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Lessons From American History

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you’re probably pretty good at handling most of what life throws at you. Most of the time you can figure it out, make it happen, and get the job done. What about those times when you’re not so motivated? You know, you’re blindsided by a challenging event that you normally would handle with ease, but it occurs on a day when you just don’t have it. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always give us time to warm up, ease into the task, and take it on. Sometimes you just have to suit up quickly and get into it. How can we be ready for situations like these?

My first career was an education as a high school social studies teacher. I taught a number of courses, one of my favorites being United States History. US history is filled with examples of the American people taking on challenges successfully with little preparation. One of the best examples is the quick mobilization and successful conclusion to our nation’s involvement in World War I. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. The war ended on November 11, 1918, despite the fact that the United States was ill prepared to take part in a major conflict on another continent. The positive attitude and willingness of the American military will serve as our example.

pershingDuring World War I the armed forces of the United States were known as the American Expeditionary Force, or the AEF. President Woodrow Wilson gave command of the AEF to Major General John J. Pershing, a lantern jawed, 5’10,” 170 pound bundle of energy and can do attitude. It was Pershing’s job to take a ragtag group of farm boys and city slickers and whip them into fighting shape as soon as possible. Pershing’s nickname was “Black Jack Pershing,” which ought to give you an idea about his motivation. Within seven months the AEF had arrived in Europe and the tide turned, ultimately leading to victory for the Allied side.

I am a big believer in simple solutions for my coaching and psychotherapy clients. I like to use acronyms that are easily remembered to help initiate behavioral changes in real-time. When facing a task that requires a can do attitude, particularly if your attitude and energy level is a little bit on the low side, remembering the acronym AEF can help. Here is how:
A = Attitude. The first step is to check your attitude. Ask yourself, “What’s my attitude?” Getting clear on how you are thinking goes a long way toward determining whether or not you will be successful. Proper questioning allows you to step away from the emotional reactivity that can be counterproductive and defeating, and switching to a more positive, realistic way of viewing the situation.
Label your attitude with a number. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident am I that I can succeed at this? What would I have to think, do, or be in order to make my attitude a 10?”
Get clear on what you are feeling. Are you angry, or are your feelings hurt? Are you overwhelmed, or do you need to break down the challenge into manageable chunks that you digest one task at a time? This isn’t merely the power of positive thinking that we’re talking about here, it’s about breaking things down and performing at an optimal level. Checking your attitude can allow you to succeed when you otherwise may needlessly fail.

E = Energy. What is your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy with regard to this task?LOMBARDI 001 Marshaling all your energy on these four levels can create and indomitable force at times. Getting all your energy going in the same direction can allow you to do unbelievable things. We’ve all heard stories such as the 110 pound mother lifting the automobile to rescue her child, or the 78-year-old man who successfully defended himself from being mugged, and other such stories. These things are possible when these four types of energy are aligned.
I often think of the Vince Lombardi quote, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” when energy needs to be rallied. Checking your energy and getting it going in the right direction is vital.

F = Focus. What am I focusing on? What am I thinking about, visualizing, and dwelling on? Am I focusing on how I can’t do it, or am I focusing on how I can? The reality of our thoughts is that we tend to get what we focus on. Our brains are wired to recognize patterns. This reality allows us to make sense of our environment. We usually get the result that we are focusing on.
A useful saying in this situation is, “Success flows were focus goes.” What you attend to, particularly when challenged, is usually where you are going to end up.

Remembering the acronym AEF, and the story of the United States military during the First World War can give some lessons that are useful outside of the classroom. Learn to lead your own forces.

“A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary, an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops.”- General John J. Pershing

As you were!

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Eating Life’s Frogs

“If you have two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.”-Brian Tracy

A few years ago, there was a popular reality TV show called “Fear Factor.” In the show contestants, frogseeking their 15 minutes of fame, engaged in a variety of challenges designed to show their ability to conquer their fears. Some of the challenges, like rock climbing, rope swings, and skydiving, put them in physical danger. Other challenges, such as eating worms, bugs, snakes, and other such disgusting things, challenged their ability to overcome gustatory cultural norms. These grossly disgusting exhibitions provide some secrets for how we can meet some of life’s challenges more successfully.

I recently came across a book on goal setting called, “Eat that Frog: Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time,” written by efficiency expert Brian Tracy. The book contains the typical, yet sound, advice for setting and attaining goals. There is, however, one difference in Tracy’s theories: we should start with the biggest and most difficult task first and continue on from there. His idea is that once the most difficult task has been accomplished, then the rest becomes a downhill, easier process. Tracy stresses that the most important thing is to start, and start immediately.

Tracy’s second rule is, “If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.” He suggests that we all develop a lifelong habit of tackling the day’s most difficult task first thing in the morning. By doing so the day has momentum, and already gets categorized in your mind as being a success. The book is available on Amazon, and if you are too lazy, (efficient?), to read the entire book, you can obtain a synopsis of the book online. It’s a good read, with a lot of practical advice. His first two rules are gems, and worth remembering and living by.

