I’m in the business of success.
No matter what a client wants to pursue or how frustrated they are, it’s my job to help them get organized, discover what’s going wrong, and create a plan to get them back on track. Clients often come to me for one of two problems:
a) They have a goal they know they want to achieve but could never make solid progress towards (due to fear / self-sabotage / inconsistency, etc.), or
b) They do not know what they want, but they know it isn’t this.
The path forward for both clients is the same.
First, we want to make sure they have a healthy relationship for themselves. This makes sure they’re pursuing the right goal for the right reason. I’m not concerned with what a client wants to achieve, but why they want to achieve it. Are they going after this because it’s a reflection of who they are and what they want most, or are they giving into fear and trying to be someone they think they “should” be?
This can be a big part of the process and is extremely important. Perhaps we’ll focus on it in a future blog post. For now, I want to concentrate on the act of achieving success itself. How can we achieve the things we want most, especially when they’re difficult?
Building a Winning Strategy
I began my professional life working in emergency management and counter-terrorism. A vast amount of this work was focused on organizing chaos and coming up with plans that deliver results rapidly. From deploying in support of Pittsburgh SWAT to helping manage responses to floods, blizzards, and storms, I saw firsthand what approaches worked and which didn’t.
This experience, combined with my near-decade of experience in professional coaching, has led me to develop a theory on success which has withstood the test of time:
Success is achieved through the consistent application of appropriate action.
The first word that stands out here is consistency. This concept has become increasingly popular over the past few years, with countless books and self-discipline gurus promising to help individuals drill consistency into their lives. How can we do this best?
Creating Consistent Success
Why do so many fail to be consistent?
Most instantly blame themselves and their character. Many call themselves lazy and unmotivated, saying this has been a regular part of their lives. Some go so far as to actively insult and berate themselves, claiming this is even more proof of how messed up they are. As their levels of self-blame and self-conflict increase, productivity drops even more. People waste time and energy beating themselves up instead of applying it in a forward direction.
It doesn’t have to be this way. After years of working with everyone from six-figure clients to those who can’t get out of bed, I can genuinely say I’ve never met a lazy person. Instead, I’ve usually met people who have given up. They’re frustrated, either in their inability to make meaningful progress or in themselves. This is a solvable problem.
Appropriateness—the key to victory
While everyone tends to focus on consistency, I focus on appropriateness. A successful strategy will achieve this in two ways: doing what’s appropriate for the goal and doing what’s appropriate for ourselves. Let’s explore both.
Doing what’s appropriate for the goal
Let’s say you want to lose weight, which is statistically the most common personal goal in America. How can we do this? If we throw out all theory and just look at fact, we know that any strategy for weight loss must achieve one tangible goal: eating fewer calories than we burn. Every diet that has ever worked has done so by respecting this rule.
Failing to respect this rule breeds frustration and makes people quit. For example, I know someone who switched their entire virtually overnight to the Mediterranean diet because research showed it was the healthiest choice. This took massive effort and planning, with serious money and effort put into making this transformation stick. Over the first few weeks, they felt better and had far more energy—likely because they were eating healthier food—but their weight stayed the same. Over the next few weeks, frustration turned to anger. It didn’t long for pizza and fast food to become their regular diet once again. While they had good plans and were clearly motivated, their strategy failed. They failed to do what was appropriate for the goal.
Doing what’s appropriate for ourselves
Let’s keep with the health example and say you want to exercise again and getting physically fit. We already know what this goal requires: putting our body in increasingly difficult physical situations that force us to build strength and stamina. While many of us know how we can achieve this goal, we don’t learn how to do it in a way that’s most appropriate to ourselves.
Back when I was active in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu before COVID, I asked a friend of mine how he got started. He was one of the most enthusiastic guys at the gym, was a quick learner, and seemed to be the type of person we’d all like to be. After I shared this glowing assessment with him, he laughed and said it was a far cry from how he started. Early in his 30s, he decided he wanted to get back in shape. He bought a gym membership and lifted weights like he did in college…but after a few months, he got bored and stopped going. He then bought a pair of running shoes and ran every day…but got bored once again and quit a few months later. Desperate, he did something entirely different and started going to his local rock climbing gym. This worked for a while, but he eventually got bored there too. It became so popular that he spent more time waiting than climbing.
His inability to stick with any one activity convinced him that he was an undisciplined and unmotivated loser who couldn’t stick to anything long enough to see results. In order to solve this apparent problem, he started listening to podcasts about self-discipline and self-mastery. One of the first ones he listened to involved a guest speaking about his time competing in BJJ—a sport he never heard of before. His curiosity was on fire. Later that night, he got home and spent an hour watching videos of it on YouTube, finding himself grinning the entire time. The next week, he booked at into session at our gym…and the rest was history.
He never had a self-discipline problem. He had an appropriateness problem. The activities he was pursuing weren’t a match for who he was or what he was interested in. In contrast, he was now showing up at our gym three times a week no matter what. Not that life was perfect. He still had to periodically force himself to go even when he was tired and worn out, but any frustration he had melted away as soon as he was on the mat. Because he was so self-aligned already with this activity, he only needed to expend a bit of energy now and then to stay on track. In contrast, he previously had to spend enormous amounts of energy to get himself out the door to get to the gym, run, or climb. He wasted energy fighting himself instead of putting it towards his task.
How to Be Consistent and Succeed
Consistency isn’t a goal unto itself. It’s what naturally occurs when we build a strategy that respects both our goal and ourselves. The more aligned we are, the easier it is to remain focused and on track. Energy should be spent in forward motion. If we’re not in self-harmony, it’s going to be wasted in lots of unnecessary (and unhelpful) self-conflict.
How can you better move towards your dreams and goals? Are you pursuing a strategy now that could be refined and improved? Is there a more appropriate way you could be moving forward to build consistency? Contact me for your free consultation and start on a new road toward long-term success.