Did you watch the Olympics? Being a champion athlete or a successful entrepreneur requires a combination of “Keeping Your Eye on the Prize” while remembering to rejoice in small gains and to learn from your mistakes. No athlete or entrepreneur starts out with all the skills necessary to be at the top of their game.
I was reminded of this recently while watching the Olympics on TV. The biographical sketches dramatize the challenges competitors face as they prepare for their final showdowns. These athletes epitomize ambition and devotion to doing what it takes to be at the top in their sports.
Nobody is born with the ability to efficiently jump over the high hurdles and speed down the track to the next hurdle. Skills such as figure skating, starting, running, timing and jumping have to be developed. Each component has to be practiced, honed, and mastered over time and blended into a fluid succession of movements that eventually becomes automatic.
During training, athletes practice their event thousands of times until it becomes fine tuned and reflexive. They also have to develop reliable methods to get themselves into the right frame of mind. Being able to reliably perform in this way is called mastery.
Each time the athlete improves some component of the performance there is a feeling of joy and personal satisfaction for the accomplishment. It may be as simple as having the foot aligned in a particular way while going over the hurdle. But the athlete rejoices in the refinement, knowing that it is a step toward an even faster time.
A common pitfall for ambitious entrepreneurs is to be so focused on external results that the process of developing the skills that are necessary for success training becomes a source of stress.
When you shift your focus to appreciating the process and valuing the small skill gains throughout the day, the enhancement in your attitude, satisfaction, and performance can be dramatic.
Making It Work
One coaching client, George, wanted help in getting better organized in his business. Frustrated with his failure to meet his own unrealistic time goals, he often felt tense and irritable. Soon he began dreading work. This was alarming since he had started the business to get out from under corporate controls. He wanted to have more freedom and opportunities for creativity. He wanted more enjoyment from his work and believed that being his own boss was the solution.
For a couple of months, we worked on developing planning strategies. In each session, we reviewed George’s previous week’s work. Initially, he had trouble seeing progress because of focusing on the end results such as the number of new customers and contracts.
He was helped to shift his focus to process: how he was approaching the task. He started noticing and enjoying that when he planned better, he took a more systematic approach to preparing bills, a task that previously felt like a time waster. Then he began noticing that he felt less tension in his back while working on the bills. Soon he observed that he was also less irritable. Then he discovered that he had more energy for other tasks afterward.
It is noteworthy that each change George made may have been imperceptible to an outsider or may have seemed insignificant. But George knew that each improvement in how he approached tasks and each decrease in distress was a private victory.
Each evening George took 15 minutes to identify three private victories for the day. For example, one evening he took delight in:
- Remembering the moment when he resisted the urge to make some phone calls during a time he had designated for preparing a marketing piece;
- Reflecting on how much better a call to a new contact went because he had taken the time to identify the three key goals for the call;
- Finding it easier to leave the office earlier than usual because he had followed his plan for the day better.
Each private victory helped him derive a deeper sense of satisfaction in the day because he was seeing progress in his ability to function optimally and felt more confident that he was moving toward his long-term goals.
Recommended Books on Private Victories: Towards Achieving Your Long-term Goals:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
- Living in Your Top 1%: Nine Essential Rituals to Achieve Your Ultimate Life Goals
- Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals (Worksmart)
- Beyond the Goal Line: The Quest for Victory in the Game of Life
- What Are Your Goals: Powerful Questions to Discover What You Want Out of Life