What You Focus On Expands

These are the questions I always ask at the beginning of a coaching session:

What’s worked well this past week? Where have you found the traction? Where have you seen the momentum? What have been your wins?

I want to know what’s good.

None of us lack for challenges. No one escapes difficulty. It’s easy to focus on what’s not working. (And oftentimes, my coaching clients are pretty eager to dive into this stuff!) Screenshot 2014-11-25 18.43.34

But what you focus on expands.

When you focus on what’s not working, more of that shows up. When you focus on what’s good, more of what’s good appears.

So right out of the gate, I want to know what’s working well.

And interestingly enough, all sorts of wondrous things begin to flow from that place of positivity; things that likely wouldn’t have even come to light had we begun with a focus on the problems (“challenges” we like to say in coaching!). New ideas, novel strategies, unique perspectives.

Unlike driving race cars at high speeds on desert courses, this focus on what’s working well is something you can actually try at home. Here are two practices that will change everything for you:

1. Every day, when your eyes pop open, make this your first question of the day: “What wonderful opportunities will come my way today?”

When you’re looking for opportunities, you’ll be amazed at how many you see! (Think about the last time you were considering the purchase of a particular model of car: you saw them everywhere! Opportunities are like that!)

2. At the end of the day, right before you go to sleep, write down (yes, write it down because the writing process cements it) three things you’re grateful for, or three things you appreciate about the day, or three things that went well. Just three things. (They might be small or large, things that you appreciated yesterday, or everyday. Doesn’t matter.)

In our culture of weariness and overwhelm, where it’s common to complain, it’s way too easy to get caught in a cycle of negativity. Break the cycle. Focus on the good. And good beyond measure will flow to you.

Just Screw It

The days have gotten pretty short up here on the 52nd parallel. The sun rises in the southeast and scoots along the southern horizon; darkness comes way too soon. Today, the wind is blowing a cold rain across the pastures. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But here’s what’s true: The seeds of spring blow on these cold winds of November. What are you planting?

And not just in your garden. (I planted tulips in mine a week ago, looking at the beautiful label on the bag, and imagining what they’ll look like in the brilliance of the spring.) But in your business and in your life. What seeds are you planting?

It’s easy, as the darkness envelops us and the temperatures fall and the holidays loom, to just say, “screw it, nothing’s going to get done in the holiday season; I’ll hunker down and hibernate; I’ll just wait til the first of the year to push things forward.” But this – this time – is the absolute best time of year to begin to review what you’ve accomplished in the year thus far, to consider what’s worked well, to assess where the challenges have been; and to begin to plan for the year ahead; to begin to consider the possibilities; to begin to create new opportunities.

It’s a bit like those early lessons we suffered when we’d wait til the first of June to look for that summer job. It was too late.

In the same way, if you dismiss the wonder and opportunity of this season, you’ll be behind the curve when the first of January arrives, as it most surely will.

The seeds of spring blow on these cold winds. What seeds will you be planting?

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To help you plant:

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The MOST Important Question

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” -Stephen Covey

There are lots of important questions that we might ask ourselves in business and in life. But the most important one is this one: “What do I want the outcome to be?”

What is my destination? Where do I want to end up?

If you stopped by at the airport today and asked for a ticket, the agent would be pleased to sell you one. But the first question that the agent would ask you would be, “Where do you want to go? Screenshot 2014-11-12 04.04.35

If you said, “Barcelona, Paris or Rome,” the agent would likely say, “Okay, which one?”

We’re all capable of great things. But the challenge is that we live in a culture of overwhelm; we dwell in perpetual distraction. And we lose our direction; we lose sight of the main thing.

Getting clarity on exactly where it is we want to go, on exactly what it is we want to accomplish, is the key to achieving any goal, the key to achieving magnificent results.

So where do you want to go? What exactly do you want your outcome to be?

Ask this question at every juncture:

• Before a business meeting
• Before a sales call
• Before you launch a new venture
• In a disagreement with a partner or spouse
• Before you get lost in an argument with a teenager
At the start of your day

The GPS in your car gets you to within 30’ of your destination… because you’ve locked in the coordinates.

