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Terraforming Life Change

DISCIPLINE STRATEGY® Blog by Timothy L. Coomer, PhD

Lessons on applying scientific research to solve real life challenges within a framework called DISCIPLINE: [Decide] [Investigate] [Sort] [Conceive] [Implement] [Loop] [Intensify] [Notice] [Enjoy]

I love all things related to aviation, space, technology, and science. If I have leisure time, I am either flying my airplane or reading the latest science and technology news. When I was younger, I became fascinated with the hypothetical process of terraforming.  Terraforming is a major transformational process that changes a planet’s atmosphere so that it is like Earth’s atmosphere and can support human life. Originating in science fiction, the concept has attracted some serious scientific research and may someday be used to transform Mars’ atmosphere.

I believe terraforming is the perfect analogy for the significant changes we all need to make when we set and achieve goals. Terraforming forever changes the planet and creates a more fertile environment.  Likewise, we need to create a more fertile environment for making decisions, accomplishing goals, and enjoying our lives.  I call this terraformed change process DISCIPLINE STRATEGY®.

Just Like Mars, the Current Environment for Goal Accomplishment is Harsh

Hard numbers on goal setting are difficult to find.  You may have heard of the often-quoted 1953 Yale study which concluded the 3% of graduates that had written goals earned 10 times the salary of those without written goals.  Yes, that study is often quoted – but it was fabricated by some very creative motivational speakers years ago. According to more recent and reliable research conducted by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, approximately 40% of people set a New Year’s Resolution.  Approximately 92% of those fail to keep the resolution or reach the implied goal of the resolution. Although there is no solid research to tell us the percentage of people who set serious written goals, I’m going to estimate it based on personal experience: 5%. The success rate of those 5% may be as high as 20%, but I think that would be generous.

Assuming my estimates are in the ballpark, about 1% of people set and achieve non-trivial written goals. So, what is the problem?

Life change is hard. There are numerous challenges and people fail to make a decision and follow through with the necessary effort to create a plan and pursue the goal.

The good news is that the challenges can be anticipated and conquered with a science-based process.  That process, as described in my book DISCIPLINE STRATEGY®, is summarized below.  I use the word DISCIPLINE as an acronym for the process:

DECIDE

People often choose goals based on emotion, greed, envy, lack of self-confidence, or because someone told them, “here is your goal.” Few people develop a goal through intentional thought and self-reflection.  This is the first mistake. If you are not fully in tune with and dedicated to your goal, you will never make it past the starting gate. There are strategies that will result in the best decision possible.

INVESTIGATE

Once a thoughtfully considered goal has been chosen, you have to become a subject matter expert. Most people don’t know how to conduct research – or they are too easily influenced by magazines, glib books, or internet articles. A serious investigation that is structured to remove biases, reveal all relevant sources, access the latest research, and tap into mentors is required.

SORT

Once you complete your research, you have to bring all that knowledge into your mind.  You have to decide which information is most accurate, resonates with you, and is actionable in your unique situation.  This is where the volumes of research you have gathered becomes a true knowledge base that supports a plan and vision that will be successful.

CONCEIVE

With your knowledge base carefully built and integrated into the way you think, it is time to conceive a plan. Too often, this step in the process is completed when you are on a dopamine high – excited about your goal, stimulated by your research, and overly optimistic about what you can accomplish.  This leads to an overly ambitious plan that will set you up for failure.  Conceiving a plan is about building healthy maintainable habits.  There are strategies that will help you build a robust plan.

IMPLEMENT

Implementation is a fascinating step in the process.  On day one you are introduced to your good friend named RESISTANCE. Suddenly, your old ways and patterns of behavior don’t look so bad. A little voice in your head immediately begins a dialog of doubt, uncertainty, and self-defeat. Implementation will be easier with a well thought out plan – but you will still face your dragons. By understanding the many challenges to effective implementation, you will be able to successfully implement your plan and transition from thinking to doing.

PERSEVERE

Soon after implementing your plan you will meet obstacles. Building the habits that support physical and mental toughness will increase your ability to persevere.  Understanding how to nurture your psychological capital (hope, self-efficacy, resiliency, optimism) will also be critical to your success.

LOOP

At this step in the process, you have experience and have learned enough to complete a serious self-assessment. This is when you loop back in the process to modify and improve your original plan. Similar to an expert mechanic tweaking a powerful engine for maximum performance, you will look for ways to improve your habits and processes. But honest self-assessment is difficult. You will need feedback from others to find the most effective adjustments to your plan.

INTENSIFY

With a revised plan in place, you are now ready for a period of intense effort.  You know what you are doing, you have an improved plan, experience, and a level of mental toughness that cannot be stopped. You intensify your effort while also utilizing strategies to prevent burnout. This is a level of effort that some around you may think is crazy – and that is exactly how you will know you are on the right track.

NOTICE

You are becoming a new person and you are accomplishing your goal. Don’t let this go unnoticed. Often, we let things normalize too quickly. Celebration and recognition are in order to lock in the growth you have achieved through the goal pursuit process. Take account of your new skills and confidence and leverage these to create a vision for the next big thing.

ENJOY

Finally, accomplishment is just one piece of the positive psychological concept called PERMA. Setting goals and becoming the person necessary to reach those goals should go hand in hand with efforts to nurture Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Well-being is nurtured with intentional effort. The goal pursuit techniques described above can be used to develop specific strategies to nurture the five components of PERMA.

My Thoughts

I have reviewed hundreds of research studies pertaining to personality traits, success, mental health, well-being, and the journey from idea conception to goal accomplishment. I work to understand why 40% of people have major life regrets and a large majority of people fail to reach their goals. I’m convinced this doesn’t have to be the case. But it requires effort to understand the psychology that causes hesitation exactly at the moment you need to take a leap of faith! Most people let fear block the required effort and most pop culture guidance on goal accomplishment is heavy on the “rah-rah” and weak on substance.

Terraforming Mars won’t happen overnight but just imagine the beautiful world it will create. Terraforming the process you use to set and accomplish your goals won’t happen overnight either. But believe me, your world will be transformed with the DISCIPLINE STRATEGY® approach to life change.

I won’t tell you this is easy. In fact, just the opposite – this is hard work. I will tell you that most people live with a lot of regret related to missed opportunities. You don’t want that to be you – you want to take the leap of faith, make a decision for positive life change and get to work. I’m here to teach you how to do it!

P.S. If you want to start now using the DISCIPLINE STRATEGY, check out this offer to gain instant access to the online DISCIPLINE STRATEGY video course and receive a signed copy of DISCIPLINE STRATEGY.

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