Saturday, May 24, 2008

INTERESTED in, or COMMITTED to change?

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

I was having a conversation with a woman a few days ago, and she asked me why it is that some techinques work for helping achieve goals, while others do not (she was specifically referencing weight loss, but this applies to any goal).

It was such a great question, because it gets to the heart of motivation to change. Psychologists and other behavioral health professionals dedicate entire careers to studying and researching behavior change - what works to get people to stick to something, what doens't work, what conditions need to be present before people decide to act, etc.

When we start talking about achieving goals, it often boils down to motivation. How motivated are you to take the steps necessary to propel you forward? And how motivated are you to take the needed steps to MAINTAIN the changes you've made?

And why is it, exactly, that our motivation tends to fluctuate? How can we have "willpower" one day, and not the next?

The good news is that psychological science has discovered answers to some of these questions! Now, whether you LIKE the answers or not is a separate issue....

When it comes to achieving a goal, whether it be growing your business, losing weight, keeping your house organized, or learning how to network more effectively, a whole series of conditions need to be met. Of course some goals consume more time and are more difficult than others, but the process appears to be the same.

In trying to understand the hows and whys of change and motivation, psychologists have developed a wonderful model that explains the intricacies of achieving goals. It is called the "Stage of Change Model" (psychologists aren't the most creative when it comes to naming things....).

In a nut shell, this model shows that people fall into different categories of readiness to change their behavior. It is a continuum, and at one end we have folks who exhibit exactly ZERO interest in changing their current situation, and at the other end we see folks who are ready to take specific steps to move forward.

For the average person, I recommend asking yourself the following question when you consider changing some circumstance in your life: "Am I COMMITTED to this change, or am I only INTERESTED in this change?"

Being committed to something means you are ready to take action, create an environment around you that will support your efforts, and you have the motivation and focus to see you through the change phase. People who launch a new business, or who are fed up with smoking and want to quit, or who begin a new diet fall into this category.

Being interested in something implies just that - interest in thinking about a particular goal, but no real motivation to take action. Usually this phase comes before the committment phase, and may last days, weeks, or even years before someone moves into the committment mode.

I believe it is important to honestly assess your level of interest or committment to something, because it can save you tons of emotional energy! If you want to lose weight, but simply lack the time and energy right now to devote to that endeavor, then you fall into the "interested" category. You don't have to beat yourself up for not achieving something or not "caring" enough about your weight to act on it.

You simply lack the resources right now to commit to doing something. And there is no harm or shame in that - it is completely normal! Sometimes we are so consumed with other things in our lives that we can't possibly put one more thing on our plate.

This is NOT lack of willpower. Rather, our willpower is directed towards other things at this moment. Research has shown that what we call "willpower" is like a muscle - we can exhaust our available willpower and have nothing left for other actions.

So don't beat yourself up if you aren't where you want to be, and you know that now is not the right time for attempting to change. Why set yourself up to fail?

Take the time to create what you DO need in order to embark upon that change. Hanging out in the "interested " phase allows you to research and plan for the specific actions you intend to take in the future. If you want to build your business but find yourself pulled into too many child-related activities, then put your time into planning for what you will do when you DO have the time.

And of course, work on MAKING that time eventually available - it will help you be more balanced, more fulfilled, and more accomplished!

Good luck,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Start With the End in Mind

I hope this post finds you all making some strides towards reducing multitasking in your lives! And I also hope you feel rewarded with the increased focus you can provide to the activities you choose. I imagine you find some satisfaction and enrichment knowing that you are more fully engaged in some meaningful activities.

Today I'm going to mention a topic that I have been addressing with some new clients over the past month. Sometimes people know they want a change in their lives - they feel dissatisfied, or unbalanced, or overcommitted. Or they simply aren't taking care of themselves in the way they need to - little to no exercise, eating few fruits and vegetables, and packing on the pounds.

Have you ever been in a situation in which you knew you wanted change, but you didn't know how to start? Or even what specific change you are working for?

