Celebrate more to create lasting change

This time of year is really special for me – we’re thankful for things that went well, reflective on our experiences and remembering those that we miss. It got me thinking about our intentions – shouldn’t we also be celebrating the intentions that we worked on and the ones that we learned from? After all, come January, we might me setting some new ones but what’s so special about January? And, why stop there? Let’s celebrate more often than once a year. After all, we’ve been working and learning from our intentions during the whole year. So, let’s talk about celebrating more and observe how the joy propels us forward and further through our intentions and our goals. But first, a song that evokes CELEBRATION!

Why do we need to celebrate?

Working on our intentions or any change, for that matter, is hard, especially in the beginning. It may require a significant change to how we think, act and spend our time. Now, that’s a lot to have accomplished all because we purposefully intended to be better. Therefore, we need to celebrate your endeavor. We need to celebrate because it was your willpower (with some neurophysiological involvement) that converted thought to intention, intention into action, action into motivation, motivation into practice and practice into achievement.

You worked on making a better YOU so you need to celebrate.

Joy also creates positive reinforcement for your action and that joy can help you sustain progress toward your intention. Thus creating lasting change.

Celebrate more often

So, why celebrate just once at the end? Why not, celebrate more than once? After all, if joy propels us forward and incentivizes us to keep at it, then more joy and joy more often would equal greater motivation. That, indeed, has been a lesson for me and a key reason why I encourage teams to celebrate more often.

Being more joyful is not bad for you so celebrate more

But some might ask, why are you celebrating if you haven’t achieved your goal? And that is a really good point – celebrating for the sake of celebrating is not meaningful for our intention. In fact, it might lead us to short circuit the work and go straight to celebration. Thus, in that terrific and seemingly, heartless question, lies a nice lesson on finding more reasons to celebrate.

Finding more reasons to celebrate requires us to be aware of our progress and mindful about how to measure it

So, break down your intention into daily, weekly and monthly goals and decide how you will measure progress. And Voila! You now have the means to celebrate more often.

Some ideas on what to celebrate

Do you need ideas? You’ve come to the right place.

  • Celebrate the fact that you started and ended and even that you stuck around at the mid-point mark.
  • Celebrate what you learned whether you were proved right or wrong.
  • Celebrate your teams working together in alignment.
  • Celebrate the losses too – when you win, you learn what to do; but when you lose, you also learn what not to do.

What do you think about celebrating and what are your ideas on reasons to celebrate more often?

Let me know in the comments what was most helpful for you. Stay safe and joyful this holiday!

What does our irrationality teach us

As I read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, I found his ideas not only enlightening to understand my own predictable irrationality but also to think through ideas on motivation and change management for our teams.

1️⃣ Context matters – we find it hard to understand things in absolute terms so explain value in relative terms with context and understand where your team is coming from. Small change for you may not be small for them.
2️⃣ People will work more for a cause than for cash – This doesn’t mean compensation is not important. Frame your cause carefully.
3️⃣ Free influences choice – Loss aversion is real so when something is free, there is no visible loss from choosing it. Consequently, when something is free, we will irrationally select it over a better choice – find what’s free and explain the choice.
4️⃣ Moods influence our decisions – Set the stage for your team to be in a cool but motivated state when introducing a change.
5️⃣ Ownership drives commitment – when we own something, we value it more thus our loss aversion takes over because of the prospect of losing something we own. Motivate ownership.
6️⃣ Short term pains overcome long term gains – we can lose motivation quickly if the immediate outcomes are negative so celebrate the early learnings (even failures) and shine a spotlight on the small wins. Start easy, go long.

Predictably Irrational

.. but what if I fail at my goal. Say Hakuna Matata.

Another common question, we encounter is:

What if I commit to my goal and I don’t achieve it?

This worry is also not related to a system but rather, aimed squarely at the goal. So, first, let’s be pragmatic and accept that this is totally possible.

Yes, you may not achieve your goal and that’s OKAY

It’s okay, it really is. All of us, including me, want you to succeed. However, it is good to not get so attached to the goal but more to the intention and process of change. Personal growth comes from the journey, at least as much as from the destination.

To put it simply, there are few things you can do when things don’t work out.

  • Drop it
  • Re-think or reframe it
  • Press on
  • Double down on it
  • Ask for help

Let’s take a look at these options a bit more..

