by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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This morning at breakfast, my youngest child took a bite into her hardboiled egg. To her great surprise (evidenced by her excited shriek) she found two yolks inside of the egg. She has eaten tons of eggs in her life, but this was the first time she had ever seen an egg like this. She quickly asked me to look at the egg. I said to her, “Wow, it has been a long time since I have seen an egg with two yolks.” She immediately threw her hands up in the air and exclaimed, “I am so lucky! This is going to be the best day ever!”
It was amazing to see how she immediately saw the positive in this situation. There is no reason to believe that getting a double yolk in your egg means you are going to have good luck. It could just as easily be seen as omen for a curse by another person. There is no scientific explanation for whether a double yolk has a positive or negative impact on our lives. According to my research, the chance of finding a double yolk egg is actually about 1 in every 1,000 eggs. Not really that rare, but we all believe that a double yolk egg is so rare it must mean something for our lives.
In life, we often seek out things that we see or experience that must mean something. Positively we look for four-leaf clovers and lucky pennies and we cross our fingers and knock on wood for good luck. Negatively we fear black cats crossing our path, breaking mirrors, and every Friday the 13th. In reality all of these are superstitions that provide a feeling of sense in this crazy life we live. As a former baseball player, I am all too aware of the impact of superstitions. I can still remember as a kid being so mad at my mom for washing my uniform in the middle of a hot batting streak. I remember telling her, “What have you done? There goes my game. You washed out the good streak. We are going to lose and I am going to suck.” And sure enough, that game I struggled at the plate, missing pitches, went hitless, and we lost. In my head, that dirty, smelly uniform was the key to my success (to my mom it was a problem that needed to be dealt with in the washing machine). My hot streak had nothing to do with working hard and practicing all the time. It was simply a matter of a lucky uniform.
In reality, it had nothing to do with the uniform (and I can now admit my mom was right to wash that filthy thing). But what I had done in my head was to build a positive narrative that was leading to success. My positive mindset was enabling me to be successful. Now the positive mindset was built from a falsehood of a lucky uniform, but regardless it was putting my brain in the ultimate success mode. When I struggled in the game after washing the uniform it was because the positive mindset had been replaced by a negative mindset that was setting me up for failure. We do the same thing in all aspects of our lives.
When we find the lucky penny, the day is going to be great and our brain seeks out the positives in the day, choosing not to find the negatives that exist on a daily basis. If we see that black cat run across our path, our brain immediately goes negative and we seek out the negatives in life. Now it is easy for us to avoid black cats and broken mirrors, but it is not just these superstitions that lead to our negative mindset. It could be an argument with our kids or spouse in the morning. It could be the guy cutting us off in traffic. It could be the boss talking to us about an issue with our work. All of these things lead us to a negative mindset that is going to negatively impact our days.
The key is retraining our brains to find the positive and to build off of them during the day. For in any situation we can choose whether we see something positively or negatively. We can control how we experience life by how we react to situations and experiences that arise. For my kid, she immediately saw the double yolk as a positive. She made that choice and sure enough she did have a great day. When I picked her up from school she excitedly shared that she had been picked as star of the week and that it was all because of that lucky double yolk (of course it had nothing to do with the fact that it was her turn to be star of the week in the class regardless of whether she found the yolk).
So the next time you find that double yolk take it as a positive and enjoy a great day built out of a positive mindset. Living in that positive mindset is going to positively impact our lives and, in turn, it will keep us looking clean and smelling good in a crisp clean uniform!
by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth”
Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
In our lives we are often faced with forks in the road. There are multiple roads that lie just in front of us, but we become frozen, unable to choose which one to take. We often do as Frost did, trying to look down the road as far as we can see. We are hoping to see where the road goes, to see what dangers lie ahead, to see if the road even leads to somewhere. We sift through our pockets hoping to find the map that shows us where the roads lead to. But the map isn’t there. We look around for friends, family, and colleagues to help us make the decision. We hope their advice can provide more clarity on the road that we should take. But they are not standing there. We reach for our smart phone to Google whether anyone else has ever been at this same fork in the road. We hope that their travels can shed light on the decision that we have to make. But our phone is dead, dang it why didn’t we charge it before we left! We hope that we can push our decision out by waiting at the fork in the road. But then we remember we forgot to pack a snack for the road. Suddenly we realize that we are all alone standing at that fork in the road. We are frozen by the fear of failure. We begin to remember all the bad decisions that we have made in our lives. Our heads are drowning in a pool of memories of failures in life. What if I pick the wrong road? What if I screw everything up by picking the wrong road?
These forks in the road can come in many different forms. Sometimes they involve our relationships in life. Sometimes they involve career moves. Sometimes they involve the plans for our businesses. Every person meets these forks in the road in their life, but how we respond to them differs greatly. Without the ease of help at our side, we battle the choice within in our head, hoping to not make a mistake that will leave us way behind on our road of life. Many of us want to take the road that others have traveled before because it is safe. But there is a whole other group of us who want to follow Frost’s decision and take the one less traveled by. While there is a greater chance that the road less traveled will end in failure, there is also a greater chance that the less traveled road will lead to incredible success. This is the road where change happens. This is the road where innovation exists. This is the road that is worth taking if we want to be more than we currently are. This is the road that is worth taking if we want to make a difference. This is the road that is worth taking if we want to blow past the limits of our lives.
I recently found myself traveling a road that was going in a direction that I had no interest in. I had started on that road because it looked good as I stood at the fork in the road. I knew many others who had traveled that road before and I knew it would be very safe. But as I traveled the road I realized that it was such a limited road, filled with boring landscapes, and it didn’t entice my innovation or fit the type of traveler that I was. I had worked so hard to get to that fork in the road and suddenly I realized that I had made the wrong choice. Not only was the road very boring, but it didn’t play to my skills and strengths. The road was filled with potholes that others had placed in front of me. It was limiting who I could be and what I could do.
