Archive for Leadership Coaching

What Are Words For: 6 Writing Tips from the Masters

If you only remember one lesson from The Elements of Style—affectionately known as Strunk & White—it’s probably Rule 17 in the “Principles of Composition” chapter.

Editors hear William Strunk’s curmudgeonly admonition “Omit needless words” every time they strike out a“very” or superfluous “that.” Or—as I like to put it—“Omit needless words.” Once you adopt this mantra, formerly invisible words pulse red as you read. You may even be seeing red now.

While our last post explored how your diction affects others’ sense of your power when speaking, this article focuses on the written word—although the lessons apply equally to speech.

Below are six writing tips from the masters.

1) 1+1 = ½

Sol Stein spins Strunk’s famous edict another way in his formula 1+1 = ½. In Stein on Writing, the master editor reveals this secret to powerful writing: redundant language weakens.

If you’re using two words to say the same thing, you’re diluting the effect. Axe the less precise word or find a single term that captures the meaning of both, and you’ll strengthen your sentence.

2) Beware of Modifiers

Sol Stein’s Reference Book for Writers warns us adjectives and adverbs “weaken nouns and verbs, and therefore weaken your writing.” If you can swap out an adverb for a more telling verb, do so.

Trade “ran quickly” for “scampered,” and the sentence jumps from report to story. The reader visualizes the subject scampering away, learning something about the subject’s motives and character in the process.

3) Conquer Clichés

Watch any reality TV show, and you’ll realize it’s a pastiche of clichés, from “I’m not here to make friends” to “It would mean the world to me.” We breathe them in like smog, scarcely noticing how polluted our language has become.

4) Jettison Jargon

Bullshit Bingo players racking up the points during a staff meeting know the workplace is riddled with jargon.

Orwell predicted as much in “Politics and the English Language”, where his fifth rule of writing cautions, “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”

5) Use Active Voice

Out of Orwell’s six writing rules, we’ve already covered four (banish clichés, embrace brevity, trim fat and ditch jargon). His number-one rule tops nearly every editor’s list, too: “Never use the passive where you can use the active.”

The classic example of cowardly passive voice (which misdirects the audience by omitting the subject responsible for the action) is, “Mistakes were made.” No, you made a mistake. Muster some moxie and admit, “I made a mistake.” That’s how passive becomes active.

6) Remain Civil

What’s Orwell’s final mandate to writers? “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.” That’s right—civility outclasses dogma. Value dignity, respect for others, ethics and graciousness over nitpicky rules. In other words, don’t let your newfound linguistic powers turn you into a grammar Nazi.

Dangerous Diction: 6 Types of Words That Sap Your Power—and How to Take It Back

Whether or not you realize it, you convey hidden messages about yourself through your diction.

Your word choices reveal your level of confidence in yourself and your statements—and subsequently influence how others perceive and treat you.

Words to Power

A recent Forbes article by Avery Blank outlines six types of words that undermine your power when you use them:

  1. Fluff. If you want people to question your intelligence and authority, talk like a Valley girl. Otherwise, eschew like, whatever, so on, kind of, sort of, um and other pause words that put the brakes on meaning.
  2. Defensive phrases. Terms like just, I think, arguably and in my opinion make your listeners question your conviction and message.
  3. Aptitude terms. When you say, “I’ll try,” you betray an insecurity that spreads to your audience. Overconfidence is equally disquieting. Telling a coworker, “Don’t worry about it” is not only dismissive but shuts down opportunities for collaboration.
  4. Condescending words. Terms such as actually, obviously and clearly suggest you think your audience is ignorant, and that’s a good way to make them tune out.
  5. Mea culpa. We’re not saying you should never apologize—accepting responsibility for the consequences of your actions is the mature response. Just don’t say “sorry” when something goes awry due to circumstances outside your control.
  6. Hyperbole. Very, absolutely, totally, tremendously, incredibly and similar emphasis words achieve the opposite of their intended effect. Your message is stronger without them.

