Tag Archives: Change a Habit

The Masterpiece in the Marble: 3 Steps to Unearth Your Best Work

 

DianeBolden_FB_08.21.17We’ve all been to a lot of classes – whether on leadership or related subjects – where we sit passively and listen to someone teach us things from a workbook or a power point presentation. Some of these classes infuse us with new ideas and inspirations, and others do not. Either way, the chief challenge is coming back to our daily work and implementing what we have learned. Class or no class, putting into practice the ideas and insights we get on a daily basis is a challenge. It is a challenge because it calls for us to integrate them into a way of doing things that we have established for ourselves over a long period of time.

To change, grow or improve in any way, we must consciously look at ourselves.

We need to look at both what is working and what is not. Often we are so accustomed to running from project to project and meeting to meeting, that we aren’t even aware of the dynamics at play under the surface. This frenetic approach leads to a pattern of similar results, similar experiences, and inevitably similar frustrations, and often the feeling that there has to be more to it than this.

There is.

The truth is, you already possess within you the core essentials you need to be successful. 

The question is, are you using them?  And are you using them to the best of your ability?  If the answer is no, it doesn’t matter how many new tools you acquire or methodologies you learn.  Our chief challenge is not to continue looking to others for solutions and answers, but instead to take the time to tap that part of ourselves that remains our purest potential.  The prerequisite for being an effective leader of others is to learn to lead ourselves.

Michelangelo once said “The masterpiece is already in the marble.”

The same is true for each of us. Our chief task as leaders is to chip away at the stuff that surrounds the masterpiece. What stuff? You may ask. The habits, patterns and approaches you’ve been utilizing over the years that are no longer getting you the results you want. And the inaccurate beliefs, assumptions and doubts you have about yourself, others, and what is generally possible in any given situation. These are the major factors that keep you from unearthing your best work.

So how do you chip the away at the extraneous?

The part that is especially challenging for people is that they often don’t even realize they are operating from a mindset that isn’t serving them. They may recognize the results they’re getting aren’t what they’d like without necessarily realizing that the core issue lies within them. And the tricky thing is that until you recognize that the mindset you have isn’t serving you, you will continue to make decisions and attempt to solve problems operating within the very frame of mind that is keeping you from seeing the outcomes you want.

Here are some steps you can take to shift into a way of thinking that allows you to bring out your very best – and in the process help others to do the same.

The first step is to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

The next time you have an experience that doesn’t go the way you’d like it to, replay it in your mind and try to identify the role you played in it –not only with your actions (or lack of action) but also your thoughts – what you were believing at the time, where your focus was, and how others reacted to you. Ask yourself what you would do differently next time. Then envision what that would look like and feel like if you were to have the same situation, but a more favorable response. In this way, you can allow your experiences to teach and mold you into something better – even the ones that are less than optimal.

The second step is to PAY ATTENTION.

You are bound to fall into old patterns again and again, but the more you become aware of them, the less compelling they become. At first you may not catch yourself until after the fact, but over time you will find you can interrupt the cycle sooner, until finally you are able to head it off at the pass and choose a different response altogether.

The third step is to IDENTIFY WITH THE MASTERPIECE, NOT THE MARBLE.

You are not your thoughts, your patterns or your habits. You are much bigger than that. Once you are aware of how those things are operating in your life, you free yourself up to choose new ones. Rather than chipping away at the marble, you will begin to grow from within it, busting through the constraints that no longer hold you captive. Instead of dwelling on your limitations, focus on your strengths. Instead of putting your attention on the things you don’t want to see, begin identifying with what you do want and recognize that you have the ability to achieve it.

As you begin to clear the debris from your view, you will see things in a whole different light – including those around you that you have the opportunity to lead. These folks are far more likely to take their cues from your action than your words. And when you begin to help them identify with their masterpieces as you have learned to do, there is nothing you cannot achieve.

If you are interested in additional strategies for inspiring and motivating yourself and others to higher levels of performance and impact – as well as greater fulfillment both on and off the job, 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 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!

