It’s no fun to be nagged about something. It’s not motivating to have either an external or internal voice harping continuously about what we should do. But there are ways to design timely and welcome feedback loops that can assist us to stay motivated and on track with our best intentions. Read on to learn how.
Many people are all too familiar with the critical voices which destroy motivation, self-esteem, and life energy. Yet there is a place for timely and welcome feedback. Indeed, without a clear and specific awareness of what and how we are doing, in the present moment, our motivation will gradually slip away. It’s that important.
What’s the difference between motivating and demotivating feedback? Motivating feedback is both timely and welcome. When too much time passes between the action and the feedback, the feedback stops being a source of motivation. It may be interesting, but it loses the power to impact our decisions. It may be worth pondering (and writing a Provision about), but if we don’t receive the feedback in real time, on the fly, in a manner we can hear and respond to, it becomes either more of an academic exercise or more of a guilt trip than an opportunity to self-correct.
That’s the principle behind how they orient the satellites that orbit the earth or keep an airplane on autopilot. Spinning gyroscopes create the necessary feedback loop to continuously detect and correct even the slightest deviation from the spin axis. Physicists refer to this effect as precession: the gyroscope wobbles as its axis of rotation moves out of alignment. And that wobble tells the computers what to do in order to stay on course.
So too when it comes to motivational feedback. We need feedback loops in our daily lives that create a discernible wobble at even the slightest course deviation, so we can make the necessary course corrections. The more we can automate the process, the more sustainable they will be over the long term.
One example of such a feedback loop is the Diet and Exercise Assistant. This utility for handheld devices with the Palm operating system calculates your daily calorie intake based upon your body size, food intake, and activity level. It comes with a built-in database of common foods, including restaurant meals, as well as a calorie calculator for a wide variety of activities. There’s also a desktop version that retrieves and stores your data with every synchronization.
With a few simple clicks you can input information. The Diet and Exercise Assistant does the rest. Want to maintain, lose, or gain weight? The Diet and Exercise Assistant makes the calorie calculation and gives you continuous feedback throughout the day as to where you stand. Go for a 30-minute run and you get to eat a little more. Splurge with a decadent dessert and you may have to stop eating for the rest of the day • or go for another run!
I can tell you from personal experience that I eat better when I get this timely feedback. In the era of super-size portions, many of us have lost the ability to look at our food and know how much we’re eating. We also fail to appreciate how even small deviations add up over time. Calories are like degrees on a compass. With enough time or distance, you can end up way off course.
Getting feedback as we go through the day assists us to make better decisions, early on, before we get in trouble. Since the Diet and Exercise Assistant maintains your eating history, you can easily make course corrections from day to day. Such feedback can also bring real pleasure. It’s a great feeling to get to the end of the day with room to spare for an extra treat.
That’s what makes this feedback not only timely but welcome. You can actually have fun with this thing • and with all good feedback loops. Unwelcome feedback is destructive. I agree with Thomas Crane in The Heart of Coaching: there’s no such thing as constructive criticism. All criticism tears down some aspect of our self. It is destructive, even when it’s well-intended.
Of course one can argue that there are times when things need to be torn down before they can be built back up. Tearing down our illusions about ourselves, others, and the world is healthy and necessary for growth. But unwelcome feedback does not achieve this end. It simply makes us defensive, holding on to our illusions even more tightly and stubbornly.
That’s why it’s important to design feedback loops that you control and that you receive with joy. Once again the Diet and Exercise Assistant can serve as a case in point. I control whether I bother with it or not, the accuracy of the information I enter, and how often I look at it throughout the day. It never provides its feedback with an emotional edge. It’s always a charge-neutral, non-evaluative statement of fact. It gives me the information I want, the way I want, when I want.
We can learn many lessons here for both motivation and our communications with others. Continuous and welcome feedback is highly motivating. It can assist us to stay on track with our best intentions and truest selves. When I use the Diet and Exercise Assistant one day and I’m more interested to use it the next. When I use it for an entire week, I’m more interest in using it for two.
That’s the way good feedback loops work. They don’t get old, frustrating, or oppressive. They give us useful information about critical areas of concern. They reinforce our goals, needs, and values. They build us up and keep us on track. They teach us what’s important.
Design your own feedback loops to increase your awareness of what’s going on in life. They don’t just work for diet and exercise. They work in every area of life. Make sure the loops are both timely and welcome; when they are you’ll notice the difference in how fast they move you forward and set you free.
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
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I love your newsletter. Thanks! I was wondering why your telephone area code is 614 while your fax area code is 561? I happen to live in the 561 area code. (Ed. Note: Our coaches use e-fax to receive faxes electronically. That’s why the area codes are different.)
I thought you might be interested in the new biweekly journal I have just started. You and LifeTrek Provisions encouraged me to proceed ahead. I thoroughly enjoy your letter and have forwarded numerous copies. I plan to try out the pedometer exercise suggested in your latest issue. I hope you enjoy my efforts and continue your outstanding efforts.
I once had an extremely difficult relationship with a surgeon with whom I worked. This relationship was significantly affecting my career, and for that single reason I began disliking my work. Until…a friend of mine suggested that I should view this person as a benefactor, because God had put him in my life so that I could acquire a new skill that I currently did not have. That was tough for me to believe! But I acted on that belief, and that comment changed everything, particularly my reaction to the surgeon. Of course as MY behavior changed, so did his, and the relationship settled into an acceptable one. Since that “reframing” day when I acquired that new skill, every relationship has brought me a new level of understanding of the individuality of people, and the relationships have transitioned anywhere from acceptance to pure joy.
What do you do if you’re stuck in a wheelchair and need to reduce your waist, stomach and hips? (Ed. Note: The same principles apply: control your calorie intake and move your body. Are you able to move at all? Stretch frequently. To get your heart rate up, find exercises you can do with your arms. Wheelchair road racing has quite a following.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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