Category Archives: Navigating Through Change, Challenge & Uncertainty

Not Seeing Results? Why You Might Be Closer Than You Think

 

Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden of Phoenix.Do you ever feel like—despite your best, most diligent, inspired effort, discipline, and patience—you don’t seem to be getting anywhere?

Maybe you have a vision that excites you – an idea of how something could be done differently, a creation you’d like to breathe life into, a way of improving your quality of life or that of others. You plan, you prepare, you do the work. Repeatedly. But despite all that effort and persistence, you have little if anything to show for it.

You might question yourself. Are you doing it right? Are you missing something?

You might get angry and try harder to control the outcome – double down your efforts, research extensively to figure out how to foolproof your plan, do whatever you can to MAKE it happen.

You may take your anger out on others. Why aren’t they cooperating? And how is it that everyone else seems to have it easier than you do?

You may question your vision. Is this really worth investing your time and energy in?

You might feel like quitting and moving onto something easier, more mainstream, with less risk or exposure. You gave it a good run. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

But the idea of throwing in the towel feels even worse than fighting what seems to be a losing battle.  

And try as you might, you just can’t shake the hold of that vision. It beckons. It haunts. It enchants – revisiting you in your quiet hours, whispering about what is possible.

What do you do?

Have you ever heard the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree?

It’s quite unusual. A farmer who plants these seeds will water, fertilize, and tend to them daily. After a year of care and nurturing, the ground looks the same way it did when the seeds were planted.

Another year will pass as the farmer continues his efforts, with no seeming growth at all. A third year of care and feeding will go by. NOTHING. And then another year of watering, fertilizing, and patiently waiting. Still nothing.

In the fifth year, small sprouts will appear. And in the six weeks that follow, the little shoot will grow up to ninety feet tall.

These seeds are like our most precious dreams and visions.

What we don’t realize about them is that while patience, faith, and perseverance may not produce tangible signs of progress for quite some time, they work wonders beneath the surface, laying the groundwork for what will follow.

To sustain the towering height these trees grow to, the root system must be deep and vast.

We too must have a strong inner foundation to ensure we have what we need before we can share it with others. So many of our efforts are a quest to prove to ourselves that we are worthy. We often mistakenly think that accolades, prestige, wealth, and all that comes with success will allow us to feel strong and fulfilled. But that approach is backwards.

The “trappings” of success fade over time and are as easily toppled as a tree with no root system.

If instead we start with a strong, grounded feeling of worthiness and appreciation for ourselves, we can extend our gifts to others knowing that we have all we need and that sharing it with others will only make us stronger – in the same way that bamboo continues to grow after it is harvested.

This strength is cultivated over time, and often happens during times that feel most barren.

We endure disappointments, we try something and fail, we learn about who we are and why we are here. This is all growth that happens beneath the surface. And it makes us strong and resilient enough to stand tall, reach high, and do the work we have been inspired to do out of joy rather than necessity.

The visions worth working for often don’t come to fruition right away.

Their timing is not something that can be controlled. When we try desperately to speed things up, we will often experience frustration, and feelings of desperation that may lead to anger and/or withdrawal. Just as we cannot peel rosebuds open or shorten the time it takes for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, we cannot rush the progress and transformation that happens with our visions and our very selves.

The “overnight success” we often hear about is often the result of years of dedication, commitment, perseverance and faith that like the growth of the Chinese bamboo tree took several years to come to fruition. As you pursue your grandest dreams and visions, many will tell you that your efforts are in vain, that you do not have what it takes, that you should quit while you are ahead.

And you may begin to question yourself as well. But as you weather these storms and continue to believe in and cultivate something that cannot yet be seen, you will ultimately be rewarded with seeing that which you believe. And it will enrich your life – and that of others in ways you may never have anticipated.

For more on bringing your grandest dreams and visions to fruition and laying the foundation necessary to sustain them, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

3 Fears That Keep Leaders From Playing a Bigger Game

 

Phoenix Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden.You’ve just been promoted. The excellent work you have been recognized for has landed you a new job with expanded responsibility and significance. Perhaps you lead an organization of other talented professionals who now look to you for guidance and support. Maybe you are a leader of leaders.

The game you were playing just got bigger – and so did the playing field.

