote can be taken out of context. There are individuals who live off of their proximity to the rich and famous, and those who live off mud-slinging. This does not lead anyone to personal fulfillment or greatness, but only to anger or personal embarrassment. It is a misuse of the power of communication.

The words we use or write about others, and even the words we speak to ourselves have the power to lift up, encourage and allow ourselves and others to achieve our own personal greatness. We have a power that creates profound change in people’s lives and can elevate even people who have never heard something positive about themselves. That power has been magnified by the internet.

From the time we were little children, many of us read stories or watched movies about heroes with super powers or abilities. Yet, we all have an amazing power to heal and lift up others. And similar to many super heroes there is a dark side to our power of communication; we can also destroy lives. So, to all of you super heroes out there, please use your power for good, to lift up others and help them to achieve their potential.

Oh, and as for Frank and Kathy Lee, they are really nice people.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Go On, Rock the Boat!!

A few days ago I received a call from a manager I coached in the past. He wanted my advice on a work situation. He found himself with an opportunity to apply for a higher position in his current company, but was afraid of the negative reaction of his current boss (who is a bit unpredictable). Though he wanted the job and believed he had the credentials and experience to handle it, he was concerned about his unpredictable boss and didn't want to "rock the boat."

How many of us have been in similar situations where we were concerned about what others might think or do in reaction to our choice to move ahead or grow? When I ask audiences how many of them are conflict avoiders the majority usually raise their hands. Yet a more subtle challenge is that many of us are change avoiders. We love the regularity of our lives and willingly put up with some fairly untenable situations because we are unwilling to change. Sometimes we are uncertain about the future, but many times we know our growth will challenge our peers at work, or our relationship at home. So the old adage "s#*t is warm" applies since many of us willingly put up with bad situations because we are unwilling to face the uncertainty or the people who might be upset with the change. We are not willing to rock the boat.

Okay, let's face it, the only time a boat is not rocking is when it is in dry dock and not going anywhere. If you want to move forward, or move at all, the boat will rock. So given that, how do we create the best change we can?

First, identify where you want to go. This has to be a positive destination. I've consulted with people who want to escape a bad situation, but running away is not a direction. It helps when people can identify where they want to go.

Second, identify all the things that could get in your way as you move toward the new goal. These obstacles include your own internal challenges (fear, lack of confidence, etc) as well as people and situations that might challenge you. Don't try to fix any of these challenges, just identify them.

Third, envision your ultimate goal. What does it look like ideally? What will it feel like when you get there? Be as specific as possible.

Fourth, start moving toward your goal and KNOW that the boat will rock. But you will be moving and once you are moving toward a goal it is easier to deal with the obstacles along the way.

The manager who called me realized that his fear of rocking the boat was keeping him from moving toward what he knew he could do. He acknowledged that applying for the job might mean leaving the company if his supervisor got in the way, but ultimately realized he would be resigned to years of misery if he didn't make the move.

For many of us rocking the boat is not a pleasant idea. But if we examine our lives, most of us have rocked the boat in different ways every time we grew, succeeded and moved on. We did it, and we survived. So, go on. Rock the boat. You'll get somewhere.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dream Big and Lower Your Expectations

"What do you do when you have no dreams?" That question arose in the middle of a dialogue about greatness during a recent leadership session in New York City. Probing deeper I discovered that this manager and others believed they hadn't quite found their personal greatness because they thought that once they did find it, they would be happy and their life complete. Since all of them struggled in some way they figured it was because they had not found their true greatness.

Myriad books, TV shows, magazines and speakers regale us with stories of individuals who have given up everything to follow their passion and now are completely happy. They foist the idea that if we choose correctly in our life, work, relationships, food, etc. we too can be completely happy. That is not true; we are human and this is earth, not heaven.

The pursuit of personal greatness, while fulfilling, is work. Long days and nights are required and there are intense times of struggle. Though the pursuit is for something you love, it is still work. The challenge is that we have developed expectations (because of media hype) that we can choose correctly and be happy.

