The 8 steps to getting my mojo back
In the last post, I mentioned that I was experiencing a return to form on the old productivity front. I thought I would share the process, and my approach, as I think it may be useful to those of you who also experience dips in focus (don’t we all?). I’ll just summarise here, and over the next few weeks, go into a little more detail. So here are my 8 steps to getting your mojo back.
1. Be Aware
The starting point for all development and change. To develop and improve your life, practise the art of self-awareness. It all sounds pretty straightforward, but when was the last time you sat down and did an exercise in really digging deep and being honest with yourself about, well, yourself? This is all that stuff that, if you’ve ever been on a training course, you may have done. Once. The thing is, for many of us, it doesn’t tend to happen again and we revert back to our default behaviours. It’s all well and good doing these exercises, but it’s important to know why being aware of ourselves and others is so important (I’ll go into this on the next post, or around about then). So take time to check in with yourself and be honest. What are your strengths? What do you struggle with? What do you need to work on? What’s holding you back and what do you want? Ignore what you should want and focus on you!
2. Guilt is Good, Shame is Shit
Yeah I know it’s a bit of a ridiculous mnemonic, but hopefully it will help you remember. Because it’s important. Brené Brown has some amazing work on this, which I suggest you check out. She talks a lot about the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is something that can help us identify, through feelings of discomfort, situations or behaviours we should avoid. Shame, on the other hand, is where we beat ourselves up and focus on our mistakes as flaws in our character. The difference is important because the former emphasises the behaviour and situation, which we can use as a learning experience; the latter puts the spotlight on ourselves, the ‘I’m an idiot!” response, which can lead to further feelings of inadequacy and of feeling ‘unworthy of connection’ (Brown 2013). We all drop the ball sometimes, and even if it feels really heavy, the key is to pick it back up. Speaking of which…
3. Keep Picking it Up
This is a way of thinking that can change lives, as it did for me. As someone who made a living from juggling, and without exactly being a natural, I know how frustrating it can be to keep getting down to repeatedly pick things up. But it’s part of the process of learning any new skill or behaviour; if you want to make changes and keep improving and developing, you have to accept that every now and then, you may drop the ball. Prochaska, Norcross and Diclemente (1994) describe change as a spiral, meaning that the learning process will rarely occur without the odd slip up. From Changing For Good:
“The average successful self-changer recycles several times…Completing the challenging journey, from contemplation through to termination requires ongoing work, the development of a relapse prevention plan, and the continuing application of the appropriate process of change”
So it’s not just awareness of ourselves, but awareness of the process, that can make all the difference to our development.
4. Think ‘Flexibility’
Many trainers and coaches are very fond of the adage , “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” and that’s because, unless you’re really lucky, it’s true. If something isn’t working, you will need to do something different. But understand that we are creatures of habit and habits are hard to change, which is what this post is all about. If change was easy, I would have written this ages ago and there would be a lot more posts on this blog. Change can mean discomfort, and that’s something we are wired to avoid, so…
5. Embrace your Discomfort
Welcome it, invite it in and give it a cuddle. It’s important to have in your life and a lack of it can create big problems. Without discomfort we can’t really get any sense of achievement. The two things are linked and that sense of achievement is one of the ingredients of happiness. Unfortunately we tend to think that we want things easy, but this is a big trick that our brains play on us, and when things become two comfortable, most of us begin to stagnate and get bored, and as Tim Ferris (2007) says,
“the opposite to happiness isn’t sadness, it’s boredom.”
Understand that there is a difference between discomfort and outright misery. Misery is OK for a little bit, but that’s not what I’m saying we’re chasing here. It’s just that the first few weeks of behaviour change will involve discomfort (and maybe a little misery), until it becomes a habit, usually after around 66 days.
6. Focus on the Short-term and Check In with the Long-term
I’ll be brief with this one as I’ll be writing a lot about goals in future posts, and have done in previous ones. The important thing is make long term goals, break them up into shorter goals and don’t have too many of them. Then work day to day on your short term goals, and when you feel that dip, look at your long term vision to remind yourself why the hell you are putting yourself through this (you will sometimes forget). Don’t deviate and do what I tend to do, which is follow any new idea or thought I have, get all excited, and realise that I have a nice shiny new goal for a few weeks until I have a new idea, get all excited etc…If any of this sounds familiar, the next stage should help.
7. Get it in the Diary!!!
This is one of the biggies for me. It’s pretty much changed everything; and I find it all so uncomfortable! So much so that although I’ve been teaching it for a few years, I have struggled with it massively (see 5) - a case of knowledge and action being two very different things.
However, because of my awareness of the spiral mentioned above (3), and the guilt/shame thing (2), it’s finally stuck. The habit’s there. Every Monday morning, or Friday evening, I plan my week days to the minute. I check my short and long-term goals and then every action for that week goes in the diary. The key is to create distraction-free times and leave a few gaps to take into account the unexpected stuff. The rule is that if something comes up, the activity gets moved and not cancelled. You put it there for a reason, so it’s important. As I mentioned, this is one of the hardest things for me - maybe because it feels very restrictive and I’ve lived a very unstructured life. However, there’s a paradox here because the more structure I put into my work-day, the more restful and exciting my downtime is…and I am so much happier. Yay!
8. Review, Review, Review
OK if you take only one thing away from this, make it this. Bringing us nicely back to awareness, I can’t begin to explain how powerful this has been for me. It takes a few minutes and I’m gutted that I didn’t start doing this about 20 years ago. You can find your own way of doing it, but do it. I now review at the end of each day and check it at the beginning of the next. I then check it over first thing Monday morning, basically asking the questions:
1.What went well?
2.What could have gone better?
4.What do I need to do to maintain 1 and work toward eradication of 2?
This is a process I learned from my good friend and mentor Richard Field. Do a version of this after every meeting, lesson, day, seminar, and basically anything you are practising or trying to improve. It will save you hours, if not years of repeating unproductive or unhealthy patterns. And don’t think doing it in your head is enough. The point is that you reference it before the next day. Over time you will see rapid improvement. It sounds like a faff but it really isn’t. It should be part of your working day.
Ok so there’s lots more that could be covered here, of course. But these are the areas I’ve found the most powerful. Please remember that feedback is my friend. Share if you like it and email me any questions or blog ideas as I always love hearing from people who read my thoughts. Right it’s 9.59 now, onto the next thing. Have a lovely day.
If you or your team need any training, coaching or just a bit of drive, email Steve to schedule a chat. ILM 3 and 5 Programmes in Leadership and Management available.
“Steve’s sessions proved to be a real highlight. His presentation skills are excellent and he brings theoretical models to life with relevant, engaging and surprisingly entertaining practical exercises.Even more impressive was the fact that the lessons learnt during sessions have had a real and meaningful impact on the way I operate at work. I’d jump at the chance to attend another of his sessions.”
Matt Swaine - Editor, BBC Wildlife
Brown, B. Daring Greatly - How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Feb 2013. Portfolio Penguin. ISBN: 1592407331.
Prochaska, James O; Norcross, John C; Diclemente. Changing For Good - A revolutionary Six Stage Programme for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. 1994. HarperCollins. ISBN: 0-380-72572-X
Ferris, T. The Four Hour Workweek - Escape the 9-5. Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich. 2007. Vermilion. ISBN-10: 0091929113. ISBN-13: 978-0091929114