Beyond New Year’s Resolutions: How to Make Real Change Happen
Listen to Episode 48:
Episode 48 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio, episode 48, Beyond New Year’s Resolutions. How to make real change happen.
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth − on the web at www.businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris, I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam, you know I’m always delighted to be with you for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio, and if this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for leaders to take themselves and their companies to their next level of success. So Pam, what’s our topic today?
Pam Harper: How to make real change happen, and last. Here we are − it’s almost 2016, and many people are talking about their New Year’s Resolutions, say, related to either their personal goals, leadership goals, or both. On the personal side, in fact, some of our listeners may be making personal resolutions, to exercise on a regular basis, or get to a goal weight, or spend more quality time with family members and so on. Of course there are also the business related leadership resolutions such as developing ourselves as leaders, and fostering the talent within our organizations. It could be delegating certain types of works and decisions, and much, much more.
Scott Harper: It’s the time of year when people say “we’re going to turn over a new leaf” and do new stuff and get great things to happen.
Pam Harper: That’s right; however, once life gets back to normal after the holidays, it’s all too easy to slide back into the old routine despite our best intentions. It takes a special mindset to overcome the old habits and really bring to life the changes that we say we want to have happen.
Scott Harper: Okay, so easier said than done − how do we really do it?
Pam Harper: That’s why we have Dr. Leslie Austin back with us as our guest today. Leslie is the Principal of Austin Consulting, and is affectionately known as “the Lion Tamer.” She’s an executive coach, psychotherapist, and organizational consultant with the unique expertise of being able to help companies and individual executives live up to their full potential. She appears frequently and national in local media, including Nancy Grace, and the Headline News Network. You can link to Leslie’s full bio by going to www.growthignitersradio.com, Episode48. Some of our listeners may have heard Leslie on episode 4, where we discussed “Leading Difficult Star Performers”, and episode 31, “Leading People Through Times Of Major Change.” We’ll have links to those episodes under Resources for episode 48. Leslie, welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio.
Leslie Austin: Thank you, it’s such a pleasure to be with you guys again.
Pam Harper: It is, it is.
Scott Harper: Happy Solstice Leslie.
Leslie Austin: Thank you. This is Nature’s real New Year; we’re recording on the actual Earth New Year, rather than the Roman Calendar New Year, and that’s pretty neat − new beginnings.
Scott Harper: It is.
Pam Harper: New beginnings − and we’re only about just a week away from 2016, so maybe you can tell us, why is it that some people do really well with New Year’s resolutions − it works for some, but not for others?
Leslie Austin: Well two things. First of all, the idea of setting New Year’s resolutions is, if you really pull back and get the big picture and think about it, it’s very arbitrary. The calendar is changing from one year to another, from December to January, and so what. Why is that such a big distinction? Other than that we like to have Roman bacchanals and party and do all that stuff on New Year’s. Many resolutions that people make come from society’s pressure or cultural pressure, or the fact that it’s a holiday, and that’s what you think you’re supposed to do; you should or ought to do that.
Pam Harper: “We should do this,” right?
Leslie Austin: Right.
Pam Harper: We should do that?
Leslie Austin: Yeah, but you know the thing is, arbitrary decisions based on “shoulds” and “oughts” almost never work. The things that we commit ourselves to − resolutions that really work − come from inside. Something that you are motivated to really want to do, to make your life better, to make your company better, whatever your focus is. It really depends on how you’re wired. Some people are very structured. Anybody who has done or understands the Myers Briggs profile knows some people are very structured and linear and can set a schedule, and set goals and work towards them step by step. Our culture is very wired towards that way of being. But there are a lot of people who aren’t wired that way, naturally, neurologically. People who need to be in the flow, people who don’t necessarily set specific goals and deadlines, but can accomplish great things nevertheless if they listen in to their own rhythm and their own ways of getting to attain a goal.
Scott Harper: Some people make lists of the lists they’re going to make, and others don’t. Are you saying that we shouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions?
