Are your goals “goal-worthy?”

I want to discuss the difference between setting a goal for something you want vs. setting a goal based on something that you’ve already been working toward. You know, even once we settle on a goal, it’s quite common to question whether it’s the best goal to be focusing on right now, especially if we have other things happening in our lives and careers.

I remember a very specific example of coaching someone through this in one of my previous Path classes — Chris, who was setting a goal for his acting career. Chris had booked a handful of national commercials and he came to the Path Course ready to focus on booking jobs in tv and film, as well as commercials. When creating his one year goal, he was questioning whether or not there should be a part of his goal focused on booking more commercials. After I coached him in class, it became clear to Chris that focusing on commercials did not belong in his goal for this upcoming year. How did he know that this part of his goal was not goal-worthy?

What I shared with Chris and the whole class was this: just because he wasn’t including commercials in his goal, that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t continue to audition and book them. The fact of the matter is, that part of his career was already set in motion. Because Chris came to the class with the intention of growing the tv and film side of his career, as far as commercials went it was really more about maintenance.

So, how do you know that every part of your goal is goal-worthy? If you think it will probably happen without you writing it down and making a concerted effort to plan for it, trust that and take it out of your goal for now. Ultimately, I always say that if it’s not absolutely necessary then it doesn’t belong in your goal. So, for Chris, it would’ve been nice to book more commercials, but that wasn’t what the year was about for him. If it happened, great, but he wasn’t going to go to great lengths to plan for it. When you look at your goal, you should want to go to great lengths to make each part of it happen — just like Elaine in that Seinfeld clip, using a screening process to make sure someone was “sponge-worthy” 😉

So, I want to do something different today and give you a small assignment: Take a look at your current goal and review it to make sure that every part of it is 100% goal worthy. This is such a simple and effective way to make sure you’re on track and will give you a boost of confidence in knowing that you’re focusing on the right things.

BCSimplify

A “simple” goal-setting reminder from yours truly…

For those of you who don’t know exactly what your goals are or need help clarifying them, this is the kind of goal work that we do in the Path Course (in fact, we just went through this in my current class!), and it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to goal setting and putting a career plan together. If you want to do more of this work in depth, we just announced a summer session beginning June 7th. Click here for more information. And have fun with your assignment!

You don’t have one true calling…and that’s just fine!

Not so long ago, a client of mine had seen a TED Talk by a writer and career coach named Emilie Wapnick and compelled me to check it out because it was so connected to what we do at Capes Coaching. Whenever I get this kind of recommendation, I always put it on my Action List, knowing that I’ll eventually get to it…usually. But, then a curious thing happened — another client suggested the same thing. And then another client. And another. It was like one of those situations where friends of yours keep telling you that you HAVE to meet some other friend of theirs because everyone thinks that the two of you would really hit it off. So, of course, I watched Emilie’s Wapnick’s TED Talk…and I got what all the fuss was about.

Wapnick’s talk, titled “Why some of us don’t have one true calling,” explores the idea of multipotentialites — people who, rather than having one overriding passion that they spend their lives focusing on, have a dynamic range of interests and jobs over the course of a lifetime. Multipotentialites are essentially allergic to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And the reason isn’t because they don’t want to be anything, but that they want to be many things, which (unfortunately) can be seen as somehow “wrong” within the culture-at-large. Multipotentialites often feel guilty about the fact that they aren’t compelled by one major life pursuit; they feel tentative when speaking about their careers and interests, because they can appear to be lacking purpose and discipline. They can feel judged, and, to be honest, they often are. All of this tends to lead to the rise of some nasty inner critics.

Wapnick goes on to talk about the benefits of being a multipotentialite (including a wide-breadth of knowledge, a lack of fear in starting new things, and the ability to be flexible in numerous scenarios) and how the combination of multipotentialites working in tandem with specialists often produces the best results. She encourages multipotentialites to embrace their unique characteristics and to see their natural tendencies as a benefit. And I couldn’t agree more.

