Have you ever wondered if you were one of the few who doesn’t have any discipline or willpower? If so, how can you succeed when most goals worth accessing require a certain amount of persistence?
27% of stressed out people state that a lack of willpower stopped a change they wanted to achieve
Studies show that people with more self-control, or willpower, do better in life
Creative Geniuses appear to have less willpower than most because of different brain wiring
The more you have to use willpower in the day, the more your “bank of willpower” gets depleted and you have less willpower – it leads to more decision fatigue
You deplete your willpower far less if you are in a positive mood, have a strong belief that persistence will lead to success and have a good overall attitude
Willpower can be strengthened through practice and using strategies such as avoiding
Use implementation intention if / then statements to manage persistence and obstacles to persistence,
for example, if you chose to write every morning at 6 am you can state and make arrangements to, as Mary did, “if it’s 6 am, then I’ll be writing”.
If you can anticipate obstacles you can state something like, “if my friends call when I had planned to write, then I will let them know I can’t talk to them right now, but will quickly schedule a time for me to call/ or I won’t answer the call”
As we’ve seen, it’s much easier to reach goals using small consistent actions than it is to try to do everything at once. If you were able to make those small consistent actions without thinking about them, you wouldn’t need willpower to reach your goal. The way to do this is to turn those routines, the small consistent actions that move you toward your goal into a habit.
Let’s look at how to do that. Turning those actions into a habit requires three components: a trigger, a routine and a reward. Let’s dive into each of these elements. A trigger is an event that occurs in your environment that tells you it’s time to start the routine. A routine is simply a series of steps that when completed in the same order allow you to reach a consistent result. The reward, of course, is a motivator – it can be external to the routine or integral to it.
So let’s look at an example of the “habit loop.” When you are hungry, your stomach growls (the trigger), you raid your pantry or the staffroom refrigerator for food, heat it up and eat it (all these steps are the routine) and your hunger is abated (the reward).
Let’s apply this same model to a goal you might want to reach: Getting in shape.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s much easier to reach this goal through a series of consistent actions, such as exercising every day, than it is to do it all at once. You can’t get to the Olympics by being a couch potato for three years and then working non-stop for the last year!
Step 1: Consider the routine first. When you apply this strategy to reach goals such as getting in shape by exercising every day, you’ll always want to look at the routine first. In this case, let’s say you decide you want to run for 30 minutes every morning before work. If you haven’t run in a while, you might need to start with running 5 minutes a day.
Step 2: Identify a trigger that will remind you it’s time to put on your runners and pound the pavement. Triggers can be auditory cues such as reminders or alerts on your phone, visual cues such as keeping your runners next to your bed so your feet hit your shoes first when you wake up. A trigger can also be an event such as waking up or eating breakfast. Choose one or more triggers to see what works best for you. You decide to set your alarm an hour before you usually wake up and to put your shoes next to your bed.
Step 3: Determine how you will stay motivated to continue. ”Ideally the reward comes naturally as a result of the routine. In this case, feeling healthy is its own reward, but you may need to spice things up, at least until you start feeling the health benefits of running. You may decide to reward yourself with a small piece of dark chocolate (my favorite!), read a magazine you enjoy, watch a couple of cat videos on YouTube, spend time with friends, etc. The key is that the reward must be motivating for you. Eventually, these three elements will be linked in your mind so that the trigger will not only remind you of the routine but also of the promise of the reward you’ll get from completing the routine.
One client who works in real estate wanted to increase his listings. He decided to use the Habit Loop to help make it happen. He chose his trigger as an appointment he had twice a week with a junior real estate agent he wanted to mentor to make calls.
The routine that would lead to more listings was to call more prospects, among other things. However, he struggled to get this done, so he looked at a reward that might help motivate him.
His reward initially was to have several prospective listings to visit. His ultimate reward was to increase his standing in the real estate brokerage firm he was associated with.
The Habit Loop works for everyone, but as a creative genius, just remember that your rewards need to occur relatively quickly after completion of the routine.
How You Can Use This
So now your it’s your turn. What results are you looking for?
Step 1: What is a routine that will help you progress toward that result?
Step 2: What trigger can you use to set the routine in motion?
Step 3: What reward will you get?
Will it be intrinsic to the routine or will you create an artificial one while you wait for your desired results? (To play it safe, use both!)
Once you’ve established a strong Habit Loop, you can count on reaching your goal automatically. You won’t need to think about it, and it really will feel like you could succeed in your sleep! Master the power of the Habit Loop and you’ll be able to easily achieve goals you once thought were out of your reach.
