Category Archives: My Life

3 Steps for Escaping the Hamster Wheel to Create Freedom & Flow

 

TWITTER-2017-JULY-6Do you find yourself running from one thing to the next with little time to really think about what you are doing and why?

If you answered yes, you are not alone.

Many high achieving professionals feel as though they have way more to do than they have time to do it. Their ambition, drive and passion have served them well, and gotten them to a nice place, but still they know they are capable of more. More visibility, more opportunity, more income, and dare I say – more freedom to enjoy their careers and their lives.

The daily grind has a way of keeping us tethered to the ground, feeling as though our best is just around the corner, if only we can get through what’s in front of us, which is often an accumulation of projects, events and other commitments that ends up growing far faster than it shrinks. Every once in a while, it becomes apparent that something’s got to give.

But who has time to slow down when there is so much more to get done?

The fantasy many of us have bought into is that if we just work longer and harder, we will get there. And despite our longing to find balance and the sweet spot that will finally allow us to relax and be more effective, we often act in ways that bring greater levels of anxiety and toil. As leaders, we also unwittingly create entire cultures of people who emulate our frenetic behavior in the name of getting ahead.

The hamster in the wheel doesn’t realize he isn’t getting anywhere.

And before he can, he must realize that he is, in fact, in a wheel. Our wheels are much more sophisticated and deceiving than those of the hamster. Because initially, our wheels do get us somewhere. It’s just that over time, they lose traction and become stuck in comfortable ruts. And we don’t realize when we’re stuck, because it doesn’t seem possible to be standing still when you are running like hell.

Are you ready to stop the madness and take things up a notch?

Can you conceive of finding a better way to do things? How badly do you want it? Bad enough to try something that goes against every compulsion you currently have to keep doing what you’ve been doing all along?

Consider the prerequisite for successful change.

Have you ever noticed that when you upgrade software, the program often needs to uninstall or extract something before it can successfully run? Gardeners know that new blossoms proliferate when the old flowers and branches have been pruned. Bargain shoppers know that stores sell older merchandise at a significant discount to get it off the shelves to make room for what’s coming in the new season.

How about you?

What tried and true ways of doing things have lost their leverage?

How willing are you to recognize that perhaps there is a better way of doing things than what you’ve done up to this point? All change begins with awareness that is coupled with desire. To move beyond your madness, try the following:

  • Pay attention to the times during the day that you feel the most anxious, stressed, or tense. Recognize the pattern of thought or behavior you are engaging in that may be causing this discomfort. This may be a prime area for you to make a shift.
  • Ask yourself some discerning questions such as, “What small, but powerful change could I make today that would allow me to be more effective and make the most of my opportunities?”
  • Notice what catches your attention in the coming days. The answers to your questions will reveal themselves to you, but you must open yourself up to them and be willing to listen.

Once you begin to notice that the patterns and triggers that create the highest degree of anxiety, stress and pressure – and the impact they are having in your life, they begin to lose their hold on you. When you open yourself to new ways of doing things, you move from a point of view to a higher viewing point – one that allows you to see solutions that may have previously evaded you. Allowing yourself to envision and believe in a new way of doing things will transform your frustration into fuel and help you summon the courage you need to overcome obstacles along the way.

If you are interested in specific strategies for breaking through old habits and patterns that no longer serve you so that you can create more freedom and flow in your work and your life, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Registration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 with the code EARLYBIRD2 to take advantage of the early bird discount!

How to Create Your Ideal Job

Diane Bolden Professional Executive Coach“Whatever you do in this life, take time to sit quietly and let the world tell you what it needs from you. Take a moment to honestly understand what your gifts are – you all have them. The way you choose to live your life brings meaning to your life.” 

~ Ann Reed

I’m continually amazed by the number of people who stay in jobs they are miserable doing.

Many rationalize that they must make the best of it, but in refusing to consider the options that are often right in front of them, they may not even realize what the “best” is. When we allow ourselves to stagnate, ignoring the impulses and desires we may have to bust out of our self-created constraints, we also unintentionally block the energy that we could be freeing up in those who surround us, whether they be direct reports, peers, customers, family members, or others. We do not do the world any favors by playing small.

You possess an inborn talent that allows you to do something in a way that no one else can. 

