Slipped Up? Good For You!

Missed TargetBoy, did I slip up this week!  I failed to maintain both my June and July resolutions.  I’m catching up today, but wow, I mean, it can really feel like failure when you miss those targets, can’t it?

The question, though, is: what do you do next?  When you hit a snag in your work, a failure to perform to your expectations, a flaw in your plan, or a submission to temptation that knocks you off course, what do you do next?

If you’ve slipped, that’s good news.  It means you’re human, and it gives you a chance to learn something about yourself.  What’s your Kryptonite?  What temptation are you likely to give in to?  What are the limits of your stamina, or tolerance, or courage?  Just where are the rough spots you’ll need to watch out for?  One of the best things you can do when you slip is to ask, “what can I learn from this?”

The most common reaction, unfortunately, is to write off the whole affair.  In other words, if you slip on your diet because you were out with friends and couldn’t resist sharing the cheesecake, or if you skip a litterbox cleaning because you’re exhausted from an unusually active day, it’s easy to just give up altogether on the diet, or on your resolution to keep the litterbox clean.  When you feel like a failure, it’s almost inevitable that you will act like one.

Instead, what if you looked at it more like a speed bump in your path?  You slowed down for a moment, but then you can just get right back to what you were doing.  It may mean you’ll take a little longer to get where you’re going, but your trip might be that much richer and more memorable because you slowed down for a moment along the way.  And when you do attain that goal, or continue to provide improved health, lifestyle or living conditions for yourself, you’ll enjoy it that much more, knowing that you’ve overcome obstacles to get there.  The hardest-won prize  is often the most precious.

And while I don’t recommend allowing circumstances to become excuses, there are some reasons you may temporarily choose to let a resolution slide.  One example of such a reason is that children grow up fast!  Mine is already grown, and I know from experience that when there are opportunities to share and enjoy life with your children and other loved ones, you may, with proper conscious forethought, choose to suspend your resolution temporarily in order to take advantage of those opportunities.

It goes back to Minimal Effort(tm) Rule #1 which is: Know Your Priorities.  Your resolutions are important, and too much straying would not be in your best interest.  But if you have a higher priority, it may sometimes interfere.  Don’t let your highest priorities slide in favor of lower ones.  Ever.

The trick, of course, is to be very aware of, and very clear about, what your priorities are.  Many people choose what they call the “three-legged stool” — God, Family, Work.  I know others who have at least one more high priority to add to that list, and some very successful and happy people I know have a different list altogether.  Don’t feel compelled to use someone else’s idea of a priority list, but a model to start from is not a bad idea.  Spend quiet time thinking about your priorities and come up with your own list.  Then keep it firmly in mind when making choices about how to spend your time and energy.  Don’t waste either one on low-priority things unless all your high-priority things are taken care of.

I slipped up this week, and at first it felt like a failure.  But now that I think about it, I had a higher priority for my time and energy this week.  I am incredibly grateful for the experiences and opportunities I’ve had this week and wouldn’t want to have missed them, so I will take the energy of that gratitude, get caught up from where I slipped, and get right back on track.

Here’s to another great week!




Feedback (Part 2)

When  and how should you take feedback?  In Part 1, we talked about the why and the who, but now that you know why you need it and from whom to get it, when should you get it?  And when you do get it, how do you take it?

There is an easy answer to the first question: as often as possible.  Feedback is an indispensable tool without which you can’t know how close you are to your target, or in which direction to move to get you closer to it.  It shows you where you are in relation to where you want to be at any given moment, from some perspective.  That last phrase is important, so I’ll repeat it: from some perspective.  If you’ve chosen the right person or people to get your feedback from, the views you’ll be getting will be the ones that matter to you.  No matter what, though, keep in mind that any one perspective is just that: one perspective.

Which brings me to the next question: how should you take feedback when it comes? Let’s assume you are receiving feedback you invited, from a source you chose, so you know it will be knowledgeable and relevant.  Still, there are things you need to remember as you consider what you’re being told about yourself, your effectiveness, your performance, or whatever your feedback is about.

First, remember that one person’s opinion is just that: one person’s opinion.  The further your source deviates from the knowledgeable and relevant, the more you must keep this in mind, but even the best source is still just one of many possible sources.  There could be quite a wide range of other reactions in your audience at large.

Second, not only is your source limited, the sample they are evaluating is limited too.  Keep in mind that the feedback you get is based on the sample of your work, that is, one essay, one speech, one painting, one online transaction, etc., out of many that you have produced or will produce.

So here you have a limited sample being evaluated by a limited source of feedback.  What does that tell you?  Good or bad, the comments you receive will only be a limited sample of the total reaction of everyone who ever comes in contact with your work.  It may or may not actually reflect the true effect you are having or your proximity to your goal.

