Archive for the ‘Optimizing Personal Results’ Category

Effective Delegation Tool for Busy Leaders

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Early Saturday morning I went to the Long Beach Fire Department’s Training Center to attend a traffic control class for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. The CERT program manager, Firefighter/Paramedic Jake Heflin, a highly respected and nationally recognized expert in emergency preparedness and response as well as a sought-after FEMA-certified trainer, came in a few minutes later. The look on his face suggested he hadn’t slept in days. Professional that he is, he rallied to get the class started by introducing our Long Beach Police Department trainer.

During the break, I asked Jake how things were going. He had just returned from a week-long trip to Phoenix, the White House had called him to request that he write a letter explaining how emergency preparedness would affect one of its initiatives, his work had piled up in his absence, and he was worried about the funding for his position, which ends in September. Plus he hadn’t seen his family in a week, and Sunday was Mother’s Day in the U.S. No pressure!

“Pat,” he said, “I need to be operating at the 50,000 foot level. Instead, I’m down here in the weeds. I need to learn now to delegate.”

“Jake,” I replied, “I have just the tool for you. It’s a very simple question that provides immediate clarity. Ask yourself, ‘Am I the only person who can do [the task at hand]?’ If the truthful answer is ‘Yes,’ then do it. Otherwise, delegate it.”

Though the question is a simple one that cuts to the chase, I find that leaders have a hard time actually releasing tasks they should be delegating. Sometimes there is no one to whom they can hand things off. However, even that “excuse” often can be overcome with a little creativity. Most of the time, there are beliefs that hold leaders back. See if either of these rationalizations resonates with you:

“No one else can do it as well as I can.”

“I can do it faster myself.”

Although these statements may be true, here’s why allowing such beliefs to prevent you from delegating tasks is problematic on three levels:

1. Organization: you are not serving your organization well because you are misallocating scarce resources, namely your time.

2. Employees: you are failing to develop your staff by withholding opportunities for them to learn and grow.

3. Self: you are hurting yourself because you unnecessarily are increasing the amount of stress you face, which has a negative effect on your health as well as on your performance.

So please – do yourself and everyone else a favor: stop making excuses and start delegating! By releasing those tasks that others can do and focusing on those that you are uniquely qualified to do (or that you love to do), you will experience a dramatic increase in well-being. As a bonus, those to whom you delegate the tasks will appreciate the trust you are showing in them.

© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.


Alignment Solutions Newsletter: U.S. Olympian Shares Teamwork Gold

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

U.S. Olympian Shares Teamwork Gold

Alignment solution: The best team members know that for the good of the team, sometimes they must give less than 100% of their individual efforts.

Recently I spoke with an athlete who is a veteran of three U.S. Olympic water polo teams, including the 2008 silver medalist team. While reflecting on the years spent practicing and competing with his fellow elite athletes, he shared a key insight. Early in his career, he gave 100% of his effort in every practice and competition. In fact, he believed it was his duty always to do his absolute best, no matter the situation. What he came to realize, however, is that sometimes his all-out efforts actually hurt the team, such as when they prevented others from honing their skills or trying new techniques because he was always there to assist or to do it for them. His biggest “aha” moment, he said, came when he realized that for the team to be successful, sometimes he had to step back so that others could step forward.

To see the wisdom of this insight, one need only consider the very different experiences of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams in 2004 and 2008. During the 2004 Games, team members played as individuals, going all out as they showcased the things they did best. As a result, the team, which on paper had the best talent in the world including young NBA stars, went home with the bronze medal. In contrast, the 2008 Games saw the athletes play as a team, holding back on their individual efforts when doing so was in their collective best interest. They earned the gold medal that year.

When people are passionate about what they do, their inclination is to give 100% all the time. Below are eight ways to help them internalize the reality that going all out sometimes may be counterproductive. The intended outcome is to enable them to optimize the team’s results by determining accurately when greater success requires the timely easing of individual efforts.

  1. Keep the big picture in mind. It’s about the best outcome for the customer, not about which team member exerts the most effort.
  2. Evaluate current approaches to see where there could be opportunities for team improvement by a strategic lessening of individual efforts.
  3. Show team members what’s in it for them to optimize their collective performance by engaging in compare and contrast scenarios.
  4. Teach your employees to hold back when necessary, and highlight the difference when the team’s outcome improves as a result.
  5. Allow new employees to learn by doing. Take the time to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of those who are new to your teams.
  6. Recognize that others will do things differently than you would, and that’s okay as long as the methods are legal and ethical.
  7. Take pride in your team members’ progress and accomplishments. Their success is your success.
  8. Set a powerful example for others by holding back when it’s appropriate for the good of the team.