Leslie Austin: No, you can, if that’s the way you’re wired and it works for you. Ask yourself this question, “When I’ve made a New Year Resolution in the past, how many of them, have I actually kept? How many of them are practices that I still do now that I committed to a year ago, 2 years ago, 5 years ago? How many of those resolutions became habit − became really a part of my life that I attained, and accomplished?” If your batting average is pretty low, then you’re making the wrong kind of resolution, and you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I wouldn’t say” no, we shouldn’t,” but you need to understand yourself, and how you work and what you really want to have happen in the coming year, as a marker point, so that you can re-arrange and get a fresh start, maybe make something good things happen.
Pam Harper: Sure − so you’re talking about really needing to be very self aware, and have a certain mindset.
Leslie Austin: Well yeah; so for example, a very structured person might make a list of New Year’s Resolutions and maybe have sub-categories. “I want to exercises better, and I want to do these exercises or go to this gym.” They might attain that, but if they haven’t made the time for that in their schedule previously, they’re going to have to also think about what are they going to take out of what they’re doing in order to make time for that. People very seldom think about that; they just think, “Oh well, I’m going to add this” but they don’t look at the economy of their time. They’re structured to a point, but not to a point that really serves them.
As a non-linear person, I make lists, but they are not so detailed. I just keep running tabs of things that I have to remember to do. As I get them done, I sort of cross them off, and I re-write my list clean every night. It’s a rotating list. Those things that are on the list, that stay on there for days and days and days, go on to a separate list which is things I want to get to but are not pressing daily, because I’m just not doing them.
Pam Harper: There are some types of commitments, I guess you could say − or goals − that you can come up with a way that’s good for you in the way that you work. There are other types of − if we’re not calling them resolutions, commitments, I guess perhaps − that take us into a distinctly uncomfortable zone, such as I’m thinking some of the people that we work with for instance, who have made a decision to, for instance, improve themselves as leaders − develop themselves as leaders or develop talent in their organizations. These are different kinds of commitments you can’t really check off, but they require a different mindset as well.
And so let’s take a quick break right now, and when we come back, we’ll speak more with Dr. Leslie Austin about the mindset we need to adopt to move beyond New Year’s resolutions, and make the changes we want really happen, both personally and professionally. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at www.businessadvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and growth, and if you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word! Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, select episode 48, and use the share links for Facebook, Linked In and Twitter at the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. Use hash tag Growth Igniters; this will help us extend our reach to all of the people who can benefit from this series.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Dr. Leslie Austin about moving beyond making New Year’s resolutions to finding the necessary mindset to make real change happen − and stick. Leslie, how can people find out more about you?
Leslie Austin: Best thing just email me, and it’s Leslie@leslieaustin.com.
Pam Harper: Let’s get back to our conversation. We were getting into some interesting aspects here. I think to some extent, one of the things that we’ve seen is, that at times people do operate out of a “should mentality,” and you were talking about that. In your experience, how honest are people about admitting to themselves what they really want to happen in their lives?
Leslie Austin: Well what I would say is those people who develop the ability to be really honest are the people who are much more likely to succeed at what they want to attain. Our culture has so many judgments about “Shoulds” and “Oughts” and linear goals that you can easily get lost in those. The question, is ask yourself, “What is it I really want? How would I vision myself a year from now, or in the future?” Maybe some people can’t vision, you know you say a year or five years and they freak out and they can’t think of it, because it’s scary.
The question is, what would you like to see yourself as in the future? What would it feel like − can you imagine and dream and visualize quietly, maybe with your eyes closed? What would it feel like to be successful the way I want to be? What would it feel like to have my company be the way I want it to be? What would it be like to be in a relationship the way I would like it to − what would that feel like? Go through the details in your visualization, and as you do that, that’s a very powerful way to sort through what you really want, and what you really can attain, because in your visualizations, you’re not going to do “Shoulds” and “Oughts”
Your body will change; you will physically feel different, and your mood will shift if you’re doing an actual visualization. It changes your whole body and your energy. It’s out of that different sensory state, in your visualization that you can sort out what you really care about, what you want and what your ultimate goals might be. Then you work backwards to set up how you’re going to get there.
