Life lessons learned from . . . My Little Pony?

My two kids are obsessed with the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic; they binge watch it on Netflix the way Carol and I watched Breaking Bad. It is cute, and funnier than you would think, but I never expected any of the Ponies to dispense blog-worthy wisdom.…

In a recent episode, AppleJack’s friends were lamenting the fact that she was working so hard on the farm and no longer had time to spend with them. After her friends watched all the work she did each day, they pointed out that many of her tasks were redundant and unnecessary; she was doing things the way she had always done them, and it never occurred to her to change. She took a look at her process, eliminated some of those outdated tasks, and freed up time….to go to the spa with her friends.

That’s a pretty simple and impactful message, even if it is delivered by pastel ponies that have been resurrected from my childhood. Habits and history have a powerful effect on us; “old habits die hard” is an expression for a reason. We continually do things out of habit because, well, that’s how we’ve always done them. Rarely do we stop and think about why we do the things we habitually do, if they are having a negative or positive impact on our actions and lives, or if there might just be a better way to proceed. The “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitude is pervasive in our systems and structures at work and in our personal lives, and it can often be detrimental to our success.

Stopping to think about how we do the things we do, and why we started doing them in the first place, is empowering. In some cases, it can lead to changes in our thinking that lead to better process, efficiency and results. In others, it may simply confirm that something is being done correctly and allow that process to be duplicated in other areas, leading to even greater efficiency.

At FocalPoint, we call this “Zero-Based Thinking.” It is the process of continually asking oneself “Knowing what I know now, would I do this same process over or start this the same way over again?” It requires (sometimes brutal) honesty, and a willingness to change. It means asking a few more questions when the answer is no; why am I still doing this? is there a better way to do it? and should I even be doing this at all? The questions can be tough, the answers even tougher, but the results can be amazing.

We all have reasons for starting new activities or ventures, but over time our needs and circumstances can change. What made sense in the past may not make sense now, and if we are too busy to recognize it we may continue to operate in that same way out of habit. The ability to recognize when those changes occur, and either change our habits to make them work once again or abandon them altogether can have a tremendous impact on our lives and our success. Is it easy? Probably not. But if it is good enough for the Ponies, it should be good enough for you and me.

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