Anchoring & Achievement

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
-by Jaime Willis
So, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down…
(I’ll wait while you finish rapping the theme song to Fresh Prince of Bel Air – you’re welcome!)
Before I tell you my story, a short psychology lesson. Anchoring is a cognitive bias whereby a specific trigger event or object causes you to have a certain reaction. The most well-known example of anchoring is Pavlov’s dog. You ring a bell, then feed the dog. After repeating the ‘trigger’ – ringing the bell – the dog reacts – begins to salivate – regardless if food is there or not.
Anchoring is also used as a behavioral therapy technique to help induce change or evoke a certain emotional response. Say, for example, you are sad but want to feel happier. Have you ever played a song that reminded you of a happy memory? Or looked at a photo that made you smile? That was anchoring.
Anchoring is really useful tool for achievement. When you are slogging through the day to day, let’s face it, WORK, of achieving a goal, you may feel like you are never going to get there. But, if you can remind yourself of a time when you DID achieve a big goal, you can use that memory as an ‘anchor’ for your current goal.
As you know, I am working on a few pretty big fitness goals this year, the most public of which is my goal to run FIFTY 10k races in 2011. Wednesday, I ran my 13th 10k. Even though each 10k is an accomplishment in itself, it can sometimes be daunting to think that I have done all this work and I’m not even half-way to my goal. In fact, I’m barely 1/4th of the way there. This is the *prime* time for anchoring.
Last night, I needed to anchor myself, so I went back through some old photos to remind myself of how far I’ve come in the past six years. In 2005, I was enormous! I honestly cannot tell you how much I weighed because my scale at home didn’t go past 330, but the arrow on the scale did when I stepped on. I had reached the end of the size line in even plus size clothing stores. My next clothing stop was literally going to be the aptly named Moo-Moo. I couldn’t walk without wheezing, my legs and feet were constantly swollen, and I was miserable.
Left Image: 2005 Right Image: 2011
With my 30th birthday looming a year away, I made the decision to stop WISHING I would lose weight and to start MAKING IT HAPPEN. I chose to use gastric bypass surgery and behavioral group therapy as my primary tools to achieve my weight loss. Within 18 months of my surgery, I had lost 160+ pounds.

Left: Caribbean Cruise, 2004; Right: Santorini Greece, 2010
To be honest, I have struggled and continue to struggle to keep my weight off. By 2009, I had gained back about 60 pounds. Last year, after setting a goal of getting back to my ‘fighting’ weight, I re-lost around 40 pounds and I am not finished yet.
But when I start to get discouraged, or wonder if I will ever be able to put a check mark next to the “Reach my Goal Weight” goal, I anchor. I remind myself of how far I’ve come and how close I am to the finish line.
Six years ago, I couldn’t properly tie my shoes because I had trouble reaching my shoelaces. I used the elevators for everything. I would avoid doing something that required me to run across the room to fetch something as ‘too much work.’ I would never have considered walking, let alone running 6.2 miles, and I promise you the only exercise I would consider doing 50 times in a row involved lifting a fork into my mouth.
Left: Me and My Brother, 2003; Right: Me and My Brother, 2008
Today, I am fit, healthy, and active. I can run into just about any clothing store and pick out something to wear. I can run. I do run. More than once a week even! Being morbidly obese was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. If I have come this far, I know I can make it.
Anchor your way to success! See ya at the finish line!

Mental Renegotiation

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

-Matt Leedham

Yesterday, Jaime wrote her second post on mission commitment – the importance of relentlessly pursuing your goal. There have been times in my life when my mission commitment was high (e.g. marathon training last year during a tough winter), but admittedly there have been times when my mission commitment has not been as strong. What can happen when your mission commitment isn’t strong?

Mental Renegotiation

Have you ever set your alarm clock early? Perhaps you wanted to get up early to exercise, or study, or write. You had all sorts of good intentions when you set the alarm before going to bed. But what happens at 5:30am when the alarm goes off?


We’re all familiar with this. When the alarm goes off, we immediately engage in mental renegotiation. We start thinking about how warm it is under the covers, or how tired we feel and that more sleep must be good for us. We do all sorts of bartering and trading in our minds, and before you know it, you wake up at 7:30am and not only missed out on going to the gym, but might actually be late for work!

Check out this great post by Steve Pavlina on how to wake up early. If your mission commitment is high and you’re willing to practice, you can wake up early every morning without question. Also, there’s a whole website/blog dedicated to waking up early, if that’s your goal.

