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Meditation App Comparison: Which App Is Best?

When you're consistently living a busy lifestyle, you become vulnerable to burnout. I've found that taking a few minutes every day to relax and meditate helps maintain peace of mind.

When you're pushing yourself to accomplish goals and achieve success, the last thing you want to do is get worn out and unmotivated. 

Usually I'd recommend taking a break from technology. However, some apps can help lead you in daily meditation and bring peace to your mind. I've been a fan of the app 10% Happier for a while and wanted to find out if there's something better. 

(Note: I recommend reading my blog about renewal practices that help you reset when your high-performance lifestyle causes stress.)

What is the best app to use to quiet your mind? Taking the time to quiet our mind is a key that helps accomplish our dreams and aspirations. I tried out three different meditation apps to find out which one is the best. 

I compared the features, pricing, and pros and cons of each app—10% Happier, Calm, and The Mindfulness App

Here's the quick side-by-side comparison:

10% HappierCalmThe Mindfulness App
Free Trial7 Days7 Days7 Days
Pricing$99/year $70/year$59/year
Key ContributorsDan Harris and other top meditation expertsTamera LeavittMartin Wikfalk
Special ContributorsDaily Covid-19 3 p.m. meditationsLebron James discussing an Intro to Mental FitnessA plethora of contributors
Special FeaturesWeekly podcastRate your mood feature and daily gratitude listLibrary filled with premium meditations and courses
Favorite FeatureBreadth of topics and teachersDaily calm meditation to do first thing in the morning on different topicsWide variety of topics and teachers
Least FavoriteHigher cost and Dan's podcasts can be too longNothingThe app isn't as well organized and it's rating system isn't as useful as Calm
Overall Value Rank8/1010/106/10

Comparing these meditation apps was very enjoyable for me. I got to listen and learn from the best mindfulness teachers and practitioners over the last month. 

Full disclosure: I came into this analysis as a long-time 10% Happier supporter. I came out with a clear decision that Calm is the meditation best app. Tamera's early morning 10-minute Daily Calm messages are fantastic, and I learned something new every day. 

I found that every day was refreshing and helpful. Today's topic was on change, and yesterday was on acceptance. Tamera's voice is calm and soothing, making it a relaxed early morning listen. 

I especially like Calm's rating systems. You can rate your mood at any time throughout your day, and then Calm will recommend which meditation to listen to. This simple, AI-based feature is a game-changer. I also love using the daily gratitude reminder in the morning and at night. 

The icing on the cake for me was listening to Lebron James and his mental fitness messages. 

You can sign up to start using your Calm meditations for free today.

Summary and Next Steps

Meditation is an important part of a healthy high-performance lifestyle, along with regular exercise, prayer/study, and gratitude lists. These are fundamental behaviors for a sustainable high-performance lifestyle. 

Read this blog on the entire formula for sustainable performance excellence.

You can also connect with me for a free coaching consultation.

The Power of Purpose

Developing a Personal Mission Statement

Find your clear yes and your clear no!

Are you frustrated with your current career?

Are you frustrated with your personal life?

Are you still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up?

Are you missing passion, energy, and real meaning in your work and life?

Are you working hard to climb the ladder of success, but are not any happier?

If you can answer, yes, to all or some of these questions, it's time to slowdown, sit down and write a mission statement for your life!

Rick Heyland talking about developing his own mission statement in 1988

 

After all, you wouldn't run an organization without a defined strategy, so why would you run your life without one?

Victor Frankl the author of Man's Search for Meaning said, “Everyone has his (or her) own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated; thus, everyone's task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Stephen R. Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People wrote, “Creating a mission statement is not something you do overnight. It takes deep introspection, careful analysis, thoughtful expression, and often many rewrites to produce its final form. It may take you several weeks or even months before you feel really comfortable with your mission statement, before you feel it is complete and a concise expression of your innermost values and directions. Even then, you will want to review it regularly and make minor changes as the years bring additional insights or changing circumstances.”

Did you know that Oprah Winfrey has a personal mission statement:

Oprah Winfrey, founder of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network

“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.

So where do you start?

Start by answering 3 questions:

  1. What are you strengths?
  2. What do you like doing?
  3. How do you want to make a difference in the world?

Order this free Mission Statement development process to have help bringing these ideas into a concise statement for you to live by

 

For a free consultation to help you develop your statement sign up here

To see what to do after your mission statement is complete.  See the blog on Sustainable Personal excellence here:

 

Live a life of sustainable continuous improvement!

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Your Goals

Have you ever struggled with trying to meet your goals? Even for high achievers, life is demanding, the busyness never ceases, and success in one area is often accompanied by lackluster performance in another.

The continuous demands of a high-performance lifestyle can make reaching your goals seem impossible. What you need is a guide. 

Below is a simple step-by-step process to help you identify, set, and achieve short and long-term goals.

1. Identify Growth Areas

One of the first steps to take is deciding where you want to grow. Your growth will start with your intention. You won't become healthier, wealthier, or smarter by accident. 

Think about the areas you want to set goals in. Set physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, financial, professional, and relationship goals.

Preparing to set goals in an area doesn't necessarily mean you're doing poorly in that area of your life. You should always be seeking to improve yourself. Often doing good is what keeps people from doing great. 

2. Identify Your Important Roles

Why set goals for your different roles? Have you ever met someone that is successful at work but at the cost of relationships and health and fitness? We can be successful in our careers and our personal life but we have to be intentional! What roles do you fill and wish you could be better at?