Drop your goal

Yup, it’s not about the goal, it’s about you. If you’re finding out that the goal doesn’t fit your intention or it’s not the right time to unleash it, then feel free to drop it.

What is important here is to do a “blameless post mortem” of your goal to learn why and what you should be aware of when you set a subsequent goal. Blameless post mortem’s are great. The central theme is to find out what, not who, caused the failure and oddly you can get to it using a technique called “5 Whys”. Yup, basically, you ask the question, “Why did that happen?” And the answer shouldn’t place the blame on a person, in this case, you.

Why am I not ready for this goal.. yet?

Perhaps you were not your most objective self when setting this goal. Happens to many of us all the time, think New Year’s resolutions. Emotion driven and/or rushed resolutions that we’re all to familiar with are quite common. Don’t be hard on yourself but before you drop the goal entirely, take a look at the other options.

Re-think and reframe your goal

We are generally not great at estimating effort over something longer than a few days. As a result, your goal may need an adjustment. We also tend to over commit at the beginning and tire out pretty quickly if our anticipation overcomes our expectation. But here’s the great thing – you tried! And now you know more.

So what can you do? First, ensure you’re in the cool, calculated and pragmatic state and examine your goal. It’s totally fine to go back to the drawing board and write a new or updated worthy goal or choose a different system. All you need to is ask is…

What did I learn about myself and what should my goal be?

And now, let’s apply a simple trick. This one comes from my (virtual) running coach and follows from the point above. His observation with the athletes he trains is that the anxiety of achieving the ultimate goal at the end generally holds them back. So, he has a couple of things he brings up on almost every run

Start easy and celebrate more

Try breaking up our goals into smaller milestones, can give us quick wins to celebrate. But we can go even further. For example: celebrate whenever we start even though you didn’t feel like when we woke up, celebrate shaking the initial cobwebs, celebrate that we came back a better person every time we tried. These are not easy to just turn on but practice celebrating more, please!

Start easy and find more reasons to celebrate and have fun on the journey to your goal

He is on to something more profound and that is that if we perceive the short term result of working on our goal as negative, it’s much harder to keep at it even if the ultimate outcome is highly desirable.

Press On – Keep at it a bit more

B.F. Skinner, a behavioral psychologist, ran an interesting experiment. He took a group of test subjects and divided them into 2 groups – one that received a reward for an action when it was done a fixed number of times and the other that received a reward for the same action but a random number of times. Now, our intuition tells us that the first group should be more motivated because they know exactly when to expect the reward but he found that when the rewards were turned off, the second group actually kept working on the action longer. There is a link here to loss aversion.

What will you miss out or even regret if you don’t try

The lesson that follows is to flip the expectation on its head. Instead of being anxious about a fixed outcome at the end, being excited to go on the journey every day not knowing what to expect! Then come back and assess how you’re doing and what changes you need to make.

Double down

There is a very well known bias we can use to our advantage here. Great coaches, sales people and negotiators use it all the time to trick us into committing. That is the simple act of owning or feel like you own something makes you feel that good things will come if you wait for it

Here’s an example: During the housing crisis in 2008, a study from Zillow (a popular house hunting site) showed that around 90% of home owners said that there had been foreclosures in their neighborhood and around 80% said that they didn’t think that the real estate market would improve, yet around 60% believed that the value of their homes had not decreased and around the same planned to invest in home improvements. That’s the power of ownership that despite the gloom of uncertainty, people believed in what they owned.

You are more committed to what you own

Ask for help

Here’s something you don’t hear often because we’re constantly told to go it alone. But we’re social animals and one way or another influenced by the people around us, more so, by the ones that are closest. So, the lesson here is simple.

Speak up and ask for help with your goal

You’ll be surprised how powerful that simple act of asking for help is giving you additional capacity to go out and achieve your goal.

What doesn’t kill you…

… only makes you stronger. You already know this one. Growth happens when we’re stretched and what better way to stretch ourselves other than our own goals.

Remember the times you got through your worst challenge and you not only survived, but you gained new perspective from it that has shaped who you are

What was most helpful for you in this post? Let me know in the comments. Feel free to share these posts with folks that you coach and help. Let’s pay it forward and encourage every one to achieve their goals. Take care!