12 years ago, my then-girlfriend was about to apply for a job. She asked my feedback for her CV. Back then, I was a graduate student. We used to write academic papers to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
In that context, giving feedback meant to correct almost every line of the text. In return, the asking party would be more than happy.
If they didn’t receive that feedback from their colleagues, their paper would be rejected or receive a major revision after a few months of stressful waiting.
Back then, the only standard I knew was the academic standard. And I applied it to the CV of my then-girlfriend. As you can imagine, it didn’t end well. That was my first lesson in giving feedback to non-academic people, but not the last one.
A Coach-Coachee Relationship
Five years ago, I started to coach someone with their online business. Back then, the only relationship I knew was a professor-student relationship.
I made a long list of what my coachee had to do. They didn’t disagree with the list, but they picked a few items from the list and executed them to some extent. The results weren’t staggering.
One Piece of Feedback Is Enough
After those two experiences, I decided to give only one piece of feedback when someone asked me for feedback. I used to examine the situation and responded with a single piece of feedback that would make the most difference.
Most of the time, the action item that I picked happened to be the one that the other party resisted the most. As a result, I haven’t seen many people acting on my advice. That doesn’t come as a surprise to me anymore.
We get stuck not because we face enormous challenges. We get stuck because there is one action that is outside of our comfort zone that we avoid doing.
Weight Loss Example
A typical example is weight loss. Look at all the money flowing to the weight loss industry. Is weight loss really that complicated? Not at all.
Eat less calories than you burn, and you lose weight. And I don’t say that lightly. I’ve lost 5 kilos (11 pounds) in the last six months.
How did I do that? I consumed 200 calories less than I burned per day on average. That involves a moderate workout six days a week and eating predetermined daily menus except for one free meal per week, which I don’t exaggerate.
I’m still on a diet. It’s a sustainable diet that I can do all year round. I’m not in a hurry to lose 10 kilos (22 pounds) in a single month. I have no problem dropping my excess weight in a year.
The opposite is also true. If you don’t take that one action, nothing will happen no matter what or how much you do.
In the weight loss example, if you don’t create a calorie deficit over an extended period, you won’t lose weight no matter what else you do.
Most of the time, the solution to our problem is simple and obvious, but it’s outside of our comfort zone. All we have to do is to become aware of the solution, get out of our comfort zone, and act on it, even if it’s getting just 1% out of our comfort zone at a time.
What’s the action that would make the greatest difference in your life that you’re avoiding to take?
What keeps you from doing it?
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.