Yes, this very beer right here.
I’m posting this during a short break in Miami with my wife to celebrate our anniversary. That alone makes this a pretty special beer. However, it’s also the first beer in quite a long time for me as part of a willpower exercise I set myself recently. On September 12th I challenged myself to completely forego all forms of alcohol until I got to Miami for this trip. That’s 37 days if you are keeping score.
I did this for a number of reasons. The health, weight loss and improved sleep benefits of a zero alcohol lifestyle are widely documented - and all those three are very important to me. Additionally, I undertook this for more personal reasons.
It’s important to note that I’m fortunate to be able to do something like this on a whim. Others are not, and we should recognize that. Pick a challenge that works for you.
You didn’t come here for workout and healthy eating tips. So why write on a performance blog about taking a break from the sauce? What I actually want to talk about is willpower and the incredible power of setting goals, working on them in a dedicated way and using the results to produce even further impact.
In coaching, we call this a forward mindset. In my experience, it is one of the most powerful tools for achieving substantial change. You can summarize the science by saying the following:
When you are succeeding and feeling positive your mind opens up the new ideas and new possibilities. Put another way, success breeds success.
It’s that state which we, the client and coach, shape into their new reality. The key to harnessing this is how you get into this forward mindset.
In a coaching session, I can work with a client to get them into. For example, if a coaching client had an area of their work where they would like to achieve massively improved results,rather than looking at all the things going wrong in that area, I may start by asking about areas in which they are successful. Over the course of a few minutes, I’ll have them break down that success, so we can feel the component actions that created it. Two things are happening right then, firstly we build positive emotion in the conversation. This creates our forward state where the client's mind is ready to create new possibilities. Secondly, we bring the client’s talents to the surface so they can use them in reaching the new goal.
Outside of coaching, you can use this method with yourself. When starting something new or preparing the tackle a new problem take some time to reflect - but not on the issue at hand. Instead look at other areas where you have been successful. Note that lying to yourself won’t work. The success must be genuine. Thankfully, we all have things we have been successful at that we can call on. Much like during the coaching session, spend time with the feelings as you recall your victory. Inspect your actions, your decisions, and how it felt to reach the target. With these thoughts in mind, you can begin to think through your new goal.
One of my favorite ‘hacks’ is to jump-start this process by picking a task that will kickstart success and build specific capacity in an area we are looking to develop.
Back to my challenge.
The path to success in any field is seldom smooth. Launching businesses (and business lines) is hard. Over the years I’ve observed that willpower is a key factor in success. Willpower is part of what high-performance people use to continue on their path during the hard times and not let lives inevitable knocks derail them.
Some people are gifted with naturally high levels of willpower, some are raised in a manner that helps develop it, but all of us have it. Thankfully, it is a muscle that can be exercised - regardless of where you are starting from. Willpower is only strengthened but using it (and only then in the right way). In fact, it’s much like influence in that regard, but we’ll talk about that another time. One of the fantastic things about building willpower is that it sees no divide between our personal and professional lives.
So my challenge was willpower based. Skip alcohol for 37 days in preparation for this weekend away. There were a few tough moments (Neal texted me at the perfect time to a Sunday trip to Torst), but I focused on my why and made it. Following my goal and tracking system, I crunched this one out, one day and hit my goal. That why this beer tastes so good. It tastes of willpower and success.
Allow me to put this back together for you. Firstly, we know that success builds success. Secondly, we observed that we can spark this circle by challenging ourselves to grow using a skill we are focused on. Now, we need to take the final step - our next challenge. Formulate it now, while all this good feeling is within you. You’ll be better equipped to hit it than ever before.
What should you take from this?
The message I would like to leave you with isn’t about what just happened. It’s about what comes next. More targets, more tests - more willpower and more success. So set a challenge. Something you can do, but that will test you. Start, track your progress, and grow your willpower. Then, before setting your next challenge, reflect on how you were able to achieve that goal. What did you call upon? What did you do well? What is it about you can rose to the challenge?
With those things in mind, you’ll be ready.
p.s. Alcohol addiction and substance abuse are serious issues and not suitable for coaching. If you or anyone you know are struggling with them please use the SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357).