Have you ever done something that you know is not in your best interest? Have you ever avoided doing something that is in your best interest? Have you ever crafted such a well justified excuse that you actually wound up believing it yourself?
Allow me to introduce to you my definition for the global phenomenon that impacts us all which, in essence, allows us to validate our own self-sabotaging behavior. Sounds paradoxical? It is. A diversionary tactic is an action, excuse, assumption or belief you hide behind that justifies a lack of self-accountability. Whether in your behavior, attitude or performance, these diversionary tactics provide you with the out so that you do not have to be accountable for your performance, responsibilities, relationships, goals or the situations you put yourself in.
Other examples of diversionary tactics are as follows:
- An excuse for the behavior you really don’t want anymore.
- An action, a lack of action or a belief that keeps you from being accountable or looking at the real truth in a situation.
- A persistent or constant complaint.
- A source of energy. (Even though it may be a negative energy source, human beings tap into any available energy source, even if it causes additional problems, stress, and difficulties.)
- A justification for your attitude or doing something you are better off not doing which isn’t aligned with your goals and objectives.
Some non-negotiable tasks, activities, and priorities in your life may be obvious, such as your commute, showing up for work, engaging in your favorite hobby or pastime, and spending time with family. However, some may not be so visible, such as prospecting, practicing self-care, one-to-one time with your employees, planning, goal setting, or putting time aside for professional development.
If there are activities you need to engage in that support your lifestyle and will truly determine whether or not you will reach your personal and professional goals, it’s essential that you make these tasks non-negotiable rather than optional. Otherwise, you’ll find that they have tendency to take a back seat to other activities that may need to get done and have some degree of importance.
Honor the Commitments You Make to YOU
Here’s an irony I always find fascinating around the concept of commitments. Think about when, how and why you commit to something. Whether doing something, changing something, or trying something, what is your criteria for making a commitment?
And what about when it comes to other people? How consistent are you at honoring the commitments you make to others? I’m going to bet you’re pretty good at it.
Now, what about the commitments you make to yourself? You know, it could be a personal goal you have or something you want to do or try or change. Yet, when it comes to the commitments that you make to yourself, how consistent are you then? Maybe not so much?
An interesting irony. We are much better at honoring the commitments we make to others than we are at honoring the commitments we make to ourselves. There needs to be a fair balance. Otherwise, if you never make yourself the priority, when are things ever going to change for the better?
If we can’t hold ourselves accountable for our own personal commitments, then how can we expect to hold other people accountable for their commitments? After all, we model the behavior we want to see in others. Your own behavior and attitude; that is, how you communicate and present yourself, the way you dress as well as your disposition, how you manage your day, handle conflict and upsets, work through a challenge, support people, honor your word and engage with your team, peers, customers and prospects sends the message and sets the unsaid expectation, “This is how it is done.” Then, especially as a manager, we wonder why coaching, managing people and holding others accountable around their goals and responsibilities is such a struggle!
Mired in Mediocrity
The assumptions or beliefs you have about yourself (“That’s just who I am”), as well as the activities or tasks that you may be more comfortable doing (cleaning your office, dealing with paperwork, responding to emails, helping other people, compiling data, customer service, working on making your marketing material “perfect”) don’t significantly move you forward to create unprecedented results. Instead, they keep you stuck in maintenance mode and mediocrity, allowing you to do just enough to stay afloat.
Then, you have conversations with yourself that sound like:
- “That’s okay, I was too busy today to have that tough conversation with my (spouse, children, customer, direct report, peer, boss). I’ll do that tomorrow.”
- “I could never be that successful.”
- “I wish I could be more extroverted and confident. But because of what happened to me (when I was a kid, in my last job, where I grew up) I could never really be that type of person.”
- “Listen, I know you may find my management style very directive and to the point but that’s just how I am.”
- “I just wasn’t able to find the time to get to prospecting today. I know I have to be more consistent with my cold calling and business development activities. I’ll make up for the calls that I didn’t get to another day. Besides, I still need to do a little more research on those companies before I start calling on them.”
- “Sure, I want to (change jobs, write a book, become a public speaker, ask my boss for a pay raise, start my own business, become physically fit). But you see, the timing isn’t right. Besides, I’m not ready yet.” (And when, exactly will you be “ready?” Are you collapsing the word “ready” with “perfect?”)
- “There’s no way I can manage and adhere to a structured, daily routine that would allow me to engage in the daily activities which would move me closer to my goals and take control and ownership of my day. There are too many people and daily issues that wind up driving my day and pulling me away from my schedule.”
Wouldn’t you know it, something else always seems to come up that gets in the way of doing what we know is best and right and becoming who we can truly be, limiting our fullest potential! I don’t suppose this has ever happened to you? I trust my sarcasm is translating well. Enter the elusive and falsely justified diversionary tactics that we are all seduced by.
This busy work will disguise the truth, creating the illusion that you’re working hard, simply because you feel busy. These diversionary tactics enable you to do everything else but the activities that would dramatically accelerate your success. Just ask any salesperson who has to prospect to build their business. They can justify practically any and every activity that will take them away from prospecting or cold calling, allowing them to major in the minor activities that act as a diversion to doing what’s truly needed to build their business.
Choose Your Time to Be Who You Want
If you, can’t seem to “find the time,” for these activities, I have yet to stumble across time that I just happen to “find.” It becomes a never-ending search, an exercise in futility. Consider that these non-negotiable activities that you may be avoiding must become as habitual as waking up in the morning, brushing your teeth and breathing. These are the activities you do, without a second thought.
Years ago, my wife bought me a picture that hangs on my office wall today.
“You will never find the time. You must make it.”
We all need to recognize and take ownership of our own self sabotaging diversionary tactics. Unfortunately, people cannot change what they do not see. While apparent to everyone around us, we are usually the last person to recognize our own destructive behaviors. After all, when something is always going on, you become blind to it. That’s why the most successful people, as well as the world’s greatest athletes work with a coach; because it’s often very difficult to self-diagnose your own gaps and diversionary tactics.
These diversionary tactics do come at a cost; the greatest one being, your time. Moreover, consider the consequence you incur by not making certain changes or activities non-negotiable. For example, if you’re a salesperson what does it cost you if you don’t prospect; professional satisfaction, selling opportunities, peace of mind, income, even your career? If you’re a manager, what is the costly impact of not building the trust needed amongst your team to effectively and consistently coach them to continually better their best?
Uncover your diversionary tactics. Once you do, you will then be able to make a profound and powerful choice. That is, allow your diversionary tactics to either keep you prisoner, limiting your ability to grow into who you can truly be or choose to engage in the activities and adopt the attitude, mindset, and beliefs that serve you best. Once you take ownership and let go of your diversionary tactics, that’s when the real breakthroughs begin.
Photo credit: Emilie Ogez