Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses: Reaching Goals Without Willpower

This is the third part of my three-part series on Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses. In the first lesson of the series, we discussed the importance of the big WHY, your reason for wanting to achieve this goal. In the second lesson, we looked at how you can improve your chances of making progress by taking consistent actions that lead to results. In this lesson, I’ll share a model you can use to turn results-driven routines into habits so powerful you’ll practically be able to achieve your goals in your sleep! (Well, almost.)

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.

Wanted: ADHD Heros

ADHD Hero

I’m developing a global community project called We All Need a Hero.

The objectives of this project are to inspire, give hope and courage to teens and adults with ADHD.

What compels me to start this project?

Experts estimate that between 4 and 8% of adults have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). As the wife and mother of ADHDers and an ADHD Coach for more than 6 years, I know how devastating ADHD can be when you don’t know how to manage it.

  • Adults with ADHD struggle – in their professional lives they are less productive and are much more likely to lose their jobs;
  • In the personal lives, they are twice as likely to end up in a divorce or worse, resign themselves to never being in a loving relationship;
  • In their financial lives, they are 4 times more likely to struggle with serious financial problems.
  • And the list goes on.

They spend so much of their lives trying to recover from failures and feeling defective that they don’t have time, energy or the belief in themselves to transform their lives and reach their full potential.

As a result, not only does this impacts their family, their colleagues, the companies they work for, but we, as a society, lose the contribution these Creative Geniuses could make in the world. Unfortunately, the stigma and judgment surrounding adult ADHD keeps many of them “in the closet” and unable to receive the help they need.

I believe that everyone has a contribution to make in this world and when even one person can’t reach his or her full potential, the world misses out on possibly an important contribution.

If Nothing Changes

If ADHD in adults continues to be stigmatized, more people will continue to hide their problem, keeping them from getting the help they need and never reaching their full potential.

What Will Change Things?

We as a society need to de-stigmatize ADHD. We need to recognize that adults with ADHD have strengths – such as creativity, a stronger tolerance to risk, etc. – that if developed, can lead to success. We know this because there are many successful adults with ADHD. These models of success can become ADHD Heroes, inspiring teens and adults with ADHD to come out of the shadows and provide the hope and encouragement for ADHDers to believe they are capable of having a full and powerful life.

The project:

I am looking for ADHD Heroes to help me build, as a first step, a Web site with videos and articles of interviews with successful adults with ADHD – ADHDers who’ve had success in some area of their lives.

I’m in search of adults and families with ADHD who would like to contribute to this project and make a difference. We need all kinds of help:

  • Select the team members;
  • Build and design the site (WordPress blog);
  • Reach people through social media (set up a Facebook page, etc);
  • Access technology for videos, webcam, etc;
  • Support us with technology for video;
  • Reach ADHD Heroes who are willing to talk about their road to success,;
  • Communicate this project and bring attention to it as we finish;
  • Interview and write articles of ADHD Heroes;
  • Successful ADHD Heroes who are willing to share the secrets to their success in a short video interview (preferred) or be interviewed;
  • Etc. I’m sure there are things I haven’t thought of yet.

To join us you must be a teen or adult with ADHD or member of an ADHD family. No one will be remunerated for this work, not even me. This project aims to pull us – the community of adults and families with ADHD – together to help us dispel the myth that ADHDers can’t amount to much and see the real contribution ADHDers can make in the world.

If you would like to join me in this project, let me know what skill set or strengths you bring and the role you’d like to play in the form below.

I hope you’ll join our team.

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Is Your Ecosystem Supporting Your Goals?

ensure your environment supports your adult adhd life“No man is an island.”

John Donne (1572-1631)

You are not an “island.” Your life is affected by your “ecosystem,” all the things and people you interact with. Your ecosystem is never neutral; it can help you or hinder you. Good news… you decide which it is!

Your “ecosystem” combines external factors such as your:

  • physical environment (your space and how it’s organized at home, in your car, your office),
  • family relationships (immediate and extended),
  • social network (relationships with friends, associates, acquaintances and even people you haven’t met yet if you tend to network with the same type of people consistently),
  • body (health, your appearance, etc.),
  • financial health, and
  • career.