When you find this talent and apply it to an area of opportunity or need within an organization, you can create a job for yourself that will reward you with immense satisfaction and fulfillment. You’ll find you can achieve extraordinary results with ease and accomplish things people previously thought were impossible. And you’ll serve a vital function for the organization or community of which you are a part, which will in turn give you a deep sense of meaning and purpose.

The key is to pay attention.

 Notice what you do that leads to extreme satisfaction and joy and seems to come naturally to you. It’s easy to downplay our strengths—to rationalize that they are no big deal or that everyone can do what you believe are silly little things as well as you can. The truth is that not only can everybody not do those things with the level of skill and finesse that you can, but also that not everybody would want to.

Creating your ideal job or opportunity is a lot like looking for the perfect candidate for a job.

Except in reverse. When companies look to hire someone, they do well to spend time identifying the specific qualifications the ideal candidate will possess. When creating the ideal opportunity, you are that ideal candidate spelling out the distinct responsibilities and kind of work that would be a perfect match for your talents.

The more specific and concrete the job description and ideal candidate description, the more likely a company will find their key player. And the more specific and concrete your picture of your ideal opportunity, the more likely it will come finding you. The clarity of your vision will compel you to act in ways that make you the ideal candidate and enable you to position yourself as a contender.

Even if all you can start doing right now is entertain the idea that perhaps there is something grander out there for you that is aligned with your talent, interests, and passion, you will begin to mobilize energy in ways you could not before.

The more you can internally make it real for yourself, the more it will outwardly come to be.

As you move toward unleashing your true talent and being open to the opportunities that begin to present themselves to you, you will see the way to lead others—inspiring them to bring out the best in themselves by showing them how it is done.

Interested in more strategies for getting clarity on your ideal work and taking steps to move toward it? Stay tuned for more information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow, or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.

How to Survive (and Thrive) in Change and Chaos

 

How to Survive and Thrive in Change and ChaosMany of us are experiencing a great deal of pressure, anxiety and change.

The holidays are upon us. The leadership of our country is transitioning. And many are in the midst of personal or professional change as well. Frustration and turmoil are common responses to this kind of uncertainty and disorientation, leading to exhaustion and hopelessness. But consider this as you think about things that may feel as though they are spinning out of control…

What if the only thing truly standing in your way of peace, productivity, and purpose – was your thinking?

One of the key attributes embodied by extraordinary leaders in all walks of life is encapsulated in the word “responsibility” – not just in a moral or ethical sense of being accountable for our actions, but also remembering that there is wisdom in recognizing that we have the ability to choose our response. That response we choose will have a resounding impact on ourselves and everyone around us.

Here are four tips to help you move gracefully through change and chaos:

(1) Identify what is within your power to influence.

The greatest change agents start by recognizing what they have to work with before identifying change that can be sustained. They don’t waste their time worrying about things that are truly out of their control, like changing the weather. Instead, they focus their attention and energy on those things that they can influence. The greatest leaders know that the most powerful and sustainable change must start from within themselves.

(2) Recognize your stories.

 “We are not troubled by things, but by the opinion we have of things.” – Epictetus

 The thing that fascinates me about a seemingly chaotic state of affairs is not so much what is happening, but the stories we are telling ourselves about what it means and the impact those stories are having on the way we are responding to it. When we react to things with fear, we end up amplifying what we are afraid of and add to the anxiety. Our fears drive us to act in ways that keep us from acting on our intuition and finding the answers that will truly serve us. Sometimes, we end up behaving in ways that make our fictional stories become real.

As an example, when you are feeling so overwhelmed that you question whether you’ll get all the important things done, you are likely to approach things in a way that draws them out – perhaps by procrastinating, making things more complicated than they need to be, or using more energy to resist and worry than it would take to actually get things done.

(3) Think of the worst-case scenario.

Our rational minds want answers and security. They need to figure everything out and almost automatically occupy themselves with trying to sort through data to arrive at conclusions. The problem is that our minds are plugging imaginary variables into the equation that end up further exacerbating the anxiety we are already experiencing. When they are done with one variable, they plug in another and the churning continues, leaving us with an uneasiness that keeps us on edge.

