Set Yourself Up for SUCCESS

Set Yourself Up for SUCCESS

I have mixed feelings about the New Year. 
I can fantasize that my deepest desires will materialize this year. I can feel in control, as I haven’t yet failed to accomplish my goals, nor have I disappointed myself (or anyone else). But I will… Fortunately, I will also succeed at a lot of things, and it is important that I acknowledge my successes, because…

We’re really good at reinforcing our perceived failures.
Sometimes it seems that most of our thinking involves berating ourselves for what we haven’t done, or feeling anxious about what we need, or want, to accomplish. It’s rare that we congratulate ourselves. Even here, in the opening paragraph, I debated whether I should write that I’ll succeed at ‘a lot’ of things, or scale it down to succeeding at just ‘some’ things.

It is important to be self-aware (Step #1 in my 7-Step PowerPlan to Success™), and that means realistically recognizing our strengths, along with our challenges. To do this we can’t listen to our inner Judgmental Critic that constantly tells us we aren’t ‘good enough.’

So how can we set ourselves up for real success?

  1. Accept yourself for who you are. (#2 in the 7-Steps) Take a neutral position – “Yep, I do some good stuff but I’m also good at screwing things up.” The year will have its ups, but also downs. You can’t have good without bad, success without failure, or there is no discernible distinction. So stop beating yourself up for your challenges, and work from your strengths. Expect a roller coaster approach to success, and shoot for improvement, not perfection!
  2. Appreciate micro change. Focus on making small changes that eventually add up, instead of going for the big ones that may never happen. Commit to losing 5 pounds, not 50 (do-able, rather than intimidating or frustrating and thus easily avoided). Clear one drawer or file, instead of feeling you have to rearrange the entire room or file cabinet (so you don’t even start the clean-out). Get that done and you can go for more. Write 15 minutes a day, instead of waiting for that rare combination of available time and energy to spit out your masterpiece. This is the premise of the TUIT Project, my online Action/Accountability group – join us for the next session, beginning January 3rd, www.OvercomeOverwhelm.com.
  3. Get excited by progress, not perfection. Congratulate yourself on your baby-steps. Feel good that you made dinner, even if it was food-assembly of a store-bought roasted chicken and frozen veggies and not a cookbook classic… or that you managed a 10-minute walk, if not the 50-minute work-out… or you organized your tax-related receipts, even if you’ve yet to file from last year. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we do – especially considering how difficult it is to do things that don’t trigger our ‘I wanna’ brains.
  4. Prepare. Make life less confusing by setting aside time for weekly and daily Planning (vs. Doing) sessions… track events on a calendar and use alarm reminders… create project sheets to break down projects into do-able tasks… have the right tools and information on hand so jobs go quicker… know exactly what it is you want to accomplish so you don’t drift… practice difficult conversations so you get your point across in a win-win way… acknowledge when you need help and get it. (Click here to schedule a free initial Coaching Conversation with me.)
  5. Put on the blinders. There will always be more to do. If we let it all in at once, it can be paralyzing. So focus on what you can (or choose) to do at a given time, ignore the rest and save yourself unnecessary and defeatist guilt-trips.
  6. Honor your needs and desires. Get enough sleep. Take time to eat right and be active. Chill out in front of the TV, with a book or video game. Enjoy a hobby. Make time for vacations. Play with your pets. Spend fun time with friends and family.You’ll have less time to accomplish work, but more time for a successful, satisfying life!

Yes, it’s about to be a New Year. Take advantage of this major calendar holiday as an incentive to think about what you really want, then set a realistic (for YOU) plan for making progress towards your goals. Remember to stay grateful for what you have and appreciative of who you are. Give yourself credit for even tiny steps – success breeds success!

Some people consider their birthday as the start of a New Year. The Jewish New Year is usually in September or October, and the Chinese New Year is celebrated in late January or February. But isn’t every day the beginning of a new year? This means we can hit reset and get a fresh start at any time. Good to know!

