There was a popular movie in the 90’s called “What about Bob?” where the egotistical psychotherapist, played by Richard Dreyfuss, wrote a book entitled “Baby Steps”.
The title represents a brilliantly simple idea, that in order to succeed we need to take baby steps.
And importantly, we need to take those steps with ‘baby mind’. When babies are learning to walk they aren’t thinking about themselves, only the goal.
Want this. Oops fell over.
Want this. Oops fell over.
Want this. Ahh, did it.
We continue this success pattern until we succeed in walking. And then we learn to run. Or ride a bike. Or write a book.
Somewhere along the line we learn to think about what we are doing. And our style of thinking has a big impact on what we decide to do.
Instead of the observation “oops fell over”, we learn to make judgments about the action.
Is it good, or not good enough?
And we may pick up messages that mistakes are bad. That only 100% is acceptable. That smart people don’t make mistakes.
So our success pattern changes:
I want this. I think I can. Oops mistake.
I want this. I think I can. Oops another mistake.
I want this. I don’t know if I can do it (perfectly). Oops another mistake you dummy.
I want this. I don’t think I can. I’m not good enough. Argghh, I give up.
For example, I embarked on a goal to write a book in the space of a year.
My first four months went like this:
I want this. I think I can. Oops my writing is nothing special.
I want this. I’m not sure if I can. Oops, I don’t think I have anything original to say.
I want this. I don’t think I can. I’m not good enough…
But luckily, I am with a group of amazing women attempting the same goal. Some are making good progress, writing regularly. Others are struggling with similar thoughts to me.
So this month I delved back into the literature on what makes the difference in learning and achievement, what is the secret to success.
And I’m reminded that a lot of it is about baby steps. Breaking the goal down into baby steps and taking action again and again. Writing as often as possible. Preferably every day. Even if it doesn’t seem good enough…yet.
I don’t necessarily like this message, but I now know that that if I write often enough I can finish my book this year.
I don’t yet know how well it will turn out, or whether it will sell.
I’m not expecting it to be on the bestseller list, but I am aiming to benefit the people who read it.
If I do so, I will be satisfied. It will be a year well spent.
Great quote from Hunter S. Thompson, courtesy of Farnham Street… “And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal“.
Discipline, will power and self-regulation are loaded terms at this time of year, when we are torn between letting ourselves go and enjoying ourselves or staying on the straight and narrow. Here are 8 practical and research-based tips from Tim Psychyl for strenghtening your will-power muscles so that you can have the kind of year that is both satisfying and enjoyable.
Best wishes to all for a ‘restive’ festive season.
This article by Morten T. Hansen from the HBR blog – Ten Ways to get people to change – is a great summary of ten ways to get ourselves and others to change. Enjoy the variety of options, then follow Hansen’s first point and choose just one thing to change now.
The sequencing I’ve found most useful contains six of the ten points: create an emotionally appealing image and story of the future with that new behaviour; find out the danger points – when I’m most likely to succumb to old; create a new pattern – something I will do instead; tell an advocate to whom I don’t want to say I’ve failed; make progress visible – I use a 30 day habit change chart with smiley faces for successful days; and reward myself – find a positive factor or reward for sticking with the new behaviour (in addition to the rewards of the behaviour).
I’m really enjoying Jeff Olsen’s book The Slight Edge. It ties together a number of themes I love around taking action, discipline, mastery, developing habits and positivity and the diagram reminds me that there are consequences of taking (small actions consistently leads to great results.
Thanks to John Campbell at Growth Coaching International for the link to recent research into the benefits of asking questions before doing a task, versus making affirmations. The research shows that asking “Will I…?” helps generate more internal motivation and success on tasks than stating “I will…”
I am also an advocate of asking “how will you …?” or “how can you…?” when managing others, so it would be interesting to know whether the “how” provides even more benefit.
By the way, the link to the underlying research led me to the Science Daily website – which looks like a great source of updates for a research junkie like me and led to another article, which I will review tomorrow.
Will I test this out on myself this week? Hmmm it would be helpful to see if there was a difference. But will it work if I know what I am doing? I will just have to try it and see.
One of my favourite websites is www.hassleme.co.uk which allows anyone to set up regular reminders – at no cost.
When you click on the website it asks you what you want to be hassled about, to what email address and roughly how frequently.
I have a hasslebot to hassle me to write a blog about every two weeks, and now I find my mind has been so well trained, I am anticipating the email.
Of course, as my colleague Greg Jenkins said today, the “final frontier” is to take action and “implement” the idea. Hence this post.
I’ve worked with two separate management groups recently, both of whom had the words, better or best in their goal statements, e.g. we want to be the best in market X. When I challenged the groups to explain what better or best would look like, there were different views that had to be talked through. The intention to drive achievement seemed to have the opposite effect and there were at least a couple of people in each group who expressed a view that sounded more like “good enough” when pressed to explain how best would be measurable.
It reminded me of Barry Schwartz’ book The Paradox of Choice. Here for the first time I fully understood the implications of being a “maximiser” (aka perfectionist) – someone who is constantly looking for the best solution, option or performance. The trouble is that we can never know for sure that we’ve become the best and in today’s world of expanding choices, better or best may only last a moment.
Schwartz’s hypothesis is that it is easier to be a “satisficer” – setting a standard or level that you will be satisfied with.