In last week’s post, I talked about the approach I’ve added to my morning routine, particularly the process of filling out a morning journal. A section of that journal is focused on writing out your most important objective (i.e. goal, project, or desire) to improve your focus on your goal. I explained why in last week’s post.
I want to address this point because I discuss the ideals of goals vs. systems in my book, Optimize for Victory. While I think it’s important to set goals, I caution people to ensure they do not get overly focused on their goals without having a consistent system or process in place to achieve them. In many cases, we can get overwhelmed by the idea that something is missing in our lives, hence the goal; in fact, we can get so focused on the lack of it, that the stress related to achieving that goal can backfire on us. We may end up putting it off or not achieving it at all.
Therefore, I recommend a hybrid approach in my book. I do not think adding the morning journal opposes that. If anything, I think it complements the Tracking System I talk about in my book, a system for getting things done. Crystallizing your focus on what’s important through the morning can help you gain clarity while you continue to work with your robust system to achieve your projects and dreams.
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As we approach the end of 2017, it’s natural to look back on the year and review our personal progress. We ask ourselves: did we achieve the goals and resolutions we committed to at the beginning of 2017?
I’ll be the first to admit that I did not for a number of reasons. Those reasons range from personal struggle (feeling sick/immobile in my pregnancy, giving birth to my second child, mourning the death of my grandfather, etc.) to shifting and changing my mind on some of the ideas and goals I had. The latter is okay, by the way. As I have mentioned in previous posts, it’s important to take action. It’s better to take action and “course correct” along the way than to be completely idle and do nothing. On the other hand, it’s also okay to rest and “sharpen the saw” (as Stephen Covey has said) for a period of time, if needed. In full transparency: I actually had a mixture of action in some instances, and rest other times, depending on what was specifically going on in my life at different times over the past year.
(And let’s not forget that a newborn gets up multiple times a night, and she still wakes up at least once per night now!)
While some of my lack of progress was due to “course correction” or personal struggle, I must acknowledge that a portion of it was also due to lack of discipline at times. I didn’t have the self-discipline to take action in some cases due to “analysis paralysis” and in other cases I got off-course in my personal habits. Admittedly, I got away from my own Design Your Success system after the birth of my daughter. And I paid a small price for it (i.e. I didn’t achieve as much as I would have liked; but, to keep perspective—it’s not the end of the world!).
What I experienced is natural for everyone, especially when you’re dealing with major life changes. The important thing to do now going forward, however, is to acknowledge where you are and then to move forward. And this can be done very easily and in small, easy steps.
To address my own situation, I started doing the following:
I am working on my mind and brain again by listening to audiobooks, reading or taking in visual content that is aligned with who I want to be in my free time (mentioned in this interesting video presented by Impact Theory featuring Tom Bilyeu and neuroscientist Moran Cerf, Ph.D.):
Warning: do not listen around small children; sometimes Impact Theory’s videos use adult language.
The Morning Journal is a new addition for me, but powerful. More and more anecdotal evidence (and perhaps even scientific – I need to do more research) is coming out in articles and books about “millionaire morning” routines.
I set up my morning journal to address the following:
I am: This gets me in the right mindset in terms of the kind of person I want to be for the day (i.e. “I am focused. I am disciplined. etc.)
I will: I physically write out my most important goal or project: “I, Lisa Kardos, will…” (right now my goal is around a new course I’m creating!)
Gratitude: it’s important to optimize my mind and realize the blessings in my life, so that I can start my day from a place of thankfulness instead of bitterness.
Morning reflection: This gives me a chance to flesh out my thoughts or get them “out of my system,” so-to-speak.
Some people may balk (or like) the I will section because they resemble affirmations. In all honesty, I do not care how they are labeled. Some people will call them affirmations, others will call them goals, and some people will question the number or the wording. I look at them as a tool, because it’s the same way I learned math or other concepts in grade school: writing something down a number of times forced me to focus; the repetitive nature helped drill those concepts into my subconscious.
So if you are interested in increasing your focus and setting up your day for success, you are welcome to download the Morning Journal here (free; no opt-in required). I will probably write more about the morning routine in the future, but this is a start!
Also note that the “Daily Journal” (used in the evening) is still available for download here. And as always, feel free to check out additional resources below.
(Note that there is special holiday pricing for my books on Amazon and Kobo; Amazon should update the price to $0.99 later today!)
I leave you with the peaceful view I woke up to today (it snowed here in New Jersey!)
All the above concepts are touted in the areas of personal and professional development. In some ways, it’s almost a vicious cycle. People seek help in order to take the next step—to overcome a problem or to improve a particular area, but it can be paralyzing.
In the process of trying to take the next step to improve, you hear all these things you are supposed to be doing, and in doing so, you deepen your state of inaction—because you don’t know where to start. You may think, “Well I don’t have a vision, so I’d better create that, but then I have to improve my productivity, and then I have to improve my mindset…so I can’t really improve anything until I fix all those,” and in the end, you wind up doing nothing—because you need to return to your survival mode. How can anyone improve all those at the same time and see a difference in their lives the next day?
And in many cases, people actually feel worse about themselves, because they start taking inventory of all the things they are not doing. And that certainly doesn’t lead to individuals overcoming their challenges or achieving their dreams more easily!
