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The Life Changing Power of I Can, If...

Last week, I wrote about how optimism isn’t always our friend. In fact, being overly optimistic, (i.e. running off to La La Land) can actually reduce our motivation to achieve a goal. It seems that La La Land fantasizing saps our energy making us less likely to perform the hard work required to achieve what we want.

So, what’s an optimist to do?

You can start by getting real.

Please understand that I’m in no way telling you not to dream big. Of course, you should dream big! It’s what comes next that needs to change.

Despite your happy, enthusiastic feelings about the big beautiful outcome you’re chasing, there are likely a lot of things standing in the way. But most optimists don’t like to think about those things. Some have even convinced themselves that any negative thoughts about their goal are a form of poison that will seep insidiously into their consciousness, killing their ability to reach their goals. So, the optimist pushes those thoughts away. And that ain’t good. When you fail to consider the obstacles, you ultimately fail yourself, because you render yourself unprepared and helpless for the challenges that will inevitably arrive.

We need to give you fortification.

And that’s where the life-changing power of “I can, if…” comes in.

Below, is a three-step plan inspired by author and psychologist Gabriele Oettingen’s WOOP technique (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) as well as the work of Adam Morgan and Mark Barden in one of my all-time favourite books, “A Beautiful Constraint, How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business” (We can, if…).

Together, they create a single, super-duper, glorious goal-achieving action plan (if I do say so myself).

Let’s do this.

Step 1: Do your optimistic thang.

Go ahead and dream big.

Describe an excellent outcome. The best-case scenario. Optimists are of course, very good at this. Let yourself go ahead and visualize the joy and accomplishment you’ll feel when the goal is achieved.

This is Anna. She's going to illustrate as we go through our steps.

Let’s say Anna’s goal is to run a marathon. Here’s her list of big beautiful outcomes:

Step 2: Let the air out of your happy balloon.

List all the constraints and obstacles that will keep you from achieving your goal. For some optimists, this will feel deeply uncomfortable. Reality will set in. Does your goal require you to win the lottery? Hmmm, maybe you should rethink it. Even if the goal is realistic, you’ll still feel the wind knocked out of you. That’s okay. We’ll breathe it back in later.

Turns out, there’s lots and lots of reasons running a marathon is hard to do.

Step 3: The life-changing power of "I can, if…"

Here's the fun part. For each obstacle, strategize. How are you going to knock’em down? And to do that, use the phrase, “I can, if…”.

Next, test your “I can, ifs…”. You want to be sure you have at least one, but hopefully two or more for each obstacle or constraint as Anna does. Also, you might find that some of your "I can, ifs…" are so effective, they solve for more than on constraint or obstacle at a time.

That’s it! Easy-peasy. And now Anna has a realistic plan for meeting a big exciting goal.

Why does it work?

It keeps you focused on the right questions. It places you in a positive, yet realistic mindset. It prepares you for the challenges. It sets you up for success. And, it’s incredibly empowering.

Once you get good at “I can, if…”, it’s in you. It becomes your default operating system. You’ll begin doing it automatically in both your personal and professional lives. It’s one of the most powerful tools I have for creating transformation in my clients and their businesses.

Next week, we’ll talk about What Must Grow and What Must Go, when working towards your goals.

The Unstuck Leader book is now available.
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