Scott Harper: Okay, so I’m feeling calmer and more peace and all of a sudden I get a “ding…”
Leslie Austin: It’s not necessarily a “ding,” but for example if you’re running a company, and it’s going well and you feel the itch to want to something else but you don’t know what, take some time, and do some … I don’t mean to sound new agey but do some visualizations; do some visioning. What would be fun for you; what would feel good if your company were to thrive? You’re doing something else, or something different. What would it feel like? Now notice I’m not asking, what innovation would you make or what new product, or what process in the company would you change? I’m not asking about the factual linear steps. I’m asking about the big picture, end goal. What would it feel like, how big would your company be that would feel really good? Some people want really big companies, and some people like small companies. “What feels really good to you, what energizes you?” Then you can work backwards and structure steps or a process, because those are two different ways of attaining goals, steps and process. To achieve what you want.
Scott Harper: If you do that, then it sounds like it’s going to be easier for me or anyone who does that to really commit and work on doing what it really takes to get that big thing to happen.
Pam Harper: This actually goes back to something that we were talking about a couple of episodes ago with Tim Hebert, and he was talking about “Living into a dream.” It’s that same thing; it’s visualizing, is what I’m getting from this
Leslie Austin: What’s important to understand, is it’s very easy when you talk about this. It sounds kind or airy fairy new agey, but there is a neurological basis in how our brain and our bodies are wired, and how we function. You actually begin to create your future biologically, and lay the foundation for your brain to be able to come up with plans, and future goals when you begin to work this way. This is not just a nice technique; there’s a neurological basis for this. it’s very powerful, and a lot of very what we call left brain people, that’s a little bit of a false idea about left brain and right brain, but anyway, colloquially we say left brain people − the linear structured people − think that this is silly, and they’re missing the boat; they’re missing the foundation. They’re already building the walls and doing the floor plans but they haven’t dug the hole and built the foundation of the house yet.
This is the first step. Those people who are really good at this then need to have a process developed, by which they rule in and rule out the next step. Some people will set goals and steps and be very linear and structured, and the people who are more in flow have to stay in touch and say, “Does this next step feel right. Does it have that energy taking me where I want to go, or I’m I pushing or doing, because I think I should or ought.”
Scott Harper: You need both pieces.
Leslie Austin: Absolutely.
Scott Harper: The foundation of dreams, and then the actualization of reality and steps and process.
Leslie Austin: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: That makes sense, and I think that explains a lot for us about why certain people can respond very well to a more structured approach.
Leslie Austin: Sure.
Pam Harper: There are other people who need something a little different. Yet I also know that there are times when people will make a commitment, and they mean it with their whole self − “I’m going to do this.” But then they’re always too busy − you’ve met these people, I’m sure − “I’m going to go for a self development; I’m going to develop people; we’re going to change the kinds of goals that we go after.” Then they’re too busy.
Scott Harper: Somehow they self sabotage.
Pam Harper: Or something else − well they don’t even think of it that way, but they’re too busy; well, something else comes up.
Leslie Austin: They don’t accomplish what they say. There’s a very big difference linguistically and also energetically in saying “I’m going to do this,” and “I want to do this,” or “I really desire to do this.” Even more powerfully, “I will do this; I have to do this.”
We’re talking about different levels of emotional commitment, and emotions really are what propel us to action. Thoughts don’t propel us to action. You can think about something, but until your emotions get going, you’re not going to take action. Again you want to be aligning your emotions through something that gets you going. If you make that commitment and you say “I’m going to do this thing and I’m going to accomplish that,” then you’re suddenly, “Too busy,” you have committed from a false basis. You haven’t really gotten emotionally engaged, you don’t care enough about doing that from a place of excitement, or desire, or any kind of charged emotion to propel you into action, it becomes another “Should” and another guilt trip.
Pam Harper: That’s right. So it goes back to our point at the top of this segment, which is you have to be honest with yourself. You have to be willing to be very clear, and say what is it that I really want, I really want. What do I really want, and go from that, and the more you can do that, the more feel you have to be able to overcome the obstacles.
Leslie Austin: Yes, and it’s important also to understand that I’m not saying you should ignore completely and throw out the “Shoulds” and “Oughts” There may be things in there that would be very good for you to do, or helpful. Again if you don’t have the emotional commitment to do them, you’re not going to do them. You might want to go through the “Shoulds” and “Oughts” and ask yourself, in this list of “Shoulds” and “Oughts” is there any part of this or any aspect of this that I can see I’d like to do? Maybe not the whole thing, but does anything grab me, or catch me, does anything get me going? That would be a good thing to extrapolate from all the “Shoulds” and “Oughts” and the pressures. Then you see where you go with it.
