As a coach, I am continually looking for new and innovative ways to help my clients reach their goals. My desire is to help people create meaningful, lasting improvements so any new possibility to help make that change easier to navigate is worth looking into. And there are a lot of great new ideas. Many of them have merit, but just as many are bright, shiny objects that seem to deflect attention away from the goal and onto the product itself. With all the apps and plugins and extensions, it is easy to get carried away with the idea that a couple of clicks here and there will help you make a substantive change whenever you are ready.
I’m sorry to disappoint, but it really doesn’t work that way. A lasting change–whether it is finding the perfect job or losing twenty pounds–takes time. And while in process it is easy to get distracted or discouraged when we aren’t making the progress we feel we should. Most of us are impatient, especially with ourselves, so many times frustration will lead to surrender. Put that dream away and try again later.
Here’s the deal. When you reach that point, one of the best ways to get back on track is to go back to basics. Forget the apps, forget the plugins–go back to the something that is guaranteed to kickstart your momentum.
Whenever you want to make a change of any kind in your life, a coach will suggest you write it down. That’s great–if you work with a coach. However, since the majority of people do not have a coach very few actually put pen to paper. They may think about them. They may even talk about them with other people, but they don’t write them down.
And that is a problem. It’s rather like deciding to run a marathon and then tying your shoelaces together. You will move forward but you’re going to spend a lot more time falling down.
Here is a coaching moment if you have been trying to realize a new vision in your life but it just isn’t going anywhere.
Think about the change you want to happen and then picture yourself a year from now (or five years) after that change has become the new normal. How do you see the future? What is different about it? How do you feel about that change? What difference has it made in your life? Is your life better, and if so, how?
The power of this exercise lies in the details. Simply stating that you got a new job will most likely not revive your motivation if you don’t include why you wanted to get it. Was it to spend more time with your family? Perhaps you needed to change positions because the stress level had become unbearable. How does the reduced stress level at the new job promote a better quality of life? Give yourself an hour and write this all down in a format you will be able to revisit when necessary.
One of the best ways to do this exercise is as a letter to a friend. Describe to them what your life is like a year from now, and then explain how you got there. Remember this is just for you. No one will actually read it except for you, so make it as honest and detailed as possible. Don’t just tell your friend you changed jobs. Explain why you wanted a new job and what impact that new career has had on your lifestyle. Don’t just tell them you lost twenty pounds. Describe how it feels to be able to breathe more easily or run that 5K with your partner or how you can get through nightly homework with the kids without losing your temper.
We make changes because of an overwhelming desire to improve ourselves or our situations. However, even when we write down the reasons for wanting change, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of the bigger picture. Keeping a copy of the reasons and rereading it on a regular basis is a great way to stay grounded in your commitment to create a better tomorrow for yourself.
This is simple exercise, but trust me, it is very effective. The other day I was frustrated about a couple of business ventures that weren’t progressing the way I had hoped. I was discouraged enough to consider throwing in the towel. My coach suggested I try this exercise. It took some time but I wrote a new version and when I was finished I remembered why I wanted to make the changes and was much clearer on why they were important. I even came up with new ideas on how to make them happen.
As I have mentioned before–if you don’t know where you want to go, it is going to be very difficult to get there. And if you don’t really know why you want to get there, you may as well give it up.
This may not be one of the shiny, new apps but it is one of the best tools in the box. Sometimes simple is better. The next time your motivation is flagging, give this a try. You just may be surprised at your improved level of clarity and commitment by the time you take your fingers off the keyboard.