All posts by Diane

How to Up Level Your Game by Upgrading Your Internal Programming

man overcomes technological setback with his mindset

Imagine that software you’ve relied on for years stops working for you

You notice that it has been freezing up a lot. Sometimes when you execute a command, things happen that you didn’t intend. At first, it didn’t really bother you. You just made do and went on. 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.

Take John as an example
John is a senior executive that wanted to increase his ability to influence others. His style was bold and direct and he was accustomed to using his authority to get compliance. He had high expectations that most people who reported to him jumped through hoops to meet. John was known for his ability to get things done.

But as John interfaced more and more with people he had no authority over, including his peers or their direct reports, this approach often backfired. When they didn’t behave the way he wanted, his demands that they comply often made things worse. They became defensive and unresponsive. And he began to realize his approach wasn’t working as well as he thought with his direct reports either.

Suddenly, John was no longer getting results. Worse, he was beginning to get a reputation for being difficult to work with. In his efforts to find a better way to influence people, John began to learn what he needed to do differently.

And though he did his best to change his behavior accordingly, when things got tense he reverted to old patterns of behavior that were deeply ingrained.

John’s old program was interfering with his new one
And this interference was causing major glitches. But those glitches didn’t keep him from achieving his desired results. He just had to find the bug that was creating the havoc and take steps to eliminate it.

So how do you find a bug in your program?
Like John, you start by recognizing that you aren’t getting the results you want. instead of doubling down on your efforts or beating yourself up for not succeeding, you get curious.  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
When John replayed the events of many of his interactions with others, he recognized that what he really wanted (and needed) to do when someone disagreed with him was to respond thoughtfully, with curiosity and patience.

But he also realized that before his mental faculty was engaged, he had already launched into action with a much more abrupt and abrasive response. And before he knew it, despite his best intentions he had said something he would later regret.

He was reacting instead of responding.

Knee jerk reactions are the product of conditioning
Conditioning is 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. When John realized he had a tendency to override his true intention by launching into an old undesirable pattern before realized what was happening, he also became increasingly aware of the negative consequences that behavior created.

This is not to say that John was able to instantaneously eradicate his bug and immediately improve his results. On the contrary, John grew increasingly frustrated because now he was not only engaging in problematic behavior — he was doing it even though he knew better. But this awareness is half the battle.

Initially he didn’t catch his errors until after the fact, but with increased awareness and attention John noticed them sooner and sooner. The time it took him to catch his blunders went from hours to minutes and with continued diligence he was able to take steps to correct them in real time. Ultimately, he got to the point where he could prevent himself 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.

As John drove home from work mentally reviewing the way he handled himself in a meeting, he reflected on what he would have liked to do differently. And then he replayed the scene in his mind with a new, more desirable ending. He continued to do this daily. As he did, he literally rewired his brain.

Doing so allowed him to create and increasingly rely on new neural networks when he was in situations that necessitated a different response. Gradually he was able to replace his tendency to demand compliance with a more thoughtful, respectful and engaging approach to influencing others.

And over time John once again became known not only for getting results, but for creating sustainable solutions and strong relationships.

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!

 

This is a little peek into what participants in the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius will be learning and practicing over the next thirteen weeks.  Though enrollment is now closed, you can email support@DianeBolden.com to get on the waiting list for the next session (which will most likely take place in spring), or to inquire about bringing the program in house.

Why What Used to Work May Now Be Working Against You (and what to do instead)

bigstock-Inside-a-room-with-opened-door-15725378

Imagine finding yourself in a dark room…It’s a room that was once lit, but has since dimmed.

And you have been doing everything you can to turn that light back on.  You’ve even gone so far as to build a contraption that allows you to generate electricity through your own manual effort, sort of like a giant hamster wheel.

The problem is you have to run continuously to produce the smallest splinter of light.  And you find yourself pushing harder and faster to get that light to grow so that more of the room is illuminated once again.

Off in the distance, there is another room that glows brightly and warmly beckons to you.

The radiance coming through the doorway of that space is pure and beautiful and you can almost feel its glow.

But despite the draw of that warmly lit room, you stay right where you are.  Instead of getting off the crazy hamster wheel that requires constant exertion and toil, you just keep running faster and faster.

And you are becoming exhausted.

This metaphor came to me in a moment of reflection.  I had noticed a theme that I’ve seen echoed among several of my executive coaching clients – and in my own life as well, from time to time.

What used to work well no longer produces results. And that’s a problem.

What was once easy and energizing begins to feel cumbersome and draining.  And rather than moving us forward, in some cases it actually thwarts our progress.

But when it’s all we know, it can be difficult to let it go. 

