Now comes the most fun, yet challenging part of the journey: doing the work and staying on track towards success.
When “the rubber meets the road” is the true test of your plan. Many of us take great action for the first few weeks or even few months, but then trail off and our goals become distant memories.
Why is that?
There will always be issues and unforeseen circumstances not in your control. Sometimes life just happens. More often than not, the reason we don’t hit our mark is due to ourselves.
We get in our way
Why would we ever want to impede ourselves from achieving a vision tied deeply to our values? The answer is not simple and the actions to correct them can be easy or hard, it is up to you.
It all starts with awareness of how we get in our way.
For example, one of your core values is heath so you create a SMART goal to run a ½ marathon by the end of the year. You start running, join a training program and you are on your way (associating with like-minded people is another core value).
Nevertheless, for some reason you slowly start to wane and begin missing your runs. Nothing else is going on in your life; you just don’t feel like it. The goal is rooted in your values of health and social interaction. In your vision you saw yourself finishing the race with some new friends and feeling fantastic, so what’s going on?
In the article The Real Reason People Won’t Change, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey write about the psychological dynamic called “competing commitments”[i].
At the root, we have underlying habits, thoughts and beliefs that compete with each other. In essence, we sabotage ourselves because other habits and beliefs are serving us in a different way, hindering us from what we are trying to change.
To discover the competing commitment in our example let’s try the following:
- What are you doing instead? – Not running and occupying yourself with other agendas.
- If you imagine doing that which you are resisting, do you feel any discomfort, worry or fear? Do you feel doubt inside of you about the time commitment required to train for a ½ marathon?
- What is competing with your goal? – If I dedicate myself to training, I’m going to miss out on social interaction with my old friends.
Missing out on interacting with your old friends is the competing commitment.
With this knowledge, you have choice (train for your goal or hang with your friends). The key is creating awareness and seeing the choices you have in front of you.
Resistance to change and inner chatter
No matter how much you want to achieve your goals, it may mean that you have to change.
Change is the big unknown. Change can be fearful.
You could change in a myriad of ways, maybe good or maybe bad, but you don’t know. You start creating “what if” scenarios and talk ourselves out of the changes we are facing. What happens if you start training and make new friends? You could start missing time with your old friends. Your old friends may criticize you for not hanging out and persuade you to not train.
The “what if” scenarios are usually the work of your lizard brain, gremlin or saboteur. Whatever you like to call it, it’s the little voice in your head that likes things just as they are. This voice is totally happy not changing and will tell you anything to keep it that way. Historically, the lizard brain, etc… existed to protect you from harm. This was very effective when we were cave men, and had to worry about saber-toothed tiger attacks.
In the present day the lizard brain still protects you from real fears, like being mugged, but more often than not it fires up anytime change may disrupt your homeostasis.
Anytime you feel the lizard brain kicking on, try the following:
- Get present, pause and take a few deep breaths
- Create a break in your thinking, observe yourself and ask what is the real fear here?
- Is this a fear of change, stepping out of my comfort zone, or real danger?
If you aren’t truly in danger of being harmed, fear is just an emotion. It is your emotional reaction that is hindering you. Once you gain some objectivity around your fear, you can choose how to react. This exercise alone will help you experience significant personal growth.
The key to staying on track is self awareness,creating choice and taking actions that move you towards realizing your vision and SMART goals.
Move forward and succeed
Working with your competing commitments, resistance to change and your inner chatter takes courage. The first step started with reading this post and gaining knowledge. The next step is staying conscious and being aware when you are entering into these habits and then taking appropriate action to move you forward.
- Awareness keeps you from turning on autopilot and puts you in a state of choice
- Choice, gives you the ability to make decisions
With your new knowledge, do you give into your competing commitments, your fears, your lizard brain or do you rise to the challenge and follow your vision and goals?
Stay Focused and energized
Here are some quick tips and practices I use to stay focused and energized while working towards my goals and vision.
- Take daily action towards achieving your goals
- Review your vision twice a month
- Review your goals every 7 days
- Create systems for success
- Focus on the benefits
- Stay conscious and aware of competing commitments, inner chatter and fear of change
- Walk with and through your challenges and fears
- Work with a leadership coach to help with challenges and to keep you on track
- Don’t let your detractors take you down (including family and old friends)
- Stay in a state of gratitude
Take your plan, your new awareness and go execute.
Here’s to your success in the new year! Cheers!
[i] Kegan, R., & Lahey, L.L. (2001). “The Real reason people won’t change.” Harvard Business Review, 79(10), 85-92