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Friday, August 2, 2013

One Word by Jon Gordon

Even Willow knows the concept of One Word.
One of the best courses I ever took was Behavior Modification at the U. of Wisconsin-Madison. It was one of the most practical courses I have had. As anyone who is familiar with operant conditioning can attest- a lot of behavior modification is pretty common sense. The course provided me as a young teacher with ideas to make my classroom, my teams, and myself better.

One of the topics was on self-modification. The professor claimed self-modification is much harder to accomplish than the modification of other people. He went on to claim the problem for most of us when it comes to self-modification is we start out wanting too much change in ourselves. We know the target we want to reach and we try to get there today. So we have not been reading but we want to get to where we are reading 100 pages a day- we start with a plan of reading 50 pages. We want to lose 30 pounds so we set out to lose 5 pounds per week. Usually with the plans we start out great but we cannot maintain. This is the problem with the classic New Year's resolutions. The lesson was keep it simple and be patient.

Often with my teams, either I would come up with a list of goals or I would have the team come up with a list of goals. In either case, they would be great lists to submit to a coaching course. The problem usually was there were too many goals. While all were good, I could not remember them all, and the players could not remember them.

This past spring, I had the opportunity to listen to Coach Groth from Illinois speaking. He was talking about his job when he came into Illinois about changing the culture. He was talking about the same things I had heard in "Behavior Mod" class. His idea was to give their lists of goals an acronym. He keeps their rules or goals short lists and has them put into an acronym. His logic- keep it short so can be remembers, and use the acronym so the players can more easily remember.

This is similar to Dick and Tony Bennett's 5 principles of their program. Because the list is short, I am sure their present and former players can recite the lists from memory.

Jon Gordon in One Word takes it a step further. His claim is to be effective in self-modification- whether it is a business, an individual, or a team- you need to have a singular focus. In the book he describes how each New Year's, he and his family participate in a different kind of process of establishing a resolution. Each individual in the family picks out one word which will be the focus of their entire year. And then later, the family as a group picks out one word that will be the focus of the family's year. His logic is that by keeping it so simple, it is easy to have clarity. 

He mentions words such as:
Life- focusing decisions and behaviors to show you value life- how you eat, exercising.
Service- focusing on doing things for others.
Patience- being able to not over react to things around.
Energy- being a source of energy to other.
Toughness- how do you handle adversity.

The idea is to pick out one thing to be your focus- change one part of your personality (individual or team) at a time. 

This morning I was walking our dog. She loves to go for a walk, and she is very good on the lease. She will walk right by my side. She seldom pulls or has to be pulled. But she will sometimes get distracted by rabbits, squirrels, or other dogs. When she starts to pull away, all one has to do is say the word- "Heel". With the single word she refocuses and is off again. 

With Willow, the discipline of the one word is all it takes. Gordon is saying instead of someone else telling us the word, we need to have a word we tell ourselves when we start to pull away from our desired goals.

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