The 6 Rungs of Speaking Power

In my Working with Emotional Intelligence class, I share a handout titled “Escaping Victim Mud—The Power of Your Words” from Falling Awake: Creating the Life of Your Dreams.

We discuss how to climb Dave Ellissix rungs of powerful speaking from least to most powerful:

  1. Obligation. If you use terms like should, must, have to and ought, you’re speaking at the bottom rung of Ellis’ ladder. This tells others you are acting not out of desire but duty.
  2. Possibility. People at this level choose words like consider, maybe, might, could and hope. The attitude is more positive, but these words tell listeners you don’t feel in control of the outcome.
  3. Preference. Bartleby fans know the power of prefer, as in, “I would prefer not to.” Moving from should to might to want shows a progression of control. Those who prefer and want are expressing their goals in a way that impacts the audience more deeply.
  4. Passion. When you speak with enthusiasm (excited, can’t wait and love), you capture listeners through your energetic expressiveness. There is a difference between gushing and acting, however, and your words will feel hollow if you don’t have the evidence to back them up.
  5. Plan. When you present a plan to achieve specific goals, you demonstrate your control over the situation and your strategy for achieving the desired results. This is when the abstract becomes concrete for your listeners.
  6. Promise. At the apex of Ellis’ ladder is promise (will, do, promise), and that’s where dream transforms into reality. At the most powerful rung, you will captivate your audience and engage them in your commitment to action.

Different situations call for different rungs in the communication ladder. Perpetually balancing on the top rung is unrealistic and even inappropriate in certain contexts.

What Are You Telling People?

As a co-active coach, I can help you assess how your language influences others’ perceptions of you and how you can achieve a more positive reception, whether speaking, leading or collaborating. Call me at 541.601.0114 or email me to start climbing the ladder toward a more powerful you.

Trickle-up Theory: 10 Ways Organizations Can Create Stronger Leaders

When a ship founders, blame rarely lies at the feet of the crew. True, a seaman may fail to properly secure a mooring line or spot a collision risk on the horizon, but ultimately it is the captain who is liable for keeping the vessel afloat and on course.

Just as managers are responsible for the poor performance of their team, a company is culpable for any weaknesses present in its leadership. Responsibility flows upward, and senior administrators need to employ smart strategies to keep their organizations from capsizing.

Here are 10 ways organizations can create stronger leaders:

  1. Avoid just-because promotions to management. Before transplanting employees from positions they are flourishing in, make sure they have the appropriate skills—and desire—to succeed in a leadership role. You can still reward employees for good work with a pay raise or more challenging job description—just make sure it’s well-suited to their strengths.
  2. Encourage managers to seek advice. Don’t cultivate a culture of fear, shame and ego but rather nurturing, humility and collegiality. Make sure managers feel comfortable approaching senior leaders about questions or problems.
  3. Invite a fresh perspective. Sometimes a pair of unfamiliar eyes combined with professional expertise can reshape a flabby company into a high-performance athlete. Consider bringing in an organizational consultant to gain clarity on your culture; develop your leadership; and assess and address barriers to performance. You can boost employee happiness, engagement and productivity by creating a positive organization.
  4. Provide training opportunities. Companies should offer ongoing training and professional development opportunities for leaders and staff alike. Creating an atmosphere of learning is a key way to enhance engagement while honing and deepening your team’s competencies.
  5. Strive for professional and personal growth. Senior administrators should not only be seeking to become their best selves through leadership coaching, but they should be encouraging their managers to do the same.
  6. Challenge folks. When people feel stuck in a routine, they quickly grow bored. Our brains thrive on stimulation, and that means constantly pushing at the edges of our existing skill sets and forging new neural pathways. Even those who fear change need a sense of challenge to propel them forward.
  7. Understand the difference between managing and leading. In the post Managing Stuff, Leading People, Senior Manager of Sales and Leadership Development Steve Keating articulates the difference between managing and leading: “When you’re talking to a manager you get the feeling that they are important; when you’re talking to a leader you get the feeling that you are important.” Leaders are acutely aware of their team members’ abilities, they care for them as individuals and they possess a grander vision, which they can communicate to others in ways that stir enthusiastic engagement.
  8. Mentor each other. Instead of assuming an autocratic demeanor, handing down performance targets like kingly decrees, senior leaders should take new managers under their wings, offering wisdom from the trenches as they rear up the next generation of trailblazers.
  9. Seek out strengths. Don’t focus on people’s weaknesses but rather their strengths. If some employees are faltering, figure out why and redefine their roles to capitalize on their talents. Take advantage of Strengths Finder and other resources such as an organizational development consultant to pinpoint and polish the gifts in each team member.
  10. Lead by inspiration. Great leaders model the leadership skills they would like their managers to exhibit. There is nothing less motivating than a hypocritical boss or more inspiring than a leader who authentically embodies the best that leaders can be.