Take some time to think about little improvements that can make you a better leader, spouse, parent, friend, sibling, or son/daughter.

These improvements can start with one small, easy thing. Ask yourself what you can do today that will make you a better X. If you don't spend time thinking about what you want to grow in, you can easily go into autopilot and not reach any of your goals.

Once you've decided on the roles and areas of growth, you need to set goals.

3. Set SMART Goals 

If you want to see improvement in your chosen areas of development and various roles, you need to set SMART goals.

SMART goals mean that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. 

Setting the right goals is vital in achieving your goals and growing as a person. If your goals aren't specific and measurable, you won't know when you've met them and can't track any progress. 

SMART goals don't have to be complicated. For example, here are some SMART goals you can set:

  • Exercise 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes
  • Read 25 books per year
  • Save 10% of my take-home income 
  • Pray each day
  • Meditate for 15 minutes 4 times per week 
  • Connect with 1 friend per day 
  • Make 20 sales calls per week

All of these goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific. You could easily track the progress you make and celebrate when you reach them.

4. Have a Weekly Plan  

Take time every week to look at your goals and develop plans to achieve those goals. If you only think about your goals when you set them, you will quickly forget and not make progress.

Your weekly plan needs to identify small steps to accomplish your long-term goals. Add those activities to your weekly calendar. 

If reading 25 books per year is a long term goal, you need to have a short term goal of reading for 15 minutes in the morning every day. 

I recommend reading Dr. Robert Maurer's book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.

In this book, Dr. Maurer explains that taking small steps is the best way to circumvent our natural resistance to change and allows us to build new habits. 

5. Track Your Goals

Keeping track of your goals and progress towards them is just as important as setting goals in the first place. 

If you're not tracking your progress, you won't know if you're getting closer to achieving your goals.

Long-term goals can seem out of reach until you begin tracking your progress. We often look at our day-to-day progress and don't see any improvements. If you improve by 1% every day, that progress can easily go unnoticed. 

On the other hand, if you can look at your monthly progress, a 25–30% improvement can't go unseen.

I designed the Weekly Game Plan to help you track your goals and make it easy to see your progress. The tracker helps identify weekly activities to reach your goals.

6. Conduct Monthly Reviews 

You should be taking time at least once a month to talk with a friend or mentor about your goals. Take this time to celebrate your successes as well as develop action plans for improvement.  

Monthly reviews are a time for you to analyze your goal tracking sheet, find any gaps, reassess your long-term goals, and discover opportunities to build a plan to improve.

You will find that reaching your goals becomes easier when you have someone you can be honest and open with.

If you're looking for an accountability partner, you can schedule a free assessment call with me.

7. Develop Action Plans 

Your monthly reviews should result in a clear action plan of what you need to work on. The plan should include what you will do and when you will do it.

If you have a plan to exercise more, your action plan needs to be clear about what that means.  

Document your progress. For example, I might say,(This year I'm averaging 4 days of exercise every week. Last year I averaged 3 days a week. Now I want to set a plan to achieve my next goal of exercising 5 times per week. )

Don't just focus on weaknesses, make sure to celebrate the improvements! In the above example, I would be exercising 33% more this year! 

During my monthly review, I might notice that Mondays are the day I usually miss my workout. My action plan for improvement may include running with my spouse or friend every Monday at 6:30 a.m.  

When creating your action plan, try to add some fun. Include someone to keep you accountable to help reach your goals.

8. Apply Sustainable Renewal Practices

What happens when you don't accomplish your goals in a week or month? How will you handle the stress and anxiety that may come with setbacks in your life?

This step is the part of goal setting most people don't talk about. I've found that there's a need to practice how we deal with the anxieties and uncertainties of life. 

I incorporate renewal practices into my schedule so I don't get off track. These practices include regular exercise, practicing daily gratitude, prayer, and meditation. 

Read this blog about renewal principles if you want more in-depth information.

9. Find Coaching Support

I know firsthand that this lifestyle is not easily built on your own. Having people who support you and help you accomplish your goals is necessary. 

Investing in a mentor and coach is one of the best ways you can track your performance, create an action plan, and plan your next steps.

I have over 30 years of experience helping business leaders reach their goals, and one of my biggest goals is to continue providing value to people. Schedule a free assessment call with me to see how I can help.

I know that when you implement this step-by-step process, you will make progress and reach your goals. 

Please reach out if you have any questions.

4 Renewal Practices for Sustainable Continuous Improvement

Practices to reset when stressed by your high performance lifestyle

Change, even good change, takes its toll.

In a recent coaching session I had with a client, he expressed that a recent job change had introduced newfound and unwelcome anxiety in his life.

Overall the change was good—he was excited about a new opportunity that would help him achieve his professional goals. However, despite the excitement, he found himself dealing with an uncomfortable amount of stress in his new role.

His experience likely sounds familiar. Change, whether small or large, and even when that change is positive, brings excitement and stress, both of which can be exhausting. Working through his issue, we spent most of the coaching time talking about the importance of the principles of sustainable renewal to manage anxiety and uncertainty.

Sustainable renewal is the final step of what I refer to as Sustainable Performance Excellence (SPE).

SPE is an approach for achieving long-term, sustainable performance and it involves:

  1. Dreaming big with purpose
  2. Planning small steps 
  3. Engaging in renewal practices

Learn more about Sustainable Performance Excellence

My client was doing fantastic on the first two elements: dreaming big and taking small steps towards big goals. Unfortunately, he wasn't taking the time out to practice renewal and found his mind harboring anxiety throughout his day.