And your role has changed. What earned you this promotion will not be enough to allow you to succeed in your new role. In fact, if you continue to do what you did before, you may actually sabotage your newfound success.

You have gone from player to coach — or perhaps manager/owner. And if you jump back into the game, no one will be there to call the shots, to develop the talent, to create a strategy to advance the standing of the team, to gain the supporters and funding that will allow the team to continue to play.

Yet despite these consequences, you — like many leaders faced with similar opportunities — may have difficulty with the transition. You may have fears:

  1. Fear than no one can do things as well (or better)
  2. Fear of becoming obsolete
  3. Fear of failure

Fear that no one can do things as well (or better)

The problem with this fear is that it is actually well-founded. Chances are, especially if you are at the top of your field, very few will be able to do the job as well as or better than you can. But that doesn’t mean you should be doing it for them — or even along with them.

And yet you will be tempted to. Especially when the stakes are high. Or when things get extremely busy and it seems like targets will not be met if you don’t jump in or take over altogether. You may hover over people, micromanaging them or smothering them with well-intentioned guidance.

But your very fear that things will fall through the cracks may well cause that which you most want to avoid. Maybe not in the short term. In the short term, you may revel in your ability to keep the balls from dropping and save the day. But as more and more begins to be added to your plate, your problem of not having people who are skilled enough to take the baton will be even greater than it was before.

Worse yet, you will have conditioned the very people you need to develop to become dependent on you and quite comfortable performing at much less than their true capacity. In the meantime, the bigger, more strategic work that you have graduated to will be piling up and fairly significant opportunities will pass you by.

Your people may well be on a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning. They won’t get everything right. And they may resist taking on the responsibilities you used to perform. But you need to transition from performer to coach.

Give them opportunities to try things out. Let them make mistakes. Then help them to learn from those mistakes and perfect their craft. And do the same for yourself in your new role.

This leads us to the second common fear that keeps leaders from playing a bigger game.

Fear of becoming obsolete

It’s not necessarily a rational fear. After all, leaders who are on the brink of playing a bigger game have plenty to do. They have a whole new role to fill. But that doesn’t stop people from worrying at some level that if they teach and empower others to do what got them accolades and attention that they will somehow lose their edge and fade into obscurity.

Often when people have performed a certain role or become masterful at a particular skill, it can become infused with their very identity. And until they have performed in their new role for awhile and become accustomed to the different kinds of activities and opportunities that it brings, they are likely to continue to identify with their old role. Which may lead them to wonder, “if I’m not that anymore, who am I?”

This ambiguity and lack of role clarity can send people back to what they know is comfortable and familiar, even when they have outgrown it. And even when going back there isn’t in their best interest (or the best interest of those they lead.)

To counteract this, it is important to fully grasp the opportunities and possibilities that playing a bigger game brings. It allows you to go from being immersed in the game with a view limited from one point on the playing field to seeing the game from several different angles. You can evaluate each player’s contribution and the way they work together.

You can change the way the game is played — and in some cases, even change the rules. But only if you free yourself up from the myriad of tasks that will always be there beckoning you to come back into the operational and out of the strategic. And the lure of the old role becomes even more enticing when you factor in the next fear that keeps many leaders from playing a bigger game.

Fear of failure 

When you go from executing the plays to determining what those plays should be, you enter unchartered territory. First off, it is likely something you won’t have a lot of experience doing. And when you don’t have a lot of experience doing something, it is uncomfortable.

You may not be very good at it in the beginning. It will be messy. You will second-guess yourself. And you will likely miss being able to do your work with the same level of confidence and ease that you did before.

It will feel a lot like going from being a senior to becoming a freshman again.

Second, the very nature being a strategic player will require you to navigate through uncertainty and ambiguity. You will be called on to blaze a trail where none previously existed. While this can be incredibly exciting and invigorating, it can also be somewhat daunting and stressful.

And when the pressure gets high, you may find it incredibly tempting to get sucked back into doing things you shouldn’t be doing anymore. Things you can check off your list and feel a sense of accomplishment from. Things that restore your confidence and give you the illusion of being in control. Things that would be better delegated to others. Or not done at all.

So when that happens, you need to remind yourself that whatever you did that allowed you to rise to new heights wasn’t likely something that always came easily to you. You had to start somewhere and struggle in the beginning before you began to gain competence and confidence. But you stuck with it and gradually got better and better. And you can do that again now.