Ready to Make Your Leadership Shine?

Contact Chris Cook at chris@capiche.us or 541.601.0114 to discuss how she can cultivate the gems at your company through organizational development consulting and leadership coaching.

The Dangers of Disengagement—and Its Likely Cause

Have you ever felt yourself slipping into an apathetic haze at work, too bored, uninspired or beaten down to bother?

According to Gallup, nearly a quarter of employees around the globe are actively disengaged. That translates to bottom-line losses in the trillions. Not only are companies paying for sagging productivity by disengaged employees, but they’re also missing out on the benefits of having highly engaged powerhouses on their team.

What Causes Employee Disengagement?

What is one of the top causes of employee disengagement? You can probably guess. Whether you call them incompetent, narcissistic, psychopathic or straight-up evil, bad bosses shoulder much of the blame.

A recent Gallup article titled The Damage Inflicted by Poor Managers explores the consequences of lousy leadership—a subject we have examined in past articles (see sidebar).

Coauthors Marco Nink and Jennifer Robison note that in comparison with disengaged teams, engaged teams are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable; suffer 41% less absenteeism and 70% fewer accidents; and experience up to 59% less turnover, 28% less waste and 10% higher scores from customers.

At 24%, disengaged employees practically double the number of engaged employees (13%). That’s like having a bunch of anchors attached to a handful of balloons. It’s tough for an organization to achieve performance goals with that kind of ballast weighing it down.

The answer isn’t axing the disengaged employees, though. If the cause is bad leadership, the replacement hires will simply become the next crop of disengaged employees, creating a perpetual and costly cycle of turnover.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Bad Leaders?

When the problem starts at the top, that’s where we need to focus our attention. In another Gallup article, Nink and Robison ask, Can Bad Managers Be Saved?

Falling into a management role without proper preparation can transform decent folks into petty tyrants as they attempt to compensate for insecurity about their lack of leadership skills. Or they may be perfectly nice individuals engaging in poor management habits without realizing it. They might even have untapped leadership talents that simply haven’t been identified or developed.

As Steve Keating discusses in his piece Managing Stuff, Leading People, people often get promoted to management positions because they excelled in their previous roles—often having nothing to do with leadership. Just because a software engineer is brilliant at designing algorithms doesn’t mean she’s strong at leading a software development team—in fact, it’s frequently the opposite.

Not all bad bosses are beyond redemption. It takes astute judgment to determine which managers have the potential for growth and which ones will continue to flail. In our next article, we’ll examine some strategies companies can adopt to ensure their leaders are motivating engagement rather than provoking disengagement.

Need Some Advice?

Whether your organization is struggling with disengagement, ineffectual leadership or low performance, Chris Cook can help. Email her at chris@capiche.us or call 541.601.0114 to find out how.

From the “Worst Year Ever” to … the Best Year Ever?

Many people around the world were relieved to bid adieu to 2016, so widely detested it prompted publications ranging from The New York Times to The Telegraph, the Smithsonian to The New Yorker, Slate to BuzzFeed to question whether it was the worst year ever.

An exhausting presidential election, the controversial Brexit vote, the deadliest mass shooting in US history, numerous international terrorist attacks, earthquakes galore, the hottest year on record and a string of beloved celebrity deaths—many would say 2016 was a pretty dreadful year, indeed.