In the grip of this madness, sometimes the best thing you can do is indulge your mind with a variable that will allow it to do its thing. Go ahead and plug in the worst-case scenario. If the worst possible thing happened, what would you do? Allow yourself to sit with that question for awhile. Let the fear move through you and keep asking the question, what would I do that would allow everything to be OK? If you sit long enough with your question, you will arrive at some workable alternatives and reconnect with that part of yourself that is strong, resourceful and resilient.

(4) Now, come back to the present.

Armed with the knowledge that you will be OK even if the worst possible thing happens, you can come back into the present and recognize your fearful thoughts for what they are – fearful thoughts. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, which I pass along frequently, is don’t believe everything you think.

In the present moment, devoid of your stories about variables that are truly unknown, you are OK. And when new events begin to unfold, if you stay in the moment and access your inner wisdom, you will know exactly what you need to do – or not to do – to be OK then too. And as you go about your daily life in this way, your calm resolve will permeate your interactions with others and through your example, you will help others to rise to their challenges in ways that unearth the greatness in themselves as well.

Interested in additional strategies for navigating change, challenge, and uncertainty with effectiveness and grace? Stay tuned for more information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.

 

PinocchioThe above article contains excerpts from my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Beavailable on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

 

 

The Art of Conscious Living and Why it is Essential to Leadership

 

Professional Guidance by Diane Bolden.Every once in awhile I treat myself to a massage.

It is especially enjoyable when my muscles are sore. I make a special effort to be as aware of every little sensation as I can – so that nothing escapes my perception. I want to completely immerse myself in the experience and enjoy every second of it. And when I do this, I have often felt as though it might be possible to slow time down. While this is likely not possible, I do think being intensely present allows us to fill each second of our time with more awareness, more enjoyment and more of life’s sweetness than ever.

I contrast this to how I have felt at the end of a long day.

Faced with somewhat banal or unpleasant activities as being stuck in traffic, cleaning up after our dog or cat, or getting a cavity filled, I’ve found that I can disengage altogether and occupy my mind with other things. And when I do, things seem to have a way of speeding up. The whole experience becomes distant and a bit blurred. I can drive all the way home and not be able to recall a single landmark I passed along the way.

Knowing I can slow down or speed up time for myself like this is interesting to me.

But what is even more intriguing – and somewhat unsettling – is the thought of how much of my life is spent somewhere between these two extremes, on a kind of auto pilot. How many times when talking with a friend has my mind been somewhere else – reviewing my “to do” list, thinking of what I could cook for dinner, or even determining what I want to say next? How many times when my kids came proudly marching into the house to show me their latest artwork did I half-heartedly glanced up from what I was doing and offer feigned enthusiasm? What I missed in those moments is something I can never get back.

I used to think it was vital to capture special times on film.

I lugged around a camera, camcorder (or both) at the kids’ recitals, ball games, or during vacations and holiday dinners.  Then one day I realized I was so caught up in getting the perfect shot that I missed those precious moments altogether. And it’s never quite the same when you watch the video.

So I started resisting the urge to reach for those devices (or even bring them at all).

Instead, I made it a point to simply immerse myself in whatever was going on. And I believe the quality of my memories has improved significantly – even if I don’t have a lot of photos or videos to show for it.

What if we lived more often with the presence of not wanting to miss a thing?

How much stronger would we connect with each other? How much more of our special moments together would we actually experience and enjoy? How much more trust could we inspire and cultivate? How much more joy could we create?

How many more problems would we solve with solutions that addressed those little things that previously escaped our awareness and came back to bite us? How much more of our very selves could we bring to everything we do and everyone we are with? And how much better the world would be because of it!

Perhaps as we become more aware of the degree to which we are really showing up, we can begin to gauge how much of our lives we are truly living.  And then we can consciously create – and enjoy – lives worth living for.

Conscious living is akin to engagement, a topic about which much has been written over the last several years. It is the lifeblood of not only enjoying our work and bringing our very best to it, but also to creating thriving organizational cultures that lead people to come alive, attract raving customers and allow people and organizations to stand out in the marketplace. If you are interested in increasing your own level of engagement and learning how to help others do the same, stay tuned for my upcoming online course and group intensive: The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow.

