From learning to play an instrument to overcoming procrastination, from mastering a new skill to improving business acumen, from losing weight to gaining marketing know-how almost everyone I meet is on some path of personal or professional growth.
Whether you are trying to develop a new skill, overcome a bad habit, form a new business, achieve better life patterns or foster healthier attitudes and manners you are bound to encounter a few mistakes. I know about these mistakes, not only because I’ve witnessed others making them but also because I’ve made a number of them myself.
So, let’s take a look at some of the mistakes which can waylay you and have you wishing you’d decided being a couch potato wasn’t all that bad after all. Here are 11 common mistakes that can mess up your day – big time.
1. Neglect the relaxation and mental preparation stage
When you watch the track and field athletes prepare for their events you see them walking, stretching, shaking their arms and hopping or skipping about. They are “seeing” themselves as they reach each turn or encounter each hurdle along the path they will soon be taking.
They are flexing their muscles as well as their minds. They are not practicing, not running toward the goal. They are relaxing and thinking about what is to come.
As you face the challenges coming your way on your path towards personal or professional growth take time to relax and do a bit of mental preparation.
2. Ignore what could or might go wrong
Professional speakers understand all to well that microphones stop working, PowerPoint presentations lose electricity, someone in the audience may be determined to show he knows more than the speaker, dishes get dropped, signs are torn and stains show up in the most odd places.
Because they know all of the things that may go wrong they prepare in advance to overcome the problems.
What problems or difficulties might you encounter as you move toward your goals in your chosen area of growth? Is the break room filled with calorie laden goodies? Is there someone who will try to convince you to ignore practice time? Is there a particular place or time of day when you are likely to fall back into the habit you are trying to squelch?
After you’ve thought about the various possible problems, determine beforehand how you will cope with them. Don’t go in the break room or bring your own healthy snacks. Decide to spend little or no time with the person who wants you to ignore practice or prepare an explanation of how important the practice is and why you will continue it. Avoid places where your bad habit is likely to pull at you or have other things to do which won’t allow the bad habit time or place.
3. Try to go it alone
Before our children learn to walk we carry them with us. This action serves a two fold purpose. Not only are they getting from point A to point B, but they are also getting a feel for the pace and rhythm of walking. We also allow them to watch us walk so they see the principles involved in balance, starting, stopping, and turning.
Then we begin actively helping them walk. We encourage their efforts. We help them up from the inevitable falls. We praise them for getting up on their own. We hold their hands. We smile at them, take pictures of their steps and tell others about their progress.
From mentors to coaches, from friends to family, from classmates to partners there are people who are not only willing to help you but often anxious to do so. Let them. Allow the people in your life to come along for the ride.
In some cases you may need to seek a model or look for a mentor. You might have to find a teacher, pay for a class, hire a coach, purchase a home study, join a support group or borrow a great book.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can go it alone. Actively seek others to help and support you in your endeavor.
4. Lose focus of the objectives
We’ve all heard stories of the football player who in the last few seconds of the game makes a mighty effort to run yard after yard with the screaming crowd around him and other players chasing after him as he runs ecstatically into the end zone – the other team’s end zone. Losing focus of the objectives can be costly.
From the simple to the elaborate steps taken in pursuit of personal or professional growth you must constantly be aware of the objectives. Where are your goal posts? Which way must you run in order to score?
5. Push to the point of exhaustion
Runners, students, businessmen, moms all fall prey to the notion they can take another step, understand another concept, return another call, clean another mess even when they are totally exhausted. At best the result can be funny. At worst the result can be devastating.
Some people call this point of exhaustion “hitting the wall.” You can visualize the situation by seeing a foot race in which a runner makes another turn only to run into a red brick wall. Race done. Race lost.
Practical pacing is paramount to productive performance.
Our bodies were created with a need for rest. Watch for signs you are becoming too tired to perform on even a mediocre level. You may need to get a goods night’s rest or you may simply need to take a break. Stop yourself from pushing to the point of exhaustion and help yourself zoom past other people’s brick walls.
6. Bring along too many people
While it is important to make use of people who are knowledgeable and capable, people who can support and help you, bringing in too many people will put you at a disadvantage. Running back and forth between advisers is a waste of time. Conflicting counsel causes chaos – in your mind and in your productivity. The old saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” is true. Even if all the cooks are excellent they will each have their own recipes and strategies.
Just as it would be redundant and a waste of time to hire one piano teacher for Mondays and another for Wednesdays with a third for Fridays, it is important to determine your most useful source and stick with that source for advise or instruction, for consultation and guidance. You won’t have time to practice the lessons given by teacher number one if you are off taking classes from teachers number two and three the rest of the week.
Also, beware of bringing along a group. If you become too busy trying to be sure the individual needs of each person are being met you won’t have time to focus on the people important to your project.
There is a time and place to bring in the crowd. Think of it this way. You invite all the guests to attend your wedding and only your best friend to help you plan the wedding.
7. Forget to conduct an evaluation of performance
My daughter acted professionally in a live show in Las Vegas. Each night, after the performance the director spoke with the actors concerning what had gone well, what mistakes were made and ways to improve the performance for the next night. This important time of the evening was known as Director’s Notes. Without this vital step it is easy to see that things could get out of hand.
There are bound to be milestones, turning points, breakthroughs and discoveries on your journey to self improvement. Take time to stop and look back at what you’ve achieved or accomplished. Pay attention to areas which are difficult or neglected. Use this information to change your plans, your behavior or your schedule as you move forward.
8. Fail to obtain proper equipment or tools
Owning certain pieces of equipment or tools seems more obvious than others. As an example, learning to play a guitar without a guitar on which to practice would be futile. Yet, there are other items needed by the budding guitarist. For instance, a tuner is a must-have piece of equipment. It may be possible to learn to play a guitar which isn’t tuned but it will be much more difficult and unnecessary. Guitar tuners are inexpensive and easy to find. If you truly want to play the guitar, owning or having access to a guitar and a tuner is essential.
Whatever your chosen personal or professional growth project entails there are likely to be tools or equipment you will need to have access to in order to reach your objectives. Things like exercise equipment, a computer, a hammer, vases, a camera, a calculator, a stop watch, a saddle, a sewing machine, a wrench, a hair brush, a nicotine patch, a glue gun, a stapler, a measuring tape, are all examples of the tools you may need. With some thought and a bit of research you will be able to make a list of the items you need right away, those which can wait until later and the ones which would be fun but are unnecessary at this time.
9. Misunderstand the usefulness of a personal or professional journal
Each of the other above mentioned mistakes can be dealt with through the judicious use of your journal.
- Use your journal to relax and prepare yourself mentally for what is ahead.
- Use your journal to think through what could go wrong and describe the methods you will use or ways you will deal with the things which will try to trip you up.
- Use your journal to list the types of expertise you will need. Include the names of people you already know you want to work with.
- Use your journal to regularly record the steps you have already taken and the plans you have for moving further along the path.
- Use your journal as a gauge. Allow your entries to guide you to pacing your days and weeks in ways that leave you refreshed rather than exhausted.
- Use your journal to evaluate the numbers and types of people you need to appropriately support and guide or in some other way help you.
- Use your journal to conduct an evaluation of your performance.
- Use your journal to think through and decide on the necessary equipment and tools for your particular situation.
- Remember – your journal is your most basic and necessary tool when striving for self improvement, for personal or professional growth.