Especially when employees are committed to achieving the best for their team or organization, they tend to want to give 100% of their individual efforts. Before doing so, they would be well advised to consider whether that decision will optimize the team’s or the organization’s success.

Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

Click here to Join Our Mailing List!

SM Icons


© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Setting Priorities Need Not Be an Elusive Competency

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The ability to set and, perhaps more importantly, to implement organizational priorities is a critical success factor for leaders. When there are dozens of things to be done, someone must step forward to bring order out of chaos. Too often, however, workplaces are filled with employees who feel discouraged because they are spinning their wheels, or frustrated by the lack of clear and consistent direction, or burned out because everything should have been done yesterday.

Here are some reasons why people find it difficult to set and implement priorities:

Indecisiveness due to fear of making the “wrong” choice.

Reluctance or inability to make hard decisions.

Mistaken belief that good intentions are enough.

Low level of importance or urgency.

Lack of accountability – i.e., there are no consequences for non-performance.

Consider these facts:

Priorities involve choices about how to use time.

There can be only one “top” priority: by definition, there is a rank order to choices.

Priorities are what you DO, not what you SAY you will do.

When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Here are ten ways to improve your ability to establish and implement priorities:

Establish priorities:

1. Realistically determine importance and urgency by asking and truthfully answering two questions: (1) “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I do/don’t do XYZ?” And (2) “Can I live with that outcome?”

2. Only people, things, and tasks that are directly aligned with achieving the mission or goals can be priorities.

3. Treat the setting of priorities as a resource allocation issue: develop realistic, WRITTEN time lines and schedules that indicate when you will accomplish what is needed to achieve each priority.

4. Use effective, easily utilized and understood decision-making tools (e.g., ranking, paired comparison, matrices, other forms of analysis).

5. Specify decision criteria BEFORE you start making choices.

Implement priorities:

6. Have someone hold you accountable for achieving your stated priorities.

7. Set your priorities BEFORE you make commitments that require your time.

8. Focus on the end result or “big picture.”

9. Identify a reasonable number of priorities at any given time; add others as you complete them.

10. Find a process that works well for you and follow it consistently.

If you could do only one thing to increase the quality of your life, it would be this: make self-care your #1 priority – not “one of the top” priorities or “a” top priority, but THE top priority. Why? Perhaps counter-intuitively, tending to your own needs enables you to do a much better job of taking care of others. There’s a very sound reason why airline flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before trying to assist others: if you pass out, you are no good to anyone, including yourself. In fact, you have just become part of the problem.

As an added bonus: the techniques suggested above work just as well in personal situations as they do in the workplace.

© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Not Everyone is Capable of Being a Manager – Are You?

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

If you have worked for nearly any organization in any capacity for any length of time, no doubt you have learned this fact: not everyone is capable of being a manager. Often employees are promoted to a supervisory/managerial position because they were really good at the job they were doing. Unfortunately management requires different skills, abilities, and competencies that they may not have. Sometimes the people who are hired or promoted have great potential, but their organizations don’t invest the resources in helping them be fully successful managers. In other cases, people are promoted to manager despite the fact that they don’t want the job: although they’d rather continue what they were doing, for some reason they felt compelled to accept the new, unwanted responsibilities.

Chances are very good that during your career you have had the misfortune of working for someone who never should have been a manager, or you’ve observed others (employees or supervisors/managers) in that situation – or perhaps you have been that person yourself. It’s not a pretty sight. And the results of this type of mis-match between person and position cause harm to the manager, the people he/she supervises, customers, vendors, and ultimately the organization.

So how do you know who is or is not capable of being a manager? Recently I saw a question on this topic posed by a journalist: what are some signs that people are NOT cut out for management? Although I prefer to answer questions from a positive perspective – in this case, pointing out signs that people ARE capable of being managers – I think there is some value here to identifying the characteristics that ought to disqualify candidates for managerial positions. Below are my answers to the original query. You are not cut out for management if you:

don’t like people.

don’t like working with others.

don’t have passion for the business.

are unwilling and/or unable to delegate tasks and responsibility.

are unwilling and/or unable to give and receive constructive feedback.

are unwilling and/or unable to act like a manager.

are unwilling and/or unable to take on management tasks instead of doing whatever you used to do.

are unwilling and/or unable to take responsibility for your employees’ poor performance.

are unwilling and/or unable to develop your employees.

need people to like you.

need to be one of the “guys” instead of the boss.

are a poor communicator.

are inflexible.

