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!

Laura

 

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How’s Your Resolution? Get Focused!

It is near the middle of the month, and time to take a quick check to see how you’re doing on July’s resolution.  While you do that, notice whether you’ve kept up on June’s or not.  I have to admit, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with my June resolution while starting and working on my July resolution.  How about you?  The good news is, the July resolution is going quite well!

Establishing a habit should take three to four weeks, but for some of us, it does take longer, so you may need to be vigilant about your past resolutions when the month ticks over and you start a new one.  Just don’t let excuses get in the way of your older (or newer) resolutions!

On the other hand, some of us get bored or frustrated when we are trying to maintain a habit that doesn’t seem to be having any good effects.  In this case, remember that a seed is growing under the ground even if you can’t see it.  Just trust that something is growing and you will soon see evidence of it.  If necessary, ask someone you trust for feedback (see my posts on getting and giving feedback) to make sure your seedling is working its way to the open air.

No matter what, stay focused on your goal, which your resolution should be supporting, and make sure you aren’t letting circumstances dictate what you can or cannot accomplish.

In my case, it helps a lot when people “like” and share my posts on Facebook or, even better, participate and comment here on this blog.  I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

 

A Time to Destroy (and Celebrate!)

FireworksHappy Independence Day!  Here in the U.S.A. we celebrate our freedom and patriotism on this day.  Fireworks will be on the agenda tonight just about everywhere.  In some places you can see multiple fireworks shows just standing in one spot!

It’s reminiscent of the words in our national anthem, “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” which speak of the destruction and sacrifice that had to happen to win the freedom we celebrate today.  And it’s very much like the Law of Sacrifice, which says that you have to give up something of value in order to obtain something of even greater value.

It’s in this spirit that I say the following: destruction can be a good thing. Often we automatically think of destroying something as a  bad thing and we strive hard not to do it or let it happen.  Yet, we can get stuck if we stubbornly cling to what we have.  Sometimes you have to be willing to let go of something you have, in order to get something even better.  On a small scale, that might mean cleaning out a closet or an attic and letting some old treasures find a new home.  It might mean tearing down a wall in order to make a great new space in your home.  It might mean taking down a dilapidated building to make room for a shining new business or living structure.  It might mean repealing old laws that no longer serve us, in order to allow new, better policies to prevail.  It could even mean the end of a relationship that is not working.

More than anything, though, it’s about how you think. You have to be willing to let go of your old thought patterns in order to build new ones that serve you better.  When you are working on building a new good habit for yourself, you will have to do some demolition of old thought patterns and habits in the process.  Be watching for that moment of resistance when you realize you are going to have to let go of something you thought at one time was absolutely necessary.  It may be a scary or even painful process, but in the end you will have something to celebrate.  And then, maybe there will be fireworks!

 

It’s Resolution Day! No Excuses!

Happy July! Time for a new resolution. What did you pick?

This is “No Excuses Month” in the Resolution Revolution.  It’s usually pretty easy to find a reason why you can’t do something, especially if you find it difficult or unpleasant sometimes. But the good news is that you can usually find a way around your obstacles with just a little resourcefulness. Today’s blog entry was in danger of being cancelled due to no power (and no internet) at my house. But I really want to keep my momentum going and not give in to excuses. So here I am at a local book store enjoying air conditioning and internet access, and blogging on my phone. Oh yeah, and hoping I can get access to one of the few electrical outlets soon, since the phone is my last link to the world and is about to die.

My point is that, instead of saying, “Oh, well!” and using the circumstances as an excuse, you can instead find alternatives and still accomplish your task.

So this month as you are working on your new July resolution, accept no excuses.  Be resourceful and determined, and stay tuned for support and accountability.

Resolution Check-in

Hiker on MountainDid you Join the Resolution Revolution?  Did you make a new resolution for June?  If so, how is it going?

If you are wondering what I’m talking about, go back and read my original post, Minimal Effort(tm) Resolutions.  Then join right in and get started making your life better in bite-size increments.

