Is impatience the real enemy of reaching your goals?

If you are like most writers, the excitement of writing a book can very nearly be everything you need to finish and publish, to reach your goal. In many ways, this is true of all goal-setting behavior. I was lamenting the other day that I really wanted to be done with Sixth Prime (seriously, click and give it a read) because I think it will resonate with readers. Even though there is still another draft to go before several rounds of edits, and then design, I wanted it now.

Why is that I wonder?

The impatience paradox. I talk a lot about starting goals and setting goals, but very little about completing a goal when you have stalled in the middle. I like to call this the impatience paradox. This is the overwhelming feeling that creeps in mid-goal, which is usually accompanied by fatigue with the process and a burning, irrational desire that people should already be supportive of the finished product (or goal). For writers, this is often the moment when you think this book could be “the one,” and you really just want everyone to be sharing and reading and writing and freaking out over it. As normal as that sounds (impatience happens to everyone in pursuit of a goal, especially if that goal is within reach), it can be a productivity and discipline killer. It can make you switch your focus or collapse beneath the weight of wanting it to be done. So what can you do?

Overcoming impatience. Don’t let impatience keep you from reaching your goals. In order to get past impatience, you need to recognize it for what it is: fear. More than likely, you are having anxiety about the outcome of your goal, or how achieving your goal will affect you. Once you publish that book, people will react to it. What if they hate it? What if they love it? What if it doesn’t sell? What if people want more? Regardless of how it makes you feel, you need to remember that you started down this path for a very good reason. You had a goal; don’t give up now.

Reaching your goals. So, how do you get back on track? Simple: remember why you started down this path in the first place. Return to both the long-term goal you set in the beginning and the smaller goals in support of it. Rebuild those behavior-reward dyads once more and trend toward discipline; make the goal more important than the smaller roadblocks you put in your way. Use the simple formula of pairing the behavior that needs to be completed (writing every day) in order to reach your goal (finishing your novel) with a reward you only get when you perform that behavior (writing every day, just in case you forgot).

Being able to embrace that you are impatient, and can still reach your goals, sets you up for success in the future. The real enemy is giving up.

CTA_writer's desk

Why I’m A Coward

04fWe all have something that we really want in our lives. Perhaps it is a dream that we actively and purposefully ignore; maybe it is something just on the periphery of our awareness. In my opinion, either we are honest about what we really want or we allow ignorance of it to guide our actions.

For me, it is wanting to be a screenwriter.

I’ve found a way to work on my own terms and make money; I’ve created a universe where I can write novels and short stories, while working freelance, without having to show up to a traditional 9-5 job. Even so, if I’m being honest, I have failed to really pursue what I want to do.

It is right there, in the forefront of my mind, when I wake up every morning.

It is right there, within reach, in everything I do.

But I don’t go after it.

Why? Fear.

I’m afraid of what it will cost me to pursue it.

Or at least what I think it will cost me.

I make excuses about not wanting to move to LA or put my wife in the position of us not making enough money. I talk about wanting to be able to provide a standard of living as a means to not jump in with both feet. The reality is that it is achievable if I wanted it bad enough; if I wanted more than I wanted comfort, more than I wanted to succumb to fear and let it guide my behavior.

I’m a chicken-shit when it comes to the thing I will regret as I lay dying.

Sure, I’ve published a lot of books and I’ve manged a modicum of success. However, I talk about becoming successful enough with my books that Hollywood will take notice. If I were being truly fearless, I would doggedly pursue that dream, hustling and working toward it without regard for failure. I wouldn’t wait for my success and my dream to overlap. I would go out and get, leaving nothing on the table when I do.

I wanted to end this with something powerful like no more or  I will pursue it now that I have laid it bare. But really, I remain afraid of upsetting what I have. I will continue down the path of least resistance, holding the idea with me each day that my dream will remain beyond my reach as long as I don’t pursue it. I will continue to be honest about not pursuing it, but will likely remain afraid to go after it in some misguided notion of homeostasis.