America’s first self-help author, Napoleon Hill, had another quote worth living by. Hill stated that, “There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants and a burning desire to achieve it.” Once you find what that purpose is, I’m sure you’ll notice that your goal has a few ugly frogs sitting in front of it, guarding it and keeping you from reaching it. Tracy’s advice? Pick the uglier frog and eat that first, preferably first thing in the morning. This builds momentum, empowerment, and confidence, because as the day goes on the frogs get better looking and more digestible.

fearA few years ago, I read a autobiography of renowned boxing trainer, Teddy Atlas. Atlas was the trainer and mentor for a number of the best fighters and champions of the 1980s and 90s such as Mike Tyson, Michael Moorer, and Barry McGuigan. While Atlas certainly had technical advice to give his fighters, his strongest suit was his ability to motivate and inspire these athletes to conquer their fears. His theory of how to deal with fear was very similar to Brian Tracy’s- do what you are most afraid of first, get it out of the way, and it’s over. The fear may not be gone entirely, but it is now under your control. He would tell his fighters that carrying fear was much like the Chinese water torture of the mind. Fear would drip, drip, drip, and eventually destroy you. Atlas would tell his fighters to take on the fear by doing the very thing that they were most fearful of. Doing it sooner, rather than later, would put the biggest challenge behind you. Atlas, although no psychologist, certainly understood the nature of fear and doubt, and the paralyzing way that it can impact human performance.

If you used to watch “Fear Factor” on TV, then you probably remember that those that were more wormsuccessful at eating the disgusting things that were part of the challenges were those that simply dug in, shoved the stuff into their mouth, and swallowed it quickly. Some even smiled from ear to ear after doing so. No thought, no contemplation, a “just do, grasshopper,” attitude and it was over. Those who failed were those who overthought the process, allowing their disgust to build, and usually vomited right after they started to dig in. They then got ridiculed by Joe Rogan, and their 15 minutes of fame were over.

Next time you are planning a project, or taking on a challenging task at work or in your life ask yourself, “Where are the frogs here?” Decide which is the ugliest and eat it first, regardless of where it seems to fit in the project’s, grand scheme. Once it’s eaten, things can only get easier.

“Do or not do… there is no try.”-Yoda

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What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

“What gets measured, gets managed.”-Peter Drucker

Denial is one of the most basic human defense mechanisms. Everyone does it, all the while denying that we do. We learn the usefulness of this logic as young children when we engage in avoidance behaviors toUntitled-1 avoid confronting our fears. We do things like pull the covers over our heads while sleeping, because if I can’t see the monster he can see me. As teenagers, the patterns of denial continue. We truly don’t know how we got that F on our report card sophomore year. And denial continues in adulthood. Adult denial takes on a more insidious tone because we deny that we even do it.

Adult denial continues as a lifelong habit. The irony of adult denial is that it is easily broken down, and when it is people usually have some major breakthroughs in all areas of their lives. Behavioral psychology has proven in studies over and over again that the simple act of paying attention to something causes a person to improve in those areas-almost without any extra effort. Behavioral psychology is never concerned with why someone does what they do. The internal and underlying motives are not important. What is important are results and outcomes. When a therapist or coach convinces a client to identify counterproductive behaviors and pay attention to them, the behavior, almost miraculously, becomes self correcting.

game-film1-300x225Auto correcting of behavior is the reason that, in athletics, videotaping practice or game performance is so beneficial. Seeing yourself clearly allows you to make corrections. Many people are inspired to lose weight and get back into shape because of the dislike they had for their own image in a full-length mirror. Commercial gyms usually have wall to wall mirrors. The reason for the mirrors is not so that you can check out that girl at the squat rack, they are there so you can make corrections to your form and gauge your improvement.

When a person decides that they want to make a change in some area, and begin to record, track, and measure, positive changes occur. In some cases, the change takes place without any effort. All that is necessary is a willingness to put aside denial and go in the complete, opposite direction by recording and noticing the very behavior or condition that you have been denying.

Here are some examples:
1. Weight loss-It has been proven time and time again that people who weigh themselves daily tend to maintain ideal weight. In the spirit of behavioral psychology, the reasons for this do not have to be known, it’s just the way it is. If you are desire to lose weight, get out of denial aisle and start weighing yourself every day.
2. Finances-The first step towards getting your financial life under control is to track your spending, all of it. Doing this for 30 days can be an eye-opener. That seemingly innocent coffee run that you go on every day becomes $150 at the end of the month. The same is true for that “just a few scratch tickets” that you play in the state lottery, another $150. You get the idea.
3. To Do Lists-This is one of the easiest ways to make improvements. We don’t do this because we pride0917p5-The-Most-Interesting-Man-in-the-World ourselves on being “spontaneous,” and in the moment. We think of ourselves as being action oriented, and flexible, kind of like the “Most interesting Man in the World,” in the Dos Equis commercial on TV. Maintaining this as a self image is almost a guarantee that you will stay thirsty, my friend. A brief, yet definitive, checklist of things to do on a daily basis can create incredible and powerful change.
4. Recording negative health habits-If you are a smoker and are trying to quit, count the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. You may find that, “Just half a pack” is really more like 15. If you, “just have a little chocolate once in a while,” you may find that you are consuming 300 calories of chocolate every day. In many areas of our lives the truth hurts, but it may also set you free.
5. Recording positive habits-Part of denial is to exaggerate positive things that we believe we are doing. Do you really “always” kiss your spouse goodbye in the morning? Do you “always” praise your children for positive behavior? How often are you really working out, is it really three days a week? Be brave, and start noticing how true self statements such as these actually are.

I’m sure that you’re starting to get the idea presented here. We think that we’re doing a lot of things that we are not, and vice versa. On a lot of levels, we don’t really want to know what we are actually doing because we have become content to fool ourselves. The folly of this is that we are protecting ourselves, and our own ego, from us. Kind of foolish isn’t it? Yet we all do it, some more than others.

