Tag Archives: Chaos

The Gift of Chaos (and How to Leverage It)

 

Phoenix Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden.“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.”

~ Henry B. Adams

Like many of us, I grew up thinking that things happened in a linear way.

First this, then that. One building block upon another in a definite order. Cause and effect. But over the years, I’ve noticed that life isn’t always like that.

Often it seems life is a series of random events that don’t seem to make much sense.

But when you have a larger vision and experience that vision as though it has already happened, you can begin to see this apparent chaos in a whole different way. Often what we experience is a chain of seemingly disjointed events that are in reality very connected.

Think of watching a movie of a glass shattering, only in reverse motion.

Pieces fly together from all directions in a disjointed fashion and assemble into a perfect whole. Each piece is absolutely necessary, though, in and of itself, incomplete and inconceivably connected to a larger picture.

We will experience ups and downs and travel roads that deviate from what we anticipated.

Nevertheless, these seemingly divergent paths may in fact be prerequisite to experiencing the totality of our vision. At times the healing process entails pain, discomfort or other symptoms. While we may point to these as signs of illness, we could alternatively consider them evidence of our recovery.

Seasons will change, and so will we.

A phase of growth and expansion is often preceded by a period where things unexpectedly fall away. We can look at the void as a loss, or recognize it as the space necessary for new creations to take root and flourish.

We may not initially realize the significance or relevance of our chaotic experiences.

But in hindsight we often realize the importance of enduring specific challenges, setbacks, delays, or what felt like irrelevant nuisances. These obstacles give us a greater perspective on who we are, deeper appreciation for where we have been and where we are going, and compassion for others who have experiences similar to our own.

As we rise up to these little challenges, we find strength we didn’t know we had and realize we are far greater than we thought we were. And as leaders, we can help others appreciate and leverage their own chaos as well.

Appreciating the perfect order unfolding in our lives more of an art than a science.

Most of us never really take the time to recognize it. If you are interested in leveraging the seeming chaos in your own life and life’s work, I encourage you to 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.

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!

 

Why Believing Is Seeing – Regardless Of Proof

 

Diane Bolden | Why Believing is Seeing Regardless of ProofOne day when my kids were younger, they had a play date with some friends. I heard one of them telling the other that Santa Claus wasn’t real. My son, who was eight years old at the time, vehemently defended the jolly old man, with elaborate explanations of why something not easily proven was worth believing in anyway.

It reminded me of my own childhood.

I had to laugh, as I flashed back to one of my own experiences with a little girl in my neighborhood who made fun of me for believing that a fat man in a red coat actually came down my chimney every year. I was so mad that, when she wasn’t looking, I broke all her crayons and put them back in the box (and spent the rest of the holiday season worrying that I had just put myself on the naughty list).

I have since learned that it is okay if everyone doesn’t believe what I do.

And if he hasn’t already, my son will learn that too. But he is the one who taught me something that day. I was buoyed by his unwavering belief and faith in something he’s never really seen and inspired by his example.

I can’t help but believe that those who trust in something magical will experience that magic in ways the skeptics will not. And I think the same is true in life.

There will always be someone around to tell us what cannot be done.

And there will also always be people who, upon being so told, will do it anyway. Their faith, determination, and belief in something they have yet to see will allow them to persevere until their dreams become reality.

One of my favorite authors on personal and spiritual growth, Alan Cohen, once said “You do not need to get others to believe in your truth. You just need to live it.”

Trust, faith, and perseverance go a long way.

In a world where much is uncertain and the old success formulas no longer seem to work, I believe it is more important than ever to trust in what we know to be true in hearts, even if our minds cannot figure it all out. It may go against what we have been conditioned to believe, see, and do – but perhaps this makes it even more important.

To bust out of old paradigms that keep us from realizing our greatness, perhaps we need to stop questioning what is possible and start challenging our limits instead. As we do, we will begin to make manifest that which we previously only dreamed was possible and, through our example, show others the way to rise.

Believing what we want to see is especially important when creating our future. But it is only one component of a vital process I’ll be covering in my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow. 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 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.

 

 

Navigating Sudden Change

bigstock_The_ancient_ship_in_the_sea_17384813Ever notice that just when you get comfortable, life has a way of shaking things up? Some people seem to enjoy change more than others. Most of us prefer to be the ones doing the changing – it brings newness along with a sense of control – we are at the helms, steadfastly steering our ships. But imagine if you will, that a massive wave summoned by a hurricane has ripped the captain’s wheel right off the ship and you are left clinging to something that no longer has any power. The tighter you grip it, the less energy you have to deal with your circumstances in a way that will truly serve you (and everyone around you as well).

