Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Don’t think of a pink giraffe with blue spots

August 30, 2011 8 comments

What happens when I say that to you?  yup, it’s pretty much impossible to NOT think of something that’s drawn to your attention.  That is where your focus goes.  Also your unconscious mind doesn’t hear the word ‘don’t’ and only hears the rest of the instruction.

“Don’t forget to call me”, “I want to lose weight”, “Mind the kerb”.  All of these contain embedded commands to do exactly what you don’t want.  So this may explain why people don’t do as you ask (or think you asked!), why you don’t achieve your goals and why you fell off your bike  – because your thinking and language is ‘problem focused’ or ‘away from’ rather than ‘outcome focused’ or ‘towards’.  You’re not alone – this error is made by large organisations too: ‘don’t walk on the grass’, ‘don’t forget your green bags’.

Problem focused thinking can also be hugely demotivating – I once worked for a Director who was an absolute master of it – he took us all away to a conference which I think was meant to motivate us to greater things – but by the time we’d heard about what would happen if we didn’t up our game, how the team numbers would be cut, how our budgets would be reduced, how our status would drop we were all feeling thoroughly depressed and the confidence and optimism we’d arrived with just melted away with his words.

Some organisations have a whole culture of problem thinking, constantly looking for things to stop doing eg saving costs or failing to celebrate achievements before moving on to the next thing.  Learning from mistakes is fine – but do you also learn from what went right?!

This type of thinking is so contagious – I’m finding it really hard to write this post whereas I find they normally flow very easily!  I hope you’re not finding it as difficult to read – oh no! I mean “I hope you’re finding it easy and enjoyable to read”.Focus on the outcome you want

So what do you do instead?

  • As ever the first step to changing your thinking is to be aware of it – notice it yourself or ask a colleague or coach to draw your attention to it.  Do many of your sentences start with “I don’t want to…”
  • If you have a problem to solve ask yourself  “what do I want instead”? for instance, change “I don’t want to get bogged down with this” to “I want to be really focused with this”.
  • If you have a goal express it in the positive – not “I want to reduce customer complaints” but “I want 99% of our customers to be delighted with our service”
  • Focus on the outcome you want and vision it  “Whatever you create in your life you must first create in your imagination” – Tycho Photiou.

What are your experiences? – please share them in the comments below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo: © Tomasz Trojanowski –

How do you sabotage yourself?

August 1, 2011 2 comments

The thing about sabotage of course is that it’s secret and stealthy, which means you don’t know it’s happening.  The same applies whether someone else is doing it to you or whether you are doing it to yourself!  sounds bizarre?  why would anyone sabotage themselves you may ask? well that is the difference I suppose, that at least it’s done with purpose if it’s done to someone or something else.  When you do it to yourself  it’s accidental and you don’t even realise – until a helpful coach draws your attention to it that is!

Here are a few self-sabotaging techniques I’ve seen work really well:

  • self-deprecating humour which tells everyone “I’m a joke” – then wonder why no one takes you seriouslysabotage or listens to your words of wisdom
  • starting presentations by apologising, for instance for how boring the subject is or how little time you’ve had to prepare – ie inviting your audience be bored by you or look for mistakes or anything that’s not quite as polished as it might be
  • focusing on what you don’t want to happen – like when you ride a bike and think “I mustn’t hit that kerb” – what do you do….?  Henry Ford, of Ford Motors fame,  said “whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”  (Not sure if that was before or after he said “you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black” :)) In other words if you think you can do something you’ll find a way, if you think you can’t do it you’ll also find ways to fail (consciously or unconsciously!)
  • failing to ‘Begin with the end in mind’[1] or to set yourself some BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)[2] – a manager said to me only a few days ago that he needed to think through the steps before envisioning the outcome – but how can you plan what you’re going to do if you don’t know where you want to end up?!

I know these work, I’ve tried them myself!

So how to set yourself up for success rather than failure? here are some tips taking the examples above – and I know these work too, because I use them myself:

  • examine your sense of humour – it’s wonderful to have a GSOH but what DO you make jokes and quips about?  if it’s about yourself and not complimentary listen to what others are witty about and see what you can learn – you don’t want to lose your sense of humour, just refocus it
  • at presentations focus on your audience rather than on yourself – what are they going to gain from listening to you, how can you make it great for them?
  • focus your attention on what you want and what you are capable of, not the things that can go wrong or what you don’t want to happen
  • think about what you really want and envision it

More on envisioning for your success next time as this is such a powerful technique for achieving what you want.

In the meantime – how do you sabotage yourself? – or how have you stopped sabotaging yourself?  do post your thoughts below and let’s share our collective wisdom.  (What’s the worst that can happen?)  I really look forward to hearing from you.


[1] Stephen Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Successful people

[2] James C Collins and Jerry I Porras: Built to Last

Photo © Sara Robinson –