Staying present despite anxiety

If left unchecked, the mind will often race on both the excitement and the fear of an uncertain future. 

My client was suffering from both elements of excitement and fear. During our discussion, he framed his concern as follows: How do I stop my mind from racing?

The answer: Mindfulness through sustainable renewal practices.

What is mindfulness?

This term has gained popularity over the last few years, though the concept is by no means new.

The definition of mindfulness I most prefer is:

A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Mindfulness sounds like a great place to arrive, but the key concern remains: How do you reach mindfulness when your mind is racing? How do you focus on the present moment when your mind just won't let you?

To achieve mindfulness, you need to engage in regular renewal practices.

Regular Renewal Practices for Sustainable Performance

On our call, I coached my client on 4 practices of sustainable renewal to manage the anxieties he was facing due to the uncertainty of the future. Here they are:

  • Write a gratitude list daily
  • Exercise regularly
  • Pray and ponder inspired literature 
  • Meditate daily

Write a gratitude list daily

Starting each day with an attitude of gratitude is a great way to teach the mind to stay focused on what is going right vs. what you feel is missing or going wrong in your life.

Amy Morin, the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Do (which I highly recommend), shared in Psychology Today seven proven scientific benefits of gratitude:

  • More and stronger relationships
  • Better physical health
  • Better psychological health
  • Greater empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Better self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

High achievers often have the bad habit of focusing excessively on what needs to change. Writing a daily gratitude list of 3-5 things is a great way to remind yourself of what about your life is already good and that you should celebrate.

See my podcast for additional research and practical tips on enhancing gratitude.

Exercise regularly

What's the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? According to neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, exercise! 

In her Ted Talk, Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory—and even protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. 

Exercise is a keystone habit as Charles Duhigg suggests in his book The Power of Habit:

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

Here are my thoughts on exercise and keystone habits:

Pray and ponder inspired literature

Together with prayer, studying inspired literature like scripture has been proven to quiet the mind and slow down (mind racing,) among other mental health benefits.

According to Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., a lecturer at Harvard:

“It's clear from the correlational studies within the epidemiology data that positive relationships exist between religious and spiritual practice and health outcomes on a variety of different conditions.

According to the Heritage Foundation:

“We have a logical reason why religion might influence physical health through mental health, through enhancing social support, through influencing health behaviors, all affecting physical health outcomes.”

Taking time to read and pray can get your mind more focused on something big than yourself and your life and put things into perspective.

Meditate daily

In 2017, Dr. Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD, wrote a great article on the 12 science-based benefits of meditation, talking about how meditation can help:

  • Reduce stress
  • Control anxiety
  • Promote emotional health
  • Lengthen attention span
  • Potentially reduce age-related memory loss
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve kindness
  • And more

I have recently found the benefits of short meditations to be quite powerful in managing anxiety.  When your mind is racing because of uncertainty or a setback in your daily or life goals, try doing a short 10-minute meditation from the Ten Percent Happier app. Meditation works.

Consistency Brings Capacity

None of these activities stands alone—each one needs to be done regularly with the others to manage a high-performance lifestyle.

There is power in building capacity to manage your mind. When building muscles in your body, you know you have to do regular muscle building activities. Otherwise the muscle weakens.  

The same principles apply to achieving mindfulness: You need regular practice to quiet your mind and stay focused on your goals and dreams.

Start practicing these 4 elements of sustainable-renewal today and start enjoying the journey towards sustainable performance excellence.

Sustainable Personal Excellence

Finding Sustained Happiness and Success

Have you ever met a person who is rich, maybe even famous, and not happy?

Have you ever met a person who is chill, seemingly happy, and not able to really achieve success in their chosen field?

Can we be both productive, successful, and happy?

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

Let's talk about the ROOT, the complete solution for a happy and successful life.

Some well-meaning, high-performance experts bring part of the solution, while few bring the whole and sustainable model for excellence.

1. Dream Big with a Clear Purpose

Robert Fritz, the author of The Path of Least Resistance, authored, “If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.”

Deepak Chopra, the author of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success says, “You must find a place in yourself where nothing is impossible.”

Additional authors such as Jack Canfield, who wrote Success Principles, and Tony Robbins author of, Awaken the Giant Within, all preach about dreaming big and setting lofty goals for life.

What happens on the days, weeks, months, and years when you are not making progress towards your big goals and aspirations? 

Studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them. Don't be a part of that statistic.

Are the big dreams and big goals a false paradigm? Do big goals only set you up for discouragement? Is there more to the formula? How do you really know what goals to set? How do you find the clarity and motivation to accomplish your goals?

It Starts by Defining your Purpose

Victor Frankl, the author of Man's Search for Meaning, said,  “Everyone has his (or her) own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated; thus, everyone's task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”

What is your unique calling? What are your specific strengths? What are your areas of passion and interest?  If you can thoughtfully answer these questions, you can unlock your genius; you can unlock your energy.  The answers to these questions may not tell you the specific job you should have, but it will give you insights on what career path to follow. 

Have you ever been around somebody that works with a sense of purpose?  How confident are they?  How passionate are they?  When you are clear on your purpose, you are clear on what to say yes to and what to say no to, in essence you are clear on your priorities.

Stephen R. Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote, “Creating a mission statement is not something you do overnight. It takes deep introspection, careful analysis, thoughtful expression, and often many rewrites to produce its final form. It may take you several weeks or even months before you feel really comfortable with your mission statement, before you feel it is complete and a concise expression of your innermost values and directions. Even then, you will want to review it regularly and make minor changes as the years bring additional insights or changing circumstances.”

