“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” -Napoleon Hill
Everyone has at least one. It weaves its way in and out of our thoughts during fleeting moments. It isn’t until our head hits the pillow at the end of a long day that it decides to show up and get comfortable square in the center of our stream of consciousness. Suddenly all of the to dos that seemed so important throughout the day fall into a void and this one thing is clamoring with such intensity that any hope of calm and quiet rest is hopeless. Instead of sleeping, you stare at the ceiling as your heart races wondering how it has become so distant, but managed to linger for so long. By the morning it will sneak out the back door of your mind into your subconscious yet again until the next day or the day following and, perhaps, after enough sleepless nights, it will disappear altogether.
Objectives. Goals. Aspirations. Dreams. Whatever you call yours, we all have them and they reside in our core. They are the intangibles that get us out of bed each day and serve as the conclusion to a story that has yet to be written. That story is not written by virtue of having these thoughts, but rather through the actions we take each day. Those actions either move us closer to that desired conclusion, or change our story altogether. And let’s be honest. Life gets in the way. The unexpected inevitably occurs. Plans change. People change. And we all get sucker punched when we least expect it. How we navigate this adversity is dictated by two key drivers at the core of all human behavior: pain and pleasure. Almost everything we do is rooted in avoiding pain or pursuing pleasure and the degree to which we are compelled to action by these stimuli largely depends on two other “p” words: proximity and prominence (I could be really clever here and call these ‘the 4 P’s of motivation’, but that would be cliche bullshit). If the root cause of pain or pleasure appears far away (proximity) or lacks significance to us (prominence), it is unlikely to motivate our behavior. Conversely, if the root cause of pain or pleasure is close to us and significant, it often will create a strong sense of urgency leading to an immediate reaction. This can be a precarious challenge.
To put this into practice, close your eyes for a moment and think of a goal you’ve been wanting to achieve for a long time. Now imagine having accomplished that goal. Try to visualize what it would look like as if you were watching a movie about your life. What does it feel like to imagine this accomplishment? If you actually went through with this exercise, it may have elicited a strong, positive emotional response. When we imagine what it would be like to achieve success (whatever that means for you personally), our brain pumps out chemicals that produce a pleasurable neurological and, in some cases, physiological response. Unfortunately, goals are typically tied to an outcome that occurs in the future. For many of us, visualizing an intangible future event can be difficult. But the emotion tied to achieving an outcome is the fuel that ignites the motivation necessary to take action and make it happen. This is why some people create vision boards. They serve as a daily, visual (i.e. loosely tangible) reminder of the things they want in their life and act as a trigger to put in the work to make those visions a reality.
So if these goals are so important to us, why is it so difficult to stay connected to them? Why do we start each new year with a fresh list of resolutions only to fall into old patterns that lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or failure? The exercise above is a perfect illustration of what happens when one of the 4 p’s is missing (see what I did there). Our goals in life almost always have prominence, but they don’t always have proximity. There are a million distractions that get in the way of allowing us to maintain an acute focus on accomplishing outcomes that are scheduled for the future. Let’s take a simple and familiar example.
How often do you hear someone say, “I really need to start working out.”? Assume it’s a colleague of yours. After hearing them lament, you agree to go on a 15 minute walk with them everyday after lunch. After all, you could use some physical activity too. They accept your offer enthusiastically and you agree to start the next day. For a solid week, you and your colleague take a 15 minute walk around the block after lunch each day. On day eight, you head over to your colleague’s desk and she isn’t there. You send her a text letting her know you stopped by and head back to your desk. When you don’t hear back from her, you return the next day. She is furiously pounding away at her keyboard and so engrossed that she doesn’t even see you standing there. She looks up, startled, and apologizes. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t even see you there. I just got assigned to this project yesterday and I have to get it done before 4pm tomorrow or we are going to lose this client. I’m sorry, I can’t go on our walk.” The momentum is gone. The pleasure of the daily walk is no match for the pain of losing the client, missing the deadline, or getting reprimanded by her boss. It’s entirely possible you’ll resume the daily walk after the deadline passes, but it’s only a matter of time before life gets in the way again and derails your routine.
To be clear, I’m not here to argue that daily exercise is more important than losing your job. But most people can relate to this experience. We all have competing priorities or agendas that deter us from being able to focus all of our efforts on our personal endeavors. What remains constant is the root of our motivation. When faced with these dilemmas, it’s crucial that we find our way back to those endeavors that have significance to us because, if we lose sight of the things that are important to us personally, we end up coauthoring someone else’s story instead of our own. Luckily, there is a secret weapon when it comes to managing the struggle between avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure. That weapon is accountability.
Notice in the example above that there was a commitment between two parties to go on a daily walk. Both parties share a workplace (proximity), they both feel it is important to exercise more (prominence) and both parties are more likely to go on the walk to avoid the pain of letting the other person down while also enjoying the pleasure of someone with mutual goals supporting them in their pursuit of a desired outcome. While challenges arose that prevented that outcome, the first successful week may have never taken place without two parties involved. This is the power of accountability and surrounding yourself with people that support you in your journey to achieve the results that are important to you.
Igniting the proverbial fire is one thing, but keeping it burning long enough to achieve your goals can be a daunting feat to tackle alone. The accomplishments that matter to us most require more than visualization and an occasional emotional response. In addition to accountability (arguably the most important), you need strategies for practical application paired with consistent reminders of why these goals became prominent in the first place. You need a navigator to course correct when you’re steered in the direction of misleading advice, information, and distractions that inevitably consume mindshare. This is the role a coach can play in your life.
As you consider your accomplishments in the past year, this may resonate with you. Perhaps there were individuals along the way that helped you reach a new milestone in your life and held you accountable when things weren’t going as planned. Or maybe there was more you wanted to accomplish, but you were lacking the support that you needed. Regardless of where things stand today, setting up your support system now will exponentially increase your chances of achieving results in the year to come. To support you in this endeavor, I’ve put together an exclusive offer for the month of December.
Through the end of 2015, I am offering free 30-minute health coaching sessions to start you on the path to achieving your most important health related goals. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ll work together to determine the areas of your life that you feel need the most attention and develop a strategy to start you off on the right foot. There are no obligations. Just pure guidance. Taking control of my health served as a catalyst to making strides in every area of my life and I am a firm believer that with proper guidance, it can have the same impact for you and the people that mean the most to you. To sign up for your free consultation, complete the form at coachmattbrown.com/health-consult-sign-up. I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve you and look forward to helping you achieve the results you deserve.