James Franco

James Franco: Possibly the modern poster boy for multipotentialism and how it can work for you. [Photo: Getty]

This brings me back to why all of those clients of mine were so excited about sharing this particular TED Talk with me. At Capes Coaching, we’ve been helping clients work with a trait that we call Multi-Goal Syndrome, which is essentially a variation on multipotenialism. We call it a “syndrome” because it tends to overwhelm people, particularly when it comes to defining goals and making plans to achieve them. This trait also tends to pop up in creative types on a regular basis, which isn’t surprising, given that the creative urge often has a wide reach. Often times, when people hear us identify this idea, it’s like a lightbulb goes on — “Yes! That’s exactly what I’m struggling with!” — and they get excited that it’s not specific to them alone.

The bad news is that sometimes identifying the issue isn’t enough. Many people still don’t know how to embrace their multipotentialism and make it work for them in their careers. This is where we come in. I’ve been helping people sort through the chaos and overwhelm for over a decade now, and trust me when I say that a good percentage of students in all of my Path classes have Multi-Goal Syndrome. It’s something we actively address and work through in the course, and I can confidently say that nearly everyone who leaves the class does so with a sense of clarity and empowerment. Not all multipotentialites need this kind of support, but for those that do, it can be a VERY powerful experience.

In any case, I encourage you to watch Emilie Wapnick’s TED Talk — it’s enlightening stuff, whether you’re a multipotentialite or not. And if you happen to be one and need some guidance with your career, we’re here to help 🙂

 

The Power of Enthusiasm

Eckhart and Oprah: Models of enthusiasm!

Eckhart and Oprah: Models of enthusiasm!

I was in a coaching session the other day and something came up that, immediately afterward, I thought, “This is something I have to share.” My client, a writer, was frustrated because he was showing up every day to commit to his writing, but he wasn’t feeling it. Something was missing and he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. This is actually something that I uncover all too often in coaching sessions — people doing the right things, making progress toward their goals (or not), but somehow feeling “off” about the entirety of it all. A lot of times, it turns out that they’re lacking perhaps the most important part of the process, and that, my friends, is ENTHUSIASM.

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle, and in his book A New Earth, Tolle defines enthusiasm as “…a deep enjoyment in what you do plus the added element of a goal or a vision that you work toward.” The idea there is one of harmony — it’s not that you just have a deep enjoyment of something, nor that you just have a goal. It’s a combination of the two, each feeding the other. Tolle goes on to say, “At the height of creative activity fueled by enthusiasm, there will be enormous intensity and energy behind what you do. You will feel like an arrow that is moving toward the target — and enjoying the journey.”

Those of you who’ve ever experienced that kind of enthusiasm know that it’s one of the most incredible feelings in the world. It makes the work suddenly not feel like work. Your ego detaches from the experience and your inner critics fade into the background. Everything feels right. And this is supremely important when it comes to working toward your goals because without enthusiasm, that journey becomes a real slog. It doesn’t matter if you’re working toward what you want — if you’re not enthused about how you’re going to get there, you’re not going to want to put the effort in.

davidgiphy

This is what happens when your enthusiasm is curbed…

So what happens when you lose your enthusiasm? Does that mean you should just throw in the towel and move on? No. It’s not the end of the road. When this happens to my clients, I try to get them to take a look at their goal and remember what it was that got them so excited in the first place. Revisiting that initial enthusiasm is often enough to get a spark going again — think of that goal in its purest sense and how it makes you feel when you imagine accomplishing it. Hopefully, you get a rush of adrenaline or some butterflies in your stomach, and this is what you need to channel when approaching the work that needs to do be done in order to reach that goal. Excitement and sense of purpose — that’s enthusiasm.

And what if you revisit your goal and the excitement’s just not there? Well, then it’s time to reevaluate. What’s changed since you set that goal? Was your initial enthusiasm fleeting? Is there something else that has captivated you since then? Whatever it is needs to be addressed, because without enthusiasm, the chances of you succeeding are slim. This is something we do often in coaching sessions — when the enthusiasm fades, we go to the core of the matter and evaluate the overarching goal, poking and prodding it to find out what the issues are and what can be done to reignite the passion that was originally there. Sometimes it’s a simple process, and other times it involves tearing the goal apart and rebuilding it from scratch. In either case, it’s worth it.

