What we accomplish in our lives, what we create, what we become are the result of our actions -- the things we do.
If you practice the piano every single day for an hour and never miss, you will become a skilled pianist.
If you lift heavy weights three times a week, you will build muscle.
If you bake cookies regularly experimenting with different recipes, eventually you'll learn to be a good baker.
If you eat 100 fewer calories than your body uses for fuel every single day, over time you will lose weight.
If you consistently think loving, compassionate, curious thoughts about your child, your relationship will improve.
With consistent effort and focus, you can succeed at anything. Small effort over time adds up to big things.
It all sounds so simple. If this is true, why do we struggle so much to accomplish the things that are important to us? What keeps us from doing the things we know we need to do to meet our goals?
Feelings are the fuel for everything we do. Feelings can drive us to accomplish our goals, and they can also sabotage us. Here are some examples of how feelings can get in our way.
Why didn't I practice the piano last week? I felt overwhelmed with all the other things I had to do.
Why didn't I go to the gym yesterday morning? I was tired.
Why did I yell at my child? I was angry.
Why did I eat an entire pack of Oreos last night? I was trying to soothe a broken heart.
Most people will tell you the way to solve for these things is to get tough. Push through. Use willpower. And that can totally work.
For a week or two.
But eventually, willpower always wanes, and you are left where you started. Never moving forward. Never getting what you want. Stuck.
The only way to drive a long-term change in your behavior is to create a long-term change in the feeling causing the behavior. How do we do that? It always goes back to thoughts. To illustrate this, let's use the fear of failure.
One day I was discussing with my child whether she should give up on one of her goals. She is a former gymnast, and I reminded her how many times she had to fall off the balance beam before she mastered a new skill.
She insightfully replied, "But that was different. With gymnastics, I KNEW that if just kept doing it over and over and over again, eventually I would get it."
Yes, my dear. YES!
But this time, you THINK you'll probably never accomplish your goal. That thought makes you scared you'll put in all the hard work and still fail. That fear of failure is making you want to quit.
Ironically, quitting ensures failure. You're simply failing ahead of time.
"I might fail, so I'm going to stop trying so I don't have to fail." Brains are funny.
Machines don't have this problem. When I get a new Roomba and turn it on, it has a goal of cleaning the floor. It has no idea how many square feet are going to be involved. It doesn't know where the doorways or the couches or the stairs are. It just starts with a program running that tells it to go until it hits an obstacle. When this happens, the program tells it to pivot and try again. And again. And again. Until it finally makes its way around that obstacle. Within a couple of hours, it has found its way around every single thing on the floor and returns home. Emotions never get in a machine's way.
If we could see our failures simply as data points that require a pivot rather than signs we should give up, we could accomplish so much more. When the Roomba hits a literal wall, it means nothing to the machine other than move a little and try again. When people hit a wall they often give it far more significance than it deserves, and fear of failure can become overwhelming. To keep going, we need to manage the fear. Answer our brains. Remind them that failure is never a problem. Failure lives in the same neighborhood as success. If we're not failing, we're not even in the right neighborhood.
This concept works with any other emotion. The trick is identifying the emotion holding you back, processing it, and then deciding whether you want to change it. If you want to exercise more but just aren't doing it, ask yourself why? What emotion is driving that? And then you need to solve for the emotion.
THIS is what's hard about accomplishing goals. It's not hard to cut 100 calories from your daily intake. It's hard to identify and handle the emotions you feel when you try to do that. It's hard to consistently channel the new emotion that will drive you to success. It's not hard to stop yelling at your kids. It's hard to identify and change the thoughts that are causing the anger. This is what coaches are so great at. And while hiring a coach to help you is always a great way to go, you can absolutely learn to do it yourself using the coaching model. Here is the model in its entirety:
C: Circumstance -- the indisputable facts of the situation
T: Thought about the circumstance
F: Feeling that thought generates in you
A: Actions you take that are fueled by that feeling
R: The result you create from taking those actions.
The secret of the model is that everything stems from the thought. Change the thought, and you change your result. Next week we'll look at some complete models and show how powerful using them can be.