Calm, Happiness and Balance


On the first day of every year it is unbelievably tempting to lay down the New Year resolutions isnt it? It is the very first question asked by EVERYONE you stumble across in the beginnings of the new year and there is always unspoken pressure to come up with a list that is unusual, different and a cut above the rest. Isnt it curious that despite declaring grand plans for ones self, usually related to physical shape, size and well-being, beyond February no-one bothers to mention said resolutions again? The reason is simple, by the second month of the year they are a mere memory as very few people actually carry out and maintain their stated resolutions.

According to Mark Murphy, author of “Hard Goals: The Secret of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be”, people set goals all the time but 70% never end up getting carried out in any significant way. There is no doubt that most of us are aware of conventional wisdom that tells us goal setting should be SMART (specific, measurable,achievable, realistic and time limited). However, Murphy says that the key factor in sticking with resolutions isn’t that the goals aren’t clear or measurable, its that people don’t care enough about them. He does have a point when you consider that so many of our New Year resolutions are connected to our eating and exercise habits yet so few of us actually implement the desired changes on a monotonously annual basis. Mark Murphy believes that goals need to be HARD – heartfelt, animated, required and difficult to be successful. A great example of this is aiming to quit smoking because you know you should as opposed to quitting because it means you will be able to play with your kids and watch them grow up. Its all about having emotional skin in the game.

My good friend Trudy is a Deputy Principal at a busy primary school, wife and mother of two and like many of us juggles a variety of balls, some of which inevitably fall to the ground at times. In January she came up with a plan of attack for the year and designed her very own manifesto for 2013. A manifesto is defined as “A public declaration of a plan or intentions” which covers it quite nicely as Trudy has declared to all that she is simply aiming for Calm, Happiness and Balance in her life. Although a manifesto could be interpreted as a rework of goals, it can be used as an anchor to remind you of what you are trying to achieve by using a number of simple words that can be written in opportune places  (diary, phone, computer or other device, steering wheel – very important if you are choosing calm, or fridge) to remind you.

What is your personal HARD manifesto for 2013?

You don’t know what you don’t know

I am trying my best to learn Italian at the moment. Its not easy and I can literally feel my brain cells straining at the effort, despite the fact that it is allegedly one of the easiest languages to learn in the world.  Unless you count first year high school French (and I don’t) I have never delved into the world of foreign language.  I have always known that I couldn’t speak any language other than English but I was blissfully unaware of the depth of that ignorance until I started lessons. This is a classic example of “You don’t know that you don’t know” or  Level 1 – Unconscious Incompetence on the Conscious Competence Ladder.  This ladder (attributed to many possible originators) is a popular approach to managing your feelings and behaviour during any type of learning process, sometimes dispiriting like mine right now. When you are attempting to acquire any new skill it is fairly important to be aware of what you don’t know.  Discovering this can be incredibly depressing because you are not very good at what you are trying to do.  Of course this is understandable when you first start to learn something. If you look at acquiring new skills in managing your health like losing weight, improving energy levels, beginning an exercise program, reducing stress levels or managing a disease,  you may discover that you have been lolling about in the “You don’t know that you don’t know” pool for a while. Unfortunately it often takes a negative health epiphany or ‘event’ like a heart attack, fatigue, collapse, continued low immunity or even no clothes that fit, to rocket us into this stage with a bang. Once you determine what you do and don’t know, you move into Level 2 on the ladder – “You know that you don’t know” or Conscious Incompetence. Although usually it would exciting to move up a ladder of any description, I am not feeling the love with my journey of foreign language, because quite frankly it can be a shock to discover how much better or competent other people are. When you realise that your skills are limited, like I did in approximately 1 nanosecond, confidence levels can drop to an all time low and this is where you may have to don the Superman suit and sail forth. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol levels or body fat and you don’t know where excess fat and saturated fats are lurking, it makes it pretty tough to reduce them in your diet.  This is one of the toughest stages to wrangle and many warriors are lost in the battle.  Hang in there, your body will thank you. I strive each day for Level 3 –  “You know that you know’ or Conscious Competence.  For me that would mean having a real life conversation in Italian with the verbs and nouns conjugated correctly and although at the moment I could get myself a caffe or find out the day of the week (in the event I had amnesia), my conversation skills suitable for rapid fire pace are not developed enough.  For you this stage might mean nailing four exercise sessions in a week without rolling over when the alarm goes off. The nirvana, Level 4 – “You don’t know that you know”or Unconscious Competence  is the lovely place where this new skill of yours is just plain easy. Your new skill has become a habit and stealthed onto you so much that you don’t need to think about it anymore plus you perform it without conscious effort.  If you are an ex-smoker and your main trigger was alcohol, this last stage would mean that you could go to a bar and  have a drink without the slightest thought about how you were going to stop yourself from having a cigarette. I will continue to strive for this Mt Everest of skill development and behaviour change, what about you?  Do you know or don’t know?

Get Better at Skippy

At the beginning of this year my 7 year old daughter posted a note on the fridge. It simply said ‘The gool for this week is to get beta at skipey.” It was Week One of Term One so I overlooked the spelling but the interpreted version is “The goal for this week is to get better at skipping.” We are talking about a kid that could barely get over the rope but desperately wanted to follow in her sisters footsteps.  From the minute that goal was posted on the fridge it seemed that every time I looked at Miss 7, she had a skipping rope in her hands. Now, smack in the middle of Term 2, this girl can do 90 consecutive skips over the rope at a cracking pace. Continue reading “Get Better at Skippy”