Posts Tagged ‘self-control’

by Richard Martin

That’s a quote attributed to Admiral David Farragut of the Union Navy during a battle in the U.S. Civil War. It’s a great quote for anyone who believes you always have to drive at full speed to get to where you want to go. The problem is that it’s only good in special circumstances, usually when you’re backed into a corner and have no other alternative.

I was reminded of this just this past week as I discussed the matter of deliberate planning and consideration of options with a client. She’s a very successful businesswoman who has mostly functioned on the basis of the “damn the torpedoes” approach to decision-making. It’s worked for her on many an occasion, but it’s also gotten her into serious jams that could have easily been avoided with a little rational consideration of her options at important decision points.

She’s one of those entrepreneurs who has always followed her gut and believes she has the gumption to achieve anything she sets her sights on. While this is no doubt true, there is also a cost to her decisions about which goals and courses of action to pursue. She might have a great vision for her business, but it might simply not be the best time to proceed. That’s where strategic patience and self-control come into play. She has to consider the key factors impinging on her decisions and her plans to implement them. Does she have a good chance of success? Are the right conditions there to support her undertaking? Is she paying the right price or is she barreling ahead, “damn the torpedoes” style? And the price isn’t always financial. It can be in time, effort, emotional engagement, physical presence, or any of a number of other commitments she will have to make to make her dreams come to fruition.

A key lesson I learned as an army officer was to try as much as possible to slow down my decision-making in order to consider the full ramifications of the situation and assess the critical factors affecting my decisions and the range of actions at that point. This is called the estimate process. Naturally, you sometimes have to make a quick decision under fire. But this doesn’t mean you act on instinct alone. Intuition can only be an adjunct to a rational decision process, what the army calls a combat estimate. On many occasions, though, no one is shooting at you (yet), so you must take the time to sit down and work out all the factors and options, both for you and the enemy, and then develop a well-thought-out plan. This is known as a deliberate estimate of the situation.

Interestingly, the greater the import of the decision, the more we all tend to rely on our instincts, when it’s exactly the opposite that should be the case. My client, successful as she is, has realized that she must put more effort and self-control into her critical decision-making and planning. She’ll only come out stronger, and so will you if you do the same thing.

New Testimonial

“Richard has been instrumental in getting me to draw on my hard-won experience and ideas to turn them into marketable intellectual property and products. His disciplined, systematic approach has already led to several significant accomplishments for me. Whether you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, or working to get to the next level, Richard can boost your productivity and organizational effectiveness. Be forewarned, though. There is no magic formula, just systematic thinking, disciplined execution, and… Richard Martin.”

Caroline Salette, Owner and President, RE/MAX Royal Jordan Inc. and Salette Group Inc.

Richard Martin’s Business Readiness Process:

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.

Contact me to apply the whole thing–or just a piece, as needed–to improve your strategy, your readiness… and your results!

Did you know that an infantry battalion only needs about 3 to 4 hours of prep and planning time to be battle ready? What are you waiting for to get the same benefits for your outfit?

Why Sunday and What Does “Stand To” Mean?

Sunday? I want you to get my insights and advice first and fast, so you can prepare and up your readiness and results before others even know what’s happening!

And Stand To? It’s the order used in the military to get forces to man the parapets and be in a heightened state of situational awareness and, yes, readiness, so they can face any threat or undertake any mission.

My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

We all need willpower to succeed in school, business, our relationships, our careers, life. I’ve written a lot over the years about the need for resilience and robustness. Willpower is also fundamental to these, so you don’t give up at the first signs of trouble.

There are two very recent books on willpower that are definitely worth reading and that should be in your library if you’re serious about self-development. The first isWillpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. It’s written by the researcher who was instrumental in putting the science of willpower on a sound footing through experimentation, Roy F. Baumeister, and science journalist John Tierney. The book reads well and is in the style of many of the new popular science books, with a combination of hard scientific fact, anecdote, and the occasional first-person account.

The main thing I learned is that willpower is something we can control, but not by exercising more willpower. Instead, the authors focus on different areas of endeavour to show that willpower is largely a function of circumstances, physiological functioning, habits, and skills. In other words, there really IS a science of willpower, and it offers insights to improve how we function in all aspects of our lives. I was particularly interested in the authors’ discussion of ways to get more organized. They show how David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach to time and work management is so successful because he has apparently stumbled on to a series of skills that work with our human nature, rather than trying to go against it.

It is also an approach that eschews senseless moralizing, and that is a fundamental theme in the other book on willpower, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, And What You Can Do to Get More of It, by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. McGonigal teaches a continuing education course on self-control and willpower at Stanford University, and it is apparently one of their most successful courses open to the public.

There is a considerable overlap in the scientific information presented in this book as compared to the first one I’ve mentioned. However, this book is much more practical, and I would think also more interesting to the average reader. The author has structured the book to follow her course. She has included exercises to develop self-control and willpower and that have proven effective for most of her students in her course. She has also been able to include a large number of relevant examples from some of her students. This makes the information that much more interesting and shows that the reader’s self-control goals are quite attainable.

As mentioned above, the author states that willpower is definitely NOT about morality. In fact, McGonigal has a whole chapter devoted to that fact. She shows that couching things in terms of good and bad are not useful to developing self-control. In fact, they can be counter-productive as they can produce perverse results and unintended consequences. I also learned that willpower is like a muscle. It can be developed and honed over time, but you need to have the right tools to do so. This book gives much of the same information as Willpower, but the exercises are focused on skill building, not just generalities about gaining willpower or applying the scientific findings of the research. An interesting point about those exercises is that most focus on developing self-awareness. If you know the science and can then watch yourself in action, you will be able to apply the self-control techniques to achieve your willpower goals.

Overall I foundThe Willpower Instinct a better and more useful book. However,Willpower rounds out some of the scientific information and provides insight into the historical development of the field, as one of its authors was one of its founders.

Here’s some willpower advice. Exercise self-control; get both, and you won’t have any regrets.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.