So last week I contacted Dr. Barry Schwartz author of "The Paradox of Choice." He reminded me of two key findings in his research. The first is that in America today we have tremendous choice of who we can be, what we can do and what we can buy. However contrary to making us happier, we are paralyzed by too many choices. Second he found that because we have so much choice, we have the expectation that the "right" choice will make us happy and be perfect. Our expectations far outweigh the reality. His suggestion is that we have to narrow our number of choices and lower our expectations.

In our study, individuals who achieve personal greatness still dream big, but they focus their attention on one or two areas; they don't try to achieve greatness in everything. Also, they hold a realistic outlook knowing that personal greatness is hard work and something that has to be worked at everyday. People often ask me if I'm disappointed when I don't achieve a goal I'm shooting for, but I find that I love shooting for the stars because at least that way I get off the ground.

So, dream big, but lower your expectations. You will find that pursuing your personal greatness is still a struggle, but you will enjoy it more.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Playing Around

When I was in college I had a nerf basketball hoop on the back of my door. In the middle of studying for an exam, or writing a paper, I'd stop for a while and just shoot baskets and get lost in the fun of bouncing a ball off my "backboard" door. Eventually I'd return to studying or writing my paper feeling renewed and refreshed. Yep, I was playing around.

Reading the NY Times article I posted recently on The Greatness Project Facebook page about the psychological benefits of play caused me to assess my own uber-focus on achievement. If I'm being honest, I've cut out almost all of the play in my life. Oh sure, I say I have fun. But do I do something just for the fun of it? Not really. Everything in my life has some sort of achievement as the goal. Working out, writing, reading, all have goals attached to them so I can "feel" productive. Doing nothing for the sake of doing nothing has been effectively pushed out of my life.

But what do I really gain? I miss the times of regeneration and renewal, times of wandering reflection just sitting and doing nothing. I'm so caught up in productivity that even if I give time over to play it is regulated by a strict schedule.

Which will lead to personal greatness: continuous productivity or occasion play? I don't know. Reading about great individuals they seemed to have a single-mindedness that drove them even to the point of exhaustion. But is that really personal greatness? Play unleashes creativity and re-energizes the soul. How can that be bad on the road to personal greatness?

I hope that you make opportunities to play, relax and reflect. I'm beginning to believe it is essential to life balance. Whatever you do, take time to play. As for me, I'm going out and buying a new nerf basketball set.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pickup Basketball, Grit and Greatness

Ever play pickup basketball? You go to a gym, meet people, pick up teams and play. You never know who you will get on your team, or how your team will do and it changes every time. Last night I was reminded of a critical factor in greatness that any of us can leverage: grit.

Arriving early I was the tenth player so we chose teams and started playing. Since there is only one court, if you win you stay on. As the game progressed more players started arriving at the gym. I knew them. They were bigger, stronger, and more talented than anyone we had on our team. Though we won the first game I thought our time on the court might be short lived. However we won the next five games against far superior teams until we finally lost by a point (I think we were exhausted by that time). Why did we do so well? Our team worked harder, fought harder and wanted to prove ourselves much more than the other teams.

Research on grit, which is perseverance in the face of obstacles, has proven to succeed over talent and IQ. Our cultural challenge is that many of us want instant gratification. Instant gratification will never lead the way to greatness. Those who are willing to continue in the face of obstacles fight against challenges and even fight against their own lethargy will succeed in whatever they want to achieve.

So, what do you want to achieve? What are you doing about it on a daily basis? What do you do when you encounter obstacles? The answers to these questions reveal the likelihood of your success. Any of us can succeed, but it may not happen tomorrow, or the day after, or for quite a while. But if you are willing to make the journey, you may find your success at the end of the road.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Do You Have Attention Surplus Disorder?

