Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How can we really achieve our goals? One tip is to Use a Constant Heartbeat of action.

**Taken from from The Coaching Booster Book - chapter 4 : Using a rhythm of action shows you how to break down that “forever” time to get things done into smaller chunks of time.

Every change holds a “goal” or a target that we try to reach. Every goal has a duration, the time that it takes to reach the goal. Now, you may have noticed that some goals (such as ‘yes, I WILL lose 20 pounds before the summer holidays’) feel unreachable. The time we think it will take us to reach that goal is more or less ‘forever’. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The concept of taking several steps to get closer to the goal, then taking them again, creating a rhythm of action shows you how to break down that ‘forever’ into smaller chunks of time. Suddenly, even the most unachievable goals become something you can reach, not something that will always stay out of your grasp. Yes, even those that feel like they will take forever to reach.

First of all, we have to understand that things do not happen by themselves. We need to make them happen. This may seem self evident to you, but it’s surprising how often we ignore this basic rule.

So how do we make things happen? How do we get closer to our goal?
By creating a routine. A rhythm of action. And we’ll call it a heartbeat.
The heartbeat is part of the coaching Booster infrastructure. It contains exploration, action and continuity, and takes a few days to complete. Once we complete it, we immediately start another.

Just like the human heart, and hence the name. It is this constant rhythm that helps us create the change that we are reaching for.

So how exactly does this heartbeat work?

1. First of all, we start off exploring, looking for the direction of the change.

2. Once we know what direction we want to go in, we act. We get things done, but we make sure to do them in small doses. Small doses of actions as well as in small timeframes. In a routine of acting in fixed and repeating cycles of activity. Each heartbeat has a beginning and a finish which between we execute or goals, small goals.
This not only boosts our confidence, but it also enables us to cope with the big change we are trying to achieve.

3. Finally, we use the feedback that we get to start off the whole exploration process again.

This process is called the Booster heartbeat.
But how does it work in real life? 

Well, lets use a real life example. How many people do you know who enthusiastically signed up to a gym, just to stop going a week or two later? Those people probably believed the same thing that many of us do. Paying their subscription fee upfront will persuade them to stick to their schedule. 

They will go to the gym every other day, exercise like mad, and have rock hard abs in six months.
But of course they don’t.
There are plenty of other examples that we can give of goals that we all WANT, but find it hard to achieve:

• Dieting
• Getting another degree, or completing a course
• Taking your spouse out on a date
• Being a better parent and spending more time with the kids
• Getting promoted at work
• Learning to sky-dive

This is why being able to constantly change while coping with new challenges is essential. It means that we can grow and develop into who we want to be.

Yes, being able to constantly change is a challenge. We know! And that is exactly why we wrote this book :)

Maintain continuity
Even when we understand the importance of our decisions, or know what action needs to be taken, we aren’t always successful in actually following it through. We need to find a way to maintain continuity.

But how can do we do that?

Are small goals the trick?

Smaller goals are far easier to reach, it’s true. For example, instead of deciding that we will lose 20 pounds in 5 months, we change the goal to “lose 1 pound in the next week”. That certainly helps, but it isn’t the complete story, and won’t accomplish much on it’s own.

What are the factors we need to take into account?

First of all, we need to define what we want to achieve. We should know our vision, our goals and course of action. Second, we need to be able to take small steps towards our goal without giving up.

Just like toddlers who are just learning how to walk, smaller steps are easy to relate to and act upon. If the steps are too big, you can easily fall over. You won’t see the immediate success and it’s easier to give up. Don’t blame yourself – that’s just how our brain works, looking for instant gratification.
So we are looking for some way to envision our goal, take small steps, and see our success. And that is exactly what we have in the heartbeat. Using the heartbeat, we are focused when we take those small steps. It means, placing those things we want to do in a cadence of small periods of time.

So, we aren’t just dividing our goals into smaller ones. We’re also dividing our time into smaller chunks. This means that we can react much faster to the changes around us. We don’t have a plan for the next year, because who knows what changes will happen by then. We have a plan only for the period of time , or for next week. This way, we create successes continuously and create a routine where we can manage the change.

No, you can’t change overnight and no one expects you to.
If you set a lofty goal for yourself, the most effective and realistic way to achieve it is by setting short term goals that lead up to it. And those short terms goals are completed by using a constant heartbeat of short periofd of time as aroutine activity.

Why is routine good?

Many of our daily activities are a routine of sorts. For instance, brushing our teeth. We brush our teeth when we wake up, and before we go to bed. If you make sure that your kids do THAT every day, they’ll brush their teeth every morning and night on their own after a while. By the way, it is always a good idea to explain the REASON behind all this teeth brushing. Explaining helps the routine stick even more.

Routine isn’t just doing the same thing at the same time. Studies have shown¹ that routines have a positive psychological influence on children. Routines, or a heartbeat of activity, as we call it, help babies and toddlers to anticipate what will happen next. This gives them a measure of control and boosts their self-confidence. For instance, when parents say, “It is bedtime”, the child knows what’s coming next (a bath, brushing teeth and reading a book). The routine helps the child make sense of the situation and relate to it.

So routines are NOT just maintenance. Daily routines provide young children with a sense of safety and comfort. They help children cope with transition. Routines are an opportunity to learn, and are a good framework to Get Things Done easily. Routines put us on the right path towards achieving our goals.

The benefits of routines aren’t restricted to children. Studies show that² routines affect adults in much the same way. A routine enforces our feelings of safety, positive emotions, confidence, and well-being. Routines are like guidelines that we feel comfortable operating within.