I will live a great life with the woman I love, but I will always know that I was too scared to pursue the personal goal that, objectively, would not have upset my life, but more than likely given a rich texture to it I would have cherished.

I will continue to be a coward hiding behind a veil of simpler personal success accented by easy-to-attain personal goals that are easier to recover from if I fail.

I can do better.

You, dear reader, don’t have to be a coward like me.

Take chances. Chase your dreams.

The Psychological Advantage

Business-Psychology-Learning-how-to-Make-your-Products-Stand-out-to-Potential-CustomersAccording to Forbes, 39.2% of psychology majors coming right out of college had an offer for a job somewhere. Of course, the knowledge and skill base of your average graduate is pretty variable, but it does speak to the utility of a background in psychology. Most companies, at some point or another, fall into a trap of the latest psychological-metric trend guaranteed to increase growth and productivity, or lend a hand to HR in order to hire the right folks.

However, let’s talk about using psychology to your benefit.

Watson and Skinner, the pioneers of behaviorism, taught us a lot about human behavior and how to understand behavioral contingencies. It was Skinner, however, who gifted us operant conditioning and a quick path to behavior modification that could yield actionable goal-setting (and adherence) behavior.

Alright, let’s back up.

That was a lot of jargon coming at your fast.

Understand the behavior. So what is that you are trying to do? Be accurate and honest here. Are you trying to write more every day? Do you want more conversions from your marketing campaign? Do you want to be more productive and complete more things on your to-do list? Whatever the thing is that you want to do, define it, and describe it well.

Salient, powerful reward. This is really the tricky part for program adherence. When we think of rewarding ourselves, we generally land on something that we could do without, or something we have a lot of ways to get. What you want to do is choose something specific, salient, and powerful; and by that I mean something that you couldn’t go through the day without. How about an example? A good friend of mine really wanted to finish the novel he had been talking about for a decade. The problem was: he didn’t make the time; and he lacked the discipline to stick to a writing schedule. He asked me what he could do differently since I am a productivity and discipline junkie. I asked what he did every day; he shrugged. As we were sitting over coffee, I noticed that he checked his phone a few times. I asked him what had captured his attention. Apparently, he had become addicted to one of those app games where you built little towns and went to war with other players. He explained that if he didn’t check in often, his town and little digital population would be decimated. That was the a-ha moment: I had successfully found what he couldn’t live without. The solution was simple. He would have to write a certain amount of words in order to check on his digital world. Lo and behold, the strategy worked because the reward was very clear.

CTA_mailinglist

Volume. Behavior change takes time; as such, you will have lots of opportunities to fail (which is the currency of success), but, more importantly, you will be able to repeat the behavior-reward dyad enough times to truly turn it into a habit. The actual amount of time it takes for this kind of habituation varies based on psychological makeup, the task, the reward, and a host of other things. Some estimates put it as low as 10 days and more conservative suggestions put it at closer to eight weeks. Either way, volume is your friend; when in doubt, keep working that behavioral contingency.

Make the behavior as easy as possible to guarantee program adherence. Human beings like to complicate things. We want difficult explanations to simple problems, because we can’t imagine that the answer shouldn’t be multi-faceted and complex. You might talk about looking for a simple solution, but what you really mean is you want an easy answer, which is not the same.

CTA_writer's desk

Zen and the Art of Making Mistakes

zen-stones-1395147656aNVWe all make mistakes. Anyone who says they don’t make mistakes, simply doesn’t feel comfortable admitting this about themselves to others. A lack of mistakes is incongruent with growth, and we should all be growth junkies and productivity hackers of our own lives. Mistakes are the currency of success, landmarks on the road to our goals. When you do make mistakes, it is important to put them into perspective.

Step back and breathe. A mistake can overwhelm our senses, make our minds go blank for a moment. There is nothing wrong with feeling that way. It’s what you do next that matters. Once you’ve let it in, step away from your desk; or put down the phone, unplug, and just breathe for a moment. Take some deep breaths. Breathe the mistake in, and then breathe it out.