This idea of enthusiasm has always been at the heart of what we do at Capes Coaching, which is why we end up focusing on it so often in coaching sessions — particularly as it applies to careers in the arts. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Sustained enthusiasm brings into existence a wave of creative energy, and all you have to do then is ride the wave.” I love that. But if that weren’t powerful enough, he quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson in saying, “Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm.” Now that’s something to get enthused about!

Doing The Heavy Lifting

I feel your pain, Tom Hanks.

I feel your pain, Tom Hanks.

My family and I moved last week, and let me tell you, I feel lucky to have made it out with my sanity in tact. Anyone who’s ever gone through the moving process knows that I’m not being melodramatic here — at some point in the middle of the experience, when you’re sitting amidst what feels like mountains of STUFF (boxes, furniture, decor, etc.), the idea of putting your life cohesively back together feels impossible. It can be so overwhelming that you just want to give up in the hopes that someone is going to come along and rescue you (i.e., do the work for you).

For me, the main issue was feeling scattered and out of alignment. There I was, in our beautiful new home that I truly loved, but feeling unsettled. And it’s obvious why — our “life” was randomly strewn about in piles, everything needing to be gone through and put in a proper new place. When you’re in the middle of it all, staring at the entirety of your belongings heaped up here and there, it looks like a disaster. And, for me anyway, it made me feel like a bit of a disaster. Out of sync. Lacking a solid foundation.

This overwhelming sensation also has something to do with not being able to clearly see how to get from point A to point B. I could only see a mess, not the things that made up the mess. At one point, I decided to just do something. I ventured up to the bedroom while declaring to my husband that I was not to be bothered unless our daughter was in serious danger. Box cutter in hand, I shut the door and proceeded to unpack everything onto the bed while desperately trying to summon up my “inner Marie Kondo” and magically tidy up the mess in front of me. Only — ugh! — this was no better than the disaster downstairs. There was just too much shit to deal with and, once again, I felt lost, overwhelmed, and ready to throw in the towel.

Then there was this moment. Sitting amidst the piles of my life, I thought about the Path Course that we teach. I dealt with this kind of thing on a regular basis…I’ve created curriculum to help other people with this sort of thing! But, like anything else in life, it’s more difficult to practice than to preach. I laughed to myself when I realized that this is exactly what Path is all about…unpacking everything you want and clarifying your goals so you can organize them, prioritize them, and eventually make a plan to accomplish them.

I can’t tell you how many people have come to the first day of class with the same feeling that I had while staring at my boxes — unsettled, out of alignment, and scattered. And why wouldn’t they? When you have this general idea of what you want out of life, but no idea how to get there, those goals seem out of reach. They’re just this amorphous idea of something that could be possible…someday. Why wouldn’t you be out of sync if you constantly feel distanced from what you want? When thinking about the way I wanted my home to feel and contrasting that with what I was facing, it was too much. But, once I began focusing on specifics (one room at a time or — even more helpful to me — one corner of one room), I was able to begin seeing what I would have to do in order to accomplish the task. Like our Path students, once I had a plan and was able to start organizing, I felt a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders. I had direction…a system I could rely on that fit my specific rhythms and needs.

BCHomeLook, it’s not easy. When I was lugging box after box into my new home, my thought was, “Yeesh! These are SO heavy!” But, the truth is, the REAL heavy lifting took place when I began unpacking each box and going through everything, piece by piece. It takes time and energy, and it often requires outside help. That’s what Path is all about — helping you take stock and formulate a plan that supports you as you do the heavy lifting. Is it hard work? Yes. But, let me tell you — now that the pictures are on the walls and the books are on the shelves, relaxing in my new living room with my family and feeling like I’m actually at home makes it all worth while!

The first step

So, here we are: the first full week of the year, and it feels like it’s time to get moving. It’s time to kick things into gear. It’s time to…do…something. But, what, exactly? If you’re like most people, you’re ready to make a change in your life right about now. You sailed through the holidays and did your thing — you worked like a maniac to get things done before the end of the year, then you partied and celebrated, then you hopefully relaxed, and the entire time you probably had a little voice in your head reminding you that you didn’t really have to worry about anything because you were going to get serious about everything in January. Well, January’s here and with it usually comes a great, big question mark. In other words: “What do I do now??”

Batman getting clarity.

Batman getting clarity. He’s now likely to achieve his goals.