This link will give you a step-by-step guide on how to develop your own purpose and start driving clarity and energy into your life. Learn more about the importance of defining your purpose. Listen to this podcast episode on how I defined my mission.

Measurement and Accountability System

“When performance is measured performance improves. When performance is measured and reported performance accelerates.”

Thomas S. Monson

When we set big goals for our life it is also important to have accountability and measurement systems to help us accomplish them.  Set up a spreadsheet or buy an app that will help you set and track your goals.  As you share those goals, and their progress with friends and trusted advisors, you will find increased motivation and desire to accomplish your goals, and you will develop new actions and behaviors to accomplish those goals. Learn how to set up your whole life goal setting systems.

2. Small Steps Planning System

Dr. Robert Maurer Ph.D., a recent guest on my podcast, (find the episode here), wrote a book called, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. This book shows research on how your brain reacts very positively to small steps towards a goal rather than bigger steps. He writes, “All changes, even positive ones are scary.  Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of Kaizen disarm the brain's fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.”

Dr. Maurer was struggling to help interns and patients in his training medical practice at a large hospital.  By good fortune, he read an article on Edward Deming and what the Japanese did with Deming's philosophy on continuous improvement and Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement for personal and corporate efficiency. Dr. Maurer's breakthrough happened when he had a stressed out patient in his office again with no change to her personal health practices.  She was supposed to start exercising and losing weight to improve her heart conditions and general health.  Check-up after check-up the patient wasn't changing her behaviors that would lead to better health. Dr. Maurer on the next visit asked her if she watched TV at night to relax after the kids went to bed.  She did.  Dr. Maurer then asked her if she should walk in place during the commercials of her favorite show each night.  She said she would, and she did.  On the next visit the patient reported success, then Dr. Maurer asked her if she could do a little more and she said she could.  In a few months she was running and lost, and kept off 20 lbs. and vastly improved her health.  With small steps, she developed new habits that changed her life.

In my blog post from June 1st of 2019, By small and simple HABITS, great things come to pass, I wrote, “For every long-term goal, there's a daily habit you can develop to take action today towards that goal. Of course, consistency and discipline are key to success. Try starting every day with your most important routines. Wake up before everybody else does so you can start your day with your small habits that will eventually lead you to excellence in your chosen goals.”

We know that breaking down big goals into bite-size chunks works and is a key step in a successful practice of personal excellence.

But what about when you are still not hitting all your goals?  Or even worse, what happens when you are hitting your financial and career goals and aren't happy?

What happens when your kids need things that are not in your daily plan?

Can you be happy, content, flexible and productive?

3. Renewal Activities for Acceptance and Sustained Commitment

Not all goals will be accomplished right away. We need practices in our life that help us deal with the day to day setbacks of missed expectations, tragedy and stress. We need to build capacity to deal with the successes and the failures. Renewal activities give you the mental and emotional strength to accept where you are at and keep learning and working towards your goals.

There are many good renewal practices. I recommend four regular practices:

  1. Exercise
  2. Prayer and Study.
  3. Meditation
  4. Daily Gratitude.

Read my blog containing a complete review of the research on the benefits of sustainable renewal practices.

Get to Excellence, Then Sustain Excellence

I would argue that these teachings when applied interdependently bring the complete picture of true success.  It is possible to be productive, successful, happy and content. As we install these three principles (little by little) we will experience success and happiness!

  1. Dream Big and Have Purpose
    1. Have a purpose statement.
    2. Set a balanced set of goals in all areas of your life.
    3. Set up a measurement and accountability system.
  2. Small Steps Planning System
    1. Identify the small steps that must be accomplished this week to advance your goals.
    2. Complete your weekly plan.
    3. Plan daily.
  3. Sustainable Renewal Activities
    1. Complete a daily gratitude journal for what you were able to accomplish.
    2. Meditate
    3. Exercise
    4. Pray and ponder over inspired literature

These are the three principles of sustainable personal excellence.

Get started now: Self-evaluation questions

  1. What has stopped you from applying the ideas of sustainable personal excellence (SPE) in the past?
  2. What tools/ideas mentioned in this article has or will help you overcome your roadblocks with SPE?
  3. What small steps could you do to start/continue your journey towards Sustainable Personal Excellence?
  4. When will you start the small step?

If you need help getting started, schedule a free 30 minute assessment on how you are applying Sustainable Personal Excellence.

Becoming Your Own Growth Stock

What financial investing teaches about Personal Development

As 2019 ended, were you able to look back and say to yourself, “I made significant growth this last year”?

If you were able to see growth, congratulations! You probably had measurable goals that you regularly followed up on, problem solved, and put actions into place to accomplish those goals.

If you found it difficult to perceive growth in your own life, then you likely failed to create a growth strategy for the previous year. Thankfully, now is a great time to do a reset and start building a growth strategy for 2020.

Creating a Growth Strategy

Lately I've been managing my own stock portfolio. Stock portfolios have highly measurable returns with clear performance benchmarks, which makes measuring performance simple.

As part of managing my own portfolio, I've aligned my strategy closely with the practice of growth investing, which focuses on identifying stocks with high growth potential so I can beat the market.

As I study about the strategies involved in growth investing, I can't help but think about analogous strategies we should be applying in our own lives. In effect, we each need to become our own best growth stocks.

Becoming Your Own Growth Stock

If you were a stock, would people invest in you?

