Call "Time Out" and
Adjust Your Course

Jeff Keller


"I don't think much of a man who is not
wiser today than he was yesterday
Abraham Lincoln

   In a basketball game, when things are going poorly and the coach doesn't like the way his team is performing, he instructs his players to call a "time out."  At this point, the game is stopped for a few minutes while the coach huddles with the team to discuss adjustments which are needed to get the players back on track and performing more effectively.  Of course, during the time out, the coach also points out what the players are doing right-- which helps to reinforce their positive behavior.
   Here's the question:  How often in your life do you call a "time out" to review what is working for you and to put an end to what isn't?  Probably not often enough.  Unfortunately, we tend to become entrenched in habits which are not moving us in the direction of our goals.  Life is continually providing feedback, however.  And it's up to you to become aware of these useful clues--to learn from the results you're producing and to make any changes that may be necessary.

Pay Attention to Patterns

   Do you recognize any patterns in your life?  Do you, for instance, seem to have a particular type of "luck"--good or bad--that follows you around?  If so, pay close attention to these recurrent events; they're trying to tell you something.

   It's my strong conviction that there are no accidental patterns; something inside of you is attracting certain people and events into your life.  For example, let's say that your friends and co-workers constantly put you down.  This pattern reveals that, at some level, you believe that you deserve to be treated in this manner.
   Of course, patterns can also reflect your positive thoughts and feelings.  If you are receiving promotions at work and your income is steadily increasing, this reflects your positive belief system and your productive actions.  In this case, whatever you are thinking and doing, keep thinking and doing it!
   One of the most destructive things you can do is to deny that you are responsible for originating the patterns in your own life.  If, instead, you blame external factors (such as the economy or other people) for your problems, you will remain stuck and frustrated.

Common Stumbling Blocks

   Whether or not you notice any patterns, I suggest you call a time out on a regular basis.  What follows are some common stumbling blocks which prevent us from attaining the success we desire.  When calling a time out, look to see if you are:

1.  Lacking clarity about what you want.  Your mind is a goal-seeking mechanism and responds best to specific targets and pictures.  Vague wishes about having a "more fulfilling" job or earning "more money" aren't effective.  Decide, precisely, what will fulfill you and exactly how much money you want to earn.
   For those who simply aren't sure about which path to follow--that's okay, too.  Confusion can be good; at least it shows you are thinking.  The worst thing you can do is plod along unconsciously, sticking with habits and belief systems which aren't serving you.  Eventually, however, confusion itself can become nothing more than an excuse for not taking action.  That's why, after carefully looking into your options, you must choose a particular path and get moving!

2.  Trying to achieve too much at once.  Having too many goals is the other extreme.  If you try to tackle five major projects at once, you'll probably fail to succeed at any of them.  Spreading yourself out scatters your energy and diminishes your power.  Concentrate on one major goal at a time; laser-like focus is a necessary element for success.

3.  Not taking enough action.  Be honest with yourself.  Maybe you're not taking enough action to reach your objective(s).  Most significant achievements take considerable effort.  You can't just sit back and hope that success comes to you.

4.  Stubbornly sticking with a losing strategy.  Let's assume that you are trying to market your product or service and you've implemented Plan A.  After three months, Plan A is yielding very disappointing results, with no signs that the pattern will reverse itself.  Examine why Plan A is not working and develop a new plan.  This sounds so obvious, and yet many people stick with unsuccessful strategies.

5.  Not taking advantage of the knowledge of qualified people.  While "trial and error" sometimes works, you'll waste a lot of time and resources in the process.  Instead, you can get back on course quickly by seeking help or advice from someone who has achieved what you want to achieve.  The emphasis is on qualified individuals; don't ask a friend or relative who knows little or nothing about solving your particular problem.  Rather, find a coach or mentor who can offer suggestions and who will follow through and hold you accountable for keeping your commitments.  In addition, locate books, courses or cassette tapes which provide the information you need.

6.  Hampered by limiting beliefs.  If you are dominated by negative thoughts, you can't possible produce positive results on a consistent basis.  Who controls what you think about?  You do.  As motivational speaker Brian Tracy urges, you must develop the mindset that you are unstoppable!

7.  Lacking positive inputs.  To sustain your positive beliefs, you need frequent positive reinforcement.  Read inspiring literature, listen to motivational cassette tapes and surround yourself with enthusiastic, upbeat people.  That's the environment in which you will maintain optimism and perform at your best.

8.  Refusing to confront the problem.  You've waited five years and your problem hasn't solved itself.  Will you wait another five years, hoping that things will turn out differently?  Things don't change unless you change.  It may be that you have to confront your situation head-on, even if this choice will cause some temporary pain and hardship.  Your other option--do absolutely nothing and continue to live with your problem.

9.  Trying to skip rungs on the ladder.  In our excitement to reach bold objectives, we sometimes delude ourselves into believing that we won't have to climb the ladder of success incrementally.  Instead, we think we can immediately soar to new heights.  When this doesn't happen, however, we get discouraged.  You need to remember that, as Zig Ziglar often says, "the elevator to success is out of order.  You have to take the stairs."  So, be patient and set realistic intermediate goals.  After all, success is achieved one step at a time.

10.  Ignoring intuitive feelings.  The "right" decisions in our lives are not dictated by logic alone.  You ignore your intuition at your own peril.  For example, have you ever been tempted to do business with someone when logically everything seemed perfect--and yet you had a negative feeling or "vibration" about this person?  Well, if you went ahead despite your reservations, you probably regret it now.  So, don't push your strong feelings aside--this internal guidance system is there to help you.

   Do not be discouraged if many of these factors apply to you.  I myself have fallen prey to all of these at one time or another--and I'm still dealing with several of them.  Also, know that this is not an exclusive list.  You may have other issues to address during your "time out."
   In any case, don't just bull ahead doing the same things and expecting your results to change.  Live your life consciously.  Examine what is working and what isn't.  Then make the necessary adjustments.
   Here's an idea. . . . Why not call time out right now--then step back onto the court with powerful new strategies for achieving your goals!

Jeff Keller is a motivational speaker and writer who founded Attitude is Everything, Inc.

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