When you know your destination, you’re much more likely to get there!

What Successful Dogs Need To Know About New Tricks

If you’re an accomplished professional; if you’ve succeeded at a high level in business and in life, then learning something new should be a breeze, shouldn’t it?

Well, it turns out that that’s not the case at all. Screenshot 2014-11-04 15.29.34

The more successful we are, the more comfortable we become in our areas of expertise; and the more comfortable we are in those existing areas of expertise, the less likely we are to want to risk failure by venturing outside that place of comfort and ease.

I’m just beginning to learn how to do studio lighting to enhance our video recording studio. I decided that I should write a bit about the process instead of indulging my urge to take my brand new studio lighting kit and toss it into a dumpster.

You see, when my new kit arrived, I was pretty convinced that the single You Tube video I had watched a week ago was all that I needed to be an instant expert. I gleefully unpacked the box, assembled the lights and stands; and immediately set out to record my first video. To my horror, my first clip looked like a really bad outtake from a poorly planned remake of the Exorcist.

The next 90 minutes of repositioning lights and stands and reflectors failed to yield any significantly different result. I’m now fairly convinced that my future is not so much in producing uplifting motivational videos, but rather in ‘B’ tier horror film trailers. (Except that I’ll have to learn how to mix in scary music; and frankly that just way overwhelms me.)

So before going back to the studio, here’s what I’m telling myself about learning new things. I think I’ll call them The Five Ps of Learning (because “experts” need to have 5 or 7 of something in their cleverly named systems):

  • Permission. We need to give ourselves permission to try new things; to not know; to be beginners again; to seem foolish; and to feel dumb. We need to give ourselves permission to venture out beyond the edges of our comfort zones because all of our growth, all of the wonder, all of the greatest expression of who we are is out there. Just beyond that familiar edge. We need to give ourselves permission to fail, permission to falter, permission not to excel, permission not to be good (or great) at something. Because all of our success (once) started in that place, that place of beginning.
  • Practice. Everything we’ve become great at has required practice. Disciplined repetition. Not everything requires Gladwell’s 10,000 hours (although I think that that daunting figure sometimes dissuades successful folks from taking on new things). I ‘practiced’ law for nearly 30 years… and, as a result, became ‘practiced’ at it. I write every day in order to hone my craft. The Amazon bestseller didn’t happen on the first try. I speak often because I love it, and the larger the audience the better. But I remember a time when I felt like hurling every time I’d walk on stage. It is practice that brings grace and ease.
  • Persistence. Staying at it. Not giving up. Even when you want to; even when you’re frustrated; even when you hit a roadblock; even when you fail; even when you despair. Staying at it; showing up; doing the work. Nowhere have I learned this more than in my running. It takes months and months to prepare for an ultra-distance race. Running day in and day out, even in the heat, and freezing cold; even in the rain and in the snow. Even when you don’t feel like it; especially when you don’t feel like it. And on race day, it is no different: 50 miles is run just one step after another, never relenting, never giving up. For the finish line is the reward only for those who persist.
  • Purpose. You need to be driven. You need to hunger for your outcome. We’re only motivated to move beyond our comfort zones by either intense pain or a vision of extreme pleasure. A vision of pleasure is what sustains. The vision is what fuels the effort; it’s what keeps us going. For me, I write and speak and coach because I am driven by effecting positive change in the world. I run ridiculous distances because I am driven by that feeling of vitality and sense of well-being that extreme fitness brings. Having a vision, having a deep sense of purpose is what sustains us on the path when the going gets tough.
  • Playfulness. We tend to take our expertise rather seriously; in fact, as we grow, we tend to take everything way too seriously. When we lighten up, when we become more playful, we can go easier on ourselves (and others). We can become curious again, and indulge the unknown. We can open up our innate creativity. We can become explorers again and venture out into the vast unknown… and just enjoy the journey. In a spirit of play, the new becomes fun. And when we’re having fun, everything is possible.

So I’m going back to it now. Right after I run out to the dumpster to retrieve my kit. Keep your eyes peeled for some new video extravaganzas. Coming to a theater near you.