As my eyes opened to the dearth of this road, I suddenly remembered the other road I could have chosen at the previous fork. It had been so much more interesting, but also so much more unsafe. I suddenly became excited to get back onto that other road. There was no way I was going to backtrack all the way to the fork so I tore through the underbrush and climbed up over the rocky mountain that stood separating the two roads. I didn’t even turn to look back, but instead charged with full speed down to the road less traveled. I know that failure might lie just ahead on this new road, but it is worth taking the chance. So for this entrepreneur, I am pushing through the idea that it might fail and I am going for it all. Life isn’t worth struggling down a road that everyone else is already on. So my question to you is “Are you on the road less traveled?”
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When we start talking about motivating kids to achieve greatness, typically we think back to the gold stars and happy faces that adorn work throughout early childhood. These gold stars and happy faces are recognition of a task well done by a child such as raising their hand before asking a question, turning in a picture they drew in class, or standing in a straight line without talking. These gold stars and happy faces eventually turn into stamps, medals, and patches to signify accomplishments in and outside of the classroom. A perfect example of these recognition pieces can be found in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts as their sashes are filled with patches for archery, safety, and cooking. The same system of recognition is followed into the teenage years, such as helmet stickers for football players and patches on lettermen jackets. The system can even be found in adulthood, such as medals of honors for the military or certificates of achievement on the walls of businesses everywhere. All of these symbols represent great accomplishments, and can be motivating for many individuals, but motivation is so much more than this.
The key is the understanding and use of extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is giving people rewards for accomplishments, as the examples given before show. The motivation to succeed in extrinsic motivation is built into earning these patches, medals, gold stars, and certificates. Individuals strive to show their greatness by showing off the gold stars and medals that they have earned. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is about people's inner motivation to achieve greatness. Intrinsically motivated individuals are not worried about earning gold stars, but rather are focused on their own growth and development. They strive to achieve for themselves and revel in their own accomplishments, even when others don’t recognize these accomplishments.
For motivation to be most effective there must be a balance of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Even the person with the greatest intrinsic motivation loves to be recognized for their accomplishments at times. The extrinsic motivation provides a road marker for the intrinsically motivated individual as they continue to strive for greatness. The key factor is the management of this balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. There is a need for higher amounts of extrinsic motivation at earlier ages, which is why we see the plethora of gold stars, patches, and happy faces in early childhood. Young children need to be recognized by others and provided awards for their achievements because this provides them feedback that their actions, behaviors, and work is moving them towards success. These forms of extrinsic motivation build the foundation for intrinsic motivation later in life. Eventually as kids grow up, they rely less on extrinsic rewards for their success as they are able to recognize success within themselves. Thus as kids grow up into the teenage years and beyond, the balance shifts from heavy extrinsic motivation to more intrinsic motivation.
As educators, coaches, and parents we must understand and utilize this balance to the best of our abilities. Too much focus on either extrinsic or intrinsic motivational techniques at the wrong times of a child’s development can stall their development into successful adults. The goal is to use extrinsic motivation techniques and rewards to build the foundation for children so that eventually they are successful at intrinsic motivation and no longer need to rely on others to show them they are achieving success. Thus by using extrinsic rewards at early ages we are able to show them the positive steps along their journey to success. By rewarding good behavior, actions, and work, kids begin to internalize these positive actions and are able to recognize the choices they must make to be successful.
The key is to realize that every child is different and their developmental paths differ from their peers. While the ideas presented in this blog regarding finding the balance are generalizations for the majority of children, some kids will develop their intrinsic motivation skills at an earlier age. Thus while general principles provide a great foundation for our work with children, we must be able to recognize the individualized and differentiated needs of every child. The key is to find the balance that works best for each child and support them along their developmental path. But an important note to remember is that no matter how strong a child’s intrinsic motivation is every child and teen appreciates being recognized for their success. And as long as the rewards and recognition are for legitimate behaviors, actions, and work then the extrinsic rewards will greatly impact their growth. So as educators, coaches, and parents, we must find the extrinsic rewards and recognition that best align with each child we work with so that the foundation can be built for them to intrinsically recognize their growth towards success.
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Excuses can be found in every walk of life, every profession, every endeavor, and every person. Excuses come in every shape and size. Excuses are a fabric of negativity. Excuses are the detour on our path to success. Excuses are the prison bars confining our future. Excuses are the rattlesnakes that lie in our path. Excuses are the blinders that stop us from seeing the future. Excuses offer refuge to the beleaguered individual facing negativity and failure. Excuses enable disempowerment, support failure, and restrict the possibility of success. Excuses are the security blanket for our fear of failure.
We wear our excuses like Chewbacca wears his bandoleer of bowcaster slugs around his neck. When we face failure or have not achieved success, we are quick to revert to excuses. We are ready to arm ourselves with ready-made excuses that help us feel better in the face of failure: “I didn’t have enough resources;” “I didn’t have enough time;” “They must have cheated to beat us;” “My customers don’t want us to change;” “My team didn’t help me;” “The boss said I had to do it this way;” “I’ve never done this before;” “I’ve got too many other things to do.” The excuses roll off our tongue like poetic words flowed from Shakespeare. It is just too easy to find and use that excuse rather than face the reality that we weren’t successful.
Success doesn’t happen in the moment. It takes long hours, long days, long years to achieve. The path is never straight as an arrow. There are bumps and dips, u-turns and detours, accidents and breakdowns. At each of these spots along our road to success, we are faced with a decision. We can choose the excuse, give up, start a new road, retreat to the safe space of the status quo. We can wrap ourselves in the excuse safety blanket and tell ourselves hundreds of mini-stories that start with the phrase: “If only I…”
Successful winners do not make this choice. They push on, ready for the small failures that will add up to ultimate success. They are not deterred by bumps in the road. They are not afraid of what others will think of them. Bill Gates first business Traf-O-Data was a bomb. Colonel Sanders’ fried chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times. Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job for lacking imagination. Thomas Edison took 1,000 attempts before a light bulb that worked. Dr. Seuss’ first book was turned down by 27 publishers. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson struck out more than any other player in baseball history. Sidney Poitier was told at an early audition that he should stop wasting his time as an actor. Sigmund Freud was booed off the stage when he first presented his ideas.
