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Coach Yourself to Success in 5 Steps

Coach Yourself to Success in 5 Steps
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Achieving success can be one of the best feelings in the world. There are tangible benefits of success such as promotions or awards, but also less obvious ones like the opportunity to grow, to stretch ourselves, and to learn. The more ambitious we are with our goals and dreams (be it running a marathon or starting our own business) the more help we need to reach them.

Professional coaches are one useful resource. They may be experts in the area of the goal we’re pursuing, like a running coach or an executive coach, or they may just be an experienced sounding board to give a different lens on our problem.

But in order to establish patterns of success and consistently achieve our goals, it’s helpful (and more convenient, and cheaper!) to adopt some self-coaching behaviours. (No, this doesn’t have to involve talking to ourselves – but it can.)

I believe it’s possible to get 80% there with 20% of the effort. To start: develop a success habit by asking yourself these questions at least once a month (or better yet, every week). Carve out an hour to sit, reflect, and write. You’ll not only achieve your goals for success faster than ever before, you’ll grow and learn while you’re doing it.

They key questions to ask yourself are…

1. What do I want to achieve?

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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This is the foundation of everything that follows. Numerous studies find that people who set goals are most successful in the long term. The brilliant thing is that you don’t have to work out all the steps to get there – at least not yet. Just identify what it is you’d like to do, and intend to do it. For instance: I want to become a successful blogger. (Bonus points if you put a date to it – eg ‘by December 31, 2014’ or ‘by end of day Tuesday’).

If you’re new to setting goals, come up with three then pick the one that feels most meaningful for you right now. Focus on this for the rest of the exercise.

See? That was easy.

Next…

2. What does success look and feel like? How will I know when I’m there?

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

This is where the magic starts – this is part of the ‘secret sauce’, the stuff we so often skip over because we underestimate how powerful it is.

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Close your eyes and visualize what ‘success’ really looks like. For instance, being a successful blogger means different things to different people. How will you know you’ve reached YOUR version of this goal? It could be that you will have achieved success when you have written 5 blog posts with 10,000 views each. Or when you get so many guest post requests you’re turning them away. Or when your blog generates $1000 per month in revenues. Whatever success means, paint a detailed picture in your mind, then write down the key elements. Otherwise you won’t know when you’ve achieved it, and you won’t be able to assess as easily if things have gone off the rails.

Now that you know where you want to go and what it will look and feel like to be there, put your brain to work immediately to determine…

3. What is the first step towards this success?

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton

Ask yourself: what’s the next step I need to take to make this happen? By when will I commit to doing this?

You may be thinking, “I don’t know how to become an uber-blogger!” The great thing is that you don’t need to know the entire path to your goal – just one step at a time. If you can map out the entire journey, great. But if not, ask “what is one action item I can take that would bring me closer to this goal?” It could be as simple as compiling your favourite blog posts and authors and assessing what it is that makes you want to read them. Or, it could be signing up for WordPress to get your own domain and blog site. Once you’ve got an idea of the next steps, get moving. Do yourself a favour and follow through on this commitment to yourself, the way you would follow through on a commitment to someone else.

But what if I can’t figure out the next step? That’s ok. There are some great hacks for overcoming resistance. Try…

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  • Talking with someone who’s already achieved the goal you set. Ask them what might be a next step.
  • Closing your eyes and picturing a future you who’s already achieved this goal. Ask this version of you ‘what would be my next step?’

Once you know what your next step will be, decide…

4. What barriers will I have to overcome to accomplish this step with success?

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” – Booker T. Washington

This is the ‘troubleshooting’ step. Undoubtedly something (or many somethings!) will come up that will get in the way of your goal. Some may not be foreseeable, but most will be. By anticipating these roadblocks upfront you can ensure you stay on track and train your brain to anticipate and problem solve. Working out these muscles will pay dividends in every aspect of your life.

A common problem: you may run out of time. Or (reverting to the blog example), you may decide that the first step is to write a post for a friend’s blog and he/she gives some extensive feedback on your writing. Anticipate the most likely barriers and visualize NOW how you will overcome each. So IF your friend sends back significant edits to your post, you’ve built in a buffer of an extra day to revise and resubmit.

Bulletproof your timelines and action plans to ensure you can leap over most hurdles that stand between you and success.

Once you’ve completed your step, ask yourself…

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5. What can I learn from this experience?

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life – and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

High achievers across sports, business, entertainment, and government share this one behaviour: they will reflect thoughtfully and detachedly on their performance and outcomes. Once you’ve achieved your step/goal, reflect and see what can be learned from your work. Some subquestions could be:

  • Did you get to the outcome you envisioned?
  • Were there challenges you didn’t expect?
  • What factors helped you?
  • Would you do anything differently if you had a ‘do over’?

Research has shown that our brains don’t actually need to ‘do’ something in order to learn – rehearsing behaviour patterns, or reflecting can be as powerful as if we’d actually had more practice, or been given the real-life opportunity for a do over.

By reflecting deliberately and learning from every situation, your can accelerate your personal and professional growth. The key for getting the most out of this is staying objective. To learn the most you need to examine from every angle with a scientist’s lens. Getting hung up on emotions or baggage will hinder your learning.

Finally, recognize that setbacks happen all the time. They’re part of life and the learning process. But the most successful people are able to ‘fail forward’, or fail in such a way that they gain valuable insight that will make them more successful next time. Being your own coach means cheering yourself on, holding yourself accountable, and sometimes, dusting yourself off! But by using this process you can set yourself up for a virtuous cycle of successes and train your brain to achieve – so that success truly does become the norm.

Featured photo credit: Paxon Woebler via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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