That which gets measured, is more likely to be managed. In many cases no effort and nothing else is required to create change, the mere act of noticing begins to create momentum in a positive direction. Begin to pay attention to your behavior, record and measure, and pay attention to the positive results.

“You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”-Dr. Phil

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Kaizen For Habit Change

“A journey of 1000 miles begins with but a single step.”-Lao Tzu

Homeostasis is the tendency of all things in nature to return to their original state or condition. It is the Yin/Yang of all existence. Ice will eventually melt and returned to the air temperature, matter eventually disintegrates and returns to its elemental state. In humans, it’s the reason that most diets fail, and that most personal goals never get realized. There is, however, a fair amount of predictability with this process when it comes to humans.

When we set goals for ourselves of any type, and there is doubt in our minds that we can attain it, we run the risk of failure. We go back to the way things were, back to a homeostatic state. We literally scare 090106-toyota-hmed-6a.grid-6x2ourselves into thinking that it’s not possible. There is a way to trick yourself into believing that you can do whatever the task you’ve chosen is. The answer lies within the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophical concept for constant, continuous, and gradual improvement. It was first applied to Japanese industrial practices in the postwar 1950s. It was the driving force behind the rise of Toyota, Honda, Sony, and most successful Japanese industries. Since the 1990s it has been applied to personal development by American self help authors such as Robert Mauer and Anthony Robbins. Kaizen is a useful philosophy that has the ability to help people attain goals due to the systematic and persistent approach that it advocates.

Principles of kaizen are surprisingly easy to implement. You look at a task or goal and break it down intobabysteps-300x242 incremental, almost unnoticeable, chunks. Baby steps. Remember the 1991, comedy classic “What about Bob?” starring Bill Murray? Bob’s idea, baby steps, was a parody of kaizen. The movie was funny, and the idea seemed obvious. The idea, however, does work.

Let’s walk through a few examples of how kaizen can be implemented in your life:
You decide that you want to wake up an hour earlier each day. If you decide to do this all at once you probably will end up failing. Those first few days when you drag yourself out of bed at the sound of the alarm are going to be miserable. You’ll slog through a couple of days as doubt and fatigue began to set in. You will eventually give up as the combination of a tired body and doubting mind convince you that you can’t do. Kaizen would suggest that you break this down into baby steps that are barely noticeable, for example two minutes earlier each day. Getting out of bed two minutes early per day will allow you to comfortably attain your goal of rising an hour early in 30 days. Breaking it down in this manner eliminates the self-doubt that otherwise would have sabotaged this plan.

You decide that you are going to,”get in shape.” You start thinking of getting back to your high school weight, and embark on a plan that you are going to go to the gym three times per week after work. You fat-man-painstart out all gung ho, but eventually fatigue, work, muscle soreness, and family obligations set in-surprise, surprise-and you give up. The principle of kaizen would break exercise down into miniscule bits. Instead of going to the gym, kaizen would suggest that you begin to exercise at home during one minute commercial breaks of your favorite TV show or newscast. These 60 to 90 second bouts of exercise amounts to less than five minutes per day but are laying the groundwork for success. Your mind will tell you that the five minutes per day is not helping, but it is. In three weeks you begin to add to this and the five minutes becomes 15, three weeks after that you’re up to 30 minutes, and your mind accepts the process without self-doubt and self-defeating internal dialogue. The problem with the original plan was that it was not convenient enough. The health club industry makes its money from January 1 to March 1 each year. People think that “This is the year that I get back in shape.” The plan to go to the gym three times per week after work sounds great until reality sets in. Breaking the task down into incremental baby steps allows one to almost lull themselves into improved physical condition.

Let’s say a family vacation is in the works. Instead of planning for the vacation, it makes more sense to plan how to pay for it. Setting aside small sums of money weekly over the course of an entire year can painlessly allow you to do this. Some of you may remember the concept that some banks had years ago called the Christmas Club in which the bank automatically deducted a small sum of money each week and put it into an account which was later used for Christmas gifts. This worked well because you didn’t think about it, and as a result self-doubt was not an issue.

Here’s some ways to implement kaizen:

1. Break your goals down into chunks that you think are too small. There is a sound reason for this. That boredom that you have with the small chunk is paving the way for confidence down the road. Review the examples that I gave above. You may think this will make it take too long, but you are stacking the deck in your favor that you will succeed.
2. Find time for kaizen. Time is one of the biggest obstacles to goal attainment. Finding a minute here or there can make a big difference. Consider the exercise example above. You’re watching TV, why not make productive use of the commercial time? I don’t think the Sham Wow guy is going to notice.
3. Be persistent and stay aware of what you are doing. This is a process of change, not an event. Remember that you are not merely focusing on the goal, but are training your brain to accept change.
4. Remember to visualize your eventual goal. The kaizen principle is designed to make your goal so believable to you that you can’t help but attain it. Positive visualization is a huge help in this process.

Be creative as you begin to implement this concept into your life. Remember what you are trying to accomplish with kaizen. Constant, continuous, never ending improvement along the way toward goal attainment is what you are seeking. Before you can accomplish this, you must retrain your brain to accept and believe that the goal is not only achievable, but that failure is impossible.

Break it down into small bits. You’ll be amazed at what’s possible.

