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Overcoming the Treadmill Trap: A Guide to Realizing Sucess in 2024

As we embrace the New Year, many people set ambitious professional and personal goals. These might include getting a promotion, maxing out a bonus, or achieving the company’s revenue goals(quotas.)

While ambitious, these self-focused goals are often dead on arrival because the person setting them does not have the self-awareness to identify the skills and habits holding them back.

The Treadmill Trap in Personal and Professional Development

For many, this self-improvement challenge lies not in knowing what to do but in knowing what to do first, the psychological difficulties associated with changing, or simply having the courage to start and the motivation to stick with it!

Think about your last attempt to get fit or lose weight. You probably knew you needed to reduce calories, get sufficient sleep, and exercise. But how did it go? You could visualize yourselves 20 pounds lighter or returning to your college physique but struggled to take that first step or started but soon lost interest.

This is the Treadmill Trap – expending significant mental effort without tangible progress. You might know the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results,” often mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein. Perhaps we are all a little prone to wishful thinking!

Hope and a dream change nothing unless we change our actions, habits, or thoughts! So, your fitness journey only starts when you lace up your trainers and walk out the door, consciously choose to skip dessert or take action to improve your sleep.

Professional Development: External vs. Internal Motivation

But what about professional development? What makes a BD Professional, a Solution Architect, or an Executive decide they need to change? Often, this only happens when they are put on a performance improvement plan or losing their job because they did not achieve their goals. More often than not, the impetus for change is external rather than internal!

Empowering Professionals: The First Steps to Improvement

However, if you are driven to improve and have enough self-awareness (and a reasonable ego) to realize you might not be as effective as you could be, this article is for you. It aims to empower professionals in all fields to take the first steps to becoming the “professional” they aspire to be.

In an era where perceptions and relationships hold immense value, defining who you want to be and how others perceive you is crucial in determining your success.

To succeed where others falter, consider these simple, actionable tips:

1. Define who you want to be!

Start by envisioning the professional (or person) you want to become. Choose 3-5 descriptive words that encapsulate that vision of yourself.

For example, an Executive might pick words like “inspiring,” “approachable,” and “strategic.” Solution Architect – “logical” and “innovative.” Program Manager – “organized,” “communicative,” and “results-driven.” A BD Professional may favor something like “transparent,” “customer-focused,” and “empathetic.”

Tip: Keep these words somewhere you will see them daily. That way, they will be a constant reminder of who you want to be.

2. Align Your Actions and Decisions

Let your chosen words guide your daily actions and decisions. This alignment is where most resolutions and goals fail — in the transition from intention to consistent practice.

On a recent podcast, my friend Kristen Holmes, VP of Performance for Whoop Inc., discussed how you can use your chosen “words” to make better life decisions by asking yourself, “If I do this, will it bring me closer to or further from the person I want to be? This becomes your litmus test and simplifies much of the decision-making. Each choice becomes much clearer when you have context.

For example, if one of your words is “customer-focused,” – you would ask yourself, “Is doing this briefing or pitch going to bring me closer or further from my goal of being “customer-focused? Sometimes, the answer might be clear and easy; other times, it might need more thought, like whether the customer would prefer a sales pitch or a discussion about their real needs.

Tip: Create a daily reflection habit. Spend a few minutes each evening reviewing how your actions throughout the day aligned with your chosen words. This will not only provide accountability but will help you identify areas for improvement.

3. Commit to Consistency and Practice 

Becoming the person you desire to be takes motivation, consistent effort, and practice. Always think about what you can do to continually move closer to the person you want to be.

For example, a Solution Architect who strives to be more innovative might schedule weekly brainstorming sessions to consider different approaches to current challenges. BD Professionals who want to be more customer-focused might begin sending personalized follow-up emails after client meetings to express gratitude.

Tip: Regular self-assessment sessions help you monitor your progress. Adjust your strategies as needed to keep your resolutions on track.

4. Investment in Yourself, Seek Feedback and be Adaptable 

Recognize that growth is an ongoing process. Invest in yourself, not just financially, but also by setting aside dedicated time for learning. If you need help with skill development, find mentors or training companies to help you.

Don’t hesitate to seek feedback from peers, mentors, or coaches. Be open to change and open to listening and applying what they share.

Tip: Commit to dedicating 30 minutes each day to improving yourself through online courses, reading, or skill-building workshops.

Conclusion: The Power of Self-Definition

In conclusion, as you set your professional goals for this year, remember that success lies in the clarity of your intentions and the consistency of your actions. By defining your professional persona with carefully chosen words and using them to filter your actions and interactions, you create a clear roadmap for personal or professional growth.

Whether you’re an executive, a solution architect, a program manager, or a BD professional, the power of self-definition will guide you toward becoming the professional you aspire to be.

In 2024, focus on defining who you want to be and how you want to be seen, and watch your career reach new heights through daily practice and adaptation.



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