On a personal note, I am so grateful for those of you I know as clients and friends, and I’m full of caring and compassion for all of my readers. I understand how challenging life can be, and I’m in awe of, and inspired by, your efforts. 

Thank you for being part of our community!

The POWER of POSSIBILITY!

The POWER of POSSIBILITY!

Sometimes it is more difficult to believe in the power of possibility than at other times. So, when we have reminders, hold onto them!

What am I talking about? In my 7-Step PowerPlan to Success™ (you can download the free ebook here), the first Step is Self-Awareness – knowing who you are, and aren’t… what you’re likely to do, and what you probably won’t… what you like, and what you don’t.  It’s about accepting your reality, and so Step #2 is Self-AcceptanceThis isn’t about giving in or giving up, but about starting from where you are, not where you (or others) wish you were. New studies are showing that Self-Acceptance is fundamental to both happiness and, perhaps surprisingly, productivity. Making better choices that suit you, and planning realistically, helps minimize overwhelm, which then makes it easier to get things done.

Knowing… and accepting… yourself doesn’t mean you can’t change or improve. That’s why Step #3 is Belief in Possibility – that you always have a choice in the matter. You can’t always control a situation, but how you choose to react can change your life (and often the lives of others, as have those people who began movements or charities after being affected by negative events in their personal lives).

But I’m writing this to talk about the inner power we have that is sooo easy to overlook. Sometimes we’re reminded, and that helps. Today I had an old post of mine pop up on Facebook. It was about an event that happened three years ago, and I’m thankful for the reminder that I have the inner power to do things that I may not intellectually or emotionally believe possible.

I was at an energy workshop. The presenter was Dr. Gene Ang, a Yale-trained neurobiologist. He spoke about the power we have to heal, ourselves and others. To prove that our minds (and spirit) can do things that science would scoff at, we were all given heavy-weight metal utensils (forks and spoons). He walked us through an exercise that ended with being able to bend these thick and solid utensils with thought and energy, not strength. Of course we tried to bend them in every way (including using double fisted grip strength) before the exercise, with no success (ok, no WWE members in the group).

Then we did the energy exercise, and those spoons started bending – I mean really bending. It wasn’t our physical strength that did it, but our focus and will, channeling stronger forces as we loosely held these store-bought utensils by their handles. I admit – I was totally frustrated, being one of the last non-benders in the room. I let out a healthy expletive, directed towards my recalcitrant spoon, and let go of trying. The spoon immediately ‘softened’ in my hand and bent totally in half (see the picture – it’s a cell photo of my handiwork). Wow!

So when you’re running low on positive possibility, remember the spoons – change is within you! Apparently, the Universe wants us to succeed, when we’re really clear about what we want, and willing to put in targeted effort.

I especially like this spoon story at this time of year, bringing the focus from shopping and stress back to miracles and possibility.

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season!

I Don’t Wanna!

I Don’t Wanna!

But I Don’t Feel Like it! …

I planned to write my next blog post. Great Idea. Gives me joy to share information. Helps me to stay in business so I can keep helping clients. I have the time today… but I don’t feel like it! 

The funny/sad thing about “…But I don’t feel like it” – those six short words wield a mighty power, and it’s not for good. We think them frequently, or at least many of us do, and they are the Destroyers of Productivity.

Here are some typical conversations in my head, but I imagine they sound familiar to many of you.

  • I ought to go to the gym…
  • I should re-organize my closet…
  • I need to finish this…
  • I said I would…
  • It’s at the top of my ‘Action’ list…

…BUT I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT!

Just six words, but powerful enough to subvert our best intentions. The enemy of getting things done.

What to do?

I coach my clients on the benefits of reframing a ‘should… must… need to… or have to…’ into a ‘want to.’ Why? Because we’re all more inclined to do what we want. But even wanting to do something can lose traction when the ‘but I don’t feel like it’ button is pressed, and it gets pressed very easily – “I’m tired… I have too much to do…. I’m not sure how to… It’s too much work…  I just don’t wanna!”

