Thoughts for Conscious Growth
How do we maintain motivation to diligently pursue the goals we set?
First of all let's talk about the difference between a resolution and a goal. A resolution is sort of like a hope; something "out there" we'd like to accomplish or have happen in our lives that may or may not be realistic..."I'd like to win the lottery"..."I'd like to lose 50 lbs in a month". A goal is a little different. Good goals, by definition, are concise, realistic, measurable, achievable and time-targeted... "I'm going to join Weight Watchers, attend weekly meetings, follow their plan, exercise and lose 1/2 to 1 pound a week until I reach my goal weight of 125lbs by September of 2013.
So, knowing this, I look at several areas in my life and write goals for each. Great! I feel good. I can do this!...today, and maybe tomorrow, but what about next week? What keeps me going? What motivates me to stick with this plan every day, maintaining consistency at a steady pace? How do I find inspiration to keep working towards these goals or is goal setting enough? What is inspiration anyway and where do I find it?
In my path of seeking understanding I think I'll start with the dictionary. Merriam Webster tells me the word inspire means to influence, move or guide, to infuse, draw forth or bring about...and the one that really made me stop and think...to breathe or blow into. So what are those things, events or people in my life that breathe life into me? What or who moves me to do better, to want to reach for my goals? Where have I been influenced in the past? Hmmm, this could be fun.
I know for me, I find great inspiration in nature. I live in the mountains and love just about any activity in the outdoors. So how does nature inspire me to reach for my goals? Maybe nature itself doesn't inspire me to push away that dish of ice cream I don't really need; but rewarding myself with a hike along a favorite trail with my dog, or a day skiing our local slopes after taking some specific steps towards my goals could be very influential.
There are people I'm fortunate enough to have in my life that inspire me and each for different reasons. My friend, Linda, is such a soul sister to me in so many ways. We think a lot alike and have many of the same goals. She, however, is much better at networking...and I don't mean in a business-like way, but her form of networking helps her business. Linda's manner of staying connected with people is so natural for her. She's such a good communicator and so sincere in her interactions that even her chickens and goats understand what she's saying...seriously, I've never seen anything like it. Linda inspires me.
One of my colleagues and friends, LeeAnn, also moves me to want to do better. She is a talented, intelligent and energetic individual. LeeAnn and I have a date to meet once a month to share our successes and discuss what works for each of us in our respective consulting businesses. While LeeAnn recently told me I inspire her, her constant striving to create new ways to help small business owners grow and connect inspire my desire to always find new ways to share my knowledge and passion for helping others.
And then there's Marc. He's my significant other. Aside from being my best friend and playmate, he regularly inspires me. Marc is always honest, moral and ethical. He is sensitive and caring, insightful and intelligent. Marc is as passionate about emotional intelligence as he is about feeding the world. Wow, I live with inspiration!
I guess my point is, I can write goals and day by day work to achieve them, hoping I make it. Without inspiration this just seems like an uphill trek. Discovering what or who inspires me gives me the motivation to be just as successful as the source of what breathes life into me. Then rewarding my successes, even the little ones, with a healthy and/or rewarding treat, such as a walk along a local lake, that's like stacking the deck in my favor.
Where do you find inspiration and how do you reward yourself along the way towards attaining your goals?
Among the many brilliant gems Albert Einstein shared, he also inspires us with this quote which applies not only to the science of physics, but also to the science of everyday life.
We can make plans, set goals and aspire to be better or accomplish more, but without action towards the direction of your goals they are just talk. Conrad Hilton said, "Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit."
In my consulting work with folks looking to start a business I've seen this again and again and marvel at how well this works each time. First of all, people go through the process of developing on paper the detailed vision for their future business. This is a lot of work, but it's also part of a deep learning process. Then, they take a step towards their goal and the universe joins in to create opportunity. Sounds too easy, doesn't it?
I'm simplifying this and there's more to the story, but the basics are this: there are three key activities towards accomplishing goals. The first is planning. The second is implementing (that's the part where you move). The third is follow-up - and this will be the topic of another blog. Most people are good at doing two of the activities, but not the third. Some people are so stuck in some drama in their current life that they can't get past the planning -- or talking stage. (Have you ever met someone who talks and talks about what is going to happen, but has nothing to show for all that talk?) Other folks are stuck in unhealthy relationships or situations that they can't let go of. Recently, I came across a great quote from a guy named Dan Lehnberg: "To live the dream, you gotta lose the drama!" Life is sometimes like a vessel - you can fill it with only so much "stuff". If your vessel is full of unhealthy people, habits and relationships, you don't have room for the amazing success and happiness you really deserve. You've got to move out the junk so you can replace it with joy and achievement.