Waking up early is a great example of mental renegotiation, but it’s not the only time it occurs. Think of these examples and possible solutions:

You go out to a restaurant with your friends with every intention of eating something healthy, but once the waiter tells you the chef’s special, you cave.

  • Solution: a friend of mine told me last week that she always tries to look up a restaurant’s menu online prior to showing up. She already knows what she is going to order, so that she’s not sitting there in the restaurant being tempted by all the delicious descriptions on the menu and intoxicating aromas wafting throughout the dining room.

You commit to drinking less alcohol, but still want to be social. Before heading to a party, you tell yourself you are just going to sip on water. You walk into the party to find your friend celebrating a new promotion and someone puts a beer or glass of wine in your hand.

  • Solution: Come up with a quick sound bite that can be relayed to anyone offering you a drink. Usually, “I’m driving” works good enough these days as most people aren’t rude enough to push you on that. You could try, “I’m hitting the gym in the morning – thanks anyway.” If you’re really getting pushed, go with the old, “I’m on medication – the doc says no drinks.”

Working Out
You go to work with your gym bag, but come 6pm you’re hungry and it’s raining. You start thinking about cooking dinner, and about the dog not being fed, and all of a sudden you give in and drive home instead of the gym.

  • Solution: Eat a snack around 4:30pm to tide you over until dinner. At 5pm, post on Facebook that you are going to the gym. Commit to it publically before the urge hits you to bail out.

If mental renegotiation happens to you, read up on our posts about priming and mission commitment.

You can do it, we can help…err…that’s the Home Depot slogan, isn’t it? Well, it applies here too!

10 Tips to Having an Awesome Day

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
-by Matt Leedham

How was your morning?

Mine was awesome. And it wasn’t by accident.

We all have choices to make every day and you can choose, right now, to make tomorrow awesome.

Here’s how you can do it:

**Disclaimer: Not all of this will fit everyone’s lifestyle. Take what you like and leave the rest.

  1. Prime Yourself. You can’t prime yourself while you’re sleeping, so let’s start with before you go to bed. Assuming you haven’t been drinking and are going to bed at a reasonable hour, take 10 minutes in bed to prepare yourself for tomorrow morning. Think about opening your eyes and looking at your clock. What time does it say? See the clock in your mind. Then see yourself sitting up and taking a deep breath. Continue to do this visioning exercise until your first family/work commitment. Then get some rest, because tomorrow is going to be awesome.
  2. Take Care of Your Body. After you rise and take a deep breath, drink a tall glass of water. Every nutritionist and physical trainer will tell you to do this. You are dehydrated after sleep, and it’s the first thing your body needs. Next, do something physical. If you don’t like to work out in the morning, that’s okay. Just take ten minutes to stretch or do some light calisthenics. By this time, you should be awake for 30 minutes and it’s time to eat a small meal. It’s called breakfast for a reason – you’re breaking a 12-13 hour fast.
  3. Meditate or Pray. Exercising and awakening your mind is just as important as getting your body moving. Again, this doesn’t have to be a 30-60 minute session with incense and candles. Just find a quiet, comfortable place and be present. You can pray, or focus on something specific (like your breathing), or just analyze the random thoughts running through your head. There are some great apps for your mobile device that can actually assist with this if you need help (like me).
  4. Be Thankful. Research tells us that people who are thankful and have gratitude are happier and have a positive outlook on life. I recommend that you keep a gratitude journal and just jot down three things that happened to you yesterday. The key here is to write what that thing was and why you are thankful for it. Just yesterday, someone told me they try to write three emails, make two phone calls, and write one note to people they are thankful for. Try doing that once a week!
  5. Review Your Values/Vision/Goals. That’s it. All you have to do is read them. Read them twice for good measure. Just read them and reflect on them for a minute.
  6. Brainstorm Your Activities. Take a moment to jot down all the things in your head that you would like to accomplish that day. Put them into categories (e.g. Personal, Work, Family, etc.). Try to rank each category’s list, putting the things that must get done at the top. Simply getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper has a calming effect.
  7. Review Your Schedule. Take a look at your calendar and see if there are any large commitments that may affect your productivity. Try to schedule chunks of time for meaningful work (i.e. NOT EMAIL). Apply the priming/visioning technique mentioned in the first tip – see yourself walking through the day and being very successful.
  8. Breathe. That’s it. Take 30 seconds, close your eyes, and take 5 deep breaths. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Nice and easy.
  9. Get in the Zone. This means different things for different people. But do whatever it takes for you to get hyper-focused. For me, it’s putting on my Bose noise-cancelling headphones and listening to music without words (usually ambient drum and base). When I do this, I find that I get in zone and can really crank out my tasks.
  10. Check-in with Yourself. Don’t let yourself go the whole day without checking back in with yourself. Lunch time is usually a good break for this. Has something got you worked up or out of whack? If so, revisit tips 2,3,4, and 8.

