We’ve seen momentum shifts in games: it happens in basketball games where one team seems to drain every shot. The other team looks flat-footed and tosses nothing but bricks.
On the other hand, we rarely examine a momentum shift in our own lives. We may say it’s fate or luck, but as the saying goes, we make our own luck.
As an executive coach at HP, I became a fan of positive psychology. It’s a powerful tool for life and business effectiveness. Whereas most of psychology prior to 1998 had been focused on negative deviance from the “norm” of mental health, APA president Martin Seligman and others decided to focus on positive deviance, like success.
Consider the New Year’s resolution. We pass through this liminal dimension without examination. By spring, we usually bemoan our failed New Year’s resolutions. (Are you still keeping up with yours? Or do you even remember it?).
Rarely do we examine the liminal doorway we passed through from success to failure (i.e. moving from the decision to lose weight or tackle a sales challenge to trying to recall what that resolution was in the first place).
The solution? Consider this insight from Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.
What if you were to put that process of decline into slow motion, dissect the steps that led to the decline and then arrest it before it begins?
If instead, as I proudly did this morning, you bound out of bed and choose to first compose a blog, do an in-depth analysis of a client portfolio, meditate/pray, or some other proactive decision, imagine how much progress you can make on fighting the fires that keep you from building your business (refer to last week’s blog).
Our impatience with responsiveness—consider your impatience to wait five seconds for a link to load—carries over to decision making. If it takes more than 20 seconds to do a good but difficult habit, it’s likely we’ve already lost the battle.
Achor relates an experiment he did on himself. He decided he wanted to start playing guitar again so he set out to resurrect that practice. He knew that if he could keep it up for 21 days, he’d be hooked on this positive new habit. Much to his chagrin, he found after three weeks of keeping track, he had only 3 check marks on his calendar.
Dissecting the issue, he realized that the 20 seconds it took him to walk across the room, get his guitar out of the closet, and take it out of the case was just enough effort to thwart his decision to play his guitar daily. It took too much initiation energy.
His solution was to buy a $2 guitar stand, take his guitar out of the case, and leave it on the stand in the middle of the room. Voilà! He removed the barrier to cultivating that new habit and was not only able to practice 21 days in a row, he was still at it when he wrote the book.
Guess who needs to get a cello stand?
Make a decision today, schedule it in your calendar, and go public—tell a colleague or friend.
Consider these steps:
- Choose a new habit you want to acquire.
- Analyze what you can do to lower the initiation threshold of that task: what makes it hard to do that task? Then plot a course of action to lower that threshold.
- Write out this declaration: I, [your name], will [do a specific action] starting [date and time] for 21 days. I will tell [colleague’s name] by phone/in person today. I will keep a record.
Consider sharing with us: what obstacles did you remove? How is your experiment going?