Thinking of yourself as a stock might seem strange, but the analogy can expose some interesting concepts. Ask yourself the following:

  • Am I a growth stock?
  • Did I beat the market return of 30% last year?
  • Am I growing or am I losing value?
  • Would people want to invest in me?

This growth stock concept is as applicable in the financial performance of your personal or work life as it is for non-financial performance. Consider this: Have you achieved above average performance in the following areas of your life?

  • Physical. Are you healthier this year than last year? Will you be healthier at the end of this year?
  • Mental/Learning. Have you increased your knowledge over the last year? Will you do so in the coming year? Will your mental health be better at the end of this year?
  • Spiritual. Will you be more spiritually balanced at the end of this year? Has your spirituality grown over the past year?
  • Work. Are you providing more value at work this year than you were the previous year?
  • Relationships. Did the quality of your relationships improve from year to year? Are you finding more quality time to spend with loved ones? Are you increasing the quality of the time you spend?

These questions get at the heart of personal continuous improvement. Goals and the proper goal setting process are at the heart of becoming a personal growth stock.

In episodes 3 and 29 of my podcast Continuous Improvement 4 Life, I reviewed a 4-point system for setting and accomplishing goals.  Even with the best goal-setting system, we sometimes find ourselves not accomplishing our goals.  Sometimes we get discouraged and give up on our goals.  Sometimes we just keep trying the same thing harder and expecting different results.  I'd like to teach you a problem-solving method for getting any goal unstuck and back in growth mode.

A popular lean problem-solving method is the DMAIC framework. DMAIC (pronounced de-MAY-ick) is as follows:

  • Define. What is the business problem or project goal?
  • Measure. How can you measure current and future performance?
  • Analyze. What are all the factors that could be affecting performance?
  • Improve. Which factor should we change for the greatest net improvement?
  • Control. How can we embed the change and ensure sustainability?

Example: Applying DMAIC to Personal Investing

To see how DMAIC works, let's walk through the framework in the context of personal investing.

Define: What is the business problem or project goal? In the case of personal investing, I wanted a higher return on investment. Specifically, I wanted to beat the market by at least 20 points. This was my problem and opportunity statement.

Measure: What does the data say? What is my baseline performance? Last year my investments achieved a 28% return on investment. Here are the achievements of various index funds:

  • Dow: 23%
  • S&P: 30%
  • Nasdaq: 37%

An additional metric of note was that over the last 20 years, the returns of the Dow were 7% and the S&P 5.9%. So last year was an incredible year for sure.

Analyze: What are the root causes? Why was my return on investment last year roughly the average of the most common stock indexes? The answer: I had over 200 stocks and ETFs in my portfolio, so my stock picks were so diversified I was destined to achieve market averages.

Improve: What can I do to eliminate the root causes of my issue and prevent future problems? My favorite way to approach this step is to ask, “What are the best doing that I can replicate or learn from?” For those investment firms that achieved over 50% last year, what are they doing differently from me?

For example, over the last 16 years, David Gardner of the Motley Fool has achieved a 621% return. What can I do more like Gardner to achieve similar results?

For me to achieve the right results, I started to apply lessons from the best advisors I've come to trust.

A key learning here is to become a researcher of your own performance. Be curious, be an objective observer.  Analyze your areas of improvement as dispassionately as possible and put a plan in place to improve.  If you can't analyze objectively, then get an accountability partner or coach to help you.

Control: How can I embed the changes to ensure sustainability? Now that I've identified qualified advisors, I've started reviewing their recommendations every Saturday in preparation to make the appropriate investment changes for Monday.

To beat the market by 20 points, I started to focus on the Technology and biotechnology sectors. They have been high growth areas of the market.

Also, I started focusing on companies that have double digit growth in sales and whose stock volume trading has been growing.

So far, this practice has returned a significantly higher return than the general market in just over six months.

I am not trying to become a professional trader but trying to prove a point: with the right mindset, toolset, and skillset you can achieve any goal in life!

Apply DMAIC to Other Aspects of Your Life

I encourage you to apply the DMAIC process to any area of your life. As I mentioned above, you can use DMAIC for the spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, work, or relationship goals you have in your life.  You can problem solve using DMAIC with yourself or use a trusted accountability partner or coach.

At work if you were 20% off target, you would gather as a team to problem solve and implement new actions to improve. Why don't we do the same thing with our personal development?

Just ask, “Which area do I want to work on first?” Pick the area and run through the DMAIC problem-solving process. Review your solutions during your weekly planning process and you will achieve outstanding improvements and results in your life.

You can achieve any improvement in your life. You just need the right mindset, toolset, and skillset to analyze and improve.

I hope these tools and examples have inspired you to work on your own personal or professional continuous improvement.

Be a Personal Continuous Improvement Growth Stock!

With questions or comments, email me at rheyland@gmail.com.

Goal Achievement: Processes, Skills, Tools and Key References

This is a follow-up on a session from the Continuous Improvement 4 Life podcast (episode 29) about optimal goal setting. The podcast is titled “Goal Achievement: Process, Skills, Tools and New Year's Resolutions Hacks.”

The Goal Achievement Process

Below is a breakdown of the 4-step Goal Achievement Process we discuss in the podcast.

  1. Identify a mission/purpose statement. (See Episode 2 on our podcast for more detail.)
  2. Set goals for whole-life success. Focus your goals on the following 6 areas:
    1. Physical
    2. Spiritual/Emotional
    3. Financial
    4. Relationships
    5. Work
    6. Mental/Learning
  3. Set SMART goals in each area.
    1. Specific
    2. Measurable
    3. Attainable
    4. Realistic
    5. Trackable
  4. Build an Accountability Operating System for regular follow-up. This operating system should include:
    1. Regular reviews of progress
    2. Accountability support partners
    3. Celebrations of successes

For more detail on the process, listen to Episode 3.

