3 Simple Brain Hacks for Goal Setting and Goal Achieving

Sometimes, reaching your goals is all about using your head. Follow these three simple brain hacks to end 2018 and start 2019 on a high note.

It is that time of year that we reflect on our progress toward our goals for the year and start thinking about what we want to accomplish in 2019. So, how did you do? If you are like most of us, you didn’t accomplish everything that you envisioned for the year. But we get a fresh year to start over again. If you want to do better, I have a few tips for you and it is all about using your brain!

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    Why do we fail at achieving goals?

    The answer is in your brain—and your blood pressure. And high blood pressure can help you keep goals on track. Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist from NYU, explained how properly set goals boosts our systolic blood pressure, which is the measurement of our body being geared up and ready to act. The more stretched they are, as long as we don’t feel they are impossible, the more excited we get. 

    So, to succeed in goal setting, and especially in stretch goal setting, Balcetis’s research states we’ll want to follow these three simple hacks:

    Brain hack No. 1: Plan for Obstacles

    Have a plan, a backup plan, and a backup plan to the backup plan. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, everyone was betting on Michael Phelps. He had already won seven gold medals, and his next event was his strongest—his eighth gold medal was nearly in the bag. But then tragedy struck: he dove into the pool and his goggles filled with water. Virtually blind he activated his backup plan—he started counting his strokes. He knew how many strokes he needed to get to the other end of the pool. So, he focused, stayed calm, and yes, won a staggering eight gold medals. Planning for obstacles while at the same time envisioning success boosts our systolic blood pressure—it increases our readiness to act.

    Brain Hack No. 2: Create the Right Habits

    Setting and sharing intentions make goals happen. When we make commitments to ourselves and others, and we discuss, sign off on them, and ask “what can I do today” to get closer to achieving our goal we boost systolic blood pressure too. Being intentional and having others help hold you accountable increases the likelihood that we will achieve our goals.   

    Brain hack No. 3: Move the Goal Closer

    Moving the goal closer requires us to envision it, to see ourselves achieving it (such as Michael Phelps seeing himself win the race). Remember the goal must be specific and tangible (win this race) versus more abstract (get the gold medal). With this focus we activate the left side of our prefrontal cortex and the planning/envisioning gets stronger. We also light up the ventral striatum where we experience reward and get a nice dose of dopamine to cause good feelings around the goal being achieved. When we focus on the goal in our mind’s eye, Balcetis found that goals look 30% closer.

    How you end is how you begin

    When I work with my coaching clients, they find these simple tips valuable and knowing that they are going to be held accountable at the next session gives them the motivation to move closer to their goals.

    How you end 2018 is how you will start 2019—join me and start strong!  Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in life are the day you were born and the day you discover the reason why.”

    Imagine yourself 12 months from now, living the life you’ve always wanted. How would it feel to have the clarity to make that possible? How would it feel to have a group of people that support, challenge and hold you accountable to your dreams?

    Join me and your peers—finish strong and start strong!  

    Learn more  https://talentspecialists.net/unlock-your-potential/

    Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so!  View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.  

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    Next up: 3 Ways to Increase Your Influence

    3 Ways to Increase Your Influence

    A lot of people get caught up in waiting for the other person to stop talking so they can start. But if you take time to really listen to what the other person has to say, you can sharpen your influencing power. Here’s how.

    A person of influence listens to people. They understand the incredible value of becoming a good listener. Listening shows respect and builds relationships—at work and at home!

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    When you don’t pay attention to what others have to say, you are sending the message that you don’t value them. When you do listen to others, you are communicating that you respect them and show them that you really care about them.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every man I meet is in some way my superior, and I can learn from them.” 

    How can you learn if you aren’t really listening?  Unfortunately, few people are good at listening.  If you are one of them—fantastic. If you are like most of us, keep reading!

    What gets in the way of listening?  Here are 3 common barriers that get in the way of effective listening.

    Barrier No. 1: Overvaluing talking

    Effective communication is not persuasion, it is listening. If you are waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can talk, you’re not listening.

    TIP: A good rule of thumb—listen twice and much as you speak. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason!

    Barrier No. 2: Lacking focus

    Most people tend to speak about 180 words a minute, but they can listen at 300 to 500 words a minute, which can cause you to lose focus. You have all that extra space to fill and you can start daydreaming and thinking about what you want to say next or what you are going to have for lunch. 

    TIP: Learn to direct that attention by concentrating on the person you are with. Focus on their body language, watch for facial expression, look into their eyes.