Imagine the world if any of the most successful people had stopped working and pushing and relied instead on a litany of excuses. Stopping our excuse making ways is never easy, because it is a common part of our modern society. But if we want to achieve, if we want to succeed, if we want to win, we have to change our mindset. We have to imagine excuses in the likeness of Glass Joe from Nintendo’s Mike Tyson’s Punchout. Then we have to swing out with a ferocious Mike Tyson uppercut, and knock those excuses out cold. If we continue to knock out excuses we can begin to achieve, to not fear failure, and to accept that with every failure we are getting one step closer to success. So lace up those boxing gloves, put in the mouth piece, drop into that stance, and get ready for the Glass Joe excuse to come waltzing in for another big knockout!
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The world is very familiar with the theories of how children learn and develop throughout their early lives, however scant attention is given to the ways in which adults learn and develop after childhood. Billions of dollars are spent annually in the world to provide professional development to adults, yet most of these programs fail to deliver effective outcomes from this spending. The main reason that professional development does not impact adults as much as it could is that it does not address the individual needs, goals, practices, and belief systems of adults. Adult learners are diverse individuals, each representing an individual set of learning needs, learning processes, and goals for their work, yet their learning in the workplace does not address this individuality.
Malcolm Knowles, the world’s most noted expert in the field of adult learning, writes in his book, The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (1978), that for many decades the belief system surrounding adult learning was based on the ways in which children learned. Knowles suggested that most adult learning opportunities were merely copies of the type of learning that is provided to children, despite the major differences in the ways that children and adults learn. According to Knowles, early theorists on adult learning focused more on the ‘ends’ of adult learning rather than the ‘means’ of adult learning. The assumption was that as long as the outcomes were clearly defined for the learners, it didn’t matter how they learned. This led to many adult learning experiences taking a one-size-fits-all approach that failed to address the individuality of each learner.
In order to change the way in which learning experiences were provided for adults, Knowles theorized a new way in which to support adult learners: andragogy. He considered andragogy to be “a unified theory of adult learning.” For Knowles, andragogy was based on four assumptions that would change the way in which adult learning processes were addressed:
Changes in self-concept: The adult learner moves from a state of dependency to a state of self-directedness. As they do this, the learner becomes less dependent on the person providing the learning, and more apt at learning on their own.
Role of experience: The adult learner builds upon previous experiences in their life to relate new information and experiences. Their experiences provide a base for an ever-growing accumulation of knowledge and skills.
Readiness to learn: The adult learner is focused on learning what he or she needs to learn in order to perform successfully in life and work. The learner disregards anything they don’t feel they need to learn, and rather focuses on learning that addresses needs.
Orientation to learning: The adult learner focuses on problem-based learning rather than subject-based learning. Learning experiences that focus on particular problem areas serve the adult learner best, rather than large overviews of a general topic.
While Knowles’ assumptions of adult learning seem simple and straightforward, there is a dearth of their use in adult learning experiences. Oftentimes, adults are taught in the exact same way that children are taught in schools across America. As Knowles points out, there is an intense need to change the way in which learning experiences are provided to adults in the workplace. Learning opportunities for adults can have a major impact if they are designed to meet the learner’s needs, build on their experiences, change their self-concepts, and address their learning orientations. If the goal of adult learning in the workplace is to increase effectiveness and productivity, shouldn’t every organization want to provide learning experiences that allow for ultimate growth by their professionals. Taking Knowles’ ideas into account can amp up any professional development and make the difference that is needed!
Knowles, M.S. (1978). The adult learner: A neglected species (2nd ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing.
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It only comes once every four years, yes that’s right it’s Leap Year Day! It is a fun day in our calendars that we don’t see very often. While for some it may just seem like another day that is going to make this year even longer, for many it can be a very positive experience. This is because it offers us a time to hit the refresh button on items that we have let slide by since the last Leap Year Day!
This day is a great opportunity to reflect on parts of our lives that we have neglected for the last four years. It is a great time to reflect on parts of our lives that we have continued to put off until the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Maybe it is that commitment to lose the weight once and for all. Maybe it is the idea that we were going to finish the book we were writing and publish it. Maybe there is someone in our lives that we haven’t talked to in the last four years that we wish we could get back in touch with. Maybe it is the idea that we want to spend time with our families. Maybe it is that project in the house that we swear we will get to once we have the time and the money. Maybe it is that vacation that we have dreamed about for years. Maybe it is that move up the corporate ladder that we tell ourselves we deserve.
For each of us, the things we have neglected or put off for the last four years will be unique to our own lives and situations. The commonality is that all of us have something in our lives that we swore four or more years ago we were going to accomplish, but have never gotten around to doing it. We have a ton of valid reasons why we never accomplished whatever it is we have neglected – too busy, too tired, too stressed, too poor, too upset – and so we continue to let leap year after leap year pass us by without movement. Make this Leap Year Day different! Make it a day to hit the refresh button and finally move ahead on these items. Here are four simple tasks that can help you hit the refresh button:
Reflect: Find a quiet, peaceful place where you can sit and reflect on what has been missing or not accomplished over the last four years. We do not find enough time to unplug and reflect on our lives as we get too caught up in the busyness of life. So make a commitment today to take at least 15 minutes to turn off your cell phone, find a place outside of your home or business where you won’t know anyone, and then just sit down and open your mind to the thoughts that will come flooding in. Try to think about things that you have neglected for the last four years, not just what you didn’t get down this week. Listen to your subconscious as it reminds you of the items that need attention.