These are powerful feelings. Strong enough to triumph over our already-compromised executive functioning capabilities. So, too often, we don’t take action and our temporary emotions/avoidance tendencies get top billing.

I don’t like giving in. Sometimes, sure. Being self-indulgent can be comforting, and there are times when eating an ice cream sundae or taking a nap should take precedence over staying on a diet or doing the laundry. But other times it feels like the nefarious power of six is in charge, and even my best plans are unwilling hostages. 
So here’s how I fight back.

  • I start from my reality. Step #1 of my 7-Step PowerPlan to Success™ is Self-Awareness, which means acknowledging how I really feel. If I don’t feel like it, why deny the obvious? Step #2 is Self-Acceptance. I already know all those shoulds, oughts, musts, etc., and instead of fighting the way I feel or blaming myself, I accept my mood, so I’m not adding incendiary guilt to the challenge of taking action (…or not).
  • I’ll remind myself I have the power of choice. Step #3 is to Believe in Possibility – that we always have a choice. It’s easy to forget this when caught up in the moment. Still, despite the way I feel (or think), I can find strategies to do things differently, thus producing different results.
  • I can take action despite my thoughts and feelings. There is a powerful concept in several therapies, including Morita Therapy, the Japanese psychology of Action, that focuses on our ability to take action regardless of the thoughts and feelings that will always get in the way. The trick is to acknowledge them, including the powerful “I don’t feel like it,’ then choose to ignore them… they don’t have to be in control, even though they seem to be.
  • Keep that action simple and immediate. If I think about writing a blog, it can be overwhelming. Overwhelm, especially for people with challenged executive functions or ADHD, will allow our fight, flight or freeze reaction to take control, making it even less likely to get anything accomplished. So, maybe I’ll set a timer for 10 minutes and open to a blank page in my notebook or Word file. Maybe I’ll just write a few buzz words (Iike I did when I started this blog by writing, “But I don’t feel like it…”). Maybe I’ll get inspired and continue, or perhaps I won’t, but I’ve done something!
  • Consider what is actually getting in the way. Sometimes this is a waste of time, but occasionally there’s increased clarity when I explore why “I don’t wanna,” enabling me to move forward. My kneejerk response “But I don’t feel like it” may be a reaction to a concern that, when acknowledged, can be remedied. Perhaps my reluctance to do something might be because I’m not sure how to get it done. Maybe I first need to do some research or create a Project sheet and break it down into small, do-able tasks. Maybe I need to ask for help. Or maybe I have too many things to do and haven’t prioritized. I need clarity.
  • Look for the options. Sometimes, exploring what’s really getting in the way gives me options.
    • I don’t want to re-organize my room because I think it will take up most of my day. OK, how can I power up that action switch? I can set an alarm, put on dance music and work for just 60 minutes. Who knows, I may even complete the job in that time, or at least make good progress.  
    • Or maybe I don’t want to straighten up my clothes closet because there’s no room. So my project shifts to reviewing my clothing with an eye towards donating. As organizing guru Barbara Hemphill says, “You can’t organize clutter.” First, I’ll declutter, then I’ll find it easier to organize.
  • Look for the motivators. What will encourage activation? For example, people with ADHD are rarely driven by the common motivators of importance, consequences or rewards (unless they are immediate). But if something is interesting or novel, we’re more likely to WANT to pursue it. I know it’s easier for me to unload the dishwasher (boring and repetitive) if I make it a game to get it done quickly: Beat the TV Commercial. I recently discussed this concept with a client, and she decided the best way to clean her kitchen after dinner is to make having her favorite ice cream dessert dependent upon having a cleared counter and sink. The yummy dessert was enough of a motivator to make her want to do it.

So how did I manage to write this blog, despite my immediate reaction of “But I don’t feel like it!”? 