How You Can Use Frustration To Improve Your Effectiveness

 

Diane Bolden | Phoenix, Arizona Executive Leadership Coach“I’m so tired of feeling unorganized and scattered all the time.”

A client told me in a recent meeting. He added, “I come into the office and there are papers flung all over my desk, half started projects buried in piles with new requests heaped on top of them. But I never seem to have time to go through them because by the time I get there, a line of people waiting to talk to me has already formed outside my door and I have no choice but to spring into action. And my days are full of requests that add new papers, projects and action items to a pile that grows faster than it shrinks.”

He felt like Sisyphus – like he was constantly pushing a big rock up a hill only to have it roll back down as soon as he got near the top.

“What do you think I should do about it?” he asked me. I knew he wouldn’t like my answer.

“Move into it,” I told him. “Tell me more about how starting your day like that affects the quality of your life.”

He was perplexed. “Why would I want to move into something so awful? Shouldn’t I be figuring out how I can move away from it? Rise above it?”

He was essentially living as Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, constantly reliving the same day over and over again. However, there are hidden gifts in such a predicament.

Fuel

That is the reaction most of us (including yours truly) have when faced with an unpleasant predicament. But rising above an unpleasant predicament often requires us to change habits or patterns that are ingrained and comfortable. And initiating and sustaining a change like that requires fuel — fuel that will allow us to break through our obstacles and limitations at the very moment when it seems most difficult.

Change occurs when the pain of the current state is greater than the perceived pain of making a change, and the pleasure of making a change is greater than the pleasure (or payoff) of staying the same. 

When you truly move into your frustration, you begin to open your eyes widely to recognize the impact a problem is having on your life. You allow yourself to accept that this pain will continue until you do something about it. And until you are truly ready to do something about it, you will continue to do what you’ve always done and suffer as a result.

This can be done long before you know what that solution is. And just as you can move into your pain, so too can you move into the pleasure of what life would be like without your problem. This too, serves as fuel that will ultimately allow you to do what it takes to create and implement a lasting solution.

Insight

Moving into your frustration illuminates not only the problem, but also the underlying factors that contribute to and exacerbate that problem. It gives you insight.

Most of us instinctively move away from pain, firing shots over our shoulder at what we believe to be the antagonist without really recognizing or locking onto a target.

To really know what needs to be done to slay the beast, my client needed to take a closer look and recognize what it eats, how it grows stronger, and how he might unwittingly be feeding and nurturing it. That’s exactly what moving into the frustration with a spirit of curiosity does.

When he got curious about his predicament, he began to notice that he had a tendency to book his appointments back-to-back, starting first thing in the morning and say yes to more things than he could realistically accomplish. He realized that he didn’t have a clear sense of what was truly a priority and that in the absence of that clarity, he was making everything number one — except his own sanity.

The more awareness he cultivated in the presence of his frustration, the more he began to identify and understand what was really causing your frustration. This also led my client to discover and embrace the third gift of frustration.

Possibility

Insight opens the door to possibility. Once you have an understanding of the factors that cause or contribute to a problem, you begin to recognize a multitude of options that can lead to lasting resolution.

In the days and weeks that followed, my client identified a number of strategies that could potentially work for him, including scheduling, communication, and delegation tactics.

The next time you feel like you are living the life of Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day, remind yourself that frustration comes bearing gifts. Reliving the same experience over and over again isn’t so bad if it ultimately yields fuel, insight, and possibility. Move into your discomfort, pay attention, get curious, and connect the dots. Then, you too will find a way to transform your frustration into freedom.

If you are interested in additional strategies for recognizing and moving beyond self-limiting patterns of behavior and thought, I encourage you to check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive, an exclusive twelve-week group mastermind/coaching program/online training course kicking off the week of March 20. The program is a blend of online leadership development, small group mastermind, and one-on-one coaching, and is limited to eight people.