We worked so hard to perfect those ways of being, of working, of relating.  And it paid dividends in the past.  We think to ourselves, “If I could just double down, and put a little more effort into it, a little more discipline, I could turn it all around,” right?

That’s what many of my clients thought.  Maybe you can relate…

For some, the work they did won them a promotion. 

Their intense operational focus and ability to dig in and get results merited them an increased scope and elevated role.  They became responsible for leading and empowering others to do the work they once focused the majority of their effort on.  They were being called to make a bigger, more strategic impact, but their fierce and intense focus on operational details was preventing them from making that leap.

For others, it was work that once excited them but was no longer stimulating.

They could do it in their sleep.  Sure, they were good at it, but it was becoming a boring, tedious grind.  It was harder to get out of bed in the morning. There was nothing to look forward to.  And in their quiet moments, they dreamt of doing something bigger, bolder and more impactful.

Some even had ideas and projects they longed to pursue or propose.  But they just couldn’t get themselves to break out of the ruts they were in, and/or doubted whether they really had what it took to do anything different.

And for many others, it was about working in a way that was simply not sustainable.

They had a tendency to take on more than most, prioritize everything equally and live in constant fear of letting people down.  So they continued running a race that was increasingly difficult to keep up with, let alone win.  The stress and pressure of their environment was high, but small in comparison to the anxiety they heaped upon themselves.

Regardless of which group you find yourself in, there is a better way not far off in the distance.

At some level you are probably aware that something has to give…   You dream of feeling energized again, of being unencumbered and inspired and engaged in meaningful and fulfilling work.  But you can’t get to that new place without being willing to leave the old one.

You can choose to stay in the dark, dreary room because it’s comfortable. 

It may no longer be satisfying, or even pleasant, but it’s familiar.  Do you ever shy away from the light that is beckoning you to leave that space because you are afraid of what you’ll see or whether you’ll be able to handle it?

We all do that from time to time, even though…

The light reveals new possibilities for growth, significance and satisfaction.

It not only illuminates the challenges and opportunities, but also your strengths – including some you may not have realized you have.  And it ushers in new vitality, new energy and new clarity.  When you summon the courage to leave your dark, dull room and follow the light, you’ll be filled with vigor and joy, and you’ll find your enthusiasm renewed, your passion reignited, even if you don’t believe that yet.

The light of new possibilities brings both freedom and flow.  No more running like hell without getting anywhere.  No more banging your head against a wall only to end up with throbbing pain.  No more feelings of being trapped by your circumstances.  Once you summon the courage to follow the light into new possibilities and ways of working, you’ll experience a momentum that propels you forward in a sustainable way.

I know this because I have experienced it firsthand myself.

And over the last twenty plus years I have helped hundreds of executives just like you experience it too.  I can tell you that there is simply nothing like it.  And it has to be experienced to be believed.

That light that beckons to you is a call to step into something bigger and more satisfying.

It invites you to release old, outworn ways of working that no longer serve you and step into your personal and professional best – to unleash your greatness, to make a bigger impact and a bigger contribution.  And it brings with it not only new levels of performance and effectiveness, but also fulfillment that enhances your life both on and off the job.

I wrote this article for you, because my life’s work is about helping high achievers effect this transformation in their lives and their organizations.  Because when you answer this vital call to realize more of your true potential, magic happens.  You can quickly make a bigger impact doing meaningful work without sacrificing who you truly are.  Best of all you’ll enjoy your life more.  You become a shining example and a far more effective leader to others who will learn to make the same improvements in their own lives and careers.

The sad reality is, some of us stay in our dark rooms longer than others. 

Making that move requires resolve and determination. And it starts with a conscious decision and a commitment to yourself.  But the process can be unnerving.  It requires you to let go of something you know in order to move into something you don’t.  And though the rewards of making that move are profound, it isn’t always easy. Especially when you try to go it alone…

Having someone to guide and support you through the process can and almost always makes all the difference.

That’s why I created The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius to help high achieving executives just like you make that vital leap with professional high level support and guidance, so you can move through it very quickly, with courage and grace.

The program is a distillation of the most impactful approaches and techniques that have helped my clients over the last twenty plus years to successfully affect their own personal and professional transformations.  These are powerful methodologies I repeatedly utilize in my own life as well.

If anything you’ve read has resonated with you, I encourage you to give yourself the gift of registering in the program right now.

I’ll be personally guiding an intimate group of executives through this process over the next thirteen weeks utilizing a powerful blend of online training (that you’ll have lifetime access to), small group mastermind meetings and one-on-one coaching support.

This is the final notice, and registration for the program closes on Friday (9/20) so that we can begin our work together next week.

