It is not uncommon for many of us to set lofty goals and make ambitious New Year’s resolutions at the start of every year. However, unfortunately, those resolutions are often doomed from the outset, as our expectations can be too difficult to live up to. Research has demonstrated that only 9% of us are actually successful in keeping their New Year’s resolutions and a staggering 81% quit before the second year even concludes. Shockingly, most people give up on their goals by February, achieving virtually nothing in the process. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we look beyond our traditional approaches and focus tenaciously on creating a new mindset towards goal setting, then we can defy probability and establish goals that will stay with us all throughout the year.

Meet Carla

Carla Fowler, MD PhD. founded THAXA out of a passion for performance science, where the fields of strategy, productivity, and psychology intersect. Since its inception in 2013, THAXA’s scientific approach to individualized coaching has attracted a devoted client base of dozens of executives at firms ranging from large technology companies to agile startups to innovative nonprofits. Carla’s coaching methods draw upon the multidisciplinary field of performance science to generate the best ideas surrounding strategy, execution, and mindset to assist leaders in their endeavors. Over the past 10 years, she has distilled the key principles of performance into understandable concepts and a method that helps leaders incorporate these ideas into their day-to-day performance, helping them go faster and improving their results. Outside of her coaching, Carla truly enjoys sharing her key performance principles with audiences while engaging in thought provoking conversations. surrounding her passion for performance science.


During this interview Carla and I discuss the following topics:

  • 00:01:33 Resolutions are failing: only 9% succeed.
  • 00:06:36 Setting up mastermind community; focused on goal-setting.
  • 00:07:43 Opinions on goal setting vary, process important.
  • 00:11:03 “Brutal focus, stripping back to essentials.”
  • 00:15:04 Practice, iterate, experiment, learn, impact, mindset.
  • 00:19:55 Understand, measure, balance, safety in experiments.
  • 00:23:39 Goal-oriented process leads to success and control.
  • 00:25:37 Reflect on process, analyze, adjust, and iterate.
  • 00:29:24 Reflecting on experiences and improving for success.
  • 00:33:23 Brains need survival motives for effective work. Humans desire growth; overcoming challenges feels amazing. In mid-career, we crave certainty over growth.
  • 00:37:14 Qualities: clarity, fuel, relishing uncertainty – important.

Guest Resources

If you are interested in learning more about Carla’s resources be sure to check out the following links:

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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode. 


Scott McCarthy [00:00:00]:

It on Episode 246 of the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast. We speak to executive coach and Dr. Carla Fowler and she’s going to teach you how you can keep the mindset of goal setting and achievement. That’s right folks, it’s all about goal setting and achieving them today. Are you ready for this? Alright, let’s do it. Welcome one, welcome all to the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast, a weekly podcast series dedicated to helping you hit peak performance across the three domains of leadership. Those being leading yourself, leading your team, and leading your organization. This podcast couples my 20 years of military experience as a senior Canadian Army officer with world class guests to bring you the most complete podcast of leadership going.

Scott McCarthy [00:00:59]:

And for more, feel free to check out our And with that, let’s get to the show. Yes, welcome one, welcome all. It is your Chief Leadership Officer, Scott McGarthy. And thanks for tuning into the show. It’s so good to have you here today. And today we’re going to be talking about mindset. We’re going to be talking about goal setting, achievement and all kinds amazing stuff.

Scott McCarthy [00:01:33]:

And why are we talking about that right now? Why didn’t we talk about that at the beginning of December or the very beginning of the month? Why? Because if you set some resolutions, if you set some goals for this year, you probably need help right now. That’s why I’m releasing this show now. And you probably need help because we’re almost at the end of January and about 64% of you who said, yep, I set some goals or I set some New Year’s resolutions this year have done this or about to do this, and that is quit. That’s right. Crazy statistics for you folks. Like I hinted at, only 60 or sorry, only 36% of you are going to make it past this month with your resolutions. And by the end of the year, there will only be 9% of you left. Most people give up by this time pipe the end of January, beginning of Feb.