Journal: After your reflection, pull out a journal or piece of paper, and begin writing down everything you just thought about. This doesn’t have to be in perfect sentences or even make sense, just start jotting down the things that your subconscious reminded you of. Get it all out on the paper, don’t try to justify anything you write, or even to make sense of what it all means. You will have time for that later. This has to be an immediate journal entry.
Plan: Take out your journal entry and begin putting the puzzle of thoughts together into a coherent plan of action. On a new sheet of paper, outline the process for taking the next step in moving towards accomplishing the parts of your life you have neglected. What do you need to do next to have forward movement? Write it down and concentrate heavily on the first steps rather than the end of the process.
Take Action: Pick one of the items that you have on the plan and do it today! Whether this is texting or calling someone you haven’t talked to in years, or its going for a walk to start your weight loss journey, just pick one item to do today! Not tomorrow, that’s too late, it has to be today! Chalk it up to its Leap Year Day and you are hitting the refresh button. Tomorrow will bring all new challenges to continuing this journey, but you will have taken a step in the right direction, a step that you can build on into the future!
Hope these four steps help you to have a great Leap Year Day! Hope that hitting the refresh button on the items you have neglected over the last four years will propel you into even greater success and happiness in your life moving forward!
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The tiny classroom was filled to capacity with a handful of students who had shown up that night intent on making a difference in the world of education. Nervousness filled the air like a thick fog, blurring the world around each of these people as they battled through their own feelings of fear and anticipation. Through the thick fog, their eyes searched the room, looking for signs of similarity and familiarity amidst the group of students. The students had come together for the first night of class in their Master’s Program in Education, and their eyes were scanning through the faces and bodies of the people as their brain was making snap decisions on what the other students would be like based on their outward appearance. We don’t want to admit that our minds go through this process because of the stalwart opposition that society has built up to judging a book by its cover. Despite the fact that society might detest the creation of these initial perceptions based on what someone looks like or dresses like, it is what the human brain does millions of times per day, searching through the surroundings for connections to previous experiences.
As one of the students in this course, I sat in nervous anticipation of what the night would bring, fearful of what others were thinking about me. Knowing that they would be creating their own perceptions about me not only from what they saw, but also from what I had to say, my mind played with the dilemma of how I was going to introduce myself. As a physical education teacher, I was fearful of the perceptions that my classmates would have about me for there are countless unfair perceptions about this profession. The perceptions of a PE teacher as being the lowest of the low, not fit to be called a teacher, of only being able to roll a ball out onto the field for kids to play with, are not only unfair, but in most cases completely misguided. These perceptions of PE teachers stem from years of a society that sees athletic people as just ‘dumb jocks’ who don’t belong in an academic setting.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by how others judged me for I had experienced it my entire life. Growing up as an athlete who committed himself to academics as well, I was seen as an oddity, a tradition breaker, someone who didn’t make sense to others. As a student athlete, I did not fit into the frame that they had created in their minds for athletes. The frame that others had built around me was a problem frame for they said that athletes were supposed to be dumb and unable to handle the rigors of an academic setting. As I tried to show others that I did not fit into their perceptual frame, I had become tentative about admitting who I was, afraid to give others a way to box me up and put me aside. It was with this tentativeness that I introduced myself as a PE teacher that first night of the course and instantly I could feel the frame being thrown up around me again.
The initial perceptions that my peers had about me would be difficult to escape as the frame they had built for me as a ‘dumb jock’ felt more like solitary confinement in a prison cell. As a committed academic who could hold my own in this academic setting, I worked hard to prove myself a worthy member of the class and that I did not belong in the frame they had thrown up around me. As I got to know people in my cohort, I realized that not everyone had built this original frame, as they were able to freely create a perception that stood apart from the one that society would paint for me. The struggle to escape this kind of frame or prison cell is one that I still deal with every day, even though my years as a PE teacher are long in the past. Even as a PhD and CEO of a company, I still push hard to try to show that I do not fit into the frame that others want to put me into.
Our mind wants to create perceptional frames around everything that we come across in our daily lives for it allows us to feel comfortable in our surroundings. It seems that no matter what we are introduced to, our minds can create links and connections to a previous experience in order to make sense of a new reality. It is from these previous experiences that our perceptions are built and so the task of changing someone’s perception is daunting for it is difficult to rewrite old memories, past experiences, and societal norms. As someone who has struggled to escape the frame others have created around me, I must remain conscious to the idea of trying to creating fresh perspectives that can be changed and modified to fit new experiences and new people. We all struggle with trying to figure out what others think of us, but we cannot allow others’ perceptions of us to negatively impact our ability to make a difference.
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GOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!!! Anyone who has ever watched a professional soccer game has heard this familiar call when a team scores a goal. The announcers celebrate the scoring of the goal with their own GOAL call, each of which is bigger, louder, and longer than the one before it. The call is the cap on what is a very celebratory moment in a soccer game. The call is a release of tons of energy, for there are very few goals scored in professional soccer games. Goals in this sport are hard to come by and thus the call by the announcers makes sense. The calls set fans off in wild celebration as the teams run around and dance on the field in their own celebration of the momentous occasion. The moment is exciting, fun, and invigorating to everyone watching (well, except for the team that gave up the goal).
While these celebrations are amazing, it is interesting that we do not celebrate like this in our own lives outside of soccer. We are constantly setting goals for ourselves in our personal and professional lives, yet we rarely use the GOOOOAAAALLLL celebration when we achieve one of these goals. Why is it that we don’t celebrate bigger, louder, and longer? When we achieve a small goal, we often just shrug our shoulders and think, “Yeah, no big deal.” The other common response is to not even hesitate to celebrate a small goal achievement as we begin thinking about how we haven’t achieved the larger goal yet. A perfect example that is easy to follow is the common goal of trying to lose weight. There is a big number out there that everyone ones to reach to with their goal – 10 lbs, 20 lbs, 100 lbs, etc. When we knock off the first pound or the first five pounds though we don’t go cheering and screaming out GOOOOAAAALLLL!!!! Instead we tell ourselves, “That's alright, but you still haven’t reached the big goal so don’t celebrate yet.”