In the first part of this lesson, Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses: The Big Why, we looked at how important it is to have a good reason you want to accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. It doesn’t matter if you call it a goal, an objective a desire or a New Year’s Resolution. Regardless of how important the objective is to the people around you, and that includes everyone from your boss to your children, you’re unlikely to achieve it unless you have a compelling “why” that will keep you motivated when you just feel like giving up.
Today, we’ll learn about a strategy that will make reaching your goals much more likely and more predictable.
Achieving most worthwhile goals require some repeated actions on a consistent basis. Achieving a goal that doesn’t require a continued effort and repeated action is usually not a challenge for creative geniuses. You’re here at your desk and you want to go to the fridge for a drink. This is a goal that will require a small effort over a relatively short period of time. On top of that, the motivation is built in. That drink is going to taste great!
No, the goals that challenge creative geniuses are those that require you to sustain your effort for a long period of time, and that effort includes doing things you’ll find difficult or worse, boring! For example, if you’re trying to increase sales in your business, you can’t just pick the next name on the list and go sell them something. Not every person you talk to is a prospect, and not every prospect becomes a customer. In order to increase sales, you must increase the number of people you speak with. Some of those people will become prospects. If you speak to more people, you’ll have more prospects. Then, you need to pitch to more prospects. Some of those prospects will become customers. If you pitch to more prospects, more prospects will become clients. Only a sustained, consistent effort will result in more sales.
Let’s look at another example. If you want to be and feel healthy, you must consistently sleep better, you must exercise more and you must eat more nutritious meals. You will not have a healthy lifestyle if you stay up all night every night and then sleep 50 hours on the weekend. You cannot eat junk food every day for lunch and hope to recuperate by eating nothing but vegetables on the weekend. (Besides, you’re supposed to be catching up on your sleep, remember!)
If you want an organized home, you’ll be much more successful if you determine a place for each item and get in the habit of putting things away where they go right after you’re finished with them than you will if you do a “spring cleaning” every other week. Clutter is impossible to stay ahead of any way but with small, consistent actions.
To achieve the goals that preoccupy most creative geniuses, the key to success is a series of small actions that move you in the right direction repeated routinely. Alone, these small steps look easy, and they are easy! Anyone can eat one healthy, balanced meal. It’s easy to get to bed on time once. The challenge is to do it again, and again. The thing is, it really isn’t any more difficult to eat balanced meal every day than it is to do it once. A healthy meal is the result of a series of identifiable, repeatable steps. Every time you follow those steps, the result is predictably a healthy, balanced meal. We call those series of repeatable steps that give a consistent result a routine. How then do you ensure you repeat those same series of steps over and over until you achieve you ultimate goal: good health? The best way to consistently get the same results is to turn that routine into a habit.
A habit is simply a routine that you’ve repeated so many times that it has become mechanical. You’ve followed that same series of steps so many times that the new pathways you created in your brain to allow you to prepare a healthy, nutritious meal have become four-lane highways. Your automatic reaction to hunger is to prepare a healthy meal. No thought is required.
Habits become so ingrained they become the easiest way for you to act. This reduces the amount of energy you use to accomplish those repeated steps. The human brain is bombarded daily, with stimuli it must react to, with choices it must make decisions about and problems it must solve, that it welcomes, and even encourages you, to use routines and habits. In fact, without routines and habits, you’d find it very difficult to get out of bed – the decisions you’d need to make before you even left that house would leave you exhausted!
You can reach any goal that’s important to you, break it down into a series of repeatable steps or routines, and turn those routines into habits. Creating those routines and adopting habits that help you progress toward your objectives reduces the energy you must expend. In fact, this is the easiest way to achieving almost anything.
So, given the goal you’ve set for yourself, what routine could you create that would move you in the right direction? Once you have a routine that delivers consistent results, repeat that routine again and again until it becomes a habit. Once you’ve created that habit, success is inevitable!
In the next part of this series, I’ll share a model you can use to help you turn those routines into habits more effectively.
By Linda Walker
This is the time of the year, after indulging during the holidays, when many of us decide to buckle down and set new goals or targets for ourselves in the coming year. Creative geniuses often set big goals. Big goals have the power to energize and inspire, especially when the going gets tough; however, big goals are usually long term goals and that can often spell trouble for you.
You see, Creative Geniuses, a term I use to describe people with out-of-the-box thinking such as entrepreneurs and people with ADHD, are interest-based performers who need the quick payoff of shorter goals to stay motivated. In addition, many ambitious creative geniuses think big but, faced with then taking action, don’t know where to start. Add to that a sometimes limited level of belief in your ability to reach your goal, and your stick-to-it-iveness will be tested many times. If your goal seems too “pie-in-the-sky” or feels too out of reach, only a strong belief in your ability to eventually succeed will keep you going, or not. You’ve heard the old adage: “if you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”.