So what about it? Are YOU capable of being a manager? If not, let others be the boss. You are better off pursuing a career path that allows you to be fully successful using the talents and competencies you DO have.

© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

The Paradox of Self-care Teleseminar

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Would you like to be able to focus your energy and attention in ways that enable you to inspire greatness in yourself and your organization? Paradoxically, it is only by taking care of ourselves first, by religiously making ourselves our top priority, that we are able to shine, to provide exceptional service to others, and to achieve our purpose in life or our mission at work.

Recently I addressed this topic in a one-hour teleseminar called “The Paradox of Self-care: Inspiring Greatness in Yourself and Your Organization.” During the call we covered topics such as:

    o Creating a YOU-centered life
    o Developing and sustaining the mindset required to make yourself your top priority
    o Using language to transform your world
    o Breaking through obstacles that prevent you from living your passion
    o Inspiring yourself and others to greatness

If you are interested in learning how to make YOU your top priority so you can inspire yourself and others to greatness, I invite you to listen to my teleseminar. Then let me know what you think!

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

The Paradox of Self-care

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

In today’s busy world, people often feel overwhelmed with the demands of day-to-day living. Things seem to move faster now than they used to, we live in a global world now, technology has blurred the lines between work and non-work, and we have so many more choices than we did even ten years ago. As a result, people often find themselves reacting to individuals, things, and situations outside themselves – e.g., family members, friends (those who are virtual as well as those that are physically present), co-workers, customers/clients, employees, the work environment, the economic environment, neighbors, community issues – whose needs seem to be more immediate and/or more important than their own. Over time, they become more focused on satisfying others’ needs than their own. First responders and those in helping professions are trained to put others’ needs first – especially in life and death situations – and their own needs last. In some cultures, deference to others is the norm.

Except possibly during a literal emergency, living an “others first” lifestyle is a huge mistake. Why? Because unless you make yourself your top priority, taking care of your needs before turning to those of others, you cannot possibly do and be your best. By not taking care of your needs first, you are shortchanging others as well as yourself. Paradoxically, you must make the time to take care of yourself in order to serve others (and yourself) well.

Here are some of common outcomes that people experience when they do NOT make themselves a high priority. They:

    – short-change the important people in their lives.
    – find themselves doing things they really don’t want to do (e.g., travel too much for business, take on commitments they’d rather not).
    – feel paralyzed because everything is a “high priority” and they don’t know where to begin.
    – feel like they have no control over their lives.
    – worry that they’re not up to the challenge of “doing more with less” in a workplace constrained by scarce resources.
    – have trouble making decisions.
    – spend a lot of time and energy unnecessarily worrying about whether they’re meeting others’ expectations.
    – find they’re not doing the things that make their hearts sing.

Why would anyone choose to live this way? Contrary to what you might believe, you do NOT have to suffer through the negative outcomes that result from misaligned priorities. How different would your life be if, instead, you experienced outcomes like these?:

    – A renewed sense of personal purpose or organizational mission.
    – A life characterized by ease rather than struggle.
    – A healthy, joy-filled life.
    – The serenity that comes from knowing you are making the world a better place.
    – The ability to serve others in a more profound way.
    – Dramatically reduced stress levels.

YOU are the only person preventing you from achieving positive outcomes such as these. You have a choice about whether you go through life experiencing the types of negative outcomes listed above, or positive outcomes. The difference in the quality of life when you make yourself your top priority, vs. putting others first, is incalculable.

And that is the paradox: by changing your priorities so that you focus first on yourself, you are able to do greater things for others – as well as yourself.

If making yourself your top priority is of interest to you, I invite you to join me on August 2nd for a free teleseminar called The Paradox of Self-care: Inspiring Greatness in Yourself and Your Organization. During this one-hour call, you will learn how to:

    – Create a YOU-centered life
    – Develop and sustain the mindset required to make yourself your first priority
    – Use language to transform your world
    – Break through obstacles that prevent you from living your passion
    – Inspire yourself and others to greatness

Whether you’re ready to embrace positive outcomes such as those listed above but don’t know how to claim them, or you’re skeptical that focusing on self-care truly can make your life easier and more joy-filled, doesn’t it make sense to invest one hour of your time in learning HOW to lead a healthier and more inspired life?