    Barrier No. 3: Carrying personal emotional baggage

    Your past experiences, both positive and negative, color the way you look at life and shape your expectations—especially strong experiences. As Mark Twain said, “A cat who sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. He’ll never site on a cold stove either. From there on, that cat just won’t like stoves”. Being preoccupied can make you defensive and impact your ability to really listen.

    TIP: Check your emotions and focus on the purpose of the conversation. Keep yourself on an even keel so that you don’t lose the purpose.

    Measure your listening skills.  

    Ask someone who knows you well to use these questions to evaluate your listening skills:

    • Do I usually look at the speaker while he or she is talking?
    • Do I wait for the speaker to finishing talking before I respond?
    • Do I make understanding my goal?
    • Am I usually sensitive to the speaker’s immediate need?
    • Do I make it a practice to check my emotions?
    • Do I regularly suspend my judgment until I get the whole story?
    • Am I in the practice of summing up what the speaker says at major intervals?
    • Do I ask questions for clarity when needed?
    • Do I communicate to others that listening is a priority?

    3      Tips to becoming a better listenter

    No. 1: Don’t interrupt. Give people time to express their ideas. Hold that tongue!

    No. 2: Focus on understanding. Listen with the intent on real understanding, not just hearing the words - apply meaning to what you are hearing.

    No. 3: Ask questions for clarity. Look at the speaker, suspend your judgements and ask questions to ensure understanding. If you show people how much you care and ask questions in a nonthreatening way, you’ll be amazed by how much they’ll tell you.

    There is no greater gift than being listened to and you should really be present with the person you are talking to. As an executive coach, my job is to listen and help leaders come to their own insight. Often, it is one of the few conversations they have where they feel like they are being listened to as well. It is very infrequent that we allow people to talk and be listened to. It seems like such a simple thing but the highly distracted world we live in is often the excuse we give to withholding this gift to the people we care about the most.

    "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." --Stephen R. Covey

    About Jill Windelspecht

    How you end 2018 is how you will start 2019 - join me and start STRONG!  Mark Twain said “The two most important days in life are the day you were born and the day you discover the reason why.”

    Imagine yourself 12 months from now, living the life you’ve always wanted. How would it FEEL to have the clarity to make that possible? How would it FEEL to have a group of people that support, challenge and hold you accountable to your dreams?

    Join me and your peers - finish strong and start strong!  

    Learn more  https://talentspecialists.net/unlock-your-potential/

    Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so!  View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.  

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    Next up: 4 Leadership Lessons from BizConCLE

    4 Leadership Lessons from BizConCLE

    From enhancing customer retention to what sets transformational entrepreneurs apart, BizConCLE 2017 was filled with useful takeaways and lessons that small- and medium-sized businesses can use to build their business. In case you missed it, check out the below for recaps of the four impactful keynotes that took place during the show. Learn more about BizConCLE and how it can help your company by clicking here.

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    Next up: 4 Ways to Be a Better Leader

    4 Ways to Be a Better Leader

    What traits do you think of when you consider what makes for an effective leader? During a recent Small Business Boot Camp session, Jeff Nischwitz of The Nischwitz group took a deep dive into the qualities all leaders share, and how those characteristics can help a small business—and its staff—thrive. Below are X takeaways from the presentation.

    What traits do you think of when you consider what makes for an effective leader? During a recent Small Business Boot Camp session, Jeff Nischwitz of The Nischwitz group took a deep dive into the qualities all leaders share, and how those characteristics can help a small business—and its staff—thrive. Below are X takeaways from the presentation.

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    1. Know Yourself

    Entrepreneurs need to understand what kind of leader they are striving to be. And as part of that discovery, should ask themselves three questions:

    • What kind of leader am I committed to becoming?
    • Am I willing to let go of how things have always been done?
    • Can I tolerate living outside of my comfort zone?

    2. What Not to Do

    Leadership is not bullying. It is not about being disengaged. What is it about, then? Continue reading …

    3. Be Accountable

    A leader has to have the trust of their staff. Being accountable is one way to build trust, but what are the others? Try being human:

    • Ask for feedback.
    • Admit mistakes.
    • Be honest if you don’t know the answer to something.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    • Allow staff the freedom to challenge perceptions.
    • Understand the ‘3 I’s of Leadership.’ 

    4. Be Conscious

    Remember back in the second item that talk about being disengaged? A Gallup Survey found that 70% of employees are not engaged with their work and employer. The steps outlined above will go a long way toward helping eliminate a leader’s blind spots and increase team engagement. It’s important that leaders take a “conscious” leadership position, that is, be aware of not only the needs of their staff but also to honor their staff’s perception of their leadership. And if you want to know more about conscious leadership, check out Nischwitz’ book: “Unmask: Let Go of Who You’re Supposed to Be & Unleash Your True Leader.