At times like these, we often pray for the storm to pass – for things to revert back to the way they were – or for a specific course of events that we believe would be life’s perfect solution. These solutions are based on what we think we know – which is largely a product of what we have already seen and experienced. And relying upon the patterns and strategies that worked for us in the past is often inadequate for our present and emerging challenges.

The world is changing and so are we.

We tend to strive for comfort and familiarity, even when what’s comfortable isn’t necessarily effective or even satisfying anymore. We wish and pray that the chaos be removed and order be restored. But often life’s little disturbances are exactly what we need to reach our true potential and escape complacency. Perhaps as Eckhardt Tolle wrote in The Power of Now, “…what’s appears to be in the way IS the way.”

William MathewsStormy seas (and life’s sudden surprises) have a way of testing our resolve and our resiliency. Pressure brings out our extremes – for better or worse. And fear does funny things to people. At its worst, it produces panic – a physical state that literally disables the brain’s ability to think clearly. At one extreme a person is frozen by fear and at the other he will thrash about like a drowning victim who pulls his rescuers under the water with him. The key to surviving a seeming assault of this kind is learning to relax and stay calmly aware of our surroundings so that we can identify and creatively utilize the resources at our disposal.

One of the most critical resources in our control when all else seems beyond it is our perspective. The way in which we view things determines the story we tell ourselves about what’s happening, which directly influences the responses we will have. If we believe we are helpless victims at the mercy of something that seeks to destroy us, we will become bitter, resentful and apathetic. In this state our true power remains dormant. We collude with our view of reality to create a condition that validates our doomsday stories and sink even deeper into the abyss. Those who try to rescue us from our self imposed paralysis risk being dragged beneath the current created by our own negativity.

If, however, we view our predicaments as adventures and see them as opportunities to give things all we’ve got, we reach deeply within ourselves and tap reserves of courage, wisdom and ingenuity we never realized we had. In the proverbial belly of the whale we find our inner grit and creatively rise up to life’s challenges in ways that transform us and everyone around us as well. We become the heroes of our own stories.

Regardless of who you are and what you do, there will come a time when the plateau you have been walking upon takes a steep turn in one direction or the other and you will be required to do something that stretches you beyond your usual way of doing things.

Perhaps it will be in your career. The work that fulfilled you at one point in your life may no longer be enough. You might find yourself doing something very well but suddenly devoid of the gusto you once did it with. It could be the company you keep – people who at one time shared your interests and passions but who you suddenly find yourself no longer wanting to spend a lot of time with. Maybe it will be your lifestyle. The objects and material possessions you that once gave you joy could one day feel more like clutter or distractions. These things become like shells that the hermit crab has outgrown. The crab must release its previous home and step bravely and vulnerably into the unknown in order to find something more spacious.

hermit crab - freedigitalphotosThe quest for a new shell and even the new shell itself may feel daunting, clumsy and overwhelming. But the act of letting go of the old to make room for the new allows us to evolve and realize our true potential. Anything less will ultimately become imprisoning. When we allow ourselves room to grow, life’s little and big disturbances are not so daunting. We know there is more to us than meets the eye and finally step into our own greatness. And as we do this for ourselves, we model the way for others to do the same.

 

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

 

For more on Navigating Sudden Change:

 

Riding the Wave of Chaos

Leveraging Chaos

Leading Through Uncertainty

Embracing Life’s Uncertainty

 

Ship photo by 1971yes from Bigstock.com.

Hermit crab photo by porbital from FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Surviving and Thriving in Change and Chaos

What if the only thing standing in your way of perfect peace, true productivity and the satisfaction of living a life of purpose – was your thinking?

Man experiencing difficultiesMany of us are experiencing a great deal of pressure, anxiety and sudden change.  Jobs are tenuous, organizations are restructuring, and it might feel as though life itself is turning upside down.  Frustration and turmoil is a common response to this kind of uncertainty and disorientation.  It can lead to exhaustion and hopelessness.  But consider this as you think about the things in your life and career that may feel as though they are spinning out of control…

What if everything is perfect just the way it is?