It is as though we fear celebration. It is as though we fear letting ourselves off the hook. We fear that by celebrating early we won’t be able to follow through and achieve the big goal. No doubt we fear looking crazy when we yell out GOOOOAAAALLLLL in our office, classroom, or house. So instead we continue to mire in our goals without actually celebrating goal achievement, as small as they maybe. There is a need to enjoy the goals as we achieve them, to change the very nature of our being. There is a need to celebrate the goals that we achieve so that we can build positivity into our lives rather than negativity of not having reached the big, ultimate goals. By celebrating small wins along the way we build a new narrative for our lives and the process of achieving our goal. We begin to believe in ourselves, and most importantly to believe in our ability to achieve the ultimate goal by taking small steps along the way.
So why not this year flip the script of our goals? Why not find an avenue to celebrate through a tried and true method used on soccer fields throughout the world? Maybe it doesn’t need to be yelling out GOOOAAALLLL in our actual office, cubicle, or classroom in front of everyone, but what about finding a place to truly yell out in exciting fashion to tell ourselves we did a great job? Maybe it is in our car after the workday, or it is in front of the bathroom mirror, but we need to find time to celebrate in soccer fashion. A great method to do this without looking crazy to your colleagues, friends, and relatives is to plug in earphones to our computer, find soccer celebrations on YouTube and then play the video with the announcer’s call of GOOOAAALLLL!!!! Then we can play it over and over as we begin to smile and celebrate the achievement of our own goal. Try it the next time you achieve a goal and you will find yourself pumped up with energy and a huge smile coming to your face. It is a great feeling and one that can motivate us to continue to move forward to even more goal achievement!
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New Year’s Day brings on the season of goal setting and resolutions. It is the time of the year where we all jump back on the hamster wheel of personal goals that we have been on year after year. Once on the wheel, we begin to review the previous year, we dust off the old January 1st, 2015 resolutions and we get frustrated when we didn’t achieve the goals we set 365 days earlier. With this frustration setting in, we set off on New Year’s Day to set new resolutions to make our lives better. The problem is that these goals are the hamster wheel as we often set the exact same goals we have set for several years, but never quite achieve. We want to lose weight, get healthier, spend more time with our loved ones, get that promotion, start that business, and make more money. We set huge goals with the right thoughts in mind, but we don’t set ourselves up for success and instead continue to run around the exact same hamster wheel year after year.
Are you tired yet of that hamster wheel? Are you tired of doing the same thing over and over again and never getting a different result? If yes, then in 2016, let’s ditch that hamster wheel and your goal setting strategy that rarely works. Lose the frustration over not achieving these goals and get in the mindset of “I am going to do things differently this year.” There are several very effective strategies for setting new resolutions that can actually have you be excited rather than frustrated at the end of 2016. For resolution success this year, try these 6 strategies:
Set 3 big goals for the year: Setting too many goals for the year will make it too hard to focus and too easy to not take the goals seriously. If we only set one goal for the year we will place way too much pressure on ourselves to achieve it because all of our eggs are in one basket. The best number of goals for the year is three because it allows for focus and some level of success even if we don’t achieve all of the goals.
Set 1 physical goal, 1 performance goal, and 1 personal goal: The physical goal should be focused on health or wellness whether it is exercising more, losing weight, or eating healthier. The performance goal should center on our career or workplace in terms of getting a certain promotion, selling a certain amount of product, or finishing that book we have been writing for 10 years. The personal goal should focus on making ourselves better in areas of our personality or demeanor that we can change such as reconnecting with old friends or spending more time to our loved ones.
Make all goals quantifiable: Goals such as “Working out more,” “Lose weight,” or “Be nicer to people,” are simply not going to work because we can’t quantify them. At the end of the year, how are we going to know if we achieved these goals? Instead our goals should focus on specific numbers that can be achieved, such as “I will lose 20 lbs,” “I will exercise 5 days per week,” or “I will make 10 improvements to my home.” Goals that have a quantifiable number will allow us to track progress along the way and realize success at the end of the year
Write out goals and place them in places we see every day: Writing out our goals on a physical piece of paper makes the goals real. Placing these goals out in places we will see regularly provides us opportunities to continue to focus on the goals throughout the year. Thinking them up in our head or putting them into our phone will not provide the foundation for success because we will forget about them. By putting them on our bathroom mirror, on our computer at work, or on the dash of our car will serve as a reminder of what we need to do every day to achieve success in these goals.
Develop a road map of smaller goals for each of the big goals: For each of the three major goals, we need to set up a road map of smaller accomplishments throughout the year. These smaller goals should be set up in a way that if we achieve them we will be taking one step closer to the overall goal. If we are trying to lose 20 lbs this year, then we should set smaller goals of working out 5 days per week or losing 3 lbs every month. Set up a road map that you can check smaller goals off when they are achieved. The smaller goals will not only help us to continue to make progress, but will allow us to achieve success along the way which will make us feel good about ourselves and keep us working towards the overall goal.
Share your goals with others who can help you: This is always a tough one because we are afraid of sharing our goals with others because they will hold us accountable when we aren’t achieving them. We worry that they will be upset at us or will criticize us if we aren’t making good decisions or actions to achieve these goals. However, by letting others know our goals then they can help us achieve the goals because they can celebrate with us when we reach smaller goals and they can help us make good decisions along the way. And no, we don’t need to let all of our Facebook friends our goals for the year, but rather let a small group of close friends, family members, or colleagues know so that we can all work together towards success.
With these 6 strategies in hand, we can all ditch the hamster wheel of the same old resolution being spun around year after year. We can actually make progress, feel better about ourselves, and achieve success! Say goodbye hamster wheel, we are getting on the road to success!
