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Two Essential Skills to Achieve Greater Work-Life Balance

Your automatic creative mechanism is teleological… it operates in terms of goals and end results. ~ Maxwell Maltz

How committed are you to achieving any of the goals you have set?

There is a difference between being interested in achieving something, and stopping at nothing to do everything in your power to accomplish a dream. One of my favorite lines attributed to Napoleon Hill goes like this, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”

Allow me to expand...

If you can believe it, and surround yourself by and with the people an information who can help you, you can achieve it. When you set the intention to complete something by a certain time, identify sub-projects that will keep you on course and in action, and reach out to your social circle asking for the help you need to get it done, amazing things can happen.

So the only question then is: What goal do you want to accomplish next in your life?

If you’ll believe that you can experience anything you want, what will you write on your list of goals, dreams and wishes? That is the first step to take, by the way. A trait that successful people share is that they regularly update and clarify their “Life List.” Don’t have one? I suggest you start now. 

Write a list of 101 goals for the future. Write down work things and life things. Personal and community items. Shorter AND longer term projects to manage. Write them all down. Once you reach 101, review the ongoing list of goals that you've written before. Repeat this exercise on the 1st of each month.

The reason this is important is psychological. The list of things acts as an “attention getter.” That is, what you write will turn your attention on. And, what you focus on the most will show up! This is the best reason there is to practice building a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA).

Do you give yourself the gift of your own attention? Do you listen to your self-talk? Self-talk is the inner dialogue of what you tell yourself about the world and how it relates to you. It’s not a matter of IF you talk to yourself, but what you say. And, how you say it. Studies suggest up to 70% of our self-talk is negative. Negative self-talk undermines our natural abilities.

I’ve spent more than 20 years studying the effect of self-talk on human performance. According to my own empirical research, the correlation is staggeringly simple. Positive self-talk corresponds to quicker healing, more successful experiences and lower anxiety and depression. Negative self-talk has the opposite results. How is your self-talk serving you? Are you beginning with negative or positive ends in mind?

Holding a positive mental focus is actually a learnable skill. And, the more you practice, the better you get. Paired with other professional skills such as goal setting and project debriefing, these techniques create an inner advantage in achieving your desired outcomes more quickly, more enjoyably and with less effort. 

Often misunderstood and put off for some formal event like performance reviews, goal setting is really a simple – and very important process. Did you know goals are rarely just met? Think about it… when you identify an intention and create a course of action, you continue to adjust ask you make your way toward completion. What you experience - namely, what you learn - along the way always leads to more than just the sum of the parts. You become smarter, stronger and more knowledgeable for having worked on - and achieved - a goal.

Identifying objectives is really about creating directed intention.

What is most important to you? Pick ONE! Where would you like to point your time, focus and resources over the next year? Consider the following areas:

  • Family relationships
  • Community involvement
  • Health, body and fitness
  • Recreation and relaxation
  • Spiritual connection
  • Financial abundance
  • Professional development
  • Career enhancement

Out of these very general focus areas, develop a minimum of one specific goal for each area. By describing your ideal scene in vivid detail for each area, you will be laying the groundwork to notice opportunities when they arise. Your future may look surprisingly different from your current reality today.

Setting goals develops two essential skills:

1. To engage and focus our creativity;

2. To enhance our awareness to new opportunities.

Focus: Clearly identify what you want, and you’ll get there faster. For example: Look around you, as you are reading this, for anything that is the color red. Quick, how many sources of the color red are there? Make sure to look all around, in front, behind, below and to the side. Now, finish reading this sentence: Without looking away from this piece of paper, remember where all of the things are in the room that are blue. Now, close your eyes…and do it from memory…

If you did this, you will have closed your eyes and tried to “see” through all the red in your memory, working hard to remember the blue. Did you notice that some of the blue – maybe something blue right in front of you – was out of your focus? Why? You were only focused on red!

Now imagine focusing your awareness on enhancing specific areas of your life. Instead of focusing on what you lack, focus on the details of what you want in your life.  (This is the blue in the room.) Let go of all the “Yeah, but…” reasons that may come up when you imagine what you’d like. Keep focusing on the positive in descriptive detail.

Creativity: What sparks creativity? Is it something you turn on and off? Sometimes “creative types” stand out because they dress or look different from the mainstream population. However, we all are creative and have the ability to use this skill to enhance our lives. Whole books and classes are devoted to tips and tricks to increase creativity.

My two favorite classics on the topic are Roger von Oech’s, A Whack on the Side of the Head and Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization. The foundation to many of the techniques is changing your perspective. Here are a few activities to change the way you think about things:

  • Use colored pens to brainstorm instead of blue or black ink
  • Write a question and then answer it writing with your non-dominant hand (lefties, use your right hand to write the answers and vise-versa)
  • Read Chapter 2 of any how-to book (often, that’s the chapter the author spends outlining the thesis of the entire book)
  • Listen to music while brainstorming – put a different spin on this by listening to nature sounds, sound effects or other non-traditional music
  • Exercise with an audio recorder (mini-tape recorder, iPod, etc.) and dictate ideas you have as you’re working out. For some people moving the body can be a key to unlock the mind’s creative door.

Awareness: Our senses are heightened and our world seems to respond by providing new information (or information that was always there but had not noticed yet) to get closer to that goal. I lead people through the following activity in many of my seminars. Get a blank piece of paper and a pen. Now, take out a one-dollar bill. Take a good look at the front. On the piece of paper, make a list of everything you know is on the reverse side of the dollar bill. Don’t turn it over to look yet! Make a list for about a minute.

Did you notice that even though you have SEEN the back of a dollar bill, you might not REMEMBER everything there? In fact, if you look carefully (go ahead, look at the back), you will find things you have NEVER EVER SEEN until just now.

This has so much to do with goal setting. If you think you have seen everything about a project you are managing, stop and reconsider new perspectives. Look at what’s getting in the way; raise your perspective; initiate a new way to focus on that thing; find something you have never seen before, and use it to your advantage.

How would you like to see your life change over the next year? Open your calendar to today’s date one year from today and write a list of what you think the world will look like for you. Through effective and deliberate goal setting, you will attract and notice all of this and more.

Marianne Williamson sums it up with her profound quote,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Goals, dreams and wishes do come true. Direct your focus toward a desired goal, use your self-talk to support you, and be mindful about the process of experiencing success.

And, please let me know a year from now how things are going!

Related Posts:

The Art and Science of Setting A Goal

Three Unsuspected Influences That Affect Your Productivity

Let Me Tell You How I Conquered the "To Do" list

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Jason Womack invests his time, energy and focus serving as an agent of change. He is an adviser and consultant to companies and governments, the author of blogs, articles and books on productivity, business performance and teams managing through rapid change. Learn more about Jason at: www.TimeToGetMomentum.co. Follow along at: www.Twitter.com/jasonwomack.

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