Did you ever prepare for something really big, and when the day came all you could think about was the next project? This is actually a very common response. It is particularly true if you are very well prepared. You’ve done the work. You’ve gone through a period of “eating, sleeping, and breathing” the project. Now all you need to do is the execution. And you’re ready to say “Okay. What’s next?”
If we’re busy, we tend to do this way too much. We sell a new client, get the first job started, then move on to the next client. It’s like working hard to get the football 90 yards and turning down the effort at the ten yard line. How many games are won that way? Somewhere between “few” and none.
What happens, psychologically, is that we get to the point where success moves from the realm of possibility to the realm of known. We know we will be successful. A very good analogy is test preparation. When you start to study for a test, you probably think you’ll do fine. As you begin to study harder and take practice exams, you are humbled a bit. You realize how much work is ahead.
So you dig in and study for the exam. Study study study. Take practice exams. Study the exams to find points of weakness and study some more.
At some point you know you will pass. You don’t “feel” you will pass. You know you will pass. You understand the material and the exam format. You’re prepared. You’re ready. You can do it.
At this point of apparent success, your mind has an actual vision that you’ve accomplished the goal. You’ve read about this: create a vision of what success will be like and become comfortable with it. Make your mind see the successful moments. They become real to your mind.
But you can’t stop there. You can’t skip the test. The rest of the world (outside your mind) doesn’t know that you can pass, and that you’ve really already passed the test in your mind. You have to push that last little bit and actually create the physical, visible success.
In the July 2005 newsletter I published an article on the very-busy “monkey mind.” The problem of stopping at the moment of apparent success is another example of the monkey mind. Once your mind has checked this item off its list, your mind is ready to move on to the next challenge.
In almost all cases, stopping at the point of apparent success involves not taking the next visible action on a project. Why? Because we are very busy, perhaps overwhelmed. Our irrational mind says we can’t add one more thing to the mix. Then we will definitely be overwhelmed.
That’s irrational because we’re not adding one more thing: we’re just continuing with something that’s already on the list! We’re going the last ten yards. We’re finishing a current project, not starting a new one.
But our minds get ahead of us. Your very busy mind may be laying out the next project, beginning to prepare for the next phase, etc. Your mind wants to move on before your physical being has had a chance to complete the current project.
So, we take the course and study for the exam, but we don’t take the exam.
We sign up a bunch of new clients, but don’t push to deliver the first project on time.
We work hard to prepare a big party for someone and don’t “show up” mentally and focus on them during the party.
We struggle to get our kids ready to be successful in school, but don’t make contact with them to find out how things are going once school starts.
We work to get sales leads, qualify them, draw them in, but never send out a quote.
We hire people and don’t give them complete training.
And so forth. We clutter our lives with unfinished projects. Or rather, we clutter our minds with projects that are 90% or 95% completed. Each one just needs a little push. But until then, they sit.
|It’s great to be within one step of your goal. . .|
but you need to take that last step!
As you may have guessed, this pattern of turning down the steam at the last minute is extremely destructive. It is also a habit, a pattern of behavior. And that’s the good news.
Habits can be broken. They can be co-opted by more important habits. You can develop a new habit to overcome the old habit.
How’s this for a habit: Add extra effort at the end. Turn UP the steam. Push it through, clean up the details, and have the whole thing off your desk.
Putting in extra effort at the end is a great habit. It will allow you to un-clutter your monkey mind a bit. After all, those unfinished projects float there, asking for attention. They remind you of work undone. They represent failure to complete a task.
Developing the habit of putting in extra effort at the end will allow you to grab a little quick success right away, too. How many unfinished projects do you have? How many are in the 90-99% range? Push them! Finish them! Complete them!
You’ll get a few quick victories under your belt, and that’s great support for the new habit. Then you have to track all of your 90-99% tasks. Push them through! Get help if you need it. Treat these tasks as “easy victories” or low fruit. Just get them done and off the board.
The result will be that you’ll have more free time!
Sometimes, with long projects, we’re physically worn out at the end. We are literally exhausted. It’s hard to push that last little bit. But doing an excellent job at the end of a project will always pay off. Clients notice it. Family members notice it. Fellow employees notice it.
When every job ends with a triumphant fanfare instead of an exhausted sigh, the job is a lot more fun! Once we stop, or slow down, inertia keeps us at that pace. Instead, push just a little bit more. A little extra effort at the end will make the victory fun and exciting. Let exhaustion settle in that night, or the next day.
Focusing on the end means focusing on the moment of success rather than the inevitable tiredness that follows. You owe that to yourself. Never let a victory pass without taking note of it.
|“I will never exceed my own highest expectations.” |
— Sheila Murray Bethel