Power of the Pack

We celebrate independence and autonomy. 

We promote self-determination. 

We honor individuality.

And yet, there’s a pesky little fact you just can’t get around: we humans are herd animals. We thrive in packs. There is an inborn drive to affiliate, to connect, to join in. Even if you tell me you’re a loner: you affiliate, identify, fit in with others who identify as loners. Ironically, they’re your pack.

The people we hang out with influence our behavior and create a culture – the unspoken rules of engagement, the messages about what is permissible and expected start to operate. 

Studies continue to confirm that there is a significant likelihood that our weight, health, finances, relationships, fears, success, mindset will look similar to (be in the range of) the people we hang out with. Why? Because we unconsciously mimic, copy, align. It’s what herd animals do. 

This alignment in the group has served an important survival function. We’re stronger together against the _____ [Fill in the blank: tiger, monsoon, drought, encroaching tribe, government, political party, etc.] – against the “other.” We’re safe here in our community, our group. 

So we seek to fit in – somewhere. Culture is incredibly powerful and contagious. The behavior spurred by cultural norms bypasses the prefrontal cortex (that beautiful reasoning, rational part of your brain) and goes straight to the more primitive, instinctive regions. The power of culture is aptly expressed by the often-quoted sentiment of Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” 

Culture is incredibly powerful and contagious. The behavior spurred by cultural norms bypasses the prefrontal cortex (that beautiful reasoning, rational part of your brain) and goes straight to the more primitive, instinctive regions.

All this is to say, who you hang out with matters. If you are looking to create certain results or qualities in your life – you might want to affiliate with people with those results or qualities. Why? Because the power of culture, of groups, to boost your behavior in the direction you want to go. 

This is one of the reasons that I’m excited about the Power Start program that I’ll be offering for the first three months of 2019: The leveraging power of the group. 

When you affiliate with others 

who are up to something, 

who are focused on accomplishing a goal, 

who are taking productive action, 

you absorb that mindset, that focus, that behavior. 

It’s not magic. (You still have to show up and make an effort.) But it is magical. The leveraging power of the group. 

So if you would like start 2019 strong and benefit from the being part of a group of go-getters, doers, makers and shakers – like you, I hope you’ll join us. 

Beginning the week of January 14 through the week of March 25, I’ll be providing a weekly focus to help participants design the conditions of accomplishment as they pursue their goals. The result? By March 31, you’ll have made real-life progress toward goals that matter; and you’ll have the know-how to continue the momentum through the rest of the year and beyond.

If this sounds interesting, you can find more info here: 
https://productivity-power.teachable.com/p/power-start

PS And as a corollary: Our actions matter: not only to us, but to those around us. We have the power to impact the culture of the groups we’re in. Behavior is contagious. So, for example, when you do great work, it can elevate everyone’s game.

PPS And, all this talk about culture is NOT to say that valuing diversity doesn’t matter, or worse, isn’t possible. Au contraire. Instead, the culture, the unspoken rules of the group can be about valuing diversity, difference, innovation, quirkiness, etc. As the teacher, thinker, marketer Seth Godin describes the sentiment at the heart of culture : “People like us do things like this.” So, in a culture it could be: People like us value different cultures, etc. People like us value equality for all. People like us have compassion. You get the idea.

Size Matters: The Big and Small of Goal-Getting

Size matters in many things, including goals. 

It’s the new year and everyone is chatting up goals. And I’ve noticed a range of opinions about size. 

Should goals be manageable, doable, “realistic” (i.e., smArt) on the one hand or big, hairy, and audacious (BHAG) on the other? 

Should you go micro or macro? 

Should you think big or stay small?

Should you even create goals for the year or instead set your sights on 30 or 90 days?  

Should you go big or go home? 

Or should you bypass the whole thing and go goal-free. You know, see what happens. 

Here’s how I like to think about these size matters: Go big on goals and go small on actions.

Research by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham on goal setting reveals that goals that are challenging have a greater likelihood of being accomplished over those considered “realistic” or doable – called “Low Goals.” In addition, Jessica Tracy found that these “low goals” do not build self-esteem or confidence the way challenging goals do. Big goals tap into meaning, and meaning triggers the biochemistry of motivation. It’s a win-win situation. 

So when it comes to your goals – go big. Go for the stretch. Go for the thing that you’re not 100% positive you can accomplish, that challenges your current reality, and dares you out of the comfort zone. But make sure that in addition to being “big” that it’s specific – not big and vague. Vague has no inspired staying power. It will allow you wriggle out of it – and you won’t be able to cash in on the big-goal confidence boost.

So when it comes to your goals – go big. Go for the stretch. Go for the thing that you’re not 100% positive you can accomplish, that challenges your current reality, and dares you out of the comfort zone. 

