I'll be honest with you – for years I've struggled with getting the results I wanted. I tried to go after my goals – starting a business, increasing my flexibility, learning tumbling many times, all of which led to failures. I don't know anyone else who is not able to do a proper back-handspring after trying to learn it for five years. It wasn't fun, but it got me thinking – what was I doing wrong?
Many things, actually. Let me share my insights on one of them.
Getting attached to your story slows down your progress dramatically
It's very good to have a strong mind and be persistent, but ignoring reality is not the way to go if you want to get results. People often get attached to the idea how things should be and they are not able to see that their understanding is completely out of alignment with what is actually happening. Believe me, this is happening way too often without us even noticing it.
- People stay in dead-end jobs because they simply refuse to let go of their hopes that it will lead somewhere.
- People try the same approach to losing weight (which is usually drastically reducing food intake) which lasts a few days and brings no results. It doesn't occur to them to test a different approach.
- People stay with boyfriend or girlfriend who is clearly not their dream partner because 'someone' is better the no one. Instead, they stay miserable themselves and torture the other person by trying to mold him or her into what they want.
The problem with being delusional is that you don't know that you're delusional – you think your mind is crystal clear, when it's actually working to create more illusions in order to cover holes in the previous one. How can we break out of this vicious cycle? There is a method, but before trying to apply it, we need to learn one important thing – accept our own mistakes.
There's nothing wrong with making mistakes
When we are kids, we don't worry too much about making mistakes – we are too focused on exploring the world to be bothered by small things like that. We are perfectly fine with the fact that we don't know everything and that we are just learning how things work. However, once we get older, this attitude starts fading away and by the time we reach adulthood it's almost gone out of our minds. Exploring the world is for kids. We are grown-ups, shouldn't we know how things work by now?
However, once we strip away social conditioning and our own arrogance, it becomes clear that this idea is completely irrational. When we are getting older, we are constantly encountering new challenges – we need to learn to support ourselves, build a relationship with our significant other, get our own place to live, start a family, raise kids, let them go once they become adults, retire. Process of constant change and growth doesn't stop as long as we breathe. Isn't it stupid to think that all our assumptions about things that we haven't experienced yet will turn out to be true?
Furthermore, it doesn't matter how well we are doing something, there will always room for improvement. Often people get upset when they realize that there's a better method of doing something; that means their original approach was wrong. It's not like that, though. You might have been running your business efficiently, but someone might give you an idea how to do it even better. It doesn't mean that you we're doing something wrong before – it's how the process of progress works.
In order to get better results and get them faster, we have to accept that making mistakes is an inevitable part of life. Once we realize that making mistakes doesn't make us bad people, we won't feel the need to deny them. This realization alone is not enough, however, since beating ourselves up is a very strong habit. We have to take action by doing reality checks and tweaking our approach according to the data we have.
It's great when you have a teacher who can give you reliable feedback on a regular basis. However, most people don't have teachers like that – many times we have to make decisions and judgments on our own. On what we can rely, though, when it's so easy to delude ourselves? The answer is simple – metrics.
When you're trying to achieve any goal, get into habit of tracking metrics of some kind. For example:
- When you're working on your arm strength, write down the numbers of push-ups and pull-ups that you were able to do after every training session.
- When you're learning a skill like tumbling or dancing, make sure to videotape your performance regularly, so you can evaluate your progress over time.
- When running an online business, keep track of visitors, conversion rates, number of sales, monthly income, etc.
Constantly tweaking your approach is a fast-track to getting the desired results.
You run your own blog and your goal is to increase traffic. You've heard the idea that a good way to do it is to provide value by constantly posting in relevant forums. You've also heard that guest-posting is great for that too. You decide to do both – you become an active member of one or two discussion forums and you write one guest-post. At the end of the month, when you analyze your traffic data, you see that one guest post brought you the same amount of visitors as all the forum posts combined. This data leads you to a decision to drop forum activities and focus your time on writing excellent guest-posts. Result? Your traffic soars.
This approach can be applied to anything from learning languages to losing weight to improving intimate relationships. You just have to be willing to gather data, analyze it and tweak your approach accordingly, accepting that your previous assumptions were wrong and it's time to let them go.
Tweaking must become a habit
Tweaking it's not something that you do one or two times and forget it. In order to get the full benefit of it, you must develop the habit of gathering and analyzing data on a regular basis. How can you do it?
- Gathering data. Decide what type of data would be most useful to you, then find a way to gather it. It's easy with stuff like traffic information because computer does all the work, but what to do with things like dancing? You can decide to videotape your salsa performance every two weeks and then set a reminder on your phone so you wouldn’t forget it. This can be applied to anything – decide what data to gather, decide when to do it and set a reminder for yourself.
- Tweaking. The same thing applies here – schedule a time to analyze data and set a reminder so you would remember it. Then analyze the data you have gathered and adjust your actions accordingly.
Tweaking might feel like a very unusual thing to do for the first few times – it might even be painful if you are very attached to your previous assumptions which we're being proved wrong by the data you've gathered. Don't worry, it will get easier over time and results will be worth it. Don't take my word for it, though – give it a shot and see for yourself.
|Written on 4/10/2011 by Agota Bialobzeskyte. Agota writes a blog, www.outsidethebox.lt, about getting different results by using different approach. Agota has studied martial arts for almost ten years; it's no surprise that her favourite topic is applying Eastern philosophies in our daily lives.|