“Baby steps… Baby steps…”- Bob Wiley (played by Bill Murray)

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Lessons Learned From Sports Psychology

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”-Michael Jordan

If you grew up being an athlete, then you probably can relate to Michael Jordan”s quote. You also probably can relate to the “life as a sport” metaphor, probably etched in your mind by a coach or two that belicekyou had along the way. As a high school football player, I had a charismatic coach by the name of Hugo “Scooch” Giagiari, who use this metaphor quite frequently. “The game of football is like the game of life…,” and some inspirational, motivating, speech would follow. In college, I was fortunate to play football for a hard working, blue collar plugger, by the name of Peter Mazzaferro, who began each preseason with a speech about how the walnuts would always rise to the top of a jar of jelly beans, his metaphorical way of explaining how the best players would emerge through the first week of double sessions. For while after my competitive athletic career ended, these kinds of stories were merely good memories. When I became a psychotherapist, I became aware of the truths in much of what these men taught me.

The truth is that counseling psychology, personal coaching, and psychotherapy is way behind the curve in comparison to sports psychology. I believe the reason is that sports psychology takes a far more comprehensive approach to human performance. It has to, because unlike other types of counseling, sports psychology has measurable, observable outcomes by which one can gauge the improvement. An issue that many have with traditional psychotherapy, myself included, is that the results are often hard to quantify, both for therapist and client. Some in the field would balk at my statement, my contention is that sports psychology has a lot to teach a psychotherapist. While you may not agree with the life as sport metaphor, you may be able to see that the comprehensive approach taken by sports psychology could lead to the creation of a more well rounded life.

Sports psychology draws from a number of disciplines in order to obtain desired results. Drawing fromShot-Put-Throw-Reese psychology, physiology, kinesiology, and biomechanics, sports psychology examines how these fields interact and effect human performance. Athletes become deeply involved in a comprehensive process that is well thought out, frequently readjusted, building up to one or more competitive events. These competitive events are, in many ways, similar to stressors that we all face as part of our lives. Wouldn’t we be better prepared for these stressful events if we approached our lives from the total wellness perspective that sports psychology suggests?

Some of the more commonly used sports psychology techniques have a place in the healthy lifestyle of everyone, both athlete and non-athletes. A few of these techniques are:
1. Arousal Regulation-This is the ability to control our level of anxiety before, during, and after stressful events. For athletes, these are their competitions. For others, these are life events such as the presentation at work, the final exam, that date with a special someone, marital problems, and virtually anything else you can think of. Learning to control your mental and physiological arousal systems allows you to slow things down, make better choices, and perform better. For athletes, as well as nonathletes, this can be done through techniques such as the breathing exercise, progressive relaxation, positive self talk, and various other methods.

2. Goal Setting-Successful athletes and teams tend to be those that are most goal oriented and persistent. Athletes and teams that perform best are the ones that know where they are going and how they intend to get there. Successful coaches put a lot of thought into where they and their team are in an ongoing process. Well formulated goals tend to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time sensitive, subject to evaluation, and can be re-adjusted as needed. Successful athletes and nonathletes can make good use of these principles.

3. Visualization-This is an area where sports psychology is far ahead of counseling psychology. Successful athletes tend to visualize, in their minds eye, how they intend to perform. The human mind karatecannot distinguish between something that is imaginary and something that is real. Athletes have been doing this for centuries. In the martial arts, especially karate, visualization is a major part of the practice. The karate student visualizes, as vividly as possible, his opponent while practicing what appears to be ritualized routines called kata. In basketball, visualization is part of good foul shooting, boxers shadowbox, golfers mentally line up putts, and so on. Everyone should visualize, as positively as possible, things that they have anxiety about performing. Mentally planning that interview, presentation, do-it-yourself project, or virtually anything you can think of will tend to create the outcome that you want.

4. Pre-performance Routines-Athletes use routines and rituals to decrease preperformance anxiety. Controlling the level of arousal before a stressful events tends to slow down anxiety to its optimal level. An athlete would never want to eliminate all anxiety, as anxiety is necessary for optimal performance. All successful athletes, whether they are conscious of it or not, have preperformance routines. To an outsider these routines often appear like superstition, and perhaps they are, but they allow the athlete to control subjective feelings that could get in the way of optimal performance. Finding rituals and routines that fit in with your life stressors can go a long way to improving your performance in anything that gives you anxiety that you feel the need to control.

5. Positive Self Talk-What goes on between our ears is incredibly important for both athlete and nonathlete alike. The things we say to ourselves before, during, and after stressful events are a major part of how successful we are. Some athletes are naturally better at this than others. Those that speak out loud to others about their positive self talk are often perceived as “cocky,” “conceited,” or “arrogant.” Muhammed Ali, Joe Namath, and Deion Sanders are examples of this kind of athlete. Some keep the positive dialogue inside. Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, and Barry Sanders, are examples of those that keep SANDERS  their internal dialogue to themselves. If an athlete is successful, it is a guarantee that they engage in positive self talk on a regular basis. One cannot be successful without this. Everyone, athlete or not, can set themselves up for success by engaging in as much positive self talk as possible. It’s your call as to whether or not you share this with others.

6. Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention-In athletics breakdowns in functioning are obvious. An athlete knows when they are injured and when they need rehab. Athletic trainers systematically work with athletes to get them back into competition as soon as possible. The same is true of psychotherapy or personal coaches. I often tell my clients that one of our goals is to get them “out there,” into the real world as soon as possible. The real therapy takes place outside of the counseling room, in the real world, when a client uses a skill or technique successfully to cope with a life stressor. In athletics, an athlete doesn’t know how successful his physical rehabilitation is until they are back in competition. A therapy client really isn’t much different.