Leadership is about “going before” others. Your new promotion will require that you wade through your fear, your discomfort, your resistance and your uncertainty to find within you the core of your true potential and act from it. And as you do so, by your very example, you will lead others to grow, expand, push their limits and play a bigger game as well.

Playing a bigger game often brings pressure and anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. You can make a bigger impact without running yourself ragged – and enjoy the process along the way. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive will show you how. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

Combating Fear With…Martial Arts?

 

Executive Leadership and Career Coach Diane Bolden of Phoenix, Arizona.Though I have been studying and reflecting on the process of working through fear for the better part of my life, my learning came to a head when I was thrown into an environment that provoked a whole spectrum of fear and anxiety. As a martial artist, after learning and practicing basic blocks, kicks, and punches, the time came to take it up a notch and begin to spar.

What does sparring have to do with your life?

What I have learned over the years as I have continued to develop my skill in this area is that sparring is metaphorical for just about any challenge you could possibly be faced with that evokes fear — making a presentation (or any kind of performance), pitching a proposal, going to a job interview, or speaking your mind, just to name a few.

These situations lead you to question whether you have what it takes.

And no matter what the challenge is, there is something at stake — your status, your security, your reputation, your comfort, your pride. However, there is one differentiating factor: with sparring there is a pretty high likelihood that you will get punched in the nose. Literally.

While many lessons come from having positive experiences, much of what I learned about working with fear came through trial and error — a lot of error.

My first error allowed me to learn about focus.

Focus is determined by what you allow to occupy your mind.

When I first started sparring, my focus was on getting it over with. I was fairly preoccupied with a feeling of inadequacy that led me to temporarily forget much of what I had learned over the previous years. Rather than trusting in what I had the ability to do, I became preoccupied by what I did not want to happen — getting hit.

And as a result, I got hit. Hard.

Then, I didn’t want to spar again for a really long time. I took myself out of the game. I allowed the fear to stop me. And my training stagnated. Until the pain of stagnation became greater than the pain of the physical blow.

When I got myself back in the game, my mind shifted from retreat to advance.

Instead of fixating on what I didn’t want, I zeroed in on what I did want. It wasn’t about not getting hit. It was about pushing through the fear. It was about applying what I had learned. It was about having more faith in what I did know than what I didn’t. And it was proving to myself that I had it in me to rise above the challenge.

I threw more punches. I closed the gaps. I began to bob and weave. I learned how to lure my opponent in so I had him right where I wanted him.

But what does that have to do with facing fear off the sparring mat?

Everything. No matter what you do, you have the choice to focus either on what you are moving toward or what you are moving away from. When you are fixated on what you want to avoid, you will hedge your bets. You won’t go all out. You’ll watch the clock. And you won’t really be engaged. You’ll cheat yourself out of the joy of the experience.

When you move toward something, you marshal the forces of desire. You ignite passion. You make what you want more important than what you fear. And this gives you the fuel to do what you really want to do — in spite of the fear.

The second tool for moving out of the grip of fear is presence.

Fear has you consumed with worrying about the future or fixated on something from the past. It keeps you in your head and prevents you from being immersed in what is happening right in front of you.

When I would try to remember a technique or think too much about how to properly execute anything, I’d miss what was happening and get hit. I had no real concept of what was happening, what was coming at me, or what I needed to do to deflect it. I felt as though I was in a blender, at the mercy of the blades and centrifugal force.

Ironically, being in my head kept me in a state of panic that kept me from thinking clearly. In fact, I became so gripped with panic that I forgot to breathe and ended up exhausting myself almost immediately.

In non-sparring environments, being in your head costs you opportunities.

When you are giving a presentation and are so intent on what you prepared that you fail to see that your audience is confused, or bored or irritated, you risk losing them. In a sales setting, being determined to stick to your pitch when your customer has questions that you didn’t plan on can keep you from making the sale.

The irony is that not deviating from what you planned because you are consumed by fear keeps you from being present and often ends up leading to that which you are most afraid of. The antidote? Let go of your preconceived ideas and hold your plans loosely so that you can be present.

When you get out of your head and become present, things slow down.