  • I decided to switch my environment (a very helpful strategy) and sit outside to enjoy a gorgeous day (studies show that being in nature resets the brain, so another boost). 
  • My small, portable bluetooth speaker played perfect background music at low volume from my playlist (for me, wearing earbuds or earphones would have made the music my primary brain focus and been distracting, rather than enhancing). 
  • I filled a thermos cup with a tasty drink (self-care). No, it wasn’t wine – not a bad idea, but I was tired and would have drifted off target.
  • I took along my favorite pen and a pad with smooth, thick conducive-to-writing paper (sometimes hand writing is more inspirational than keyboarding). 
  • I began by writing down those six powerful words, “…But I don’t feel like it.” 
  • Most important – I set a clear intention and decided to put everything else on hold while I write.

There are many ways to fight these Six Powerful Words. Let’s continue this conversation with your comments on my blog, www.SusanLasky/i-dont-wanna. What are some ideas that work for you?
Still Putting off Change?

Still Putting off Change?

CHANGE…Often we avoid it, preferring to stay in our comfort zone. Or maybe we just lack the energy to explore new options. This can work for us, but it will keep us stuck. If we want things to be different, we have to do something differently.

Other times we seek out change as a remedy for boredom. Those of us with an active impulsivity trait tend to keep our radar focused on new opportunities (always attracted to that bright and shiny object). It’s probably a good idea to hit the pause button before jumping in. 

Mostly, we look towards change to fulfill a desire for something more in our lives.This is a good thing – without it we wouldn’t risk a career change, buy a new house, adopt a pet, go on a date or start a family. Change can be less dramatic, like starting a new health routine, switching to a more helpful day planner or deciding to clear clutter.

When we try something new, it may not work out, but at least we won’t 
stagnate. We’re also a step ahead, having a better idea of what will work, when we can rule out what didn’t.

Triggers for Change: There are certain times of the year when we’re more inclined to think about making changes, like on New Year’s or a birthday. Why wait? Today is the first day of the rest of your life. For many of us, summer is coming to an end – a perfect time for a new beginning; your trigger for change.  

  • What do you want to be different?
  • What can you do to help make that happen?
  • What support will make change easier?

 

Believe in the magic of possibility. Attitude matters. It is so sad that when people are caught in negative emotions they can’t muster the attitude and energy to try something new. Don’t let feeling hopeless, or like a victim, prevent you from doing something new, or changing the way you do it. Start small. Success breeds success. Limit your goals – less is more; better to accomplish one thing successfully than to work towards multiple goals only to give up, feeling overwhelmed.

An effective way to create positive change is to declare your intent, verbally and in writing. It forces you to be clear as to your specific goals. Say it with conviction (even if you find that difficult), as something you’ve already accomplished: “I am wearing that size 10 dress and looking terrific.” … “I’m sitting at my organized desk and doing great at my new job.” … “I have a special relationship with a wonderful, supportive, smart and sexy person.”  Print it out and post it where you’ll see it. If you can, include a photo that illustrates your accomplished goal.  

There’s science behind it. Our brains are quick to see the negative; not so much the positive. Some studies declare we think up to 60,000 thoughts a day, and that 80% of them are mostly negative – that’s 48,000 negative thoughts a day. That’s a lot to overcome, and we need all the reminders and reinforcements that we can muster. When we speak in the positive, it changes our expectations. When we say we will, instead of we’ll try, we reinforce our internal belief that change is possible.

So choose a goal to celebrate your new possibilities. Be realistic but positive – this time you can. I invite you to state your possibility and commitment in the comments section below.

I would love to help you turn your goals into realities. Just click here to schedule a time to talk about individual coaching or click here to learn more about my action/accountability group, The TUIT Project.

Here’s to positive, and lasting, change!

Ready – Fire – Aim

Ready – Fire – Aim

I’m laughing (okay, smiling to myself) as I write this, since it is so much the opposite of what I began to write!