Own it. It was your mistake; now, take ownership of it. Understand what you did wrong and how you might have avoided it. Don’t wallow; don’t be ashamed. Search for what you did that made things turn out like this. It won’t be the end of the world; if anything, it will be the beginning of a new way of thinking that will make you happier and more productive.

Avoid misplaced blame. Sometimes, running away from something is the easiest, and only, thing you can think to do (or blaming the problem on someone else). Avoid misappropriating the decision-making process or the reasons why something happened at all costs. It was your mistake, not someone else’s. Don’t worry, I’m sure they will make a mistake soon enough.

Be timely. When you realize you’ve done something wrong, the instinct is to walk away from it slowly, looking around to see if anyone else saw what you saw. Delaying recognition of the mistake only exacerbates its effects. When something goes wrong, meet it head on, right there, and work through it. Avoidance will only make the process that much harder.

Apologize. Nothing reinvigorates a relationship like apologizing for something you’ve done. Don’t let your ego get in the way; don’t equivocate on the weight of blame. Just apologize and move on.

Offer solutions. Worry less about reporting the details of what you did wrong, and focus more on solutions to the problems your mistake has created. Finding solutions and not presenting problems is a good way to approach mistakes in general.

Keep your promises. You made a mistake, so what? You still have to deliver on what you promised, and now it’s more important than ever because the big, bright light of ownership isn’t currently shining on the results; it is firmly placed on this new mistake. Deliver on what you said you would do.

Follow up. Did your mistake have a lasting effect on others? Check in to make sure things have soldiered on in order to maintain and nurture that personal (or professional) relationship. Doing so will make all parties feel better.

CTA_writer's desk

Procrastinate Procrastination (Or How I Learned to Love Setting Goals)

Procrastination_(No_Wall_Uncovered_VII)There are countless articles spread across the vast universe that is the internet on how to eliminate procrastination; to put a finer point on it, all that has been said on the subject has been studied, collated, optioned, and opined about. We all know that procrastination is kryptonite for successful business practices (and not to mention writing goals). But what can we do about it?

I love talking about time management; no, seriously, that was not meant as joke. (Stop laughing.) Being productive means growth, and I am all about growing early and often. Here are some of my favorite methodologies:

Chunking. This method is often used to memorize numbers and names. If you wanted to remember a phone number, remember it as two numbers: 434 and 7133 (instead of 434-7133). For tasks in a given day, put a few different tasks together as a block and complete all of them together before taking a break or rewarding yourself with something salient or moving on. (More on behavior modification in a bit.)

Momentum and motivation. Motivating yourself can be difficult; often, people hide behind a lack of motivation when explaining away why they didn’t complete a project r finish that novel. The easiest way to overcome this is to give yourself some motivation: do something you really want after completing the task. Even better, once you get some momentum, knock out some more goals!

Location. Some places lend themselves to procrastinating more so than other places. Sitting in front of your TV binge-watching a show is not the best place to get some work done (or meet your writing goals). Relocate to a distraction-free zone (as best you can) and set yourself up for success.

CTA_mailinglist

Establish rewards and consequences. Behavior modification remains one of the few tried and true methods for creating behavior change (like procrastinating less). For the purposes of simplicity, let’s say that it is building a contingent relationship with clear rewards and consequences. For instance, if you wanted to write a certain number of words a day, say 2000, then you would want to reward the action of writing 2000 words with something you can only get from completing the task; you don’t write the words, you don’t get your reward. Pretty simple, right? Building your day out of a series of contingent relationships like this can pay real dividends in terms of getting things done.

Create and adhere to deadlines. Setting deadlines has been proven to help people reach their goals. Knowing that there is a finish line helps you to think about your time in a meaningful way. Adhering to those deadlines, over time, makes you averse to procrastinating in the future.

Share your goals for increased accountability. Sometimes, letting other people know about what you need to do can create a network of accountability: people asking you throughout your day whether or not you finished what you intended can keep the task on the top of your mind. Fair warning: this can be very exhausting, especially if you are have difficulty adhering to your plan (or if you are easily upset).

