My grandmother used to call me Madame Butterfly and I loved it. My 7-year old mind understood that butterflies were pretty and could fly, and that was all I needed to know. Let’s fast forward–later in life, I learned she called me that because she just never knew what I might do next. I have heard she told people that I “flitted from one thing to another looking pretty” but not accomplishing a lot. Dang, really?!
That is not powerful at all. (Thank goodness she was wrong!) That puts a whole different spin on butterflies. So now I know, butterflies are beautiful but I shouldn’t be one. I admit that I would often fall in love with projects and could think of nothing else for serious spurts of time. But then I would get bored and move onto a new project. Flitting from one thing to another? I don’t think so, I was simply using my powers of elimination and discernment to figure out what I did NOT want to do. AND I was a child so, no harm, no foul.
There is a business term, ‘3-day monk’, which reminds me of my grandmother’s assessment of my view of the world. That term is used to describe someone who gets obsessed with something in spurts, but quickly loses interest. See why it sounded familiar? Examples of these obsessions could include a new blog, a new business idea, a new way of eating, or (grab your panties!) a new relationship. Is that ringing any bells for you? This monk thing is characterized by lots of early interest with little to no results.
Until we are willing to acknowledge what we do, we have no power to choose or change our behavior.
— Iyanla Vanzant (@IyanlaVanzant) January 12, 2014
The bad news is that you cannot achieve success by flitting from one thing to another. Even if you look sugar-sharp while doing the flitting! You cannot have a measurable impact on your world if you lose focus before your work can be completed. You can’t improve your health by eating veggies for only 5 days. And you can’t draw your audience to you in 30 days. Nope and nope.
The good news is that you can STOP being a 3-day monk and capture your butterfly. If you want to increase your influence and make meaningful progress on your goals, you have to show up every day. You don’t have to invest 18 hours each day, but you need to act intentionally and consistently until your work is completed.
How to Capture Your Butterfly:
Work Every Day. Create a plan to invest time on your new focus every day. If you don’t plan the time to work on your project, there will never be enough time in a day. It takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit to replace an old one. Doing ‘something’ each day will help you maintain focus and cement your new habits. If you do something for 2 days and stop, then start again 3 days later, that does not create strong habits and focus.
Get Started Now. At this time of year, lots of women are talking about New Year’s Resolutions. And some people actually think it’s too late because January 1 has passed. Really? Why? You intend to keep living, right? So start today! It can be YOUR New Year any time you choose. There will never be a better time than right now.
Don’t Set Yourself Up for Failure. Newsflash: There are going to be days when you don’t feel like doing the things you know you should do. It doesn’t mean you don’t really want to achieve your goal, it is just part of being human. And a woman. Some days, hormones are lying wenches. Give yourself a break and plan to build your empire in steps. If you give yourself all-or-nothing ultimatums, flitting is right around the corner. If you commit to doing something for 20 minutes a day, you can tell yourself that you can do anything for 20 minutes and believe it. Problem solved. Planning for only 20 minutes makes it easier to get started, and once you’ve worked for 20 minutes, you’ll likely continue for even longer.
Know and Do What You Love. Please do not commit to a project or goal that will require work that you don’t enjoy. I have a friend who recently told me she was going to become a life coach. I was thrilled and said, “I didn’t know you had a interest in coaching!”. She said, “I don’t really, but it’s such a hot field right now…” I know she said some other things but my head exploded after that first sentence, so I didn’t hear anything else. If she goes through with it, I am totally going to out her on my blog so that none of you will fall into her web.
Can you imagine starting a new business (which is not easy), that you are not really interested in, just because it’s a current trend? Raise your right hand and promise me that you will NOT do that. Figure out what you love and only do that. You deserve that and so does your market. Your best and juiciest value to the world is going to come from something you love doing. Not something you are lukewarm about, or ‘don’t hate doing’ or ‘can stand’ doing. Something you absolutely enjoy doing. Fun can equal Focus. Got it? Good.
You Better Know Why. This is related to knowing and doing what you love, but it’s different. Why do you want a new position, or a new relationship, or to reach a goal? Your motivation needs to be something that will sustain you on the difficult days. Do you have a burning desire to change people’s lives? Do you stay awake at night worrying that children don’t have clean water? Those are awesome ‘whys’.
Do you want to show up at your High School Reunion and make your ‘ex’ cry because he was foolish enough to let you get away? OK, I completely understand that reason, but that will NOT keep you focused on tough days. You don’t really want him back, anyway. The last reason is so easy to talk yourself out of. So make sure your why is crystal clear and compelling.
Ruthlessly Trim Your Tools. In the 7 Steps to Telling Your Story, I talk about the importance of assembling a toolkit. But here I want to caution you to assemble ONE toolkit and stick with it. Chaos reigns in my personal focus system when I don’t use my tools. Since I know better, what could cause me to stop using them? For various reasons, I may try to introduce a new tool which doesn’t quite fit. Either it duplicates a task I already have covered, or it doesn’t quite fit and I get stuck learning new technology, blah, blah, blah. You can’t use everything well and you don’t need to. Choose an appointment tool. Choose a task management tool. Choose a note-taking tool. Choose a project management system. Choose!
What I do when my system breaks down is I start writing myself notes because I don’t want to forget important information. And then I end up with notes written everywhere and I can’t find what I need when I need it. (Can you hear the small whisper of butterfly wings?) When I realize I have gotten off track and I get back to using the tools I chose (my personal favorites include Google Calendar, the Things app, Evernote, and DropBox, but I’ll tell you more about that in a future post.), my focus returns and I start crushing my goals. I believe the same will happen for you.
Just because you may have spent too much time being a 3-day monk or a beautiful butterfly doesn’t mean you have to continue down that path forever. Today is a new day, and you can choose to do things differently starting from this moment.
Women who are consistent and determined will always outperform those who burn hot and bright for limited periods of time and then fizzle out. Meaningful work and progress take time and focus. Short-term, intense action is rarely the right tactic for accomplishing something that requires a significant amount of effort.
By the way, I still love butterflies! I have been collecting and decorating with them for years and probably always will. But I admire them from afar without aspiring to be one. What about you? Have you been a butterfly but you’re ready to change? Let me know in the comment box below.
Want to tweet about this episode? These should help:The bad news is, you cannot achieve success by constantly switching from one thing to another.