The first thing you do is to get clarity. This is the absolute most important step in making a plan for your career, life, etc. It will have an impact on everything that comes after it — the choices you make, the actions you take, the time and energy you spend, and the eventual results you’ll see. Clarity is key. It’s about turning your vision inside and surveying your internal landscape. It’s about understanding what’s important to you, not just in the here and now, but in the longterm future. It’s about knowing what you want BEFORE you start planning how to get it. This is not the time to make impulsive decisions — it’s the time to sit with your thoughts, to let them marinate, to give into contemplation. In doing so, you’ll raise the chances of ultimately reaching your goals because you’ll be that much more in tune with them. And, just as important, you’ll spend less time going down roads that lead to nowhere but wasted time and energy. Getting clarity will ensure that you’re working smarter, not harder.

If it sounds like I’m a stickler for this, it’s not by accident. If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you likely know that I’m passionate about goal setting — I love helping people define what they want and create a plan for reaching their goals. It’s why I created The Path Class, which (if you’re unfamiliar) is a six-week class devoted to goal-setting. Goal setting is the foundation of successful careers, and I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen completely transformed by the process of thoroughly defining what it is that they want. Once they do it, it’s something that sticks with them in the form of career (and life) tools that they can use essentially forever. Pretty powerful stuff.

In fact, just recently, I heard from a former Path student of mine who excitedly emailed me to let me know that she serendipitously connected with another Path alum (their classes were years apart) and they were now working together. What she was most excited about was finding someone who was still using the career tools taught in Path Class — they shared a similar language and were empowered in their work because they came at it through (in her words) “the strength of intention.” I love hearing these types of stories! And let me tell you, that strength of intention begins at one point — clarity.

Whether you define what it is that you want on your own or with the help of a coach or one of our Path Classes, make sure you honor yourself and your goals by giving this step the attention it deserves. In the end, it makes all the difference!

So, you finally got your goal…now what?

So, you finally did it: you reached your goal. After all the hard work, sacrifice, and commitment — the blood, sweat, and tears — you’ve achieved what you set out to do. Congratulations! Now you can just sit back and coast on your laurels until the end of time and all will be lovely and awesome. Right?

Eh…no. Sorry.

Now, don’t get me wrong; reaching a goal is something to truly celebrate. I always advocate taking the time upon achieving what you’ve been working toward to enjoy your success, acknowledge your victory, and reward yourself in some way, shape, or form — no matter how small a reward it is. These victories are, after all, often hard fought and won. So, do yourself a favor and give yourself the credit you deserve.

Rocky Balboa

Yo, Adrian…you mean I can’t just be the champ? I gotta defend my title now?

That said, the work is not done. In fact, one could reasonably say that the work is never done. And this can actually come as a bit of a surprise when you’ve been so focused on actually achieving your goal. In all the years of teaching goal-setting through coaching and the Path Class, a very common question I hear is, “What if I don’t reach my goal?” So, it can be a bit of a surprise when the commitment finally pays off and you’re suddenly left with a successful goal in your hands. The question then become, “Ummm…what do I do now?”

Well, once you reach your goal, the work actually splits into two different tracks: maintenance and the next goal, both of which are fairly self-explanatory. But, let’s take a look anyway.

Maintenance means that whatever goal you’ve reached, you’re likely going to need to maintain it in some way or another. An obvious example would be if your goal was to lose 10 lbs. Once you’ve lost the weight you’re going to want keep it off, which requires maintenance in the form of a proper diet and possibly exercise. Another instance would be if your goal was to book a role in a production of some sort; once you’ve booked the role, you’re going to have to actually perform, which will require learning your lines, blocking, etc. This may seem elementary, but it’s important to keep in mind because there are plenty of instances where the joy of reaching the goal itself overshadows the work that will need to be done afterward.

The second track that I mentioned above is a new goal. Generally speaking, every time we set a goal, it’s simply one step along an entire life path. When we reach one goal, it’s en route to another. That’s not to say that we can’t enjoy the spoils of our victories and take the time to savor what we’ve earned. But, there’s always something else on the horizon, and no matter how large or small it may be, it’s still a goal. And that means that you’re going to have to do what you’ve been doing all along: define it and plan for it. Now, the good news is that you’re kind of a pro at this, since you’ve already achieved one of your goals. So, take what you’ve learned — the good and the bad — and apply it to your next endeavor. The process itself is constantly evolving as you gain more experience along the way, and what you’ll eventually discover is that you’re naturally doing all of this work without even thinking of it as work. It simply becomes a part of life.

