This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Greatness requires sacrifice. Being great isn’t easy – it’s not supposed to be easy. But it can be achieved, especially when we learn how to stay focused on continual progress.
Successful leaders are those who are constantly working to improve themselves, their relationships and their business. They set the bar high, and they work hard at it.
One of the essential keys to achieving a big goal, whether it’s to double your revenue or beat an addiction that’s standing in the way of your performance and productivity, is to learn how to deal with those moments when inspiration fades and reality sets in.
I call these fight-throughs. Fight-throughs are strategic behaviours that help you resist temptation, fend off negative self-talk and avoid sabotaging your progress.
A person finds himself struggling with positive behavioural change with thoughts like, “This is harder than I thought it would be” or even its opposite, “This isn’t so hard. I can let up a little.” Either mindset can lead to backpedalling.
Good habits are formed and maintained daily, and they require consistent commitment and vigilance. Every time you are able to get through a moment of self-doubt or wavering, you strengthen that behavioural pattern, making it easier to do next time.
This sounds so simple. But in practice, it take a lot of resolve and self-awareness. Here are four strategies to master the fight-through.
1. Embrace the ritual
Learn to ritualize positive habits by completing them at the same time daily. Doing so will speed up the process of forming positive habits, because it takes much of the thinking out of doing. You already do this every day without thinking about it. Making coffee when you wake up. Reading the morning paper. Brushing your teeth. Rituals punctuate and characterize certain times of day. You can do this with three small daily behaviours, or daily “process goals,” that will get you closer to achieving your big objective, your “product goal.”
So, if doubling your business revenue is your product goal, your three process goals might be: making five cold calls; checking in with a high-value client; and doing 15 minutes of industry reading and research every single day. Ritualize your three daily process goals for this month by doing them before other projects or tasks get in your way. First thing in the morning is a good rule of thumb.
2. Acknowledge the challenge
It’s crucial to acknowledge and recognize what’s standing in your way – or trying to. Old habits die hard. A fight-through usually involves a person, situation or thought that pops up and makes you question your ability to succeed. To win the fight-through, you have to recognize that you’re in a battle. Simply say to yourself, “I’ve entered the fight-through, and I need to win to move past this.” Winning each fight-through will make it easier to win the next. Conversely, when you choose to lose a fight-through, you make it easier to lose the next one.
3. Ask two questions
When you recognize you’re in a fight-through, force yourself to answer the following two questions: “How will I feel if I win this?” and “How will I feel if I don’t win this?” Bring emotion into the equation. In other words, let yourself feel the positive in winning the fight-through and the negative in losing. If you don’t make those cold calls today, you know you’ll feel lousy, lazy, and like a failure. If you push through and just do it, you can check the box next to that process goal and know that you’ve inched a few steps closer to your big goal. That will feel fantastic. Success always does!
4. Peer into the future
Finally, if the above techniques haven’t moved you to action and helped you conquer a fight-through, then imagine in great detail how your life will be in five years if you don’t start winning fight-throughs. Be totally honest with yourself, and allow yourself to feel what life will be like if you don’t make the positive changes you know you want to achieve.
Gaining control of your behaviour feels amazing. If you master the fight-through, you will soon be performing to your potential and forming positive habits to keep you on a continual track toward achieving your goal.
Dr. Jason Selk (@Jason_Selk) is a mental performance coach for professional athletes and Fortune 500 executives. He is the author of Executive Toughness and 10-Minute Toughness. His website is www.jasonselk.com.