No, I haven’t gone off the deep end. Bear with me here… 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 – and perhaps just as essential in times of change and chaos – remembering that there is wisdom in recognizing that we have the ability to choose our response – and that the response we choose will have a resounding impact on ourselves and everyone around us.

The greatest of change agents start by recognizing what they have to work with before they can create change that will be sustained. They assess their environment to determine what the best entry point for that change is before they make their move. 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 do have the ability to influence and start there. The greatest of leaders know that the most powerful and sustainable change must start from within themselves.

EpictetusThe 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 that which we are afraid of and adding 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 tell yourself a story about what is happening that leaves you feeling threatened, you may find yourself closing up and treating others with suspicion and mistrust. The way you are behaving toward people may well provoke a response in them that appears to validate your fearful story. However, in this scenario, it is very likely that their behavior is more of a reaction to the actions your story led you to take than anything else.

computer problem - dreamstimefree_2898757Our fearful stories are like the viruses we protect our computers from. These nasty viruses are often embedded in emails that pique our curiosity or rouse our fear. When we unwittingly activate them, they spread often uncontrollably and we risk passing them to the computer of our friends, associates and countless others. The viruses corrupt our systems until they no longer function effectively. Like computer viruses, our stories have a way of spinning us out of control and interfering with our ability to rise up to our challenges to find the opportunity that is always there waiting for us to discover and leverage it.

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? Alloy 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.

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 up to their challenges in ways that unearth the greatness in themselves as well.

 

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

 

For more on Surviving and Thriving in Change and Chaos:

 

The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be

Finding Your Answer In the Midst of Chaos

Riding the Wave of Chaos

Leveraging Chaos

Leading Through Uncertainty

Embracing Life’s Uncertainty

 

Photo #1 by Kirill Zdorov from Dreamstime.com.  Photo #2 by Valeriy Khromov from Dreamstime.com.

Riding the Wave of Chaos

messy kitchenMy kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it. Papers strewn over the counters amidst puddles of green smoothie remnants from this morning’s attempt to consume a healthy breakfast. A bottle of maple syrup with sticky liquid oozing from the cap into small droplets down the front of the label and onto the counter. Half eaten waffles on a paper plate sitting on the kitchen table. Last night’s dinner dishes still in the sink waiting for a bath.

School is back in session.  No more lazy mornings letting the kids sleep in until they feel good and ready to emerge from their soft, cool sheets.  Alarm clocks blazing.  Pillows shielding their eyes from the sun as the cruel window shades open to the blinding light of the morning. ” Ten more minutes!”, they shout.

“Nope.  Time to get up.”

I stumble into my home office to be greeted with a foul stench.  One of the animals has found a convenient place to relieve herself.  I locate the offending pile of poop on the floor right next to my hard drive.  It is a bit runny.  Probably from our cat, wildly jealous of the new kitten that has just learned to use the litter box the two of them will share (well, hopefully will share) at some point in the near future.  I scoop the mess from the floor and carefully wipe down the  cords, trying really hard not to hurl.

Lunches need to be prepared.  Homework journals must be signed.  Three kids need to be shuttled to two different schools.  We have been catapulted back into a very segmented time regimen that we are just not quite in sync with yet.

8:03am.  Time to pile into the car for the first trip out.  We get halfway to our destination when my son realizes  the report he has worked like a dog all weekend to complete is sitting in its shiny report binder on the coffee table.  Cranking my steering wheel to make a U turn in heavy morning traffic, I can feel panic rising in my sweet young son.   He knows he’ll be late on the first full week of school.  His breathing is shallow.  His shoulders are tight.  His jaw is clenched.

I know that look.  I’ve embodied that look.  My heart goes out to him.

Where’s my coffee?  I forgot to make myself a cup of coffee.  I take a deep breath and try to calm my son.  He doesn’t feel like chatting.

We ride in silence to the house.  He springs from the car and bursts through the door with me on his heels.  We are on a mission.  We find the report and leap back into the car.  When we reach the school, he slinks out, hangs his head and makes his way to class. 

I breathe in and out.  Gotta get home and shuttle the second group in now.

My daughter is sitting on the kitchen floor cleaning her white tennis shoes with a toothbrush.  My son is at the computer playing his favorite video game.  I silently pray that their backpacks are somewhere in the near vicinity, with all the important papers and folders inside.  Fate smiles on me and they are good to go.  My car drives on familiar tracks to their school, around the turnaround and through the drop off area.  Hugs and kisses.  The door closes.  And I am free.