Sure, you could probably do this on your own – through trial and error… in stops and starts battling frustration and confusion each step of the way…

OR

You can  make this transformation so much more easily and quickly by joining me in this program – to get the support, guidance and coaching that helps you build momentum and sustain your progress.

There are five essential phases in this process of transformation that we’ll move through together.

  • VISION: The first phase involves having a vision of what is possible and what your work and your life will be like when you achieve it.  The Personal Power Grid™ and associated exercises we’ll cover in the beginning of the program will help you gain clarity and see new possibilities.
  • AWARENESS: The second phase entails becoming aware of your current state and the impact it is having in your life.  You’ll also begin to recognize what is and isn’t working – which thoughts and behaviors are aligned with your vision and which are not.  This is a tricky step because much of it occurs at an unconscious level.
  • INSIGHT: As your awareness grows, you’ll gain vital insight that will help you strengthen your vision and inform your actions.  This program is designed to help you cultivate your OWN insight in ways you were not able to do before, so that you can find answers that are truly fitting in your own life.
  • ACTION: Once you have insight about what you need to do more and less of, you can begin to experiment with action, utilizing tools and methodologies shared in the program.  The activities and reflective exercises provided will help you turn information into transformation.  The process is iterative, as every action you take allows you to gain additional insight and awareness.
  • ANCHORING: To ensure you don’t get sucked back into old habits and patterns, we’ll review the five pitfalls you’ll be most likely to fall into as well as strategies for prevention and recovery.  We’ll also discuss regular practices you can institute to leverage your progress and keep you on your path to freedom and flow.

What differentiates this program from all the others out there is that it isn’t about blindly following some recipe for success that attempts to make you someone you are not.

The program is designed to help you move more deeply into who you truly are, so that you can connect with your own wisdom and allow it to guide you in ways that are authentic and natural to you, and lead you to your own personal uniqueness and strengths.

You’ll learn to leverage your experiences in ways that bring clarity and focus into your life, and experience lightness as you begin to let go of things you’ve been making yourself do all these years that have weighed you down and created unnecessary pressure and anxiety.  All this while enjoying unprecedented levels of performance and energy that is sustainable – because it comes from the inside out.

I hope you’ll take me up on my invitation to join me now and answer your own personal and professional call to greatness.  Step out of that dimly lit room and into the light of possibility, expansion and growth.

If you’ve read this far, you know it’s time to act.

Diane

P.S. Does your organization sponsor professional development?  To assist you in getting approval to use corporate funds for your registration in the program, download the business case for participating in the program.

 

 

 

The Super Simple Secret to Outwitting Overwhelm

Executive Leadership Coach for Phoenix, Arizona - Diane Bolden

Not all that long ago, I went through a period where I felt overwhelmed and stuck. Beneath my frustration was curiosity about where it was coming from and what was the best way to move beyond it.

One day, as I was watching my young son do his homework, I had a fascinating and frustrating insight.

This kid is really smart. And his homework is just not that hard for him. He could finish it in the time it takes to make a peanut butter sandwich. But seconds after he would pull it from his backpack a whole new dynamic came into play. It was as though a huge brick wall suddenly erupted from the page and grew a hundred feet tall.

He’d sit and stare at his paper. He’d complain about all the work he had to do. He’d worry that he wouldn’t be able to do it right (or at all). And then he’d become completely fixated on any little thing that captured his attention. A bug. A drop of water on the counter. The way the numbers on the digital clock change with each minute. And hours could go by before he had even touched his pencil to paper.

After watching for a while, I heard myself telling him, “In the time it takes you to moan and complain about it, you could have it done! You can get through this easily – you are so smart!” But nothing I said was getting through.

And then I realized that my son was a mirror image of me when I get overwhelmed.

It’s not that what must get done is all that difficult.

It’s that my mind had a way of magnifying things several times their normal size so that it felt like I must tackle Mount Everest when in reality I only needed to take a little walk around the block. I told myself stories (sometimes consciously and other times unconsciously) about how hard things will be or how long they would take – especially things that were new to me.

And then I’d fall into my old, familiar pitfall of trying to make everything perfect. Before I even realized what was going on, I felt totally exhausted and depleted. And then I needed relief—even just doing something that’s easy—so I could check a box and feel like I had accomplished something, anything.

Once I realized where my son got it, I decided to stop trying to teach him and let him teach me.  

In addition to showing me what was standing in my way, he reminded me that all the words in the world don’t make a difference when you are trying to teach someone to do something you have not yet mastered. Kids learn through action, not words. And so do adults.

I knew that to help my son (or anyone else for that matter) in even the smallest way, I had to get busy working on myself. And then a new question arose: how can I overcome a lifetime of perfectionistic patterns that keep me from doing what’s necessary to achieve my grandest visions and goals?

