Monday, January 30, 2012

Making Success Your Default Option Using the Green Hat

Practitioners of Six Hats Thinking ( know that the green hat deals with creativity and alternatives. In my last post, I suggested that if you can create an environment in which the activities that lead to your success are your default option, you will have a much better chance to achieve your goal. I want to expand on this in this post using the green hat.

One of the things I want to accomplish in 2012 is reading Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual ( Most of my readers know I am a tournament chess player. Mark Dvoretsky, who writes the most challenging chess books of any author, has won rave reviews from many top Grandmasters for his book on the endgame, perhaps his most difficult book on the subject of chess. Many players below the Grandmaster level buy this book, but very few read much of it  because it is so very difficult.

To give myself the best chance at being successful, I started to think creatively (green hat) about how I could make reading this book the default option. Like a lot of people, I tend to read more than one book at time. I decided to remove all of the books from my study except this one so it left me with only one reading material option: the Dvoresky book.

Next, I bought an extra copy of the book to keep in my car. This way there would be no chance that I would be away from home and forget to bring my copy.

Finally, I took one of the calendars I was given this year and hung it up in my bedroom with goals for what page I should be on so that I can finish the book by the end of the year. (Remember this is not a book that you read like a novel. It is filled with exercises and it would not be unusual to spend thirty minutes of more on a single page).

Now I could have made my goal to become a better chess player. By focusing on the process instead of the result and creatively thinking about how I can make achieving the goal easier, I believe I am making the likelihood of actually achieving the goal much greater.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Make Your New Year's Resolution Matter

In a few short days, we will be besieged by commercials for things like diet programs and exercise devices and memberships. It is a new year and so people are making their resolutions - lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, save for retirement, and so on. Go to the gym on January 2nd and you will see a bunch of new faces - and you will have to wait in line to use the treadmill machine. But wait until February and the crowds will have thinned tremendously.
The problem with New Year's resolutions, however, is that people think about the results instead of the process. Let's say your New Year's resolution is to exercise more. This is a very general goal. We can dramatically improve our chances of success if we make our goals SMART.
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
Let's say you are a total coach potato. Maybe a good goal is to walk 50 miles a month. (Check with your doctor first. While this might seem like a modest goal, it will deliver wonderful benefits for you if you are not exercising at all). Judging by our SMART barometer, this goal is very specific, easy to measure, attainable by most people, and would only take about 12 hours a month to accomplish. All in all, it's a realistic goal. You could give yourself 90 days to work up to it.

Next, plan the times when you will walk. You could say Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 AM until 8:30 AM, you will walk four miles. This is good, but you can make the goal easier to achieve if you use a technique  recommended in the book Switch, How to Change When Change is Hard ( and make walking the default option. What if you put a pair of walking shoes in the trunk of your car and changed where you park your car from the lot that is next to your building to one that is a mile away? This way, instead of needing the discipline to exercise 12 times each month, all you need to do is change your garage one time. If you can make achieving the goal the default option, you will greatly increase your chances of success.

Lastly, an indispensable part of goal achievement is to have an accountability partner. The key here is to have frequent contact with your accountability partner. Once a week is the minimum frequency, but daily is better. This way if you get off track on your goal, your partner can bring you back in line much quicker.

While this may have been a simple example, you can use these techniques for virtually any goal. First, make the goal SMART. Next, look for a way to make success the default option. Lastly, get an accountability partner. This will greatly increase your chances of success.

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