Except for the kitchen.  And the fact that I have a meeting in thirty five minutes that I am not quite ready for. 

WRITE!  The voice inside my head is talking to me.  WRITE NOW.

I think of the dishes.  My hair needs brushing.   And I’m not so sure about my wardrobe selection.  I sit at the computer and place my hands on the keyboard.  I begin to type. 

What I realize now is that I have just stepped through chaos into a different zone.  The wave came at me.  It was high.  It was strong.  Powerful.  But this morning I didn’t fight it.  I let it take me for a ride.  I remembered to breathe.  And I’m still in the chaos. 

I’ve had mornings like this where I ended up bruised and beaten, hurled onto the shore with arms flailing, trying to fight the wave and make everything happen the way I thought it should.  I’ve crawled sputtering to the beach exhausted and worn out, all my energy spent rebelling against the unforeseen forces that thrust me unwillingly into chaos.  But not today.  Today, I feel good. 

My heart goes out to my son.  But I know that this is only one of a number of experiences he will have that will teach him something he’ll find useful at some point in his future.  He may never realize how important it was or how it shaped him.  He will likely have a few more of those mornings.  And so will I.  Gradually, he will make different choices.  He will learn to breathe.  He will learn to relax and take whatever comes to him with grace and determination.  If he has enough of these experiences, he may even become unflappable.

ride the wave - dreamstimefree_2591929Ride the wave.  Even if it takes you under.  You’ll come out on top eventually.  Remember to breathe when you have the opportunity to come up for air.

And seize the moment to do whatever your gut tells you to.  Even if at the time it seems like the craziest thing you could possibly think of.

  My hair still needs brushing.  But I’m more ready now for that morning meeting that I ever would have been if I hadn’t stopped to reflect, ponder, and WRITE.

 The dishes will get done when it is time.  The cat will poop where it will.  And what I’m wearing isn’t nearly as important as how I feel.  Hello new day.  I’m here. 

Today, I’m REALLY here.

 

For more on riding the wave of chaos:

 

The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be PinocchioPrinciple

Finding Your Answer In the Midst of Chaos

Leveraging Chaos

Why I’m Done with Perfection

Let Go and Lead

 

Wave picture by Kaz Sano from Dreamstime.com.

Finding Your Answer In the Midst of Chaos

The video above was born of a desire to capture not only the feeling of frustration and chaos, but also a way to rise above it .  Below is a transcript of what I said (minus the demonstration). And at the end of the transcript are links to other resources on finding answers in the midst of chaos.

Do you ever get so frustrated that you can’t take it anymore?  Find yourself in a situation where you have NO IDEA what to do?  So mad.  All you want to do is get away.  You want to leave.  You want to escape.  But you can’t.  You’re stuck.  And the more you panic, the tighter everything gets.  The more trapped you feel.  The more angry you are.  And it gets worse.  And WORSE.

Maybe it’s a conflict — a difficult conversation.  Maybe someone just dropped a bomb on you — gave you feedback that was kind of painful.  Or maybe someone just told you to get your project done in a day instead of a week.  Maybe the rug just got pulled out from under you.  Who knows?

We have this every day.  I have this.  And the more I resist, the more I LOSE IT.  I lose my head.  I lose touch with anything that might help me get out of the situation.

But you know what?  Maybe, instead of trying to GET AWAY and make things happen just the way WE want them to, we can just relax, take a deep breath, reconnect, take another look and realize…  Hey, you know what?  It’s not as bad as I thought. I was making a lot of stuff up when I was panicking.  But when I look at it and relax — when I connect, I realize I have everything I need.

And then, I find my answer.  And so will you.

For more information on finding answers in the midst of chaos:

Miracles in DisguisePinocchioPrinciple
From Frustration to Fruition
Embracing Life’s Uncertainty
Busting Out of the Box
Enduring a Stormy State of Mind
Embracing Life’s Uncertainty
The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be

Leading Through Uncertainty

How do I motivate and inspire my team in the midst of uncertainty that could lead to the whole department being eliminated?  I mean, I’m not even sure I’ll have a job myself!

This is a question a client of mine recently asked.  A tough one.  I didn’t have an immediate answer for him.  He didn’t want to blow smoke in their faces or hand them a bunch of rose colored glasses.  Nor should he.  It is a scary time for a lot of people right now.  And there are no easy answers.  But in times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to rest in the certainty that each one of us has what it takes to rise above anything life may bring us.

