3 mental skills to keep your “Big Plans” on track

More than once this week, I’ve had a conversation with a client that begins something like this:-

Me: “Happy New Year! Did you get back Monday?”


Them: *Sighs* “Yes I did, but I feel like I’ve been back a year already!”

The trouble with New Year is that when we get back to work we ALL have “Big Plans” for the year ahead. These “Big Plans” usually involve intensive and unsustainable levels of effort. We need others to help us, but they of course have their own Big Plans – and therein lies the first sparks of friction and rumblings of frustration that are likely to leave us feeling like our “Blue Monday” media caricatures in 2 or 3 weeks’ time.

2016 consists of 52 weeks, not one, so my suggestion to you is to slow down now, in order to speed up later. Frenetic activity this week is no substitute for genuine long term achievement – and your resulting frustrations will be the acid dissolving your resolve. Instead, try to develop these 3 mental skills in 2016 and I guarantee your year will be much the better for it.

1. Outcome. When frustrated, try to develop new skill No.1  – the skill of stepping back. Take a big step back and ask yourself a simple, forward-looking question: “What are we are trying to achieve?” You’re probably further down the road than you realise. It is easy to get wrapped up in a particular challenge without thinking of the progress already made. Avoid questions that keep you in the past, such as “Who is to blame?” or “How did we get into this mess?” Instead, ask yourself “What is working?”, “What needs to change?” and “How do we get there?”

2. Attitude. I know it’s difficult, but new skill No.2 is to attempt to strip the emotion out of the situation and just accept that yes, you’re going to feel frustrated from time to time. Criticism from others, for example, is felt far more personally than intended by others. Instead, think about the positives in feeling frustration – we have all experienced “light bulb” moments through brainstorming challenges, shortly after experiencing the biggest doubts. You need to accept frustration in order to appreciate progress.

3.Simplify. It’s tempting sometimes to look beyond the obvious to an attractive but complicated solution or get bombarded by (or even seduced by the comfort of) clutter, noise and distractions. Remember that intense but unfocused activity is an inadequate short-term substitute for achievement. Skill No.3 is to remove all the clutter and strip a problem down to its essentials before moving forward again.

So focus on the outcome, adopt the positive attitude and simplify the challenge. Do this and you are already well on the way to moving beyond frustration and on to something much, much better.

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

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