What can you do to maximize your chances of getting what you want out of life, and making the changes you need to get there? Read on, because nearly all the answers are right here in this article.
Coming up with a plan is not sexy. It can be downright tedious and anxiety provoking, but it is the single most important factor for success when you move into the ACTION phase of life.
As we near the end of the first week of our challenge I have been touching base with a few of the brave souls who are on board to see how they are doing. As expected some of you grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and are right on target, but several have been telling me that they are already failing. I am here to say YOU ARE NOT FAILING. I can say this with much certainty for three reasons:
1) The challenge is about reaching a goal by the end of the month, and since we are only 6 days into it you have not failed.
2) Building or incorporating a new habit (which is what most of the challengers are trying to do) is a process, not a one time event. Therefore there is a build-up to the final behavior, and that build-up requires you to take several sequential steps. Just because you can’t jump from the start to the finish line in one leap doesn’t mean you won’t get there.
3) I can say with near-certainty that the people who are “failing” are those who either don’t have a plan or don’t have the right plan.
This latter point is what I want to discuss in today’s post. Coming up with a plan is not sexy; actually, it can be downright tedious and anxiety provoking, but it is the single most important factor for success. I posted a quick tip in my previous post “Quick tip for a successful takeoff“, but I feel I need to build on the plan piece to help you out. Bear with me, this may seem like a long post but the last half is a live example and should be a very quick read.
To create a plan you need the following:
- Know what your desired outcome is – from the previous post this is why I have you clearly define success.
- List all the situations, circumstances and events that need to take place for you to reach that desired outcome. You don’t need to come up with a specific order for these items right now, just brainstorm for a few minutes.
- Once you have a list, choose a reasonable, immediately actionable first step to take.
- Set a date and time to tackle step 1 and WRITE IT DOWN, share it with someone else, do whatever you need to keep yourself accountable.
- Identify and evaluate your roadblocks. The easiest ones to notice will be circumstantial barriers, things like, lack of time, access to resources, lack of skills. The more crucial and important ones to understand are your personal factors. What are the assumptions and feelings that hold you back from doing what you say you need/want to do.
Boring, I hear you say? How about looking at it differently:
I know that planning seems like a chore. How about thinking of it as a series of questions? Here’s a hypothetical example: Let’s say my goal is to get more sleep*, these would be the questions I need to answer to formulate a plan.
When you finally “get more sleep” what will that look like? (define success)
I go to bed everyday at 10 PM and my lights are off by 10:30
What would it take to go to bed everyday by 10 PM?
- It would mean stoping evening activities by 9:45.
- Ideally, I would get a good hour and half of downtime before going to sleep, which means the kids would need their lights off no later than 8:15.
- And I wouldn’t want to spend those 90 minutes cleaning the kitchen or getting lunch boxes ready or doing work, so that would need to be done prior to putting the kids down for bed – which means all chores complete by 7:30.
- I would have to be offline and off screens at least 30 minutes before that so that my brain can change gears.
- The lights in the house would need to be dimmed
- I would need to eliminate blue light as best I could at night to eliminate the circadian stimulation.
So when you look at this list, what is the first thing you think needs to happen? What is one step you can take right away that will get you closer to your final goal?
Well, there are many things I could do, but maybe I can start with trying to get all my chores done by 7:30 this week. Because part of what keeps me up is wanting to have me time to relax and I’ll stay up later if I have to do things after the kids go to bed.
Okay, what do you think might keep you from getting all your chores done by 7:30 every night?
For one, if the kids are having a difficult night and are really demanding.
If my husband is on call I have both of them to take care of alone.
If I get caught up in a big work project that I feel I need to complete that day – The sense or urgency I get with work, the need to get it done when I have a free minute sometimes keeps me from minding my better judgment. I get anxious when I just leave a project hanging.
So what can you do about those road blocks?
I guess when I think of the first two, it is rare that they really stand in the way of getting things done, on time. I just am a bit slower, but I usually clean and prep meals as I am making dinner anyhow. Realistically, worse comes to worse I could practice letting things go and just finishing the dishes or chores the next morning (since I will be rested, it might be easier).
The last one – not finishing a work project – will be tough. It will require a lot of reminders, self discipline and breathing. On the other hand, few things I work on from home are urgent, so realistically I don’t need to get them done on a strict deadline. I can try and stay at work an extra hour to have the quiet space to do those things when they come up, and leave work at the office instead of bringing it home.
That is my plan for week one, and I have some ideas of things I can do the following weeks or even add on that first week (like diming the lights).
If at first you fail, try again!
If you have a goal you really want to reach, don’t give up on it because you struggle in the process of getting there. Start with the basics (which is what was outlined in this post), create plan and keep in mind that there are a variety of road blocks that have kept you from changing your behavior up until now. If that fails you might need some extra help. If you are taking the “One Month One Change” challenge you are in luck, just post your questions on the Life in Focus FaceBook page or on Twitter and I will work with you, as will the rest of our community.
* This is my favorite go to example, in the hopes that some of you will be motivated to choose it as a goal some day.