There are times when even the best intention to succeed is not enough because events or, more commonly, emotions conspire against us. When that happens, it is worth remembering that there is almost always something you can do about it. This post is a reminder of that, and offers ways to facilitate a more effective process away from those unwanted scenarios.
To help explain, take the common example of complacency (aka cockiness). Imagine this: You are making good progress on a project. It’s going so well that the deadline, which loomed over you a few days ago, now seems comfortably within reach. You’ll make it. Easily. So easily in fact, you can afford to relax your efforts a little. Unfortunately, you relax a little too much and, before you know it, the whole day has gone. Or a week. That deadline starts to look threatening again. If only you had kept up your momentum from the previous few days. If only…
Everyone has this at some point. Some more than others. It happens all the time in sport where focused athletes, thinking they have reached their goal, relax their concentration and wind up facing defeat, when only minutes or seconds previously they were on the verge of victory. If this happens more than once, it is in our best interests to consider it a pattern, which brings me on to point 1.
- Patterns. This is the first place to look. If something keeps happening to you then it is clearly a pattern of yours. Acknowledge it, tip your hat to it, and become more aware of it. Observe it quietly and you will begin to see when and how it starts; you will recognise the signs and you will know in advance what the consequences are. In this clarity you will also see that there is something you can do about it.
- Procedures. These are what you use to deal with your patterns. They are the steps you take to turn things around. In the face of complacency, for example, there may be a need to ground yourself, review your situation, or enlist someone’s support to call you every hour to make sure you are doing whatever you can to keep your momentum going. Try different things – try anything – and keep trying until you find something which lessens the pattern’s impact and allows you to do the things you need to do.
- Routines. The ultimate aim of any procedure is to use it often enough that it becomes a routine. Routines have something automatic about them. They feel almost effortless, requiring very little thought or persuasion. Complacency arises because procedures and routines have clearly been relaxed, possibly abandoned, because things are going so well. The truth is: it’s because of the procedures and routines that the work had gone so well in the first place. (With my daily exercises, for example, I used to give myself days off because it was all going so well. One day off would easily turn into two, and then it starts to get a little difficult to find my way back to my procedure. Now, after exercising for 168 days in a row, it is much more of a routine and carries with it a power which almost guarantees its own survival. Almost.)
- Self-Parenting. An additional point and one which goes a long way to establishing the routine. If we have someone next to us driving us on, it’s easier to get the work done. But if there is no such influence, then we have to provide it ourselves. We have to be our own parental voice, providing reason and common sense, as well as motivation and discipline. Talking out loud to oneself is a good way of doing this. It may sound silly, but it works. I know two inspirational people who both do it to great effect. Talk to yourself, provide your own inspiration, and parent yourself in whatever way necessary to make sure the job gets done.
- Prediction. This is the gloss on the whole process because if you know what your patterns are, then you can predict what will happen and be more in control. Forewarned is forearmed.
When you repeatedly find yourself in a situation you would rather not be in, know that you have the power to change it. It’s about recognising what is happening and seeing the patterns. Beware though, because our emotions are experts at dragging us away from rational thought, analysis and action. Indeed, it is often the first procedure to simply acknowledge what is happening and calm down to the point where we can be more effective.
If you know yourself and how you are likely to behave or respond, or what your common pitfalls are, then you can put procedures in place to help you deal with your patterns. Use the procedures often enough and they become routine, making your life easier as you go.