This idea of big goals is why setting goals for the year works. 12 months is far enough away that you can suspend your current, immediate conditions and allow your imagination and aspiration to have at it. You aren’t constrained by the gravity of today’s reality. Who knows, maybe in 12 months you can create that product, or triple your income, or run that marathon, or write that book, or change your career, or switch up your health. And a year is still close enough to take seriously. 

Now when it comes to taking actions toward your goals: go small. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you want doable – because you have to, well, do it. There’s significant evidence that micro-habits work: Identifying the smallest possible action so that you defeat any resistance… and doing it consistently so that it eventually becomes patterned in the brain and, therefore, much easier (and automatic) over time.

Now when it comes to taking actions toward your goals: go small. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you want doable – because you have to, well, do it. 

This idea of small action is why planning action in smaller time periods works. Yes, you have your annual goal – that you want to accomplish by December 31 – but you plan in smaller timeframes. I like to organize my efforts to achieve my goals in 90-day periods – seasons. You stay focused on the season you’re in and the milestone goals or efforts you’re making to progress toward your goals. And then break it down more into a 2-week sprint. Each of these timeframes have mini-goals that you are taking action toward. 

So that’s the size of it. Big goals, small actions. Big, challenging goals; small, doable actions. 

Holding these two perspectives – the inspired destination and the real-life next step will take you far. It will build your competence and confidence. It will stir up motivation. It will bring the boldness of your vision into the beauty of your day. 

Big goal, small action. Always wins.


Want to make progress on some big goals? Want 2019 to be the year that you did the big things? Then join us for the online Power Start program. We start the week of January 14 through the week of March 25. What will happen? You will make real-life, bankable progress on your goals and you’ll have the real-life, science-backed tools to help you build on that momentum. Get the deets here and join us alright already… 
https://productivity-power.teachable.com/p/power-start

Goal Power

December 2018

It's that time again - when our minds start to wander to the new year and ponder what we want to accomplish or experience or create in those 12 months.

It's as if we have this socially-constructed and agreed-upon chapter of time....

to create something, 

to develop something, 

to make something,

to improve something,

to change something.... 

...whether in our work, families, relationships, communities, habits, health, or character. 

Now, let's be real. It's easy to turn the page of the calendar and let life happen.... You’ll be busy. You’ll have important things to do. You’ll have experiences. You’ll weather challenges. You’ll accomplish things. And you’ll make some mistakes. 

But one of the unique gifts humans are endowed with is the ability to imagine what they want to create in life (imagine the future) and then intentionally pursue it. Create it. Make it. Fashion it. Accomplish it. Do it. 

Research on life satisfaction shows that goals increase a person's sense of meaning, self-efficacy, confidence, happiness, and fulfillment. And it makes sense, right? Goals put you in the driver's seat - which is not to say that you can control everything. However, you can take the wheel, navigate the conditions, and make your way to your destination. 

Muhammad Ali once said, "What keeps me going is goals." 

People who have goals exhibit more hope and optimism, according to hope researcher, Rick Snyder. And who couldn't use some hope these days? 

If you study high performers, you'll find something that unites them: they have goals. They see something in their mind's eye they want to achieve and they take deliberate action toward it.

Edward Locke, one of the developers of goal-setting theory, has found that you're more likely to accomplish a goal that is difficult or challenging. Ironically, easy goals, or what are termed "low goals," are much less likely to be accomplished. They are ho-hum. They don’t engage you. 

Challenging goals... goals on the edge of the comfort zone, goals you're not sure you can achieve - increase your focus, attentiveness, and creativity. They cause you to rise to the occasion, access or develop new capabilities and habits. They challenge you forward - into new levels of performance. 

So skip trying to make goals that are "doable" or "realistic." Instead, make them big enough to be worthy of your energy, attention, aspiration, time, and skill. 

So as you think about 2019, think big. 

Another quality of goals that are more likely to be achieved is that they are "magnetic." They inspire you. You want goals that make you jump out of bed in the morning because you care about them. 

Now, let's say you have a deliverable for work - and it doesn't seem all that inspiring to you. Yet you see that it’s a goal you have to accomplish. How can you reframe the goal for yourself, so that it is more enticing? So that it connects to what inspires you, what is meaningful to you? 

So this goal thing is interesting. It's both science and art. Goals are stories. They weave a plotline that keeps the action going. So why not create a story through your goals in 2019 that is compelling, ambitious, heroic?

To design your goals for 2019, you can start by envisioning the future with this prompt: 

Wouldn't it be amazing if (by December 31) ...

Use this prompt for all the areas you want to design goals for - and brainstorm. No censoring, editing. Go for quantity. The more the merrier. 