When I immersed myself in what was happening in front of me while sparring, I realized that every time my opponent would throw a punch he left himself wide open. Rather than worrying about getting hit, I began to look for vulnerabilities. And I learned that I could get him to raise his hands to his face if I threw a few high punches, which would allow me to land a couple low ones while he wasn’t expecting it.

I went from jumping around like a cricket without breathing to moving more deliberately and strategically and conserving my energy. Instead of allowing my opponent to back me into a corner, I learned to pivot and use his own force against him.

In any situation, being present leads to better connections and higher performance.

You will take in more information. You will breathe more deeply, get more oxygen to your brain and access higher creativity. You’ll be more likely to make whoever you are talking to feel more important, because you’ll be more focused on him and not yourself. You’ll think more quickly on your feet and come up with better solutions on the fly.

These insights led me to realize that often what is more important than preparation is practice, which brings us to the third tool: desensitization.

The more you expose yourself to what you fear, the less impact the fear has.

Fear never really goes away. It is a human emotion that is wired into our DNA. While we can’t change the fact that it will be ever present, we can diminish the effect it has on our performance. What allows the fear to diminish, is repeatedly being in the presence of what you fear and realizing that you will be okay.

The first time I got punched in the nose, it was horrible. And though I went to great lengths to keep it from happening again, it did. And when it did, I realized that the memory of it was far worse than the reality.

The more I sparred, the more I began to become confident in my ability to prevent it from happening. And the less my fear kept me from doing what I needed to do.

Many altercations and escalations are the product of untamed fear.

The importance of learning to spar is to develop within the martial artist the confidence to handle a physical fight if necessary — in order to prevent a conflict from escalating to the point that requires any force at all.

And the implication for each of us is that becoming confident in the face of fear allows us to rise to any challenge or opportunity with grace, wisdom and victory. In so doing, we inspire others to follow our lead.

Eleanor Roosevelt urged “Do one thing every day that scares you.” 

What would that be for you? Chances are it is connected to something you really want for yourself. As you focus on what you’re moving toward, stay fully engaged in the game and the joy of playing it, and have the courage to repeatedly put yourself in the presence of your fear, the words of Henry Ford will ring true for you as well:

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t.”

Staying fully engaged without succumbing to fear, pressure and overwhelm can be tricky. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive will give you approaches and methodologies that help you rise to the occasion and not only get better results, but also enjoy yourself in the process. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

Moving Toward Mastery: 4 Tips for Overcoming the Beginner’s Dilemma

 

Diane Bolden Leadership Coach and Mentor of Phoenix, Arizona.“Every master was once a disaster.”

I am all too familiar with that awkward, humbling stage that comes with learning something new – when you want to run with the stallions but feel more like a donkey. It’s a universal phenomenon, really. Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that, “Every artist was once an amateur.”

We can all learn a lot about our paths to proficiency by looking at the ways in which we have mastered things over the course of our lives – whether it is how to drive a car, play our favorite sport, or take up a new hobby. Upon reflection, I realized how I can transfer my learnings from one arena to the other.

(1) There is power in persistent practice.

Sometimes my yoga instructor demonstrates a pose that evokes a “you’ve got to be kidding” response from me. I always give it a try, and usually the first time I do I look a lot like I feel – completely inept. She managed to work one of those dreaded poses in for several weeks. But I gave it a shot every time, and I have to say it gradually became less awkward. Before too long I was actually able to hold the pose – even if only for a few seconds. And I realized the more I practiced, the better I would get and the easier and more fun it would become.

Isn’t that like life, though? Every day there are things you can sail through and there are those things that require practice and patience before you can feel even the least bit effective. But if you keep at it, one day you will surprise yourself with how far you have come. And everything that led up to that point will be worth it.

(2) Learn from and admire others, but don’t compare yourself to them.

As a novice, you watch people perform so that you can see how things are done. And even as you gain skill, you can still learn a lot from others’ examples. But the minute you begin to compare yourself, you will lose your focus and dilute your effectiveness. This is true regardless of whether comparing yourself to others makes you feel inferior or superior.

When we gauge how well we are doing by comparing ourselves to others, the energy and focus that is required to perform effectively becomes scattered. And if you do not believe you can do something, you will inevitably prove yourself right. On the other end of the spectrum, when you believe you are outperforming others and become a little too smug, your confidence can turn into arrogance, which shifts your focus from what you are doing to how others are perceiving you. And anything that is more focused on appearances than substance lacks foundation and eventually crumbles.