Your ecosystem also includes internal environments such as your strengths, skills, capabilities, values, needs and beliefs. These elements are so intertwined that when one part is out of whack; your whole ecosystem system gets “sick.”

Achieving goals is far easier if your “ecosystem” supports you. When your environment conspires against you, you’re like “a fish out of water.”

Your Ecosystem Reflects Who You Are

If you’re a couch potato, you probably hang with other couch potatoes. You have big plans for the Super Bowl, and maybe even for the entire football season! You’re more likely to invest in a satellite TV than in a good suit. If you want to be a couch potato, you have created the perfect ecosystem to maintain your lifestyle.

But if you’d prefer to live a healthier life in pursuit of your passions (unless your passion is watching TV), you’ll want to change your ecosystem. A supportive ecosystem makes it possible to move forward instead of falling back into old habits, and yet we continue to struggle while leaving obstacles in our paths.

The Environment Always Wins

Neglecting the state of your ecosystem is “a mistake, big, huge” (Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman). If you’ve decided to become healthier by losing 30 pounds this year, you know what you need to do. You eat smaller portions and choose healthier foods, you drink more water, and you exercise. Congratulations! Weight loss is a foregone conclusion. Then your spouse brings home ice cream and you succumb to temptation (junk food in the store is much easier to resist than junk food in the kitchen!)

Perhaps you’ve decided to apply ADD-friendly strategies to manage your life in a way that works for you. If you haven’t prepared your spouse for the changes, they could inadvertently sabotage your efforts. But before you start pointing fingers, it isn’t always your spouse’s fault!

You just had a brilliant idea for a new product so you decide to start a business. As you plan the launch of your product, you realize you need more money that you have, and you’re already deep in debt. You end up spending all your energy trying to dodge creditors, and soon your business fails. Or perhaps you share your amazing idea with your friends and family (who’ve never owned businesses) and they all explain to you how business people are crooks, you’ll have no security, it will never work, and if it would work, it’ll certainly never work for you! More dreams are “murdered” by negative people in your ecosystem than ever die of natural causes.

Some Assembly Required

Achieving any dream or goal takes preparation and planning. Take some time to get your ducks in a row and your ecosystem in alignment with your objectives. To live a healthier lifestyle, seek your spouse’s support, participate in meal preparation and ban junk food from your pantry.

Before you start a business, establish relationships with other entrepreneurs. Get your finances in order and eliminate or at least reduce your debts. (Trading in that big-screen TV for a nice suit is a good step.) Yes, it takes time to synchronise your ecosystem with your ambitions, but once the supportive elements are in place, you’ll make significant progress far more quickly.

And if you’re a Creative Genius with ADHD and you’re tackling your ADHD head on, share your ADHD-friendly strategies with your family and especially with your spouse. Share with your spouse how ADHD affects your marriage and explain the strategies and how they’ll help. Adults with ADHD face plenty of challenges in their ecosystem. Getting your spouse on your side and improving your life as a couple is one of the best ways to reinforce your ecosystem and get ready to face those challenges.

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The Year of Playing Full Out

Managing adult adhd by focusing on your strenghts can make you unstoppableIn the next few weeks, you’ll be flooded with articles about “New Year’s Resolutions.” You’ll be tempted to set unrealistic goals (that you’ll most likely break five to seventeen days later on average!) citing circumstances as the deal breaker. Unless you’re committed to this soul-sapping, energy-draining and integrity-injuring routing, I’d like to challenge you to try a different approach this year.

No More Wishful Thinking
No more lala-land goals. Let’s set realistic but truly compelling goals and decide to play full out. “Playing full out” means expecting, practicing for and not succumbing to the obstacles you know will show up along the way.

No More Excuses
No more, “I can’t because of my ADHD.” Instead, realize that your ADHD-distractibility is really your Creative Genius idea-generating powerhouse and use it along with your unique strengths, your consuming passion and your ADHD-provided boundless energy to overcome any “obstacles” (really, just situations that need a novel approach… something that’s right up your alley) your ADHD creates.

No more, “I don’t have the right equipment, tools or money” excuses. Instead, start now with what you have, and set up systems so you can get even more of what you need by accumulating it over time or begging, borrowing or bartering for it.