With that question at the top of my mind, I went for a run. As with just about any of my runs, the first few minutes were tough. I was tired and stiff. It wasn’t fun. But I just kept going. And then I fell into my zone. My legs felt lighter. My breathing evened out. My head started to clear. I was actually enjoying myself. I ran a little faster and a little harder. It felt good.

And then I had a second, equally powerful insight.

To break out of the perfectionism trap—to get out of overwhelm, to free myself from my own self-imposed prison—I simply needed to get into action. Even one tiny step toward my desired goal would help – though at first it may be uncomfortable, messy, and far from perfect. And then I could take another, and another and another, until l finally I reach my zone.

Over the last several months, I have found that the more diligence and effort I put into those first few steps, the more quickly I get through that “warm up” period and into a place where I can make some real headway – and even have some fun in the process.

So that’s my simple plan for getting and staying unstuck. And when I need a little more motivation and inspiration, I just go hang out with my son for awhile.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” ~Albert Einstein

Overwhelm is just one of the many states that keep us from taking action toward our goals and visions and doing our best work. If you are interested in learning more about how to find your optimal zone of performance so that your work becomes less cumbersome and more enjoyable, check out  The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of September 23rd.

This 13-week leadership development program will help you find and stay in your optimal zone of performance so that your work becomes less cumbersome and more enjoyable.  It’s designed to help high achieving professionals get better results and make a bigger impact while enjoying their lives more – both on and off the job.

Registration will close soon.  Save your seat today!

 

 

 

 

 

Does Your Work Life Need Resuscitating?

frustrated man feels the need for a vacation to replenish

I have always been amazed by the number of people who think of work as a necessary evil — simply what must be done to earn a paycheck. For so many who toil through their workday, the primary goal is to make it to the weekend so they can really live.

Going through the motions, working side by side with others whose hearts and minds they seldom truly connect with, they withhold the very parts of themselves that make them come alive.

For some it wasn’t always this way. Many began their careers ignited with passion and optimism, only to find that their flames began to flicker as they encountered obstacle after obstacle that kept them from achieving what they believed would be success.

Succumbing to the unwritten rules of the organizations and other environments they found themselves in, which suggested they needed to act or think in a certain way to get ahead, they may have slowly sold out on their dreams and relegated themselves to quiet complacency.

Many of us were not brought up to expect that work would be fun or gratifying in any way – nor should it be. That’s why they call it work, you may have been told. As a result, you may have never really expected much from your career or professional life. And as the saying goes, life has a way of living up to your expectations.

Most of us have learned how to turn ourselves on and off at will, in an effort to spare ourselves the pain of disappointment or frustration — or to maintain what we have come to believe is a professional demeanor. It is not uncommon to hear people say that they are very different at work than they are at home.

Those golden parts of yourself that you think you are protecting suffer when you don’t let them breathe and interact in the very realms that allow you to learn who you are and what you are here to do in the world.

You miss the chance to become a part of something greater than yourself. And the organizations and communities you are a part of miss out on the unique contribution you have the potential to make.

You can no longer afford to fragment yourself in this way, denying the fulfillment of your secret dreams and talents and downplaying the insights you have about what you can do to make life better — for yourself, and everyone around you.

As more and more of us feel the pain that accompanies the denial of our spirits, we have begun to realize that the time has come for us to bring the totality of who we are to what we do, no matter our vocation, title or role.

There are people among us who have the ability to snap us out of our trances — our states of quiet desperation — and help us bring more of who we truly are to everything that we do.

They can do this for others because they have done it for themselves. They are called “real leaders”. And they exist at all levels of organizations, regardless of their titles or roles.

Real Leaders inspire others to perform at their very best,

because they themselves are inspired.

When was the last time you felt inspired in your work? When was the last time you had passion for your career? What is it that allows you to feel a sense of wonder and contribution to something bigger?

If you have lost touch with that, do yourself and everyone around you a favor and take some time to reconnect with it. You have something deep inside that you are uniquely qualified and put on this earth to create or do.

When you were young, the energy of your dreams likely propelled you along your path — sometimes blindly, but it gets you off your duff and into action.

You’ve likely experienced hardships along the way and it may have felt at times as though you were failing again and again. Life throws you curve balls and you can find yourself feeling beaten down and doing what you can to just get by, running from one crisis to another and sometimes going in circles.

At some point, you will be tempted to check out and take an easier path – one that allows you to go numb and somewhat unconscious. It may work for a while, but over time you’ll begin to feel the misery that comes along with abandoning your dreams and letting your passion take the back seat.

What would it take for you to get excited about what you are doing right now? What is the bigger why of the work you do every day?  Who does it serve, and how?

