Why Baby Steps Lead to Big Success…excerpt from my book, “Crafting a Better Life”

“The elevator to success is broken.  You’ll have to use the stairs…one step at a time” – Jo Gerrard

The Japanese have a name for the strategy that relies on tiny, continuing improvements to create change.  It’s called “Kaisen”.  

And with all the people I have worked with both as a coach and a pilates instructor, I have noticed that the people who take daily baby steps towards their goals have a better chance of actually achieving their goals. In fact most of the successful people I’ve met, don’t kill themselves accomplishing tons every day.  They take small bite sized actions consistently.

This might sound counter-intuitive.  Most of us think jumping in with both feet means great big actions.  But the truth is, rarely is anything in life ‘one big action’.  It’s usually a string of small accomplishments that leads to the big accomplishment.

For example, running a marathon.  Unless you’re a top athlete, you will need to train for this goal.  Having run one myself, I can tell you the training included a lot of short runs before the long runs.

Ask any writer how they wrote their book or script?  They will likely tell you that they started with an outline and then plugged away at it daily.    

In fact, look at yourself as a child learning anything…reading, piano, tennis…you weren’t thrown onto the tennis court expecting to win a match!  You likely practiced hitting balls off the wall, then volleyed with another person, etc.

Just to prove my point even further:

Dave Brailsford was the GM and Performance Director for Team Sky (Britain’s professional cycling team).  They had never won a Tour de France until Dave Brailsford took over and implemented his “aggregation of marginal gains” strategy (taking small actions every day).  He figured if they followed this daily practice, they would win it in five years.

They won it in two.

And here’s what it is:  aim for improving 1% every day.

For example, think about your body weight.  You don’t lose or gain 50 lbs over night.  You make daily distinctions to either improve your health, or inhibit it.  The weight is either gradually shed, or gained.  

This is true for any goal you want to achieve.

But, when we are in a rut or frustrated with our current life, we want instant change and even faster results.  However, to create lasting change and achieve big goals we have to break it down to doable, small steps.  1% is more than enough.  Do the math…if you improve 1% a day…then at the end of the year you will have improved 365%!

Now for me, my 1% is based on a certain amount of time I work on a project.  Again, I make it easy to succeed (I warned you, you’ll hear that a lot in this book.) so I set the goal to work on my project 15 minutes a day.  That’s it.  That’s how this book got written.  I sat and wrote with the intention of writing for only 15 minutes.  Now obviously, if I went over and wrote for a few hours, that was great!  But, if I had said I had to write at least an hour a day?  I can assure you it would still be ‘in progress’ waiting to be completed.  By working on it for only 15 minutes a day, I actually expanded the manuscript at least 1% a day.

So, where can you improve your life by 1% today?  

Look at your goals, and decide today what a 1% improvement would look like.  What can you do TODAY to get 1% closer to your goal?  What baby steps, if taken consistently, will get you the results you want?  Then tomorrow, ask yourself the same question. Every day, decide and do whatever that 1% improvement is.

And of course, if you need support with this, get in touch and we’ll work on this together.

Why making ‘little decisions’ is the key to creating Motivation

Most of us are looking to improve some aspect of our lives.  Whether it’s the state of our health or the balance in our bank account, usually there is an area where we’d like to see some improvement.

And, we often make big sweeping resolutions over the New Year and vow to make the changes necessary to achieve our goals.  

And now here we are, a week away from March…how’s it going with those well intentioned goals?

We’ve all experienced the “gung ho!” feeling of starting something new.  And, most of us also have felt the “fizzle” about a month later.  Then we blame ourselves for “self sabotaging, being lazy, lacking in willpower” etc.

The good news is, that’s not the case at all.  Your “fizzle” has nothing to do with a character flaw.  What caused you to stall was your reliance on your big decision to be enough to keep you motivated.

The truth is, a clear intention and a big decision have little to do with staying motivated to achieve your goals.  Finding motivation to take the steps necessary requires a different approach.