Putting all this behind me, I choose to remain hopeful that 2017 will be a better year—a great year. I will do my best—and I encourage you as well—to do everything possible to spread positivity and love.

I will do my best—and I encourage you as well—to do everything possible to spread positivity. Click To Tweet

Many thanks to a dear friend and colleague who shared the following quote. It speaks to me. I hope it speaks to you as well. Here’s to 2017!


“Make sure, therefore, that to the extent you can, always act from the deepest, widest, highest source in you that you can find; let every word out of your mouth come from the Highest Self you can discern; let every action spring from the deepest Source you can possibly summon. You are laying down Forms that will be stored in that great storage bin in the Cosmos, whence they will one day reach down and mold the future with their own special insistence. Make sure these Forms will be something you can be deeply proud of. You do realize that you are directly co-creating the future World, don’t you? Please, never, never forget that.”
Ken WilberIntegral Meditation, 2016, p. 130

Keep Drama on the Stage—and out of the Workplace

In the requisite Stein on Writing, publisher, writer and master editor Sol Stein reveals this secret to successful plotting: create a crucible.

If you’ve ever seen Mike NicholsWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you know how compelling a crucible can be. When you pit two forces of nature like Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and George (Richard Burton) against one another, the results are explosive.

As Stein writes, “Characters caught in a crucible won’t declare a truce and quit.… the motivation of the characters to continue opposing each other is greater than their motivation to run away.”

While such a formula makes for gripping drama, that’s the last thing you want in the workplace.

Good leaders know how to navigate conflicts, dissipate tension and redirect negative energies into positive, productive outlets. Most importantly, they themselves are not the source of drama.

Unfortunately, those leaders are rare. A recent Australian study suggests there are more villains at the top than we realize—1 in 5 CEOs may be psychopaths (versus 1 in 100 in the general population).

“Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other,” says Nathan Brooks, the forensic psychologist who conducted the study.

A profit-driven corporate culture often propels sociopaths—who unabashedly violate ethics in pursuit of the bottom line—to positions of power, even though such behavior collectively costs companies hundreds of billions annually due to employee turnover and disengagement.

Just as the recent Wells Fargo scandal teaches us, myopic thinking may yield short-term profits but reaps incalculable damage. Sure, there are the obvious costs like $185 million in fines, $5 million in customer refunds and the potential billions in class action lawsuits from customers and the 5,300 terminated employees.

At a deeper level, however, the damage done to the Wells Fargo brand is incalculable. A bank losing the trust of its customers is tantamount to drinking Jonestown Flavor Aid.

Let’s play a word game. What do you think of when you hear Enron, Exxon and Monsanto? It’s probably fraud, Valdez and mass farmer suicides. Even when they change their names and attempt to reinvent themselves, corporations can never escape the toxic taint of corruption.

This is why it is so crucial to carefully define, protect and live your brand. From the epic to the everyday, how companies and leaders behave has lasting ramifications.

While we may not be in a position to shape the epic dimensions of our organization, all of us play a role in the everyday, and reducing drama in the workplace has widespread benefits—including boosting happiness and health, which subsequently reduces turnover, increases engagement and heightens productivity.

In this SmartBrief article, Dr. Nate Regier offers three tips for quashing office drama:

  • Practice transparency. In times of conflict, honesty is indeed the best policy. Instead of passive-aggressively venting your frustration, explain why a certain behavior is bothering you. Sidestep blame in favor of expressing your feelings. This is a common tactic in couples counseling for a reason—it reframes the concern as an expression of feeling rather than an attack and helps each understand the other’s perspective.
  • Offer your expertise. This doesn’t mean going around handing out uninvited advice. Rather, it means genuinely assessing the problem and offering to share relevant knowledge if desired—the last part being key.
  • Set realistic limits. In a conflict, identify your non-negotiables in a non-threatening manner. Once both parties have a clear understanding of the stated goals and obstacles, it’s easier to chart a path to resolution.

