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A Field Guide to Thriving on Your Core Driven Path


September 30, 2014 | Issue 09.2014

In This Issue

Note from the Trail
Rig the System [Feature Article]
Recommended Resources

Note from the Trail




Hello, Trailblazer!

When we adopted our retired racing greyhound Jasmine (actually, she was never interested in racing) several months ago, I thought I might occasionally take her on a walk. We have a large yard with plenty of room for running and playing, so she doesn’t need walks for exercise.

What I didn’t realize is that greyhounds love walks – love walks – because they are opportunities to explore the world by smelling it. Jasmine doesn’t just sniff here and there. She stops and breathes in deeply for several seconds, like a sommelier first encountering the latest reserve from a favorite winery.

Because of Jasmine, I have changed my behavior. Four or five times per week I take her on a walk, up to a mile and a half depending on our route. Because she really enjoys walks, and because she whimpers for them and rushes to the door when she thinks it’s time, she has persuaded me to walk her often.

It’s good for my health to add the extra walking, but this change was brought about by unexpected circumstances. This month’s article is about planning positive changes intentionally and boosting them into habits with a little help from social psychology.

I’m going to get Jasmine’s leash. We’ll both see you on the trail!


Stephen Coxsey, MA, LPC, PCC
Positive Psychology Coach and Trainer

P.S. A very special Welcome! to those of you who have signed up since the last issue went out. I’m glad you’re here! As a subscriber to The Trailblazer, you are part of my Advisory Board. I count on all of you for feedback on what you want to see more of and what you want to see less of in future issues. As you read through this issue, please remember:

If you like what you see, please tell your family and friends.
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Rig the System :::::::::::: Feature Article ::::::::::::

In February 2012 I wrote a newsletter article based in part on a quote:

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp~Frank Outlaw, Late President of the Bi-Lo Stores

That article was pretty philosophical, about the power each of us has to shape the world around us to bring our vision into reality. This one is more practical, focusing on one of the facts in the quote:

Watch your actions, they become habits;

Understanding that our habits over time define our character, and that character drives behavior, especially in difficult times, so that it shapes our destiny, it’s easy to see that habits we develop can play a significant role in the outcome of our lives. A habit of doing first things first leads to the ability to manage responsibility, likely leading to greater opportunity. A habit of ignoring criticism closes down an important pathway to growth and change, likely leading to stagnation and frustration and blaming others for our own choices.

Developing habits with intention, then, can turn this power to your favor.

The first bit of good news: Once a habit is established, you don’t have to think about it or plan for it. That’s the nature of a habit.

The second bit of good news: Due to “neuroplasticity,” the property of neuron growth as learning occurs, a habit can be established in between 3 weeks and 30 days of consistent action.

The third bit of good news: You don’t have to rely on willpower alone to resist temptation or “soldier on” while establishing the new habit. This is where you can rig the system!

Willpower can be depleted fairly quickly, kind of like using a muscle. It’s best to put it in the role of a back-stop, not the first line of response. Your first line of response can be forethought and intentionality in a specific form.

“If-Then” planning is a strategy developed by researcher Dr. Peter Gollwitzer. With if-then planning, you make decisions well in advance about how to respond to temptations and distractions, while they’re not present and competing for your attention. You don’t wait for them to show up with full force in the moment and try to battle them with willpower alone.

An if-then plan can be, “If I’m starting my work day, then I will open my planner (or digital calendar) and review what I have scheduled, looking for time to add the important things from my to-do list.” This could establish a habit of organizing your day for productivity instead of jumping into email or starting where you left off with a project.

An if-then plan can be, “If I start getting frustrated with people I’m dealing with, I will pause for a couple of minutes to do a mindful breathing exercise.” This could establish a habit of interrupting negative spirals and building your capacity for self-calming.

An if-then plan can be, “If I have an unpleasant task to do (like decluttering), I will set the timer for 15 minutes and work until it goes off.” This could establish a habit of taking on unpleasant tasks instead of avoiding them, as well as breaking them into chunks so they’re not overwhelming.

With an if-then plan, your decision to act or your decision to avoid temptation is made in advance. You don’t need willpower to make the decision in the heat of the moment. Your mind will respond to the “if” situation as a trigger to “then” act. Willpower will help you stick with your decision, but won’t be necessary for making the tough decision or carrying the load of directing your behavior.

Application: Choose a habit you want to establish that will give you an advantage in achieving your goals. Take time to make some if-then plans to help you establish the habit over time. Once it’s established, it will be automatic, or nearly so, and won’t require much of your attention or energy to keep it going. It’s only difficult for a little while, and using if-then planning makes it much less difficult. System rigged in your favor!

Question: What one habit will make the greatest difference in the outcome of your life?

Recommended Resources

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About Steve


Steve Coxsey partners with innovators and leaders to custom design a plan that optimizes their success and well-being. Through coaching and training powered by positive psychology and neuroscience, they develop resourcefulness, agility, and resilience to thrive on their personally meaningful core driven path.

Steve collaborates with people who want to bring the best of who they are to their leadership roles in their personal lives, professional lives, or businesses. He helps people cultivate their strengths and natural talents so they can take ownership of their productivity and creativity.

Then they become powerful, breaking free of other people’s boxes and cubicles and living and working in alignment with who they really are. They design their lives around their values, their purpose, and their natural way of being. They tailor careers that use their unique strengths and talents and complement their life design.

Would you like that to be you? Get started with a no-risk 30-40 minute consultation. It’s complimentary, so all it will cost you is a little bit of time. You can schedule the complimentary call using this online tool. You can also call 817-416-8971 or e-mail Steve@SteveCoxsey.com to set up the call.

Click here for more information than you could possibly ever want to know about Steve.

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