Peter J. Jessen

"Goals Per Action" Success Consultant · · 9931 SW 61st Ave., Portland, OR 97219 · Tel: 503.977.3240 · Fax: 503.977.3239

4.  "To Do" Lists and "Positive Self Talk" as "Road Maps" for Overcoming Adversity and Achieving Personal and Professional Leadership Success Through Empowering Self and Others
Key to success in any endeavor is the level of one's perceived sense of helplessness (its impossible; nothing I do will matter) as opposed to a sense of optimism (this can be done; what I do matters).  The American Psychological Association states that Martin E.P. Seligman's theory of "learned helplessness" is the "Landmark Theory of the Century."  His book on how to overcome it, Learned Optimism:  How to Change Your Mind and Life, has been called "one of the most important books of the century." 
Seligman defines "learned helplessness" as "the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter.  Explanatory style is the manner in which you habitually explain to yourself why events happen" (p. 15).  Hence the importance of "self talk."  Seligman goes on:  "An optimistic explanatory style stops helplessness, whereas a pessimistic explanatory style  spreads helplessness" (p. 16). 
This is about what Schuller calls "possibility thinking", which is a step beyond Peale's "positive thinking."  Seligman again: 

Learned optimism is not a rediscovery of the "power of positive" thinking.'  The skills of optimism…do not consist in learning to say positive things to yourself.  We have found over the years that positive statements you make to yourself have little if any effect.  What is crucial is what you think when you fail, using the power of 'non-negative thinking."  Changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the setbacks that life deals all of us is the central skill of optimism.  (emphasis added)

“Lists and recipes” are all about how to change destructive thinking through "self talk".
The "clue concepts" here are learning and theatre.  We can influence a great deal, on our own, as the dramatists or playwrights of our own lives, and change the scripts of helplessness we have been given and lived with.   Learned helplessness.  Learned optimism.  The "Q's" have a lot to do with this:  quotients:   IQ, EQ, AQ (Intelligence quotient, emotional quotient, and adversity quotient). 
Three recent book titles tell us what we need to know about the "Q's", and help us to better answer the question "How well am I handling the "Q's"?  How can I learn to handle them better? 
Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel Goleman, discusses EQ , which we can control and improve.  Outsmarting IQ, by David Perkins, suggests, paraphrasing Sandra Scarr, that "opportunity breeds predestination".  How does one take advantage of opportunity?  Be believing he or she can.  Hence:  Adversity Quotient:  Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities, by Paul G. Stoltz, which deals with AQ.  AQ is also something the individual can control and improve.  Note that IQ (intelligence quotient), is considered the least important Q for success of however many "Q's" are out there.  This is poignantly seen in this quote from Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

The resolve behind persistence comes from learned optimism and positive self-talk. 
Handle the "Q's" by (1) adding business knowledge and self understanding through Stoltz's
CO2RE and others, (2) by considering weekly the "Ben Franklin 13", and (3) by "staying the course" with Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich's "6 ways to turn desires into gold" (p. 36), by following his "13 action steps to success" by overcoming "the 6 fears" (p. 222), & by avoiding the "31 major reasons or causes of failure" (pp. 120-126)?
In his book Adversity Quotient:  Turning Obstacles into Opportunities, Paul G. Stoltz builds upon Seligman as well as 500 studies since then. Stoltz demonstrates of how results can be obtained instantly and that, with practice, made permanent.  His "recipes" are clear, and are repeated below in Section 16:

  •  List of 3 stages, p. 285-287:  (1) Dreaming the Dream (higher AQs allow imaging of greater possibilities); (2) Making the Dream the Vision (higher AQs take action on the dream, recognizing the need to separate out the possible realties and sacrifices and then work accordingly; and (3) Sustaining the Vision (able to continue the ascent of the climb without being distracted or taken off the path; higher AQs are fueled by the relentless effort required to forge ahead. 
   •  List of 15 levels of profiles reflecting AQ from low to high, pp. 128-137. 
   •  List of 22 ways to destroy your follower's AQs, pp. 260-263
   •  List of 44 ways to boost your follower's AQs, pp. 264-273
   •  List of 5 distracters and three reframers for interrupting destructive personal responses so that you can alter your emotional and physical state to put you on the climb back to a higher AQ (another form of "self talk," of "as a man thinketh, so is he").