The Resolution Revolution is about making resolutions to improve your life, except instead of doing it on a massive scale once a year, all by yourself, we Resolutionaries do it together, one easy resolution per month.  After sticking to a resolution for a whole month, it should become habit, or nearly so, and be easy to maintain while you proceed with the next resolution the next month.

To that end, I made a resolution for June that I would update my blog three times per week.  I scheduled those updates for Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday of each week, although there is some leeway if the situation calls for a reschedule.  I’m happy to say that so far I have stuck to my commitment!  I have had some challenges, and yes, the schedule did need some tweaking more than once, but I’m still on track for my three updates per week, and feeling very good about it!

How is your June resolution going?  What have your challenges been?  Your successes?  Post comments here to get help with your challenges and celebrate your successes, no matter how small.  This is a forum for support and accountability as you systematically make tiny improvements every day that add up to 12 new great, beneficial habits every year.  You’ll hardly notice the miniscule burden this places on your daily life, at least until you compare your life as it is now to your life as it will be a year from now. I can’t wait to meet the “new you!”

In keeping with the supportive nature of the Revolution, I’d like to report my challenges and successes so far.  My biggest challenge was that I made a major life decision at the same time I made this commitment — I decided to go back to school!  That’s right, this mom of a 25-year-old Master’s graduate is going for a Master’s herself!  Not only that, I was generously given the opportunity to apply now and start in the Fall.  THIS Fall, that is , about two months from now!  Which meant I had a lot to do in a short time, including taking the GRE.  The program I am applying for is a Communication program, so the Verbal and writing scores were the most important, but I didn’t want to completely choke on the Math either, so studying was my life for a couple of weeks.

Now, understand, it has been several decades (I’d rather not admit how many) since I’ve used or even seen most of the math covered on the test, so I had my work cut out for me.  Fortunately, I have a 25-year-old Math major with a Master’s degree.  Oh, yeah, the son tutored the mom for sure!

Because of this program’s high expectations in the Verbal section, I couldn’t let that slide either.  So there was a great deal of preparation going on at my house, plus arranging for transcripts and recommendation letters, and writing my personal statement for the application.  All in addition to my usual obligations and activities of life, including work, although fortunately that is fairly light this time of year. (I mean fortunately in the time-management sense.  Unfortunately in the financial sense.)

So I did find it a challenge to get my three updates done per week, but I’ve done it one way or another so far.  And the GRE is now past, as I took it this morning, with good results.  Definitely a success worth celebrating!  I’ll have the last few pieces of my application turned in by the end of this week and then I will be at the beach for a week!

Speaking of which, updates will still happen while I am vacationing, but may be much shorter and/or “fluffier”.

Now that I’ve shared my progress so far and my challenges and successes, won’t you do the same?  Leave a comment below — I’d love to hear how you’re doing!

By the way, we now have only 11 days until July resolutions begin.  It’s time to start giving some thought to what you want your July resolution to be, if you haven’t already. Not sure what to choose?  Comment here for help from fellow Resolutionaries.

Keep on with your June resolution and start preparing for the July one.  In the meantime, have a GREAT Minimal Effort(tm) day!

Laura

 

 

How NOT to take Feedback (Part 2.5)

Ketchup SmileHow could I have left these out?  It’s true, my brain is a little fried lately — some of you know why — and my blogging time has been limited.  But I didn’t want to leave you without this important stuff, so here are 3 things you should NOT do with your feedback:

1. Don’t take it personally

A lot of people won’t give you accurate feedback because they are afraid of hurting your feelings or causing a problem, or because they are just not the sharing type, or because they are the type who only notice when something is “wrong” and therefore when everything is fine and great, they won’t tell you so.

So, when you specifically ask someone for feedback, and you make it clear that you want them to give their honest opinion, be ready to hear almost anything.  Your source may not be very practiced at giving feedback for the previously mentioned reasons, so they will not necessarily phrase it in a way that is encouraging or helpful to you.  That’s okay.  Think of it as applying to someone else, someone you have never heard of, then analyze it for how you can use it to move forward. Put on your grown-up pants and be professional.  Don’t take it personally.