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    Next up: 5 Guidelines for Strong Business Partnerships

    5 Guidelines for Strong Business Partnerships

    We are all familiar with Individual transactions where you want to obtain the greatest value or lowest price with little or no expectation of repeating the transaction (e.g. buying a car, acquiring a key piece of machinery or equipment for your business). In these cases, it is simply a function of which party can demand and get the best outcome from their own perspective. Since it is a one-time transaction, there is typically less opportunity for building upon it for longer-term mutual benefit.

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    Establishing or modifying a business relationship or partnership generally will be a different situation. In these cases, both parties are seeking value and return from the partnership that often is expected or desired over a long period of time and therefore is based on mutual trust. While it is a trite and perhaps overused phrase, both parties likely expect the relationship to be a long-term “win-win” situation.  

    Guidelines for a Strong Business Relationship or Partnership

    I have negotiated numerous business relationships of various sizes, some of which were successful and some were not. Combining these experiences has led me to apply these guidelines that help lead to strong partnerships.

    Guideline No. 1: Pick your partners carefully. Character and trust are the most important assets in a business partnership. Seek out organizations and people you are excited to do business with. The key to any good business relationship is to think strategically about the relationship and understand individual and shared goals. Before lawyers get involved, make sure you talk openly about business goals for both parties. Getting the business goals in writing can help make sure you enter the legal phase of creating a contract with a solid, mutually understood business case.

    Here are four tips to keep in mind when it comes to picking partners.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 1: Ask lots of questions to get a deep understanding of the other side’s strategies, needs, operations, etc. Ask questions even if you think that you know the answers. Listen carefully to the answers, what they say, the way they say it and their body language. Identify what brings their emotions up and down. You can present your stand according to your findings and be sensitive to their needs and requests.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 2: Be authentic and as open and transparent as possible or is practical with your own strategies, needs, operations, etc. Some people might approach a negotiation looking to gain an advantage by concealing information. While you may achieve a desired result in the short term, you run the risk of tarnishing your reputation, as well as increasing the odds that the deal can go bad. Share your reasoning and intentions in the discussions to help make it clear that you are a straight shooter who deals in good faith. You are more likely to disarm the other side’s defenses and improve the odds of a productive, long-term business partnership.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 3: Learn as much as possible about the role and benefit of the business relationship for the person or people you are dealing with. As the relationship progresses to initiation and especially through the course of the arrangement, find ways to expand your reach into the other organization by meeting and talking with people at various levels to better understand how all parties benefit. A phrase to frame this way of thinking is to seek to be “high, wide and deep” in your relationships with business partners, especially if it is a large organization. This reduces the chances that changes in management or company strategy will significantly detour the relationship.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 4: Take an appropriate amount of time to build the trust in a potential long-term relationship. If you are feeling uncomfortably heavy pressure to give an answer early in the process of developing or negotiating the relationship, I have found it is best to just say “No.”  Perhaps you can come back to the table at some point in the future, but the timing has to be and feel right for both parties.

    Guideline No. 2: Play for the long term by ensuring balance in the overall outcome (better known as “win/win”). The goal should be to forge a plan that creates solid benefits for all parties, not just big benefits for one side. Gaining the knowledge noted above will improve your ability to seek the positive outcomes for the other party and find the balance desired. This also leads to a stronger foundation to motivate a positive working relationship once the deal is done. At the same time, it is important to be ready to decide if and when there is not enough balance for either party. An imbalance of outcomes will likely lead to a short-term relationship and starting over with a new partner is more costly than continuing a fruitful and productive relationship.

    Guideline No. 3: Get on the “same side of the table.”  Be very clear about the work that is expected upon delivery and each company’s role in getting it there. Define roles precisely so they have no messy gray area. Make sure the exact product, service or process is explained and the infrastructure to support and update that product is part of this definition.

    Guideline No. 4: Create a deal for the other side that you would like to have for yourself. As you enter the contractual aspect of the relationship, it is easy to think about all the positive things that can happen in the relationship. It can be equally important to think through when, where and how things can go awry and end in a bad outcome. Look for ways to incorporate provisions in the contract that consider these potential outcomes and include ways to address or handle them should they arise. One way to think about this phase of the process is to “write the divorce settlement before the marriage.” 

    Guideline No. 5: Create a plan for evaluation. As part of your negotiation, you should make an effort to agree upon how to evaluate the performance of both parties after the deal is done. Agreeing to measure the success of the relationship is a way to improve the likelihood that performance standards, payment terms, and other rules and expectations are met. This sort of rigorous follow-through ensures that everyone’s expectations are aligned and makes conversations about the relationship following the deal’s closure more objective and generally easier.    