Adapt your goals accordingly. In many ways, this might be the most important tool. Things change, and it is important to change with them. Too often, we just keep doing things the same way to reach the same goals with little real success. We become accustomed to doing something because we have always done it this way. If you want different results, think about doing things a different way.

CTA_writer's desk

Changing of the Guard: What Behavioral Marketing Has to Become

8468788107_6a1b3ae1ea_oWhat it was

Behavioral marketing is still the go-to for major companies, as well as smaller professionals. The purpose being very simple: use information to tailor a personal experience instead of bludgeoning people with the same message time and again. The digital age helped usher in this type of advertising, as analytics and cookies overtook data collection. Retargeting and direct targeting was simpler than ever and you were one step away from closing the loop and using information collected during an internet search to get your product in front of a potential customer.

What you like determines what you are shown.

For an older generation, this kind of marketing has great value. The demographic for Facebook users continues to rise, and it should come as no surprise that among internet giants, Facebook represents the most nuanced approach to behavioral marketing: bundling, collating, and redirecting interests and behaviors in or to show you relevant ads. Our feeds are increasing filled with bright and shiny advertisements created specifically for our enjoyment.

So why does it need to change?

Simply put: the population is getting older, which means a young generation (millennials) are increasingly involved in traditionally robust purchasing activities (cars, homes, condos, interior design). Unsurprisingly, this contrarian generation has little interest in being advertised to; in point of fact, a Forbes article from April 2015 suggested that they were moving away from this kind of “talking at you” approach in favor of a more authentic conversation.

If you want to sell to the millennial generation, then perhaps you need to pivot to a more transformational type of marketing; one that involves millennials in the conversation, as opposed to trying to out-think them in a technological space (where they are very adept).


CTA_mailinglist

 

What it needs to become

Buzzfeed adopted a native advertising approach that has been paying dividends in terms of engagement and interest. Not all companies are set up for this kind of information-driven type of advertising, and suggesting that they adopt it would be foolish.

Nativism need not be about company pitches written as clickbait articles.

Culture, not trends. What millennials care about is sharing a culture, not just sharing the trend that everyone else is riding. This generation has been sourcing things digitally for nearly their entire lives; what they are searching for is a meaningful relationship with a brand that also provides a service or product. Trending topics dominate the digital sphere, but the best companies bend them to meet the needs of their subscriber base and not the other wall around.

Less noise, more perspective. Let’s face it, repurposing articles and talking about whatever is current becomes noise once you get past the first or second page of a feed or search.  Every company has a story or a narrative, and that is what you should be advocating: your perspective. What makes you unique? How do you provide something different, meaningful, and valuable?

Be agile and offer value. Content marketing has value because it checks a lot of the boxes we are talking about. You want to craft content, not just refurbish generalities from other similar sites you gleaned doing a long-tail keyword search. Returning to this idea of native marketing, it is not likely you will be able to replicate Buzzfeed’s model. You can take a step in the right direction by leaning more heavily on generating organic conversations through social media instead of bombarding visitors to your site with a barrage of pop-ups and squeeze pages.

Authenticity matters. This shows empathy by not immediately doubling down on sales scripts triggered by SEO and redirected landing pages. By imagining the customer’s experience, putting yourselves in the shoes of someone coming to your site, you are harnessing an approach that better sets up having a conversation, as opposed to a hard sales pitch. It is in avoiding this kind of sales deafness that you can tap into something that really matters for millennials: mindfulness. Replace the salesman with a teacher, someone who wants to share powerful information that can change someone’s life; this fosters social proof, one of the most valuable things in business.

Highlight the transformative process, not the product. One of the most tangible ways to experience a paradigm shift in your sales is to see social outreach as a transformative process that turns cold leads into advocates. And the simplest way to accomplish this is to be present, to focus on being a part of the conversation as opposed to scheduling the conversation.

The tools of the trade may change, but one thing as always been true about marketing and sales development: consistency. Day in and day out, you need to have a plan, delegate accordingly, and prepare for market and industry shifts. The millennials represent a new shift, and it is time to adapt.

CTA_writer's desk