Night cancer. Ever had it? Sure you have. Those are the nights when you can't sleep and every pain grows worse and worse until you wonder if you will make it to the doctor or they will find you dead, and your worries about the job, or the bills, or the kids seem insurmountable. Yet, in the morning and as the day gets going, you wonder why you were worried so much the night before. Yep, we jokingly call it "night cancer" but it is all about where we choose to focus our attention and that has a lot to do with how we gain or lose our energy during the day and how we interact with the world around us.

Reading an article on www.positivepsychologynews.com I saw a quote from Marcus Buckingham that caught my eye, "attention amplifies everything." The more we pay attention to something eventually everything else fades until that is the only thing visible. It could be called Attention Surplus Disorder. So what happens when we focus our attention?

We are an age of uber-information. Bombarded with news and updates all day, we don't even brake for braking news because it is part of our lives. Yet where does all this information, mostly negative, get us? It creates a state of fear. Learning of the latest shooting, accident, or impending storm and being bombarded with constant updates our typical reactions are flight, fight or freeze. Subsequently our attention amplifies the threat and it looms larger than it might in reality. We do the same with any information about us so that "constructive feedback" grows monstrous until we believe we will be fired, or a snippy reply means that a friend, who we thought liked us, hates us.

Let's do a reality check. We need to be mindful threats against us, and to keep informed. But let's keep this in balance because the quickest way to squelch any attempt at achieving potential is to think that the entire environment around us is so threatening that we have to pull into survival mode.

Occasionally paying attention to the good news around us creates balance, like looking for the heros in current situations, or searching for stories where people helped others. Attention to these stories encourages and inspire us to the point that we believe we can do something similar. Even paying attention to a compliment and not ignoring it can be a wonderfully energizing moment in a day.

"Attention amplifies everything." So, where are you placing your attention during the day and is it helping you or inhibiting you at being your best? Shift your attention to what is good, those you love, or the good things in you and watch what happens to the good in your life. It gets amplified.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Time to Stop Making New Year's Resolutions

Maybe I’m wrong. Okay, that’s not easy for me to admit. But for years I’ve been badgering people to create specific, short term goals to carry them to success especially at the New Year. Why? Because that’s what I do; that’s what works for me. Reading the research I’ve helped individuals create goals have been driven from what they wanted (intrinsic) and not what others wanted for them (extrinsic). I’ve helped them create benchmarks along the way to celebrate success and see that they are achieving their goals. And yes, some of them achieve their goals… only about 10 percent.

Over the past two weeks before and since the New Year, I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read about goal setting and the optimal way to succeed and achieve your goals. But my experience has been that by March most people can’t even remember the New Year’s goals they set, let alone achieved them. So, I researched how many people actually achieve the goals they write down. In all of the studies I read, it runs between 8 and 12 percent. Even on the high side that leaves a supposed 88 percent who aren’t achieving their goals. That’s when I thought, perhaps I’m wrong.

For those of us who love lists and goals to cross off, the concept of a New Year’s Resolution is perfect. We make our lists, and create attainable goals and cross them off as we achieve them. However, we are only a small percentage of the population. Yet with 88 percent of the population not achieving their New Year’s goals the world does not come to a stand-still. People go to work, are productive, get raises, raise children, buy houses and achieve things. What are they doing if they are not writing lists? That is the key to understanding success.

I’m discovering that some people, to achieve a goal, have to take the time and identify what they love about something they want to achieve. When they do so, they find that the achievement almost takes care of itself; they love working toward success. Still some people succeed when they have others joining them in the achievement, even just to cheer them on. They like accountability to others and want to talk about where they are on their journey and what the challenges and success are. Still others are happy to move in a general direction, i.e., moving up the corporate ladder or raising a family, and are very adept at dealing with the next stage of their overarching goal. Everyone is different in how they approach achievement and there is no magic on New Year’s Day that makes resolutions automatically come true.

The most important question is how do you succeed? Think of a time when you wanted to achieve something and you did. What did you do? How did you motivate yourself? What did you do to get through the difficult times? Because I’m convinced that success for many people is not just about creating goals, but identifying how you personally have achieved success in the past and applying the same personal process in the future.