'Look up!' and other useful tips!

Feb 4, 2011   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon, Articles  //  No Comments

IN SHORT: NEED is not enough, you have to WANT it. GOALs are not enough, you need some “If… Then…”. And Look UP!

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”
[Helen Keller, 19th/20th-century deaf-blind author & activist]

(1208 words, approx 7-12 mins to read)

December and January have, for me at least, felt very ‘stop-start’ in terms of effort and rest, rather than a more sedate ‘slow down, speed up’ progress, hence the later-than usual timing of this ‘slice’.

What I thought I’d share with you, instead of one central theme, are three related pointers:

1. Need is not enough.

If you’re going to get something done, or persuade someone else to do something, NEEDING to do it is rarely, if ever, enough to produce good results. No. You, or they, have to WANT it, and WANT it enough. This is counter to what many people believe, so let me explain…

A friend of a friend recently asked me for advice on losing weight because she knew she needed to, but she didn’t want to change what she ate, and didn’t like exercise. The NEED was there, medically and physically, but the WANT – the desire to be healthier and fitter wasn’t enough (yet!) to get her to realise that without making changes there can be no change.

We don’t buy designer labels over ‘no-name’ clothes because we NEED them, but because we WANT them. We don’t spec the car with metallic paint, alloy wheels and leather interior because we NEED it, but because we WANT it. We don’t eat out at restaurants or drink champagne or wine (or even cola!) because we NEED to, but because we WANT to. And I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument otherwise that didn’t involve confusing NEED and WANT.

NEED is a ‘push’, and none of us like to be pushed around – we tend instead to push back. So all NEED tends to produce is adequate results, just enough to get by, keep the boss off your back, pay the next bill. WANT, however, is an real emotional ‘pull’. WANT draws is in, and when we want something enough, nothing will stand in our way of achieving, getting, having, owning.

WANT is what drives true achievement. When you can hook into what you, or someone else, WANTs, motivation almost takes care of itself!

2. Goals are not enough.

Goals are the life-blood of the coaching and self-help industry, with plenty of hype around how important goals are. You may have come across the idea of SMART or SMARTER goals (if you haven’t then Google it…) but the SMART process is focused on a carefully crafted endpoint and implicitly assumes steady progress and that motivation isn’t an issue, which isn’t like real life at all – SMART goals lack ‘heart’.

So is there anything else we can do to help..?


First, re-read the “Need is not enough” section if you’ve not made the link that the greatest thing you can do for yourself is to find a reason to WANT to achieve those goals – a personally meaningful, compelling desire.

Then read on:

I was recently at a workshop put together by a group of sports psychologists who were explaining some of the latest findings about motivation and exercise, in this case focused on running, and their implications. One of the speakers at the event expanded on some research that started in social psychology that showed that people who engaged in “If… Then…” planning around their exercise goals improved their changes of achieving those goals by 66%.

“If… Then…” planning isn’t the usual sort of planning we engage in – I’ll assume you’ve already done that since, as the old saying goes “If you fail to plan (then) you’ve already planned to fail.”

No, “If… Then…” planning focuses on the route to your goal, and more specifically on the most likely obstacles that could get in your way.

At the workshop we were given a number of examples to do with a training plan for a runner who sometimes had long days at work and might not get home in time to fit in a scheduled session. One of their “If… Then…” rules could be “IF I miss one training session a week THEN that’s OK.” or “IF I get home too late to run THEN I will fit it in before breakfast on the next rest day.”

The “IF… THEN…” plans create routes around obstacles ahead of time so, when we do come across a hindrance, it’s only a momentary pause and change of direction, rather than a grinding halt while we think our way out or give up.

You can, of course, take this to extremes and instead of planning for the most likely obstacles, obsess in truly pessimistic fashion about the worst possible scenarios – I know people who do this and see it as totally justifiable as it means they’re “prepared for the worst”. Unfortunately, that leaves them totally unprepared for anything but the worst and especially unprepared for success!

If you want to keep the momentum up even when life throws a hiccup or two your way, do some “If… Then…” planning.

3. Look Up.

Over the last few years the skyline of my home town of Liverpool has seen some dramatic changes in the lead up to and follow on from the Capital of Culture status in 2008. But a lot of people haven’t really noticed it at all.

Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our day-to-day living that we never literally, or metaphorically speaking, lift our eyes anywhere near the horizon – we’re focused on the problem at hand, the next step or two, the meeting we’re trying to get to, the cake we’re trying to resist, the argument we’ve just had, that we don’t notice the reality of the rest of our existence.

Like a racing driver, or a child learning to ride a bike, we should be looking up ahead. If we all walked around just looking at the few metres of pavement in front of us, we’d never spot things coming our way until it was too late – the lamp-post, the dog, or like a child on the news recently, the edge of the train platform because he was so engrossed in his hand-held game. (He survived with minor injuries fortunately, thanks to someone who *was* watching.)

No, when we look ahead not only can we see the few metres in front of us, but a whole lot more as well. And if this is sounding as if it’s related to the “If… Then…” stuff we’ve just talked about, that’s because it is!

And there’s another great reason for looking up and it’s to do with a basic fact of our physiology. When we look down, we associate into our inner world, particularly our negative feelings – remember the posture and gaze of someone feeling depressed, or who’s just been found out. When we look up, we’re wired to turn our mental and emotional focus to things more positive and external to us – you only have to look at a football crowd when their team are winning, or the congregation at a lively pentecostal church to see it played out in gaze, posture, air-punches and raised hands.

Looking up not only raises our eyes, it expands our view, lifts our mood and pulls us forward.

So there you have it –

  1. NEED is not enough, you have to WANT it.
  2. GOALs are not enough, you need some “If… Then…”.
  3. Look UP!

Three simple yet useful tips to keep things moving, focused and positive as 2011 continues.

Until next time,


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