For example, maybe you decided to improve your fitness this year and joined a gym.  Both improving your health and joining a gym are excellent intentions but, we all know that the decision of ‘joining a gym’ in and of itself will not make you fit.

It will be your consistent use of the gym that will lead to your fitness level improving.  

The truth is, people’s lives are ultimately shaped by little decisions and small distinctions followed by small consistent actions.

One little decision at a time is all it takes to change your behavior and stoke your motivation.  The big decision to join a gym is great.  But the daily decision to GO to the gym is when you’ll start to see and feel a change in your health.

This works both ways… you can also create negative behaviors based on the little decisions you make.  For example, your decision to stay up every night and binge watch Netflix will affect how you sleep and how well you do the next day. Keep that up and you’ll be totally wiped out by the end of the week.  Yet, deciding to turn off the TV and getting to bed on time might have you ending your week full of extra energy.

Making those tiny consistent decisions is how you shape your life.   

So the key is to figure out when that ‘tiny decision’ needs to be made, and how to remind yourself of it in the moment of need.

Personally, I like big reminders.  And my favorite reminder is utilizing my phone.  Using the above example, I could set an alarm on my phone for 9:30 pm.  Instead of the alarm sound, I could set an inspiring song to play in that moment.  I could also name the alarm “Go to bed” or “how do I want to feel tomorrow?”.  Then, when the alarm goes off, I am instantly reminded of the goal I set for myself (get to bed on time) and this is the moment to choose to follow through.

By setting your prompts up ahead of time, you’re more likely to make the right decision in that moment.  You have created both a reminder of your goal, and the choice you would like to make in that moment.  And the more consistent you are with making that choice, the easier it gets. ( And soon, getting to bed on time will be a no brainer!) 

So forget about beating yourself up about not following through or lacking willpower.  You simply need to discern exactly WHEN you need to make a ‘little decision’.  And make that decision consistently.  

You may need support with this.  If that’s the case, please get in touch and we’ll figure it out together.

Or better yet! Sign up for my upcoming workshop! There are still a few spots available. I will be coaching all participants on strategies to implement this very principle as well as ending self sabotage, how to create momentum, and more effective ways to achieve our goals. You will go home with a doable action plan as well as skills to get out of your own way, stop self sabotage, and start living the life you want…now.

“Zooming Out” to create a better perspective

In a recent newsletter I talked about how to directly deal with our emotions rather than self sabotaging ourselves to avoid them.   One of the techniques I offered was free associative writing to drill down to our unmet needs.  (if you missed it, let me know and I’ll send it to you!)

Of course, some emotions are more difficult to manage than others.

 “Zooming Out” is another very effective way to take some of the ‘charge’ off of these experiences.

When we are caught up in our emotions (anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, etc) we tend to narrow our thoughts to focus only on what is bothering us.  We lose the ability to see outside the current moment.

And because we are all wired to want to feel good, we either fixate on the issue or distract ourselves with sabotage.

“Zooming Out” is about finding a context for your feelings that includes much more than what you are currently experiencing. 

The first step is to acknowledge you’re feeling something uncomfortable.  Maybe you can identify exactly what it is but that isn’t even really necessary for this exercise.  Just acknowledging what’s going on is the first step.

Then, you notice if there is a physical sensation going along with your emotions.  Maybe your stomach is in knots, you head is pounding, you’re starting to cry…just notice how this emotion is actually physically feeling to you.

And finally, look around the room or the space you are in.  Take in your surroundings.  Notice you are a person, having a feeling, in a body, in this space.  What else is happening at this moment?  

For example, let’s say I’m feeling lonely at the moment and I’ve identified it as a lump in my chest.  If I were to “Zoom Out” right now, here is what else I would notice:

Helicopters flying over head

My cat napping in a deep sleep

Heavy winds outside

The sun is shining

I can hear a wind chime

And…my feet are cold (as usual!)