If you can’t answer that question, do some digging. When you can connect those dots to a bigger picture, you may find that what you thought was insignificant is quite meaningful – and a vital piece of a larger puzzle you are meant to help assemble.

As you recognize your part and the value you provide, perhaps you’ll be inspired to bring a little more of who you are to what you do by playing more fully, being more present, and connecting more deeply with those who rely on you.

Your passion is like a hidden well with unlimited reservesin the act of tapping it, you will replenish it in such a way that it multiplies. And as you unleash it in your work, you will draw out something extraordinary in every human being that comes into contact with it. That is the essence of real leadership.

We are beginning to awaken to our unique calls to service, creativity and innovation. As you find ways to unleash your distinctive talents and passions at work, you will significantly increase the quality of your own life, as well as the lives of everyone around you.

If you are interested in learning more about how to revitalize your life – both on and off the job, I encourage you to consider enrolling for the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of September 23rd.

This 13-week leadership development 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.

Enrollment is limited, so save your seat as soon as you can!






The Gift of Chaos (and How to Leverage It)

computer animated profile that shows the profile breaking apart and leveraging chaos

 

“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 consider enrolling for the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of September 23rd.

The program is filling up – and it is a great group of people so far!   Enrollment is limited – click the link to save your seat.

 

 

 

 

From Frustration to Fruition: What to Do When Nothing Goes Your Way

 

Do you ever find yourself in a place where, despite your best efforts, nothing seems to be working out the way you want it to?  an outline of a key for success that indicates frustration to fruition

Maybe you have an amazing idea that you just can’t seem to get off the ground.  Perhaps you have made progress toward a goal and suddenly feel stymied and blocked or unable to gain the resources or support you need to move forward.  You might be navigating some kind of transition that has left you wondering whether that next thing for you is ever going to materialize.

When obstacles seem to be coming from all directions and you just keep running into walls, it’s easy to lose hope and become consumed with frustration. 

Sometimes it seems that the only options are to throw in the towel or buckle down and try harder.  We are conditioned as a society to do the latter, and sometimes that is what it takes to bust through the barriers that confront us.  But when we continue to run into setback after setback, it may serve us better to stop for awhile and survey the territory before we take action again — as we may find that what we thought was a frustrating delay is actually integral to getting us where we want to go.

Have you ever had a customer that wanted something that required a great deal of preparation but didn’t want to take the time to build the necessary foundation?  If you proceeded as directed,  in time the solution could go up in smoke leaving that customer worse off than they were before — or in the very best case, less than satisfied.   But the customer wasn’t interested in hearing about why the delays were necessary and instead kept pushing and pushing for results.

Sometimes when we force things to happen, we are like that customer who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and insists on powering up the engines before they are finished being built.   He creates so much noise and distraction that it makes it difficult to focus on what truly needs to happen in order to get back on course.  That’s what our frustration and anxiety does to us when we get caught up in it.

There is a part of you that knows exactly what you need to do to succeed in any given area – a part of you that has knowledge of a bigger picture and all the moving parts necessary to bring your grandest goals and visions to fruition.   

While the part of you that is like the impatient customer that wants what he wants, this bigger part of you knows intuitively that things are happening in just the right way to yield the best results.  The bigger part of you can only communicate to you in nonlinear ways — through feelings and flashes of insight that leave your logical mind wanting more details.  And it only communicates in the present moment.

To tap this bigger part of yourself, you must learn to become attuned to what is going on in this moment, trusting that in the midst of frustrating delays and setbacks there may be something right in front of you that needs your attention.  If you do not give it your attention you may continue to experience even more resistance and frustration.  But if you move into it, you will find exactly what you need in order to move forward.

When I was writing my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, I hit a wall and experienced the dreaded writer’s block.  I powered through it, forcing myself to write in spite of my lack of inspiration.  Before long I realized that I simply couldn’t continue and put the manuscript away for awhile.  In the months that followed, I had a number of experiences that were critical to writing the book.  When my inspiration was renewed and it was time to return to my writing, I ended up throwing away everything I made myself write under my own duress, as it was flat, mechanical and uninspired.  I replaced it with stories about the previous months’ experiences.  As I wrote, the words seemed to fly onto the page and I was back in my flow again.

You too may be in a state where before you are ready to move onto the next phase of your greatest vision, goal or initiative, you must experience something that will give you just what you need to succeed.  So when you feel that frustration, see if you can look at your situation with eyes that see beyond what appears to be limitation and perceive the gifts it is bringing you.  It could be the very springboard you need to get you back in your game.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to ride the waves of life’s challenges and setbacks with greater effectiveness and less stress, consider enrolling for the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of September 23rd.

This 13-week leadership development 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.

Enrollment is limited, so save your seat as soon as you can!