Sports psychology has a lot to teach those of us who engage in counseling psychology. Taking a more comprehensive and preventative approach works far better for most clients. Yes, some clients want to talk and the vent emotions, but most want results. Using principles borrowed from sports psychology increases the ability to get them back out there sooner, better equipped to cope with life on life’s terms.

Life is a contact sport, so strap on that helmet and get out there and make a play!

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The Seven Habits Of Success

It is human nature to view success as an event, something that happens, and when it does it gives us happiness and fulfillment. But is success an event or is it a process? Maybe it’s even more detailed than that.

guyStephen Covey, author of the 1989 best seller “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” viewed success as a habit rather than an event. The book sold more than 15 million copies worldwide and remains one of the most influential nonfiction business books. While the book is remembered as one directed toward to the business world, it is perhaps more beneficial if used by individuals to create positive habit change. Covey believed that individuals are part of a system, whether the system be a corporation, small business, team, or even a family. The book, however, gives sound advice to everyone as it preaches personal responsibility as well as collaboration with larger groups.

Covey contends that our character is really a collection of our habits. Most people develop habits in an unconscious, random fashion. The Seven Habits is about identifying positive habits and consciously creating the kind of character we would like to have. He identified three, broad, lifestages that we all move through. They are:
1. Dependence-This is the stage which we are born into and characterizes the first part of our life. In this stage we must rely on others to take care of us.
2. Independence-This stage is the stage in which we learn to take care of ourselves, and make our way independently in the larger world.
3. Interdependence-In this stage we cooperate with others in order to create and have life experiences that cannot be achieved independently.

During the era in which Covey’s book was written, most all books of the self-help genre focused on the individual as a separate entity. What makes Covey’s book relevant is that he views individuals as a hands  member of systems, having responsibility to others as well as the self. A look at his seven habits reveals this. He emphasizes that in order to become a valuable member of an interdependent system, one must be independent and autonomous first. His first three habits focus on self control. Habits 4, 5, 6, address interdependence, and habit 7 brings it all together.

Here is a breakdown of the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People:
1. Be Proactive-If positive change is to be a habit, then it must come from within. Highly effective people make conscious decisions to improve their life, attempting to influence and control what they can. They live life in cause, not effect. They attempt, whenever possible, to exert influence rather than react to external forces.
2. Begin with the End in Mind-They ask themselves questions that clarify the reasons for their actions such as “What’s my goal here? Where am I going with this? What do I want to have accomplished when this is done?” In Covey’s booking he suggested the writing of a personal mission statement. Some of you may remember that mission statements were quite the rage in the 1990s, largely because of Covey’s influence.
3. Put First Things First-Here Covey is suggesting prioritizing, and doing things that are most likely to get you toward the end that you have in mind . Identify individual tasks and set a time frame for each one.
4. Think Win/Win-Here Covey is entering into the realm of interdependence. This win-win expression that has entered business language originated with Stephen Covey. This means to create relationships that are mutually beneficial in as many areas of life as possible. The business world loves this idea, but it also holds up well in our personal and private lives. People who have successful personal relationships intuitively engage in a give and take relationship with significant others.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood-Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relationships. This concept became a guiding principle for salesman, politicians, and people trying to influence others. While your goal may not be to become a slick politician or salesman, I think you can see how this would benefit your personal relationships. How much better would your relationship be with your wife, husband, significant others, and children be if you stuck to this principle?
6. Synergize-This again is one of those words that went mainstream because of Covey’s book. Combining the strengths and abilities of different people toward a common goal is what Covey meant by this term. He also used the words, teamwork and leverage in this section, two words that now permeate every business or organization.
saw7. Sharpen the Saw-This final habit emphasizes renewal and replenishing. Covey suggests that each person find ways to balance and renew personal energy, health, wellness, spirituality, and relationships. A healthier individual is capable of being both independent as well as interdependent.

Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, is much more detailed than this brief description. This article distills down the important parts of his completed work. This book, readily available on the Internet for free , is certainly well worth reading. This article was meant to give you a starting point.

Make success a habit!

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Four Step Mastery

Remember how eagerly you plunged into the learning of new skills in childhood? Things like athletics, dance, learning a language, and driving a car were pursued with dogged determination until we learned Ford-Falcon-1961-Dr-Edhow to do them. You got engrossed in the process and eventually learned how to do these things without thinking. As an adult, the undertaking of new activities becomes less frequent. We become content to sit on life’s sidelines and watch while others do things we’d like to do but don’t. We have reasons, or so we’d like to think, that we can no longer even attempt these things. Are we right? Maybe, or maybe we over analyze the process. Is there a way to learn new skills and undertake new activities within the adult tendency to over analyze?

Learning Theory may have an answer for us. Knowing where you are in the process enables you to analyze your progress more realistically, and see where you are along the road to becoming competent with a new skill. Like a lot of developmental theories, this is a stage theory. Stage theory means that you will typically go through a series of steps, or stages, and you cannot skip any of them. You may be on one stage for a long time before moving to the next, or you may spend a lot of time on a particular stage before moving on. Knowing where you are in the process by identifying which stage you are at will enable you to see that you are, in fact, making progress. Recognition of each stage serves the purpose of breaking the task down into four simple subsets. Any task or skill is learned sequentially whether you are aware of it or not. Those of us that are not “naturals” do better if the new task is broken down into stages.