The truth is that without this constantly renewing cycle, we’d likely get bored. It keeps the rust from forming. But more importantly, it keeps us excited, inspired, and perpetually seeking to better our lives and ourselves.

Calling your shot

Have you ever wanted something so badly but couldn’t envision yourself getting it? Maybe you want to produce your own comedy web-series, or play the Greek Theatre in LA, or have your novel published; whatever it is, sometimes we can imagine these things in the abstract, but when pressed to consider the reality, the vision is hazy at best. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone — I encounter this “syndrome” all the time when coaching, and there’s a very simple antidote to it. It’s called “Assuming Success.”

Assuming success is exactly what it sounds like: believing deep down that you will accomplish what it is that you set out to do. Period. I know, I know, right now you’re probably thinking, “Uh, Betsy. That’s it? There must be something you’re forgetting, right?” Well, my friends, that IS all there is to it, but the simplicity of it can be a little deceiving. Otherwise, we’d all be assuming success and wouldn’t have to talk about it.

The thing is, it can be difficult to assume success for a variety of different reasons. Some people think they don’t deserve it. Others think they’re not ready for it. And there are those that just never even considered success as a real possibility. Whatever the reason, they all come down to playing it safe because you don’t have to move outside of your routine and comfort zone — you can just keep on doing whatever it is that you’ve been doing. However, when you assume success, you’re setting yourself up to achieve it and that switch in perspective can often times push you into some new territory. While that territory can be a little disconcerting at first, believe me, it’s a VERY empowering place to be!

John Goodman as Babe Ruth calling his shot

Call your shot. And back it up.

Once you get used to the feeling you’ll find a newfound sense of confidence, which will affect every aspect of the way you run your business (not to mention the effect it will have on your life as a whole). You’ll want to make those phone calls that you were a little too timid to make. You’ll charge forward with that creative project that you thought might not appeal to the masses. You’ll take the disappointments in stride because you know that they’re just bumps along the road to the success you’ve envisioned for yourself. This is about having your Babe Ruth moment: pointing to the center field bleachers to say, “That’s where this ball is going,” and having the confidence to back it up.

So…I’m going to leave you all with the challenge of assuming success for yourself. It can be for something big or small — I don’t care what it is, as long as you dig deep and really, TRULY believe that you can accomplish it. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first (or not!), but just see it through. Trust me: a simple change in perspective can change everything.

The power of resources

So, now that you’ve taken the time to figure out what it is that you really want, it’s on to making to-do lists with all kinds of actions for you to take. Just kidding. While that may be your gut reaction, let’s hold off on THAT kind of list for the moment. Instead, I’d like you to focus on a different kind of list – a RESOURCE list.

Before we go any further, let’s take a quick second to define what I mean when I’m talking about resources. In this context, resources are people, places, things, even attitudes and philosophies — anything that you have at your disposal to help get you closer to reaching your goals. I’m a firm believer that you already have most of the resources that you need to get what you want, it’s simply a matter of how you choose to organize and utilize them. That’s a pretty empowering idea, isn’t it?

Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia

Meryl knows that she doesn't need to buy more chickens for her dinner party. Why? Resource list!

Why is it so important that you take stock of your resources before you put together your action lists? Well, imagine that you’re going to throw a huge dinner party and the first thing on your list of actions is to go shopping for everything you need. If you didn’t stop to look at your resources beforehand, that shopping trip would likely be somewhat of a disaster. You would buy ingredients that you already have and you’d miss those that you didn’t. You might find out too late that you don’t have the right cooking utensils and that you’re short on serving ware, or you might overlook supplies that you could repurpose and waste money buying things you don’t need. In other words, before you can even begin to DO anything, you need to know what you’re working with. I’ve said it before and I will undoubtedly say it again and again: it all comes down to awareness before action.