Why Losing Your Passion for Work is a Bigger Problem Than You Might Think

 

Diane Bolden Executive Leadership CoachHas work become a bit of a grind?

You might tell yourself that work isn’t supposed to be fun – that’s why they call it work. But when you spend the majority of your waking hours just getting through the day or counting down to the weekend, you have a bigger problem than you might think.

Most of us don’t start our professions that way, but over the years disappointment, frustration and pressure can lead to disillusionment, disengagement, and burnout. Lack of passion and joy on the job will hit you hard in three major areas:

  1. Personally
  2. Professionally
  3. Organizationally

Let’s take a look at how work becoming a grind affects you personally.

You might think that as long as you can enjoy yourself after five (or six, or seven) and on the weekends, you will be just fine. But when you spend the better part of your day on a kind of autopilot, feeling like you’d rather be somewhere else, it’s hard to keep that negativity from spilling over to the rest of your life.

You may find yourself irritable, preoccupied, exhausted or just brain dead.

And whether you know it or not, that infringes on your ability to fully enjoy the things, experiences, and people in your personal life that you hold most precious.

You may even have a decent paycheck and enjoy a position of influence and status in your organization. But when the work you spend more of your waking hours doing is a continual grind, it’s easy to begin feeling as though life itself lacks meaning and fulfillment.

Perhaps you’ve made the decision (consciously or unconsciously) to put your personal happiness on the backburner in the name of your professional success and upward mobility.

Well, unfortunately lack of passion and joy on the job has a negative impact on your professional effectiveness as well. Let’s take a closer look at that.

Productivity

 You can try all you want, but when you are exhausted and overwhelmed you will work very long days spinning your wheels without getting a whole lot done. You may think you just don’t have enough time to finish everything on your plate. And while it is true that time is finite, your real problem is lack of energy.

Creativity and Problem Solving

Lack of energy makes everything take far longer than it should. It blocks you from accessing your creativity, leads you to unnecessarily complicate things, and pushes the solutions to your problems just out of reach. All of this will contribute to a feeling of being unable to get important things done, which will cause you to work longer hours and become even more exhausted.

Influence

If your job requires you to have even the slightest degree of influence over others, consider this: getting someone excited about doing something is largely a matter of sharing your enthusiasm. But enthusiasm isn’t something that is easily feigned. And when you try to fake it, you will come across as being disingenuous, which will keep others from trusting you.

It’s exceedingly difficult to get anyone — whether they are your coworkers, your direct reports, or your customers — to become excited about something you can’t muster up the passion for yourself. And while we’re on the subject of coworkers, direct reports, and customers, let’s talk about the impact lack of passion and joy on the job has organizationally.

If you are a leader of others whether you know it or not you are setting the tone for the entire organization.

If you are not feeling emotionally committed, passionate, enthusiastic and connected to your work and the people you partner with to do it, chances are the people you lead will not be feeling it either.

Employee Engagement

Research indicates that as much as 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged. That translates into people who are physically present on the job, but not emotionally or mentally all there. When people are disengaged they go through the motions, doing as little as possible to fly under the radar.

The Cost of Complacency

This complacency causes all kinds of problems, including low quality products and services, plummeting productivity, low creativity and innovation, strained customer relationships, intra and interdepartmental conflict, absenteeism, high turnover, and ultimately low profitability. It does little to attract key talent, and certainly does not contribute to having a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

What does that have to do with you?

Engaged employees are people who feel part of something bigger than themselves — an organization with a shared purpose that has meaning to them. And they want to work for a boss who is turned on and tuned in to the organization and them as people.

If you have no passion or joy for your own work, you will be hard pressed to inspire it in others. In fact, you could end up unwittingly sucking the joy from those who already are engaged, and/or driving them to look for work elsewhere.

In Summary

Losing your passion and joy at work has significant implications for you on three different levels:

(1) Personally. You just can’t turn it on and off like a light switch. If you are feeling a lack of passion and joy at work, chances are good it will translate into your personal life, like a dark cloud that follows you around despite your insistence that you can shoe it away. You deserve more out of life than that.