You are the master of your routines.
Today, of course, our parents no longer have to create routines for us, even though
sometimes we might like them to. WE are the adults. We are the ones who need to maintain our routines and develop new ones.

Perform the heartbeat action.

When we say “heartbeat”, what we actually mean is a rhythm. It is a fixed and repeating cycle of activity. The idea is borrowed from the world of Agile, and means that our work is done in regular and repeatable cycles.

According ³ to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary⁴: Heartbeat is “A complete cardiac cycle, including spread of the electrical impulse and the consequent mechanical contraction.”
In our case, the cycle includes less electrical impulses and more actions that propel us towards our goals. Remember that to complete our goals we take baby steps? Small tasks that build up to the big one of achieving our goal? That’s the heartbeat. It includes:

• A kick off
• A daily follow-up
• Reflection

But what do they mean?
Well, the kick off defines what you want to achieve in the current cycle. The daily follow up shows you how successful you were, and if you ran into any challenges along the way. And the reflection shows you what you can improve for the next cycle.

If you look closely, you’ll see that this heartbeat is JUST like your actual heart beating. Each beat starts up, pumps certain value around, and as soon as it ends, another beat begins.

And the beat goes on…

Heartbeats are supposed to be consistent. Your cycles may be a bit faster, or slower, but you have to maintain a steady pace.

Our heartbeat forces us to break our big goals up into smaller ones. It makes us look at smaller chunks of time, which makes sure that we remain focused.

The heartbeat is very clearly defined, with a start and a finish, and real value to show for it, when it’s over. This is why making the heartbeat part of our routine helps us find solutions to the changes that happen around us, and get things done.

When was the last time you stopped to think?

Lets have a closer look at how the heartbeat works:

1. We always begin and end the cycle on the same day – for example, Tuesday.
2. Every cycle, we kick-off (stop and think) before we start actually doing.
3. We write down a small number of goals/tasks we want to accomplish.
4. We look at what we’ve achieved every day, and when the heartbeat ends, we review what we’ve achieved at the end – again, we stop to think.
5. We draw our conclusions and write down new tasks, changing where we need to.
6. And then the new heartbeat starts.

Just creating a routine isn’t enough. Ever so often, stop. Think. Is there any feedback? Does it mean you need to change what you are doing?

Avoid work for work’s sake.
Simply doing tasks for the sake of doing tasks virtually ensures that we will miss our goals. Stopping to think and make minor adjustments to correct our course is far more effective.

When, What, and How?

When we want to change, there are few questions we need to ask ourselves. When to change, What to change, and How to change.

Why do we ask ourselves these questions?

Because change is hard. Take the gym example from the beginning of this chapter. We wanted to go and exercise. We really really did. But we couldn’t. One day, there was a Parents-Teacher meeting. Another day our kid wasn’t feeling well. And Thursday, well, that’s the day we stay late at the office.
If you don’t stick to your routine, you’ll find that there’s ALWAYS something that you have to get done before you go to the gym. And at the end of the week, you realize that you haven’t even gone once. You’ll wonder how you didn’t manage to spare a few hours for doing a little physical exercise.
Of course, some people think that “going to the gym” is part of the problem. They say that you can exercise at home, and that all the effort involved in getting ready, driving to the gym, and driving back is, in fact, a waste of time. They have a point and this waste is called motion waste (But we will get to that in the chapter about “Personal waste removal”).
Let us get back to the When, What, and How questions. When you are looking for a change, those are the questions that you ask.

When does the change take place?
The change takes place at beginning and end of every heartbeat.
There isn’t a sudden magical “poof” when change occurs. Change happens gradually, over
time, as we move towards our goals with each heartbeat.

What should we change?
Keep in mind that we’ve just broken down our very big goal into smaller goals. So we don’t
have a BIG what to change, we have a lot of smaller whats instead. Just as important, but it’s much easier to answer.
We evaluate our what all the time, so that it is easier to change and adapt accordingly. And
at any given point, the ‘what’ that we answer is the one with the highest value (at the time).

How are we actually going to do things?
We’ve set ourselves small goals? Awesome. How are we going to achieve those goals? How are we going to complete each small task? Even if we don’t always succeed, we can learn from what we did, and do things differently next time.

Change gradually

The aim is to gradually improve our routine and abilities.

Get into the rhythm.
The heartbeat enables us to cope with changes, adapt and learn, in small doses. We examine our routine and refine it, based on feedback we receive.

Effective change and the ability to get things done are most effective when they occur gradually.

When you have time to understand the process. Think of a normal day for you.

Every evening, you spend a few minutes thinking about what you’ve done during the day. You might have found a new restaurant, you might have done really well at work, or you might have just written the first page in your novel. 

Thinking about the feedback you got, you decide what you’ll do tomorrow, based on that feedback. 

And that, people, is what the heartbeat is.

Get used to this routine

This is a routine, just like any other, and we have to get used to it.
It’s a bit like the first few days for children going off to daycare centers. The parents help them set up routines, which in turn, helps the kids get settled in faster. Getting up in the morning, saying “Good morning” to the staff, and so on.

Everybody needs to get used to new routines. So do we.
The coach’s role – your role – is help the coachee get used to this regular heartbeat, teaching them how to speed up or slow down.

It is your job to teach this routine to the coachee, how to operate within the boundaries and rules that enable successful action. Show your coachee how he can continue by himself.


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