The best way to compile your list of resources is to start with your goal at the top of the page; that way, you can always reference it for inspiration. Then it’s time to brainstorm. The key here is to not hold back and judge your list — give yourself the freedom to conjure up all that you can. This isn’t about perfection and only writing down things that you know you’ll use; this is about casting your net as wide as you can and seeing what you catch in it. You can always throw back the things that you don’t need.

Let’s say that your goal is to redesign your website so that it represents you as best as possible. A quick brainstorm might include these resources: your computer, your camera (to take photos), your reel or writing samples, examples of websites you admire, Facebook (for recommendations, etc.), a friend of yours who writes and edits copy, people whose opinions you trust for feedback, a positive attitude (things won’t always go the way you want them to!), etc.. You want to get as many resources down onto your list as possible – you can never have too many. If your dad pops into your mind for whatever reason, write him down on your list – if you realize later that he can’t really contribute to your goal, it was no loss to simply include him. That’s not to say that you should include everything in the world on your list, but if something comes to mind while brainstorming, don’t throw it back.

If it helps, set a time limit on your brainstorming sessions just to give yourself a structure and to make sure that you don’t keep yourself from actually coming up with your action list in order to infinitely build your resource list. Once you’re done and ready to move onto your to-do list of actions, you’ll get a huge boost in the form of all of your resources. You’d be surprised by how many actions you come up with that you wouldn’t have even considered before, simply because you have a list of everything available to you staring you in the face. Funny enough, your resource list becomes a major resource in and of itself. And when all is said and done, by taking a little time to get organized before you start putting your plan together, you’ll be in a much more powerful place to work towards your goals!

Good Will Goal-Setting

Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting

He's smiling because he figured out what he really wants. And he REALLY likes them apples...

Here we are…third week of the New Year, feeling pumped, ready to go for it…whatever IT is. So, “How are you going to get your goals?” is the next logical question, right? Wrong.

The most common way I see artists self-sabotage when it comes to goal setting is by getting too caught up in how they will get their goal while they are creating the goal itself. Goal setting is a two-step process, and the first step — actually coming up with and defining your goal — must come before the second step, which is creating the plan for how to achieve the goal. And the truth is that the second part is not a prophecy, it’s not an absolute; it’s a guide, a structure. But you will never know exactly how anything is going to work out. I see so many artists hedge their bets on their goals, because they’re afraid of the unknown. Just remember that when creating the goal itself, you’re answering the question, “What do I want?” not, “How will I get what I want?” There’s a world of difference between the two.

As I said, the first part of goal setting is actually coming up with a goal. For some of you, this is the easy part; you have something definitively in your sights and you’re ready to make a go at it. For others, however, things aren’t so cut and dry. If you fall into the latter category, you may be wondering where to start when setting a goal. The answer, which I learned during my coaching training and had a huge impact on the way I approach goal setting, is this: Your goal is already inside of you. That’s right; it’s the project or idea that you keep coming back to or that keeps coming back to you. It’s a gut feeling. What compels you? What are you ready to go after? What feels “right”?

That’s really the trick — turning your attention inside and listening to what’s going on there. This isn’t about what’s going on in your head; you can’t think your way to your next goal and expect it to feel authentic. You also can’t rely on others to inform your goal. It’s not about living up to someone else’s idea of success — not your parents, or your friends or significant other. You have to strip everything else away and get to the heart of what matters to you. This is about digging deep, being honest with yourself, and taking ownership of what it is that you truly want for you and your career.

I’m sure all of you remember that famous scene from Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams’ character asks Matt Damon’s character, Will, what it is he really wants, and Will, who is a genius, just stands there with this blank stare because he never had the courage to really answer that question. Well, that movie didn’t win an Oscar for best screenplay for nothing. Just like Will, you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t know what you really want to do with it or if you don’t take the time to explore the possibilities, your talent will go to waste. I challenge you right now to go one step further and sit with this question a little bit longer than you normally would. Something worthwhile just might show up.

In my next post, I’m going to help you with the “HOW” – so make sure you’re good to go with the “WHAT” before then. And don’t forget to come back here and share! You all did such a great job of sharing your gifts during the Giving Challenge, and I’d like to keep that going in 2012. So, bring your goals back here and share them with us. Sure, putting it out there for the world to see can be scary. But, you’d be amazed at how empowered you’ll feel once you take your goal out of your head and make it concrete. It’s actually kinda awesome 🙂

Time to eat that frog!