Click here to register or to learn more about how you can re-focus your energy and attention so you can inspire greatness in yourself and your organization.

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

How to Stop Being a Victim: Throw Yourself a Pity Party

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Have you ever had days when you felt really, really sorry for yourself? Perhaps you’ve felt like the world has done you wrong, or you’re in a no-win situation. Maybe you really ARE in a very difficult situation. Yet you still need to move forward with your life; you can’t afford to remain mired in the muck of victimhood.

I have a suggestion for helping you get out of that pattern: throw a “pity party” for yourself. By that I mean you set a timer for 10 – 20 minutes, during which time you feel as sorry for yourself as you possibly can, wallowing in your feelings of inadequacy, anger, misery, or whatever negative emotions come up. Be as hard on yourself as you possibly can be. Really revel in your negative feelings. When the timer goes off, the party’s over. You pick yourself up and move on. Repeat as necessary.

The reason this process is effective is that it allows you to honor your feelings and work through them so you can move forward in a productive way. My friend Iris, a cancer survivor, told me that throwing pity parties for herself was how she coped with the uncertainty and misery and negative emotions and victimhood associated with her disease. It’s worked really well for her, and I’ve passed along her methodology to many people who reported it worked for them as well. (I’ve used it successfully myself.)

So the next time you are experiencing strong negative emotions that are keeping you from moving forward in your life, throw yourself a party! I’m sure Iris would be pleased to know that her advice is serving others well.

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

How to Ask for and Receive Help

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Asking for help is a critical success factor for leaders. It also is key to making your own life easier, both personally and professionally. When you spend less time struggling with things you can’t do or aren’t good at, for example, you increase the amount of time you have to do things that you enjoy and are really good at. As a result, your stress level drops and your self-confidence soars.

Too often, people don’t ask for assistance because they don’t know how. If that describes your situation, then you’re in luck! Here are six steps that can help you improve the quality of your life by becoming an expert in getting the help you need.

1. Admit it when you don’t know something or can’t do it on your own

Asking for help means that you first have to admit that you don’t know what the answer or solution is to a given question or situation, or that you know what to do, but you can’t do it alone. Allow yourself to be human: acknowledge the times when you don’t know something or cannot do it by yourself, and ask for help. Successful people in all walks of life have coaches and/or mentors to assist them. Why shouldn’t you get the help you need?

2. Realize that your request for help can benefit the other person

By asking for help, you are doing others a favor because you are providing opportunities for them to shine, to feel good because they have helped someone else, to validate their knowledge, and/or to show they are valued. In short, asking for help can brighten someone else’s day tremendously!

3. Recognize that by asking for help, you are giving others permission to do the same

In the workplace, employees learn the norms and culture by watching how others behave, particularly the leaders. By asking others for assistance, you model the behavior that you want them (and those who are watching) to emulate. Importantly, when there is a discrepancy between what leaders say and what they do, employees believe what they see. So if you are telling employees it’s okay to ask for help yet no one ever sees you requesting assistance, the message being received is that it’s really NOT okay.

4. Assess the risk of NOT asking for help

Forging ahead blindly instead of requesting assistance can have negative consequences, sometimes large ones. To realistically assess the downside of choosing NOT to ask for help, ask yourself two questions:

    A. What’s the worst thing that could happen if I do NOT ask for help?
    B. Can I live with that outcome?

More often than not, you will discover that avoiding the undesirable outcome is well worth the “risk” of reaching out to others. Give it a try!

5. Provide a reason for your request

To increase the odds that the other person will want to help you, give him/her a reason to do so. Why? Research by Robert Cialdini demonstrates that adults who give a reason for their request are likely to get what they ask for nearly three times more often than those who do not provide a reason.

6. Receive whatever help is offered – graciously

For some, one of the hardest aspects of asking for help is actually receiving it and expressing their gratitude. Once we’ve crossed the “hurdles” of recognizing the need for assistance and asking for it, we still need to move out of the way to allow others to do as we have requested. So take a deep breath, overcome whatever residual resistance that might come up, and permit the other person to do as you have requested – even if he/she is doing the task differently than you would have done. Say “thank you” – and really mean it. Going a step further and telling the other person what impact his/her assistance had in making your life easier or less stressful (e.g., “Your helping me with that task enabled me to get to my son’s soccer game in time to see him score his first goal”) helps him/her see the bigger picture, and thus the true value that he/she has provided.