This program is designed to help high achieving professionals bring out their very best performance in such a way that fills them up rather than depleting them – and allows them to make a bigger impact doing meaningful, inspiring work while leading others to do the same. Stay tuned for more information or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available. 

How to Unlock the Power of Gratitude

 

 

Diane Bolden What are you grateful for as an executive?“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
– Melodie Beattie

Someone once sent me the above quote in a card.

I remember being very moved when I read it. It speaks to our ability to interrupt what seems like a perpetual condition of restless yearning. From such an early age, we become conditioned to always look for more – to achieve more, to have more, to become more. With such an orientation, even the fruits of our labor are not fully embraced before we feel compelled to run off and do something else.

Gratitude is a state of being rather than doing.

It is a matter of what we focus on. All of our striving and yearning keeps us fixated on what we do not yet have, but desperately want. It leaves us in a state of lack, feeling as though we must compensate for something. Gratitude reverses that and allows us to soak up and truly experience the fullness of what is already ours. In gratitude, we can fully appreciate the richness of life around us – no matter what it looks like. From that state, we can more fully connect with those we love and appreciate and truly enjoy each moment as it unfolds.

Soon the day we call Thanksgiving will be upon us.

It brings with it the opportunity to celebrate – if only for a day – the richness and bounty that is ours. But this state of appreciation and celebration does not need to stop after the day is done.

For all that we want, there is much that we already have.

When we shift our minds into states of gratitude, we are likely to act in ways that bring more to be thankful for. As I love and appreciate the important people in my life, I become more lovable. As I give my time and attention to others, I realize there is a place within me from which I have much more to give. Even with the things I really want in life, I can begin to realize the small (and big ways) in which those things are already here – and be fully present to the manner in which they are already unfolding, trusting in life’s beautiful mystery.

No matter who you are or what your life is like, you have something to be grateful for.

It has been said that whatever your place your attention, energy, and focus on will expand. Perhaps this is the true art and power of gratitude – our ability to be in a place of joy and abundance and magnify it in such a way that it truly enhances the quality of our own lives, and everyone around us as well.

If you find yourself in an environment that is difficult to appreciate or feel that what you really want is a change of some sort, gratitude might be a difficult place to start to begin crafting your desired future. In my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow, I teach high achieving professionals strategies for leveraging their experiences to move closer to their ideal vision so they can make a bigger impact doing meaningful, inspiring work and enjoy their lives more – both on and off the job. Stay tuned for more information or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon become available.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

What is Life Trying to Teach You?

 

Have you ever had one of those days/weeks/months where it felt like one darn thing after another?

Diane Bolden What is Life Trying to Teach You? Career and Personal Coach.It has been said that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

But these ideas enter into us long before they are ready to be brought into the world. They prepare us, transform us, and lead us through a myriad of experiences that allow us to develop what we need in order to manifest them.

These experiences are not always pleasant.

We suffer disappointments, setbacks, frustrations. During times like these it is easy to feel as though life would be just fine as soon as these turbulences subside. But what if these little disturbances are the very things we need in order to breathe life into these visions that lie within us?

How many of the world’s greatest healers once experienced some kind of malady that they needed to overcome on their own before they had what it took to help others through the same challenge? How many people transcended their suffering by finding meaning in it and then went on to help others do the same? How many leaders rose to great heights charged with a mission of improving an organization or a community after having experienced something that needed to be changed?

What does this suggest for you?

If your journey as a leader will require you to exercise courage, you may find yourself in several situations that scare the hell out of you. If it requires you to show compassion, you may find yourself in situations where you must learn to transform your anger into something more constructive.

You will continue to draw to yourself the experiences you need to develop what is required to bring your vision into the world. The blessing and the curse in all of this is that those experiences will continue to present themselves until you finally learn the things you need to learn.

We learn best through action.

Early in my career as an instructor and developer of courses and workshops, I realized that an effective learning experience required a balance of lecture and discussion with some kind of experiential activity that would allow participants to translate into action what they just learned in theory. Life has a beautiful way of doing this for us.

The funny thing is that in the classroom no one ever much seemed to enjoy breaking into pairs and triads and having to practice something they were not very good at yet, and the same thing seems to be true when those experiences present themselves in our daily lives.

But life doesn’t give up on us.