2. Don’t take it passionately

In other words, keep your ego and  your emotions out of the picture as you receive and analyze your feedback.  Not necessarily an easy thing to do, but like a lot of things it gets easier with practice.  And it’s necessary.  The minute you react emotionally to your feedback, you lose any value you may have gotten from it.  The value in it is comparing it to your intentions and goals, deciding how much weight to give it in future decisions, and moving on.

When you allow someone’s comment to send you into an emotional tailspin or an ego trip, you are taking what is a limited and flawed piece of advice and turning into a rent-free resident in your mind who does nothing to help you reach your goal.  It’s time to evict that deadbeat and pile all the baggage on the sidewalk.  You’ve got work to do, and no time for anything that doesn’t help.  So don’t take it passionately.

3. Don’t take passively

If you just indiscriminately absorb every bit of feedback you receive, from every source imaginable, you will find that you are constantly being buffeted about by the opinions of others.  You will likely find yourself from time to time getting feedback you didn’t ask for from people whose opinions you are not sure you can trust.  You will occasionally hear things second or third hand that someone said about you or your work.  And there is always the completely random know-it-all on the street who finds it necessary to say whatever he or she is thinking, whether or not it is relevant or knowledgeable or even appropriate.

When these come along, remember that you are in control of your feedback.  If it was inappropriate for the person to say what they did, it’s okay to toss that piece of feedback and seek something more appropriate.  However, be prepared in case your more reliable feedback source agrees with the ninny on the street!

Also, never give any credence to any opinion you don’t get first hand.  If Susie says that Nancy said that her brother’s doctor’s hairdresser said… you just can’t be sure how true that information is, much less whether the opinion that was supposedly expressed is relevant or knowledgeable.  Therefore, it is not worth your time (or nerves) to even consider it.  Forget you heard it at all.  Unless it’s a really good review, in which case, you can claim a little credit and bask for a moment before throwing it out.  Whichever kind of feedback it is, you may want to go to your trusted sources and specifically ask for their feedback on that particular issue.  And as always, put your feedback under a microscope and use it to help you evaluate yourself.  Don’t take it passively!

As with a lot of things in life, there are hard ways and easier ways to take your feedback.  As “Your Minimal Effort(tm) Guru” I want you to do it the easiest way possible, and that means not wasting time and energy feeling high or low because of some feedback you got.  Give that feedback its proper place, and save your energy for the real work which is to come.

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!

Laura

Minimal Effort(tm) Weight Loss? The Best Diet of All

Trying to decide which diet is the best? I’ve always thought that the most effective weight loss plan is the one you stick to.  Then I ran across this article:  The Best Diet of All.

If’ you’re looking for the most effective and healthy way to lose weight, this article provides a great dose of common sense.

You might want to make some healthy eating habits or exercise one of your resolutions.  I’d love to share your resolution journey!  Just leave a comment with your resolution, thoughts, ideas, questions, hiaku or whatever you want (within reason — I do moderate).  Let’s support and hold each other accountable for our resolutions!

The Resolution Revolution is underway!  Join in by subscribing and participating here.

Have a great, Minimal Effort(tm) Day!

Laura

Feedback: Why, Who, When, and How (Part 1)

Nassau LighthouseFeedback is essential when you are working toward a goal, unless, of course, it has to do with sound equipment (yikes!).

You can never improve at anything if you don’t know how well you did the last time and in what ways, and you can’t know how close you are to your goal and whether the steps you took got you any closer if you don’t have some kind of feedback.

Sometimes your feedback is obvious and easy to obtain.  For example, it’s really obvious that I missed a scheduled blog update yesterday!  I know that because I remember that I didn’t do it, and because WordPress tracks all my posts and shows none for yesterday, so even if I couldn’t remember what I did yesterday, I’d be able to tell I didn’t post anything.