When the Road You’re On Isn’t Getting You Where You Really Want to Go

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Have you ever achieved a goal that wasn’t as fulfilling as you thought it would be?

Maybe it was a target you wanted to meet, a possession you longed to acquire, or a promotion you were hoping to receive.  You kept your eye on the ball and hunkered down to do whatever it took to get there.  When obstacles presented themselves, you busted through them and may have felt as though you were repeatedly banging your head against a wall.  “The reward for your exhaustion would be the sweet taste of victory in the end,” you may have told yourself.

I did.  And when I got to the top of the hill I was climbing I realized the mountain I was scaling was not mine, but someone else’s.

What if it didn’t have to be that hard?

It’s not that we want to avoid hard work, which really does have its rewards.  It’s about enjoying the journey a little more.  And if we didn’t insist on having to blaze the trail in front of us, we might find that off in the distance a lovely path is being revealed – if only we would stop long enough to pay attention.

When I take on new clients, they are often in the same state I have often found myself in. 

They have worked hard to get somewhere, but they know in their hearts there is something greater available to them.  Perhaps they haven’t been getting the results they wanted, have been experiencing a great deal of stress or even burnout, or are just ready for a change.  During times like these often the best thing we can do is not to speed up, but to slow down – way down.

If the path you’re running on isn’t getting you where you want to go, moving faster won’t do you any favors.

The best leaders are not those who have all the answers, but rather the best questions

  • What are the possibilities?
  • What are the opportunities?
  • How are we uniquely positioned to make the most of them?
  • In what ways can we leverage our strengths to rise up to our challenges?

In asking such questions, these leaders bring to the surface answers, insights and knowledge people hold inside that allow great things to happen.  Rather than imposing a vision on others, they allow it to develop collectively, with the knowledge that they can’t possibly see and accomplish everything singlehandedly.

Before these great leaders can do this for others, they must do it for themselves. 

So I challenge you (and myself as well) to focus on asking the important questions and to be still long enough to hear the answers.

In Native American cultures, young adults are sent on vision quests

These rituals involve sending the youth on a journey, packed with provisions that allow basic needs to be met.  Instructions are simply to wander around and find a place that calls to them.  Upon doing so, further direction is simply to sit and reflect.  The belief behind this is that we do not necessarily need to actively find our vision.  When we quiet ourselves and pay attention, our visions find us.

A vision quest doesn’t have to be all consuming.

In our complex society, few of us have the time to go wander around the desert and sit for indefinite periods of time.  So we need to make the time in our busy schedules to connect the dots.  This may be a few minutes here and there.  You may find yourself repeatedly daydreaming about something, or playfully entertaining an idea or possibility that will not allow itself to be dismissed.

These are critical pieces of information that can be vital to our journeys.

Like pieces of a puzzle, they eventually come together to reveal a bigger picture.  Pay attention to them, and do whatever is necessary to nurture and protect them. Capture these thoughts on paper or in your computer and add to them as new ideas continue to emerge.  Some of these nuggets will become more valuable to you than others – like gold in the miner’s pan, they will begin to shine amongst the grains of sand.

Notice also the synchronicities that occur all around you that help make your visions real. These may be chance encounters with people uniquely connected or qualified to help you, valuable information that effortlessly comes your way, and little serendipities that allow you to feel as though you are in the flow of something bigger than yourself.  Chances are, you will be.

Enjoy the ride!

If you are interested in additional strategies for helping you navigate a path aligned with who you truly are – one that leads to lasting freedom and fulfillment, I invite you to check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.  Registration for the fall session is now open!

This 13-week leadership development 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. 

The program will kick off in late September and go through early December.  Enrollment is limited, so save your seat as soon as you can.






Give Presence: 3 Steps for Creating the Gift That Everyone Needs Most

Diane Bolden, Executive Leadership Coach, of Phoenix, Arizona.

Can you recall the last time you felt totally and completely attended to?

Chances are it wasn’t when someone was giving you advice or telling you what to do. It may not have even been when someone was engaging in an activity on your behalf or watching you tear open a gift. And yet when we think of giving something to others our minds often immediately jump to what we can do, say or buy for someone. Many times, the best gift we can give someone is that of our presence.

But what exactly is presence?

The word present derives from the Latin past participle praesse meaning “to be before one”, from the roots pra – pre + esse – to be. I believe presence is a state of being that’s achieved when we are truly in the moment, allowing it to unfold without judging it, labeling it, or getting lost in our thoughts about what it means or what we believe should be happening next (or instead).

Presence allows us to cut through the clamor of our preoccupations, worries and fears so that our true selves can emerge. It is a gateway through which our intuition and inner wisdom enters and expresses itself. A moment of presence is a state of grace that can produce great insights that help us to truly learn from our experiences, make the most of our opportunities and rise up to our challenges in creative ways.