We had 3 special guests join the podcast and talk about their goal achievements and the processes they use to achieve their goals. Here are the highlights.

Parker Jones

Parker referenced 3 books that he used for better goal achievement in 2019:

  1. 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R. Covey
  2. The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
  3. Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Tracy Pond

Tracy referenced several doctors and life coaches that she used to change her health:

J.R. Hansen

J.R. discussed the idea of Micro Goals. Do a Google search of “micro goals” to see several articles and YouTube videos on the topic.

Quality Practice Creates a Step Change in Performance

How did the greats become great? 

How did the best athletes and the best musicians become
great?  How did the captains of industry
become the best? Were these individuals just born with their abilities?  Did they come out of the womb as the smartest,
the most inclined, the most capable?

Nope! Regardless of innate ability or circumstance, every
individual who can claim any real success had to work for it. 

Most masters of any domain meet two criteria:

They had expert teachers

They practiced more than others.

These three ingredients make up the recipe for being the best, with the second ingredient, practice, being the most important.

Practice Outpaces Aptitude

Consider Jerry Rice. Jerry Rice is the greatest American football receiver of all time. Was it because he was the fastest or the best jumper? Nope! He wasn't either. He was, however, the best at practicing. Rice worked out 6 times a week in the off season.  He practiced the skills necessary to become a great receiver.  He practiced much more than he played.

Consider Jack Welch. Jack Welch was recognized as the leader
of the century during his reign over GE. 
He was often quoted as saying “No one would mistake me for a genius”,
but he was able to find a mistake or opportunity in an income statement faster
than anyone. 

How did he do it? Did he have a specialized education? Yes,
but in chemical engineering. Few would doubt that he was a sharp man, but what was
it that made it possible for him to become so exceptionally nimble in his
domain? The short answer: practice.

Talent Is Overrated

Geoff Colvin writes a terrific book titled Talent Is Overrated. In his book, Colvin
asserts that deliberate practice is what makes world-class performers. One
particularly salient example from his book is of Laszlo Polgar.

Laszlo Polgar lived in the 1960's and was a Hungarian educational psychologist. Polgar was absolutely certain that great performers were made, not born. In accordance with his belief, he advertised for someone to marry him, stating that together they would raise children from a young age to be world class chess players. His to-be wife Klara accepted the proposal, and the two of them raised three daughters (Susan, Sophia, and Judit) to become chess grandmasters. 

How did Laszlo and Klara get their three-peat? Through deliberate practice from a young age. Laszlo didn't know anything about chess until the children began to grow, but he made up for lost time. The family was said to have 10,000 books on chess in their library. When Susan was 19, Sophia 14, and Judit 12, they competed as a team in the Women's Chess Olympiad and scored Hungary's first ever victory against the Soviets, becoming national heroes.

The learnings from Laszlo Polgar for personal and professional
continuous improvement are plentiful and hopeful.

To become a great golfer, or runner or cyclist takes a lot of deliberate practice. Think back on Jerry Rice, who practiced more than he played. Couldn't you try that with your golf game — practice more and play less?  Learn the skills and drills to become great.

Bring Practice to the Professional Setting

The lessons for professional continuous improvement are exciting.  Consider your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings. Are they deliberate?  Do you prepare so they can become great?

Take a second to gauge the successfulness of your meetings: What would you score your weekly meetings out of 10? If you are a 5 out of 10, then I suggest the following to become world class:

  1. Identify what a great meeting looks like. Have
    experts help you identify best in class.
  2. Share and agree on that expectation with your
    team.
  3. Measure your success versus the ideal.
  4. Get feedback from a meeting expert.
  5. Course correct and adjust to become a 10.

You can see how this can apply to any skill or discipline. Do
you want to become a great financial investor? Apply the following steps:

  1. Identify what a great financial investor does.
  2. Commit to practicing great financial learning and acumen every day.
  3. Measure yourself versus your commitment.
  4. Adjust and course correct with a trusted partner, creating some joint accountability.

Warren Buffet's story can shed some light on how experience and practice can open the path to becoming a great investor:

[Warren Buffet] purchased his first stock when he was 11 years old and worked in his family's grocery store in Omaha. His father, Howard Buffett, owned a small brokerage, and Warren would spend his days watching what investors were doing and listening to what they said. As a teenager, he took odd jobs, from washing cars to delivering newspapers, using his savings to purchase several pinball machines that he placed in local businesses.

Buffet then went on to complete a business degree before
applying for additional graduate studies:

After being rejected by the Harvard Business School, he enrolled in graduate studies at Columbia Business School. While there, he studied under Benjamin Graham â€“ who became a lifelong friend, and David Dodd, both well-known securities analysts. It was through Graham's class in securities analysis that Buffett learned the fundamentals of value investing. He once stated in an interview that Graham's book, The Intelligent Investor, had changed his life and set him on the path of professional analysis to the investment markets. Along with Security Analysis, co-written by Graham and Dodd, it provided him the proper intellectual framework and a road map for investing.

Was Warren Buffet born with an insight to business or did he
learn it from experts and then put hours and hours into studying charts and
businesses? I suggest the latter. Mr. Buffett is now into his 80's and still
shows up for work every day.

Good Practice makes Perfect

Receiving coaching from an expert is critical if you want to become world class. Tiger Woods had many coaches, starting with his dad then many others following.

