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The Journey is the Goal

One of my favorite tasks as EHS co-president is that I get to announce the Meerkat Award winner. We pass Meerkat on every month or so, depending on what’s going on in the office. The award is not about sales numbers or outcomes. It’s about who best lived EHS values during the past month. We recognize who “does it right.” It’s not just what you accomplish—yes, results are important—it’s how you get there.

While I enjoy this role, it is certainly not easy. Why? Our team kicks butt. Seriously. I put out an email asking for nominations from folks, and every month there are almost as many nominations as there are people in the office. This month we had two interns get nominated. Unpaid interns. Butt kickers.

So Aaron was our most recent Meerkat Award recipient. When I texted Aaron to tell him he had won the award, his response? “Why me? Plenty of others are more deserving.” While his response did make me think twice—just kidding!—I smiled. While Aaron knows he’s kicking butt, what’s important to him is not the credit, but the job—getting it done in an honest, dependable, high-quality way. That’s what I admire about him, and I suspect that’s what others admire, too. It’s not just what you do; it’s how you do it. EHS values in action.

It’s the extra effort team members put into delivering ENGAGEU lessons. It’s the mutual respect our team displays as they work to solve problems. It’s the sincere joy our team expresses in helping members create their own action plans. It’s much more.

Not only is this a value lived by our team, it’s a value our engagement specialists explore with our members every day. They meet amazing people who desire incredible changes for themselves. Yet as we know, change isn’t easy. Sustainable change is even more difficult.  Our engagement specialists help our members create action plans that stick.

Let’s say you have developed a good sense of self: self-awareness and self-assessment or an amazing coach has helped you decide that the time is now. Congratulations for making the decision to change! Awesome!  What’s your goal? For illustration, let’s use a common example: “I need to lose weight.”

So, what are you going to do? What steps are you going to take?  What is your action plan that will stick?

Unfortunately, when we finally decide to make a change, most of the time we go all out: pedal to the metal, guns a blazin’, ears pinned back—pick your metaphor. Here are some examples of plans we make:

  • “I read an article in Cosmo that is going to help me lose 20 pounds in a month.” Yep, those same 20 pounds you’ve been losing for the past 20 years
  • “My New Year’s resolution is to sign up for the health club.” Yep, you’re their favorite member. January 2nd—done, January 4th—done. January 6th and beyond? The Bachelor, The Amazing Race and sleep. Added bonus: the health club fees continue ‘til 2013
  • “I’m gonna go on the grapefruit diet.” Yeah, that’ll last
  • “I’m gonna stop eating bacon.” Sure, until Sunday brunch

Do any of these sound familiar? Look, drastic measures just don’t work. Can you really imagine not eating bacon? Ever? Didn’t think so. (Except for our Jewish and vegetarian friends. For them, this would be easy!) What happens when you eventually realize you must have that piece of bacon? It’s usually more than one piece, isn’t it? The weight you lost when you were going to the health club, eating grapefruit or cutting out bacon is coming right back on. It’s inevitable. The yo-yo is coming back up.

The problem starts with our initial action plan. These dramatic all-in steps we start with end up lasting a month, a week, or maybe just until Sunday.

Let’s re-think the steps. The path you take once you have decided to make a change is critical. In fact, the journey IS the goal. What’s your journey?

What choice can you imagine sticking with into next month, next year and beyond? Let’s stop taking the quickest route between point A and B. Yeah you may get there, but will it last? How about trying something a bit different this time?

What if instead of saying “I’m gonna stop eating bacon”, you say, “twice this week I’m going to eat fruit instead of bacon.” You still have the other five days of bacon! (No, I am not advocating bacon five days a week here, folks.)

By taking small steps, not only do you still have your (metaphorical) bacon, you do the doable. You live the possible. You set a goal that you can achieve!

What happens then? New attitudes. After one week, two weeks of success with even the easiest action plan, what can you start saying?

“I can do it.”

“I am in control.”

“What’s next?”

“Come along with me. You can do it, too!”

I guarantee you those feelings are better than the feelings of deprivation, failure and self-flagellation. I’ve seen those. I’ve heard those. We’ve all felt those. They stink.

There’s power in making a plan and sticking to it. You have the power.

There may not be a Meerkat Award on your journey, but I’ll tell you that by taking this new path— your path—the changes will stick. As they do, this is your reward: You hearing yourself say, “I did it!” “I did it the right way.” “What’s next?” and (on special occasions) “Pass the bacon.”

William Harper, MD, Co-President & Chief Medical Officer


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