In these moments of presence, we know who we really are and what we are truly capable of.

Have you ever noticed that people tend to match each other’s intensity and tone when they are together? Comments about trivial matters are often matched with similar banter. Expressions of fear or dread often elicit responses that are equally charged, and expressions of anger have a way of provoking reactions that people later regret.

In a similar manner, moments of presence when shared with others can evoke powerful responses that can be revealing and transformational.

This is because when you are truly present with another human being you create a space that allows that person’s true self to come out as well. This is why the best leaders have learned to become comfortable with silence, to listen more than they talk, and to allow themselves to become instruments that help others to recognize their own greatness – not necessarily through anything that say or do, but rather through moments of presence that are created and shared with others.

So how does one cultivate a moment of presence?

It is really rather simple, though far easier said than done.

  • The first step is to be still. That’s right. Sit still. I know it goes against everything you were probably taught about getting things done and being useful. But do it anyway. You can practice now, while you read this. Become aware of your breathing, of the space you are sitting in, of the weight of your body and how it feels in this moment. Feel the life inside you and trace it to each part of your body. Listen to the sounds around you. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.
  • Become aware of your thoughts. Observe the activity of your mind as it continues to process whatever is there– thoughts like, “this is silly, really – I have way too much to do to be sitting here, doing this…” and “I have to remember to call so and so back today,” and “What did my [boss, colleague, friend, etc.] mean when he/she said…”. Recognize that you are not your thoughts, but rather the thinker of your thoughts. Simply watch them parade around, without getting sucked into them. Feel how much bigger you are than all of that. Continue to breathe it in.
  • Step three…. There really is no step three. Simply continue to repeat steps one and two, immersing yourself more deeply into the experience with each breath. You don’t need to do this for an extended period of time, unless you want to. Often even a couple of minutes are sufficient to bring you to a more intense state of awareness and aliveness.

In these moments of presence, you will experience things on a different level – one that allows you to respond from a deeper, wiser part of yourself. And when you are with others, you will bring out that deeper, wiser part of them as well. Presence is incredibly powerful to practice with others. The process is the same, except that you expand your awareness to take in the other person as well.

Look into their eyes, and listen to what they are saying. But listen to what they are not saying as well. Presence is more about being than doing. So allow yourself to truly BE with another, devoid of judgments, labels, and agendas. When you listen from this place, you are like water to a thirsty plant, allowing others to open up and soak in needed nutrients.

And in this space, they may just find the answers they seek as well – not because you are giving them, but because you have created a space that is illuminating for everyone.

For more on cultivating presence and how it can enrich both your leadership and your life, check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.  Registration for the fall session is now open!

This 13-week leadership development 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. 

The program will kick off in late September and go through early December.  Enrollment is limited, so save your seat as soon as you can.

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.

When my kids were young I was intent on capturing photos and video 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 shots that I missed those precious moments altogether. And it’s never quite the same when you watch the replay.

So I started resisting the urge to reach for my camera.

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, consider joining me in the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.  Registration is now open!

This 13-week leadership development 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. 

The program will kick off in late September and go through early December.  Enrollment is limited, so save your seat as soon as you can.

How to (Finally) Get Your Most Important Work Done

Is there something vital that you’ve been meaning to get to that seems just out of reach? A juicy project, initiative or undertaking that you’re passionate about – that could potentially make a big impact on your career, in your organization, or simply on another human being?

If you’re like most people, the answer is yes. We all tend to have something relatively important we’ve been putting off – for lack of time, energy, focus (or a combination of all three). Sometimes it keeps slipping because other people’s projects and requests tend to take priority.

But more often than not, these critical tasks and projects are in a perpetual state of incompletion because we simply have not gotten serious about carving out time (and energy) to do them. They tend to have a few things in common:

  • They require you to think creatively – to bring into form something that did not previously exist or to solve a problem that doesn’t have easy answers.
  • It seems the time it will take to do them is greater than the time you have available.
  • The thought of jumping in makes you mildly uncomfortable, leading you to be all too inclined to put other things ahead of them.

I know, because the article you are now reading fell into that category for me. So, in effect I am writing this as much for my own benefit as yours.

Below are three simple tips to help you get off the dime and get those essential projects rolling.

(1) Make the decision to stop talking/thinking/planning and start DOING.

The word decision derives from the Latin “decidere”, which literally means “to cut off,” from de- “off” + ceadere “to cut”. Making a decision means cutting yourself off from other options. In the words of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, “There is no try, only do.”

Sometimes you can kick start yourself by using this logic in reverse. What if the option you cut yourself off from was the completion of this important task/project/initiative? What would be the impact on your life if you did not do it? How would you feel? And what would the effect be on others?