Which exposes an important point: Fathers and mothers can instill in their children the importance of practice and should be their first teachers. Tiger Woods' first coach was his dad. Warren Buffet's first mentor was his father the stockbroker. Beethoven's father was a master teacher.

Find Someone to Direct Your Practice

Regardless of the relationship, or the age of the student, finding
the right teacher is essential.

In his book Talent Is Overrated,
Geoff Colvin continues:

[A]nyone who thinks they've outgrown the benefit of a teacher's help should at least question that view. There's a reason why the world's best golfers still go to teachers.

One of those reasons goes beyond the teacher's knowledge. It is his or her ability to see you in ways that you cannot see yourself.

…

A business coach is looking at the same situations as a manager but can see, for example, that manager systematically fail to communicate his intentions clearly.

It's apparent why becoming significantly good at almost anything is extremely difficult without the help of a teacher or coach, at least in the beginning. Without a clear, unbiased view of the subject's performance, choosing the best practice activity will be impossible; for reasons that may be simply physical (as in sports) or deeply psychological, very few of us can make a clear, honest assessment of our own performance.

As Colvin explains, we need teachers and coaches to give an
outside perspective of ourselves. So if you want to create a step change in any
skill or practice:

  1. Hire a coach or expert to help you identify what great looks like.
  2. Practice those newfound skills with quality and excellence.
  3. Continue to adjust and modify based on the coach/expert's feedback.
  4. Experience a step change in your skill and abilities.
  5. Repeat.

You don't have to be a natural to become the best in your
field.  Just be willing to accept
coaching from experts and then implement lots of deliberate practice to
increase your skills and abilities.

So go start practicing….with quality!

Success Operating System: For High Productivity and Happiness

What do you think of when you hear the term “Operating System)?

Computers probably come to mind first. Computers' operating systems interface with their own software and hardware to make the capabilities of a powerful computing machine available to the average user.

Related image

You also may have heard of management operating systems (MOS), a system I see regularly in my profession. Based on the Plan, Do, Check, Act framework of continuous process improvement, the objective of a management operating system is to organize all available resources to monitor and execute on a process to steadily improve that process over time.

Both computers and businesses rely on structured operating systems for peak performance and continuous improvement. If a clearly articulated and developed operating system is so essential for your computer and your company, might not the same apply in your own life?

Developing a Success Operating System

A Success operating system (SOS) is the collection of tools, habits, and processes we implement in our own lives to foster continuous improvement towards peak performance.

Like many companies I interact with, you may feel that creating a SOS might be beyond the scope of your time and resources. We often tell ourselves that we're too busy to develop a clearly defined(way-we-work) strategy to direct ourselves towards success.

But if a clearly defined set of values, rules, systems, tools and behaviors are important for our best run companies, then shouldn't we take some time to slow down and develop our own personal operating system?

I know you're busy and may not want to become too over programmed. But how would you like it if your electronic devices or favorite company lacked a structured way to communicate and execute? You wouldn't, right?

My recommendation: start where you are. What are the behaviors, tools and systems you currently use to be your very best and achieve maximum levels of happiness and productivity? These are what you currently have to work with. Now here is how you can more formally structure that system.

Structuring Your Success Operating System

Purpose → Goals → Weekly Game Plan → Daily Plan → Learning

1. Purpose

Your personal operating system starts with a clearly defined purpose or mission. All your goals and activities should be derived from your purpose (or mission/calling). I have written other blogs and published YouTube videos on this topic alone, but suffice it to say that to define your own purpose you need to find the intersect between the answer to these three questions:

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. What activities in the past made you feel in the flow of peak performance?
  3. What activities bring you the most joy?

Answering these questions can give you some principles or ideas to make your most important career and life decisions.

2. Goals

Identify your roles so that you make sure and have goals for each role. I encourage you to set life goals, not just work goals. I know too many people who are so purposeful and intentional at work and then just coast at home. Bring that same sense of passion and purpose to your whole life. Passion and purpose in your personal life will bring you true and sustainable joy.

To get a complete walkthrough of my system for setting goals, you can visit my podcast. You can also check out this YouTube video of the 4 points to successful goal achievement.

3. Weekly Game Plan

A weekly game plan is the keystone habit that propels you toward your long-term goal achievement. You can click here to download a worksheet I have developed for conducting a weekly game plan. The worksheet has areas on the left-hand side for the mission/purpose and lifetime goals that we just mentioned. These long-term goals won't usually change. With this worksheet in hand, each week you can sit down and have a 30-minute planning session to plan the week and make sure you are accomplishing the important but non-urgent activities in your life.

I have also published a YouTube video to help understand the importance of weekly planning.

4. Daily Planning

Most of us work through a to-do list or a task sheet at work and home. Now that you are planning your most important roles and goals, you will find this daily task sheet is filled with more than just the urgent items that have your immediate attention each day. At the beginning of each day, open up your weekly game plan and plan your day from your highest priorities.

5. Learning

The weekly game plan may be the most important tool in your personal operating system, but the habit of learning is the most important behavior and mindset.

Each day and each week take time to evaluate your performance and learn from it. Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What could I have done better?
  3. How will I plan differently tomorrow or next week?

What went well? Make sure to celebrate and remember the small victories each day. Happiness lies in the process, not the result. I can't overemphasize this: The happiest people enjoy the journey, not the result. Be grateful for the little victories each day that life affords you. This is were happiness and progress are nurtured.

