It's a new year with new ideas, new hopes. I hope it's off to a good start for you and I look forward to sharing more ways of being more creative and productive. Let's get started.
1: Why resolutions often fail - and how to achieve them There's a poison pill in many resolutions or goals. If achieving them relies on what other people will do, you've given up control and set yourself up for failure.
For example: If you are a writer and make your resolution, "I will get at least one article per month published in a major magazine," you are making your success dependent on the actions of editors.
Instead, consider making the resolution, "I will take the following actions in order to sell articles, and refine the process until I'm selling, on average, one article per month."
That shifts the emphasis on what you can do and how you can continually improve what you're doing in order to get desirable results.
ACTION: What's one goal you've set for yourself in the past but didn't reach? If it's still important to you, how can you restate it with an emphasis on the elements under your control? If you have made resolutions for 2008, you may want to revise them with this tip in mind.
2: How does the mood virus affect you? Is there somebody in your work life who has the unique ability to bring down everybody else's mood (while not necessarily intending to do so)? Sigal Barsade, a Wharton management professor who studies the influence of emotions on the workplace, says, "We engage in emotional contagion. Emotions travel from person to person like a virus."
Of course, this can be a positive as well: you may also know people who lift everybody's mood. Barsade says being positive not only makes you more popular but has other practical benefits: "Positive people cognitively process more efficiently and more appropriately. If you're in a negative mood, a fair amount of processing is going to that mood. When you're in a positive mood, you're more open to taking in information and handling it effectively."
Some people don't recognize how negative they are. I used to know one man who would automatically undermine any positive statement he made. For example, he would say, "Congratulations on getting your book published! Let's hope it sells more than most new books do."
ACTION: If you tend to be negative yourself, try following one of Grandma's Laws: "If you have nothing positive to say, don't say anything at all." And if negative people regularly bring your mood down, the next time you deal with them imagine a little storm cloud above their head, following them wherever they go. Make sure it stays above their head, not yours.
3: The power of one question In a recent issue of Early to Rise, Michael Masterson's enjoyable and useful wealth, health, and success e-zine>he wrote about the power of a question and gave this terrific example:
After hearing a news report about the Beatles phenomenon in England, 15-year-old Marsha Albert wrote to her local Washington, D.C. radio station and asked, "Why can't we have music like that here in America?"
Inspired by Marsha's question, disk jockey Carroll James managed to get a copy of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" from a British flight attendant and introduced the song to his WWDC radio audience on December 17, 1963.
Within minutes, requests for the record flooded the station. Within days, radio stations all across the United States were playing the song. And Capital Records was forced to release it on December 26, three weeks earlier than scheduled.
Pop music historian Martin Lewis: "There's no doubt whatsoever that the Beatles would have conquered America anyway. But the speed and magnitude of that stratospheric kick-off could not have happened without Marsha Albert. If the record had been released on January 13th, as planned, kids wouldn't have heard it 20 times a day, as they did during the school break. It would never have sold 1 million copies in three weeks. There wouldn't have been 10,000 kids at JFK to greet the Beatles. Marsha didn't start Beatlemania. She jump-started it."
Masterson concludes: "That's what a single, simple question can do," and adds, "Think about the chances you might have missed in your own life by failing to ask 'Can I?' Or 'Would you?' Or 'Is he?'"
ACTION: What questions can you ask, starting today, that might kick-start something important in your life. (Remember another Grandma's Law: "The worst thing that can happen is they say no.")
4: Why companies don't innovate - do you? Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, told Fast Company magazine that one of the biggest obstacles to change and innovation is fear.
Companies say they want their people to learn, but, as Pfeffer points out, learning requires tolerating mistakes and failure, and "letting people try things they've never done before, things they probably won't be very good at the first time around." It's easy to scoff at this backward attitude, but how often are you taking risks in your own work or personal life? And when you make a mistake or fail, how hard are you on yourself, instead of chalking it up as a learning experience?
ACTION: Next January, which will you regret more: what you did that didn't work out (but from which you learned), or what you didn't even try? Consider being a bit more of a risk-taker this year - but remember not to be hard on yourself when the outcome isn't what you hoped it would be.
5: The other reason nothing happens… The other key point Prof. Pfeffer makes in his interview is that there's a lot of "knowing" but not enough "doing." His advice is straightforward: "If you want the future to be better than the present, you have to start working on it immediately.
Remember: what you want is better than, not optimal. Your job is to do something today that's better than what you did yesterday. And to do something tomorrow that's better than what you did today."
I like the quote in the article by San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci, who said, "I never wear a watch because I always know it's now - and now is when you should do it."
ACTION: What can you do right now, within the next 5 minutes, to move forward on something that is important to you? It could be one note, one phone call, one email.
6: And a quote to consider "Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them." - Alfred North Whitehead