The four stages are:
1. Unconscious Incompetence-In this stage a person is unaware that they don’t have a skill. They literally “Don’t know that they don’t know.” The stage applies to things that people do poorly without realizing. In this stage people are screwing up frequently and are not even aware that they are. Many people live lives that are unsatisfying and marked by frequent failures because much of what they do occurs in this stage.

2. Conscious Incompetence-in this stage a person is aware that they don’t know how to do something or do not possess a desired skill. This is the beginning stage for most new skills that one pursues voluntarily. For example, you decide to embark on a fitness routine. As you begin this venture, you girl driverquickly become conscious of your lack of skills, abilities, and preparedness. You become immediately aware of your incompetence, and your body reminds you of this. Perhaps you can recall the anxiety you experienced when you first learned how to drive a car. Remember that first day behind the wheel? You probably were very aware that you didn’t know what you were doing. This is the essence of conscious incompetence. You are aware that you don’t know what you are doing. For many adults this is the moment when doubt and negative self talk takeover and we quit. We give up pursuing a new task or skill, and we make up some rationalization as to why we never wanted it in the first place.

3.-Conscious Competence-This stage is the longest and in some cases the final stage of skills acquisition. In this stage you can do the new skill or task pretty well, but it requires conscious attention to the activity. Lots of activities are extremely enjoyable at this stage. Many are satisfied with the feeling of competence in this stage, and that positive feeling allows them to pursue the activity quite frequently. This is the stage when new activities become worthwhile and enjoyable. Remember driving your car through your first major intersection? You got through it okay, well at least you’re alive to read this article, and you probably experienced a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. You were probably, at that moment, very aware of each step you took to get through. In this stage people can do the task quite well, but they must pay attention to details and be mindful of each step. Despite this challenge the activity is satisfying and rewarding. The reward is the subjective feeling of competence, the “I can do it all by myself,” satisfaction that we enjoyed as children.

4. Unconscious Competence-This is the final step in the process. And, you don’t need to get to this stage to be proficient or to enjoy the activity. In many cases one can get to this stage through repetition. This Eric CLAPTONstage is marked by the ability to do the task without having to think about it. It’s one of those experiences where doing the task feels like being “in the zone,” or in a “flow state.” You can now do the skill with little effort almost automatically. We frequently see this in athletes, performing artists, and musicians. Ever watch Eric Clapton play guitar and wondered how the heck he does that with his eyes closed? That’s unconscious competence at its finest.

You may be thinking that this stage is impossible for you to get to. Not true. Let’s get back to the driving analogy. If you’ve ever driven for long periods of time, arrived safely at your destination, and then realized that your mind was elsewhere the whole time, then you’ve been in a state of unconscious competence. You got there, safely, and didn’t think about it. If you can type over 60 words a minute, ice skate, hit a baseball, do the tango, or anything else without thinking about it, you have this ability. Performance experts estimate that it takes approximately 10,000 repetitions of an individual skill to get to this stage. And that’s for people who are “average” in their ability to perform the task. If you have aptitude for the skill the stage of unconscious competence may arrive earlier.

So what’s the message? The take-home point is that, as an adult, we should be less self-critical when taking on new tasks. There are a lot of activities and skills that, if pursued, you can attain. The self critic in us tends to quiet down if our rational mind realizes where we are in the process. It’s simply a matter of identifying where you are in this stage theory and repetition. Get off the sidelines and into the game!

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Time Is On Your Side….Yes It Is!

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”- Bruce Lee

We all know how precious our time is. We know that it is limited and we never seem to have enough of it. A lot of time gets timewasted and evaporates away every day. We often find ourselves asking where it went, where it goes, and life’s eternal puzzle is when it is going to end. Even being on hold with a phone call is sometimes a reminder that, “your time is very important to us.” There is a Zen story that I heard years ago that I really like and has stuck with me. An eager student asks the master what is more important, time or money. He is certain that the master, in his wisdom, will tell him that it is money, as with money one can do so much. The master wisely replies, “Time is more important… You can always make more money, but you can never make more time.”

While this wise Zen master is technically correct, maybe it’s possible to find more time. Contemporary living has become a blur of activities and sensory inputs that we must sort through before making decisions. Some of these decisions are incredibly important and some are relatively minor. Taking a little time to process decisions large and small can make us more aware and, as a result, give us the illusion that we have made more time. The key strategy in accomplishing this is making use of writing things down. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” While he was talking about life on a spiritual level, he could have just as easily been talking about a grocery list.

Time management are two words a lot of people think about and talk about but never get around to figuring out how to do it. David Allen, a time management specialist and author of the best-selling book Get Things Done: the Art of Stress Free Productivity, has a lot of great ideas as to why writing things down is the beginning of good time management. He emphasizes that writing, as opposed to entering into an iPhone or iPad, works. He theorizes that the human mind is analogous to a pond. It can never be truly empty and it is impossible to have nothing on your mind as long as you are conscious. The simple act of getting thoughts out on paper, particularly for time management purposes, frees up the mind for more important functions. The mind, he believes, is for thinking not for holding information. Writing things down makes holding information unnecessary and, as a result, frees the mind up for more productive thought. The mere act of picking up a pen and paper engages the mind in a beneficial and cathartic way.

There are literally hundreds of methods, planners, and strategies for organization. Many people go out and buy the best planner from the stationary section of the local drugstore and then get bogged down in the process of how to use it. I often find that my coaching clients are quick to do this. They believe that if they follow someone else’s strategy they will be more successful. Some are, but many get bogged down in the process, become frustrated, and begin to perseverate around the planning more so than the results.