(2) Professionally. The overwhelm, frustration, and exhaustion you feel is likely keeping you from performing at your best. While you may be working very long hours, your problem is not lack of time but rather lack of energy. Lack of energy is accompanied by lack of creativity, problem solving and influence. Energy comes with passion and joy. And when passion and joy are lacking, your performance will be lacking too.

(3) Organizationally. Just as passion and joy can be contagious, so too is the lack of it. A leader’s lack of passion and joy gets translated into disengagement, both for the leader, and the followers. Disengagement negatively impacts productivity, innovation, customer satisfaction, employee recruitment and retention — and ultimately profitability.

So if you feel like work has become a grind — but not a problem you have the luxury to address right now, think again. It may well be that you can’t afford not to. Rejuvenating your passion and joy on the job is easier than you think. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to find another job.

Consider making reigniting your passion at work a priority.

And if you are interested in receiving some support and guidance, 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!

 

Want to Do More? You Should Start by Doing Less

 

Believe in your dream - Diane Bolden Executive Coach and Professional DevelopmentWhat are you longing to create in the coming year?

And what do you need to let go of to allow it to fully take root?

 

Every year, we are encouraged to set New Year’s resolutions.

We are a goal driven society that is conditioned to seek more. Our egos desire more money, more fame and prestige, and more stuff. A deeper part of ourselves longs for more peace, more meaning, and more purpose in our lives. We want to move beyond our previous realizations of what we’ve already accomplished to master newer, better ways of doing things—whether that be what we create in our lives or in our organizations—and as leaders what we can inspire others to do as well.

What if you started with less instead of more?

Though it is tempting to occupy ourselves with thoughts of how we can go about achieving all of this and what we need to do more of, perhaps what we really need to start with is what we need to do less of – what we need to let go of to create the space for something new to come in.

We are constantly evolving as human beings.

It is so easy to look to the past to define who we are though the things we’ve already done – goals we’ve achieved, titles we’ve acquired, and creations we have built. Our previous experiences coagulate to form an identity that is easy to confuse with our true nature.

The fact of the matter is, you are not your accomplishments, your creations, or the sum of the various roles you play in your life – manager, director, vice president, mother, father, friend, son, daughter, etc. You are much, much more than that. Your potential is limitless.

And yet, we limit ourselves by definitions of who we think we are – or should be.

They filter the experiences we allow ourselves to have and compel us to define the form that our deepest longings should take. To be happy, we reason – we must get that promotion, achieve this or that goal, hit that target. So we continue to go through the motions, doing the kinds of things we’ve always done – on a sort of autopilot.

Some of this may bring satisfaction, and some may lead to discontentment.

We need to attune ourselves to that which brings us the most of what we truly desire and open ourselves to the possibility that what we really want may need to come in a form that has previously been undefined for us. In short, we must allow ourselves to surrender what we think we know to open to the mystery that is unfolding in each of our lives.

Easier said than done, right?

How exactly do you go about letting go of the known when it is all you know?

We can take our cues from nature. Snakes and other reptiles shed their skin, trees drop their leaves, and caterpillars create cocoons in which their forms entirely dissolve before recreating themselves in the form of butterflies. Even a fish in a bowl cannot stay in water that contains its excrement – the waste must either be emptied and replaced with new water, or absorbed by something else that will remove it from the fish’s environment. Without engaging in these renewing processes, these creatures will die. And so it is with us. Many of us are already walking around encased in layers of old, dead stuff that needs to be released.

What are you holding onto in your life that has run its course?

  • What are the old outmoded ways of doing things that no longer bring you energy?
  • What are the things you’ve acquired that you no longer need?
  • What beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer true for you?

Pay attention to the times that you feel constricted, anxious, or tired and in those moments ask what you can let go of. Don’t be afraid of the answer. Though it may frighten you because it introduces an element of the unknown, following these insights will always lead to freedom and liberation.