Welcome to the club! Most everyone experiences that feeling at one time or another. And I view that level of discomfort as a GOOD thing, because it generally signifies that we are ready for/needing a change. The discomfort can provide us motivation and energy to create a more beneficial environment.

But, where do you start? You might think I'd say something pithy, such as, "Well, start at the beginning!"

However, the real path to success actually involves starting at the END. It may not make lots of sense to think about the end when you haven't even begun efforts to change.

I would argue, though, that having a clear vision in your mind of where you want to end up will make the road to that vision much easier and more defined. For example, suppose you have been invited to attend an event for which you need to buy a new outfit. What might be the first question that goes through your head as you try to figure out which store to try first? Perhaps something along the lines of, "How formal is this event?"

Once you know the level of formality of the event, you can then begin to develop an idea in your head of the type of outfit you might want to purchase. This would then lead you to an appropriate store at which you can make your selection.

But if you didn't have the end in mind - i.e., how should I dress for this event? - you could end up arriving at the event in completely inappropriate attire. You might show up at a picnic in a business suit and heels because you failed to have an idea in your mind FIRST about what you want/need to look like.

Knowing the how you are expected to dress gives you structure in the quest for the perfect outfit - you can automatically reject items that don't match the event, and you can zero in on ones that do. Having the end in mind saves you time - you don't have to go to stores carrying clothing that is not right for your needs.

It's the same with everything in life....if you know what you ultimately want your life to look like when you have implemented changes, you will not waste time doing things that don't fit your vision. If you know you eventually want your schedule to include time for exercise four days a week and to volunteer at a local homeless shelter one time a month, protect your schedule to allow for this.

Start by mapping out what an ideal week would look like for you. Imagine in your mind that you have time to do everything that you need to do. What would your week look like? Be realistic, of course! We all need appropriate amount of sleep!

You may find that in order for you to accomplish the level of self care that is currently missing in your life, you have to give something up. Viewing an ideal week will help you realize what you can fit, versus what would infringe on your ability to lead a balanced life.

Take some time today to ponder how your ideal week would look - and write it down! Then, email it to me - I'd love to see it!

Make it a great day!


Friday, May 16, 2008

Moving towards monotasking yet?

Good day!

Yes, it's another post on the "horrors" of multitasking! Can you tell that it's something I feel strongly about???

I'd love to hear about any experiences you had while trying to "monotask." It isn't an easy transition to make - we have generally trained our brains to skim across things rather than focus. Plus, the fact that women are simply BETTER at multitasking than men makes the challenge to focus even greater.

And of course sometimes it simply is necessary that we juggle more than one or two things at a time. That is the reality of our current social structure.

What I would like to do, though, is impress upon you that there are many instances in which you can focus on one thing at a time and have bigger results.

Let's use eating as an example. Many of us eat while we do other things. We may be driving, talking on the phone, trying to get our kids dressed in their sports uniforms, or watching the news while we shovel food down our throats.

What is the consequence of eating while doing something else? How can you actually TASTE the food if your attention is somewhere else? Yes, you might be feeding your body important nutrients and calories it needs to get through the day.

But my guess is that you feel dissatisfied with your food choices. Taste, texure, and feeling satiated are all important aspects of eating. We feel less satisfied and more discontented when we deprive ourselves of those aspects of food.

Plus, if we aren't paying attention to the food going into our mouths, we also aren't paying attention to the signals our bodies give us that we are full (or still hungry). We then develop the habit of eating until all of the food is gone, rather than eating only until we are full. How often do you feel bloated and over-stuffed after eating mindlessly?

Or how often do you realize that you've made your way though an entire bag of chips while watching a movie - and you don't even feel full? Or you can't remember even EATING the chips?

We just aren't paying attention! And so we feel dissatisfied. I'll bet many of you can guess what we do to try to FEEL satisfied - we EAT SOMETHING ELSE!