No more, “I don’t have time” excuses. Instead, carve any hours you need out of your TV watching or video game playing. Once you’ve exhausted those possibilities, learn special Creative Genius strategies to double or even triple your productivity.

No more, “I can’t do it because I don’t know how” whining. Instead, put into practice what you do know, and find a book, a course, a coach or a mentor to teach you how to take the next step. Rinse and repeat.

And finally, never ever let fear stop you.

No more, “They’ll laugh at me.” You can deal with it.

No more, “They’ll hate it.” Someone will like it.

No more, “If I succeed, they won’t like me anymore.” Real friends want you to succeed. Find some (Easiest way to do that? Act like someone who’s moving in the right direction, making things happen and not letting naysayers get in the way. You’ll attract the people you’re looking for.)

Resolve instead to face your fears head on. The rewards are so much greater than any temporary discomfort. You’ll discover that it was your fears (and not your goals) that were unreasonable and that you can and will deal with anything that comes your way. After all, you’re not someone who shies away from opportunity or challenge. No, this year, you’re going to play full out.

This year, don’t let anything stop you. Not your circumstances, not what others think or say, not your excuses, not your fears… nothing. Find your way over them, around them or through them. In the end, you will not only reach your goals , you’ll be stronger and more self-confident, so you’ll be able to accomplish even more next year.

I declare this The Year of Playing Full Out. Come play with me.

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Make Reaching Goals Inevitable!

goal-settingAre you having difficulty reaching goals? Around this time of year, New Year’s Resolutions usually fall by the wayside. The average New Year’s Resolution only lasts 17 days, so what makes reaching goals so hard? It doesn’t make a difference if it’s a New Year’s Resolution or the goals we set the rest of the year. They’re all hard work, often too hard!

Experts debate over the precise wording of goals, as if that would make it easier to quit smoking, lose weight or spend more time with your kids. No, the secret to reaching goals has nothing to do with the wording of your goals, or even which goals you choose.

The Secret to Reaching Goals is…

Clarity. Yes, the secret to reaching goals is clarity, but I not clarity in how you write them. Thomas J. Leonard, founder of CoachU and the father of personal coaching said, you need clarity in three distinct areas:

Commitment vs. Striving

First, you must decide, once and for all, if you are committed, or if you are striving. Striving, of course, is hard work. If you are fully committed, however, you no longer need to strive. Striving requires that you push yourself. Commitment doesn’t require nearly the effort once you’ve made the decision. Most smokers will tell you that “trying to quit” doesn’t work. The day you commit, however, reaching goals becomes much easier. The day you become a non-smoker, success becomes inevitable. 

Vision vs. Pipe-Dream

Second, you need to distinguish between a vision and a pipe-dream. Your vision is an inevitable result based on facts. A pipe-dream is a hope or a wish based mostly on desire. My husband, who has ADHD, was seriously overweight and warned by his doctor to lose weight or suffer serious health consequences. Diets had never worked. He only lost the weight, and kept it off, when he was able to transform his own vision of himself and his life. When he saw himself, not as a fat person struggling to lose weight, but as a thin person, behaving as a thin person would, the pounds melted away. After all, if he behaved as a thin person, because that was the way he saw himself, it was inevitable that he would lose the weight.

Present vs. Future

Third, you must live in the present, not in the future. Live your life right today and reaching goals will happen automatically. Do you live in the future? Do you say things like, “Once this project is delivered, I’ll take a few days off to spend with the kids”? Of course, the next project follows right on the heels of this one, and before you know it, your kids couldn’t pick you out of a police lineup. Want to spend more time with your kids? Start today. Cut your meeting short. Go home and spend that 15 minutes talking with your kids about their day. They don’t need a few days at some fictitious time in the future. They need a few minutes today, and tomorrow, and every day.

It’s really that simple. Get clear on those three things and reaching goals becomes inevitable. Stop trying, and make a real commitment. Clarify your vision until you can really see yourself succeeding. And finally, make it happen today. Don’t wait for the planets to align or a miracle to happen. Take one small step today, then another tomorrow. Before you know it, you’ll be setting and reaching goals with hardly a struggle.