I truly hope you are able to accomplish tips 1-9 BEFORE opening your inbox. Resist the urge and start the day right. For me, 1-5 happens at home and takes about 45 minutes. I engage in 6-10 at work and it usually takes about 20 minutes.

I hope you find this useful. And more importantly, I hope you have an awesome day tomorrow.

The Happiness Advantage

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

-by Matt Leedham

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an event in LA, hosting 50+ entrepreneurs from the western U.S. To wrap up the day and half of learning, we went to a dinner event in Santa Monica featuring a one hour presentation by none other than Shawn Achor, the guru of positive psychology and author of “The Happiness Advantage.”

I featured Shawn in a post a few weeks ago in December and was very surprised and happy to hear that I would get to meet him in LA.

First impression? This guy is the real deal. I had the opportunity to engage him an interesting conversation about his adventures over the last year traveling, speaking, writing, and consulting. As it turns out, he’s not only talking the talk (backed up with extensive research), but is walking the walk and can speak from experience.

Shawn covered a lot of information, but here are two things I learned:

We’re Doing It Wrong. Can you believe that our perception of happiness is wrong? Most people believe that if they can just achieve that goal, or get that promotion, or lose that weight, that then they’ll be happy. Shawn’s exhaustive research at Harvard and at Fortune 500 firms suggests just the opposite. The problem is that once we achieve a goal, our milestones for achievement get pushed further back because we want to achieve more. Therefore, we’re always chasing happiness. However, if you start by focusing on positivity and priming yourself to be happy, you will become more confident, successful, and productive. Invest in yourself first – the ROI is worth it!

Activation Energy. According to Shawn’s research, even the slightest hindrance can prevent you from doing something you know you want to do. The message is, make accomplishing your goals as easy as possible. If you want to work out in the morning, wear your gym clothes to bed. If it’s reading more, put books near your favorite sitting areas or on your bed.

Likewise, use this trick in reverse. If you want to watch less TV, Shawn gave a great example of taking out the batteries of the remote and putting them in the other room. This would mean that he would have to spend the time to go get the batteries and put them in the remote, which he would only do if he REALLY wanted to watch TV. In other words, the activation energy it would take to pick up a book on the coffee table was less than going into the other room to get the remote batteries, so he would read instead of watching TV.

You can read more about ways to stay positive and increase your happiness in the first post I wrote about Shawn’s research.

Staying Inspired

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
“Nothing GREAT was ever achieved without ENTHUSIASM.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Jaime Willis

Photo Credit: My adorable nephew, Tate, by Jamie Geysbeek
Some days, we just aren’t feeling it. That was me on Saturday morning. I got to bed later than I wanted to Friday night, and the morning came way too early for me. Matt and I were meeting at 7:45am to prepare for our third goal-setting workshop — where I was supposed to spend five hours encouraging others to find their passion and make it happen.
I knew I needed an attitude adjustment, but my normal priming just wasn’t working. I decided to dress up (typically, Matt and I teach in jeans) in the hopes that looking nice would impact my attitude. Matt noticed right away that I was low energy and we both just hoped that I would pop out of it before the course began.
When we got our course site, I was still not feeling ready to inspire. My mood was further darkened by an overzealous security guard who insisted on arguing with me, even though we agreed! (“Good morning! I came up to sign in, as your colleague requested.” “WHAT? You have to sign in!!” “Ok, that’s fine. I am here to sign in.” “Well, you have to. How did you get in without signing in??” and so on…)
I went to Starbucks to pick up our coffee and tea travelers for the morning breakfast spread, and, in a flash, I got inspired! Starbucks has innovated their cardboard coffee travelers by adding these awesome ‘saddle bags’ to help customers carry all the accessories that come with a gallon of coffee. Seeing that neat little innovation made me smile and turned my mood around. I tipped the staff (another great way to improve your mood–do something nice for someone else) and walked back to our classroom in a much lighter mood.
Our class this weekend was the best one we’ve ever had. All the participants were engaged, Matt and I brought our “A” game, and the course itself was well-designed after several big tweaks based on our previous courses’ feedback. I’d hate to think how the course would have gone if I had not been able to get into a positive frame of mind.
Sometimes, it takes such a little thing to get inspired. To stay positive. To turn that frown upside down. If you find yourself needing a little inspiration, here are a few places to go to get your own mood back on track:
Tess Marshall writes a great blog, The Bold Life, that I discovered when her daughters, my high school classmates, linked to it on their facebook page. She has lots of great content, so if you liked that post, consider subscribing to her RSS feed to get a regular dose of the Bold Life.
TED started as a “Technology, Entertainment, and Design” conference, but has since spread to cover any and all interesting topics in 20 minute (or less) presentations. Search for a specific topic or just click on a random talk–you won’t be disappointed.
Seriously, try to be in a bad mood while scrolling through this photo set.
Just like the Starbucks saddle bag, this site is full of really neat stuff that could serve as a jumping off point for your new, amazing invention. Or, you could just buy a squishy gel magnet because it’s cool.
5. Set the Mood!
Open these three links in separate tabs, turn up your speakers, and just chill. A perfect way to relax at the end of a stressful day, or to start your day on a calming note. (HT to
6. Inspiring True Stories
Read about the amazing accomplishments of others here or just browse through our TGIF posts.
Have a great day!

