I’ve kept a diary since I was 14. Given the New Year is the traditional time of resolutions, in the interests of empirical research I took a trip up to the loft to review 30 years of progress.
Turns out my observations were less Samuel Pepys, more Adrian Mole. (Example: “Went to village shop. Bought cat food.”) Every entry ends with, “Went to bed” to eliminate any possibility of doubt, and self awareness is low: “Told the parents I wouldn’t be moving back home afterall. They took it quite well.” However, when it comes to resolutions, trends emerge. Not content with one or two, throughout the 1980s I commit to a minimum of ten life-changing actions to occur before the year’s end. The usual suspects regularly appear – lose weight, spend less – whilst a heartfelt “GIVE UP GIN!” was clearly written on the wrong side of a hangover. By the 1990s the list is even longer and vaguer and is now rechristened, ‘GOALS’: “Work really hard”, “Think about my career – like what it’s to be” and… “Have a good year.” (My end of year summary comment “Debatable”.) One outlier appears around 1991 – “Rave”. Reader, I did.
As the years carry on, a certain amount of retro-fitting happens. It’s easy to achieve your goals if they’re doing things you’re doing anyway. I’ve had no problem with “Read more” or “Go to the cinema more”, which have appeared every January for a good 20 years, but I’ve yet to “Write a book” or “Get in the lightweight rowing squad”, which is one ship that has definitely sailed.
So what could change this year, to not make 2018’s end of year summing up as pathetic as 1990’s? (“One out of ten isn’t bad”) and to stretch ambition to cover things that I wouldn’t be doing anyway. How can I, as Jack Nicolson said in The Witches of Eastwick, “Get some size into it”?
This year, I’ve decided to practise what I preach. Instead of only coaching others, I’m going to get myself a coach. Is that it? you may be saying. Really? A coach? Yawn. How very 2005.
But I believe in coaching. If I look back on my best achievements (and there have been some, despite the above) they’ve happened as a result of being coached – in sport. So now it’s time to try coaching for business, and for life.
One of the great benefits of a coach is their outside, objective viewpoint, against which you evaluate your behaviour, the issues you face and the options available to deal with them. Coaching helps to clarify situations, puts things in perspective, opens up options for action and creates a framework for making important decisions. But if you don’t have either the time or cash to commit to regular coaching, you can still self-coach.
Write down the facts of your situation. Imagine someone you trust telling you what the facts look like to them. Or what you would say to a friend in the same situation. We tend to believe what we want to believe, which accords with our world view or self-limiting beliefs. Keep perspective. Most of the time we know when we are deluding ourselves. Accept it, change something, move on. I know now that I’ll never be a lightweight GB rower, but I can still row for fun.
Coaching is often about growth. I quite like being in my comfort zone. However, too much of a good thing can be boring, so if you fancy getting out of yours, catch yourself when you say, “I can’t do that”, and ask yourself, “I know you can’t, but if you could, what would you do?” Acknowledge your gut reaction and open up the possibilities so you give yourself more options. And then do it.
And, if you want to keep a record of your progress, consider keeping a diary…
This article was originally published in British Airways Business Life Magazine, December 2017/January 2018.
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