Your computer can only handle so much data, and the same is true of you.

If you do not delete old email and get rid of files that have been accumulating over the years, and if you continue to add new programs without deleting old ones, you will find that it becomes sluggish and unresponsive. Just as freeing up space allows your computer to process things more quickly, so too will clearing your own personal space (whether of things or thoughts) allow you to access new levels of clarity and creativity.

Space brings freedom.

You will breathe easier, be more present in every action and interaction you partake of, and bring more of who you really are to what you do. And you will open the space of possibility that will allow something to come in that may surprise and delight you. Rather than being something you slave away for, it will simply emerge and reveal itself to you.

And of course, any work you do on yourself will serve as a form of leadership for others who, like you, seek their own answers and could benefit from your example of unearthing what is possible and allowing it to take form in new and unexpected ways.

Taking the time to discern what is and isn’t working in your life and up level your game becomes easier and more fun when you have support.

If you are ready to do a deep dive to supercharge your leadership and your life, 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!

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 Change a Habit That is Hurting You, Part 5

Success - free digital photosMy last four posts, How to Change a Habit That is Hurting You, Part I, Part IIPart III and Part IV were about the first four steps for changing a habit that is hurting you:

(1)    Make a decision, a declaration and a commitment to yourself.

(2)    Surround yourself with reminders of what you are moving toward.

(3)    Notice how often you engage in the behavior you want to change and what the impact is when you do.

(4)    Examine and challenge your assumptions.

Now that you have identified the thinking that has been driving the habit you want to rise above, you can change your thoughts and consciously approach things in a whole new way.  And this leads us to step five…

(5) Envision and practice a new way of doing things.

The focus of steps one through four is on dismantling an old, ingrained behavior.  Step five is about substituting a new behavior for the old one – one that will truly serve you.  And it is a good idea to have something to substitute your old habit with, so that instead of just focusing on moving away from something, you can put your energy and attention on what you are moving toward and the positive impact that will make in your life.

Chances are you already know what you’d like to do as an alternative.  If not, you can ask yourself the question, “What would be a better way of handling situations like the ones that have been causing me trouble?”  When you ask a question, your subconscious mind gets busy finding the answer for you. You may learn by watching or seeking mentoring from people around you who are masterful in the areas you strive to improve in.    You may find yourself drawn to articles, books, workshops or other resources that will help you.   You might journal about it and find yourself writing about the answer.

Once you have an idea of what you’d like to do differently, it is important to practice as often as you can, both physically and mentally. When you are engaging in step three, reviewing the events of a situation where you may have fallen back into an old pattern, you can ask yourself what you could have done differently and then play the movie in your mind that has you acting in the new way and experiencing how good it would feel.  Research has shown that mentally rehearsing in this way allows the brain to create the same neural pathways that are formed through physical rehearsal.

It is important to be patient and kind with yourself as you learn a new behavior. It will probably be somewhat uncomfortable or at the very least unnatural at first.  You will likely not be very good at it right away.  And you may find it tempting to say “the heck with it” and revert back to your old behavior as a result.  But stick with it.  With consistent practice it will get easier and it will come more naturally, until finally the new behavior is so engrained that you won’t have to think about it all that much.

In review, here are the five steps for changing a habit that is hurting you:

(1)    Make a decision, a declaration and a commitment to yourself.

(2)    Surround yourself with reminders of what you are moving toward.

(3)    Notice how often you engage in the behavior you want to change and what the impact is when you do.

(4)    Examine and challenge your assumptions.

(5)    Envision and practice a new way of doing things.

These steps don’t have to happen in a linear sequence. Sometimes you will be at step three for awhile, noticing how often you are falling into old patterns (and experiencing the pain of them) before you are ready to move to step one, making a commitment to change.  Sometimes they happen simultaneously ­ ­- like when you reflect on your behavior (step three) and then envision what you could do differently next time (step five).  Often when you begin the practice in step five, you begin to become aware of limiting assumptions you can challenge with step four.