Scott Harper: You’re linking essentially the thing to the big dream, and that’s where the emotional charge comes from.
Leslie Austin: Exactly; exactly.
Pam Harper: Well we’re going to need to take another quick break, and when we come back, we’ll speak more with Dr. Leslie Austin about actionable steps you can take right now to bring the real change you want into your personal life, and your business life, stay with us.
Pam Harper: During this holiday season, Scott and I want to thank you for being part of the Growth Igniters Radio Community. This has been an incredible learning experience for us, and we want to hear from you about the value you’ve been getting from what we’ve been producing every week since February of this Year. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, and click “contact us” at the bottom of the page. Who knows − your feedback may end up featured on our website. Along those lines, do you have an idea for a guest you would like to hear in the coming year? We’re always on the lookout for more bestselling authors and innovative CEOs of successful companies to learn from. Again go to www.growthignitersradio.com, click “contact us” at the bottom of the page, and we’ll get back to you to follow up.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last 2 segments, Scott and I have I’ve been speaking with to Dr. Leslie Austin about how to move beyond our resolutions and make real change happen personally and professionally. Leslie, can you tell us again how people can find out more about you?
Leslie Austin: Sure the best way is to actually contact me. You can read on my website, but it’s better to send me an email at Leslie@leslieaustin.com.
Pam Harper: Let’s go back to our conversation; this is the part of our program as you well know, where we talk about the immediately actionable pieces of advice, for getting more of what we’re looking for − in this case, getting beyond our resolutions and ourselves, and getting more of what we really want. What would you say would be one thing that concretely somebody could do?
Leslie Austin: First of all you want to get away from the, “Shoulds” or “Oughts” and ask yourself, “What do I really want to do? What would be engaging or interesting or exciting for me to do? What do I feel drawn towards, what I’m I motivated to do?
Pam Harper: Is there some kind of a practical exercise that we could do − I mean do we list it on paper, or…
Leslie Austin: Again depending on your personality, you can make a list of things that you would be really excited to achieve. It’s very helpful even if you’re the most linear person in the world, and left brain. It’s really helpful to kind of visualize if you can sit down, and try and feel your way into you would like, and then some people will make lists and some people will come out with a global big picture perspective, and you can work either way. You want to get quiet and set aside the “Shoulds” and “Oughts” and say, “What do I really care about?”
Pam Harper: A personal vision. In fact, I really remember one group that I was working with where we were actually drawing a picture. It was a picture, in this case, of − it was a division of a company, but I could see it working the same way − what were the aspects of what we would literary look like going into the future.
Leslie Austin: Right; I’ve done a process with CEOs and executive teams in companies many times, which I call a “blue sky scenario,” which is I will have them sit around the table, and everybody contributes and bats around their fantasy ideas of what they’d like to see the company doing. It does not have to be attached to attainable reality, never mind “can we afford it? Can we do it? Do we have the technology? Do we have the manpower?” Never mind all that for now. What’s the big picture ideal? Then you work back from that, and often there are seeds of great ideas in there and then you can start structuring and looking and trying to build something.
The next step is don’t overwhelm yourself. Step two is when you know the direction you want to go in or goal, don’t think you have to do all of it right away. You want to do incremental steps. Ask yourself, “What’s the first step that I can take now towards that goal?” Not, “What are the next 10 steps?”
Now if you’re very structured, you might write 10 steps, but the chances are you’re going to have to revise them as you go along. That’s fine if that’s how you work. If it’s not how you work, choose the first step, and start doing it and then check in and bring your analytical abilities back into your feeling self, and ask yourself, “Okay, now I’ve started this first step, I’m I going the right direction or do I need to adjust my direction, what’s my next step?” You’re in a continual process of taking action and evaluating taking action and evaluating, but you’re moving forward but you’re not burdening yourself with thinking you have to accomplish all of it, all at once. That can be completely overwhelming.
Scott Harper: What you’re describing is essentially creating metrics. “I’m going to do something; how do I know that that’s moving me in the right direction, what will that look like?”
Leslie Austin: That’s exactly right − what are your measurables? For some people the measurables are going to be intellectual and logical and based on numbers, and for other people, this is going to be a felt sense.
Scott Harper: Sure.