By noticing all these things, the charge of feeling lonely is lessened.  I’m feeling what I’m feeling but in the context of a bigger picture.  Me feeling lonely is not the ONLY thing going on right now,

As always, I recommend starting small and ideally with something not too serious.  Start with a mild irritation.  Like being stuck in traffic, or a barking dog…something that has hardly any charge to it.  Notice how it’s making you feel (slightly irritated?) and notice it in your body.  Then take in what else is going on despite the traffic or the dog.  And allow yourself to feel how you’re feeling in the context of the world around you.  What ELSE is going on?

Obviously, this technique won’t solve your problems or take your emotions away.  But it WILL put you in a much better headspace to make decisions on what you could do with the situation at hand.  And at the same time, manage our moods in a way that is self supportive.

If this is an issue for you, please get in touch and we’ll work on this together.  Getting support is always a good idea.

Side Stepping Self Sabotage

  • by Dealing with our Emotions Head On

We are well into 2020 and this year (like all years) has likely already tossed a few unwanted curve balls at you.  And, as we all know, there will always be more to come.

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – anonymous

That’s not just a nifty quote.  I think its wise advice that most of us would love to implement.  The problem is, we really haven’t been taught how to manage our emotions effectively.  

Most of us have instead learned how to side step our emotions resulting in various forms of self sabotage.

If you feel confused about what you are feeling sometimes, you are not alone.  Most of us have a hard time identifying, feeling, and expressing our emotions directly.  It’s much easier (and socially acceptable) to eat, drink, gamble, shop, binge watch, (etc) our emotions away.  The problem is, when you do that, you’re still stuck feeling crappy in the end…with an additional side order of guilt and regret!

“There is no nutritional solution to an emotional problem” – Glenn Macintosh

You can expand that to say, there is no Netflix show, facebook distraction, shopping spree, or any other form of sabotage that can fix an emotional problem.

Sabotage is about fear, pure and simple.  And sometimes what we are fearing, is handling ourselves and our emotions directly.  Why?  Because it can feel complicated.

We can often have conflicting feelings running at the same time.  Maybe you are both happy for, and jealous of a friend’s success.  Maybe you are both nervous and excited about a risk you want to take.  You might feel anxious, angry and depressed all at the same time!  The good news?  That’s normal.

The best way to figure out what is going on with you is to sit down and write.  (I have a paper and pen handy at all times.)  Just write down whatever is going on in your head.  This is called free-associative writing and you can’t do it wrong.  Just write.

At first you may write things like, “This is stupid.  I don’t know what the point of this is.  I don’t have time for this”…etc.

About a half a page into the writing you will be seeing EXACTLY what you are feeling and why.  It will be crystal clear…  “She always treats me like I’m an idiot!”, etc.  Trust me, this process is highly effective and the more you do it, the faster you get to what’s really going on.  (and it’s free!)

Now with this clarity, how can you address your emotions directly (and skip the sabotage all together)?  What do you NEED in this moment?  Is there a conversation you need to have?  Do you need to take care of something?  Is your inner critic raging and therefore you need to journal about your negative beliefs for a while?  Do you need to do something physical like go for a walk?  Do you need to ask for help?  

Figure out what NEED is not being met in this moment.

Recently I had an experience that left me feeling furious, unheard, and ineffective…I basically felt like I’d been given the runaround by a clever politician although in this case, it was with the manager of the care unit where my mother lives.

After our conversation, I found myself angrily rummaging through the cupboard.  I was about to take a sharp turn down the road of self sabotage!

In the past, my go-to reaction would have been to stuff away my anger with chocolate, cookies, etc.  Remember Glenn’s quote?  “There is no nutritional solution to an emotional problem.”

So, having done this work (a lot), I left the kitchen, sat down, and started writing. I narrowed down what was going on for me.  (Again, I felt furious, unheard, and ineffective.)  The NEEDS for me were to express myself, feel like I had some control over the situation, and feel capable again.  (And making another useless phone call with her would only further fan my anger).  So, for me to feel like I had control, meant taking some sort of action.   So, I looked up other care facilities, read reviews of them plus the ones where my mother lives.  (No I did not leave a nasty review…I’m still holding out for a decent resolution to our issues.)  I spent about 15 minutes investigating other options.  That helped me feel somewhat in control again.  However, I was still angry.  I could still feel it in my body.  So?  I let myself thrash around a bit.  (I’m sure I looked like a melodramatic toddler having a full on tantrum!)  And then (after I’d calmed down), to feel effective and maybe even empowered, I WROTE THIS NEWSLETTER.  