On the other hand, many who’ve tried and failed too many times limit themselves by only setting small goals. The problem with this approach is that when you choose goals that don’t move you out of your comfort zone, even if you manage to reach your goal, it doesn’t feed your need for accomplishment. You know you didn’t have to stretch so you don’t respect the achievement. Of course, small goals aren’t very exciting and so don’t have the same power to motivate. So what should you do?
If you’re a creative genius who wants to aim higher and accomplish more, the first thing you need to do is to think about the change you want to make happen in your life and get clear on why it’s important to you. Keep digging deeper. Once you have found a first reason it’s important to you, ask why that’s important to you. Then ask why THAT is important to you and so on. Keep digging deeper until you reach a reason that really resonates emotionally with you.
Here’s an example: many people want to be wealthy and set a big financial goal for themselves. The problem is that, oddly enough, even if it’s a big number, the dream of being wealthy is not a compelling one. As soon as you hit some bumps along the way, you’re very likely to resign yourself to your current lifestyle. But go a step further and ask why it is important to be wealthy? “I want to be able to quit my job”, you answer. Then ask, why is quitting your job important? “I hate that my job takes me away from home”. Why is it important not to be away from home? “Because I want to spend more time with my spouse and kids”. And why is that important to you? “Because I want to be a bigger part of their lives”. And why is that important? “Because I love them and I cherish every moment I can be with them and I want to guide my kids through all the experiences life has to offer them.” Ah ha! Now we’re talking!
Once you have a reason that really resonates with you emotionally, when you face setbacks, and you will face setbacks if you’re reaching high, which is more likely to keep you going? The thought of having a lot of money? Or the dream of being present in your children’s lives and being able to share all sorts of wonderful experiences with them? So the real goal is to have more time and more freedom so you can be a bigger part of your family’s life. Your goal is really not be wealthy. The great thing is, there are ways to break that goal down into smaller steps with the possibility of spending more time with your family showing up as a reward much sooner than the time required for you to achieve sufficient wealth to quit your job.
The next time we talk, I’ll show you how to set yourself up to take action toward whatever change you want in your life.
Rick Green, creator of the TotallyADD.com Website and of several documentaries, including the notable, ADD and Loving It, talks about his struggles with inattention, how it affected his productivity, how he improved his ability to focus, and a surprising outcome.
Ever notice how so many of us work longer hours, cutting into our lunch breaks and home life, in a quest to get more done, yet our inbox pile keeps getting higher, our unanswered emails keep stacking up, and our to-do lists verge on becoming a to-do book?
We proudly wear the “busy” label as a badge of honor that means we’re dedicated and going places, when in reality all we’re doing is spinning our wheels. What are we really dedicated to? Achieving better results? Or squandering our personal time doing “busy work” (and doing it ineffectively and inefficiently on top of that!) This is especially true of adults with ADHD, except your “busy” badge is rooted more in shame than in pride.
I’m not implying that you’re doing this on purpose. In fact, you’re working exactly the way you’ve been taught. The problem, of course, is that you’ve been taught wrong. People with ADHD often don’t know there’s a better way to work, a way that makes you more productive but with less work. So what’s the secret? The one no one ever told you because they were too busy telling you to work harder, put your nose to the grind stone and work, work, work.
Productive Vs. Busy
Truly productive people work smarter not harder. While “busy” people focus on the hours they spend on something, productive people have learned to value attention. But you’re thinking “Hey wait a minute, Linda! I have ADHD, if attention is required to be productive and work less, I’m doomed! That’s what “Attention Deficit” means”.
Well, that’s a common myth, but like all myths, it’s dead wrong. You are capable of paying attention for longer periods of time than you ever imagined, longer even than those people who started the myth that you can’t focus! I’m talking about hours, not minutes of additional focus at a time. And under the right conditions, you can even do it consistently every day.
There’s a Pattern
Your periods of focus-ability tend to occur following approximately the same schedule each day. Yes, you can almost set your watch by it because, under the right conditions, you can have two periods each day when you have sufficient mental energy to tackle long tasks that require you to be focused. And with the right approach, those periods of attention are pure gold, no platinum, in terms of increased productivity! So how do you discover when your productivity platinum mind appears?
You start by paying attention to how you’re paying attention. Monitor how you are able to pay attention at different times throughout your day. Do it over a few days, and you will see a pattern begin to emerge. Keep watching and before long, you’ll realize that your pattern is so consistent, it’s actually predictable, and once it becomes predictable, you’re in charge!