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Recently I was in a store doing some holiday shopping when I witnessed a very sad situation, particularly at this time of the year. Another shopper in the store, who had a cart full of gifts, was engaging in a conversation with an employee of the store. To say this was a conversation is putting it too nicely. The shopper was very upset that the employee did not have any more of a certain gift that was out of stock on the shelf. The employee had already checked in the back and was notifying the customer that they simply did not have any more of the item. The employee shared that he would be happy to check the stock at another store to see if they had it. He also notified the customer that trucks would be coming the next day with a delivery and that the item would probably be in stock by the end of the next day. These options were simply not sufficient for the now extremely upset customer who began yelling at the employee. Amazingly the very young employee just stood and nodded his head and continuing to restate his apologies that the item was not currently available. I was amazed at the patience of this employee, who was just a kid trying to make some money for the holidays, who clearly did not have any control over the ordering of product, and definitely did not deserve to be yelled at. I thought to myself, I wonder how many times he, and other employees at stores throughout the nation, had experienced this response during holiday shopping.
After the customer finally walked away shaking her head and muttering to herself, I approached the employee who was now busy restocking shelves. When I said, “Excuse me,” the employee looked at me with this look like “Oh no, now what did I do wrong now?” I said, “No, no, no complaints here. I just wanted to tell you that I am amazed at your patience in dealing with that customer. She had no right to yell at you. Thank you for all that you do. Best wishes for happy holidays!” The young man just smiled and said, “Thank you, happy holidays to you too!”
As I walked away I thought about the number of times that we get frustrated, upset, and angry at situations. The hustle and bustle of the holidays seems to bring out the worst in us, when it should bring out the best of us. Kids are always warned at this time of year, be careful and be on your best behavior because Santa is watching you. And yet, as adults we don’t seem to care who’s watching us or how we might be behaving. Our needs trump the needs of everyone else. We make excuses for ourselves like: “Do you know how busy I am?” “Do you know how many people I have to get gifts for?” “Do you know how many parties I have to go to this year?” “Do you know how important I am?” It is as though we let ourselves off the hook because everything we are going through is more important or more difficult than anyone else. So we have a right to treat others poorly because they are not as important as us. Sure this was a kid working at the holidays for minimum wage, and probably not as accomplished as this customer who was probably a very important person in their workplace. But there was no reason for one person to treat another person like that.
There is no denying that the holidays can be extremely busy, but we have to be very careful that we don’t allow this busyness to take over our lives and lose the opportunity to have happy holidays. I have made a it a point no matter how tired or frustrated or busy I am, to smile at others in stores, to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to those I encounter, and to make time for fun with those I care about. By simply resisting the urge to get mad, upset, or frustrated we can have happy holidays. I was still thinking about this as I drove my car out of the parking lot after that shopping trip. Those happy thoughts about others and the holidays helped me when I stopped my car for an elderly man wearing a WWII veteran hat and his wife who were crossing very, very slowly in front of me as they walked into the store. The old man waved and I waved back. It was at that time that the guy in the car behind me honked repeatedly and then tore out around me to pass. As he passed me he honked again and flipped me off. I simply waved back and smiled and thought, some people just don’t get it. He then slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting the man, and then once he had clearance peeled out of the parking lot. I started my car slowly and just shook my head thinking, “Some people just don’t get what the holidays are all about.” So I wonder then what kind of holiday season you want to have. The kind that makes everyone else around you miserable or the kind that brings a smile to their faces and spreads that holiday cheer? I think you know by now the type of season I plan to have!
by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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We all know the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Curious little Goldilocks stumbles upon an open house in the middle of the woods and proceeds to eat the bear family’s porridge, sit in their chairs, and sleep in their beds. Each time she comes across a new item in the house, she tries out all three options, one set for the little bear, one for the mid-sized bear, and one for the big bear. Each time, two of the options are not satisfactory – the porridge of the big bear is too hot, the porridge of the middle bear is too cold, but the porridge of the little bear is just right. While we are familiar with this fairy tale and have heard it plenty of times, I wonder how many of us have thought about how this tale relates to our goal setting processes.
When we set goals for our professional or personal lives, there is a process we go through in figuring out which goal to put in front of ourselves. Sometimes we choose a goal that is way beyond the possibility of achieving. While many refer to these as long term goals, they are in reality more like dreams. Using an example that so many of us are familiar with, if a person wants to lose weight, be healthier, and get in better shape, setting a goal of losing 100 pounds in the next few months is a long shot. Yes, is it possible to achieve a long-term goal, but how much work is it going to take and how many smaller goals will be needed to set up and achieve in order to get there? These types of goals are similar to the big bear’s too hot porridge; they are simply too much for us to handle at this point and it will leave us feeling dejected when we don’t hit that huge goal for a long time. This can often send us off the path as we become frustrated and eventually give up when we don’t achieve the goal. Similar to Goldilocks, we should leave this bowl of porridge, the dream, off to the side and go after different goals. I am not saying give up completely on the long term goal or dream, but instead keep it in mind and develop a set of more manageable goals that can help you take one step at a time to achieve the dream.
In a similar fashion, many of us set easy-to-accomplish goals that do not push our growth. These small goals are often more like ‘to-do-lists’ and do little to help us get to the long term goal. We often will write these out on our whiteboards or cell phones and then check them off as we accomplish them. For example, if we want to get healthier and lose weight, setting a goal of working out today will help us for one day, but leaves us without a goal for the next day. We may be able to celebrate the single day of working out, but we need a succession of winning days like that one to move towards a true goal. Similar to the middle-sized bear’s porridge that is too cold, these types of short-term goals/to-do-lists, while they help us to feel accomplished, are simply too easy to count as goals. Just as Goldilocks did with the too cold bowl of porridge, we should leave these small term goals off of our goal list and instead recognize them as aspects of achieving true goals.
