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Coach Yourself to Success in 5 Steps

Coach Yourself to Success in 5 Steps

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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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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