Scott McCarthy [00:02:51]:

So this is the time where we need that boost of short term motivation which we’ll get into in this show. But reality, you need to change something. You need to change your mindset. Because if you’re getting ready to quit, this is what’s going to get you away from the ledge. And for that, we brought in Dr. Carla Fowler, who’s MD. And she is the founder of her own company, Traxxa, where she has a passion for performance science in the field of strategy, productivity and where psychology intersects with those. She’s been working with large firm companies and tech companies, along with agile startups as well as nonprofits.

Scott McCarthy [00:03:43]:

She looks at strategy, execution and mindset to assist leaders. And this is exactly why I brought her on the show. So during the show, Carla and I go into topics such as the mindset of goal setting, breaking big goals down into smaller ones, questions she asks when setting goals for herself and for her team. So we talk about not just you, but your team as well, how to run experiments on yourself and your team. And no, we’re not talking about Frankenstein or anything like that. Not getting crazy here. How to learn from your mistakes and failures and move forward in a positive direction, which is something so many people struggle with because they fall down or they trip up and they just give up. That’s probably where you’re at right now.

Scott McCarthy [00:04:35]:

You’re on a diet plan or exercise regime, and you trip up. But how do you get going back in that positive direction? And finally, as I hinted at earlier, motivation versus discipline and how to keep going. This episode is for all you out there who are looking, know, setting goals and trying to make yourself better. This year, it’s all for you. So with that, sit back, relax, enjoy my conversation with Dr. Carla Fowler on how to keep the mindset of goal setting and achievement. Carla, welcome to the show.

Carla Fowler [00:05:31]:

Hi. Good morning, Scott. Thanks for having me.

Scott McCarthy [00:05:34]:

Hey, and congratulations. You’re the first guest in 2023, so we’re actually recording in December, but I’ll say Happy New Year to you in advance. Anyway, so happy New Year. 2023.

Carla Fowler [00:05:46]:

Awesome. Yeah, likewise.

Scott McCarthy [00:05:49]:

So random question just popped my head is, what are you looking forward to this year, 2023? Have you even thought about that yet?

Carla Fowler [00:05:58]:

Yes, it’s definitely on my mind. And actually, one of the things I’m really excited about so I take some time off. I get off email at the end of the year. And one of the things I really love is when I’m at the end of the year and I’m already like, okay, I can kind of see what I want to set up next year. And it’s not like I know exactly how I’m going to do all of it or how that’s going to turn out, but when I know sort of like, oh, okay, what are some of the things that I want to set in motion and start building momentum on? Even if that’s just like the small set up steps that then kind of start to get you there, start to get that rock rolling.

Scott McCarthy [00:06:36]:

Yeah, I know exactly what you’re saying. Actually, you mentioned that the small set up steps and kind of setting yourself up for success going forward. Because right now, in December 2022, what I’m doing, I run a mastermind community, small mastermind community of leaders who are trying to develop themselves. And December has all been focused on goal setting for 2023. That’s what we’ve been working on, and that’s what I’ve been working the team through, is like, okay, let’s take this big goal. Let’s break it down into what I refer to as tactical actions, things that you can take and go after that actually kind of build you towards achieving that goal. So that’s what we’re doing, and I’m not in a place to say right now what I’m working on, but like, you I’m like, oh, I’m getting excited because now I’m digging deeper into it. I’m in research phase, like, oh, how do I actually achieve this? How I’m actually going to go about achieving it? And picked up myself a book, started reading on the topic.

Scott McCarthy [00:07:33]:

I’m like, all right, okay, now I’m starting to make my notes. And I’m like, okay, this is oh, God. But it’s actually a little bit scary too. I’m like, oh, it’s getting real.