If you were to flash forward another week/month/year/decade, and you still hadn’t done this thing that has likely been gently (or not so gently) nudging you forward, would you be okay with that?

Conversely, what is there to gain by going all in? How would you benefit? How will the work you are on the verge of doing enrich the lives of others or make a difference in a way that matters? Flash forward and imagine that you have completed it. How would you feel? And what kind of impact would it have on the world around you?

William James once said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” Sometimes the very incompletion of a task that has meaning and significance for us is more exhausting than the energy required to actually do it. So, make the decision today to cut yourself off from other options and move into action.

This leads us to the next tip.

(2) Block time and hold it sacred.

Now that you’ve made the decision to get that precious piece of work done, you must dedicate time to do it. Contrary to what you may believe, you don’t necessarily need to have large, uninterrupted chunks of time to make progress. Even the smallest of actions you can take will begin creating momentum that will move you closer to your finish line.

Break bigger projects into smaller milestones and get into the practice of using whatever time you have to take action toward your goals. Challenge your assumptions on how long things will take to get done. Interrupt that chatter in your head that has you believing you don’t have time to make a dent in something by simply moving into action in spite of it. Just get started.

Reserve larger chunks of time by scheduling meetings with yourself. Consider sending yourself a meeting notice, complete with a subject line and an agenda that spells out your objectives in the body of the message. This will serve to direct your attention and focus to what you have the power to accomplish in the time you have reserved.

Regard these meetings you schedule with yourself the same way you would a meeting with a client or your boss. If despite your best efforts, something else must be scheduled in its place, don’t just delete it from your calendar. Find an alternative date and time in the same way you would another appointment that you are committed to.

If upon looking at your calendar it seems there is simply no time available, challenge yourself to use the discernment necessary to create it. What can you delegate, defer or dump? How can you simplify the things that may not require as much time as you thought they would? What things are you involved in that in the scheme of things really aren’t true priorities?

Now that you have allocated time to work on those precious projects, let’s talk about how you can create the kind of space you’ll need to make good progress on them.

(3) Maximize your FOCUS and PRODUCTIVITY.

During the time you have set aside to do that important work that has previously eluded you, it is likely there will be a multitude of things competing for your attention.  We are conditioned to believe that taking time for ourselves is indulgent. But in many cases, it is the most generous thing you can do because it allows you to engage in the kind of work that is of greatest service to others.

Despite that fact, many of us are all too quick to defer those projects that bring us the greatest joy to meet the urgent requests of someone or something that is demanding our attention.

Sometimes that is an actual person standing in front of us, but often it is the little ding that tells us an email has landed in our inbox, or the ring of the phone that we are conditioned to answer without even thinking, or the lure of social media or internet surfing that sucks up immeasurable amounts of time that we’ll never get back.

So, it is essential to consciously and intentionally eliminate distractions and create the kind of setting that is most conducive to enhancing your focus and productivity. Close your Outlook or Gmail and your browsers as well. Make the decision not to answer the phone.

Shut your door (if you have one) and/or communicate with others to manage their expectations about when you will become available. If you have the option, you may even consider going to a remote location like a coffee shop or restaurant where you are less likely to be disturbed.

Notice what environment leads you to find your zone of productivity. Some prefer a completely quiet space, while others enjoy ambient sounds around them. Some like music in the background or the sound of water.

Set a timer and designate anywhere from thirty to fifty minutes to do a “sprint” of work followed by a five to ten minute break that allows you to relax, take some deep breaths, move your body, get a drink of water and/or rest your eyes. Research shows this practice will dramatically increase your productivity (and I have validated that through my own experience as well.)

One of my favorite apps is Focus at Will, which offers a variety of background music and sounds that are designed to keep your brain at the right focus level by increasing beta and theta brainwave activity. The program allows you to set a timer, at which point the background sound will stop signaling time for a break.

A few words on why your most important work shouldn’t wait another minute…

We are all conditioned to move so fast from one thing to another checking boxes that it becomes all too easy to sacrifice the strategic in favor of the operational. Those juicy projects and creative visions that beckon to us in our quiet moments are vital not only to our sanity and sense of meaning and purpose, but also to the very future of our organizations and the lives of the people they serve.

The most extraordinary leaders (at all levels of both small and large organizations) heed these calls to break out of business as usual by tending to work that has real significance.  In so doing, they experience the rich rewards of fulfilling work that makes a bigger, more sustainable impact in the world.

If you would like to learn how to break out of business as usual to do YOUR best work – in a way that fills you up AND allows you to move the needle, consider joining me in the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.  Registration is now open!

The program will kick off in late September and go through early December.  Enrollment is limited, so save your seat as soon as you can.