In his chapter 5, Stoltz lists AQ profiles reflecting 15 levels of AQ.  His presentation is summed up in CO2RE (control, origin and ownership, reach, endurance).  He urges the use of lists to gain control over adversity, gain appropriate perspective on the adversity, including taking the appropriate responsibility, and see the light at the end of the tunnel.  In this way, the origins of the adversity can be better perceived/understood/interpreted, to better enable one to take ownership of one's own responsibility in getting there and for getting out, in order to reduce the reach (extent) of its influence, and thus reduce its endurance.
Stoltz concludes his book with Chapter 10, on how to create and lead a high AQ climbing culture, as one leads one's followers from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence to the ultimate:  unconscious competence.  Indeed, it could be combined with Covey's concept of the "Habit 5-6-7 Culture."  And although getting "pumped up" and "energized" by any of the motivational practitioners of the $24 billion motivational industry is wonderful at the time, the problem is that once the "post-group euphoria" recedes, the motivation to make changes in one's life quickly dies.  Being momentary they get "pumped up" but then become motivationally dismantled and give up, without the "addicts" "hit" of another presentation. 
A safer path is to work towards a higher AQ, following "The Science of AQ" (Chapter 3), developing a climber's habit of moving through hopelessness and helplessness to sustaining a vision that leads to helpfulness and hopefulness.  Character counts (p. 32).  This "new conceptual framework for understanding and enhancing all facets of success" is discussed in more detail in Section 16.
Thus:  to achieve personal and professional success, we need to have a plan, set the goals needed to meet the plan, and then develop the "to do's" of the routines and scripts for our different roles and, where appropriate, practice them.  We need to empower ourselves by realizing we not only can make choices but that we must make choices.  The same in true in working for others:  to empower them is to enable them to realize they have a choice, and that the choice is theirs. 
The key is to work together to create common understanding and engage in a negotiation that enables both "sides" to choose what will best enable them to meet their goals, as well as negotiating with our own inner self to get the best possible performance and goal reaching for ourselves.  The key is to set goals and to use the goals to set plans, and to then work the plans. 
Critical to this is to now make "to do" lists.  Write them out and check them at night and in the morning, and act on them in between.  Recite them to yourself.  Self-talk them to yourself, so as to prevent distractions from sabotaging your efforts and keeping you from taking actions that reflect a plan aimed at meeting your goals.
Think of these lists as road maps, just as marathon runners follow a road map for their runs.  This is what runners do to prepare for their runs.  This entails taking steps forward, taking action, and making strides, in order to turn the map into reality.  The successful ones also "talk to themselves" about what they are doing and how they will win.  So must all of us.  We have to develop a new role for ourselves, the role of runner, and develop routines to maintain that role, routines dealing with daily exercise, sleep, diet, etc.  To keep our routines it helps to make lists.  This is the same for all of us.  Thus, think of these lists as recipes, recipes to follow to "bake" whatever cakes of life you have in mind for yourself.  The key to developing the best recipe/steps that work for you is to define your roles and then develop the routines to practice daily to maintain them.
Use these lists to set goals and to evaluate how well you are doing in meeting your goals.  To make it easier, break your goals down into objectives.  Then break these down into procedures, with time targets.  These are your steps/recipes to take/follow, your "lists" of "To Do's.”  List the schedule for doing so; list the resources, people, and time you need.  Then commit to your lists.  Every day review your lists and then make a new one for the next day.  These are your steps for the day.  At the end of each month review for positive patterns/habits you want to refine and patterns/habits you want to change or eliminate.  Redefine your roles/routines for meeting your goals.  Use the "self-talk" of section 11 below to keep you mentally and physically at your most optimistic best.