Carla Fowler [00:07:43]:

Well, I think you’re not alone in that. Scott okay, so we’re in the new year, and there’s probably I mean, the audience might be split and a lot of people in between. How do you feel about goal setting? We can’t poll everyone right now, but sometimes people have sort of a love hate relationship with that. And one of the things I like that you just said was if I kind of pick apart, I think some of how you’re approaching this and maybe people in your Mastermind are approaching it this way is it wasn’t like you sat down and said, okay, I’ve got this goal and somehow I have to have achieved it. On January 5, you’re reading a book. I get the sense that you’re doing some prep work to say, hey, what are the building blocks towards that? Like, what’s some of the process or those tactical actions? And I definitely find that having a goal and starting to think about most importantly, like, defining explicitly what you want to have happen has a way of pulling our effort out of us in a really important way. But I always say that the point of goals is not like the measure by which we either wildly celebrate or beat ourselves up at the end of the year. Those are outcomes that can really make people shy about goal setting, but I think they’re really helpful for that direction to then start to say, well, how do we then break down what’s most important so that I can start working on it? Maybe Jan one, maybe don’t achieve it until September.

Carla Fowler [00:09:09]:

Eigth but you’ve achieved it’s part of your goal for the year. And often the big goals or the bigger goals they take that time. They’re not the things that are really easy gets.

Scott McCarthy [00:09:23]:

No, absolutely. I appreciate you’re kind of going into that mindset, which is no shocker because you talk a lot about peak performance and stuff along those lines. So this is great because this really helps. So can you just talk to me a bit about the importance, especially from a mindset perspective, of taking that big goal and then breaking it down further and essentially setting marker milestones along the way? Because I kind of like how we go about doing that, and that’s how I like to set things up. I like to make big problems and break them down into small problems and like, okay, I’m after this one, then I’m after that one, and so on and so forth. You talk a bit about that from your perspective and how that helps.

Carla Fowler [00:10:04]:

Yeah, well, I totally resonate with what you said. And actually the name of my coaching practice is Thaxa Executive Coaching. And Thaxa actually means in Latin, a task. And I named it that because of this idea. Ever since I was young, I think I intuitively had this thought of, like, well, big stuff is just made of a bunch of smaller steps, and often the smaller steps seem a lot less hard. And so that is still how I think about things and approach it with clients. So I like how you put that. So one of the things that I’ve noticed, and this is true for individual performance, but I think it’s extra important also for leaders as they’re thinking about goal setting with their teams knowing and really clarifying that direction or what is the goal is really important in part because that is what then helps us start to say what is actually going to be most important for this.

Carla Fowler [00:11:03]:

And I actually call this brutal focus is my word for it. And the thing is, we talk about focus a lot these days. And I actually added that qualifier because I was like, no, I think what it looks like to focus with the amount of ability we have to do stuff now is that it actually is really stripping it back to the essentials. And so it feels kind of brutal. Like, you’ll look around and maybe say, wow, we are really austere here, and everyone else is doing a lot of extra stuff that maybe should we be doing that? I don’t know. Do I need to do this, this and this also for the goal. What are the real drivers there? I think one of the most important things as a leader that you can do is to start to help your team or even your peers, like in your mastermind group, to have some people and peers to ask the question, what really, really drives this? What are the small compounding steps that really drive it? So one thing I like to think about as you start to break it down is this idea of is there a small thing that adds up over time? Kind of like compounding interest, that if I just get started on it and I do it consistently and I have enough time, like, if you give myself enough runway to kind of reach the goal that it’s driving, that it will actually get me there, even though on the surface it seems really small. So that’s like, one of the questions I like to ask myself when I’m trying to break something down, like something really big, I say, okay, well, is there actually a small thing that if I just give it enough time, it’ll cook up to something bigger? So that’s one thing.

Carla Fowler [00:12:48]:

I have a couple of other questions that I like to ask as a way to look at a problem or a goal and say, how do we break that down so we can go through those as well. But I think that compounding step is one of the first things I ask myself is just, is this easy as long as I do it consistently and give myself enough time?

Scott McCarthy [00:13:07]:

No, absolutely. Well, first off, so before we dive into questions, I like that whole compounding thing because that’s really how I see it. I’ve always looked at goals and I liked how you broke it and you went into the team aspect as well because I feel that a lot of the principles and the methodologies towards individual goal setting, guess what? You can relatively easily transfer that over to the team context. And if it goes into team context, then they actually can go into the organizational context. And that’s how we literally work here at Peak Performance Leadership Podcast. I speak about three domains of leadership leading yourself, leading your team, and leading your organization. So we’re hitting all three right now with this, but with this. Yeah.