Asking for help often is a challenge. Following these six steps enables you to make your life easier by showing you how to be more effective in reaching out to others. Why not give them a try?

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Succession Planning: It’s Not Just for Organizations

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Developing and implementing succession processes is one of the services that I provide for clients. Recently, I was challenged to come up with a succession process for individuals who decide to leave their profession, either to retire or to pursue other interests. What must they do to prepare for the upcoming transition? What process would both serve them well and honor the promises and responsibilities they have to their current organizations?

In a personal succession process, there are five sets of actions that an individual must work through: decision-making, preparation, creation, implementation, and exit. Below is a brief explanation of each step, as well as questions that should be addressed.

Step 1: Decide

By “decide,” I mean that you actively choose to move on from what you are doing now. For example, you may decide to leave your current job for another with a different organization, or start your own business, or change careers, or retire. Over the last few years, many people have been laid off, so the decision to change has been foisted upon them rather than made freely. In that case, they may not have as many options; nonetheless, they still would benefit from a succession process. Here are some questions for this initial step:

    – How do you picture your exit from your current situation?
    – Ideally, how far in advance must you begin preparing for this transition?
    – Do you have a clear “picture” of where you are going and what you will do next?
    – What must you do to bring closure in your current situation?
    – When will you notify the appropriate people?

Step 2: Prepare

What I mean by “prepare” is making sure that you are ready for the proposed transition. Specifically, what is your mindset or attitude toward the upcoming change? How you feel about it has a lot to do with whether the change is voluntary or involuntary. Even people whose transitions are voluntary may be surprised to find some degree of reluctance, such as someone who retires from a job he/she loves. Many people discover that there is an element of fear, as they will be going into new territory. The apprehension may be caused in part from the knowledge that the environment will be totally different, such as happens often when one transitions from a structured environment (e.g., the workplace) to an unstructured one (e.g., retirement). Here are some questions that you might ask yourself as you prepare for the next chapter in your life:

    – Are you ready and willing to move on?
    – Are you at peace with the picture you have created about what you will do next?
    – Are you ready right now to take on this next chapter, or do you need some preparation such as training?
    – Would you benefit from some help to ensure that the transition is a smooth one?
    – How will you bring closure to your current situation?
    – Are you taking care of yourself – i.e., making yourself your first priority?

Step 3: Create

Once you have completed the first two steps, you are ready to develop the actual succession plan. Ideally the plan will have two aspects: what you will do (a) for yourself and (b) for the organization or situation that you are leaving – e.g., completing or making provisions for any unfinished business. Here are some questions that should be addressed in both aspects of your plan:

    – What accountability mechanisms are there?
    – Does the plan include measures of progress and completion?
    – Are the timelines realistic?
    – Does the plan address your current personal and professional responsibilities – e.g., for projects, to customers?
    – Did you identify others whose help or approval you need?
    – Does the plan include communication and evaluation processes?
    – Are the two aspects of your plan (personal and organizational) aligned with each other?

Keep in mind that because succession is a process rather than an event, you’re not finished when you have created the plan. You now must implement it.

Step 4: Implement

Implementation includes both the personal and the business aspects of your succession plan. Here are some questions that you might want to ask yourself as you implement your personal succession plan:

    – Are your timelines realistic in practice?
    – If they are not, what are you doing to adjust them?
    – Are you evaluating your progress periodically to ensure the implementation remains on track?
    – Are you managing the glitches that are likely to arise during the implementation?
    – Are you taking care of yourself during the implementation?

Step 5: Exit

Now it’s time to say goodbye to life as you have known it and embark upon the new chapter in your life. If you have had the opportunity to prepare for this transition, you are likely to feel excited and exhilarated at whatever lies ahead! If you don’t feel totally prepared, or if the change is involuntary, you still can control how you experience this transition. Here is a final set of questions for this last step:

    – Whether this transition is voluntary or not, how will you bring closure to this part of your life?
    – How do you choose to view this experience – i.e., the past, the process by which you prepared for the future, and what is to come?
    – What will you do to ensure that you enjoy every day of this new chapter in your life?

Transitions at any stage in one’s life can feel challenging, scary, threatening, exciting, or any combination of those and other emotions. Having a personal succession plan will enable you to embrace the change, bring closure to the chapter just ended, and look forward to what lies ahead. Isn’t that kind of peace of mind worth some advance planning?