So back to my business start-up story (and I'll only tell you one)... I have a client who is a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef. She's been working with me to develop a business plan to open a restaurant, but it just wasn't happening. As it turns out she's been going through an extended divorce settlement that has absorbed her life. Her ex was apparently just as absorbed for the past three years also. Finally, the time came for the settlement hearing. She was (coincidentally) at the crux of this situation and, at the same time, waiting to hear on a particular restaurant space she was hoping to rent. She also had some ideas around finding fulfillment in helping single moms by providing a life skill in food service. The universe couldn't support the energy of both situations which appeared to me to be moving in opposite directions... imagine a grasping, needy energy versus a giving, nurturing energy. After the first day of the settlement hearing she went home and cried for hours. The next day she walked into the courtroom and told her ex and his attorney that she wasn't going to fight any more. She would settle. She was done. He could have whatever he wanted.
The very next day the restaurant space became available at a very reasonable rental rate, new catering business opportunities showed up and she got a call from a person she met a few weeks prior who asked her if she would lead up a program doing...guess what???...teaching single moms food service skills to help them develop work-ready skills in the restaurant business.
She had been moving in the direction of her dreams, but then moved out stuck energy from her life, so that her dreams could manifest. She opened her business the following week.
So what does it take for the rest of us? As I tell my clients who are writing a business plan. It's like eating an elephant...you do it a bite at a time. Set your goals one at a time. Then move towards them...baby steps work, but constant and steady baby steps.
What is it in your life you want to move towards? Also, what do you want to move out of the way so your dreams can be realized?
Lately, my work schedule has been nothing short of crazy. Within the past month I've taken on fifteen, yes fifteen new clients. I'm booked solid two weeks in advance from 8am to 6pm. Every day when I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, the first thing the little voice in my head asks is, "What is the absolutely most critical thing I need to do today for a client?" Crazy.
As human nature tends to be, I try to explain away my busyness to others, "Oh, my schedule is just crazy lately!" What's so funny, and interesting is that no one, not one single person feels for me. 100% of the time the response I get back is something like, "Yeah, I know what you mean. My life is insanely busy too." Of course, that little part of me (and you have it in you also) secretly becomes somewhat indignant and I find I have to resist the urge to reinforce just how busy I really am...which means obviously (to that little part of me) that my ego much more invested in my self-importance than the work I do or my own personal growth.
The other day I was talking to clients who are both out of work and looking to start a new business. I made my usual little "busy speech" and got the same reply, "Tell us!" she exclaimed, "Our life is nuts right now!" Wait a minute! They don't even have jobs! That part of me who wants so desperately to feel so exceptional was literally up in arms. Now that's really the crazy part!
First of all, no one forces me or any other individual to take on more than we can handle. I do it willingly. Admit it. You do to. How much my ego is involved is my responsibility. Maybe I volunteer to take on some task or responsibility for purely altrusistic reasons. Maybe I love the challenge or the variety or the social aspect of being involved in a new activity. Overall, though, that feeling of overwhelm is pretty relative and the level of responsibility each of us can handle is also individual to each person and personality type.
How each of us handles or deals with the sensation of overwhelm is idiosyncratic also. We are lucky to live in a culture where it is acceptable to "talk out" those anxious feelings that might come with having too much to do. Some people find that exercise or spending time outdoors in some physical activity fills the need for balance. Meditation can be very helpful and that can be as simple as spending five to ten minutes focusing on deep and slow breathing to center oneself again. Others find a change in pace that a hobby or personal activity provides as helpful. What we all need to be aware of and resist is the use of alcohol or drugs to unwind. In this case, a little can be fine, but more becomes highly counter-productive.
What I've discovered for myself is that I actually need to schedule my personal time, my down time. Assuming that it will occur on its own doesn't work for me. In other words, if it isn't on my schedule it doesn't exist.
These days when I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, the first thing I do is spend a little time in meditation. It helps me center myself so I can face my busy day. Then, after I put coffee or tea on, I head out to do my workout routine. Exercise is a great stress reliever and, I find, a great way to begin my day. The other thing I do is devote time to daily conversation with my partner. He's my rock, supports my work and is my biggest fan...as I hope I am for him. Sharing a fun activity on the weekend with him has allowed me to put more focus on my work and clients during the week, which in some odd way, gives me a sense of more freedom. I also try to make Friday my office day so I can catch up on paperwork, review our project schedule with my assistant, get in some training or mentoring myself and touch base with colleagues.
The challenge of maintaing balance is always ongoing. Its pretty easy to sacrifice time to fit a client in. I find if I give up an hour on a Friday to a client, that one hour easily becomes three. Knowing this about myself, I try to avoid booking clients on a Friday unless it is absolutely necessary, which happens. Flexibility is part of balance.
Now, my next challenge is to let go of that ego thing which makes me want to feel so important for choosing to accept a full life!
Growing pains, life experiences that change us, philosophies, introspection and contemplation