Scott McCarthy [00:13:52]:

I’d love to hear those questions that you asked to dive deeper into the meeting and all this behind setting the goals for the team.

Carla Fowler [00:14:00]:

Yeah. So one thought is as you’re breaking down those goals, what could compound towards this? So that was number one. Number two is I often like to ask or acknowledge, like, okay, what elements of this are actually iterative? And so by that I mean sometimes you have a goal and actually you’re talking with your team or you’re thinking about yourself and you’re like, well, this is an area where there isn’t a clear answer and we likely have some learning to do. And so the nature of this is going to be iterative, and we’re going to have to loop through. We’re going to need to try something and then loop through it and see if we can’t improve it a little bit. It may just be one of those things where you don’t already know and be able to execute the single compounding thing that will just get you there. It may be that you’re like, well, we think we know what it is, but we’re not that good at it yet. And so to actually reach the goal, we’re going to have to improve it.

Carla Fowler [00:15:04]:

We’re going to have to drill it. We’re going to have to really practice that and part of that repeating it, but also getting better at it over time and sort of tinkering with it. Whether that’s hey, we need to continually interview customers as we are improving this MVP to see if we’ve nailed what really solves their problem. For example. So that’s like a second question I like to ask. And one of the beautiful things about actually acknowledging this to your team is that it helps your team think? Not in binary ways, like, it’s got to be 100% or we failed. We got to be perfect at this right away or nothing really getting away from some of those kind of binary mindsets. And it really puts people in a mindset where they feel much more ability to run an experiment to learn something versus did we get it right or did we get it wrong? And I think modeling, that one of the things I know from the leaders that have been most impactful in my life.

Carla Fowler [00:16:09]:

They definitely helped me improve my own performance and learn some things about tackling hard challenges, physical challenges, mental challenges. And I think one of the best things that I got from my PhD advisor was just this idea of how do you tackle an unstructured uncertain thing where you don’t know the answer? And I was in a science PhD, so it was, yeah, you got to run experiments, you got to set up good experiments and be open to that. So I think iteration, that’s like number two. How might this be iterative in nature? And how does that tell us how we need to go about it and think about it?

Scott McCarthy [00:16:53]:

I really liked the last part you mentioned here about running experiments. And obviously as a science background that goes, yeah, okay, yeah, that makes sense. I can picture you in a lab mixing little things in the beakers or running this or running that, but at the same time, we could do that with our teams, we can do that with our organizations. We can even do that with ourselves, for God’s sakes. So what’s your advice for people out there when they’re like, I have this idea, but I don’t know what the end result is going to be. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get there. So you’re like, well, run experiments, but how am I going to run an experiment on myself or my team? So what’s your advice for people out there who are in that situation?

Carla Fowler [00:17:43]:

Absolutely. Well, one of the things I like about again, this idea of both being willing to run an experiment yourself as a leader, the conversation about how do we express vulnerability in healthy ways like in our work. One of those ways is that willingness with a team to say, I do not know the answer, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn the answer. And being willing to be kind of the leader walking into like, hey, it’s uncertain territory. If we want to build a company that is successful in a way a different company has not yet, well, we’re almost certainly going to be going out into new territory. I think that’s one thing I think of. But running in a good experiment is really different from saying I’m going to throw spaghetti at the fridge. Although actually the true, like the reason you throw a spaghetti at the fridge is actually a well defined experiment.

Carla Fowler [00:18:41]:

So in that sense, I suppose it is a good analogy. But really I talk about a couple of different things. When you’re setting up an experiment for yourself or with your team, the first one is to really say what is it we want to learn and why is it important that we learn that? Because I think you and your team have only a certain amount of capacity to run experiments and so you want to make sure you’re targeting them where they’re going to have the biggest impact. And there’s a lot of stuff probably you should just sort of decide it or say, honestly, we’re not going to look at that right now because we really have to focus our capacity where it will have the biggest impact. So that’s thought number one is really pick things that matter, learning. And I definitely walked into my PhD advisor’s office sometimes and was like, well I could run this experiment. And he was like, well why would you want to know that? What does that contribute to the field? So I totally have had this experience of really needing to think about this and say, well, what would be worth learning that’s thing number one. Thing number two is you want to structure an experiment in a way that you are going to learn something.

