I guess lots of us will have used the passing of the old year and the arrival of the New Year as an opportunity to set ourselves some new goals, some new targets and some new commitments. It is a great thing to do and something I would recommend. A little while ago I wrote a blog suggesting that making resolutions was a waste of time partly it was because typically those resolutions usually last no longer than the hangover that often accompanies them.
When I think about it though, the real reason that so many of us fail to turn our good intentions into real change lies in one word : Discipline. Or to be more precise, lack of discipline. I used to work with someone whose favourite aphorism was that the ‘road to hell is paved with good intentions’. It used to really annoy me all of those years ago because this particular individual had so much ability but he generally failed to generate the results his ability promised. Why? Well, in his case, lack of discipline, lack of application and so in my eyes he never really seemed to achieve what he could have achieved. For him the road to hell really was paved with good intentions.
I now realise that my opinion on him and his performance matters little. It is not my position to judge him. The only opinion that matters is his own and he might have been blissfully happy with his lot and his life. I hope he was.
However, I now know I am hard wired to believe that none of us were created to be mediocre, and that all of us have genius within us. Part of the great game is understanding where our individual genius lies and optimising it. The reverse is often what usually happens and Buckminster Fuller observed that “All children are born geniuses;9,999 out of every 10,000 are swiftly, inadvertently degeniused by grown ups”
The poster on the wall as you enter my offices comes from Steve Prefontaine who said that “To give anything other than your best is to sacrifice the gift” my belief is that whatever your philosophy, whatever your religion, whatever your beliefs, failing to be the best that you can be is fundamentally disrespectful. It is sacrificing the gift.
So how can you turn your good intentions into effective actions to become the best you you can be? How can you develop the disciplines necessary to do what needs to be done? Much helpful stuff has been written on this subject, about understanding motivation, establishing well formed outcomes and how replacing one unhelpful habit with a different, more helpful habit is easier than trying to simply cease the bad habit. All of this is valid and valuable but for the majority of people we do not have what it takes to turn good intentions into effective actions on our own. We will need help.
The most effective help you can get is to get a good coach. There is one thing better than knowledge and that is applied knowledge. The right coach can not only help you know what to do but hold you accountable to doing it.
How many of us, as children, would have had the self discipline to learn what we had to learn without our teachers and a system that held us accountable for learning our lessons? How many of us ever learned a complex set of skills without someone to teach us, whether that was laying bricks, playing golf or being a parent? Why would that change?