This kind of “compassionate accountability is key to productive relationships and communication,” writes Regier.

What are your workplace drama stories? Do you have any tips on how to cope with psychopathic bosses and smooth out tensions in the workplace?

5 Annoying Boss Habits That Will Tick off Your Team and Other Lessons from Office Space

Have you ever had a boss who had some irritating foibles that drove you up the wall? Those behaviors may have even become an inside joke among employees, a peculiar turn of phrase setting off a burst of laughter among coworkers or a physical quirk you mimic at the dinner table to make your kids giggle.

As funny as those traits might be, matters turn serious when you consider the high cost of employee turnover in the workplace. Make sure you’re not driving good talent away by practicing any of the following habits.

1) Did You Get the Memo?

Office Space is a comedic crash course on how not to behave as a boss, but the reason it resonates so deeply with audiences is its striking fidelity to corporate life. How many times has your organization adopted a new policy that yields little substance while only creating more busywork for employees? Whether it’s putting cover sheets on TPS reports or keeping a daily task log, it gets in the way of doing real work and drains you of motivation.

2) Eight Bosses

Also perfectly illustrated in Office Space are the hazards of management bloat. As Peter Gibbons notes in the above clip, “When I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.”

3) We Need to Talk about Your Flair

Does your company make you wear or do silly things as a cheap way of promoting their branding? Instead of living a brand based on a blend of research, reality and aspiration, they might tell you to use certain catch phrases or wear a particular color on Fridays. These infantilizing habits make you feel more like you’re at a high school pep rally than in a serious workplace.

4) Ahh, I’m Also Gonna Need You to Go Ahead and Come in on Sunday, Too

Have you had managers who spring surprises on you at the last minute and just presume you’re okay with them? Like telling—not asking—you to work on Saturday … and Sunday, and then phrasing it in such a way that you don’t have a choice in the matter. Bosses who don’t respect their team members’ personal time have overstepped their boundaries, and those who decree royal edicts rather than making requests are likely to find themselves without minions one day.

5) The Ratio of People to Cake Is Too Big

Do you have any Milton Waddams at your company? Employees thrive in an atmosphere of quality, fairness and respect, and if one or more team members feel they’re being slighted, that is a recipe for a toxic workplace. Lack of fairness doesn’t have to come from mistreatment, exclusion or bullying—it may also take the form of favoritism. If some employees feel a manager favors one of their colleagues, they will not only come to resent the manager but also to detest that colleague. In other words, if you’re going to have cake, make sure there’s an equal portion for everyone. After all, you don’t want any Miltons setting the building on fire.

More Behaviors to Avoid

Read more great tips on annoying boss habits to avoid in Six Boss Behaviors That Drive Your Team Members Bonkers and Five Meetings Your Employees Will Thank You for Killing or Fixing at The Balance.

Want to Be a Better Leader?

You may not be guilty of the above vices, but you probably have some habits you’re unaware of that may be irking your team. If you’re ready to become not only the best possible boss but the best possible you, get started with leadership coaching by calling Chris Cook at 541.601.0114 or emailing her today.

New Agreements: 5 Ways to Transform Your Workplace

Thanks to LinkedIn, I had a chance to talk with author David Dibble last week. He read a recent blog I posted and asked to connect with me. Funny thing is I’ve been using his book The New Agreements in the Workplace for the last five years as source material for the Working with Emotional Intelligence class I teach at Southern Oregon University. I’ve summarized his work below and added a few quotes to illustrate. Thanks, David!

1. Find Your Path


“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
—Goethe


As individuals in the workplace and in the world, each of us must find our own path to personal freedom and transformation. If the release of the creative human spirit in the workplace is your passion, following a true path will accelerate the journey dramatically. A true path is a roadmap that includes proven practices, community support along the way and possibly a teacher. Most importantly, a true path will ignite your higher purpose for work based in love.

A true path will ignite your higher purpose for work based in love. Click To Tweet

2. Love, Grow and Serve Your People


“All work is empty, save when there is love.”
—Kahlil Gibran


The workplace can be thought of as a living being. Workplaces are alive because they are made of people. To love, grow and serve your people means loving, growing and serving the organization. In doing so, you love, grow and serve yourself. This is true leadership.

