I’m listening to a recent podcast as research for an upcoming group coaching experience I’m about to kick off next month and it hits me again; this same recurring thought.
Over and over and over again these past few months, I find my hand slapping my forehead and my voice saying what my soul has always known but is now ready to say out loud. With an unshakable certainty, I know “everything exists on a spectrum…my life’s work and how I define things like progress and success are built upon that spectrum…not only that (insert excited ah-ha moment change in voice) but I hold the power to define my spectrum of success!”
Spectrum, defined by Wikipedia, is "is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary, without steps, across a continuum."
This may not be a huge revelation for you and may even seem too obvious to continue reading the rest of this, but if you would, indulge me a little more as I explain.
We’re all working to improve our life and health in some way, whether we’re conscious of it or not. And we have deeply held beliefs and rules we live by as we strive. Adding to those, we compare ourselves to others (to our detriment). It’s THOSE beliefs/rules and comparisons that tell us if we’re doing good and making progress - or - if we're headed back towards a familiar dumpster fire of failure.
What would life be like if you changed your rules to allow all self-improvement work to be played on a spectrum instead of using rigid all or nothing rules?
Let's put this idea into practice. Think of something you’re currently working on to improve yourself. It could be personal, work or health related. Just pause and think of one thing, then inwardly answer these questions:
- When do I know I'm doing good in my quest to improve?
- What success measurement markers keep me inspired to continue?
- When will I know I’ve made it?
See my example below regarding something I'm striving to achieve. Then you can reflect upon your answers to guage whether you’re living by beliefs and rules that are really the ultimate problem that’s plaguing not only your progress, but draining your energy day after day.
Are you operating on a spectrum or rigid set of rules?
Here's my example:
I’m currently working to improve my physical strength and endurance so I can participate in a Spartan Race in late 2021. I answered those three questions like this:
- When I intentionally reconnect with the structure and routines I’ve created to move me forward on a day to day basis, I know I'm doing good. Doing this often is critical to my success because it keeps me focused on my mission and reminds me to take action. Best of all, it’s tangible.
- To measure my progress (and get feedback on my routine experiments), I use daily checkmarks on my handwritten checklist. It reinforces #1 above, and gives me an opportunity to refer to it multiple times a day since the various actions occur throughout the day. This action-based tool focuses my attention and reminds me of the steps I will take in pursuit of sustainable progress towards my objective. The checklist is bookends focused, that is, includes things like did I get 8+ hrs of sleep, start my morning with water and meditation, no email/social media or news within 1st hour of awakening, reading something inspirational for 20 minutes or more each day, my gratitude practice and journal writing. From this list, you might think, sure, high quality and restful sleep will help me train for the Spartan Race, but you might not think the others are directly linked and yet, they are what builds my foundation; without them, my physical training crumbles. For me personally, I know if I want to be consistent in my efforts towards progress, I must inspire my soul in ways that support balance and peace of mind. When I’m pinging around in a mix of highs and lows and distracted with too much digital stimulus, I lose my focus and things start to spiral out. I know this about myself because I’ve experimented long enough with nighttime and morning routines – that's when the most meaningful actions take place and create my foundation. The long winded point I’m trying to make is, the most mission critical action steps I can take in preparing for a Spartan Race aren’t physical, they’re mental. That’s what moves me forward on my spectrum of success and fuels my inspiration.
- I’ve “made it” each time I take action, no matter how small the action step is. Every time I put forth effort in an identifiable and intentional way, I’m making progress and the natural, undeniable by-product will be “making it.” To further help me, lately I’m using the mantra “I can suck but don’t skip” to build better consistency. And whoa do I suck sometimes! The other tweak I’ve made in the last couple months is to add this to my checklist: Did I congratulate and acknowledge myself today? I’m finding there is always something to acknowledge in my daily efforts and when I do pause to recognize myself, I reinforce the Nelson Mandela wisdom “I never lose. I either win or learn.”
Now your turn, how did you answer those 3 questions? Did you notice anything in your answers? Do you tend to have strict rules that define your success in terms of pass/fail, all/nothing, black/white, good/bad, be at this point by this date or else you suck, etc?
Or, are you measuring yourself along a spectrum of progress; one that celebrates and measures every baby step you take?
Making the shift to measure progress and achievement on a spectrum will radically change (improve) your results. You won't give up on yourself as often and have to muster the courage to begin again.
No matter the area you’re working to improve in your life and health, embracing this spectrum based approach will both reap unexpected rewards and better pave the way for getting there.
P.S. – getting “there” isn’t a final destination, but rather a new baseline from which you can make even more progress should you choose to.
Need some help transforming your beliefs and rules into a spectrum based approach? Schedule a Coaching session with me today and let’s get to work!
P.P.S - I’m honestly pretty freaked out about doing a Spartan Race (the introductory Sprint 5k w/20 Obstacles level thank goodness) even though I’ve always been athletic, but this is really requiring I step up my game in a very deliberate and consistent way. So, I remind myself dozens of times a day that I can do it if I’m willing to work at it based on a spectrum of progress.
My spectrum of progress is built around taking baby steps of action day by day. That’s not only doable, but inspires me to continue each day.
What about you?
I’m also encouraged by what Spartan Race tells folks like me who ask “What if I’m not fit enough to try this yet?”
Answer: “If you’re in good enough health to do exercise, you’re ready to try Spartan. You don’t have to run the whole way, and failing obstacles isn’t a crime. There’s never a perfect time for anything, so get out there and challenge yourself. You’ll have fun, meet new people, and you’ll likely become addicted to this incredible sport.”
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