To find out what kind of writing may work for you as part of your time management strategy, I’d ask you to consider a few examples that may illustrate your preferred style of time management. Consider the last time that you used written planning to accomplish a task. Before you say that you never do that consider these examples:
Vacation-Think about how you planned a vacation that went well. Perhaps you thought about it first, visualized it in your mind, and then made the plan more concrete by writing down what you needed to do. Your mind, through the writing, made the image of the great vacation come clear. If you recently had a good vacation consider what you did before hand that helped create it.

blueprint Blue Print-If you’ve ever undertaken a do-it-yourself project from scratch then you know the importance of having a blueprint to create it. Even before you bought materials you probably had a vision that became more concrete when you put pencil to paper. You meticulously planned it out, erased, adjusted, and created. And, if the project was a success, think about the role that that preplanning played in the outcome.

Recipes-If you ever produced the perfect meal from scratch and did not write down the steps that you took, you probably are aware of another benefit of written plans. That perfect meal becomes impossible to duplicate because you may find it difficult to remember how you made it! Because you were “winging it,” you don’t remember what you did to attain that great outcome.

Many people resist the idea of written time management strategies because they believe it wastes time in the early phases of a project. David Allen’s theories are that this is a huge fallacy. Putting more time on the front end yields more time on the backend. Organization is the key to more productive thinking during the accomplishment of tasks. Your brain is free to be more creative in the process, and written planning serves as a blueprint or recipe for better outcomes.

There are literally hundreds of various methods available, most available for free on the Internet. You may find it more effective to develop your own written time management strategy. I’d suggest that you start small. One of the most efficient is a daily plan written on a 3 x 5 index card. The mere act of condensing a to do list down so that it fits in this small area is cheatincredibly beneficial. Some of you more rebellious readers may have cheated occasionally in high school. The index card is a “cheat sheet” for successful grown-ups. Many times a student spent enough quality time creating a cheat sheet that they didn’t need to pull it out during the test. The mere act of organizing their thoughts and distilling them down to that tiny sheet of paper enabled them to remember needed information.

Breaking goals down on a weekly basis may be more effective for those of you that have to manage work tasks and personal tasks. A little planning on Monday morning with a cup of coffee and a notebook can give you a game plan for the week. Each day step one is to get the notebook information on that index card, and get that index card in your pocket. Again, a little work on the front-end leads to a better result on the backend.

What can you multitask? Much has been said about multitasking, both good and bad. I’m not talking about overloading yourself here, I’m suggesting that there may be things that you do that may be combined. Consider this when you’re doing your weekly planning. I find listening to e-books and podcasts a great use of commuting time rather than mindlessly listening to the radio.

What can you delegate? Are there people you can delegate some of these tasks to? Remember, the goal of time management is to be more productive, not feed your ego with pride in how busy you are. Time management’s goal is to be productive, not busy. We are striving for outcomes not process.

I’d suggest that you do a little bit of research on time management strategies available on the Internet. If someone’s method piques your imagination you may want to buy their book or their program. You’ll probably find enough information to create your own time management strategy. While you can’t make more time, you may be able to fool yourself that you have.

“Time is on my side, yes it is….”- Sir Michael Jagger

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Now What Syndrome

Sometimes life throws events at us like waves on a beach. Some waves we chase, others appear out of nowhere. If you ever chased a goal and attained it you may have been blind sided by an emotional papletdown after attaining it. The pursuit of goals, on many levels, brings up contrasting emotions-can I do it,? What if I fail,? What will this cost me emotionally,? are some typical automatic thoughts. In many cases the exhilaration of success is followed by and emotional letdown, a hollow kind of “now what?” feeling that takes a while to get over. “I got what I worked for so why am I so blue? What’s wrong with me?”

The good news is that there is nothing wrong with you and this emotional roller coaster feeling is quite common. These emotions were studied quite extensively by Richard Solomon, a psychologist who studied Comparative Psychology through much of the 20th century. His major research was of a theory called Opponent-Process Theory. Solomon developed a motivational theory based on opponent emotional processes. Basically he states that every emotional process that has an opposing emotion, an “opponent process”. This opponent process sets in after the primary process is quieted. With repeated exposure, the primary process becomes weaker while the opponent process is strengthened. In more simple terms after being incredibly happy, particularly after attaining something you’ve looked forward to, there is likely to be an emotional let down until emotions return to baseline.

There are many examples, some pretty familiar, that illustrate this. A young couple decides to marry, and plans an extravagant wedding. The buildup to the wedding, and the consequent stress, is enormous. The couple marries, goes on an incredible honeymoon, and returns home. Shortly now whatthereafter one or both experiences an emotional letdown. If they don’t adjust accordingly the marriage may be in trouble. Another quite common example is of the celebrity athlete who falls upon tough times after their career ends. After years in the limelight they are ill equipped to handle the post career letdown. Drugs and alcohol become maladaptive ways to re-create some excitement. Maybe in your own life you can recognize similar examples. The excitement of a new job attained may be followed by the realization and emotional letdown that it is, in fact, just another job. Eventually we returned to some kind of emotional baseline in most of the circumstances, mentally adjusting and moving on. If you went away to college for example, you might’ve experienced a kind of “what have I gotten myself into” feeling. Some young students dropout or return home prematurely because of this. Others decide to ride it out, adjust, and stay put. Those who are aware of this letdown and are told to expect it are more likely to stay.