3. Mind Your Mind in the Moment


“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”
—John Milton


Science has been looking at the human mind for thousands of years, and many questions remain. Your mind creates both your individual and organizational realities. To change yourself or your workplace, you must transform your mind. Awareness of the mind in the moment when life and work take place is a central practice to nearly every true path. With awareness, you can create heaven on earth in your workplace.

4. Shift Your Systems


“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
—Henry David Thoreau


All organizations have structural components we call systems. Systems are the formal and informal policies, procedures, habits and agreements that tell you how to do things in the workplace. They control about 90 percent of the results you create in your organization. To unlock your creative human spirit, you must shift from the fear and control that drive most workplace systems to an atmosphere of love and support.

You must shift from fear and control to an atmosphere of love and support. Click To Tweet

5. Practice a Little Every Day


“The indefatigable pursuit of an unattainable perfection—even though nothing more than the pounding of an old piano—is what alone gives a meaning to our life on this unavailing star.”
—Logan Pearsall Smith


Did you know the space shuttle is off course approximately 97 percent of the time? To make the New Agreements a reality, you must practice a little every day. As you practice, you will notice change. With regular practice, you embody the New Agreements. As you move from doing to being, you become the unbridled release of your creative human spirit. This is true mastery.

Living the New Agreements

How does this sit with you? How does it manifest in your workplace? If you want to work with the New Agreements, let’s talk about how coaching or consulting can help you create positive change.

Are You Seeing the Forest for the Trees? Where Senior Leaders Are Failing

When you think of senior leaders at your organization, are they more likely to spend their time:

  1. zooming from meeting to meeting, generating reports and bashing through an endless task list or
  2. developing strategy, delegating to trusted staff and inspiring employees through strengths-based coaching?

Most likely, your answer is ‘a.’ You may even be one of those managers swept away by the tidal wave of meetings, busywork and deadlines. There are any number of reasons for this—from downsizing causing work to be divvied among fewer employees to a myopic focus on immediate targets blinding us to the bigger picture.
You want a captain who has enough foresight to steer the ship away from danger. Click To Tweet

The Grander Vision

Whatever the excuse, you have to admit senior leadership bears some responsibility for articulating the grander vision of the organization, seeing past the urgent projects and daily crises to achieve a broader, deeper perspective.

You want a captain who has enough foresight to steer the ship away from danger and toward smooth waters. If she’s stuck in the engine room, how can she scan the horizon for icebergs and storm clouds?

Two Tracks: Senior Leaders & Individual Contributors

At The Context of Things, Ted Bauer recently blogged about how senior leaders shouldn’t be individual contributors. Instead, he floats an idea that got shot down by a previous employer of his: rather than making senior management the only career advancement option, offer an alternative “individual contributor” track—of equal pay.

This accomplishes two things: 1) it prevents unqualified people from becoming one of the 82 percent of poor manager hires (who subsequently make life miserable for their underlings and sap productivity), and 2) it acknowledges the unique strengths of key individual players, allowing them to blossom in ways that may otherwise never occur in a traditional corporate structure.

Such an approach could harness untapped talents while enabling the truly gifted leaders to rise to their calling. Managers who entrust their staff with tasks they would typically undertake not only empower those contributors but also free them to concentrate on influential strategic decisions.

Imagine a leader who balances an eagle’s eye view with an empathetic approach. Click To Tweet

A Better Way

When only a third of senior leadership can identify company priorities, something is askew. When managers spend more time head-down at their desks than getting to know their staff, they are failing as leaders.

Imagine instead a leader who balances an eagle’s eye view of the organization—comprehending its innate culture, branding and marketing tactics—with an empathetic and astute appreciation of every employee. That manager would understand how to elicit the best from his employees in concert with the organization’s deeper mission, conducting a harmonious symphony in pursuit of long-term strategic goals.