It started with a decision to compile some of my favorite quotes about some of my favorite topics – ADHD, Executive Function, Attitude, Organization, Parenting, Time Management, Relationships, Self-Care, Self-Fulfillment, etc. These well-phrased gems are often perfect for creating perspective on situations with which my clients (and myself) struggle.

I know that some of these ‘words of wisdom’ are originally mine (not surprising when I’ve been writing and speaking on these topics since 1989, when Hal Meyer and I published the first CHADD of NYC Newsletter). However, I know that most are not, and so I went online to seek out sources.

I began with one quote that I know wasn’t my original, although it may have been Hal’s, or more likely Hallowell’s.

This is a great way to describe the tendency to act without thinking something through. It helps to understand some of the challenges created by the impulsive ADHD mind, and how actions taken without thinking can lead to unexpected, often negative consequences.

I thought I’d write about how important it is to be very clear about your target and goal before taking action (“Ready, Aim, Fire”), so you don’t waste or misdirect your efforts, but when I put “Ready, Fire, Aim” into a search engine, I wound up reframing my thinking about this phrase! Now I think that it can often be a better plan, since it puts the emphasis on action.

Taking action is a major challenge for many people, especially those who are very busy, cautious, or those who might have ADHD, but with a lower dose of the ‘H.’ Wanting to get it ‘perfect’ often leads to not getting it done at all… or to long hours, paralysis by analysis and missed deadlines. It’s the opposite approach to those who rush to just get something done and out of the way. Yet now I’m advocating for better balance, which can mean to just ‘FIRE’ in order to get going!

My online search led me to a blog on a fitness website that explains this really well. I know nothing about his program or the author, Keith Lai, but I loved his approach. He talks about this concept as it applies to fitness, but I see how it affects every aspect of life where we postpone taking action because we are too caught up in researching/thinking about exactly what action to take, or because we think we need to know the exact outcome of our actions. And as much as we may fantasize about it being otherwise, we can only control our actions, not the outcome.

So here’s a slightly edited version of what Keith Lai had to say – www.fitmole.org/ready-fire-aim

How to Use The “Ready, Fire, Aim” Technique to Crush Any Goal

One of the best books I’ve read recently is called Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson. It’s more of a business book on how to grow a wildly successful business than anything else (it really has nothing to do with fitness), but the lessons taught are applicable to anyone with ambitious goals, including those who want to transform their physique.

The premise of the book revolves around a concept called “Ready, Fire, Aim” which basically states: Anytime you want to reach a goal quickly, you simply need to act first, then make any necessary adjustments and correct for any mistakes later.

Let’s break it down into the 3 separate stages:

Stage 1 – “Ready”

This is the research phase where you begin researching the ins and outs of what’s necessary to reach your goal. In fitness, it might mean reading up on what’s needed for your workout or diet.

If you bought a fitness course (like my Superhero Shredding course), the “Ready” phrase means going through the course and absorbing the information.

But the secret to being successful in the “Ready” phase is to not obsess about understanding things 100%. I’ll go into more detail on Stage 1 later in this article.

Stage 2 – “Fire”

This is where you charge straight in and take immediate action (“Fire”). Even if you don’t fully understand the nitty gritty technical details of the workout or diet plan you’re on… JUST DO IT.

Inaction and doing nothing are the worst possible things in the world – there will never be a better time than now so pull the trigger ASAP.

Stage 3 – “Aim”

Now that you’ve taken action, you can gradually fix any mistakes you’ve made in the beginning, but because you’ve already taken action, making micro-adjustments will be easy.

Maybe you screwed up the first 2 weeks and just realized you weren’t getting enough protein, that’s fine, you can make that change now. You’re already light years ahead of the guy who’s still reading the diet manual, so pat yourself on the back.

Getting stuck in the “Ready” phase – The #1 reason for failure

Being stuck in the “Ready” phase is like reading 20 different dating books before ever dating a girl…

Most guys are stuck in the “Ready” phase. They spend too much time researching and not enough time doing. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to read about eating healthy than it is to actually eat healthy.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in the beginning of my fitness journey was spending months and months reading about diet information. I just kept reading and reading because I thought there was some “secret ingredient” that was missing. I thought there was something out there that I needed to know in order to get started.