Kermit The Frog

Okay, maybe not THIS frog...

Are you the master of starting lots of projects? Do you choose to do other tasks that seem easier when you know there’s something else you really should be doing with your time? Let’s face it, we can be experts at getting everything done but the most important task at hand — that’s usually the one that hangs over us for days, weeks, sometimes even months before we get started. And the longer it festers, the longer we feel like ____ (I was gonna say poop, but you go ahead and fill in the blank).

Ahh, friends, it’s time to face the monster in the closet: Procrastination. LBH (Let’s Be Honest, as a close friend likes to say to me when it’s time to get real), even the best of us find ourselves procrastinating in some area of our lives every now and then. Whether it’s cleaning your room, updating your contacts, going to a networking event, or even just returning a simple email that’s permanently taken up residence in your inbox, I think it’s fair to say that we all know too well the side effects of procrastination: guilt, shame, remorse, anger, regret…am I striking a chord? (I’ll imagine your head is nodding yes, Betsy, yes I get it!)

One area in particular that procrastination tends to butt its way into is projects. Now, I love projects, in theory. There’s spirit in the word itself. When I think of projects I get all excited and motivated and inspired to conquer the world. Unfortunately, this fire can dim when the reality of starting the project sets in…and that’s when procrastination rears its ugly head. The project suddenly seems like Mt. Everest — too big to conquer — and before I know it, an embarrassing amount of weeks have gone by and I haven’t even made a dent. Sound familiar? Or maybe you’re the type of person who charges head first into a project, undaunted by its size, only to find yourself trudging through quicksand once you’re in the middle of it because follow-through is your weakness. And you know what they say about quicksand — don’t fight it. Just sit still until someone rescues you. In other words…procrastinate.

Quicksand

"Follow-through is my weakness!!!"

I’ve never put it into practice, but I think it’s safe to say that the quicksand advice is right on…when it comes to actual quicksand. But, I’m here to give you the tools to rescue yourself from metaphorical quicksand. That’s right — you’re going to be your own hero and save yourself, and your project, from the evilness of procrastination. Here’s how: fragmentation.

It doesn’t sound like much of a weapon, does it? But when it comes to projects, there’s real power in breaking them down into smaller, bite-sized tasks, which we at Capes Coaching call Action Ideas. Now, if you’ve worked with me in the Path Class, you know that we define a project as anything that could take more than 24 hours to complete, and that projects are not allowed to live on to-do lists without being broken down into all the possible action ideas you can think of to complete them.

For example, if my project is to complete a first draft of my new website so that I can get feedback on it from people I trust, these might be some of my action ideas:

  • Confirm Matt can do the design by the goal date
  • Make a list of all the things to change from my old site
  • Research websites I like
  • Determine a color scheme
  • Update my bio
  • Email my mom and ask her to review the site copy
  • Take new photos for the site
  • Call my friend Marina to ask her about her site
  • Pick three people I trust for feedback
  • Choose a favorite font

You get the idea. Now, I’m not inventing the wheel here. We all know how to do this, but the truth is that we can be a little lazy, right? It seems so much easier to not do anything at all, or to put our attention towards something new and exciting, than to simply put a little effort into making a project digestible. Look at that list — you know how long it took me to come up with it? Minutes. That’s the reality of doing this work. And once it’s done, the project doesn’t seem so unconquerable anymore. In fact, just looking at my list makes me excited to start doing things and crossing them off. And isn’t that the point of a project, to complete it?

Mark Twain

"Looks gross...tastes like chicken..."

Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” And author Brian Tracy wrote a whole book about it called Eat That Frog!. What I gather Twain meant was do the most important, most challenging task first thing in the morning and the rest of your day will be easy. And isn’t that true? When you’ve just buckled down and done the thing you want to do least first — c’mon LBH — the rest of the day IS easier.

So, my challenge for you is to take on a project that you’ve been putting off, or have stalled in the middle of. Break it down with your newfound weapon — action ideas — and give procrastination the kiss off. I want to hear your success stories, and if they involve any frog eating, all the better! Get to it!