Second, it’s an arbitrary date. While January 1 looks nice, it’s no more an effective date July 7 or September 10. In fact, based on the (usually) poor weather conditions and limited sunlight, it may actually be a worse time to start your goals.
Third, those committed to self-improvement do it as soon as they discover a weakness. In my work with high-performers, I can always tell the level of seriousness in a potential client by how they treat their self-improvement. Those who are ready usually take little to no prompting from me. We’ll talk about a subject, figure out an action plan, and they are off and running. In contrast, those that take a while to decide, need to spend some time “thinking about it” or “will get back to me” never actually make real change. They like the idea of change, they know they should change, but they rarely (if ever) do.
In August of 1997, Steve Jobs urged us to “Think Different.”
It worked for Apple. It works for us too.
If you want to be someone that breaks the trend of failed new years resolutions, here are my top three tips to “Think Different” and experience success.
How do we accomplish a big task, even if it’s hard?
Over the weekend, I was having a conversation with my son about completing one of his tasks for the day. He was supposed to be emptying the dishwasher by himself, and it happened to be particularly full this time.
He didn’t want to because it was hard.
Later that day, he had the same problem with math.
The next day, it was laundry.
Today, we faced it again with a math test.
Each and every time he was tasked with something difficult, he was tasked with the necessity to push through, overcome, and do it, even if it’s hard.
Ironically, he’s not the only one struggling with that. A year ago, I wanted to quit doctoral school because of the same reason.
Recently, I was talking to a client about implementing change. She gave the same reason why she couldn’t.
“Hard” and its close relatives, “difficult”, “demanding”, and “challenging” all seem to elicit a desire to quit.
That’s true whether you are seven (like my son) or seventy (like my client). Throughout life, we will be tasked with the hard and difficult things. Doubly so in a leadership position.
My guess is, you’ve uttered that phrase once or twice before in your life.
When you’re ready to break through barriers, experience growth, or even if you just have to do it anyway, I want to help.
Three Ways To Accomplish A Task, Even If It’s Hard
Realize All You’ve Done Before
You’ve literally made it through 100% of the difficult things in your life up to this point. You’ve got a mound of evidence proving that you can do difficult things.
You came into this world unable to bathe, clothe, or feed yourself. You also couldn’t walk, talk, or read. The fact that you’re here, visiting this blog (my sincerest thanks for that one too) means you can probably accomplish most — if not all — of those tasks by yourself.
Less than three months from graduating from doctoral school, I told my wife I wanted to quit. It was legitimately the hardest thing I had ever done. Faced with a growing business and other leadership responsibilities, I was overwhelmed. Deep down, I also knew I had to do it if for no other reason than to set an example for my kids. They will someday be faced with “the hardest thing” that they ever need to do, and I don’t want to set the precedent that we quit when things get hard.
I looked at my track record for completing hard tasks, realized I had a 100% batting average, and stuck it out. Three months later, we celebrated the hard work and sacrifice we all put into my graduation weekend.
Angela Duckworth, in her stellar book Grit, defines grit as, “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” We’ve all got passion when we start a project. That’s rarely the place we fail.
Instead, it’s the perseverance we struggle with. Having to overcome obstacles, develop creative solutions, and grow in resiliency kills more dreams than a lack of passion.
Once a long-term goal has been identified, strategize key ways to grow in both passion and perseverance. For our son and his need to fold laundry, it’s about the long-term goal of adulthood. My wife and I have always been very open (with them and with others) that our primary objective is not to raise kids. Instead, we are in the process of raising adults. Guess what? Adults take responsibility, own their shit, and do their laundry. Even when it’s hard.
Make it Manageable
Tasks, especially meaningful and significant ones, can feel overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to eat that elephant in one bite.
Distill big dreams and goals into smaller chunks. Then, take those chunks and make them into daily, manageable tasks. Even if it’s hard, you’ll experience growth.
When I was starting out in coaching, I didn’t have an email list. I fretted over that. Every internet expert tells you the secret to growth is an email list. Because I didn’t have one, especially a large one, I delayed even attempting to start one.
Guess how big my list got? It stayed at zero. For a long time. Until I got over the fact that I needed one hundred thousand people to subscribe. I also didn’t need a webpage, a Facebook page, or a book on the New York Times Bestsellers List. Instead, I focused on getting one. Then another.
Along the way, daily tasks became, “write a blog post” and “Hold a Facebook Live.” Along the way, and at each step, my email list grew.
Now? I’m regularly adding people. While I’m not to my goal yet, I’m closer than I was when I felt compelled to have everything together first.
While that’s certainly not everything we could talk about, it’s a great start. The next time you (or someone you know) utters the phrase, “But it’s hard” here is how you make progress. Stop the negative self-talk and assess the situation.