So ultimately, something GOOD came of my crappy feelings.  Actually, something GOOD came of me not succumbing to my old patterns of self sabotage!  Instead of crashing from a carb high, (and still feeling pissed and ineffective) I did something positive to help me feel empowered, and hopefully helped a few other people along the way (with this newsletter).

So again, when you feel yourself heading down the road to self sabotage, stop and write out what’s going on.  Get clear about what you are FEELING.  When the clarity comes, ask yourself what NEED needs to be addressed.  And then see if you can address that need directly rather than side stepping it with sabotage.  And if you can’t solve the problem directly, (which was the case for me because this is still an ongoing issue) you can at least manage your emotions and avoid sabotaging yourself.

Practice this.  The more you do it, the faster and easier it gets.

And if you need support tackling your needs, I’m here.  Get in touch and together we will figure out how to get past your self sabotage and handle your obstacles directly.

Attitude of Gratitude

Exceprt from “Crafting A Better Life”

A GREAT daily habit to improve our dispositions

We are all born with different personalities, preferences, inclinations and dispositions.  There was a vast study done in the 1950’s called the ‘New York Longitudinal Study on mood and temperament’.   They studied toddlers to predict the various temperaments each child would likely exhibit as an older child and further on in life.  

And ask any parent with more than one child, they will tell you that they are all different…same parents, same DNA, different sensibilities.

So what about those of us drawn to the “broodier” side of life?  Some people seem to be “hard wired” to see the negative, the mistakes, the worst case scenario…is that you?

Or maybe you used to be pretty happy in general but life has just served you up platter of shitty life circumstances and you feel bummed out more days than not?

(Let me be clear, I’m talking about general malaise.  NOT clinical depression.  If you feel clinically depressed or suicidal, seek medical help immediately.)

Well, there is good news for those of you who tend to feel down.  You can ‘rewire’ your brain to actively look for things that bring a smile to your face.  It just takes daily practice.

–  Random Acts of Kindness have been proven to, over time, help elevate people’s moods.  That means, just doing something nice for someone else for no good reason, can nudge you out of a slump.

– Physically moving your body in positive ways (dancing, singing, looking up at the sky, etc) has a psychological effect on your moods.  So if you are staring at your feet feeling sad, look up!  That sends a neuromuscular message to your nervous system to change its focus thus changing your state from bummed, to uplifted.  

But, my favorite way to rewire our brains to see the good, is:

Keeping a Gratitude Journal 

Everyday for the next 2 weeks, sit down with your journal and write about something good that happened to you that day.  You have to come up with and write specifically about something new that happened to you…that you were grateful for…every day for at least 2 weeks.

As I’ve said, our brains love repetition and love feeling good.  So, by repeating this action of positive journaling every day, your brain will start to look for more experiences for things to write about.  Your brain can’t help it!  Remember it’s wired to create habits!  And, this habit happens to feel good…so your mind will have no choice but to reinforce it daily.

This may sound overly simplistic, until you give it a try.  For some of us, at first, finding a good thing to write about might be a challenge.  So, start small and easy.  Did someone smile at you today?  Did your car get you from point A to B without incident?  Did you see a funny video on YouTube?  You don’t have to come up with monumental things that happened to you.  Just write about something that made you smile, or laugh, or feel at peace.  Stick with it for at least 2 weeks and then start to notice how much easier it is to remember the great things that happen every day.

And no need to wait until you’re depressed to start this habit…I think we could ALL benefit from finding more gratitude in our lives.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:  We all have the capacity to increase the sum joy in the world every minute of every day.  

Despite our dispositions, we do have a choice.  

And as always, repost, retweet, and forward this to your friends.