This is what the greatest leaders have done throughout history.  It’s easy to lead when things are stable and successful.  It’s when all chaos breaks loose and the chances of survival are slim that the world’s heroes have risen up to help people remember who they are and to rise up to their most daunting challenges. 

Here are three things to remember when you find yourself in a situation similar to the one my client was in:

(1) There is nothing that will come your way that you cannot handle.  If you want proof, consider the fact that you are still here.  Think back to the last struggle or setback you faced.  What did you do?  How did you get through it?  What did you learn?  In retrospect, what would you tell yourself in order to help you get through that?  And what will you tell yourself now? 

Sometimes it helps to think of the worst case scenario.  What would you do?  Really.  What would you do?  If you sit with that question and allow yourself to remain calm, you will find an answer.  Because when you get quiet, you summon up that which is timeless within you – that which will not change with the uncertainty, but rather grow stronger in the face of it – your inner strength, resilience, creativity and ingenuity.  Benjamin Franklin said it well many years ago:  “To be thrown upon one’s own resources, is to be cast into the very lap of fortune; for our faculties then undergo a development and display an energy of which they were previously unsusceptible.”

Getting connected to your core strength is essential and must be done before you can provide any real inspiration and motivation to others.  Your confidence will emanate at a level that people will feel – before you even say a word. 

(2)  Once you have reconnected with your own inner reserves, help others reconnect with theirs as well.  Extraordinary leaders have the ability to connect with people at a deeper level.  They see not only what each person they lead has done in the past, but also what they are capable of doing in the future.  In times of chaos and uncertainty, people need to be reminded of their strengths because trying times tend to lead us to doubt ourselves and forget how very capable and strong we really are. 

Speaking to people in terms of what they are capable of as a group can be helpful, but speaking to each person individually will have a far more powerful impact.  Think about each person you lead.  What has he or she done in the past that has impressed you?  What natural talents have you noticed – what does each person do that seems to come easily?  What does each tend to do that has a positive impact on themselves and everyone around them?  Maybe it is a sense of humor.  Perhaps it is an ability to foresee obstacles no one anticipated and create a plan for overcoming them.  Maybe it is an ability to think outside the box, a dogged determination to make things work, or a natural tendency to partner with others.  What is it that gives you faith that no matter what happens, this person will rise above it?  Speak to it with sincere appreciation and encouragement.  Help that person to embody those qualities once again.

(3)  Keep people’s focus (including your own) on possibilities rather than frustrations.  As with everything in life, whatever we focus on has a way of becoming amplified.  When we allow ourselves to become consumed with fear and doubt, our brains have a way of finding things that feed those states and we find that there seems to be even more to be afraid of or frustrated by.  This phenomenon often happens without our conscious awareness, and it is a vicious cycle that can keep us falling deeper and deeper into despair. 

Reversing this cycle requires a conscious effort.  When we notice we are feeling upset by a certain thought, the first step is to become aware of the thought that has caused the reaction and deliberately choose another one to focus on.  There is always something positive or hopeful to focus on.  Sometimes finding it takes a bit of work, but that effort will be met with rich rewards.  A man named Ambrose Redmoon once said “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important.”  We need to figure out what is more important – more worthy of our attention and energy and focus on that.  As we do, our innate talents and strengths have a way of rising to the occasion.

With any change that brings uncertainty, there is a process of renewal involved.  The old must fall way in order for the new to be revealed.  This is true in nature as well as in our communities, organizations and in our very selves.  We can focus on what we are losing and experience a great deal of sadness and grief, or we can focus on what is newly emerging around us – and within us.  Sometimes the most difficult changes are the very things we need to experience to get closer to what we really want in life.  We may not realize the gifts change and uncertainty bring for weeks, months, and even years.  But we can recognize how it has served us in the past and trust in the process, in each other, and in ourselves.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.” 

~  Richard Bach

 My new book, The Pinocchio Principle ~ Being Real: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be  is about reconnecting to your inner reserves and drawing upon them to give life to your greatest visions and dreams.  It will be released on January 11, 2011 and will soon be available to pre-order.  Stay tuned for more information and subscribe to my free monthly ezine at www.DianeBolden.com to hear about free upcoming events, videos and teleseminars – and to receive my free report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves – and How to Avoid Them.

Though comments are currently closed, please feel free to email me at Diane@DianeBolden.com with your feedback, questions and thoughts.  Have a specific challenge you’d like to see a post written about?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear from you!