The Gift of Goals

Amy Larson Coaching Boulder CO setting goals

I set many goals for myself for the summer of 2018.  I wanted to spend lots of time with my family,  go on some fun trips,  and spend as much time as possible outside enjoying Boulder’s beauty.  One goal that stands out for me, is completing the Rim to Rim hike.  It’s a 24-mile hike into, across and out of the Grand Canyon – in one day.

I knew this hike would push me out of my comfort zone in several ways. I’ve never been one to set physical goals for myself outside of trying to make it to a yoga class by Friday or to go running once this week. In fact, I would say one of my lifelong goals has been to avoid exerting myself too much in any given day.  So this hike was a big, hairy, audacious goal for me. It was scary, daunting and exhilarating. And I knew this was the perfect opportunity to push myself out of my physical and mental comfort zone.


There are five essential elements to effective goal setting summarized in the acronym SMART.   Hiking the Rim to Rim was a SMART goal for me for several reasons:

1) It was Specific

Dropping down into the Grand Canyon and getting out before sunset is a very clear and specific goal.

2) It was Measurable

This goal was measurable for me in many ways. I knew the actual date I was doing the hike, and the amount of time I had to train.  I knew how much ground I needed to cover, the elevation change and temperatures I was going to encounter.  It was clear what was required of me to arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon by sunset.

3) It had inherent Accountability

18 other people were committed to doing this hike with me in mid-September. We supported and motivated each other throughout our summer training hikes. I was not going to back out of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this. I wanted to experience this incredible adventure with my close friends.  And I knew that this group would support and inspire me to keep training all summer long. We were all in this together.

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The Power of Positivity

Amy Larson Coaching Boulder CO blog post:The power of positivity

Have you ever noticed that when someone compliments you, say on your nice outfit or your hairstyle, you get a boost of confidence and well-being for a while?  That through the rest of that conversation and for an hour or two later, you feel better about yourself and perhaps about the world?  And, as an alternative scenario, if someone were to tell you that your outfit today was really sub-par or that you really should spend some more time on your hair in the future, how that would rock your world? And probably for days, if not weeks?

Our Negativity Bias Is Highly Adaptive

As a species, we have survived for millions of years by adapting to very dangerous and threatening conditions.  We are highly attuned and sensitive to danger and pain. Amy Larson Coaching Boulder CO blog post:The power of positivityWe don’t die from a false positive so we tend to go a bit overboard to protect ourselves. Our taste buds respond more strongly to bitter tastes than to sweet ones to keep us safe. And in the past, we were much more likely to focus on the rustling in the nearby bushes that could be a lion than we were to appreciate the beautiful sunset on the horizon.  The folks who focused on the latter typically didn’t survive to pass on their genes. Natural selection not only affected our physical attributes but our psychological disposition as well. Our negativity bias is highly adaptive and has served us well. We wouldn’t be here today without it.

Our Brains Are Velcro For The Bad And Teflon For The Good

The good news is our human circumstances have changed dramatically for the better.  Our brains, however, have not. We tend to hold onto our negative thoughts and feelings much longer than our positive ones. As Tal Ben-Shahar, a leader in Positive Psychology, says, “Our brains are Velcro for the bad, and Teflon for the good.”  We absorb negative thoughts and feelings more easily and deeply in an attempt to protect ourselves.

Luckily, there are ways that you can combat this negativity bias and turn down your “threat detector” so it’s more in line with our current living conditions.

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Managing Perfectionism

Amy Larson Coaching Boulder CO blog post: Managing Perfectionism and the Permission to Be Human

I am not a writer. In fact, I strongly dislike writing. My propensity for perfectionism is the culprit. I find it incredibly difficult to select and commit to the exact or “perfect” words to express what I want to say. I have a hard time putting my thoughts down on paper with the intent of sharing them with the “internet universe” for all to see and judge for eternity. I can’t take it back, revise it or “perfect” it over time. Yikes! The finality and vulnerability of it freaks me out.

But what my coaching mentor, Lynda Wallace, explained about the blogging process is this: “The ego says “I’m not good enough.” Humility says, “I’ll offer what I have.” So that’s it. I am offering what I have.

Permission To Be Human

I have been studying Positive Psychology and coaching techniques for several years now and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this process. This journey has been life-changing  – my relationships are better, I am kinder to myself and I am more peaceful and present.

One of the most powerful things I have learned in my Positive Psychology journey is to give myself the “permission to be human.” This one hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m a go-getter. I always try my hardest at anything I do. I try to do better the next time and am not afraid of a challenge. But what I discovered is that I try to control every possible aspect of the process to ensure success and perfection. And mind you, that certainly helps in producing a good outcome.

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Six Effective Time Management Strategies

Amy Larson Coaching Blog Time Management

“Why Can’t I Find The Time To Get Everything Done?”

This is a question I hear a lot from my clients. We live in an age of information overload – a constant bombardment of texting, emails, tweeting, Instagram, Facebook, news feeds – just to name a few. There is an astounding amount of information and a plethora of communication options literally at our fingertips. This can be incredibly helpful and a huge time saver. However, it is often a tremendous distraction, taking time away from our life’s priorities.

As I sit down to write this, I am forcing myself to use one of the most important time management tools I suggest to my clients – “focus” time. My phone is turned off, my email program is closed and my writing is off to a good start as a result (or so I hope).

Manage Your Time Or Manage Yourself?

“I don’t have enough time” is the most common response when people are asked why they are feeling overwhelmed.  Well, assuming you work 40 hours per week and sleep 8 hours per night, you have 72 hours of “free” time per week! And “free” implies you have some choice in the matter. How you spend your time is a choice that you make every single day. Whether you realize it or not. Becoming aware of this is key to an effective time-management strategy. The term “time management” is a bit of a misnomer. We don’t really need to manage our time – we need to manage ourselves and how we chose to spend the time we have.

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Focus on Your Strengths

Amy Larson Blog Strengths

One of my signature strengths is curiosity. I think it is the reason I became a coach. I absolutely love to explore and discover new ideas and concepts with my clients. Every coaching session is unique and I always learn something new about my client (and myself).

I begin each coaching engagement by assessing my client’s strengths. We all have them, and if asked, most people have a fairly good idea what their top strengths are – honesty, kindness, teamwork, forgiveness, love – just to name a few.

Harness Your Strengths

But embracing them, and knowing when to harness them, is a very different thing. We tend to take our strengths for granted. After all, they come easily to us – hence the name “strength.” We tend to use them without thinking. They are our lifeblood in many situations.

And, what if they were taken away from us? What if your top strength is honesty and you were told you couldn’t tell the truth or present yourself in an authentic way for a month? You couldn’t tell your child how much you enjoyed his performance in the school play or express your sincere interest in how your friend’s sick parent is doing or tell someone how sorry you are for that snide comment you just made. How would that feel? I would say excruciating.

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