Why then should you get this feedback at all?  Because, limited and flawed though it may be, it is still the best you can get with the resources you have available, and it will give you a starting point for your own self-evaluation.  Take the information and give it serious thought.  In the end, you may disagree with your source if you have sufficient evidence, but keep getting feedback and keep evaluating that feedback with careful thought.  Reserve the right to change your mind and actually agree later on if the evidence supports that.

Self-evaluation is very difficult because we are just too close to our own work to see it objectively.  That is why we can only do it with outside feedback.  But it is also important to take the feedback we get and run it through a process of careful consideration before blindly accepting it, because it is so limited in scope.  Of course, the more feedback you get from appropriate people within the range of your target audience, the less limited in scope, and the more useful to you, it becomes.

Now that you know why, when, how, and from whom to get feedback, what if you are the one who is asked to give feedback?  How can you do that most effectively?  Stay tuned, because that’s coming up in Part 3.

Until then, have a happy Father’s Day and a great Minimal Effort(tm) day!


What If You’re Stuck?

"Oh, No! What Now?"A few days ago, I began what I have come to call the Resolution Revolution (read the original post).  I hope you’ve joined it, but if not, it’s never too late!  Just make a resolution today, just one, to build a new good habit, then stay tuned here for help, support, and accountability.

I’m on the third installment of my June resolution, which is to update my blog three times per week.  So far, so good.  It’s right about now, when I am feeling the pinch of that commitment, and the obligation begins to weigh a little heavily, that I often get stuck.  You know the feeling, I’m sure.

Yes, I SAID I was going to update three times a week, but really, this has been an unusually full week (and actually, in my case it really has, as some of you know, because I made a HUGE decision over the weekend and another, much bigger commitment for my future.  More about that later.) So you’ve been busy, the spouse and kids have been sick, things came up at work that kept you there for longer days, your in-laws are visiting, and the dog brought fleas into the house.  You’re feeling overwhelmed and the first thing you want to do is eliminate some stress — anything that can reduce your burden a little would help.  Usually the first thing to go is that recent resolution and voila!  You’ve proven yourself human.

I am not immune to this phenomenon.  I have been doing a lot of writing this week and feeling a little burned out with it, so when I realized it is Wednesday already and I have committed to update my blog today, I admit to feeling a little put-upon by that.  “My brain is fried!” I cried.  “I can’t think of anything to write!” I whined.  Fortunately, my inner coach spoke up and said, “My, we’re full of excuses aren’t we?  What a great example we’re setting for those people we’re trying to help!”

So, <grumble> here are your ways to avoid <sigh> ditching your resolution when things get tough <moan>:

  1. Be very clear about your priorities.  List the areas of your life that are the most important and get your best attention first.  Put your resolution near the top of that list, write out the list and post it where you can see it.  Refer to it when you are tempted to quit.
  2. Use your current situation as fuel.  In my case, it is blog fodder.  In yours, it could be “I’ll show THEM” or “Not on MY watch!”
  3. Have external accountability.  I’ve got a public audience to whom I’ve made promises.  You might have an exercise buddy, a diet pal, or a goals group to keep you on track.  Sometimes it’s very easy for us to let ourselves down, but it’s harder to let someone else down.  When my son was little, whenever I got out the vacuum cleaner, he’d ask, “Who’s coming over?”  Yes, that’s about how often I vacuumed.  It was because I couldn’t be bothered to clean for myself, but I didn’t want to let someone else down.  By the way, you can use me and this blog for your accountability.  We can help each other!  In fact, we may be a better choice for you than someone you already know well (see #6 below).  Use the comment button below to join in and let us know what your resolution is.
  4. As evidenced by my grumbles and moans, you don’t have to love it, especially at first.  Just do it.  Have an actively bad attitude about it if you want, but do it anyway.  Eventually you’ll figure out that the bad attitude is just taking up energy you could be using for something else, and you’ll let it go.  By then your new habit should be well-established and not nearly so difficult to maintain.  But in the meantime, feel free to grump it up.
  5. Add more to your expectations for a while.  If you’re seriously having trouble keeping your resolution, make it even more strenuous for a week or two.  That is, require more frequent blog updates, even more and longer exercise (check with your doctor on this one), an even more restrictive diet, whatever makes it even harder to keep your resolution.  Then ease off and say “Ahhhh, that feels better!”
  6. Write down your excuses and send them to your external accountability person/people.  If you’ve picked the right person or group, they will shoot holes in your excuses and make you toe the line.  Sometimes the best people for this are NOT the ones who are closest to you.  They will love and support you no matter what you choose and may not hold you accountable like someone outside your inner circle.  Or you may have trouble accepting “coaching” from them.  You may wish to be on an equal status in your relationship and not want to yield authority to them in cases like this.  So be careful whom you choose.

More help is on the way in future posts.  Be sure to share your journey with us using the comment feature below!

Have a great Minimal Effort(tm) day!

Laura, “Your Minimal Effort(tm) Guru”