Chapter 3: Just Five Rules: The Self-Coaching Model

Why ‘Just Five Rules’?

JustFiveRules’ was my login name on the International Coach Academy’s website. I enrolled as a student in 2004 and finished their Certified Professional Coach Program in 2006.

At first, the five rules were more about guidelines for how I was going to hold myself accountable on the course. In fact, there were only four actual rules: take action, follow a proven plan, focus on one thing at a time, and let time go lightly. I added a fifth rule, ‘there are no other main rules,’ but then changed that one because it sounded too clever for its own good. The fifth rule became ‘find games worth playing’ because one of the many wonderful coaching exercises required us to look at issues from different perspectives. I was drawn to the metaphor of game partly because of my background in track and field sports.

Success Thinking – Change Your Goal Using Just Five Rules

This section takes these five rules a stage further.

Buckle up!

Many people are into ‘success thinking.’ Good for them – thoughts have great power to influence what we do or become. That power can be harnessed when a deliberate choice is made to enter the arena of success and begin playing the career change game.

The rules of this game are simple to learn but not always easy to master. There are just five rules. Would you like to play? Good. Then please read on.

Success Rule 1 – Take Action

Over 100 years ago James Allen wrote a small book called ‘As A Man Thinketh.’ There is one marvelous sentence from that book which describes perfectly the results of taking action:

“Act is the blossom of thought, and joy and suffering are its fruits…”

Accurate preparation is important but when used as an excuse to procrastinate on a dream goal, the end result is a terrible waste of potential. Commit to taking small actions each and every day until you have seen results you can be proud of. Five minute ‘action chunks’ are ideal to keep a project moving.

Success Rule 2 – Follow A Proven Plan

A favorite excuse of ‘procrastinators’ – people who have chosen to do nothing is: “But I don’t know how to do that.”

On the contrary, there is someone, somewhere who has most likely already done it. All you have to do is find these footprints and begin to walk in them. See success rule number one.

Success Rule 3 – Focus On One Task At A Time

There are going to be occasional exceptions to this rule but I still recommend that you apply it to every action you take in support of your career change goal.

To focus means to concentrate.

Apply yourself to the task at hand and eliminate all distracting junk.

Success Rule 4 – Let Time Go Lightly

We each get the same 86,400 seconds a new day presents.

We can’t save, deposit or collect interest on even one of them for future use.

We have to spend them all.

Spend some time on the important people and things in your life.

Success Rule 5 – Find Games Worth Playing

This comes back to that old story about climbing the ladder of success only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall.

Which wall is your ladder leaning against?

Exercise 6: Embracing Emotional Goal Creation

Have you ever felt sad or down about your present career path because it stands in stark contrast to what could be? Are you ever so tired from the stresses and demands of your job that your very life energy appears to be draining away? Life doesn’t have to be lived that way. The very same emotional energy that paints black an inner skyscape with clouds of gloom and resignation, can blow those storms away and reveal a brighter scene.

How is this done? The first step is to become a dispassionate observer of your own emotional experiences. Not to ignore or deny these emotions, mind you – because there is a part of you that is experiencing their effects in real-time; but to observe and feel them as you would notice the changing weather around you.

This practice of observation can be unnerving at the best of times. You might notice a ‘knot’ of tension in your stomach or you may even feel a little sick at the thought of what lies between you and your goal. This is not unusual. Embrace the source of these discomforts, because the very fact that you can feel this way means the goal is a biggie. The act of observing will open up opportunities to disperse the fogs of despair with a jet stream of desire. It might take a little time. But they will dissipate.

Which leaves you where, exactly? In my experience, it can take you from being ‘uber worried’ about setting career change goals, to a state of driven calmness. This is easier to feel than to write about, but is there for the asking. In fact, as you practice observing an emotional connection with your goals, expect that there will be anxiety, nervousness and doubts – alongside the positive emotions of courage, hope and desire. I suspect that deep down we’re just one big emotional weather machine!

And that brings me back to the questions in the opening paragraph. Thinking happy thoughts often just doesn’t cut it on a permanent basis when I am, as the lyrics say, “feeling blue.” Or when I am simply too anxious about where my goals might take me. Heaven forbid! I might actually get closer to achieving some of them.

The natural outcome of habitual observing sees the emotional barometer ‘set fair’, making it more difficult for negative events, people or feelings to ‘bring you down’ for long.

Exercise 7: Career Change Clarity

“How do I set clear career change goals?” was a question my coaching clients often asked. They understood the mechanics of goal setting but got frustrated about the relevance of these goals to their career change vision. I found that a simple mind mapping exercise helped many of them to come up with meaningful goals they could commit to. You can use this same process right now with just a pencil, a piece of paper and your own imagination.

Take the piece of paper and write your name in the center. Use a pen name or your initials, if privacy is an issue. Then draw seven equally spaced lines radiating outwards about five centimeters (two inches) from your name at the center. At the end of each of these lines write the following keywords: career, family, finances, health, peace of mind, community, and spiritual. Feel free to replace any of these main keywords with more relevant words of your own.

Make sure that you are not disturbed when doing this exercise. This is a time to allow that still, small voice of your own creativity to be heard. Now focus on one of the keywords and think of some things that you want to create in that area. For example, if you chose the ‘career’ keyword, then you might decide it would be great to find a role that allows you to work mostly from home. Maybe you want a role that reduces your weekly commute time by at least 80%. Summarize that idea as one word and add it as a sub-branch underneath the main career keyword. In this case, let’s say we choose the sub-branch to be ‘telecommute’.

Do your very best to filter what you want down to one single word. This will help you sift through many of the ideas that come up and group them into an overall theme. You can drill down into the details later when setting specific plans. If you have artistic ability you can also draw a small sketch beside the keyword. And maybe add some colors to highlight what you think are important. Consider using the results of exercises 1 and 2 at this point.

Repeat these same steps for the other main keywords. Of course, you don’t have to make a choice for every main keyword – it’s entirely up to you. At this point in the exercise some of my clients used to protest. They would say things like:

“This isn’t realistic.”

“My family and friends will never accept this.”

“This is impossible.”

My response was to have the client also focus on what they didn’t want in each of these categories – and to add that to the map as a single word under each keyword. It was inevitable that some things about their current reality were probably going to have to change anyway. Better to find out during this exercise than run into them later.

The final step is simple but not so easy. For each of the items you have chosen as your keywords, ask yourself this one question:

“If I received this exact thing today could I accept it?”

You may want to write on your map in pencil ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as the answer to that question beside each keyword. It comes as a big surprise for some people when they are not certain if they can accept something they professed to want.

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