The best of the best gain their confidence from within – as a product of their effort, focus, and the results that come with effort and focus. They don’t need to compare themselves to other to know that they are good – or to learn that they can get even better.

(3) Lighten up and have some fun.

When we get all balled up in knots trying to make things perfect and avoiding every possible misstep, we risk becoming stagnant and playing small. Getting too attached to the results leads us to stiffen up and become consumed with needing things to happen in the exact way we want them to. Without flexibility, we lose our ability to bend and make the necessary course corrections that allow us to ultimately excel. If you ever look at the top performers in any industry, sport, or artistic endeavor you will notice that accompanying their intensity is an ability to relax into their game in such a way that it appears easy and natural. The ability to play at work is another mark of the master.

(4) Replenish yourself regularly.

In our frenetic lives, it is easy to forget about the importance of pausing every once in awhile to make the most of our experiences – whether by giving ourselves a needed break, or simply taking a moment to assess where we are going, to what degree we are still on course, and what, if any, course corrections are necessary. Being willing to invest our precious time into replenishing ourselves in this way pays handsome dividends – and sometimes the times we think we can’t afford to slow down are in fact the times we cannot afford not to.

The speed and effectiveness with which we move toward mastery is a direct result of the way in which we approach our challenges and opportunities. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive is a program designed to help you make a bigger impact while enjoying the process, both on and off the job. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

How to Up Level Your Game by Upgrading Your Internal Programming

 

Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden of Phoenix Arizona.Imagine that software you’ve relied on for years stops working for you.

You notice that it has been freezing up a lot. At first, it didn’t really bother you. But now these little glitches are happening so often that you’re having trouble getting things done.

When you look into the problem, you find you are not the only one that has been experiencing it. Much to your relief, a new version of the program is being rolled out that has fixed all the bugs. And happily, this updated program is now available for you to download.

The same thing happens to each of us. 

We are cruising along doing what we’ve always done only to find it just isn’t working so well anymore. We aren’t getting the results we wanted. Or worse, what worked before is actually causing new problems. And despite our best efforts, these problems are throwing a big monkey wrench in things.

So how do you find a bug in your program?

First, you start by recognizing that you aren’t getting the results you want. And then you work backward. Finding the bug in your program requires that you detach from your actions in such a way that you can observe and evaluate them.

One way to do this is to replay events in your mind to identify any causal factors.

You can do this in the car on the way home from work as you mentally review the day’s events and evaluate what went well and what didn’t. You can journal about it. Or you can talk with someone who is an objective third party, like a friend, family member, mentor or coach.

The bug in your program is almost always a knee jerk reaction.

Knee jerk reactions are the product of conditioning—what happens when a behavior becomes so automatic that you no longer need to think about it. And conditioning is good when it leads you to behave in a way that is constructive—like when you practice a new skill over and over again until you can do it without having to remind yourself of each step.

But conditioning that leads you to spring into action when what you really need to do is give a little more consideration to your response can get you into trouble.

There is a neurobiological component to conditioning.

Every time you practice something or respond to a stimulus in a certain way, you are creating neural networks in your brain. Neurons that fire together wire together. And the more they fire, the stronger and more automatic their connections (and your behaviors) get. Conversely, when a neural network is interrupted or not used for a certain period of time, these connections begin to weaken.

Once you have identified the bug, you can begin to eliminate it.

Simply being aware of a knee jerk reaction will begin to loosen its grip on you. This is not to say that someone could instantaneously eradicate a bug and immediately improve his or her results. It takes time. Awareness is half the battle.

Initially, errors are not caught until after the fact, but with increased awareness and attention, you can notice them sooner and sooner. The time it takes to realize blunders drops from hours to minutes, and, with continued diligence, you’re able to take steps to correct them in real time. Ultimately, you can get to the point where you can prevent yourself from engaging in this automatic reaction altogether.

As the bug is eliminated, the program can be upgraded.

Upgrading the program is a matter of replacing an old behavior with a new one. Unlike software upgrades, this one doesn’t isn’t a matter of a simple download. It requires attention, thought and persistence.

