Monday, September 24, 2012

Now or Later?

Our actions have consequences 

The difficulty that many people have in achieving their goals or in fulfilling their purpose rests in this simple statement.  Those who seek immediate gratification will rarely do the work today that is required to fulfill a goal down the road.  Often not achieving a goal is as basic as this.  Do you want your reward now or later?

Highly successful people know and understand the difference.  They are able to suspend any need for immediate gratification if it means that their 'bigger' goals down the road are more likely to be met.
  • you can't meet your goal of losing ten pounds if you are unable to delay the immediate gratification you would gain from a chocolate chip cookie... NOW
  • you can't ever buy the house of your dreams if you are unable to save the down payment because you need to spend your money on a movie... NOW
  • you aren't likely to get that promotion down the road if you aren't willing to put in your dues... NOW
  • you aren't helping to 'save' the environment if you can't forgo the convenience of buying bottled water...NOW
In the 1960's, Stanford professor Walter Mischel conducted what is one of the best known and classic studies in this area, referred to often as the Marshmallow Experiment.  He and his team tested hundreds of children aged 4-5 by doing the following.  They brought each child into a private room and sat them at a table.  The researcher placed a marshmallow on the table and offered each child a deal.  The research explained that they needed to leave the room for a while.  If the child did NOT each the marshmallow while the researcher was absent, then they would receive a second marshmallow.  However, if they did eat the marshmallow while the researcher was gone, they would not receive a second.  The researcher then left the child alone with the marshmallow for 15 minutes.

The choice was clear.  1 treat NOW or 2 treats LATER.

Some children ate the marshmallow immediately, while others visually struggled until succumbing. A much smaller group waited the 15 minutes out and received their second marshmallow.  

The fascinating part of this research was what was revealed during the follow up.  Researchers followed the children over 40 years, tracking their progress in a number of areas.  What they found was that those children who were able to delay their gratification...

  • ended up with higher SAT scores
  • had lower levels of substance abuse
  • experienced a lower likelihood of obesity
  • had a better response to stress.
Those wo were able to delay gratification out performed those who didn't in whatever capacity the researchers measured.  It makes sense when you consider... those who are able to delay watching TV in order to study are far more likely to have better grades.  Those who can delay the immediate gratification of eating a donut (or 2 or 3) are less likely to gain weight or become obese.  

Every seemingly small action we take today either works in support of our desired end goals or it doesn't.  It is that simple and that difficult.  You need to determine how much you want that bigger picture and take the time to review your current actions against it.  The 'now' will always be alluring, working to seduce you away from achieving that end goal, unless you can keep yourself fixated on the true benefits of what that 'later' goal will look like and feel like for you.  The better you can feel it, see it, taste it... the more likely you will be to stick with your plan for getting there.  If you make it feel real, it will feel achievable and therefore actionable.  

Building your willpower is all about making your end goal as tangible as possible and differentiating between the benefits of NOW versus LATER.  Making your 'later' look and feel better than any immediate gratification you get from doing something 'now' will help you stay true to your course.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

House Wanted!

We're moving.  Soon.  The problem is... I haven't yet found a new house to move into.  Okay, so there have been some hiccups along the way preventing me from taking action on this sooner (aren't there always?), but now that I have started looking it is interesting to see the life lessons that I am getting.

To start with, we are downsizing.  We don't need a large house anymore (kids are 'mostly' gone!) and, quite honestly, I would rather travel the world with my money than sit in something my money pays for.  I don't consider myself particularly materialistic, so I figured that the downsizing 'thing' would be a snap.  However, it is amazing how much 'stuff' you accumulate over the years that becomes labelled 'necessary' to and for the way you live.  Sheer number of books alone requires more shelving than I will ultimately have.

I started the house-search with few requirements.  I, mistakenly, believed that I would be an 'easy' client to please.  Once out looking though, it quickly became apparent that instead of my adapting to fit the house, I am going to require adaptations be made to the house, to fit the way I live.

For instance, I do not and will not require both an eat-in kitchen and a dining room.  One or the other will need to go to give me more usable space.  Kitchens are make or break areas for me.  If it doesn't at least have the potential to be a kitchen that is functional for me... I'm done.  Don't even show me the rest of the house because I won't get past it.

What I am discovering is that in order for any new house I purchase to become my 'home', I will need to make some changes to the house that allow it to work to fit the way I live. I am unwilling to modify the way I live to fit the house.