But often, something you’re trying to do just doesn’t have inherently obvious or immediate feedback.  You often need to get it from other people.  And that’s where it starts to get tricky.

Now that you know why to obtain feedback, it’s important to consider from whom to get it, when to get it, and how to get it.  And the same thing applies to giving feedback, which is an important skill.

In order to keep this short, I will stick to one thing today, and that is: Who? Who will be the person or people you ask for your feedback?  Not just anyone will do.  Ladies, if you ask your husband “Does this make me look fat?” he is not likely to give you an honest answer, especially if itisn’t his favorite look for you, and if he wants to keep harmony in your relationship.  In fact, there may be no one in your life who has the same eye for how you want to look that you have.  Your best bet for feedback on your own appearance is a mirror and a camera. (It’s okay to have someone take the picture or video of you — I didn’t mean that you have to stand in front of a mirror with a camera and try to take a picture of yourself.  Especially if it’s your behind that concerns you!)

I’ve often advised people that they should not necessarily share their most important goals with everyone they know.  Sometimes not even with those who are closest to them.  Your spouse, close friends, and family members are very emotionally invested in you the way you are now.  Sometimes when you set out to make an ambitious change in your life, these are the very people who will — subtly or otherwise — try to sabotage your efforts, often without even knowing that’s what they’re doing.  They want to help you avoid disappointment, perhaps, or they just have no experience in the realm you’re heading for and have anxiety about going there with you, even peripherally.  Maybe they think it’s “weird” that you want to do that, but they don’t want to hurt your feelings so they don’t come right out and say that.  Instead, they withhold support in subtle ways, or make suggestions that, if followed, would take you in a direction contrary to what you have chosen — usually a more conventional (to them) or less “weird” direction.

So if you can’t reveal your deepest desires and goals to your closest loved ones, to whom can you go for feedback?  Look for someone you know who has some expertise in the area for which you need feedback, but who is not necessarily a close friend.  Hiring a professional coach is a great option.

So is this space.  If you want to share your goal and/or resolution here and receive feedback, support, and accountability, please do!  Post your goal or resolution using the comment feature below and ask any questions you have or report periodically on your progress, challenges, and setbacks.

In Part 2 I’ll talk about when and how to take feedback, and in Part 3, how to give effective feedback.  Until then, have a great Minimal Effort(tm) day!

Great Minds Think Alike

Not long after I had finished congratulating myself on the great Idea that came for a visit recently (now named the Resolution Revolution, and described in the original post), I came across this blog and was immediately humbled.

It seems The Idea visited more than one of us, although in perhaps slightly different form. This gentleman (whose name is never mentioned on his site that I could see) resolved to learn 7 new things and give in 5 new ways in 2012 — 12 Resolutions for 2012. Unlike my idea of the Resolution Revolution — one resolution a month, resulting in 12 a year — he chose his 12 things at the beginning and is pursuing them throughout the year on the schedule he chooses.

I have several thoughts about this. First of all, I really admire his decision to do this, and the choices he made for his resolutions. I must be getting old, because I just can’t seem to muster up that much ambition all at once.  Second, I’m very pleased to see his excellent documentation of his journeys as he works on each resolution. I love his commentary and the pictures included in the posts. Finally, I’m amazed that anyone with that many resolutions going at once has stuck with it and not been completely overwhelmed. There is a lot of room in that list for excuses, and he doesn’t seem to let them have any air time at all. He is truly an inspiration.

For those of us who may be less disciplined or ambitious, there is the Resolution Revolution. One resolution is all you have to deal with at once. For ordinary humans, this approach may be much more likely to succeed, but if you just don’t want to wait, go ahead and use his approach. I don’t mind.

Whichever you choose, please comment here! Let me know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what we as a community can do to help and support you. We’re making the world a better place by improving our own little corners of it! Jump right in and join us any time!

Have a Minimal Effort(tm) day!

Laura