Carla Fowler [00:19:55]:

So you need to sort of understand ahead of time, like how are we going to think about the results, how are we going to actually get the results back? Whether that’s do we have actual data coming in like numbers? Is it we are going to interview people, is it we’re going to self assess based on these characteristics of goals that we have about what would be a successful outcome. So it’s worth thinking ahead of time, not just doing something without understanding how you might measure the results. You actually learn something from it. And then I think the third most important thing, not in order, it’s equally important, but is you want to structure experiments that have a good balance of upside and downside that is reasonable to you. So what you don’t want is to do something that is so risky that the downside is so big that it’s unacceptable to you if it didn’t turn out the way you had thought. And ideally it has a relatively low downside, but the potential for upside is very high even if the likelihood of that is not super probable but possible. And I think that really helps people run an experiment and feel, well, feel reasonable amount of safety and it’s just smart and strategic, right? Like you don’t want to bet the house on something unless it’s literally your last option and it’s usually not your last option anyway. So that’s how I think about running good experiments.

Carla Fowler [00:21:30]:

And just three tips for like what should you go through on your checklist before you head out into that unknown?

Scott McCarthy [00:21:39]:

No, those are great. And the last one for sure, making sure it’s an educated decision to experiment in this realm because like you said, you don’t want to bet a house on it. And that could be personally, whether that’s financially, emotionally, physically, whatever. Right. It’s like, hey, I don’t think if you’ve never hiked a hill, you shouldn’t go to yourself. I’m going to hike Hebris next month. Let’s try this out. Yes, that would probably be an example.

Scott McCarthy [00:22:09]:

Betting the house on yourself physically. Right, exactly. However, let’s see if I like hiking. So there’s a 5000 foot mountain close by. Okay, well, we’ll go try that out for half a day. Yeah, I liked it.

Carla Fowler [00:22:22]:


Scott McCarthy [00:22:22]:

And then that was a successful experiment. I would suggest the second thing, your second point not necessarily being tied to the outcome is what I heard from you. And that’s so hard for so many people. And it’s kind of what I’m trying to get my team in my mastermind to understand is like, yeah, we’re going to set these goals, but people necessarily hit them. It’s not a big deal. It’s more about looking back and saying, here I was, here I am now. Is that growth? Is that, you know, that journey, has that been more than actually necessarily hitting that goal that I had set in the first place? And most of the time I would argue yes, that is actually a bit more important than actually having that check in the box per se. So that’s why I really enjoyed hearing from you.

Scott McCarthy [00:23:12]:

Now that being said, sometimes we fail, sometimes we stumble, we fall. I’d love to get your perspective on especially from goal setting perspective, peak performance. Like how should we think about as we trip up and we stumble and we fall and we fail? How do we get back up? How do we learn our lessons from it and how do we take that and move forward?

Carla Fowler [00:23:39]:

So I think that when you have both the goal, but you’ve done that work that you’ve been talking about like that, breaking that down into what are the most important parts of it, what’s your process going to be to work towards that goal? I think that having that as a foundation that you can kind of focus on from a day to day or weekly basis, kind of put your head down, chop wood, carry water is really helpful, particularly in the scenarios where you don’t hit your goal. Because then I think when we haven’t well defined that when we don’t hit our goal or we even approach our goals as being like, well, I’m going to do the best I can and we’re just going to see what happens. And it kind of puts this magic element into goals that can sometimes get translated into bad stuff like, well, I guess I just wasn’t good enough. Or these really kind of identity and sort of very self judging statements versus when we’ve defined a goal as our direction then we’ve defined a process that we say, well, this is my experiment, this is my hypothesis that I think will get me there. And maybe you want to have some milestones along the way. So, you know, if you’re tracking to plan and you can make some changes to that process halfway through the year if you’re like, this is not tracking like I’m going to hit that goal. And I’ve definitely had years in my business that were like this, where I will say it, I was halfway through the year, much less than halfway towards the goal and didn’t feel like the process I had was necessarily delivering what I was interested in. But at that moment, what is great is you have really logical next steps to think about versus just saying, I don’t have this special magic that’s getting me there, which feels like you don’t have any control over that.