On Tuesday, October 18th at 8 pm EST (5 pm PST), I’ll be holding a Facebook Live Event on my Facebook page.
ADHDers struggle with remembering information they received moments before, this is a little-known fact but a major issue
During this 45- to 60-minute live Facebook session, I will explain the root causes of the challenges ADHDers face with their memory, the negative impacts it has on your life and I’ll provide 5 strategies to overcome it and its frustrating impacts.
I’ll even let you in on what completely changed my view of ADHD in my husband and my personal experience with ADHD.
When: Tuesday, October 18th at 8 pm EST (5 pm PST)
I often get questions from spouses of adults with ADHD about how to help their ADHDer. To answer the largest number of queries on this subject, I have decided to make it the subject of my very first Facebook Live event.
And so, I am excited to announce my first Facebook Live event, which will air on Thursday, September 22nd at 7:30 pm EST – 4:30 pm PST, called How to Support Your ADHD Spouse.
During this mini-conference, I’ll share with you the 5 top strategies that helped me support my husband, Duane, who was the poster-child for ADHD.
You’ll have the opportunity to ask your burning questions on the subject of supporting your spouse with ADHD in the comments box on my Facebook page, from which the event will be streamed and I’ll respond live. The event will last 30 to 45 minutes.
Now, this is a first experience and so we’ll discover together where it will take us so I’m hoping you’ll join me.
Some of you may not know this but my youngest daughter moved out on her own last year. Kyrie struggles with ADHD and severe learning disabilities. To make matters worse, like many ADHDers, she has very low motivation from low levels of dopamine in her brain.
As a result, her apartment looks like a tornado just went through it. She doesn’t like to stay in her apartment when she’s not at work because it distracts her; she’s unable to relax and it’s far from a calming environment, so she goes out and spends money she doesn’t have just to stay away from that demoralising environment.
I’ve offered to help her get organized, but she has never been interested because she knows it won’t be all that enjoyable. Recently, I came across an interesting approach to organizing proposed by Marie Kondo, a Japanese woman who has written a couple books on the subject based on her work helping organize people’s homes in Japan. I read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in hopes that her method could help my readers with ADHD. While some of the strategies are far from being ADHD friendly, there are some strategies that, I believe, are promising.
It’s a Two Step Process
Step 1: Discard then Step 2: decide where to store: The first strategy is to discard. I believe that the fewer items you have, the less you have to manage. (This is why businesses hold big sales BEFORE they do inventory- fewer things to count!)
Tackle one category of things at a time: Kondo advocates gathering all items in one category in the same place before you begin and she means everything (but, remember, only in one category at a time) – this gives you a better idea of what you own. She recommends you:
Start with clothes – that includes accessories, socks, shoes, belts and outdoor apparel such as mitts and scarves
Then move to books
Documents and various papers
And finish with mementos (the things you keep that have no purpose except to remind of you something) – they’re the hardest to deal with because of the sentimental value.
This doesn’t sound much different than other approaches so far, but when I spoke to Kyrie about the part I loved the most about this method, she was intrigued and eager to try it out.
Finding the Joy
Kondo insists her clients take each item in their hands and ask themselves: “Does this spark joy?” If it does not, thank it for either giving you joy when you bought it or for teaching you what doesn’t suit you, and then discard it for good. So last Sunday afternoon, Kyrie and I gathered every article of clothing in her apartment, put them on her made bed, and divided them into sub-categories such as:
Bottoms (including shorts, pants and skirts)
Then, starting with tops, Kyrie picked up each item and asked the question “Does this spark joy?” Anything that didn’t, we put in a bag to give to Goodwill or, if it was damaged, into the garbage it went.
It was amazingly easy for her to make the decision because the contrast in her mood when she picked up an item that sparked joy compared to when it didn’t was so great. She’d exclaim “Mom, I just feel so beautiful when I wear this” or “I just love, LOVE this color on me”. She didn’t have to convince me that she should keep it. I could see the joy on her face.
Some Items Are Heavy
Some items didn’t spark joy; they sparked guilt. These were often items she kept because they had been gifts from me or her sister. They had served their purpose, but she kept them because they came from people she loves and she didn’t want to disappoint or hurt us. I encouraged her to thank those items for the love they represented and then let them go.
In no time, we plowed through all her clothing. As we completed each category of clothing, Kyrie decided where to store that category and we folded each item.
Folding For the ADHD Brain
Out of sight, out of mind; ADHDers quickly forget about things they don’t see. So if you know that if you don’t see something, you forget about it, why on Earth would you fold your clothes and store them one on top of the other in a drawer, or, as many of you do, shove them, unfolded, in your dresser?
