Last Friday I was doing a Laser Coaching session with one of our ProCoach members who has been struggling for years with the habit of being five to ten minutes late. As she described her challenge I was listening and probing for the underlying cause. What payoff does she get from being late? Does she enjoy the challenge of trying to beat the clock or the adrenaline rush of racing around? Does she get a high from making a grand entrance after everyone else has arrived? Is she intentionally sabotaging her success?
As we discussed the situation, I could feel the energy in her voice dropping. My psychological approach was clearly not working. She offered to arrive five minutes early for every appointment for the next month. I asked her if she had made that commitment or another like it in the past. Of course she had - many times. Like most people with chronic non-supportive habits, she was trapped in her ways and did not know how to change.
I explained to her that if she really wanted to change, making a half-hearted commitment to be more attentive was not going to get her what she wanted. In order to alter a deeply ingrained habit we needed to do something drastic - something that would shake up her thinking pattern and take her way out of her comfort zone. I then offered her a challenge.
I said, "Go to the bank and get a handful of $50 bills. Every time you arrive at any event less than ten minutes early during the next month, whip out a fifty and give it to the person you are late for. If it is a group meeting, give it to the first person you see." Obviously she was serious about making the change, because she agreed to my bizarre challenge. Three days later I received the following email from her:
"Just thought you'd want to know I'm three for three so far. I did have a near miss on Sunday - talk about an adrenaline rush. Yikes. I ran from my car to the meeting room.
Jim and I went on a date on Saturday. I was in the car 11 minutes early. Jim was disappointed about missing out on the $50. My mom is also eager to snap up $50, too. I'm surrounded by vultures.
Thanks for the great incentive. I'm well on my way to creating a wonderful new habit. I love it. When I'm early I praise, praise, praise myself and soak up how wonderful it feels to be early and keep my word."
Why take such a drastic approach with a minor issue? To start with, it was not a minor issue for her. While being late is not inherently bad, it was clear to me that she was paying a HUGE price for it. Internally she was out of integrity with herself and that was severely undermining her self-esteem and self-confidence. Externally she was creating a reputation, a personal branding, that was not consistent with the business leader she aspires to be. Breaking this one destructive habit would raise her to a whole new level of success.
The reason I proposed such an extreme strategy is that I have found making incremental changes is not nearly as energizing or motivational as taking a giant leap. I call this "Breakthrough Coaching" and it is incredibly effective. I intentionally suggested she arrive ten minutes early because it would be possible for her to get to most places five minutes early without significantly changing her approach. In order to arrive ten minutes early she would have to manage her time completely differently. This achieves the objective of challenging her current strategies and belief system.
I have had tremendous success using this approach with our ProCoach members, and also use it on myself. For example, after attempting to improve my diet for many years I quit sugar, wheat and dairy entirely for three months last fall. That radical commitment forced me to completely transform my eating habits and has resulted in a multitude of health improvements. Now that the change has been made I will never go back.
Recently I have been using the same technique to increase my time off. Since starting ProCoach three years ago, I have been working up to eighty hours a week. Now that the business is stabilized I want to achieve more balance in my life. My first step was to hire a high-level executive coach to support me in this endeavor. Thinking I was stretching myself I proposed that I start taking weekends off. He countered with a Breakthrough Challenge. "Cut back to working four days a week and work only three weeks a month." Work just twelve days a month? The idea terrified me but I knew I had to challenge my belief that I need to do everything myself. I accepted his challenge.
One reason the strategy works is because it challenges the ego which then takes the bait and starts working towards your best interests rather than against them. Most people set feeble, uninspiring goals which the ego treats as inconsequential. When you commit to a significant goal the ego rises to the occasion. When you support your commitment with truly daunting consequences, the ego becomes further engaged for the sake of self-preservation.
It takes courage to set yourself a Breakthrough Challenge because the action you commit to take must force you to go beyond your limiting beliefs. This means it will scare the pants off you even though it is clearly achievable from a logical perspective. In ProCoach we regularly ask our members the following question. "What is one thing you could do that is so scary it would make your stomach churn and your palms sweat, yet you know that doing it could advance you significantly towards your goals?" I can't say they jump for joy when they hear the question, yet there is no doubt it is one of the reasons our members accelerate their results so rapidly.
Try working with this question yourself. Set aside your focus on incremental improvements temporarily. Instead, step up to the plate and commit to a Breakthrough Challenge that will leap you towards your goals and dreams. The results will literally blow your mind - and that is a very good thing.
To your success!
Master Certified Coach
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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