If it doesn’t go so well with one person or situation, we get another to practice on. And it doesn’t even matter so much how well we do with these challenges, as long as we show up and do what’s in front of us. We will continue to be given opportunities to choose different responses, learn from them and adapt our behavior once again.

Think about anything you ever had to learn.

You began at the beginning. You started with the easy stuff. Then when you became stronger and more capable, you went onto a more advanced level, where the challenges were tougher and you had to apply greater skill, muscle and intellect. You emerged from each of these lessons with something you didn’t have before. And you couldn’t have acquired it through any other route than your own experience.

Low and behold – there is order in chaos.

As I began coaching executives several years ago, the emphasis in my work shifted from trying to impart a lesson to helping people learn from their own experiences and see the perfect order in which things are unfolding in their personal and professional lives to help them get where they truly want to go.

The pertinent thing was no longer to give people answers, but rather to help them find their own and to recognize they already possess everything they need to get them through whatever challenge is before them. And this is something each of us can do as leaders to help those around us on their own journeys as well.

What is life trying to teach you or prepare you for right now?  

And how can you seize these opportunities in front of you to bring out your very best so that you can help someone else do the same?

“The future enters into us in order to transform us, long before it happens.” – Rainer Maria Wilke

What is Your Personal and Professional Blueprint?

Have you ever driven by a construction site and wondered what was being built? 

What is your personal and professional blueprint?You may have seen people working diligently, each focused on their own specific task.  Maybe there were steel girders, half constructed walls, and unidentifiable objects at various stages of completion.

Upon first glance, it likely appears chaotic and messy.

But amidst the sawdust and cement blocks, something pulls it all together.  Though we may not know exactly what the larger plan is, over time the construction starts to take shape and we begin to recognize a room here, and another there.  Soon we can start to surmise the purpose and function of each room.

As the walls are plastered and paint is applied, the appearance becomes neater.

And suddenly, it is completed in all its glory – a stunning compilation of raw materials, sweat, and focused action.

Perhaps we too build things in this way.  It is nice to know in advance exactly what we are building.  But at times things may feel chaotic, disconnected and random.  We have some experiences that uplift us and others that disappoint.  Often we are without an explanation of why certain events and experiences are taking place.

But maybe underneath it all, there is a larger plan at work.

One that will reveal itself over time.  As we undertake each new experience, another wall is constructed and a new room is being built.  What if we were willing to experience our lives with the same wonder and curiosity with which we look upon that building undergoing construction?  And what if we were able to engender that same enthusiasm and optimism in everyone around us?

Are you willing to entertain the thought that somewhere within you there is a perfect blueprint of everything your life and your leadership will bring about?

And can you delight in the mystery of its gradual unfolding?

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” 

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

A Question Worth Considering

child runningWe stepped out into the crisp January air, her small, sweet  hand wrapped in mine.  She smiled with her whole body as we began our walk to the park.  Each of my steps was two or three for her.  We paused often to smell flowers and watch bugs zig zag across the sidewalk.  The sun’s rays danced on the leaves of the elm trees above us and filtered softly onto our shoulders.  The birds showered us with song.

It was a brand new day.  A brand new year, for that matter.  And we were seizing it.

My morning with my three year old niece was a liberating one.  It took us twenty glorious minutes to make our way a few hundred yards from the house my husband grew up in to the old elementary school grounds down the street.  When we got there, Lucy stretched her arms out like wings and ran joyfully across the playground as the wind playfully tossed her wavy blond locks and almost seemed to lift her off the ground.  She was freedom personified.  Sheer joy.  Exuberance.

And I thought, this is what I want more of in my life.

Maybe it was the week of vacation that preceded our little walk that allowed me to forget about all the thoughts that had furiously competed for my attention before we left for our trip.  Perhaps it was being a few hundred miles away from home and all the things that needed to be done – tasks yet to be finished and those yet to come.  Or maybe it was the sheer inspiration of my beautiful little companion that allowed me to be fully and completely present, immersing myself in each moment and allowing it to unfold without any interference on my part.  I felt alive.  Vibrant.  Happy.

