Category Archives: Goal Setting / Achievement

How to write a book – A Play

I’m listening to an interview of author Janice Day who wrote about her breast cancer experience. I like her style and her struggle to find a story format to suit her story.  You can listen to the podcast at  Creative Breakthrough Podcast 1 with Jurgen Wolff.

Janice talks about studying screen writing and being interested in Aristotle’s analysis of the three act play into pity, fear and catharsis.

It’s is a great description of this year’s book writing course and explains my different bouts of writer’s block.

How to Write a Book – A Play
Act I: Pity.
Scene: A desk, a computer, an empty chair.
A woman walks into the room, looks at the computer and wails “oh woe is me, I can’t write a book. I’m doomed.”
Act II: Fear.
Scene: The woman sits on the chair and starts typing, then stops and screeches “oh no, I can write a book… oooh, but it won’t be good enough and people will snigger behind my back. I’m doomed if I do and doomed if I dont.”
Act III: Catharsis.
Scene: The woman sits in the chair, typing on the keyboard. The screen comes into focus and we see the words  “the end”. She leans back takes a deep breath, exhales audibly, smiles and says: “wow, so that’s how you write a book.  I’ll be damned.”


Five Questions to help Get Unstuck

I’m participating in an online course with lots of assignments and some of our group have gotten behind and are feeling stuck. It seems overwhelming if not impossible to catch up on the outstanding work and get back on track. So what to do?

I was was feeling like this recently and found that asking the question “what should I to do first?” seemed logical but it was the wrong question.  I couldn’t make a decision because I had no way to decide what were the necessary assignments and what I could skip.

Luckily, one of my colleagues reminded me “you know why you are you doing this – let that  be your decider”, which alerted me to the fact that I had not revisited my “why” in a while.  So here are the five questions that helped me get unstuck and moving again.

1. Why am I doing this? 

I revisited my “why”.  I wanted to do this course because I am keen to learn how to run online communities and to connect with people who work in social & environmental justice. That hasn’t changed but I have lots of choices about what sort of community and I sometimes get lost in the options, so I need a way to remind myself of what I want.  I like the idea of the minimum viable product that I can build – something that will produce value for my community members come launch day on Septemer 10th.

Lesson: We need to make our “Why” memorable, so we can think about it on a daily basis.
Suggestions include: Make a poster to look at, a story to tell, or a dance move to reflect your “why”.  A rough prototype of the website is relevant for my particular project.

2. Who am I doing this for and 3. What is their problem?

In the early days of hte program we spent time talking about and describing our audience, what they say their problems are. I think I need to keep them in mind daily.

Lesson: How can we find someone who represents our potential audience / clients and has the typica problems they have, then make them memorable via a screenshot or image, or a typical phrase for their problem, or a pose that they get into when they’re down.  Google images are great – for serious and cartoon images.

4. How can I help them?

I keep imagining my audience / clients with their problem and then imagine giving them a meaningful message and imagine how I will connect with them.  Is it a product or a service, in my case will it be synchronous or asynchronous contact or a bit of both?  What is the minimum I can create to start to get my message out there and draw potential network members to me?  The answers to these questions helped point me in the direction of where to start. Blogs are easy.  For others, a tangible example of your message / solution might look like a mock up of a workshop marketing page, or a book book cover and outline, or typical answers to frequently asked questions in a podcast, or  a short video demonstrating what we can do.

5. What will my impact be?

Finally, what impact do I intend to have? When I imagine my audience / network with their problem and then they join my community – I create a ‘before and after’ comparison, or a mini movie in my head.  What will they and their life be like after they have joined this community?  I’m still working on this one – trying to create a satisfied network member image, a mock testimonial, or a ‘happy power pose” (see Amy Cuddy for more on powerful poses).

If you haven’t worked out your “Why”, or if you are still stuck after asking these questions, send me an email to sharon (at) and you can join our “proto” community. My motto is a riff on Barbara Sher’s “isolation is the dream killer” … “Connection is the Dream Fulfiller”.

The “cost” of joining the proto community is that you give me full and frank feedback on what does and doesn’t appeal.

How to Succeed: Baby Steps and Baby Mind

baby steps

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.





Strengthen that will power muscle

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.

Getting ourselves and others to change

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).

Gaining a Slight Edge

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.

As a result of the book’s message, I’ve created a Slight Edge Scorecard.  Look out of a copy of it in the next post. 

[How] are questions better than affirmations?

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.

Hassle me – great for follow up

One of my favourite websites is 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.

Good, Better, Best – what are good enough goals?

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.

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