Monday, 6 October 2014

Time to Focus on your Goals

"Don't look down at the jump or at what is spooking the horse" shouted the instructor.  "Just keep your eyes up and in the direction you want to go".  I have just spent a whole week-end with my daughter at an equestrian event - show jumping.  Now, I am not a horsey person.  I don't actually like them much and I don't ride myself but, being a "supportive mother" I am endeavoring to learn as much as I can about this sport and be helpful.  I have also found that a lot the coaching techniques for this sport are also applicable to self coaching.   The above comment by the instructor struck a chord with me.

As self coaching is my area of interest, my ears pricked up when the instructor talked about focusing on the goal as opposed to the obstacles and distractions.  I thought it a great topic for a blog post given we only have about 3 months  left in this year.  How many of us started this year with good intentions to implement some changes to our lives by setting new year resolutions only to find we are way off track and have little chance of success dispite having gone to the trouble of writing out some  SMART Goals  and completing a Gap Analysis to assist us in developing our action plan.

I know that midway through this year I did a review of my progress towards my goal attainment to help me say on track, but I have lost motivation  and strayed from my target since then.  I have  - looked down and got spooked - my eyes no longer on the prize but on all the obstacles. I have let distractions and fear derail me. If I was on a horse, it would mean either knocking the rail off the jump or I've fallen off the horse onto the ground.   So lets take this analogy a bit further then - please join me in dusting ourselves off and finding a clear path over the hurdles to the finish line on December 30th and receive the prize of successfully achieving our 2014 goals.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. -Helen Keller

Tips to Refocus 

  1. Value your Mistakes: Mistakes are a normal part of life.  Learn from them.  Don't get caught up in blame or regret, look at it as a chance to problem solve.  Each time you make a mistake you are one step closer to finding the best solution to the problem. If first you don't succeed then try and try again.
  2. Know when to Change Direction:  Make an assessment of your commitment to the goal and its attainment.  Is it something you really really want or just a whim?  Is it challenging enough or too challenging?  Have your been realistic in the time-frame you have set?  Sometimes having the courage to admit a mistake and redirect or change sooner rather than later will get you to your goal faster.
  3.  Get Going: There is no time to waste with only 3 months left in the year - Just DO It. Focus on one goal at  a time (better to achieve one thing than nothing at all). In spite  of thoughts, feelings etc ....Take action. Stick with it. Track your progress in your diary and reward small successful steps. 
  4. Visualise Your Success: Remember what you focus on is what you get.  See yourself in your mind's eye starting out on your first steps, seeing things through and achieving your goal.  A friend recently fulfilled a long time goal of going to the South Island of New Zealand.  She used a vision board to help her in this endeavor.  
  5. Have Faith In Yourself: The cornerstone of success is self-belief.  If you have faith in yourself and develop a strong action plan, you can put one step in front of the other and execute that plan.  Commit to the plan and have a Can Do attitude.
  6. Recognize your Cycles: Motivation comes in cycles.  Pay attention to your own cycles and take advantage of your up periods, and back off when your down.  For example you might be more motivated to exercise in the morning then the evening so schedule your time accordingly.  Other ebbs and flows to be aware of are cycles of doubt about your goals.  This could be when your tired or stressed.  Be aware that episodes of doubt come regularly so spend some time identifying their pattern. This will help you schedule those time slots with motivating or distracting activities (ie. read a book, listen to uplifting music) Share your doubts with people you trust and incorporate any feedback they provide.
  7. Calm Your Fears: "Fear is the Big Brother of Doubt.  Like doubt, fear is OK in measured doses, but you should never let it run your life..." says Scot Fox in Internet Riches.  Work out what it is you're afraid of and acknowledge unhelpful or negative self talk.  Counter it with positive and encouraging thoughts - be your own coach.  Write it down and remind yourself when ever your Doubting Thomas starts whispering in your ear. Practise self compassion instead of self criticism and change your focus of attention to your values and goals (Carol Vivyan 2011). 
  8. Stop Unhelpful Habits: Ask yourself what's the thing you do, or don't do, that gets in the way of your goal? Perhaps some routine is getting in the way of your progress towards achieving your goal.  For example, when I wanted to give up smoking I also had to give up coffee as I always combined these two activities.  Perhaps you snack while watching your favorite day show which ruins your diet or drink wine with your main meal and this is impacting on your health. Whatever the unhelpful habit is try to create a new habit by changing your daily activities or routine.  
  9. Focus: Interruptions and distractions are a fact of life with  people's media consumption being more than 3 times that consumed in the 1960's.   At work we are constantly shifting our attention between electronic tasks like answering e-mails , checking other programs, entering data whilst dealing with other interruptions such as drop ins by co-workers and answering telephone calls. I suggest you keep a time/distractions log for 3 days so you can better understand where your time/distractions come from. Track your time in 30 min intervals and also document any interruptions/distractions including the time of the distraction, name of the distraction or thing/person who caused the interruption, the level of importance of the interruption and the time taken to refocus.   Then develop a strategy to deal with them. For example, if you're at the gym intending to do a work out, but your friend wants to spend the time chatting and this limits the effectiveness of the work out then you need to think of the options for managing this interruption.  If phone calls keep you from completing tasks then divert the phone until the task is completed etc.
    Analyse your own habits and behaviours to determine where your time goes in a day is also a great way of helping you stay focused on the important activities and steps to achieving your goals.  Remember the 80/20 rule.  Spend 80% of your time on important tasks.  Identify the areas where you could be more productive and implement a strategy of time focus (Wilcox and Martin: Refocus it's Time - How to get time back in your day).
  10. Only You Can Make Your Goals Gold: The above tips along with some of the earlier blog postings provide a comprehensive package of strategies for developing a practical, specific plan for executing your goals.   The rest is up to you, but I  believe that if you've gotten this far, you have demonstrated your dedication to your new mission and will be on the winners podium getting gold for achieving your 2014 goals by the end of December this year. 

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