Carla Fowler [00:25:37]:

And so when you find yourself, whether it’s midway or you find yourself at the end of the year, and you’re like, okay, I didn’t hit it, rather than saying, well, I just didn’t work hard enough, or I must just not be good enough, you can go back and say, well, my process wasn’t enough to get me there. Well, actually, first you can ask, did I run my process? Like, do I understand why I picked that? Now? What do I understand seeing the results of that process? Let’s assume you ran it. If you didn’t run the process, then you can say, okay, the thing I need to focus on for the next period of time is how to get myself to actually run that process. What did I learn about whether how I set it up wasn’t feasible? I didn’t properly account for time, or I need to find a mastermind group or accountability partner because accountability was just tough for me. I just need that check in, right, so you can set up, so you can actually run your process. But if you did run your process, then you can go back and do sort of that post experiment, like look at it and say, okay, what do I now think? Going back to those questions, and I think we covered like two of them. Are there ways in which I need to compound on something different? Or is it I need more time to keep improving at this particular piece of it, I need to iterate some more. And then like a third question I sometimes ask about this is, am I missing something? And this is where I think a lot of building towards goals is multiplicative.

Carla Fowler [00:27:07]:

So this idea that it’s not just like one thing carries you there. It’s like you need to combine this thing and this thing and this thing and have all of them working pretty well and that becomes gets you over the threshold. And so another thing to ask is, am I missing a critical step? So, for example, maybe if you were trying to prove your fitness and you sort of had gotten the cardio piece and you were sort of doing some jogging and thinking about that, but what you were really missing is you need to add in some strength training like that. That’s the piece to really help you, whether it’s build the muscle you want or lose the weight you want or just feel that kind of vibrancy that you want. You just need another component, and everything you’re doing is great. You need to add one more thing in. So that’s like a third question again, that you can both proactively look forward and ask yourself, might that be true about the goal that I’m doing and the process I’m going to build? But it also can be helpful looking backwards at that moment when if you didn’t hit your goal, you can still acknowledge, like, I had a clear hypothesis. I had a clear process.

Carla Fowler [00:28:15]:

I ran that process. And so now what I know is how far that process gets me, and I can ask those questions. Do I need to iterate more? Is there something else I should be compounding on? Do I need to add something and keep doing this? So that’s why I think that clarity of goal setting and looking at that process kind of where we started is so important, particularly when we fail, it doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would. And the truth is, in science, when you run so many experiments, and your reward for running an experiment when it goes well or when it doesn’t go well is you get to run another experiment. Either way, I guess if you win the Nobel Prize, maybe you’re like, great, I’m done. I won the game. But most of science is really about, okay, what do I want to learn next? What do I need to learn next? So I think that’s how I think about goals. And whether you hit them or you don’t hit them, you have the opportunity to run another experiment.

Scott McCarthy [00:29:24]:

Yeah, no, you made me think about how I view this in a little bit more in depth, and I look at it from a very militaristic standpoint. Being still serving Canadian Army is that I often do what we refer to as ars after action review. So we look at like, okay, one went good. Here went bad. Why did it go bad? And it’s just like that period of just self reflection. And it’s something I bring the team through exercise. Bringing the team through is like, okay, well, why did it go bad? And you hit all on all the big ones. Did you not allocate enough time? Did you allocate too little time? Did you actually do the research? Did you actually go into in depth of, oh, are we missing something or am I not doing something right? Did I lose accountability? Did I lose motivation? By the way, that’s a heads up.

Scott McCarthy [00:30:12]:

For what we’re going to hit next. But the moral story is this is that you have to take the time. You can’t just throw your arms up, go, this is see? Told you not going to work, right?

Carla Fowler [00:30:24]:

Yeah, couldn’t do it. Big summary judgments. Generally not helpful at that moment, but yeah, AR a very clear process that you can just run as a habit that can uncover really important insights 100%.

