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In a basketball game, when things are going poorly and the coach doesn't like the way his team is performing, he instructs his players to call a "time out." At this point, the game is stopped for a few minutes while the coach huddles with the team to discuss adjustments needed to get the players back on-track and performing more effectively. Of course, during the "time out," the coach also points out what the players are doing right - which helps to reinforce their positive behavior.

Here's the question: How often in your life do you call a "time out" to review what is working for you and to put to an end to what isn't? Probably not often enough. Unfortunately, we tend to become entrenched in habits that are not moving us in the direction of our goals. Life is continually providing feedback, however, and it is up to you to become aware of these useful clues - to learn from the results your producing and to make any changes necessary.

Common Stumbling Blocks

What follows are some common stumbling blocks that prevent us from attaining the success we desire. When calling a "time out," look to see if you are:

  1. Lacking clarity about what you want. Your mind is a goal-seeking mechanism and responds best to specific targets and pictures. Vague wishes about having a "more fulfilling" job or earning "more money" aren't effective. Decide, precisely, what will fulfill you and exactly how much money you want to earn.

  2. Trying to achieve too much at once. Having too many goals is the other extreme. If you try to tackle five major projects at once, you'll probably fail to succeed at any of them. Spreading yourself out scatters your energy and diminishes your power. Concentrate on one major goal at a time; laser-like focus is a necessary element for success.

  3. Not taking enough action. Most significant achievements take considerable effort. You can't just sit back and hope that success comes to you.

  4. Stubbornly sticking with a losing strategy. Lets assume that you are trying to market your product or service and you've implemented Plan A. After three months, Plan A is yielding very disappointing results, with no signs of improvement. Examine why Plan A isn't working and develop a new plan. This sounds obvious, and yet many people stick with unsuccessful strategies.

  5. Not taking advantage of the knowledge of qualified people. While "trial and error" sometimes works, you'll waste a lot of time and resources in the process. Instead, you can get back on course quickly by seeking help or advice from someone who has achieved what you want to achieve. Remember to ask qualified individuals - not a friend or relative who knows little or nothing about solving your particular problem.

  6. Hampered by limiting beliefs. If you are dominated by negative thoughts, you can't possibly produce positive results on a consistent basis. Who controls what you think about? You do. As motivational speaker Brian Tracy urges, you must develop the mind-set that you are unstoppable!

  7. Lacking positive inputs. To sustain your positive beliefs, you need frequent positive reinforcement. Read inspiring literature, listen to motivational cassette tapes and surround yourself with enthusiastic, upbeat people. That's the environment in which you will maintain optimism and perform at your best.

  8. Refusing to confront the problem. You've waited five years and your problem hasn't solved itself. Will you wait another five years, hoping that things will turn out differently? Things don't change unless you change. It may be that you have to confront your situation head-on, even if this choice will cause some temporary pain and hardship. Your other option - do absolutely nothing and continue to live with your problem.

  9. Trying to skip rungs on the latter. In our excitement to reach bold objectives, we sometimes delude ourselves into believing that we won't have to climb the ladder of success in increments. Instead, We think we can immediately soar to new heights. When this doesn't happen, however, we get discouraged. You need to remember that, as Zig Ziglar often says, "the elevator to success is out of order. You have to take the stairs." So, be patient and set realistic intermediate goals. After all, success is achieved one step at a time.

It makes no sense to just bull ahead doing the same things and expecting the results to change. Live your life consciously. Examine regularly what's working and what isn't, then quickly make the necessary adjustments.

Here's an idea...why not call "time out" right now? Evaluate your results, adjust your actions, then step back into the court with powerful, fresh, new strategies for achieving your goals.

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