But in reality, the only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to avoid putting in the hard work. Reading is a lot easier than doing as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Trust me, you know enough. There’s no secret sauce. I need to make a statement – YOU KNOW ENOUGH.

Most people know they need to eat in a calorie deficit to lose fat…
Most people know they need to get stronger and eat in a surplus to gain weight…
Most people know that fruits and veggies are good for you and you shouldn’t eat doughnuts in excessive amounts.

The basic premise of losing fat and building muscle is VERY VERY simple. And yet, people always want to complicate this shit. For some reason they want it to be complicated. Why?

Hell if I know, but if I had to guess it’s because making something more difficult rationalizes their decision to continue “researching” and stay in the “Ready” phase.

More and more people these days are getting caught up in the “science” of fitness (e.g. the best scientifically proven upper chest exercise for hypertrophy), but spending all day going through exercise research reports doesn’t do shit for you. Don’t know what hypertrophy means? Awesome, you don’t need to know.

This why a lot of the gym “bros” who seem a lot less educated, statistically, have superior physiques to the guys who just read and read and read. It’s because they just take action without overanalyzing everything. You have to admit that it’s pretty funny when the people who get the greatest results are the ones who don’t much care about all the science and theory behind fitness.

But what if “it” doesn’t work?

Last December I had a reader email me. To keep the reader anonymous, I’ll be calling him Captain Korea from this point on. Like a lot of my readers, he asked what’s the best workout to lose weight. I pointed him to one of the free workouts on my site and told him to do that.

One day later, Captain Korea emailed me back saying “This looks good, but can I add in 2 extra sets of side lateral raises? I feel like it will work better.”

*!X*#!!!*Z@!%*

The workout I gave him was a simple yet very effective 3-day split. Yet in Captain Korea’s mind, he was trying to make what was a great workout plan much more complicated than it needed to be.

Adding an extra couple of sets wouldn’t have killed him, but it’s the fact that he thought about it before even doing the workout once is what drives me insane. If Captain Korea decided to add the 2 extra sets of lateral raises after doing the workout for 4-6 weeks and decided that his shoulders were lagging a bit, then that’s totally fine.

Because by then, Captain Korea has already passed Stage 1 (Ready) and Stage 2 (Fire). Adding in the extra lateral raises is the intelligent Stage 3 (Aim) move.

“READY, AIM, FIRE” – The most common path to mediocrity

The majority of guys follow a “Ready, Aim, Fire” approach to fitness and life.

For example:

  1. They decide they want to do something such as workout, and begin researching and buying workout products. (Ready)
  2. They make sure every aspect of the workout is “perfect” by reading forums, blogs, and research reports. (Aim)
  3. They finally take action after weeks/months of “fine tuning” their workout plan to perfection (Fire) only to jump back into the “Ready” or “Aim” phase after a week because they don’t think their plan was perfect enough.

As you can see, this approach to fitness, and to pretty much anything in life, almost always leads to disaster and at best, mediocre short-term results.

But once you “Fire” before “Aim,” you’ll discover that your entire life changes, and achieving any goal becomes a piece of cake.

How do you approach your goals? Do you follow the Ready-Aim-Fire or the Ready-Fire-Aim model?

——————————————-

Keith Lai talks about the Ready-Fire-Aim model as it applies to diet and fitness (BTW, sound familiar?) but it applies to so many aspects of our lives. I remember working with a web designer on my first website. I got so caught up in obsessing over what colors to highlight that I gave up on working with the designer, created my own ‘temporary’ two-page site and only got back on track five years later! How many possible clients did I lose because I didn’t give enough info on my laundry-list of a two-page site? Compare that to how many would have been turned off if my color scheme (easily remedied later) wasn’t fully expressive of my personality?

