Recently, I asked my audience what they were most concerned with looking ahead to 2019. These are smart people who are committed to their careers but are in my orbit because they know they have hit a wall.
This wall may as well be hiding kryptonite. Something needs to change this year, and they’re looking for support to make sure it does.
Maybe they have secretly wanted to start their own business but can’t get lift-off. Kryptonite: they’re afraid of moving from A to B.
Many are successful. And feeling stuck in a career bankrupt of all meaning. They want their work to matter. Kryptonite: But what?
Some are finding leadership positions tough – they want balance to their business-building. Kryptonite: not living into their leadership
Others are reeling from redundancy. Their kryptonite is hiding in the stories they tell themselves about why that happened.
For coaching to be powerful, it doesn’t matter where the kryptonite is hidden. They will all get the thought-partnership that’s right for them. And support to move past it.
But something really struck me as I read their asks. I found commonality among such a broad spread of situations. But it was nowhere near what work-life resolutions to make this year.
A little over 90% of my audience, told me their highest priority is this:
How to stick at career-life goals long enough to succeed.
Because we can all set resolutions. But we know they will go well, right up until they become ‘missions, aborted’.
So, this piece is about getting in front of that this year.
Understand your kryptonite. And how to stage the right self-intervention to save your resolutions from you this year.
Mind Over Moral Muscle
Willpower is one very important part of self-control. There is a school of thought – The Strength Model – that willpower is much like a muscle. A moral muscle that we can exercise to resist temptations when they jeopardize our longer-term goals. But like other muscles, will get exhausted with use.
There is a lot of research showing that choices such as resisting temptation to stay true to a long-term goal, brings on a fatigue of sorts. A mental fatigue. And it’s why our resolutions can become missions: aborted, as quick as saying:
“I want to do the bad thing now. And I don’t mind suffering later!”
This quote comes from my favourite read about understanding self-control: Walter Mischel’s, ‘The Marshmallow Test’.
His famous research came from giving a child a treat – like marshmallows or cookies, and a choice. Eat this 1 right now or wait and enjoy 2 later. Decades of doing this test has shown that those who exercised self-control young, go on to succeed in career and life.
But are we born with willpower-fitness? Or can we train our brains and get stronger moral muscles?
Thankfully, yes. Here’s what you need to know:
Your willpower will only run low, if you believe it can. If you believe willpower is ready whenever you need it, you will make considered choices from that place of abundance again and again.
Much like you would spend money more readily if you came into unlimited funds! You know there’s more willpower ‘in the bank’, so you can afford to use it here…and again here…
Because with willpower you’re right, whatever you believe.
Motivation is master. We are wired to reward ourselves after we’ve made an effort. Like resisting temptation and making the right choice.
So, we look for rewards once we’ve used willpower and miss the next time self-control is needed.
Just accept that reward-wiring and build in a small reward system for yourself. It will be like hitting ‘reset’ for your willpower. Then believe in that!
When Is What We Really, Really Want A Self-Control Problem?
The flip-side of willpower is desire. Why is wanting something a problem? When it conflicts with our goals.
And that conflict is kryptonite because it’s linked to what we do in the moment. Impulsively. The stronger the desire, the harder it is to control what we do using willpower alone.
Think about how cars have gone ‘hands-free’ for our mobiles. But new laws to stop us texting while driving came in anyway. For good reason. Texting while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. Yet nearly 30% of us do it anyway. And we are increasingly unable to resist the temptation of responding to those notification alerts – weakening our safety-consciousness. Kryptonite!
This is similar to the Marshmallow Test. Where desires are a self-control problem if there is conflict. Short-term temptations that can see us abort a longer-term mission.
One of the points of the original marshmallow test was to try out various strategies to increase the number of seconds the children could wait without eating the 1 treat on offer.
The marshmallow strategies show us how to dial down our real-life desires, when they’re kryptonite. So, we rely on willpower less.
But we don’t all have the same desires, or goals. And we don’t all experience the same self-control conflicts either.
Here’s what you need to do to find where your kryptonite is hidden:
Think about your career-life resolutions. Are these wants always unproblematic? Will they sometimes bring temptation? Exposing you to your kryptonite? The drive to please? Needing to matter? To feel seen and valued? Identify what your personal kryptonite is, and where it shows up.
If you understand these temptations – honestly – then you can master them. Or protect yourself.
We do actually need the conflict they bring. Our struggle to resist temptations is what puts the spotlight on our kryptonite! Telling us: get ready to resist when xx shows up.
3 ways to stage a self-intervention and protect yourself from ‘mission: aborted’ this year:
Distract yourself. Preferably with something really demanding. Something effortful or absorbing to divert your attention away from temptation.
Train your brain out of its’ automated reactions with mindfulness. Be aware of the present. Accept your feelings. Spending a little time with these thoughts will help block impulsive behavior and old habits.
Pre-empt temptation. Remind yourself of your resolution and block chances of being close to your kryptonite.
Irony Alert: Getting more self-control can make you less happy!
It’s important to stage the right-fit intervention for you. And take time to understand what that will be.
Because the intervention that will suit you best won’t be the one you think.
And because kryptonite can be about being too rigid about whichever intervention you use to protect yourself.
People with good self-control will likely succeed by controlling their temptations, not by using willpower to distract themselves. They proactively shape their environments to avoid their kryptonite. But here’s the catch. They get less practice at resisting temptation and stand to be in more danger when exposed to their kryptonite!
Be careful that you’re not spending years of your career waiting for the time to be right to make a move. That’s like banking a bunch of marshmallows and keeping them just out of reach! So remember, sometimes you will need to seize the opportunity. The trick is recognizing what’s kryptonite and what’s not.
How To Uncover The Super-Strategy That Will Save Your Career-Life Resolutions From You
Fully understand your personal self-control style.
Make the smart choice for you about how to master it.
Be aware of when your kryptonite shows up.
Only then, will you employ the right-fit strategy for you and your career-life goals this year, whether that’s:
Exerting self-control when you’re exposed to your kryptonite.
Dialing down temptations that threaten your overall goals, with brain-training.
Blocking exposure to temptations altogether.