One of the characteristics that separates good from great is an OBSESSION for improvement. I find that many, if not most, people generally feel like they want to continue to progress in a positive direction in their lives, but most of these people go about it in a way that is highly likely to cause failure. The greats have learned to continually improve by honoring CHANNEL CAPACITY.
Channel capacity is the brain's bandwidth--how much information or focus the brain can EFFECTIVELY take on. The magic number with channel capacity when it comes to improvement is ONE. Adults should not try to learn or improve more than one new concept at a time.
Unfortunately, I have found that these days there is a complete dishonoring of channel capacity. People are trying to learn or improve more than one thing at a time ALL THE TIME, and this is resulting in a complete breakdown of improvement. The intention is in the right place, yet trying to tackle too much leaves people in the all too common position of inconsistency and failure.
This is where channel capacity comes into play. To effectively improve, a person must respect channel capacity. I learned an incredibly effective technique from a very good friend of mine (Tom Bartow) called "ASK AND CHOP."
ASK AND CHOP
1. ASK. Force yourself to answer the question, "What is one thing I want to or need to improve?" Don't ask for 2 or 3 or 5 things to improve, but rather just 1 thing. If searching for 1 thing still seems too daunting, give yourself a timeline to follow. What is the 1 thing I want to improve today, or this week, or this month? Doing so can initiate making progress more manageable.
2. CHOP: Break the task or information into more manageable parts. Avoid looking at improving as "perfecting." Most people get so caught up in perfection that they become discouraged and lose motivation to improve. Remind yourself that any improvement, even an inch of it, is a very good thing. If you improved one inch daily for the rest of your life, can you even imagine how much better of a person you would be? Chop the improvement down into steps, and only focus on the first or next necessary step of action to get improvement moving.
A common challenge that my clients describe to me is trying to lose weight. If you are like most of the people in the world, you have probably tried (unsuccessfully) at one point or another to stick to a healthier diet and exercise plan. Again, this lack of success is most often the result of not respecting channel capacity--trying to take on or modify too much at once.
Instead of going all in and vowing to start exercising for one hour each day, cutting all sugar, and eating only fresh vegetables, fruits, and proteins, CHOP this challenge into more manageable parts. For example, break the task of losing weight into a diet component, an exercise component, or a lifestyle component. Start with ONE of these parts and ASK the question: "What is one thing I can improve in this area?"
For example: What is one thing I can improve about my DIET?--Only eat out 1 night per week, or eat 2500 calories or less daily.
Focus on modifying this ONE thing. Make it a goal to achieve at least 90% on your focused improvement for 30 days before going back and asking the question again to start a new improvement.
For example: What is one thing I can improve about my LIFESTYLE?--Be in bed by 10pm every weeknight, or don't keep cookies or candy in the house.
Move on to implementing the 1 improvement. Continue this process until you achieve the results you want, and allow the momentum of making small improvements to carry you into even greater improvements.
While you might think that taking things one step at a time will not yield the results you want as quickly as you want, let me assure you that in my experience, NOT attacking improvement in this way will almost always yield ZERO change and ZERO results.
You simply MUST respect channel capacity in order to actually make improvements in your life. Remember, ASK AND CHOP your way to positive change.