Sometimes, the best course is to reasonably prepare (get READY), then jump in and act (FIRE), knowing you can fine-tune the adjustments later (AIM). Besides, by then you might have a clearer target!

I’d love to hear what you think. Join the conversation by commenting below.

 

Turning Goals into Reality

Turning Goals into Reality

An unrealized goal is nothing more than a dream.  It’s your choice:
Keep it a fantasy or work towards attaining your goal.

Dreams Can and Do Come True When:

  • Desire is strong enough and not in conflict with your basic life values 
  • Goals are clearly defined and at least partially grounded in reality
  • Planning is realistic, taking your resources and motivation into account
  • Effort is real, as is your belief that you can do it, so I want’ becomes ‘I will!’

We all talk about making positive changes, and that’s great. But ask yourself how often those changes actually happen. Good intentions aren’t enough — you need a plan, and it has to be one that fits with your life. So set yourself up for success by following these Eight Steps to Turn Your Goals into Reality!

 Set a realistic Long-Term Goal. This is a goal that is meaningful, but not necessarily easy. It will take work, and time, to accomplish, but it is do-able.
You may want to be rich, and you might get there (if you’re not already). That could be your long-term goal, but it would be easier to work towards a goal that seems more attainable, even given your current circumstances. Link your goal with a positive, emotionally motivating benefit. State it as a desire, then remove the possibility of failure and state it as a fact. Here’s an example:

“I want to be more financially secure. I will be financially secure.”

 Establish one Interim Goal. What is one thing you can do that will contribute towards the success of your long-term goal? Buying lottery tickets is one option, but the odds of success are minimal. A better goal:
“I want to/I will manage my money better so I’ll have more of it.”

 Consider what gets in the way.  Examine your life and be honest with yourself as you ask, “What issues in my life are making it difficult to achieve this goal?”
My expenses are very high… My income is too low… I already owe on credit cards and back taxes… I don’t spend enough time on financial matters (it’s easier for me to ignore things and hope they work out)…

 Isolate specific actions that you can change (now or in the near future). This is where you explore anything that you can do or change to help attain your goal. Here are some options for better money management:
I can stop eating out almost every night… I can plan my wardrobe better and buy during sales… I can move to a less expensive apartment… I can look for a better job… I can pay my bills on time and avoid late fees and interest… I can pull my paperwork together and file past taxes to minimize penalties… I can renegotiate my mortgage… I can get a better handle on where I spend money… I can create a budget that includes regular savings…

 Justify (buy-into) each option, or table It as unlikely to work. Ask yourself what are the benefits of making a specific change. Put it in writing. As an example, here are reasons to support the specific action of not eating out every night:
Eating out every night is expensive… It loses the “fun factor” and is time consuming, so I have less time for other interests… It promotes drinking, which is a problem and additional expense… I spend more on gas or car service… It is more difficult to eat healthy when I have all of those menu options in front of me…

Examine the down side of change, isolate potential problems and explore creative solutions. Don’t just ignore the possible pitfalls, or your plans to change won’t last very long. Continuing the ‘eating out less’ example:

Problem:  Eating out is my main social activity. I don’t want to give this up!
Solution:  I’ll eat out on Fridays and Saturdays, and really plan and enjoy this.
Note: Give yourself permission to act with forethought and moderation, rather than overreact by completely eliminating eating out. 

Problem:  I never have anything good to eat in the house.
Solution:  I’ll use an app to set up a simple meal plan and block in time for a weekly shopping expedition — especially for foods I like… or I can shop online and have the food delivered.

Problem I hate to cook and don’t want to spend my time in the kitchen!
Solution:  I’ll check out services that prepare and deliver meals for a week. It’s probably still less expensive than always eating out — and healthier!

 Take steps to make these changes happen! Ask yourself: What can I realistically do to solve this problem? List each specific action you are willing to do in order to make your new plan work. Turn your project into do-able tasks.