One of the most common questions I hear is with regard to not knowing how to take the next step. It’s very easy to get caught up in realizing everything you’re not doing as described above, and that can be justification for not making expected progress in your life. This is why I am focused on resources that can help you take action. It’s even one of the reasons I use the word “optimize” because it’s like what we do in engineering—let’s yield a high quality product with minimal cost (i.e. yielding an even higher quality product for 100x the cost, in time/money, may not be profitable nor will it provide you the supply you need for your customers tomorrow!).
If we’re looking to improve something, we don’t necessarily want to take a year to get our systems in place; we typically need a different result as soon as possible and need to “optimize” the current situation for the better. And while it’s important to have good systems in place, realistically people need to see improvement more quickly. Therefore, I suggest taking action as soon as possible (while keeping in mind the overall system you’re aiming for in the future). I’m concerned that if you work on the system and don’t take action immediately, you’ll get so focused on perfecting the system that nothing will actually get done in the process!
Over time, you’ll find that the small improvements will compound, which is often discussed in the Kaizen approach. And if you do this intentionally, knowing the overall system or place you want to wind up, you’ll find that life helps you “course correct” along the way. But you can’t “course correct” unless you start taking action.
Therefore, if you’re in the boat of not knowing what to do next, check out my baby steps article for reference, and also keep the following in mind:
Just start working on what makes sense. While it’s important to take time to reflect and take a step back, don’t do that for days on end while waiting for an epiphany. Take a break and then get back to the task at hand.
If you’re not happy with your current situation and want a change in your life, keep doing #1 while also investing in yourself: take a few minutes each day to think about your overall system.
Sometimes when I present the above two points, an individual will respond to me and say, “Yes, but what makes sense for the next step?”
Naturally this is something best discussed in person. It’s very personal, but it may help for you to use some of the tools discussed in Success Blueprint or Design Your Success Academy. It’s hard to cover all the iterations of where you could be in your life or imagine what your situation is. But my quick, general advice would be:
Continue what you’re currently doing and just keep trying to do your best at it until you’re clear on your new goals. For instance, if you’re in a career you don’t like, keep working at it while you start preparing for a new one (taking online courses to increase your skills, posting your resume, etc.)
If you’re stuck not necessarily in terms of wanting a career change, but you want to feel better about yourself in terms of discipline or productivity, try to implement one small change while you continue to invest in yourself (described above). For instance, if you can’t bring yourself to start something you don’t want to do, create a spreadsheet (described in Optimize for Victory) and track your progress on simply working on it, with no expectation to how much time you spend on it. Your goal is to ensure the time you spent on it each day is simply not zero (0).
To wrap up, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s understandable. It’s easy to “go down the rabbit hole” so-to-speak when you’re looking to make a change. Start small and enjoy the compound effect of small improvements each day as you keep your intention about the new person you want to be (or new career, or whatever it is your heart desires!).
And one final note: I’ve noticed that as hard as it is to start something I don’t feel keen on doing, it typically doesn’t seem as bad once I’ve begun it, and I often feel a sense of relief and a release of tension for at least finally starting it!
For Mother’s Day, my husband got me two very practical gifts (gifts I wanted!) — an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Unfortunately, after typing up my dissertation, and while writing Optimize for Victory (all in the past year), I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. It can be extremely painful and difficult to manage at times. The nerves are so sensitive in my right arm/hand that it hurts to touch anything with texture! This has been especially difficult to manage with also trying to handle my one-and-a-half year old. Therefore, my husband researched keyboards and decided to get me the one in the attached picture. It’s taking me some time to get used to it, particularly because I have been typing incorrectly, apparently, for 18 years!
We did formally learn typing in our computer class back in elementary and middle school; however, I would say that I truly could not type quickly until my family got a home computer when I was 14. It arrived at the perfect time, especially since I started high school still typing my papers on a typewriter! Once we got the computer, we signed up with AOL. As I discovered the new world of AOL instant messaging, I had to learn how to type quickly, especially because I could not keep up with all of the instant message conversations with my friends!
Now that I am using my brand new keyboard, my typing speed has significantly decreased, mainly because my left hand wants to cross over to the right side at times, especially to hit the “y” key. To be honest, I was shocked to discover I have been typing incorrectly for so long. I’m sure I will eventually get used to this keyboard, but it will be extra challenging because I essentially have to correct a “bad habit.” But I’m positive that correcting this habit will probably incrementally help me become a better and faster typist; I was probably inhibiting my typing speed and straining my hands without realizing it!
Often it’s harder to unlearn something that’s ingrained in you than to learn it the right way in the first place.
Similar to the typing situation I am writing about here, I went through this when I restarted violin lessons as an adult; I had no idea I had been doing some things improperly while playing the violin as a child.
Why is this important to you? Because many of you study personal development — you want to be successful and victorious. Sometimes you discover that certain habits or thought processes that are ingrained in you may be inhibiting you. This is certainly not a judgement, as I am constantly working on various thought processes that take away from my chances for success. One example is when I used to belabor being upset about a failed friendship or relationship (discussed in my book Optimize for Victory). In general, I am constantly thinking about how to “optimize” myself — how to improve by employing an engineering mindset.
So it’s important to keep in mind that many of us have little habits that can slow us down or inhibit us– but if we can acknowledge them and make a plan to overcome them, then we can work towards optimizing ourselves.