As mentioned previously, neural networks that correspond to old, undesirable patterns of behavior weaken when they are not engaged. And as they weaken, repeated practice allows new neural nets to be formed that support a more desirable behavior.

But doesn’t creating new neural networks require a huge amount of practice?

The interesting thing about the formation of these neural networks is that they do not have to happen in real time. Research has shown that mentally rehearsing a new pattern of behavior leads to the same growth in neural networks that physical practice does.

Really. If you replay the situation you wish you could have handled differently and “edit” your action to the desirable choice, you are literally rewiring your brain to act the correct way in the future.

Doing so will allow you to create and increasingly rely on new neural networks when in situations that necessitated different responses. Gradually, you are able to replace your tendency to demand compliance with a more thoughtful, respectful, and engaging approach to influencing others.

Let’s review the process of upgrading your internal programming:

  • Step One: Find your bug. The first step is to recognize when you have a tendency to engage in behavior that keeps you from getting the results you desire. Most likely this will be a knee jerk reaction that propels you into action before you have a chance to think.
  • Step Two: Disempower your bug. Becoming aware of behavior you fall into and the impact it has on your effectiveness ultimately weakens its hold on you because while it still may be automatic, it is no longer unconscious. Though falling into old patterns when you know better is frustrating, this awareness is a sign of tremendous progress.
  • Step Three: Substitute a new program for the old one. As your old habits and the corresponding neural nets that lead you to engage in them begin to weaken, you can replace them with new behaviors. The more you practice these new behaviors (whether physically or mentally), the stronger the new neural networks and your new patterns will become. And the less you engage the old behaviors, the weaker and less prominent the old neural networks (and the corresponding behaviors) get.

If you find yourself engaging in behavior that is interfering with your effectiveness, the most important thing to remember is that you are not the program that is running it. You are the programmer. You have the ability to consciously choose the behaviors and the responses you have to any given stimulus.

Though interrupting and upgrading your internal programming takes time, the results will be well worth your effort. And the best part is that you don’t have to lodge a complaint with or rely on anyone but yourself in order to do it.

Now if only we could keep those darn devices from freezing up!

Getting Connected: What Intuition and the Internet Have in Common

 

Diane Bolden - Professional Executive and Leadership Coach“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.” ~ Jonas Salk

 Lately, I have been marveling over the wonder that is the internet.

My kids called me “ancient” when I explained that when I was a student, doing a research paper entailed spending hours in a library pouring over books and periodicals to get the required information. They can’t imagine what a world without the internet would be like. And frankly, neither can I. The vast amount of data available at our fingertips at any given moment is truly amazing. Most of us don’t really think all that much about it anymore. We just expect it.

What if you had a faster way of accessing your inner wisdom?

After musing a little more, it hit me that the logical mind is to the library as intuition (or gut instinct) is to the internet. When we are in our heads, using logical, analytical thought it’s a lot like only being able to read the books on a bookshelf, or using a computer that is offline. We only have access to the data that is stored in the immediate vicinity, which can be largely outdated or even obsolete.

And living in our heads often requires quite a bit of time and energy to try to figure stuff out and make things happen just the way we think they should. When it doesn’t, we often get frustrated, try harder to get everything to work, and ultimately feel like we just keep hitting walls. The frustration can lead us to cut ourselves off from our intuition, which like the internet, has access to far greater things than we might realize.

Intuition connects us to a rich source of data we may not otherwise notice.

Accessing our intuition allows us to connect to knowledge that surpasses what we can directly see, feel, hear, touch, or taste. We plug into information that allows us to feel connected to others – to hear beyond the words they are speaking to what they are not saying but feeling. We tap into the realm of possibilities and opportunities and begin to discern what we can do to leverage and act on them. We can also pick up warnings about options that are not in our best interest. When we are in our heads, we miss these things and/or inclined to resist them because they are seemingly irrational or inexplicable.

Connecting to intuition allows us not only to receive data but also to send it.

It’s a lot like doing a search on the internet. When you want to learn about something, you enter a key word and then receive a variety of links that will take you to more information on the subject. Similarly, when you set your intention on something you want in your life – peace, clarity, or a satisfying resolution in some conflict or challenge – you send a signal to the vast field beyond what is in your head that gathers information and energy aligned with that intention and brings it into your awareness. You access an infinite field of creativity and wisdom from which the greatest inventions, discoveries, and creations of our time originated.

