This is too much. Where do I begin…?

Cultivate Good Habits.

 

Improve Your Mindset.

 

Create a Vision.

 

Hustle.

 

Be Disciplined.

 

Set Goals.

 

Be Productive.

 

Wake up Early.

 

Do this, don’t do that…

 

A bit overwhelming, right?

 

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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:

 

  1. 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.)

  2. 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!

 

Additional Resources:

Books:

Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams

Success Blueprint: Get Out of Survival Mode, Regain Control of Your Life, and Get Ahead at Work and in Life

 

Course: Design Your Success Academy

Learning from Our Children

My husband and I took our son, Gabriel, to his second “Music Together” class this morning. We’ve noticed that he really enjoys it — he smiles, laughs, and appears very excited and engaged! And we have also interestingly observed that he picks and chooses the activities he participates in during the class. Sometimes he takes a few steps off the mat, tilts his head, and watches and analyzes the class while making his decision. Most of the time he chooses to re-engage, and other times he decides not to.

 

In a sense, he decides where he wants to spend his energy. And if something does not suit him, he will not simply succumb to what’s going on right in front of him.

 

Could this type of analysis be something we should be doing as adults?

 

How often do we feel that we have to do something? That everyone is “crazy busy” and spread so thin, so we adopt the same behavior?

 

When things are thrown at us, we have a tendency to automatically prioritize them. But is this the best course of action? Or should we be deciding if we should even bother to prioritize certain things in the first place. That is, should we not participate at all?

 

Perhaps this post has more questions than answers. But I challenge everyone (including myself) to consider optimizing for time and energy. Let’s challenge if something actually belongs on our plate or not. Let’s ask ourselves “why” are we engaging and participating.

 

Last year I had the great pleasure of meeting Al Pittampalli, author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting and blogger/founder of The Modern Meeting Standard. In fact, he autographed my personal copy of his book. What I really like about Al is that he is someone who is not afraid to ask the hard questions, hence his mission to change the culture of the Modern Meeting to be better than what it is today.

 

Inside my book, Al personally wrote,

“Lisa, End the status quo!”

 

On that note, perhaps we should consider applying Al’s advice to our lives (in addition to meetings!) and end the status quo by doing what my 21 month old son does: optimize ourselves by choosing how to spend our time and energy.

 

Isn’t it amazing what we can learn from those who are so new in this world — young souls who have a blank slate without preconceived notions?

 

Reframing and Perspective

When we feel overwhelmed or stressed, it is sometimes best to reframe the situation in our minds. We can also refer to that in terms of changing our perspective. For instance, if we were to take an aerial view, as if we were suddenly looking down at an issue from an airplane at 30,000 feet, we would feel less stressed because we would physically be in a position where we could not do too much about the issue; we essentially removed ourselves. This teaches us that managing situations can be helped by our mindsets. In Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams, I discuss this concept in terms of identifying the System vs the Surroundings, as we typically do in engineering. You can basically draw a box around yourself — the system — and recognize that everything outside of the box is not necessarily within your control; all you can do is decide how you can be your best self. Identifying what is in your surroundings is sometimes a great stress reliever — you instantly realize you are not responsible for someone else’s actions but can only be responsible for yourself.

Earlier this week we started to think about mindset, especially in terms of the benefits of having a “growth mindset” (Your Mindset is Important). Connecting the concept of a growth mindset with the aforementioned reframing technique can be very powerful for us. Each has its own benefits, but the combination of having a base mindset of growth – that you can develop yourself for success – in addition to using the techniques of reframing situations in your mind when challenges arise – optimizes your chances for success!

Your Mindset is Important

Welcome to the first official post for OptimizeBooks.com! Each blog post will focus on a particular area of achievement. Today’s focus is the importance of your mindset.

The word “mindset” has been bandied about a lot recently, but many people do not realize the short and long-term impacts of one’s mindset in life. Perhaps one of the best experts on the topic is Carol Dweck, Ph.D., the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on things like why people succeed and how to foster success — ideas that she described in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dr. Dweck’s website, mindsetonline.com, offers the highlights of what she has studied; it explains the importance of one’s mindset. In particular, Dr. Dweck explains that there is a difference between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. A fixed mindset essentially means that you believe that everything is a given — that success is dependent on traits and qualities you either have or don’t have. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe they can develop and mold their abilities and talents, especially through effort and dedication [What is Mindset].

Though there is not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” type of mindset, we can leverage Dweck’s research for our own benefit. For instance, instead of having a fixed mindset, where we may try to prove ourselves over and over (because we think we have a finite amount of certain success traits), it might be more prudent to spend that energy and time on developing ourselves in a particular area, especially to work on our goals. Logically, we can optimize and maximize our chances for success if we focus our energy on personal development.

In Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams, the ideas of optimizing yourself – particularly spending energy and time on what you can do, on how to achieve your goals, is a major premise of the book; in fact, it depends on your mindset. Given Dweck’s research, we can then realize how critical it is to develop a growth mindset and maintain the spirit of “optimizing” ourselves!