Stop Procrastinating and Start Shipping!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
– by Jaime Willis

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” -William James

I read a really interesting theory on procrastination this week. The author stated that being in the middle of working towards a goal is LESS painful than than not working on a goal at all. If this is true, then why do we avoid working towards our goals? The author’s theory is that the immediate pain associated with beginning to work on a goal is the deterrent. This theory is well-aligned with what we know about the physics of motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest, while an object in motion wants to stay in motion. When we aren’t working on the goal the “start up” costs of beginning to work are high, whereas once we are in the middle of the goal, keeping at it is relatively easy. (Illustration by Natalie Dee)

What can we do then, to reduce the “start up” costs of a goal and reduce our procrastination?

Just like you prime an engine before starting, we can prime ourselves to be more successful. If I want to go to the gym tomorrow after work, I may say to myself, “Self, let’s go to the gym tomorrow.” But that is not enough to prime me to succeed. If I really wanted to primed to go to the gym, I’ll pack my gym bag the night before. I will make plans to meet someone at the gym. I will “walk through” my day the night before, thinking about what obstacles may prevent me from getting to the gym and troubleshooting them (do I have a way to get to the gym? do I have any late meetings or afterwork obligations?). If I’ve primed myself to get to the gym, the start-up cost of going is very low. In fact, I may feel worse NOT going then going after all that preparation.

Sometimes the start up cost of a goal is high because the goal itself is a high-difficulty level goal. For example, if you have a goal of writing a novel, you may be reluctant to start on that goal because a novel is a 300 page book that you have to write and that is a lot of work! So, instead of keeping the big, end goal in sight, lower the bar and focus on a tiny portion of work that moves you towards your goal. Some writers choose to assign themselves a number of pages to write in a day or a number of minutes of writing a day. It is much easier to think about having to find the time to sit down and write for 30 minutes a day than it is to think about writing an entire book. When you are getting started, the smaller the goal the better. As we talk about earlier, you should set yourself up for easy “wins” when you are first starting your goal. As your smaller goals become habits, you can gradually increase their difficulty level without significantly increasing your goal’s “start up” costs.

Peer pressure is a great motivator. It is great to have a goal that you can work on with someone else. The start up cost of a new goal may be significantly reduced if you know you will be letting a friend down if you don’t get working on your goal. When I was in undergrad, I had to write a thesis to graduate from my school. I had a great thesis topic and a great professor to advise me, but I could not get myself to sit down and write the paper. My advisor finally gave me a hard deadline to turn in a draft. I knew that I had to get the paper done, but even the hard deadline wasn’t motivating enough. I recruited a friend of mine to come over to my room and keep me on task until my thesis was done. My friend got paid to sit in my room and read while I was on the computer typing. Anytime I was off-task, she literally squirted me with a squirt bottle of water. To this day, she counts that as one of her favorite jobs of all time. As silly as it was, having someone assigned to physically monitor my progress ensured that I got the paper done and turned in on time. There is even a company, StickK, that will facilitate this by allowing you to set a goal and set your own financial penalty for failing to meet the goal.

Seth Godin talks about not succumbing to your fear when starting a new project. Just ship it! Don’t worry about all the problems and challenges you may face–you’ll gain something even from your failures. If you can lower your ‘perceived’ risk in completing your goal (fear of failure, fear of losing money, fear of losing face, etc.), you will definitely decrease the start up costs for reaching your goal.

Think about a goal you are struggling with right now and see if you can’t reduce your own start-up costs and start shipping today!

What can you ship today?