You can accelerate your progress with each of these steps by working with a coach. A good coach can not only help you get really clear on your desired results but also assist you in identifying thoughts, behaviors and habits getting in your way that you may not even be aware of.  Working with a coach can help you to stay accountable to yourself while being supported through change that can be uncomfortable.  And a good coach can help you to identify alternate ways of doing things that are aligned with your natural strengths.   Coaching also allows you the opportunity to try out new behaviors in a safe environment, while getting honest, constructive feedback that your colleagues, friends and family may be hesitant to share.

PinocchioPrincipleIf you are interested in learning more about coaching, visit http://www.dianebolden.com/coaching.html 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 my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, available at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com.

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Change a Habit That is Hurting You, Part 4

My last three posts How to Change a Habit That is Hurting You, Part I, Part II and Part III,  were about the first three steps for changing a habit that is hurting you:

(1)    Make a decision, a declaration and a commitment to yourself.

(2)    Surround yourself with reminders of what you are moving toward.

(3)    Notice how often you engage in the behavior you want to change and what the impact is when you do.

The next step will help you identify the root of the habit you want to change so that you can work with the real source of the issue instead of simply addressing symptoms that will eventually return.

im - possible - free digitalSTEP FOUR:  Examine and challenge your assumptions.

Sometimes even though you recognize a behavior that isn’t serving you and you also realize how very much it is hurting you, you still feel compelled to engage in it.  Usually this is because your behavior is linked to a limiting assumption or belief.  Just as we can engage in behaviors that do not serve us, we can also engage in ways of thinking that are equally hurtful.  Action follows thought and assumptions are thoughts that are like the strings on puppets, controlling their every move.  When these assumptions are unexamined, they propel us to engage in actions without thinking.

When you examine the assumptions that are linked to a behavior you are trying to change, you may find that though the assumptions are very compelling, they are not very logical and in some cases may be downright erroneous. An assumption underneath an explosion of anger might be something like, “If I don’t get the upper hand here, I’m going to get run over.”  An assumption that keeps people from taking bold action could be something like “I don’t have what it takes to do what I really want to do,” or “If I try and fail I’ll be worse off than I am now.”

What most of us don’t realize is that assumptions like these tend to get us into more trouble than they prevent.  They also have us acting in ways that reinforce the assumption.  In the first case, acting out of a desire to keep from being run over often leads people to run over others and be blinded to constructive alternatives that don’t have them going to extremes.   As a result, others respond in ways that are equally aggressive, thus confirming the belief that they have to look out for themselves above all else.

In the second case, if you assume that you aren’t capable of doing what you really want to do, you’ll act with hesitation (if at all), and your wavering will keep you from doing the work you are truly capable of or cause you to make things much harder than they need to be.  You may look to your lack of results as confirmation that your assumption was correct, but the real problem is the impact the assumption itself had on your ability to act with confidence.

Identifying these assumptions can be tricky because they often are so engrained that we don’t even realize they are operating. But if you stop to reflect on what it is you are believing about the situation, yourself or others you can begin to become aware of them.  Here are some questions that can help shed light on the thinking that could be sabotaging your best efforts:

– What am I believing right now about the situation, myself, or others?

– Is it really true?  Can I be absolutely, positively sure that it is true?

– When I believe that thought, how do I tend to act?  How do I feel?  Is it working for me?

– Who would I be and what could I do without that thought?

– What can I believe that is more true than what I used to believe and will also help me do what I really want to do?

Click here for step five of How to Change a Habit That is Hurting You.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Change a Habit That is Hurting You, Part 3

My last two posts, How to Change a Habit That is Hurting You, Part I and Part II were about the first two steps for changing a habit that is hurting you:

(1)    Make a decision, a declaration and a commitment to yourself.

(2)    Surround yourself with reminders of what you are moving toward.

