23 Nov

Carpets or spider’s webs?

Why is it so common that people don’t prepare themselves for the worst? They would rather brush the idea of their life, goals or projects going wrong under the carpet and think that “the worst” will never happen to them. Whilst watching Chris Hadfield’s TED Talk What I learned from going blind in space this very question surfaced for me. Why don’t people prepare for the worst?

This kind of narrow-minded thinking and behaviour can be very limiting, and unfortunately it is far too typical.  As a professional coach I very much understand and promote that when planning for new goals you need to be positive and motivated in order to move through the change process, but you also need to be realistic and consider the “what ifs”.

So why do people not consider the worst? Is it because it’s uncomfortable or unpleasant? That the buzz and excitement of a new adventure and grand success is all too consuming and the possibility of it tanking is too demotivating to think about?

Here’s the thing though…

By planning for the worst case scenarios, as Chris Hadfield did in his training, the possible negative outcomes, which seemed dark and scary in the beginning lose their fearful facade, and the “what ifs” become less intimidating and more manageable.

By considering all possible outcomes, you take control of your “what ifs”. You are now walking into your change process with your eyes wide open, armed with alternative plans as your safety net.

The problem is, is that if you haven’t planned for the worst and something goes wrong you don’t just lose control, but there is also a good chance that you will lose motivation and faith in your abilities. Bouncing back from that type of experience can be time consuming and costly, both financially and emotionally.

Another possible reason for not considering the “what ifs” is that it is too damaging for the ego. By actually admitting that there could be a failure, it is too overwhelming for the ego to manage or accept.

Steve Donahue writes the following in his book Shifting Sands. “The road to success is not paved with success. At times its not paved at all. The road to a successful life takes us through deserts where we get stuck and what we must do to get moving again is a defeat of our ego. Whether it means admitting that we’re wrong, accepting a loss, apologising, forgiving, asking for help or acknowledging our weakness, the ego comes out the loser by being deflated.”

By accepting the fact that things go wrong and then planning for them, prevents your ego from taking over and sabotaging your success .

A great model to use when planning your goals is the SMART goal model. Make sure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timed. By considering all these factors in your planning phase you should, when tackling the realistic section, be considering the worst-case scenarios and making contingency plans to overcome possible challenges ahead.

Set yourself up for success, not failure, by considering everything in your planning phase.


12 Nov

Are your tasks rocks, stones or sand?

Many of us are faced with having far too many tasks on our to-do lists. To combat this feeling we either launch ourselves into overdrive and start chasing our tails to get everything done or we succumb and give up, completing nothing.

If you have experienced this feeling I suggest you the read the following story…

An American professor was invited into a corporation to teach a team of top executives how to better manage their time. Because they were busy, they required the training to take a maximum of 60 minutes. The professor decided to be as brief as possible.

He started his lecture with a demonstration. He opened a large box full of grey stones as big as a fist. He put them one after another into the empty pot. When the pot looked full he asked the executives:

“Do you think the pot is full?” “Yes”, they replied.

“Really?” The professor smiled, “let’s have a look”. And he opened a smaller box containing small white stones and started putting them into the pot. They filled the holes in between the grey stones without any problems. The professor repeated his question: “Is the pot full now?”

“Probably not,” one of the managers replied. The professor nodded and opened a third box containing sand which he started to pour into the pot with grey and white stones. When the demonstration was complete he asked his audience:

“What have you learnt from this experiment, ladies and gentlemen?”

One manager says “Even if our diaries look full, we can still fit in some additional activities.” But the professor did not agree.

“No, this experiment demonstrated something else – if we had started with sand we would not be able to fit everything in. You must always start with the most important and heaviest things.”

So taking the professor’s advice consider the following:

  1. Write down your tasks, jobs and duties for the upcoming week or month.
  2. Take each item and consider how important and heavy it is. These questions might help you.
    • What would the consequences be if I did not complete this task?
    • How does this task affect the end goal?
    • What will I achieve if I complete this task?
    • Could someone else be completing this task?
    • Why, would this task be seen as more important than the next task? (Provide 3 valid reasons)
  3. If it is a rock, number it 1. If it’s a stone it gets a 2 and if it’s sand it would fall into the 3 category.
  4. By slotting your tasks into categories you are now able to priorities your tasks.

With the above in mind try to limit yourself to 3 rocks, 3 stones and 3 sand tasks a week.