We tottered on balance beams, skipped across hopscotch squares, and visited a coop of chickens, watching them peck at the ground and contemplating what each bird’s name should be.  But the highlight of our little jaunt was the tall, spiraling slide that crowned the jungle gym.  Lucy had decided she wanted to ride down on my lap.  We got half way up and stopped.  She looked up to our destination, and then down from where we had started and said, “That’s high.”

“Yes, it is sweetie,” I replied.  “We don’t have to go up there if you don’t want to.”

She looked at me for a moment and then wrinkled her brow with determination and resolve.  “I want to slide!”

“OK then.  Here we go…”  We climbed the last couple of steps and squatted onto the platform. Lucy sat tall on my lap, brimming with courage and delight.  “One, two, three!”  As we let go and spiraled down the slide, the squeal of her laughter brought a wild and uninhibited smile to my face.

And I thought again, this is what I need more of in my life.  Maybe this is what we all need more of in our lives.

I know.  It’s easy for a three year old to experience sheer joy and bliss at the very prospect of being alive.  They have no responsibilities, no bills to pay, no people depending on them.  They have yet to experience heartbreak, disappointment, and disillusionment.  And let’s face it – our adult lives are a lot more complicated than a day at the park playing hopscotch and watching bugs and chickens.  I still can’t help but think about it.

Now, back at my desk, staring at my Outlook calendar, I can still feel  the childlike wonder and euphoria of that day.  It begs the question, how can I bring more of that to my life?  To my work?  To the world?

This question has begun to deepen and grow roots.  It has taken on a life of its own.  It peeks out from my computer screen and beckons to me.  It lands softly in my mind as I drive to and from appointments.  It jumps out of file folders and onto my desk.  It takes a seat at the table when I meet with my clients.  And it brings with it more questions…

What if we could somehow strip our daily activities of the assumptions and heaviness they have accumulated over the years and approach things with the same sense of curiosity and delight that little Lucy did on that beautiful January morning?

Could we rediscover and ignite our passion for living in all the many areas of our lives – including the countless hours we spend at work?

Could we find a way to mute the thoughts that keep us from being totally present with people in our lives so that we could really be with them?

Could we let go of our preconceived ideas of how things are supposed to be and allow them to unfold the way they need to, trusting that we will summon whatever resources are necessary to deal with things as they come?

Could we respond to situations that push us out of our comfort zones with the fortitude and tenacity that Lucy displayed on the towering spiral slide?

Imagine what life would be like if we did…  How much more joy we would experience.  How creative we could be.  How courageous and resilient.  How our relationships would deepen and grow.  How meaningful our work would become.

I, for one, think it’s a question worth considering.  And just maybe, the very attention we put on the question will begin to illuminate the answers we need most.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cover-NewTag-04SEP2013For more on reconnecting with your childlike sense of wonder and joy, check out my book  The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader now available in both ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.

Photo courtesy of Jens Schott Knudsen.

Are Your Habits Hurting You?

domino question - Free Digital PhotosWe all aim to develop good routines.  But most of us have a few habits that cause problems too.  Maybe it’s the way your temper flares when people don’t do what you want them to.  Perhaps it’s a tendency to turn the other way when things get stressful – to go bury your head in the sand or find something to do that keeps you from having to address issues.  Maybe it’s your inclination to take so many things on that you are running yourself ragged, or a habit of staying in your comfort zone instead of taking the bold leaps you dream about in your quiet hours.

Sometimes even good habits reach a point where they no longer serve you all that well, like the habit of diving into the details after you’ve just been made a leader of leaders who really needs to rely on others to do that for you.   But we tend to hang onto those routine ways of doing things long after they have outlived their value.  Not because they are particularly gratifying, but because they are comfortable and familiar.

Habits act as defaults. We do them without having to think much at all.  They are ingrained behaviors that we revert to when things get stressful, and they have a way of taking over and putting us on autopilot.

There may come a time, though, when habits that never really used to be a problem start making some waves in your life.  They may hurt your effectiveness on the job, or your ability to really connect with others.  They could keep you playing small instead of really stepping into and realizing your potential and living your dreams.  And sometimes they become painful.

I am a runner.  I don’t train and sign up for marathons or anything.  I just do it to clear my head and release tension – and because it makes me feel good.  When I first started running, I just wanted to be able to go for awhile without getting too tired.  I was happy when I managed to get off my butt and just get outside.  Then I started to run a little longer.  And then gradually a little faster.

