I had to catch myself yesterday. I fell into a bad trap that I think trips up many of us - a failure to acknowledge success and results.
I was away last week and got home yesterday. As I was going through my mail, I came upon a package from my publisher, Jossey Bass (Wiley). In the package were the first two copies of my book, Two Weeks to a Breakthrough. I spent 30 seconds strumming through the book then put them aside. Later, at about 10pm, I looked at them and realized what I had done. I was amazed at the lack of glee I felt when I first saw the books - in the flesh. I then spent more time seeing the book differently, as something precious and wonderful. Quite a different experience.
But we do this all the time, don't we? Life is like a marathon and we keep running. Once one thing is "done" it is gone from our psyche even if the results won't be felt for days, months, or years. My lack of awe at seeing the first copies of the book (which I wrote over a year ago) highlights why we find it tough to stick to exercise plans - unless the connection between action and results is close in time, we devalue both. Instant gratification rules.
I believe that the present - the process of generating the here and now - is what determines our happiness and success. So the process is paramount.
And yet, it is important to reflect on and feel joy for our accomplishments too. Gratitude can apply to the present, the past, and even the future. It's part of our daily process that acknowledges the outcome.
We will generate more and better breakthroughs when we can forge strong connections between today's efforts and tomorrow's fruit - even if the fruit is unknown. How do we do this? How can we live a long term life of alignment each day?
First, I think we need to define our intentions and goals with this in mind. For example, I am working on building strength so that I am able to enjoy my 10,000 mile motorcycle journey in May and June. I can express this goal in a few ways:
- I want to build strength so I can enjoy my trip.
- I am really looking forward to exploring the open road with Hazel, my motorcycle. I have never driven the bike every day for six weeks. I am also looking forward to doing this trip solo and look forward to learning a lot about myself, this country, and the people I meet. This trip will require planning and preparation, including ensuring that I have the upper and lower body strength needed to enjoy daily rides of 3-5 hours. I do not want to be in constant pain or need to take breaks every 30 minutes. To prepare, I am going to increase my weight training and build my strength - especially in my back and upper body.
- I am really looking forward to exploring the open road with Hazel, my motorcycle. I have never driven the bike every day for six weeks. I am also looking forward to doing this trip solo and look forward to learning alot about myself, this country, and the people I meet. This trip will require planning and preparation, including ensuring that I have the upper and lower body strength needed to enjoy daily rides of 3-5 hours. I also want to have the energy needed to spend afternoons and evenings talking with and connecting to people. I do not want to be in constant pain or need to take breaks every 30 minutes while riding. To prepare, I am going to increase my weight training and build my strength - especially in my back and upper body. I am going to take on living strong each day - eating foods that make me strong, and organizing my day to show priority for building strength. And I will value little, directionally correct actions like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and adding one more set to my weightlifting regimen. Little is big. A day lived strong is a good day. Each week I will reflect on my progress and celebrate strength.
Do you see the difference? Now that I have created this, I need to print it out and read it each morning to get reconnected with my goal!
I also think it is important to see results as process steps in our larger goals. The finished book is a part of my overall goal to be a breakthrough catalyst - it's a tool. Your job promotion is not an outcome, but another process step in your larger career goals.
May of us, me included, have so much to celebrate. Do we celebrate? And I don't mean bringing in a box of Krispy Kremes - although that's nice too. I mean celebrating in our own minds. Taking the time to see and be blown away by what we are doing. Taking the time to see and be blown away by what others are doing.
1. Make two lists. The first list is five personal accomplishments you should take time to celebrate. The second list is five accomplishments of others you want to acknowledge. Celebrate and acknowelege.
2. Reimagine your goals with the daily process and celebrations in mind. Read and connect with these each day.
3. Notice and prevent yourself from letting your busy day get in the way of seeing and feeling success.