Pam Harper: You have to be able to see it. For some people, it’s “what can you observe, that’s …”
Leslie Austin: That’s exactly right.
Pam Harper: …what would be happening; what would not be happening?
Scott Harper: In fact one of the things − my favorite sayings; I had it on the wall of my office for years − is, “If you woke up tomorrow and it was a perfect world, how would you know it?”
Leslie Austin: Yes, exactly.
Scott Harper: This would be happening and this would be happening, and I’d be feeling this, and so “yeah, that makes a lot of sense.”
Leslie Austin: Yes, and with regard with what we’re saying, I would modify that slightly. I would not leave it at the global, “How would you know it?” I would say, “What’s one way in which you would know it?”
Scott Harper: That makes sense.
Pam Harper: Yeah I can see; I mean there are different ways. Being able to have both the bigger picture and a more specific thing, I guess it reconciles. What’s another piece of advice Leslie?
Leslie Austin: Well, don’t underestimate the stray thoughts that you have. This has nothing to do with how linear or intuitive you are. Often we get ideas and we dismiss them immediately because we think, “Oh that’s silly, or I can’t do that, or the company won’t take it, or personally I can’t do that; it’s not possible.” There’s something in that seed of a thought that might be useful. Some people like to keep a little notebook, and they just write their ideas down. The famous comedian who passed on, Steve Allen, was famous for years before it was popular, he had a little recorder and he always kept it in his shirt pocket. He was very brilliant and had a constant flow of ideas, and he was constantly just recording the ideas into this recorder, and those ideas − he had them transcribed − and those were the basis of many of his greatest accomplishments. Including the music that he wrote, including the jokes he wrote, his meeting of the minds on TBS, where he had historical figures having accurate and authentic debates which was quite brilliant. He never dismissed his flow of ideas, and whether you’re very linear or very intuitive, you constantly have a flow of ideas. Keep note of them; don’t dismiss them, and you’ll see patterns and themes developing. It will tell you how you’re actually much more creative than you think you are. In that sense, any day can be a New Year’s day, any day can be like Solstice Day, because you can always start something new, if you don’t overwhelm yourself, if you feel your way into it, and if you then start either a structured process of steps or just take the first step and feel your way through that.
You can start a process, and you can always change your mind, even a direction or course for your company. You can start out on something and if it doesn’t work, as long as you are appropriately honest with the people who work with and for you, you can change direction. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I wanted to do this initiative, but it’s not working, let’s regroup and start again. People really respect that, and they understand it, if you do it appropriately and with dignity.
Pam Harper: We would agree with you there. Do you have any final thoughts on this topic of Going Beyond New Year’s Resolutions?
Leslie Austin: Yes actually, and this is actually a serious suggestion. Remember to have fun; remember to excited; remember to be in some kind of pleasure about what you want to accomplish. Human beings just like doggies for example, in the animal kingdom − we’re wired for pleasure, we’re wired to feel good, we’re wired for success and to attain things, but we don’t want to suffer. Why choose goals that then make you suffer? If you really want that goal and you’re suffering, you need to look at a different way of getting to that goal. There are many, many roads that lead to Rome. There are many different ways of attaining the things that you want to accomplish in your life, but if you’re not at least having some sense of satisfaction − and you’re not going to have this all the time, obviously there are going to be difficult times − but if you’re not having some sense of satisfaction, or excitement, or emotional motivation − “this is good,” that’s coming from deep inside you − you’ll likely not going to accomplish it the way you really want to, but if you can stay honest with yourself, you can do almost anything.
Pam Harper: Leslie, thank you so much. This has been a very enlightening episode and I think a very timely one for our listeners as we move into the New Year − and everyday can be a New Year, however you want to make it happen.
Leslie Austin: Thank you. I loved that you said “enlightening,” as it is the Solstice and it’s the return of the light. The days are getting longer; so thank you. Let’s all bring some light back into our lives.
Scott Harper: Sounds good to me Leslie. Thank you so much, and Happy New Year.
Leslie Austin: Thank you. Happy New Year.
And thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes or open a conversation with us, go to www.growthignitersradio.com and select episode 48.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: …and Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continuous success, and leaving you with this question to reflect on:
Scott Harper: “I’m I really living into what I want to have happen in all aspects of my life, if not, what I’m I going to do to make a real change happen?”