But the more intensely I did things the way I had always done them, the more I began to notice that I was having pain.  My hips hurt.  My shins were stiff.  There were periods where the discomfort became so intense that I had to lay off running for awhile until my body healed.  And then I noticed it wasn’t long before I was having some kind of pain again.  It was a little maddening.

Interestingly enough, one of my new clients, Nicole Armbrust, is a physical therapist who works with runners to improve efficiency and prevent injury.  She encouraged me to have an assessment.  I was a little hesitant.  Really?  Do I really want someone to tell me about all the things that I should be doing differently?  Do I really want to change something that for the most part was making me feel so good?  The next time I went running and began to feel that familiar stiffness that I knew would morph into  throbbing later, I realized it was time for a change – even though I knew it would not necessarily be a comfortable one.

Nicole examined how my muscles and ligaments worked.  She listened intently as I told her about my history and all my injuries.    She videotaped me walking.  And then running.  And then she had me try some stretches and other exercises.  Alas, many of the things I was afraid of were true.  The strides I was taking were too long.  I was landing on the wrong part of my foot.  One of my hips was tighter than the other, causing me to overcompensate – which of course was adding to my injuries.

She gave me a metronome, which she believes will help correct a large percentage of my problems.  Apparently, much of what I really need to do to correct 95% of my problems is run to a faster beat, which would lead me to take smaller strides and push off and land on the right parts of my feet.

The first time I tried it, I hated it.  It was unnatural.  And I couldn’t just slip into my zone and forget about what my body was doing.  It was an effort to keep my feet hitting the ground that fast.  And my faithful running buddy, a golden retriever named Bellissima, was thrown off too.  “What the heck?”  I could swear that was going through her head when she looked up at me with those big brown eyes of hers.  I was right there with her.

But the more I practiced with that new way of doing things, the less pain I have had, and the faster I can run.  I can run longer and more often.  And I am enjoying myself again.

I think life is a little like that.  Often we don’t seek help until things begin to hurt us.  And though it’s kind of sad that we wait until things become painful to try something different – it is often just the springboard we need to find better ways of doing and being.

Maybe your last temper explosion led people to no longer want to support you, and you are ready to figure out ways of better channeling your anger.  Perhaps the things you were avoiding came to a head in a less than optimal way that made things even more unpleasant and you want to keep that from happening again.  Maybe you have totally burned yourself out and are starting to realize that there has to be a better way of doing things.  Or perhaps the window of opportunity you have been carefully planning and preparing for closed before you dared to act on it and you’re tired of missing out.

When your habits begin to hurt you, you get to decide what you are going to do about them. It’s a crossroads that can be challenging – because though you might be experiencing pain and discomfort with your habit, it likely will seem as though anything you might need to do differently will be even worse.  And that is the root of resistance.

But what I have found through my own experience, as well as that of so many others – friends, clients, colleagues – is that the pain caused by resistance is far worse than anything it would have you avoid.

Maybe you don’t need to wait until it comes to a head.  We all have habits that no longer serve us.  And you already likely know what habit (or habits) are bringing you down.  So the question is, what are you going to do about it?

PinocchioPrincipleIn my next post, I’ll write about how to change the habits that hurt you.  If you want some support changing bad habits, you might want to consider working with a coach.  For more information on executive and leadership coaching, visit http://www.dianebolden.com/coaching.html or or contact me to schedule a complimentary coaching call. And if you are more of a “do it yourselfer”, check out my new video program, On the Road to Real or pick up a copy of my book The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, available at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com.

If you are interested in a running assessment, click here to find out more about Nicole Armbrust or contact her at n.armbrust@spoonerphysicaltherapy.com.

Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This Could Be the Biggest Obstacle to Doing Your Best Work

barrier - free digital photosMy last post, How to Not Be a Slave to Your To Do List, was written just as much for me as it was for you. So I’ve taken my own advice.  I cleared space on my calendar.  I eviscerated my to do list and calendared time to do the stuff I’ve been wanting to do for so long now.  I cleared space and scheduled time to work on my next book.  And I finally sat down to do it.

I opened a document and typed a few words.  And then I stared at the blinking cursor for awhile.  I took a deep breath, read what I had just written, then deleted it and typed something else in its place.  But I didn’t like that either.