In each of the situations Goldilocks faces, she ends up choosing the little bear’s porridge, chair, and bed because they taste, feel, or fit just right. When we are setting goals, we should be focused on setting goals that fit just right, with the ability to push us to grow, and yet achievable over time. There is a place for dreams and to-do-lists in all of our lives, but setting goals that fit just right will have the greatest impact on our success and growth. In the example used regarding in getting healthier and losing weight, setting goals such as to work out 5 days per week, to lose 2 lbs per week, or to limit soda intake to just one per day will fit just right. They will balance the difficult push that we need with the ability to achieve. Then as we achieve those goals and get in better shape, we will be able to extend our goals to greater difficulty and we inch every closer to our dream. This Goldilocks process can be used for our goals in any aspect of our life, not just our health, but in our personal and professional lives. So as we move closer to the season of goal setting, take a few minutes to read Goldilocks and the Three Bears and then examine your goals to see if they are a bowl of porridge that is too hot, too cold, or just right. And then sit down with that bowl that is just right and feed off of the growth and success you will achieve!
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None of us are where we are at by the sheer force of our own selves. All of us are exactly where we are at because of the support, guidance, and help of so many people who have crossed paths with us. There are countless people who have had an influence on our lives. Some have been positive, some have been negative, but the common thread for all of these people is that that they each in their own way have had an impact on our lives. We grow everyday through our interactions with others. We learn who we are by how others react to us, how others like what we are doing, and how some people don’t like what we are doing. We learn to traverse our paths in constant interactions with others who help to guide us when we get lost, to nourish us when we are struggling, and to celebrate us when we are successful.
Too often though, in our busy lives, we don’t pause long enough to seek these individuals out and say thank you. From parents to siblings, teachers to coaches, mentors to bosses, and everybody in between, we continue to move right by them in our constant pursuit of success (however we each define the notion of success). We interact with them on a regular basis – we work with them, we cry on their shoulder, we laugh with them, we learn from them, we break bread with them, we argue with them, we get lost in deep conversations about life with them – but we rarely thank them.
Thanksgiving offers a perfect opportunity to truly say thank you to all of those who have had a lasting impact on our lives. Many of us offer thanks on this holiday for the blessings upon our lives, for the food we eat, for the family we are surrounded with, but we rarely single out those people that we are thankful for. We rarely take the time to say thank you for making a difference in our lives. We rarely think deeply about all of the people who have made a difference in our lives. We rarely think about how they have impacted our lives. We rarely think about how our interaction with them has helped us to interact with others. We rarely think about how our interaction with them has helped us to be able to help others.
I know that I am thankful for all of the teachers, coaches, professors, colleagues, siblings, friends, and parents who have made me the person I am today. I would not be the person I am today without their influence on my life. Even the negative interactions with difficult family members or colleagues or students have helped to shape me and to change me as I continue to develop. Some of the most difficult students I have ever dealt with helped me to be a better teacher. They often helped me more than the students who were all-stars and never caused a problem. The reason was because they were pushing me to change, to develop new routines and strategies for dealing with issues, pushing me to be constantly changing my practice to as to connect with and make a difference for every student of mine. The same can be said for difficult colleagues who I have had to deal with. They each in their own way have helped me to grow, to change, to develop, to increase the difference that I can make.
While it may be difficult to say thank you to all of the people in our lives who have helped us – especially the ones who helped us through negative experiences – it is worth taking time over this Thanksgiving holiday to seek people out and say thank you. And if it is too difficult to find them or to connect with them or even too difficult to actually say the words thank you, it is important for our lives that we at least take a few minutes to reflect on the difference they have made for us, for our careers, for our family life, and for our success. For with this reflection on how others have made a difference in my life, I will have a greater ability to make a difference in other people’s lives. I know this Thanksgiving holiday, I am going to take time out of the busyness of the day to say thank you in my own way. And for me, it all begins with thanking my own parents for no one has had made a bigger difference on my life and my role as an educator, athlete, leader, coach, husband, and father. Thank you Mom and Dad for making a difference in my life.
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“I am just overwhelmed. Nothing seems to be going right. I feel like everything in my life is a struggle. My car wouldn’t start the other morning and the bill is huge to fix it. My son is struggling in school and I have to meet with his teacher. My house is a mess and I don’t have time to clean it. I haven’t worked out in weeks and am feeling less healthy by the day. A group of parents at my school are rallying against my recent decision on Math classes. My teachers took over our last staff meeting with complaints about our school and me. It seems everybody on Facebook is having fun and taking vacations while I don’t have time for anything. I am working hard. I am getting in early and staying late. I feel like I work every day, every night, and every weekend. I am always behind. I can’t catch up. I feel like nothing is going right in my life. I am just overwhelmed.” This was the opening statement in a recent coaching session from one of the principals who I have been coaching. It is not surprising to have one of my coachees, especially after we have developed an effective coaching relationship, to open up and share what’s going on in his or her life. But this was more than just the basic school- or job-related issues that many share with me – this was heartfelt, this was someone overwhelmed by society, this was stress.
Stress has become an all too familiar part of our lives and we tend to get overwhelmed very quickly, through a pattern of getting hit with a first wave of bad luck or a bad situation (in her case the broken down car), then we notice that more and more waves (many that are small but feel massive) seem to continue to knock at us until we are on the ocean floor surrounded by water, fighting to get to the surface. Suddenly we have this feeling that everything both professionally and personally is going against us. As I listened to her talk about the issues she was facing, I recognized that she was allowing everything to spin out of control because she was not compartmentalizing. As in the picture above, just because one bin in your life is a mess it does not mean the rest of the bins are a mess as well, but our mind tells us this is the case.