We all access intuition in our own way.

For some, it is visual – like seeing a picture or words on a screen or in the mind. Others can get it through audio, perhaps picking up words in a song, a conversation, or even hearing words in their heads. And many of us get a feeling or a strong prompting to do one thing or another. Sometimes our experiences themselves take on increased significance when we begin to recognize that what is taking place has some relation to our inquiry or intention. When we act on these inklings, things have a way of falling into place in such a way that our intention comes to pass.

Unlike the internet, our connection to this greater field is always accessible.

When we consciously rely on it, keeping our thoughts focused on what we want most in life, we will experience a sense of flow, peace, and deep satisfaction that mirrors our state of mind. When we allow our connections to become interrupted with frustration, doubt, anxiety and fear, we tend to draw to ourselves experiences that match those thoughts.

Try it and see for yourself.

The next time you catch yourself feeling anxious or stressed—frustrated about not being able to solve a problem, resolve a conflict, tackle a challenge—make a conscious decision to move from your head to your gut, and then balance the two. Choose what you want to experience and allow that to be your guiding intention. Your intuition will allow you access to ideas and possibilities that are just outside the boundaries of your mind, and your head will help you process and act on that information in a way that brings you what you want.

Accessing your intuition enables you to up level your leadership and your life.

If you are interested in a guided experience that allows you to reconnect to your inner wisdom and strength and find the answers you need to usher in a greater sense of meaning, higher level of performance, and lasting fulfillment, I encourage you to check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow Group Intensive, an exclusive twelve-week small group mastermind/coaching program/online training course kicking off on March 20. Sign up before March 10 and receive a 15% early bird discount!

 

How to Create Moments of Meaning (Even in the Midst of Mania)

 

 

20.12_Fb_DianeBolden“You ready for the holidays?”

It’s a question people often ask each other this time of year. I don’t know if I’m ever ready – from the standpoint of having all the boxes checked, anyway.

I know there are people out there – you may be one of them – who finished their holiday shopping weeks ago, had their houses beautifully decorated on or before Thanksgiving day, and seem to find the time to send handmade cards to everyone they know. I have secretly dreamt of being one of those people, and maybe someday I will be.

I tend to identify more with those still scurrying around at the last minute. You know, the ones dashing to the mall on Christmas eve for that one last present they forgot about and return home to feverishly wrap gifts before people come over – all the while swearing that next year will be different.

What I really long for is to simply enjoy every aspect of the holidays.

It is a season of giving, sharing, and celebrating something bigger than ourselves. It brings us together and transforms our everyday lives into something sacred.

And this opportunity is always available to us.

With every gift we buy or wrap, every card we send, or every decoration we hang, we have the ability to infuse it with presence – our ability to be truly engaged not only with whatever it is we are doing, but with the bigger reason of WHY we are doing it – even if we get a late start.

Perhaps the ideal is not in being able to do more things sooner, but to put more of ourselves into the things we are able to do now despite whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

When people pour their hearts into whatever they are doing, you can feel it. 

The cards that arrive in our mailbox that have been perfunctorily generated don’t seem to move us as much as those people have taken the time to hand write something on – even if it is just our name. Likewise, the gifts that had some element of thought in them often end up meaning more to us than those someone spent a lot of money on. The true spirit of giving is more about the spirit than the gift itself.

And the spirit of giving and celebration doesn’t have to end in December.

We have the ability to enrich every moment of our lives with it. Albert Camus once said, “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” That means forgetting about all our preoccupations and busyness and being right here, right now – truly engaged in the purpose of whatever it is we are doing and deeply connected to whoever we are with.

In business and in life, this practice separates the most truly prosperous and successful people from all the rest. They have a knack for making others feel valued and for infusing meaning into whatever it is they do or invite others to do. They spend their time doing what is most important and pour their hearts and souls into it. As a result, they are living examples of whatever they believe most strongly in.

Perhaps this is the true art of giving, living, and leading – one that transcends holidays and spills over into our every day lives.

It’s never too late to start bringing more presence and engagement into your life amidst the frenzy of a crazy schedule and ongoing demands, despite the time of year. 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.

Wishing you and yours a beautiful and blessed holiday!