Scott McCarthy [00:30:44]:

So I give you a heads up on the next question, and that is motivation. Now, I’m going to throw my opinion out straight up. I’m like motivation is temporary. Disciplines forever. I look at motivation as very finite, very particular. Like, oh, I woke up this morning, I’m motivated, let’s go, let’s pump the iron, let’s hit the gym, as I do every morning. But come Thursdays, it’s tough when you’re getting up at 05:00 a.m. And you got little ones, you’re putting to bed at night and all this stuff and come Thursday.

Scott McCarthy [00:31:18]:

But that’s why I say discipline is forever, because I have the discipline to still, despite being tired, not wanting to do it, et cetera. And actually, even this morning I was like, I could stay in bed. But it was discipline that drove me to get it up. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on motivation, discipline and how someone might stay in the mindset to get through to the end, especially when it gets tough.

Carla Fowler [00:31:46]:

That is such a great point that you bring up. And I often think about this as like our life is kind of made up of how we use time and how we feel about stuff. And that sort of kind of makes our experience and our feelings about stuff like motivation, those are up and down for sure. And the discipline piece, to me, I think, really links back to this. But what are you going to do with your time? How do you build a good day regardless of how you’re feeling? Good day being whatever that day needs to be. Sometimes a day needs to be a recovery day. And so that will be different than today is a work day. Today is I move towards my goal day.

Carla Fowler [00:32:24]:

I think about that a lot as well. And I think that there are a couple of things, particularly for leaders, for themselves, but also leaders for their teams, that can be really important for maintaining as much motivation as there is, but also helping them grow in their ability to more or less build that discipline muscle. And one of those is that I think on the surface, our brains as human beings, want to be comfortable. We want to feel really good at things. We want things to be easy. We have lazy brains. Our brains take a ton of energy, evolutionarily speaking, compared to other animals. And the truth is they have a lot of shortcuts and they want things to be easy.

Carla Fowler [00:33:23]:

And that is like the state of our brains. And so if it’s not survival related, like literally survival related, then yeah, we have to work to get ourselves to do the work. But another thing that I know about human beings is that I think there is this deep source of desire to learn and grow and that literally overcoming challenges is one of the things that feels absolutely the best to us. It’s just when we’re proactively, looking forwards, we’re like that’s uncertain, that looks hard. Can’t I do something I just feel good at today? And this I think particularly happens. I think it can particularly happen as we hit like mid career when we actually so earlier in career, we’re not very good at a lot of things and we get told that a lot and our peers get told that a lot. And so it’s kind of like it’s the water we’re swimming in and it feels normal, right? We think we’re in our learning phase, but then we have this idea that like, oh, but that phase will end and then I’ll be in the good at things phase. And so maybe that’s different timing for all of us, but maybe we hit like forty S and we’re kind of in that like, no, now I’m good at my career, I know things.

Carla Fowler [00:34:42]:

And we lose a little bit of that muscle memory of what it feels like to be like, I don’t know how to do this and I’m going to go do it anyways. Or I don’t like doing this thing, but probably I don’t like it not because it’s actually a terrible thing to do or that it’s actually hard. It’s fake hard. It’s like there’s something uncertain about it or I feel insecure about it, or it’s not clear, it’s super murky and I don’t actually totally know how to go about doing it and what the outcome will be or whether or not I will do it the way someone else wanted me to do it. So there’s all these things that I think get substituted for hard. One of the things that I think is really helpful for leaders to help people do is to figure out how to cultivate some power, how to generate fuel. And you brought up a couple of kinds of fuel, so one kind of fuel is like, I woke up excited and I’m motivated and ready to go. That is a wonderful fuel when it is available, that fuel is not always available.

Carla Fowler [00:35:49]:

And so I think as a leader, teaching people how to get into things and get going can be really helpful. So for example, things as simple as saying like, okay, you need to get started, keep going and then start improving. Don’t try and improve it all at once. Focus on getting started and what that looks like, then focus on how do you keep working on it. Like just don’t quit after you start immediately and only then once you’ve kind of gotten comfortable to the water temperature, then figure out, like, okay, now I’m a little more comfortable. Can I improve it? And this is kind of a simple thing, but sometimes when people get stuck on hard stuff or feeling unmotivated, we need to separate from how we feel and just say, what does it look like to just do this thing? And here’s a model for how to think about that. Here’s a way to break it down.

