I love talking about Powerblocks because I believe they are the secret spice to success.
They might be different for each one of us:
- For an athlete, Powerblocks might be blocks of time in which they train extremely intensively.
- For an entrepreneur or a business owner, Powerblocks might mean working on a high-value activity, like creating a product or optimizing a sales campaign.
What Powerblocks always have in common is that they are blocks of time in which we work on one key aspect of our business or career, free from any distractions.
OK, now to the slightly more uncomfortable part:
I must admit, I always believed I am really good at doing these Powerblocks.
I speak about them, I teach them, so naturally, I should also be doing them….
However, lately, I realize that I wasn’t advancing with my big goals the way I wanted.
I was sure I was doing my best.
And would blame the lack of progress on my commitments as a dad.
When I spoke with one of my mentors about this, he said:
“Why don’t you track for a week exactly what you do with your time, minute by minute?”
And that’s exactly what I did.
For one week I tracked every activity of my day, minute by minute.
At the end of the week, what I found out was that:
- I have much more free time than I thought;
- I wasn’t really doing these Powerblocks so consistently as I thought.
It actually made me feel a little bit uncomfortable and embarrassed, which might be the reason why I avoided tracking my time for so long.
Maybe you have been in a similar position:
You knew something is going wrong, but you didn’t really want to analyze what it is.
Anyway, the other day I read something interesting from a researcher named Leon Festinger, who is the author of the book called When Prophecy Fails.
In 1954 he penetrated a cult consisting of a group of people who believed that at a specific date, I think it was December 21 of that year, the world was going to end as a result of a big flood.
This group would meet two or three times a week, and they would do all sorts of rituals and prayers. Some of them even sold their homes, everything.
And then on the 21st of December, they all met, believing at midnight it was gonna happen, the end of the world and together with this cult leader they made all these prayers.
Then, midnight passed, and guess what happened?
So they thought, maybe it’s an hour delay, and they continued doing their rituals.
At 1:00, nothing happened, 2:00, nothing happened.
Then, finally, the leader of the group said,
“It’s thanks to your prayers that we’ve been saved.”
What was interesting, the majority of the cult still believed in this leader.
They really believed that the world would have gone under, but it was thanks to their prayers that they managed to rescue the world.
Instead of just realizing that it was all nonsense!
Leon Festinger realized that when our beliefs do not match up with the facts or with our behavior, we often resist to take in contradicting information.
He called this “cognitive dissonance’’.
It’s like, for example, when someone is very health-conscious but loves to smoke cigarettes.
That person might try and justify that cigarettes aren’t that bad for you, or he’s only smoking four cigarettes a day.
We try and justify our behavior so we don’t feel that uncomfortable.
This becomes even easier when what we do reflects a cultural norm, like for example when animal-loving people eat meat and ignore that what they are eating are animals who have been slaughtered in brutal ways.
In these kinds of moments, we all tend to seek excuses and justifications.
And one thing that really works well is when we literally play stupid and avoid thinking about our actions.
We do this for example by keeping ourselves busy, browsing the internet or watching TV.
Anything that helps us avoid seeing our own thoughts and that prevents us from witnessing that we are not living according to beliefs.
Cognitive dissonance serves a purpose.
We avoid embarrassing and discomforting thoughts that might force us to change something.
In the short run, they preserve our identity, without making any real changes.
But in the long run, these blind spots come at a big cost.
When we keep making the same mistakes over and over again, we become attached.
All of a sudden, changing a behavior becomes much more difficult- we almost feel invested in our actions and no longer want to admit we have been wrong for so long.
We dismiss any contradictory information.
And often become real fools…
So the question is, what can we do to avoid cognitive dissonance?
What can we do when we have negative behaviors, we’re not aware of them, and sometimes we’re not even aware that we’re not aware of them?
Let me propose four steps that anyone can do.
Step 1: Define an area that you feel stuck with
Say, you’re not as productive as you want, or you don’t feel as healthy as you want, or your relationship is suffering.
Step 2: Ask yourself questions (and keep an open mind)
Once we detect one of those areas, we need to cultivate a curious mindset and ourselves:
“Why am I stuck in this area?”
We want to ask ourselves this question being open to answers that might not really suit us.
I recommend you write down all the answers you can come up with, without evaluating if they are true or false.
Also think of the reasons that pop up in your head when coming up with your answers, and be open to the fact that these might just be excuses.
Step 3: Track yourself
Next, we want to find a way to track ourselves objectively in this area.
In my case, I wanted to become more productive, so I would track how I spent every minute of my day for a week.
To create even more objectivity, I would then review the tracking document with my coach, so we would come up with the right analyses.
Step 4: Take action
Finally, we want to take action.
We want to analyze the data and feedback that we received and decide to test specific action steps. For me, this has meant pre-scheduling 4 daily one-hour Powerblock sessions.
And I can tell you that I have already dramatically increased my productivity related to the key goals that I have set for myself.
OK, enough about me.
Let’s speak about you:
I’d love you to pick one area in which you feel stuck since quite some time.
- Maybe you are an athlete and keep losing to competitors who are ranked lower than you.
- Or you are not moving your business forward the way you want to.
- Or your marriage is falling apart in front of your eyes.
Take a moment and think with a very open mind about why you think you haven’t managed to improve your situation.
Remember to stay open to discovering that your initial responses might merely be excuses and self-justifications that serve to convince you to keep trying the things that haven’t worked….
So ask yourself: How else can I explain this situation to myself?
See where that leads you, and feel free to share any insights with me below in the comment section.