Once you have your brainstorm list, you'll be able to see what stands out, what you want to make into goals for the year.

This is one of the brainstorm prompts in the Goal Starter Kit, which is the prep work for Power Start - an 11-week virtual program designed to help participants start strong in 2019. Each week, I'll be giving actionable expertise on the science of accomplishment and guiding the group to make progress on their own goals - so that by March 31, participants will have made tangible, real-world progress on their goals and can build on this momentum to make 2019 the most fulfilling year ever. 

If this sounds interesting to you, you can get the details here: Power Start.  I would LOVE to welcome you (and your goal-getter friends) to Power Start. (FYI: We Power Start beginning January 14, 2019.). Join us!

Goals and the Rise of the Resistance

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January 1

It's the happy new year day and, I'm not gonna lie, I LOVE THE VIBE. The first day of the year has a distinct, awesome feel. It's rolling in possibilities. It's soaked in optimism. It's unencumbered by past failures. It's forward facing and promising. And people are wishing each other happiness. I mean, WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE about the first day of the year? 

And yet, I know some of you smart people may want to object to this kind of new year's naiveté. I mean, after all, it's just another day. Still has those 24 hours. The sun still rises and sets like all the other days. There's nothing to see here. Move along. 

While this may be a compelling argument, there is a difference. This difference is, in a word: perspective. Somehow, we've conspired to organize time into these (perhaps arbitrary) units of 365 (or 366) days. And when you're at the start of a unit (perspective), it feels good, expansive, hopeful. Yes, it's a mind game. But mind games matter. 

And as I've been partying with the possibility vibe, I've been thinking about goals. Today, my Instagram feed reflects basically two sides of the goal coin.

There is pretty post after post after post about resolutions and goals. People are posting their word for the year. Or their theme. Everyone and their cousin are offering courses on goal-setting. There are more planners than you could shake a stick at. And some planners have stickers. (Again, what's not to love?)

Then, there are those few posts that disparage the futility of resolutions and declare goals are dead (or something akin). 

Perhaps trying to distinguish themselves amongst the crowd of new year's goal-getters, there are those who strike a maverick, rebellious tone. One person posted that they are not a Resolution Person. They are more of a Choices Person. Whatever it takes . . . 🥳🤗Some posts use sad statistics about the likelihood you will not fulfill your new year's resolutions and goals as scare tactics - perhaps so more people join the ranks of the jaded. 

This is why I love Instagram. Especially at the beginning of the year when we're all basically taking about the same thing (which again, tells me the beginning of the new year has some power. Just sayin')

So here are my two cents. Goals have become so commonplace in the modern lexicon that they almost seem passé. But the truth is, when you really think about it: goals are radical. Goals are the language of the hero, of the creator, of the maker. I would even say, of the maverick.

Goals are imagining - conjuring up - a new reality and then deliberately taking actions to make it happen. Goals are a sneaky, little way to disrupt the status quo. Goals = Change. You cannot pursue goals while clutching your current reality. 

Goals are a sneaky, little way to disrupt the status quo. Goals = Change. You cannot pursue goals while clutching your current reality. 

And here's where the story of goals gets super tricky. Goals are, by nature, a commitment to change. And so, they are inevitably met with resistance. 

We are wired to secure our safety at every turn. Change is unknown, risky. There could be mistakes or failure involved. And so the prospect of change - however positively it is spun (such as a goal you want to achieve) - still makes some secret part of your psyche a little, well, uncomfortable, triggering a whole stealth army of defenses. 

You get bored. Or sidetracked. Or doubtful. Or confused. Or distracted. Competing rationales arise out of nowhere. Business as usual takes over and you forget. Or you decide that goals are so 2018. This is the resistance at work. Goals are revolutionary. Goals change life (or work) as you know it - in ways small or large. And there are no guarantees. 

So when thinking about goals, it's important to get smart to the resistance it will inevitably stir - either from others or, more insidiously, from yourself. 

And this is why goals are the language of the hero. The hero must anticipate and meet the challenges of the journey. The hero is not daunted by resistance but fueled by it. Challenged by it. 

Goals = Change. And this change is not only in creating a new measurable reality. The change is in you. To create something new - to achieve a goal - however material it may be - inevitably requires trading the security of autopilot with the demands of presence and responsbility.

And this may be the greatest feature of goals. While creating the change, the creator changes. 

As you cook up your goals for 2019, consider how you will meet the resistance. What might the resistance look like? And what will you do when you come face to face with it? What will you change and how will you change?

Oh, and
Happy New Year! 


PS If you would like to test out ways to make progress on your goals (and disarm the resistance), consider joining me and some other goal-getters in the online Power Start program that beings the week of January 14. You can get information here: https://productivity-power.teachable.com/p/power-start