Have you signed up for Saturday’s Goal-Setting Workshop yet? Sign Up Today!

Be About It

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
– by Jaime Willis

“Don’t talk about it, be about it.”

I spent most of last week in Michigan enjoying the holidays with my family. Before I left yesterday to fly home, I spent some time at the hospital with my Grandpa, who was admitted earlier in the week for surgery to help alleviate some of the intense pain he has been living with over the past several weeks and months.

Grandpa was doing much better when I visited him, which was definitely a great way to end my visit. I had to chuckle to myself, though, when I read the “family notes” on Grandpa’s whiteboard. “Don’t talk about it, be about it,” wrote my cousin. Even at 81, Grandpa can certainly use the motivation to keep fighting against the cancer that is ravaging his body.

Just like Grandpa, you can also “be about it.” See if any of the below statements resonate with you.
I’m not sure what I want to “be about.”
Are you having trouble seeing beyond your daily challenges and circumstances? Do you know that you aren’t living the life you want, but aren’t sure what you do want?

Focus on discovering your core values. When you can define what values are most critical to you and prioritize those values, figuring out what you want to do in your life becomes a much simpler process.

I just want to be happy.
You may already know what is important to you and know how you want to feel, but you don’t have any idea of how to get there.

Focus on creating a vision for your future. We encourage our clients to write down an incredibly detailed ‘painted picture’ of your life three years from now. Starting with how you want to feel in the future, figure out what relationships, experiences, career paths, etc. will help you achieve those feelings.

I already have a goal (or several) in mind.
You can’t “be about” your goals until your goals are SMART. There is a big difference between ‘wanting to lose weight’ and ‘I will lose 20 pounds and 2% body fat by June 30, 2011.”

Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound (SMART). SMART goals give you a clear win and will allow you to start planning your route to that win.

I can’t “be about it” because I don’t have (time/money/support/courage).
You aren’t alone! Lots of people fail to achieve their goals because of what they perceive as lack of resources.

In our class, we talk about the importance of priming yourself to succeed. We know you need to be emotionally ready to tackle the challenges you’ll face in achieving your goals. We also talk about how to easily either get the resources you need to make your goal happen or work around the lack of resources. For our goal-getters, no challenge is too big to surmount!

I need help.
Well, you aren’t the only one. We *all* need help in achieving our goals. Matt and I started Velocity because we wanted the opportunity to help people like you achieve your dreams.

We would love to have you join us at our upcoming workshop in Washington, DC on Saturday, January 8th, 2011. Sign up now using the coupon code “Goalgift” for 60% off our normal course tuition!

No matter where you are in achieving your personal goals, we know you can be successful! Join my Grandpa and “Don’t talk about it, BE about it!”

Optimism May Save Your Life

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
– by Jaime Willis

“It’s Impossible,” said Pride.
“It’s Risky,” said Experience.
“It’s Pointless,” said Reason.
“Give it a try,” whispered the Heart.

I’ve spent the last week in a bit of an emotional upheaval. I called my Grandma on Wednesday evening to chat, only to find out that my Grandfather’s health had taken a turn for the worse. Grandpa’s cancer was back with a vengeance and his oncologist told the family there was nothing more Grandpa could do but to go home “and wait.” Instead of blindly accepting a death sentence, the whole family went into “Get ‘er Done” mode. This past Friday, after a squeezed-in appointment with a world-renowned cancer doctor twelve and half hours away from my Grandparent’s home, Grandpa was given a new medical regimen with a 70% success rate! While Grandpa is not yet out of the woods, it is incredibly encouraging to learn that there is a viable treatment available!
Other than providing Grandpa with a fantastic medical treatment, the Doctor shared with us another secret to all of our health.
Be Optimistic.
It’s that simple. In a 2004 Dutch study, almost one thousand 65 – 85 year olds were tested to determine their relative levels of optimism (vs. pessimism). Then these patients were tracked for ten years, in which time 397 of the 941 patients died. What is fascinating about the study is that the pessimists died at almost double the rate of the optimists! This study has been repeated several times, with similar results. Researchers are still unsure why optimists fare better in life, but it’s a fact that optimists live longer lives.
Pessimists not only see the glass as half-empty, but also spend a lot of their time worrying about what bad thing is coming their way next, so they don’t really even enjoy life when it is going well. Optimists, on the other hand, live happily through the good times, and remain uplifted during the tough times by believing that there is an answer or a way through their problems.
Here is proof positive that priming yourself to succeed is not only helpful for goal-setting, but may be life-saving!
So, what do you have to be happy about today? Leave us a note or a story in the comment section below.