Maybe you are making some progress.  Or perhaps you have fallen back into the old behavior.  If so, don’t worry about it – it is virtually inevitable and actually a vital part of the process of moving beyond an old habit.  Step three allows you to use what you would otherwise see as a step backwards to further enhance your forward progress.

thinking emotiguy - free digital photosSTEP THREE: Notice how often you engage in the behavior you want to change and what the impact is when you do.

This is a rather painful thing to do, because it tends to lead people to beat themselves up.  You already know what the habit is you want to change.  You already know how it is hurting you.  And yet chances are that you are still doing it more often than you’d like – almost as though you cannot help yourself.    You might just feel trapped and powerless.  You aren’t.

You are simply observing the effect of being on autopilot.  As I said in Are Your Habits Hurting You?, your habits become defaults that allow to you do things without a whole lot of thought or effort.  And this is a good thing when it is a behavior that is serving you, like driving your car to work in the morning without having to pay all that much attention to all the steps involved in executing the task.  But when those engrained habits lead you to knee jerk reactions that have you regretting your actions later, you have to slow things down so that you are more conscious of what it is you are doing and where it is getting you.

The good news is that initially, you don’t have to be totally aware of those knee jerk reactions in the moment.  You can replay the events in your mind later and recognize the moments that you were in the grip of an automatic response. You can notice what your triggers were and begin to become more aware of what sets those behaviors off.  And you can begin to envision strategies for interrupting those patterns, like taking a breath, stepping away for a moment, and getting realigned with your true intention and desire.

It is also important to become aware of the impact of those behaviors. So in addition to reviewing the sequence of events in your head that led you to engage in a problematic habit, pay attention to how you felt afterward.  Recognize how it might have impacted the rest of your day, or week.  Become aware of how your action may have affected the people you care about, and also how it made you feel about yourself.  Move into the pain associated with the behavior you seek to rise above.  Because the more pain you associate with it, the stronger your commitment will be to rise above it.

The more often you take a moment to mentally review your actions – maybe at the end of the day when you are driving home from work, the faster you will begin to catch yourself engaging in old behaviors that aren’t serving you.  You will find that over time, you’ll go from realizing it hours or days later to recognizing it moments after it happened, to catching yourself in the act, and eventually to keeping yourself from doing it at all.

Click here for step four of How to Change a Habit That is Hurting You.

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How to Change a Habit That Is Hurting You, Part 2

Problem-Solution- free digital photoMy last post, How to Change a Habit That Is Hurting You, Part 1 was about the first step for changing a habit that is hurting you:  make a decision, a declaration and a commitment to yourself. Today, we’ll tackle step two.

STEP TWO:  Surround yourself with reminders of what you are moving toward.

Though you may not have already experienced the pleasure you will gain by moving beyond your old habit and engaging in something new, your mind can help you to imagine it and make it real for you.  It does this in much the same way that it can also magnify your fears and come up with all kinds of scenarios that have you shaking in your boots.  Take control of your mind in advance. Envision the change you are making and what you imagine it will bring you.

If you are trying to get control of your temper, imagine what it will feel like to be able to calmly engage in discussion with someone without losing your head.  Envision yourself shaking hands with people and leaving meetings feeling as though you have strengthened relationships rather than damaged them.  See if you can find a symbol or image that helps you to move into that feeling whenever you look at it. And put that visual reminder somewhere where you will see it often.

Maybe you are wanting to break the habit of staying in your comfort zone rather than taking the bold actions you dream about – like writing a book, creating a new program or product, or looking for a new job.  Envision what acting on your dream will give you and see if you can experience it in your mind as though it has already happened. Find pictures that evoke those feelings for you and get you excited and motivated to take steps to make it happen.  Look at them every day, several times a day and feel those feelings when you do.

When you feel as though you are getting sucked back into old behaviors you are trying to leave behind, or when you are discouraged about your progress use your reminders to bring you back to your intention and recommit to yourself.

Click here for step three of How to Change a Habit That is Hurting You.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net