What could I have done better? As you ask yourself this question, you don't need to be critical. Just give yourself an honest appraisal of your day/week. What could you have done differently? How could you have reacted differently to an interruption in your schedule? Maybe you could close the door during peak creativity or enlist help from family members or work colleagues to stay on task.

How will I plan differently tomorrow or next week? As you analyze what went well and what didn't, your mind will be inspired to figure out ways to plan less or plan differently. Let your creativity work.

If you are constantly being interrupted, try to remember which priority is more important. If your kids or your colleagues interrupt your with an emergency, be flexible enough to recognize the importance of the relationship and re-prioritize on the fly.

Take a learning mindset into your weekly and daily planning. Be curious and observe yourself in the process. This is where the magic happens, where creativity, curiosity and good planning intersect. It's fun to figure out new ways to get things done given the environment you find yourself in. Enjoy the process!

Starting the Journey

Psychologist David Watson teaches the value of the journey:

“Contemporary researchers emphasize that it is the process of striving for goals—rather than the attainment per se—that is crucial for happiness and positive affectivity.)

David Watson

To get started, download the weekly game plan worksheet and develop your own personal operating system! This will be the most important system you develop to achieve peak performance.

Send me feedback to rickh@ci4life.org

Live a life of sustainable CI!

Weekly Planning: The Trim Tab for Life

My wife Cheryl and I love to waterski. We have loved to waterski since we first learned on Montana lakes in our teenage years. 

The other day, Cheryl took me for a morning ski on calm glass water at 7.30 a.m. Suddenly, while moving at 30 miles per hour, the boat abruptly tilted on its side. The jolting tilt didn't affect me behind the boat, but those family members in the boat were highly alarmed because someone could have been thrown out.

Thankfully no one was injured, but we were shocked that a boat running at 30 miles an hour could suddenly tilt the way it did.

As we arrived home, we found a letter in the mail telling us that the software on our boat needed an update and that its current configuration could cause the boat's trim tab (a little underwater wing that affects the pitch of our model of boat) to tilt at high speeds, causing serious injury or harm. Yikes! 

The software update was an easy fix and the boat is fine, but we consider ourselves very lucky.

Two boat trim tabs

Above you see pictured two trim tabs for motor boats. Compared to a massive 23-foot, 6000-pound boat, the trim tab seems inconsequential. Yet these small sheets of metal can change the whole angle and plane of a massive boat at high speeds.

When a trim tab is working effectively, it can give you the perfect angle and run for your boat, turning your wake from bumpy for waterskiing to very little wake at all. For surfing behind the boat, the trim tab adds depth and cleans up the wake so the surf looks like North Beach in Waikiki, Hawaii!

I'm amazed at how such a small lever had such a big effect on performance. 

Life's Trim Tabs

The above experience got me thinking about my research on habits, happiness, continuous improvement and productivity. 

If something as small as a trim tab can have such a big effect, could there be an analogous trim tab for personal performance? What is the trim tab activity in our lives that can make the difference between a bad ride in life or a great ride?

Weekly planning is the trim tab activity for personal improvement and productivity.

A Return to Goal Setting with Weekly Planning

So many people give up on their goals—or don't even set them anymore—because urgency often wins over importance. Moving at 30 miles per hour, people will often address urgent, in-your-face tasks first, letting non-urgent but highly important activities get swept aside in life's wake. 

Our lives are full of urgent requirements—to pay a bill, to respond to an email, attend various meetings, take kids to lessons and sports activities, and responding to phone calls. If we let every urgent task control all of our time, we'll never get any long-term but important goals done.

Weekly planning, our trim tab, can change that.

Filling the Gap Between Short-Term and Long-Term

Weekly planning serves as a bridge between daily planning and yearly goal setting. 

Spending 20-30-minutes each week to calibrate your goals will set you on a happy and fulfilling course for the week.

Weekly planning is your game plan

You would never go into a competition without a game plan. Some of the best football teams script the first 10-20 plays of the game based on their game planning.

The need for a game plan is also apparent in industrial settings, where every hour of a maintenance shutdown is extremely costly for lost production. Great Shutdowns script out the first several days activity by activity to ensure a good start to the maintenance shutdown period.

Our time is precious, so why would we start our week without a weekly game plan?

Benefits and Requirements of Weekly Game Planning

The benefits of weekly game planning include greater ability to:

  1. Focus on and accomplish the important but non-urgent activities/goals
  2. Avoid getting sucked into the busy trap
  3. Prioritize activities you have wanted to do but have been procrastinating
  4. Feel satisfied from working on your most important life items

Here are some of the key factors of success when carrying out your weekly game plan:

  1. Have your purpose statement and yearly goals in front of you when setting up your weekly plan.
  2. Set your weekly game plan in all areas of your life, not just work. Specifically, set goals in the following areas: Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Family & Relationships, Work, and Financial.
  3. Establish the same time each week to develop your plan. Sunday nights are a good time to set up your week. Train your brain with a consistent time and place to weekly game plan.
  4. Refer to your weekly plan during your daily planning sessions.
  5. Measure your completion percentage on weekly planning. An 80% completion percentage says you're accomplishing a lot but maybe not setting too easy or too hard of goals for the week.
  6. Don't get discouraged. Treat each day and each week as a learning system.
  7. Honor what you did well! Learn from what you didn't get accomplished. Love the process!

Here is a sample weekly game plan:

Go to www.ci4life.org to download a weekly game plan sheet. Look for the “weekly game planning tool” menu button.

Send me your learnings and feedback to Rickh@ci4life.org

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