 

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.

 

 

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

 

Not Seeing Results? Don’t Give Up.

Desperate Anxiety FDPDo you ever feel like despite your best, most diligent, inspired effort, discipline and patience, you don’t seem to be getting anywhere?  Maybe you have a vision that excites you – an idea of how something could be done differently, a creation you’d like to breathe life into, a way of improving your quality of life – or that of others.  You plan, you prepare, you do the work.  Repeatedly.  But despite all that effort and persistence, you have little if anything to show for it.

You might question yourself.  Are you doing it right? Are you missing something?

You might get angry and try harder to control the outcome – double down your efforts, research extensively to figure out how to foolproof your plan, do whatever you can to MAKE it happen.

You may take your anger out on others.  Why aren’t they cooperating?  And how is it that everyone else seems to have it easier than you do?

You may question your vision.  Is this really worth investing your time and energy in?

You might feel like quitting and moving onto something easier, more mainstream, with less risk or exposure.  You gave it a good run.  Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

But the idea of throwing in the towel feels even worse than continuing what seems to be a losing battle.   

And try as you might, you just can’t shake the hold of that vision.  It beckons.  It haunts.  It enchants – revisiting you in your quiet hours, whispering about what is possible.

What do you do?

bamboo trees CCHave you ever heard the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree?  It’s quite unusual.  A farmer who plants these seeds will water, fertilize and tend to them  daily.  After a year of care and nurturing, the ground looks the same way it did when the seeds were planted.  Another year will pass as the farmer continues his efforts,  with no seeming growth at all.  A third year of care and feeding will go by.  NOTHING.  And then another year of watering, fertilizing and patiently waiting.  Still nothing.  In the fifth year, small sprouts will appear.  And in the six weeks that follow, the little shoot will grow up to ninety feet tall.

What we don’t realize about these seeds  – and our precious visions – is that while patience, faith and perseverance may not produce tangible signs of progress for quite some time, they work wonders beneath the surface, laying the groundwork for what will follow. 

To sustain the towering height these trees grow to, the root system must be deep and vast.  We too must have a strong inner foundation to ensure we have what we need before we can share it with others.  So many of our efforts are a quest to prove to ourselves that we are worthy.  We often mistakenly think that accolades, prestige, wealth and all that comes with success will allow us to feel  strong and fulfilled.   But that approach is backwards.

The “trappings” of success fade over time and are as  easily toppled as a tree with no root system.  If instead we start with a strong, grounded feeling of worthiness and appreciation for ourselves, we can extend our gifts to others  knowing that we have all we need and that sharing it with others will only make us stronger – in the same way that bamboo continues to grow after it is harvested.  This strength is cultivated over time, and often happens during the times of our lives that feel most barren.  We endure disappointments, we try something and fail, we learn about who we are and why we are here.  This is all growth that happens beneath the surface.  And it makes us strong and resilient enough to stand tall, reach high, and do the work we have been inspired to do out of joy rather than necessity.

Visions worth working for often don’t come to fruition right away and timing is not something that can be controlled.  When we try desperately to speed things up, we will often experience frustration, and feelings of desperation that may lead to anger and/or withdrawal.  Just as we cannot peel rosebuds open or shorten the time it takes for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, we cannot rush the progress and transformation that happens with our visions and our very selves. Sometimes our efforts to speed things up actually delay progress, as when we get too attached to a certain course of action that interferes with the natural progression of things.  This is analogous to digging up and replanting seeds that have not yet sprouted.

The “overnight success” we often hear about is more often than not the result of years of dedication, commitment, perseverance and faith that like the growth of the Chinese bamboo tree took several years to come to fruition.  As you pursue your grandest dreams and visions, many will tell you that your efforts are in vain, that you do not have what it takes, that you should quit while you are ahead.  And you may begin to question yourself as well.  But as you weather these storms and continue to believe in and cultivate something that cannot yet be seen,  you will ultimately be rewarded with seeing that which you believe.  And it will enrich your life – and that of others in ways you may never have anticipated.

Cover-NewTag-04SEP2013For more on bringing your grandest dreams and visions to fruition and laying the foundation necessary to sustain them, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader now available in both ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.

The Desperate Anxiety photo courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Bamboo Trees photo courtesy of S P Photography.