This is a lesson hard-won over my lifetime;  having often found myself over the years compromising my choices on behalf of others.  Typically, these 'compromises' made the other party far happier than they ever made me.  Perhaps I'm unwilling to compromise my wants in purchasing a house because I have money on the line, but it's sad to recognise that all of my compromises in the past also came with a price.  One which I'm not sure that I was clear on having paid.

My lesson through all of this?  Ensure that you are clear about exactly what you are getting from your exchanges with others AND what the cost to you is.  Don't ever say yes unless it is a price you are willing to pay.  I know that I have been guilty of over-paying in the past.  If this experience has taught me anything it has highlighted for me an unwillingness to continue to pay for something that I am not getting an equitable return from.  Certainly not in business and not in my personal life anymore either.

Will I find the perfect house?  No.  But really, I'm not looking for perfection.  I simply want a house that has the potential to become my home.  As long as it has the ability to change to fit my lifestyle I'm willing to sign.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Pearl of a Book

On my most recent vacation, a driving trip along the East Coast of Canada, I had the opportunity to catch up on some of my reading.  Of particular note was the book A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found my Heart in the Middle of the Oceanby Tori Murden McClure.

For those not familiar with Ms. McClure, she is not only the first woman to ski over land to the South Pole, but the first woman and first American to row solo across the Atlantic ocean.  A Pearl in the Storm is her recount of her attempt and ultimate successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in her rowing boat, The Pearl.  Tori's first attempt to cross the Atlantic was in 1998, at age 35, in her 23 foot plywood boat.  1998 is still on record as the worst hurricane season ever experienced on the North Atlantic.  Multiple hurricanes, gales and storms caused her to abandon her crossing when a series of storms nearly tore apart her boat and killed her.

With no ultimate goal or thought to make another attempt, Tori was struck by the words of Muhammad Ali when he told her... "You don't want to go through life as the woman who almost rowed across the Atlantic".

In 1999, at the age of 36, Tori travelled 2,962 miles in 81 days, in a 23 foot long, 6 foot wide, 1,800 pound rowboat to be the first woman to successfully row solo across the Atlantic.  No, as it turns out, Tori was not content to live out her life under the description of  'almost'.

What 'almosts' are you currently living under?
What goals have you fallen short of achieving - for whatever reason?
Are you content with 'almost' having attained them?
What's stopping you from going after them now?
What actions could you take right now to start you back on your path?

Give it some thought.  Often 'life' gets in the way of our achieving something meaningful, pushing and pulling us off course much like the hurricanes and gales Tori experienced.  In calmer times and seas though, it is up to us to correct our course and renew our efforts.  If it is something that matters then it is something worth doing.

My 'Almost'?  going for my 3rd Degree Black belt in TaeKwondo.  Too busy, too old, too out of shape, too something!  The excuses are gone now though.  I am in training and am making the attempt.  Next Grading is in December.  Let's see if I can wipe out my 'almost'.

What's yours?

Monday, September 3, 2012

It is Personal!

I am tired of the phrase... 'It's not Personal, it's Business'.

I'm tired of its overuse, I'm tired of people brandishing it like a shield to preface every potentially 'bad' conversation and, in particular, I am tired of people using it as an excuse for poor, rude and insensitive behaviour.

Where's the love people?  Where are the conversations that get personal?  Where are the conversations that let others in our lives - even those we work with - know that they matter?   Where's the 'constructive' feedback?  You know... the feedback that we can actually do something with.  Not the comments that are simply mean, cruel and spiteful... but those pieces of information, offering insights, that are coupled with ideas and suggestions for improvement?  Hmmm...  apparently it takes more thought than to simply offer criticism.

Let's face it folks... we're all human beings.  We all have feelings.  (yep... even him!)  Let's start taking accountability for the words that we say, the information we choose to share and take ownership for their impact and results.

Want to take it a step further?  Join a movement.  I happened to come across this site on the internet - a site that is dedicated simply to bringing a little more joy, happiness and... well... gosh-darnit... love into people's lives.  It's a site dedicated to writing and sending anonymous love letters.  A great way to perk up some stranger's day.

As much as you can use the site to forward a letter for you... why not take the initiative to write and leave a letter somewhere, for someone?  If you leave the 'more love letters' site name, you can always check back to see if your letter gets posted/mentioned... see how your gesture impacted someone.

Come on...  let's band together on this one...  let's MAKE it personal!