Now we have calories upon calories piling up in our bellies, and eventually on our hips and thighs...

The next time you eat, think about eating. Resist trying to drive or watch TV or read or do anything other than thinking about the food you are eating. Consider the difference in the amount you eat and how satisfied you feel as a result of focusing only on eating. Enjoy your food, and you will find you need less of it than you currently eat.

Please share your thoughts and experiences, either here on this blog, or by emailing me! I really want to hear from you!


Friday, May 9, 2008

How to Reduce Multitasking and Start LIVING!

Yesterday I blogged about the dangers of multitasking, about how it pulls us away from actually experiencing life and prevents us from engaging in meaningful activities. The end result of multitasking is completing many items, but not really doing any of them well. Or, not really experiencing the event, so that you end up feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Meaningful living can come through being where you are. This would be "monotasking," and is diametrically opposed to multitasking.

How to start? Well, start where you are!

Just for today, pick one task, item, or activity that you normally just skim over to get it done. It doesn't really matter what the task is, but I would pick something that could hold some importance in your life if you gave it just a bit more attention.

Once you have identified your task, when it comes time to do it, begin by reminding yourself of your intention to focus only on that task.

As you dive in to the task, whether it takes 30 seconds or 30 minutes, concentrate on what you are doing RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT. Do not let your mind wander to something else. Concentrate on the actions you are taking, the specific ideas you are considering, the information you are absorbing.

If you are reading something for your business, focus on the print on the page, think about what the author is attempting to communicate, concentrate on understanding what you are reading.

If you do feel your mind starting to wander to something else, gently refocus your attention on what you are doing.

You will find big results with monotasking while exercising. As you perform an exercise, really focus on your move, how your muscles feel, your form and correcting any poor alignment.

You will have better results because you are thinking about what you are doing and right-ing any problems as they occur.

The amazing thing you will find about monotasking is that each activity will require hardly any more time than it took you in the past. But your end result will be much deeper, more impressive, and you will feel more connected both to the task and the result.

Be where you are NOW. Resist the temptation to have your mind wander to things you aren't actively engaged in at this moment in time.

And if you practice this with your children and other family members, you will be amazed at how your interactions will improve. They will know you are actually paying attention to THEM and want to understand and engage with them.

Can you imagine how that might impact your relationships?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Myth of Multitasking

It's finally spring time in the northern hemisphere, and along with the gradually improving weather comes an increase in energy and emphasis on setting goals and getting things done.

How to best accomplish more while maintaining sanity?

It may suprise you to know that I am going to advocate ELIMINATING multitasking as a method to accomoplishing more. I know that most women are oriented towards figuring out how we can in fact do more activities and events at the same time.

However, multitasking is an illusion. Just because we can lay our heads down at night and mentally cross off a large number of tasks from our to-do list doesn't mean that we actually accomplished more.

Sure, as an expert multitasker you can get a lot of things done.

But are you REALLY doing these things? Are you actually engaged in the activities you do? Or are you just skimming the surface of them, putting in just enough effort just to get it done more quickly?

For some tasks, this might make sense. But for most of the things you do, don't you actually want to LIVE them? Multitasking implies that your attention is split across more than one thing.

This pulls you away from fully engaging in that event, and in life itself. You aren't present. It keeps you from experiencing a texured, deep activity. Really paying attention to what you are doing at this moment will yield a much better result than if you try to "phone it in."

For instance, I notice that when clients are trying to talk to me on the phone during coaching sessions while also checking emails or washing dishes or whatever, they are much less creative, less able to generate meaningful solutions to problems, and less able to even identify what the problems even are! Their attention is divided - therefore, the outcome is only a fraction of what they could be achieving.

Is this the case with activities in your life? Are you getting only a fraction of fulfillment from your life? Could it be that you are only giving your life a fraction of the attention it deserves?

Give it some thought, and then in a few days return to this blog for some suggestions on how to combat the pull towards multitasking.....