Danielle hit the nail on the head, but, oftentimes, our follow through on goals is lacking. In a study by Adams-Miller and Frisch in 2009, researchers discovered that as much as 80% of our day's activity is directed by our "unthinking reaction to cues." In other words, we go through most of our day on autopilot, conveniently "forgetting" those big hairy audacious goals we have set for ourselves.
Enter the primer ...
What is a primer? Primers are conscious or unconscious cues paired together that promote behavioral change. Translation por favor?
Basically, a PRIMER is a REMINDER on steroids.
Let's take an easy example such as starting an exercise habit first thing in the morning. Maybe you've even set a BHAG of running a marathon or a daily run or spin class IS your BHAG (sheepishly raises hand).
Whichever the case, if you have no daily habit in place (and you haven't broken a sweat in a long time), you need a primer. A primer for exercise might be to put your running shoes and workout clothes beside your bed at night so that the first thing you do (after stumbling to the bathroom, of course) is to put on your workout clothes and shoes.
You'll feel a lot more motivated to start this new habit with your sleek kicks and workout wear already on than if you try to talk your slippery elephant into working out while still wearing your comfy robe and bunny slippers.
More powerful than a Post-It note ...
This is the painting primer set up of my very good friend, Jo Webster. Jo recently posted this photo on her instagram account with the following caption:
"Lucy (the cat) helping set up the table for paint play tomorrow. If it’s all ready to go, I’m more likely to jump right in first thing rather than get side tracked with ‘Very Important’ life admin stuff."
Jo is right on the money with this one. She's got some beautiful BHAAGS (big hairy audacious ART goals) and she knows her elephant can get spooked and sidetracked quite easily. Having her supplies set up the night before, eliminates a lot of her self-sabotaging mind chatter.
Alternatively, she could use a post-it note to remind herself to paint the next day, but, as you can imagine, seeing this inviting set-up, with her morning coffee, is much more motivational than a post-it.
The Secret Sauce to Making Shit Happen
In a pretty fascinating study done in 2009, Shantz & Latham, discovered that primers paired with specific and difficult goals (rather than vague or low goals) were the secret sauce to making shit happen. Ok that's not exactly how they worded it ;), but that's my translation.
They did a workplace study where they gave participants either a manual for a project that had a photo of a famous runner crossing the finish line or a manual with a plain cover. Then they asked the participants to then do a task to raise money for the organization by cold calling prospective donors.
(this image of runner Sonia Sullivan was the inspiring cover they used for this study and the corresponding study results).
The participants were assigned one of four conditions: inspiring manual with a specific and challenging goal, inspiring manual with a vague "do your best goal", plain manual with a specific and challenging goal, plain manual with a vague "do your best goal." The group with the inspiring cover AND the specific and difficult goal, did 184% better in raising money.
While they didn't meet the sky high goal, just by setting a difficult and specific goal and having a motivating image on the cover of their manual, they outperformed the other groups by A LOT. Remember our Aim High directions from last week's email? Reach for those stars, baby!
The point of this story?
Other Primer Ideas
My one big primer
This is my studio. It's set up to be one big primer for me. There's a vintage typewriter (that works!), books on poetry, polaroid cameras loaded with film. Bookshelves lined with my favorite tomes. My art is on all of the walls. There's a comfy couch for workshops, masterminding and brainstorming with others.
I rented it in August of 2016 when I was making some big career changes in my life and needed to remind myself to move forward with my ideas and not sell my soul out for careers I might be good at, but don't light me up. I never walk into this studio and think, "I should be a doctor or an investment banker".
Those are someone else's dreams, not mine. This environment primes me (and the many others I have hosted in here) to take action towards my creative BHAGS no matter what my scared elephant has to say.
LaRock Star Creative
Creativity courses, writing and photography workshops, and positive psychology-based coaching, Creator of The Life Feast ... coming very soonish.......
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