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Toward excellence: Constant course corrections

If we didn’t fulfill our resolutions last year – didn’t reach our destination – we need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions

By Joe Serio

I recently spent six hours driving to west Texas where I had speaking engagements on Time Management and Organizational Skills. The CDs I listened to en route was a series on planning and achieving goals by the renowned motivational speaker, Brian Tracy. In the program, called Flight Plan, he noted that air travel is a good analogy for how we run our lives.

One of the main points Tracy made was that, for a variety of reasons, airplanes get off course throughout most of a trip, and it is only through constant course corrections that they make it to their planned destinations.

As my drive was taking place on January 16, I found myself wondering how many of us are already off course in our quest to fulfill New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are frequently made with the emotional energy of starting the new calendar with a clean slate, giving ourselves a second chance. But if we didn’t fulfill our resolutions last year, why will this year be any different?

Remember: you can’t solve problems with the same mind that created them. As the popular definition says, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

If we didn’t fulfill our resolutions last year – didn’t reach our destination – we need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions:

1. Did we have a clear goal?

2. Did we have a plan in place?

3. How many times did we monitor our progress closely enough to understand whether we were still on course?

4. Once off course, did we throw our hands up in frustration or do the hard work of getting back on course?

A year is far too long a period of time to make a resolution at the very beginning and expect to reach it by the end without countless course corrections.

Here’s one basic approach to reaching your destination:

1. Write down your most important, most desired goal for 2012.

2. Write “next steps” that have to be taken to fulfill that goal.

3. Write a deadline for the completion of each step.

4. Now put in place your review schedule. This is a planned approach to course corrections. Where do you want to be in a year? Where do you need to be in six months? What do you need to accomplish each month? In order to reach those mileposts what do you need to do each week?

5. Include steps in your daily planning that will help you reach your one-week target. A week is a much easier time frame than a year for our brains and emotions to comprehend and digest.

Once your system is in place, understanding if you’re off course will take just a few minutes. With a good flight plan and review process, you will make countless course corrections along the way and you will reach your well-defined goal.

The pilots of the U.S. Navy precision flying team, Blue Angels, assess their performance after every air show. Without the pressure of ranks, they all contribute to an honest critique of what went right and what could have been done better. Through these constant corrections, they stay on the course of excellence. No wonder they are some of the best performers in the world.

Dr. Joe Serio is a popular and sought-after criminal justice speaker and trainer. He is currently delivering a series of classes on time management, emotional intelligence, leadership, customer service, and other topics at the Harris County (Houston) Sheriff’s Office Training Academy. Dr. Serio is a featured speaker at SHIELD, Sheriff Institute for Ethical Leadership Development, at the Travis County (Austin) Sheriff’s Office Training Academy. He also speaks at adult and juvenile probation departments as well as police departments.
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