I reviewed some notes I had scribbled down a few days prior to see if I could get any inspiration.  It didn’t help.  My gaze went from my screen to my keyboard, where my hands were perched, ready and agile.  Still nothing.

I saw an email notification in the corner of my screen.  Resisting the urge to check my inbox, I closed my Outlook program.

And I sat for several more minutes.  Stuck.  Maybe this isn’t the best time.  Maybe I should go do something else for awhile.  At that moment, anything sounded preferable.  I could trim my fingernails, reorganize my desk drawers, mow the lawn.  Or the neighbor’s lawn.

But no.  I am committed to this.  It is something I have been wanting to do for a really long time.  Why is it so flipping hard?

Have you ever felt that way?

It’s no wonder that we let so many other things get in the way of taking the time to do our real work.  Our real work requires us to face our deepest fears and make our way through our toughest resistance – in the presence of our worst critics.

As soon as you make the commitment to do something important – for yourself, for others, for the world – rest assured anything that has ever stopped you before will come back in your face with an exponential force.

I didn’t get a whole lot written in that particular block of time.  But I showed up.  I didn’t run away.  And I have to say that after awhile things did begin to flow.  I strung a few paragraphs together and once I let go and gave in to the experience, I was delighted with a couple of really great insights that came spilling onto the page.  It went in a direction I hadn’t anticipated and began to take on a life of its own.

Talking with a friend a few days later, I began to realize what it was that got me stuck.

I was fixated on results at the expense of the process. I had become too attached to the end product and what it was going to get me.  I had ideas in my mind of what it would – should – look like.  And I was judging every little thing I was (and wasn’t doing).  If you can envision a small child being led to a table and told to do something, while a rather large, imposing figure stood over her with a club at her head yelling in a booming voice – you have a pretty good idea of the dynamic I had created for myself.    My child was rebelling.  My critic was becoming more and more agitated.  And neither of us really wanted to be there at all.

Perhaps you’ve heard artists or musicians talk about how they could never quit their day job to earn a living doing their craft.  “It would just suck all the joy out of it,” they may tell you.  The problem isn’t so much that they would be paid for doing what they love as it is that they risk having their focus go from the joy of being in the process to becoming too dependent on the result.

The irony is that when you detach from the result altogether and become immersed in the experience, the results tend to take care of themselves.  Superior work is created when you are engaged in what you are doing rather than what it will lead to or where it will get you.

If you have ever played golf or tennis, think about what happens when you allow your attention to go prematurely to the target before you’ve hit the ball.  You will have a crappy shot.  (You may even miss the ball altogether.)  But when you devote yourself to the process – when you are present in your body through every part of your swing, when you follow through and trust that the ball will go right where you intend it to – you have the opposite experience.

The same is true with just about anything.  Companies that focus solely on profits often neglect their customers, their employees or both and spend more time worrying about how to increase their market share and their bottom line than on the quality of their product.  Conversely, those who make it a priority to listen to their customers and employees and create cultures where people do their best work are often rewarded with a loyal following.   Comedians who desperately need a laugh often aren’t all that funny or entertaining, while those who stop worrying about what people think and have a good time on stage end up captivating their audiences and leaving them wanting more.  Artists who sacrifice their passion to pander to the crowd risk producing shallow, uninspiring work, while those who pour their hearts into what they do engage the hearts of others.

When all your attention and energy goes toward the end result, you vacate the process – along with all the energy, passion and unique gifts that go into creating something really special and valuable. Your end product will feel somewhat empty or hollow.  And it is very likely that you will too.

The good news is that the wall created by a fixation on results at the expense of the process is self imposed.  Which means that you have the ability to dismantle it.   In my next post, I’ll share seven tips for breaking through that wall the next time you are stuck.

PinocchioPrincipleIf you need help overcoming the obstacles that keep you from doing your best work, check out my new video program, On the Road to Real or pick up a copy of my book The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be,available at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. If you are interested in working one on one with me, visit http://www.dianebolden.com/coaching.html to learn more or contact me to schedule a complimentary coaching call.

Stay tuned – next week’s post is Seven Tips for Getting Out of Your Own Way and Doing Your Best Work.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.