The opposing processes can also be of the opposite type where the exuberance of a goal being attained leads to a temporary blind eye to its drawbacks. How often have you or a friend “found somebody new,” you know, somebody who’s “perfect?” The initial excitement of a new relationship often blocks character flaws of a new partner. People are often so overwhelmed with hope that they don’t recognizeelvis what they’re getting into. Love is blind, and the question “what does she see in him?” may be better understood through opponent process theory. Abuse of drugs and alcohol also work in a similar way. At first they seem great, exciting, and fun. Reality sets in and it turns out to be quite the opposite. Drug addiction is colored by the opposing processes of physical and emotional pleasure with physical and emotional withdrawal. Continued use is an attempt to get back to a balanced baseline.

This “now what syndrome” is quite common and natural and should be expected in many cases. Solomon’s work shows that emotions can fluctuate markedly when we’ve worked for something and attain it. Being able to sit with the opposing feeling, and see if it passes, can prevent later regret. Many people tend to react to “gut feelings” that may be due to opponent process theory. Waiting out these conflicting emotions can make for better decisions and better life choices. Recognition that feelings are not facts, and can be fleeting helps make for more informed decisions and better long term outcomes.

When you experience “now what syndrome,” sit with the feelings for a while. Gut decisions can be wrong, and when they are they can lead to regret. Process the now what emotions thoughtfully and carefully. Expect and anticipate now what syndrome and you be a little bit more ahead in the game of life.

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The Secret Is…

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”-Thomas Edison

In 2006 a popular book was turned into a movie called “The Secret.” It was based on a belief called the Law of Attraction that claimed positive thinking can create life-changing results in health, wealth, wishrelationships, and areas of success. The book sold 19 million copies and was translated into 46 languages. The premise was that there is a natural law, the law of attraction, in which a person merely places their desire into the universe, and the universe satisfies the desire. The “science” behind the belief was the theory that people’s thoughts are sent into the universe by a “frequency” and the universe responds by “matching that frequency.” The book was called The Secret because this was the secret to life changing results and happiness. The claim was that this is a natural law because “like attracts like.”

There is some element of truth to the idea that like attracts like. For example, people who live their life with preset beliefs frequently find people and events that affirm their beliefs. This is because our brains are wired towards pattern recognition. We seek that which is familiar in order to make sense of our world. If a woman believes, for example, that all men are untrustworthy, and is attracted to and gets involved with men who are untrustworthy, then for her it becomes true. If someone believes that there are no worthwhile employment opportunities out there, and does not pursue education or self-improvement, then for them it becomes true. If someone watches hours and hours of television news, it would not be surprising that they found the world inconsistent and unsafe. We tend to have our focus drawn to things that validate our already held beliefs.

The Secret promised more for less and this was part of its attraction. The word “manifesting” was used for this practice of putting your vibration into the universe and having the universe return your handsupdesires. The book espoused some positive skills that are in fact very useful. Positive thinking is incredibly powerful, as is visualization, two skills that The Secret promoted. Where the book went off the rails was with the outrageous examples of how it occurred in real life for those who knew the secret. For example, desire for new car would result in the car being “manifested” if one began to be thankful for the car and have positive feelings about the car as if they already had it. Actions like finding a parking space for it, and getting insurance quotes for it, would result in the car being placed into your life for real. Great stuff, but unfortunately this law does not exist, at least not to this extent.

Self-help author, Dan Millman, has a different perspective that combines ideas of The Secret with real-world practicality. Millman is the author of a perennial best-selling book called “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” a great read once you get past the comic book sounding title. The book is written as a novel, a hyperbolic semi-biographical work loosely based on Millman’s life. Millman was a world-class gymnast whose leg was shattered in a motorcycle accident while he was in college. The accident forced him to reassess his sense of self and entire world view. From these events he developed a philosophy of life which combines aspects of mysticism, positive thinking, and athletic conditioning. While he acknowledges the benefits of pure positive thinking, and even manifesting, he preaches taking committed uncritical action in the pursuit of goals. His advice is simple and has and athletic tone: “Just do it!”

Millman teaches that positive thoughts do not override negative behaviors or lack of action. All the positive thinking in the world will not physically condition an athlete who does not train, make money for one who spends wildly, or create good relationships for a nasty person. A person who has perpetual negative thoughts is probably not going to attain many of their goals. Millman says that “Positive thoughts don’t override negative. We don’t have a spam filter for our negative thoughts. We must push negative thinking aside and act anyway.” Action despite doubt is the critical element that separates Millman’s ideas from The Secret.

Combining positive thinking with committed action is, according to Millman, what it takes to attain lofty goals. “A little of something is better than a lot of nothing” he states. We should focus on what we do, as action changes our thoughts and a cycle of positive behavior creating positive thought begins to create momentum. Less focus on thinking, feeling, and analyzing, more concentration on what we are doing and our actions, create positive outcomes. Starting small, attending to one task at a time, and seeking constant, incremental improvement yields success. Negative thoughts will be pushed aside by committed action. Just do something! Negative thoughts do not go away easy, but certainly action can drown them out.

So the secret is…. Hard work, Just do it, Plan and Take Action! Adjust as you go and don’t listen to the committee in your mind telling you that it can’t be done! If someone else in the universe has caineaccomplished what you are seeking, then it is quite possible that you can attain the same thing. You won’t know until you try!!

“Men do not beat drums before they hunt for tigers.” – Kwai Chang Caine

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