The Path Forward

This may feel daunting to managers trapped in the corporate grind and facing a seemingly infinite to-do list. You don’t have to do it alone.

Through executive coaching, you can identify your own natural abilities, charting a path toward strategic leadership and becoming an inspiration for your employees as you model transformation.

In addition to igniting your personal and professional growth, Chris Cook can help your company discover its DNA. Her organizational consulting services will make the big picture crystal clear while outlining specific steps you and your staff can take to achieve your company’s aspirational vision.

Want to Explore the Possibilities?

Whether you want leadership coaching, organizational consulting, branding guidance or all of the above, Chris Cook can help. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

Discover Your Drive: 5 More Tips for Building Self-Control

This is the last in a series of articles (see part 1 and part 2) investigating the life-changing impact of self-control and how you can hone yours.

Below are five more tips gleaned from Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.

1) Avoid Goal-Sabotaging

Working toward a goal requires balancing between our desired outcome and our immediate urge for gratification.

Scientists have found those reminded of their progress toward a goal are more likely to backslide as a way of rewarding themselves.

If we’ve successfully resisted sugary desserts for a week, we begin to experience goal liberation, which tells us we deserve a little treat for being so good.

This can lead to a one-step-forward-two-steps-backward goal-sabotaging pattern. Be alert to this threat, and you’ll get a leg up on your temptation.

2) Don’t Let Your Brain Trick You

Our brains can mistake thinking about a goal for the actual work itself, causing us to pat ourselves on the back prematurely.

When fast food restaurants offer healthier options like salads, people are more likely to order unhealthy alternatives like burgers and fries. Browsing an eco-friendly site causes us to indulge in some not-so-green behavior, thinking we’ve already done our bit to offset our carbon footprint.

Simply considering the better option substitutes for action in the brain, giving us permission to deviate from our higher aspirations.

Penalties introduced to deter bad behavior often backfire for this reason. Daycare centers that imposed a fee for parents who arrived late found instances of lateness increased. Paying the fee assuaged parents’ guilt over being late, removing incentive for being on time.

3) Find Your “I Want” Power

The way to build self-control and overcome goal-sabotaging behavior is to focus not on your progress but rather on your long-term motivation (your “I want” power).

In one study, students asked to remember an instance in which they resisted temptation were 70 percent more likely to give in to their next temptation. An almost equal percentage—69 percent—fended off temptation when asked to recall why they had resisted in that past moment.

4) Befriend Your Future Self

People who have a strong sense of their future selves are more likely to make the best decisions when it comes to long-term goals like retirement savings.

It’s easy to let the demands of now interfere with our aspirations to set money aside, but that becomes more difficult when we’ve taken the time to envision ourselves at retirement age.

Studies show those with high future self-continuity tend to behave more ethically and responsibly as well as becoming a better person in the present.

People with low future self-continuity are more likely to cheat on tests, steal in the workplace, gossip and lie to secure short-term advantages.

McGonigal writes, “It as if feeling disconnected from our future selves gives us permission to ignore the consequences of our actions.”

5) Choose Your Friends Wisely

Poor habits spread like a contagion through social networks. You are more likely to smoke, drink heavily, gamble, engage in crime or succumb to addiction if you hang out with people who practice these behaviors.

While genetics influence obesity, there is also a cultural/social component that involves unhealthy lifestyle choices like eating processed foods and failing to exercise regularly.

Research shows a person’s chances of becoming obese increase by 171 percent when a friend becomes obese, 67 percent when a sister does and 45 percent if it’s a brother.

But there’s a flip side to this phenomenon: surrounding yourself with people who have similar life goals substantially increases your chances of fulfilling those objectives. This is why regularly attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is crucial to addiction recovery.

Want to eat healthier, take up marathon running, quit smoking or start writing that novel you’ve been dreaming about for years? Find a community that will support you in your goals, and they will help hold you accountable to your dreams.

Want a Coach in Your Corner?

Ready to go from wishing to achieving? Chris Cook can inspire, support and drive you to achieve your goals and live a happier, more fulfilling life. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.