So I asked her to do an exercise with me. We took a single sheet of paper and drew 3 lines from top to bottom and 5 lines from side to side to create a set of 24 boxes. In each box, I asked her to write down an issue that she was currently facing that was causing her to feel completely overwhelmed. She filled up about 14 boxes very quickly, but then had to think hard before filling in 6 more boxes. She left 4 boxes open because she couldn’t think of any more issues. We used 4 different colored markers to put an x in each box based off of how difficult the issue was. Red x’s meant this was a life or death type of issue. Blue x’s were for very difficult issues that either would take a long time or a lot of money to fix. Black x’s were for somewhat difficult issues that could be solved with some time or some money. Green x’s were for issues that weren’t really a big deal or could be solved very quickly. After completing this, I noticed that she had 1 red (e.g. health), 4 blues (e.g., broken car), 5 blacks (e.g., son struggling in school), and 10 greens (e.g. finding time to relax). For the 4 remaining empty boxes, I had her draw a symbol that makes her smile, which she drew a sun with a smiley face and sunglasses in each.
I then started to talk her through her Compartmentalized Issue Chart. I said, “Wow, the way you started out, I thought I would need to get about 10 pages of boxes to fill out your chart.” She laughed, which meant we had made an initial step. “You only have 20 issues to deal with right now, that doesn’t sound like everything is going wrong in your life,” I continued, “in fact, there are 10 issues here that you noted aren’t even that big of an issue, so really we are looking at 10 issues that are causing you to feel overwhelmed.” She replied, “Yeah, I guess when you put it that way, it isn’t much. But it is all just so…” I put my hand up before she could finish, “Wait a minute, let’s not go there. I mean you couldn’t even fill out the entire sheet. Look at the smiley suns with sunglasses.” She smiled again, another note that we were making progress.
We then made a list of 10 things she could do right away to turn the 10 green x’s into 10 more suns. Then we selected the most important x in each of the red, blue, and black categories and place a checkmark next to it in yellow (the same color as the suns). Then we talked through one strategy for each of these 3 that she could take moving forward, not to turn it into a sun, but rather to move it down 1 color of less significance. For example, for the 1 red x, the broken car, we devised a plan to have her borrow a car from her parents (something she did not want to have to do, but we talked about how giving in in one area could reduce her stress seriously overall). We did the same for the blue and black key x. As she left the coaching session, she now had a set of 10 immediate, quick things she could do to turn her green x’s into suns, and 3 strategies for beginning to address her red, blue, and black x’s.
What is amazing is that while I was there to coach her on being a better educational leader, we had realized that the issues she was facing in her personal life had begun to seep into her professional life and vice versa. She had talked about being so upset and overwhelmed about her car, health, and son, that she had missed the warning signs that her staff and school parents weren’t happy. She was drowning in her inability to compartmentalize. This simple and fun exercise didn’t solve every problem and did not instantly take away the overwhelming feeling. That takes time. But what it did do was allow her to break down the overwhelming feeling into compartments and then take each one of these and address them. It is something we should all be thinking about in this current era of feeling overwhelmed and pressured. By compartmentalizing we are able to recognize that not everything is going badly, and that some of the issues we face aren’t really that big and can be quickly dealt with. When we compartmentalize, we are able to recognize that just because one bin is a mess, it doesn’t automatically mean the rest of the bins are a mess as well.
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When my kids were little they were having a rough morning filled with not listening, arguing, and having trouble getting along – you know all of the things kids do with their siblings. I pulled them aside for a talk and started with, “You both need to turn it around.” The next thing I know, both kids literally turned around in their place, a full 360° spin before facing me again. I didn’t know what to do – I mean I wanted to burst into laughter, but this was a serious conversation. Not knowing what to do next since the rest of my speech on behaving well and getting along seemed to have had the air let out of it by their turnarounds, I just said, “Good job, now let’s go back to having fun.” The two of them ran off and the rest of the day went great.
Now I know what you are thinking, “Yeah sure, if only things were that easy” or “Yeah well it works with his kids, but he doesn’t know my kids.” After the success of this with my own children, I began to use this as a strategy in my classroom as well. When kids were having a tough time in class, such as not getting along with others, I would talk to the kid on the side and have them do this literal turnaround. It worked particularly well with students who I was having a tough time getting through to, or who were caught up in arguing with me. There was something about going through this simple spin that brings new perspective on the situation, as I believe the kids take their attention off of the conversation with the adult or the problem they are having with the other kid because they have to think about the movement of spinning their body. I admit that I am still amazed at how well this literal turnaround works, and yes, it is not foolproof, as there have been many times where we had to keep working on behavior and attitudes after the turnaround spin.
As I saw the successful use of this with my students, I thought about how this literal turnaround could help us as adults when faced with difficult problems or conversations. It happens to all of us throughout our day, we get frustrated or upset at a situation or a person. I have now tried to take this approach in my dealings with colleagues and friends. I strongly advise against doing what I did the first time I tried this new method when I did a literal spin in front of the person I was dealing with. Let’s just say this didn’t help out immediately because I think the person thought I was literally crazy! To avoid being seen as crazy, but still getting the positive vibe of the turnaround, try doing one or both of two things.
First while in the difficult conversation – maybe it is with a colleague who is heavily criticizing you or with a student’s parent who is hassling you over your teaching – try consciously thinking in your head about literally moving your body around in a complete circle. This conscious thought will often help you get a new framework or perspective on the situation and will often tone down the frustration you might be feeling. It is like the old school “count to ten,” but with a more conscious effort at changing your perspective. The second method comes after the situation is over when you return to your cubicle, office, or classroom. At that point, stop and think about what you were just dealing with and how it was troubling you and then do a literal turnaround. You will be amazed at the impact it will have on your perspective, feelings, and frustration.
As I mentioned previously, this is not a foolproof plan for dealing with every problem, but as you put it into greater practice you will feel the impact. I use this tactic when working with school leaders and teachers. In the middle of my workshops, especially when we are stuck in a conversation that is not going anywhere, I have everyone in the room stand up and literally turnaround. We repeat this as many times as needed to get the conversation moving forward again (obviously don’t do it consecutively where everyone ends up dizzy)! So the next time you are having a tough time, or are frustrated, or notice a conversation with a group is not going anywhere, stop and literally turnaround! In no time, you will feel the change that my little ones feel when they do their spin!