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

How to Set Goals that Work FOR You Instead of Against You

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

As I neared the end of my doctoral program, I convinced myself that I must be an idiot because I couldn’t get the hang of writing a dissertation. Time after time, I would write a chapter or section only to have my advisor tear it apart (sometimes literally) and tell me to start over. One day when my frustration level was very high, my advisor asked me a simple question: since I had never written a dissertation before, why did I expect that I would be able to do it perfectly the first time? In effect she was asking, “What’s your evidence that you should be able to do this without making mistakes?” That question was a gift, as it forced me to consider my underlying assumption, which turned out to be, “Because I should.” Wow – talk about an unrealistic expectation!

That experience is why I was the perfect person to answer a question posed by a client recently. He wanted to know how to set goals that are appropriate, especially when they represent something new for which one has little or no frame of reference. By “appropriate” he meant goals that are neither too challenging nor too easy – i.e., those that provide just enough of a stretch to engender a sense of motivation. What I told him is that there are four critical success factors to setting appropriate goals:

    1. Realistic expectations
    2. Regularly tested assumptions
    3. A properly aligned mindset
    4. Celebration of forward movement

Realistic expectations

You set realistic expectations for your goals by looking at the evidence, including your own and others’ experiences. For example, if you know it takes you two days to write an article and your goal is to write an article in two hours, you break the goal into steps – i.e., you don’t expect to bridge that difference overnight. Your first step toward reaching that goal may be to do some things that will help you write more quickly, such as creating an outline first, or blocking out some uninterrupted time to work. If after trying those techniques you still are unable to write an article in two hours, it’s possible that you need to adjust your goal a bit – which is okay. Not only have you gained some valuable information by this effort, but by virtue of trying to get to two hours, you will end up getting much closer to two hours than the two days it’s taking you now.

Another way to set realistic expectations is to make evidence-based decisions. By that I mean take a realistic look at your experience to date, and make choices and decisions based on that information. If you don’t have such experience, take a look at those who do. Having said that, I hasten to add that it’s important to use the correct “comparison other” – who often is YOU rather than another person.

Regularly tested assumptions

Often the assumptions on which we base our thoughts, beliefs, and actions do not make themselves known easily – i.e., we have to seek them out. It’s safe to say that there are underlying assumptions lurking in the background, influencing our choices and decisions. Sometimes our assumptions are correct; other times they are not. Sometimes they become outdated and need to be replaced.

One easy way to test an assumption is to ask “Why?” Look for the evidence to back up the assumption and/or to ask what purpose it serves. If there is a reasonable answer, then the assumption probably is sound; if not, this is likely the time to release it.

Properly aligned mindset

Let’s face it: especially when faced with a new goal, few of us are likely to achieve it exactly as expected the first time. Being okay with that fact is the first step to a properly aligned mindset. When you make mistakes (notice the plural here!), learn from the experience and move on rather than judge the effort a failure. Welcome the information as a way to calibrate your next effort. Think of Goldilocks in the fairy tale of the Three Bears: she had to try a bowl of porridge that was too hot, then one that was too cold before she found one that was just right for her.

Another important tip about goals is to refrain from thinking about them as being set in concrete – they are not. Especially when you are setting goals in new areas, take your best guess about what’s realistic, then move forward. As you work toward that goal you will learn how realistic it is and adjust accordingly. If you think of goals as long-term aspirations rather than as win-lose events, you are better able to adjust your expectations as you go. When your goals are too low, then you adjust them higher. When they are too high, you lower them a bit. To be motivating, goals should be challenging AND achievable. Otherwise they will become your enemy instead of your friend. Treat your goals as learning opportunities rather than as “gotcha” mechanisms – i.e., look for the learning, not for the pain.

Celebration of forward movement

In December 2002, I walked my first marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as a member of that organization’s Team in Training program. Although we trained for this marathon with a goal of finishing in 8 hours, it ended up taking us over 9 hours – and we were thrilled! The time was immaterial (at least once the course was behind us); the important part of the goal was that all 17 of our team members FINISHED. That called for a celebration, which lasted most of the night and long afterward.

The point is, we need to give ourselves credit when credit is due. Even when we don’t achieve our goals entirely, or we find that realistically we overreached, we need to CELEBRATE our forward movement! After all, what’s the fun in achieving something if we don’t take the time to recognize and celebrate it?

In summary, goals are our gateway to success, not failure. Make them work for YOU instead of the other way around. By keeping these four critical success factors in mind, you will be able to set goals that work FOR you instead of against you. And won’t that make your life much easier?

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.