How and when will I do it? Assign a specific time to each action, and schedule it on your calendar as a Task-Appointment. Without an assigned task and time, it is likely to remain a fantasy! So if you plan to eat out only on Fridays and Saturdays, schedule a time to confirm with friends or family in advance… make restaurant reservations, if necessary… download coupons or Groupons to save even more…

How can I make this easier/self-motivate? What can you do that will make staying with your plan easier?

Build in immediate rewards:

  • Combine your grocery-buying with a special event (getting a massage, meeting a friend for coffee, etc.)
  • Link it to something you already do each week. “After yoga class on Wednesdays I pass by Whole Foods, so I’ll go food shopping.”
  • Associate doing it with giving yourself permission to spend time on something else, guilt-free. “I’ll shop after work every Tuesday, have fresh store-made BBQ chicken for dinner then spend the evening catching up on my favorite TV shows.”
  • Create a ‘fun factor’: “I’ll invite a friend over on Sunday and we’ll both prepare meals for the week”… “My partner and I will have a mini-date night making dinner together”… “I’ll take a cooking class at the Y”…
  • Reinforce your goal: Bank the money you’ll save by not eating out, and use the time you’ll gain to join a book club, paint, play guitar, or do whatever brings you joy!

Build in reminders:

  • Visual: Have a photo that represents your long-term goal as a screen-saver.
  • Physical: Keep a money jar to represent your savings (dimes instead of dollars?)
  • Emotional: Post an attractive affirmation of the benefits you will get from your actions… Mention that ego-boosting self-respect you’ll get from working towards something that is important to you!
  • Auditory: Have set times to listen to podcasts on topics related to achieving your long-term goal.

 Monitor Progress. When we begin something new, we are high on the excitement, challenge and novelty of the project, and eager to see results and reach our goal. So we stay interested, but, sigh…, not for long. Frustration kicks in and other priorities and new bright and shiny objects will take precedence, unless we reinforce and frequently encourage our commitment. If we’re serious about change, we need to track progress (or lack of) to keep it in the forefront.

Track your actions. Write down everything you are doing, or have planned to do, to help reach your long-term goal. Then track how often and how well you are actually following through with those actions. Studies show that people who want to lose weight do better if they write down everything they eat – this is the same concept.

Maintain self-awareness. Tracking your actions isn’t enough. You’ll want to determine how well they are serving you in reaching your long-term goal. Ask yourself, “What am I doing?”… “How am I doing?”… Be honest in your feedback. Ask “What can I change for the better?”… Take time to consider whether your plans need to be modified, delayed, delegated or deleted. Note: Build this review into your regular Planning Time (weekly, or at the least, monthly).

Prepare for dead-ends. It is difficult to maintain actions, however well-intentioned and thought out, over an extended period of time. Sometimes we are fortunate, and actions become sustainable habits or routines. But not always, so be prepared to switch directions when what was working stops being effective, and substitute a different strategy.

Give yourself creditEven for those baby steps you take to make progress towards your long-term goal. If getting there wasn’t a challenge, you wouldn’t have had to put so much effort into making it happen. So be your own best cheerleader for what you’ve done, instead of critically focusing on what you haven’t yet accomplished.
Hint: Don’t strive for perfection; it’s a set-up for failure!

Get help. It is easier to stay on-track when you have outside ACCOUNTABILITY! Consider working with an accountability partner (preferably, not a spouse or partner) or a supportive coach. I can offer you a terrific online accountability/action group, The TUIT Project, or individual coaching to help you clarify your goals, determine the best strategies to achieve them, and provide support to make this process easier and more successful.

Summary of the Process:
Turning Goals Into Reality

Long-Term Goal:  “I want to be more financially secure; I will be financially secure.”
One Interim Goal:  “I will manage my money better!”
One Short-Term Goal: “I will cut down on expenses.”
One Action Goal:  “I will stop eating out almost every night.”
One Action Step: “I will check out price options for home delivery of meals.”