    A business relationship or partnership can yield great potential if approached and developed effectively.   Hopefully these thoughts serve as a guide in your business pursuits, large or small. 

    Bob Nicolay retired following a 25-year career at Progressive Insurance having had success in senior-level general management roles. During his career, he also held similar roles with small-l to mid-sized privately-held companies. He currently maintains a consulting practice advising and guiding senior leaders with financial services clients in developing and executing product, distribution/sales, marketing and operational strategies resulting in revenue and profit growth. He can be reached at Rnicolayconsulting@gmail.com or 440-213-3381.

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    Next up: 5 Lessons to Learn from the Cleveland Indians' Success

    5 Lessons to Learn from the Cleveland Indians' Success

    The Cleveland Indians experienced a historic run of success in 2017. It didn't happen by accident. Here are five lessons businesses can learn from the Indians and apply to their own operations.

    As we begin the 2017 Major League Baseball Playoffs, the Cleveland Indians are the favorites to take home their first World Series title since 1948. This season has been impressive, especially since the team could have experienced a letdown following a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the 2016 World Series.

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    The 2017 season has been historic. Beginning on Aug. 24, Cleveland went on a 22-game winning streak, the longest in Major League history. It is the second longest unbeaten streak behind the 1916 New York Giants who had a 26-game unbeaten streak, which included a tie. The Indians will enter the postseason with the most prolific strikeout pitching staff in baseball history, more than 1,550 strikeouts and a 3.9 strikeout-to-walk rate, both records.

    So how did the Indians get so good? It all comes down to the team, a collection of individuals who work as one to accomplish their goals. There are several foundational elements of a winning team, and the Cleveland Indians are a perfect example of how to put these elements into action.

    But this doesn’t just apply to professional baseball. There are lessons for business, too. Here are five traits of the 2017 Cleveland Indians team that can be applied to your organization.

    Trait No. 1: A shared vision. The Cleveland Indians have a clear vision for 2017. The ownership, management and players all have expressed the same ultimate goal for the team—to win the World Series. This doesn’t mean that it will happen. A vision isn’t guaranteed. However, it does mean that all team members are focused on the same end state. The best teams develop a clear vision, ensure alignment of all team members, and continually reinforce the organization’s vision through both words and actions.

    Trait No. 2: Clearly-defined roles. From starting pitchers to the bullpen, all players understand what their roles are as part of the pitching staff. The same goes for the position players. Winning teams create clearly-defined roles for everyone, and make sure that all team members understand what they are accountable for and how they are being evaluated.

    Trait No. 3: Highly-skilled talent. From Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to All-Star position players such as Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, there is no shortage of talent on the Indians. To build a team of talented players, management was tasked with determining the needed skills for the team and securing players who matched up with those skills. The team also used analytics to evaluate talent before signing them. Finally, ownership gave resources such as money to attract high-level talent. For many organizations, the ability to secure talent is the most important factor to success. Just like the Indians, your organization should identify the skills you need, develop a thorough process to evaluate candidates who match those skills and create a compelling value proposition that attracts talented people to join the team.

    Trait No. 4: A strive for greatness. Many sports teams have talented players, but most of those teams don’t achieve the level of success of the 2017 Cleveland Indians. A key to Cleveland’s success is that the players are reaching for greatness. They are motivated to be better every day. They work hard at their craft. They aren’t satisfied until they reach their full potential. The tone of “strive for greatness” is something that permeates from the top down and through every person on the team. Successful teams in any organization have people who are not only talented, but also motivated to be their best.

    Trait No. 5: Strong leadership. Many people believe that Terry “Tito” Francona is the best manager in baseball. Not only does he know baseball, but he possesses other traits that lead to the team’s success. What Francona does best is managing his players. He does it by talking to them. "Tito is the total package," star relief pitcher Andrew Miller told cleveland.com. "It's his ability to communicate with anybody. It doesn't matter if it's a pitcher or position player, he has the ability to put players in a position to succeed.” All winning teams, whether in sports or business, should have strong leadership that motivates, communicates and puts their team in the best position to be successful.  

    Because the Cleveland Indians possess these five traits, it’s not surprising that they have built a winning culture that permeates throughout the organization. The 2017 Indians are an easy team to root for. They are a collection of players who believe in each other, have strong leadership and strive to be excellent. A team that is built with these characteristics is much better positioned to achieve success than a team that does not possess these crucial qualities.

    Nevin Bansal is the president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions.

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