Energy Leaks

…how to better manage your energy

By now, the holidays are in full swing which brings hustle and bustle and plenty of zapped energy.  I’m a big fan of the extra cup of coffee in the afternoon, but, that is a short term solution to managing your energy.

If you think of your energy as if it were your bank account, you can more easily see where improvements could be made.  And just like our money, if we’re not adding to our balance, eventually we go into overdraft.  Same with our energy.

This exercise takes a little time but is absolutely worth it.

I recommend keeping a running list of times you notice your energy being zapped…for at least a few days.  Just become present to where you are carelessly wasting energy, over reacting, unorganized, etc.

Part of energy management is organization and prioritization.

For example, if you know you have an early morning tomorrow, taking the time to get organized the night before will help your morning run more smoothly.  Most of us, if we wait until the morning to get organized, we waste a lot of energy running around.  Planning ahead could help us stop that energy leak.

Also, prioritizing where you’re putting your energy and why can be a great way to cultivate and restore your energy.  Scrolling through social media might feel like a mindless distraction, but it’s stealing energy from something else that you could be doing.  Notice what you are unconsciously prioritizing and see if you can instead consciously decide what you want to put your energy behind.

After all, we all want to ENJOY the holidays, not dread them.  Find those leaks and stop them before the holidays leave you run down.  

Special Newsletter for Actors

Turn Your New Year’s Resolutions into S.M.A.R.T. Goals

It’s almost the New Year!  This is when people create goals with the best of intentions. But then fail to follow through because they did not apply any system for success. This particular method (created by George T. Doran) is most commonly suggested because it has been proven to be the most effective way to achieve our goals.

Simply said, “S.M.A.R.T.”  goals are:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Actionable

R: Realistic

T: Time Related

Before I get into how to use this formula, let me add that for actors, setting goals can be tricky.  After all, if your goal is to book 5 commercials, that requires someone to HIRE you.  You have hardly any control over that.  I’m not saying that’s a bad goal to set.  But I am saying you should set additional goals that are in your control of actually achieving as well.  That way you can get in the habit of taking actions and achieving your goals…consistently.

So, what is your goal?

Is it specific?  For example, “getting a better agent” is not as specific as it could be.  “Signing with an A level agent”, or “Signing with ‘such and such’  Agency”  ARE specific goals making them better goals to set.

And again, also set a goal that is in your control.  For example, “film, edit, and be submitting my demo real in 1 month” is specific and totally in your control.

Then, ask yourself if it’s measurable and if not, find a way to

make it measurable.  Both of the above goals are measurable as you will either have done it or not!  They are specific AND measurable.

Actionable. What actions can you take to achieve this goal?  In terms of signing with an agent, what can you DO to make that happen?  Get new headshots?  A better reel? Ask for referrals?  etc…

And in terms of getting your reel ready to submit, what steps do you have to take to make that happen?  Find material, set up shoot dates, editing, etc?  

List out all the actions that you will take to make that goal happen.

Is your goal realistic?  I find most people would achieve more goals if they made them 50% smaller or gave themself 50% more time to achieve them!

Let’s use creating your demo reel as an example.  Finding material, reahearsing, shooting, editing, and finally submitting…all in one week…is likely unrealistic.  However, getting all of that done in 4 weeks may be more realistic (since most of us have day jobs).  So, you would set the goal to have an entire demo reel complete and ready for submission, 4 weeks from today.

Take this step seriously…have an honest look at your goal, and rewrite it to be realistic in both scope and timeline.  

Which leads me to time frame. Give yourself a specific date to complete this goal.  Using the above example, I would state this goal as, “My entire reel will be done and being submitted by January 30th, 2020”.

So, write out the goals. Make them Specific, Measurable,

Actionable, Realistic, and set a Date you’d like to achieve them by…and then go make it happen!

This is one of the most common areas where people need support.  So, if you are spinning your wheels and not achieving your goals, get in touch and together we’ll figure it out.

Contact me at brigittadaucoaching@gmail.com  to set up a private hour.

