Thursday, November 12, 2009

Going Backwards to Move Forward?

I was just working with a client who told me she was leaving for a trip to India on December 26th, the day after Christmas. As she told me this, I was thinking, "wow, what a tough time to leave for a long trip to a far away land." She continued to tell me her reasons for going and how the trip came about. It all made sense...but I continued to wonder how she'd manage it all.

As we talked, she realized she had many thoughts and ideas whirling in her head about how she would manage it all. We often make our lists of all the things that need to happen in our heads. And, what happens? We begin to feel overwhelmed. The picture we create in our heads is of a list a mile long.

The first thing we did was to look ahead to the day she was leaving. How did she want to feel? She wanted to feel that everything was in order with work and her family so she could leave and not feel worried.

The key for my client was to work backwards from the outcome. Next step was to stop, remove the list from her head and write it down. It helps clearly map out the tasks that need to be addressed. Writing it down serves three purposes. First, it allows us to see what needs to happen. Next, it allows us to organize the list into categories, or blocks. And finally, we're able put into action, each day, small pieces to accomplish the final goal.

As she did this exercise, she laughed and said, I'm going to write on an index card the things I need to do each day. A GREAT idea. An index card does not allow for lots of writing. It's big enough for only 6-7 tasks. And six tasks is plenty to accomplish each day towards that final outcome of leaving for a trip and feeling no worries.

The other beauty of an index card? You can throw it away when you've crossed the tasks off the list.

Next time you're planning something big or working towards a goal. Take the time to work backwards, write down everything then chunk it down and use an index card to celebrate each day's accomplishments.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Learning from the World Champions: Staying Composed

I watched with awe the six games of the World Series. I was in awe of the players’ focus and composure during a long stretch of intense games. Not only did the Yankees and Phillies endure a long, hard, season, they endured six very exciting championship games. The ability of players like Alex Rodriquez, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Mariano Rivera to keep their composure during these key games displays the mark of true champions.

I often witness young softball or baseball players, especially in high stakes games, get upset or angry after they miss a play, strike-out, or there is a bad call. Championship games often cause young athletes to expect perfection. The pressure, a perfectionist’s attitude, and a player’s own high expectations can cause the players to play too tense and thus cause emotional upset when things aren’t going well.

The World Series proved a great testing ground for both the Yankees and the Phillies’ composure. The stakes are high, the want for the seasons’ hard work to pay off is great, and the duration of the intense games was drawn out. However,
when looking at the player’s faces while they were at bat, the same composed face appeared with each and every at bat. As Rodriquez was quoted as saying, “The goal was to come in and simplify things this year, and I've done that. I think it's a formula that worked this year, and it will work in the future. Winning is the only goal, and I've never experienced such an amazing feeling."

In baseball and in life, composure is an important skill. One the champion athletes have learned to master and one that we can bring to our own lives.
Just as ARod points out in the game of baseball, simplify things. In life we’re often faced with our own “world series”…having to stay composed while trying to reason with a two year old, staying composed before giving a speech, staying composed while going for an important interview or staying composed in a fast paced society. Simplifying allows us to stay focused, relaxed and in the moment.

Here are five ingredients to staying composed under pressure:

1. Keep it simple. Be aware of the pressure you put on yourself. Let go of perfection. Stay focused on what you need to do in the moment to do your best.
2. Prepare for each game/situation the same way each time. Routine preparation helps build confidence and allows us to stay focused. Again, keep it simple.
3. Don’t compare yourself or your team to the opponents. Size, numbers, nicer uniforms, etc. have nothing to do with how YOU perform. Stay focused on your preparation and your game.
4. Anticipate the challenges that you might face and have a plan to prepare yourself for them. Any game or situation will have challenges. Be prepared with a plan.
5. Butterflies and pregame jitters are normal. It’s your body’s way of saying you are ready. Take time before the game to gather the energy of the butterflies and guide them to fly in formation.