If an item sparks joy, you want to be able to see it when you open your dresser. So Kondo recommends that you fold all your items so they are stored vertically in a way that allows you to see every piece when you open the drawer.
You don’t want everything to get wrinkled – who has time to iron everything before you put it on – but rolling the clothes keeps them visible and prevents them from getting wrinkled. Kyrie and I folded the clothes two or three times lengthwise, then, being careful to remove the creases, we rolled them up and placed them in the drawer.
Within two hours (and we took a break to go shopping for a few supplies in the middle), we were done. I was so inspired by this approach, I started to implement it with my own clothes. I’ve included pictures of my drawers so you can see what it looks like.
Is This Sustainable?
Kyrie brings her laundry to my house once a week to save on laundromat fees, so a new habit she will start implementing (and I’ll help her by doing it too), is that as we are passing time together, she’ll roll up her clothes before she leaves and then put them away as soon as she gets home.
Do all your clothes spark joy? If not, thank them and get rid of them. If you haven’t worn something for a long time, is it because you’ve forgotten about it? Or is there guilt associated with it? Get rid of it and allow it to spark joy in someone else.
Want To Give It A Try?
Make your bed
Gather all your articles of clothing and place them on your bed (and I mean everything!)
Divide them into categories as I mentioned (see the list above)
Then tackle one pile at a time; hold each item in your hand and ask “Does this spark joy?”
After each type of clothing (tops for example) is sorted, roll up the ones you’re keeping (blouses and dresses should probably be hung up) and put them away where you’ve chosen to store them.
In this article, the third in this series, I explain the best way to solve the problem you’ve identified once you’re aware of its source (or sources).
You know the cause of your problem, what’s next?
So you have a pretty good idea of what’s causing your most vexing problem, what should you do next? Most of us think, “Well, stop whatever’s causing the problem!” Ah, if only it were that easy.
The good news is, there are almost certainly several ways to solve the problem, just as there may be many sources at the root of it. Remember, though, it’s very likely that solving your most vexing problem may take a few more steps and a little more effort than, say, turning off a light. However, while this may sound counterintuitive, if you want to make progress quickly, start by asking yourself this question: What is the smallest significant step I can take towards solving the problem? Don’t try to change or fix everything at once; pick one small, but meaningful, thing, and change that.
When our financial awareness-building exercise revealed we were overspending on small purchases – we were both shocked to discover Duane was spending $200 per month on soft drinks alone and I was spending the same amount on coffee – we looked at ways to cut only on those purchases. We didn’t try to refinance the mortgage, get another job or begin growing our own food. Those might also be good ideas, but when you try to fix everything at once, you often sabotage your own efforts.
Instead, we asked, “What’s one small, but significant, change we can make to help solve our problem?” Duane began to purchase his soft drinks at the supermarket instead of from the soda machine, saving a whopping $1.50 per drink (75%) and I started making some coffee at home; I’d drink my first coffee of the day at home, and then fill a travel mug for my second. Only buying one coffee per day instead of three saved 67%.
Starting one small step at a time
Nick, who was on the verge of a burnout, realized several behaviors were reducing his productivity. He wasted a lot of time on emails each morning, said “yes” way too often and jumped from one task to another because he didn’t plan his priorities each day. He knew he’d go a long way to solving his productivity issues if he had a clear plan of what he wanted to do with his time throughout the day. He decided his small but significant step would be to start planning. He didn’t start planning his whole week right away, because that would have been too big a step and he would have been overwhelmed. Instead, at the end of each work day, he identified his top three priorities for the next day and wrote them on a post-it note in front of his computer. Seeing those first things reminded him what his priorities were. He committed to only checking his emails in the afternoon, once the three priority tasks were completed.
The only approach that guarantees success
If you want to “fix” the problems ADHD is causing in your life, the only approach that guarantees success is to start with a small step and work your way up. Changing everything at once doesn’t work. Even changing multiple things at once doesn’t work. When you make too many changes in your life, you get too far out of your comfort zone. No one can sustain changes that are too uncomfortable.
You can also help yourself succeed in maintaining your changes by developing small support systems. For Nick, his system was as simple as having a post-it on his computer monitor that said “Check Your Calendar”. For Duane, it was writing a note to himself to include soft drinks on the grocery list.
Your mission should you choose to accept it…
Identify the first small step you can take that will make a significant difference. Implement it.
Devise a simple system to remind yourself of your plan.
Leave a comment in the box below to let us know what small step you’re planning to take.