Self Care During the Holidays

The term “self care” is one of the latest catch phrases we’re hearing a lot of these days.  And it sounds like a really nice idea, but realistically, most of us have pretty full plates as it is.  Adding in more things ‘to-do’ even if they might be good for us, is overwhelming and defeats the whole purpose.

I recommend not adding ANYTHING.  I know, that sounds radical.  But stick with me…

Rather than adding more things to do, try turning what you are ALREADY DOING into a form of self care.

Some examples:

Your morning coffee.  You could turn it into self care, by turning off the tv and just sitting and enjoying a few sips without distraction.  Maybe enjoy the coffee without scrolling through your emails.  Switch it up and put on music in the morning instead of CNN.

Ladies, if you wear makeup…slow down and tune in to how it feels to apply your makeup.  Again, just stopping the distractions can turn this daily action into loving, relaxing self care.

We can even do this for our commutes.  (I know.  Now you think I’ve lost my mind completely…self care behind the wheel?!?  Bear with me just a little longer…)

Let’s say you’ve just dropped the kids off at school and are off to Costco to get groceries.  That time in the car can be transformed with very little effort.  If you listen to the news, shut it off.  Silence can be a beautiful thing…drive in silence rather than distraction.  Maybe you always listen to podcasts…try a different genre or play music instead.  Or visa versa.  Maybe you can crank an “80’s” playlist and sing at the top of your lungs.  Whatever you decide, you’re still getting things done.  But, you just added some self care without it taking up any extra time.

So, look at your daily life and the things that you do, daily.  Identify a few of those things as opportunities to slow down and be present with yourself.  You can absolutely create moments of genuine self care without adding anything to your ‘to-do’ list.  And then, the stress of holidays will be a little less intense.  You will have made yourself a priority despite your hectic schedule.

I’d love to hear your self care ideas!

Mindful Holidays

-excerpt from “Crafting a Better Life”

They’re almost here, folks!

Oh, the holidays.  Oh, family gatherings.  How does it usually go for you?   Raise your hand if you eat what feels like your entire body weight in holiday treats.  Raise your hand if within five minutes of Thanksgiving dinner, you’ve already lost your shit with your relatives.

Okay, first of all, join the club.  In my opinion, there is WAY too much emphasis on holidays and ‘special occasions’, and WAY too much pressure for all of us to do things perfectly.

The truth is, that’s NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.  Perfection is impossible.  So let’s accept that.  And instead of killing ourselves to get it right, let’s find a way to actually enjoy these times without shame, anger, exhaustion, and an extra 5 pounds to lose.

This is a quick and easy way to interrupt your old patterns and instead become present and, yes, I’ll say it, ‘ be mindful’.  More importantly, you’ll feel much more in control and less reactive to your family’s nagging!  The goal with this is to switch out of our impulsive system (our behavioral habits and reasons for going unconscious…) and utilize our reflective system.  (which I will talk about in more detail in my next newsletter.)

So, let’s do it!  The ‘Presence Practice’:

Feel your feet.  How do they feel?  Are you in shoes? Socks? Barefoot? Are they cold?  Hot?  If you had to describe how they felt what would you say…in detail…?

Okay, you just got present.  You practiced a ‘mindfulness’ technique.  Well done.

Here is the thing about our bodies and the ‘presence practice’.  Our bodies are living in the here and now.  Second by second, breath by breath.  Our bodies couldn’t care less about what you did yesterday or, what you have to get done by the end of the week.  Our bodies know nothing about shame, regret, or worry.  Your critical parents?  Our bodies have no thoughts about that either.  They are simply here, right now.  

So, when you are panicked about what to wear to the holiday party or worried about getting the table set in time for the guests, zone in on a part of your body and feel it fully. 

By just staying present with your body, your stress level is instantly reduced.  And less stress means better thoughts.  And, the opportunity to choose a different action (versus scarfing down an extra piece of pie).  By practicing this, you are more likely to have control over your reactions to other people….even Uncle Pete.

Practice this before the holidays arrive or the relatives come to visit.  Get in the habit of doing this a couple of times a day, at least.  And then, practice it incessantly when they’re in town!