Scott McCarthy [00:36:51]:

It’s awesome. Absolutely awesome. Yeah. Definitely. Definitely resonate with the last bit, for sure. Carla, this has been an awesome show. Unfortunately, all good things do come to an end. But before we wrap up, I got a couple last questions for you.

Scott McCarthy [00:37:04]:

First is a question I asked all the guests here at Peak Performance Leadership Podcast and as according to you, Carla Fowler, what makes a great leader?

Carla Fowler [00:37:14]:

So, for me, there are many qualities that go into this, but I will say some of the most important things from the people who really taught me the most. Ironically, they were not the warmest, fuzziest people. Their EQ might not have been their strongest, but I would say the common scenario or the common trait was they were people who helped me raise my performance. And they thought about three things. I think one was they provided clarity. Like, they provided some of that focus, that idea of helping me figure out what really mattered. Not like, how do you do all this stuff? I think the second piece was that they helped me find fuel. And there’s a couple of different kinds of fuel, but one is, how do you find your own self discipline? How do you just figure out how to build momentum for yourself even when you’re not feeling like it? But I think they also pointed out and taught me, what are the gaps, right? Where can I increase my skills to have more fuel, to go where I want to go? I think the third piece of it is really about that relishing uncertainty, learning to go into uncertain territory, and what you do there.

Carla Fowler [00:38:42]:

How do you perform at a high level when you know you don’t have a lot of control, and also you’ve just never been there before? How does one approach that in a really productive way? And I think those three traits are something I really appreciated about the leaders I had. And so maybe not as maybe not as common as some other traits that come up, but I I believe, like, after the fact, when people look back at leaders that really impressed upon them, often they had that. They helped you learn, they helped you understand how to win by providing clarity, and they helped you go on to whatever was next in the future. We don’t know what’s coming.

Scott McCarthy [00:39:30]:

Yeah. Wow. That’s probably one of the deeper answers that I’ve gotten on the show. So that’s awesome. Final question of the show is how can people find you, follow you, be part of your journey. It’s all about you. Shameless plugs. Have at it.

Carla Fowler [00:39:43]:

Thanks, Scott. So a great place to follow me is on LinkedIn. So I’m at Dash Fowler and whenever I have conversations on podcasts and we always talk about different things, this is something I love about podcasts, they’re great conversations and so it’s a nice collab between a host and I, and so always posting those there. And then I mentioned briefly, so I’m an executive coach, and if that’s something you want to learn more about, my website is a great resource, and that’s at, and you can learn more about my practice. But also you can message me through the site there if having a conversation about what coaching would look like is of interest to you. I’m always looking for new great clients and I’m happy to do that. So, yeah, those are the best places to find me.

Scott McCarthy [00:40:38]:

Awesome. And for the listeners, always, it’s easy, just go to 246246 links are in the show notes. Carla, again, thanks for taking some time and your early busy schedule, it’s fairly early where you’re at. It’s early where I’m at. So thanks again.

Carla Fowler [00:40:56]:

Awesome. Thanks, Scott.

Scott McCarthy [00:41:00]:

And that’s a wrap for this episode, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, thank you for supporting the Peak Performance Leadership podcast. But you know what you could do to truly support the podcast? And no, that’s not leaving a rating and review, it’s simply helping a friend. And that is helping a friend by sharing this episode with them. If you think this would resonate with them and help them elevate their performance level, whether that’s within themselves, their teams or their organization, so do that. Help me. Help a friend. Win win all around.

Scott McCarthy [00:41:35]:

And hey, you look like a great friend at the same time. So just hit that little share button on your app and then feel free to fire this episode to anyone that you feel would benefit from it. Finally, there’s always more, there’s always more lessons around being the highest performing leader that you can possibly be, whether that’s for yourself, your team, or your organization. So why don’t you subscribe subscribe to the show via subscribe. Until next time, lead don’t boss. And thanks for coming out. Take care now. Bye.