1.) You’ve already won 100% of life’s previously difficult battles and you’re stronger because of it.
2.) You have an amazing chance to practice grit.
3.) Distill the goal down to manageable tasks and take action.
You got this. I believe in you. Even if it’s hard.
One of the things I give every coaching client is the “High-Performance Scorecard.” It’s a postcard-sized printout designed to be carried with them in their day-planner or another medium that works for them.
It reinforces many of the mental habits we talk about, keeps them focused on their goals, and gives them “check-in” techniques when they are feeling distracted.
But there’s also one focus item on there that says, “What’s one thing I did today to pursue my goals: ______________________”
After spending hours designing this scorecard, I think this is one of the most important questions on there.
Because, as a High-Performer training other high-performers, here’s what I’ve learned: we have trouble acknowledging the day-in-day-out habits of success.
But if I’m honest, some days (more than I care to admit) I think “But what did I really do to get closer to my goals?”
In the day-in-day-out grind of the entrepreneurial life, I often feel like I don’t do things of consequence.
Writing a blog is a part of my business, nothing heroic.
Same with coaching a client.
And Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and email.
Networking is hard but necessary, so nothing special there.
And that’s precisely my problem. When I can convince myself that nothing matters then nothing ends up mattering.
So I put that question in the scorecard to remind my clients that what you do absolutely matters, 100% of the time.
Because what’s the alternative? Not writing the blog post? Now that would be a tragedy.
Not coaching, not engaging in social media, and not networking would mean the end to my business.
So in reality, it’s those little things that do matter. It’s the little things that add up to big wins. Big wins lead to success.
Success is what my clients pay me for.
Never Knock Progress
One of the mindsets I’ve had to change in myself, and one I work hard on my clients with, is that of the daily routine. In the scorecard, it’s a built-in process. At the end of every day, you acknowledge a success, however seemingly small or insignificant, and champion the work done.
And no matter how small a victory, I tell them, “It’s progress, and we never knock progress.”
It’s a great way to combat fatigue, discouragement, and frustration. By remembering the one thing we did today, we’re encouraged to do one more thing tomorrow.
Day after day.
Week after week.
Month after month.
Year after year.
Until all of a sudden, we realize that we’ve made our own version of success.
That’s why we celebrate one thing.
That’s why we never knock progress.
What’s one thing you would tell someone facing discouragement or disillusionment in chasing their dream?
I have a goal to both grow my business and be present for my family. When those goals are in conflict with each other, I choose the family time.
Goal clarity is about being clear on your top priorities.
But it’s also about being able to define your goals.
This last week, I spent half a day creating a clarity document on metrics for my business outside of financial goals. I now have requirements for how many people I want to read the blog, share it, and leave a comment.
But this is also true for every social media account that I have.
Speaking of which, you reading this gets me one step closer to my goal and I rrrreeeaaaaallllly appreciate it. Could you help me get one step closer and share it somewhere?
2.) Simplify Your To-Do List.
Not all goals are created equal.
But neither are tasks on the to-do list.
The problem when you just write to-do’s down on a sheet of paper is that they all look equal. In reality, there are only a few things you can do each day that would substantially advance your career, personal life, business, or relationships.
Focus on those.
Personally, I choose three tasks a day and design my day around those. While I may need to “check off” ten or more times in a day, I only focus on the three most important.
Think of it this way. What will advance your business (career, start-up, relationship, fill-in-the-blank) more: Sending the Invoice for payment due or organizing your closet (desk, backpack, car, etc…)?
Are both important? Yes.
Do both tasks need to be done? Yes
But which one will set you back or cause greater levels of stress if not done? Chances are, it’s the invoice. Because without the money from that job you might have to sell those clothes, that backpack, or the car.
Focus First on what matters most.
I find that scheduling my big three works well. I have the first task completed by 11 am, the second by 2 pm, and the third by 5 pm. This gives me time to focus on each one, and still get to those smaller items.
3.) Delegate and Delete.
As a chronic workaholic and typical Enneagram Type 3, I love long task lists. It makes me feel accomplished. If I don’t get twenty things checked off in a day, I feel like I wasted my time.
But recently, I’ve also discovered the joy in two amazingly powerful words: delegate and delete.
Here’s how I choose to do something myself, delegate it out or delete it from my list.
1.) Am I the only one capable of doing this? OR Am I the most qualified? If yes, I do it.
If the above answer is no:
2.) If this doesn’t get done, will someone miss it or will my business fail in some way? If Yes, delegate it to get it done. If no, delete it.
In these two simple questions, I am now free to focus on what matters most to my goals and still get an amazing amount of stuff done.
What sorts of questions would you ask of someone struggling being overwhelmed and underperforming?