The Thanksgiving season naturally lends itself to recognizing what we have to be grateful for. Health, family, friends, and prosperity are among the most commonly cited blessings. What comes most easily to mind are the warm, fuzzy areas of our lives that naturally lend themselves to feelings of appreciation.
But the power of gratitude reaches far beyond those things that bring immediate smiles to our faces.
And leveraging this power requires that we embrace not only the happy times but also the tougher experiences we’ve had that we would often rather forget about. Because the most challenging times in our lives and our careers are often accompanied by some of the richest blessings.
- That proposal that you worked day and night on but ended up going nowhere.
- The difficult customer/coworker/boss/direct report that continually pushed all your buttons.
- The presentation you made that didn’t have the impact you would have liked.
- The restructuring in your division that took you to the edges of your comfort zone and required you to navigate through uncertainty that was as unfamiliar as it was unsettling.
These things that push us to our edges come bearing gifts.
And we tend to move so quickly that we fail to pause long enough to unpack those blessings and truly integrate them. But when we do, we often realize in hindsight that these less than ideal circumstances allow us to grow, to become stronger, to more resilient, more compassionate, more insightful, more wise.
The circumstances themselves pass, but the gifts remain.
Cultivating this deeper level of gratitude allows us to contemplate the idea that perhaps life isn’t happening to us, but rather for us. These challenges that test our patience, push us to our edges, and appear to be nothing more than irritating obstacles are often the very things we need in order to become the best versions of ourselves.
It’s easier to see the perfect order of things in retrospect.
Can you think of a challenge you faced in the recent (or not so recent) past that stretched your limits? Consider for a moment what you learned as a result of that experience. What did the experience itself require that you activate within yourself to successfully move through it? And how did it make you a better leader? A stronger performer? A wiser and more compassionate person?
The reason these insights come to us in hindsight is that our thinking settles.
When we are not so frazzled and pressured by the need for an immediate response, or plagued by worried and doubt, the static that prevented us from seeing and appreciating the deeper purpose and significance subsides. And there is space for gratitude to emerge.
Gratitude, yes for all the things that are going well in our lives – our health, the precious people in our lives, our prosperity – but also gratitude for the experiences that allow us to see who we really are when our backs are to the wall, to step up and into our true potential, to realize ourselves to be much stronger and more capable than we thought we were.
What if you could leverage the power of hindsight in the present?
What if you could learn to look beyond the tangle of thoughts that may have you in a knot as you approach a current or emerging challenge – with the knowing that this unsettling, less than optimal situation also comes bearing gifts and blessings?
What if instead of focusing on the uncertainty of the situation and the external circumstances you could turn your attention to the knowing that you have what it takes to rise up to this and any other challenge? All you have to do is look to your past for evidence that it is there.
If you take it a step further, you can become grateful for the situations and circumstances you previously wished would go away. Because you know that along with the struggle, they provide you with gateways that invite you to discover and unearth who you really are. This approach allows you to face your challenges with curiosity, playfulness and grace – mindsets that catalyze insight, creativity, and the resilience you need to find your way and emerge victorious.
Now that’s something to be grateful for.
Using the wisdom of hindsight in the present is just one approach I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius to help high achieving executives appreciate and leverage the perfect order of their most challenging experiences to unleash their greatness. Enrollment for Spring 2020 will open soon, and for a limited time you can secure your seat at the 2019 rates before they increase. Stay tuned for more information or join the waiting list to be the first to know when registration opens.
Have you ever had one of those days/weeks/months where it felt like one darn thing after another?
But these ideas enter into us long before they are ready to be brought into the world. They prepare us, transform us, and lead us through a myriad of experiences that allow us to develop what we need in order to manifest them.
These experiences are not always pleasant.
We suffer disappointments, setbacks, frustrations. During times like these it is easy to feel as though life would be just fine as soon as these turbulences subside. But what if these little disturbances are the very things we need in order to breathe life into these visions that lie within us?
How many of the world’s greatest healers once experienced some kind of malady that they needed to overcome on their own before they had what it took to help others through the same challenge? How many people transcended their suffering by finding meaning in it and then went on to help others do the same? How many leaders rose to great heights charged with a mission of improving an organization or a community after having experienced something that needed to be changed?
What does this suggest for you?
If your journey as a leader will require you to exercise courage, you may find yourself in several situations that scare the hell out of you. If it requires you to show compassion, you may find yourself in situations where you must learn to transform your anger into something more constructive.
You will continue to draw to yourself the experiences you need to develop what is required to bring your vision into the world. The blessing and the curse in all of this is that those experiences will continue to present themselves until you finally learn the things you need to learn.
We learn best through action.
Early in my career as an instructor and developer of courses and workshops, I realized that an effective learning experience required a balance of lecture and discussion with some kind of experiential activity that would allow participants to translate into action what they just learned in theory. Life has a beautiful way of doing this for us.
The funny thing is that in the classroom no one ever much seemed to enjoy breaking into pairs and triads and having to practice something they were not very good at yet, and the same thing seems to be true when those experiences present themselves in our daily lives.
But life doesn’t give up on us.
If it doesn’t go so well with one person or situation, we get another to practice on. And it doesn’t even matter so much how well we do with these challenges, as long as we show up and do what’s in front of us. We will continue to be given opportunities to choose different responses, learn from them and adapt our behavior once again.
Think about anything you ever had to learn.
You began at the beginning. You started with the easy stuff. Then when you became stronger and more capable, you went onto a more advanced level, where the challenges were tougher and you had to apply greater skill, muscle and intellect. You emerged from each of these lessons with something you didn’t have before. And you couldn’t have acquired it through any other route than your own experience.
Low and behold – there is order in chaos.
As I began coaching executives several years ago, the emphasis in my work shifted from trying to impart a lesson to helping people learn from their own experiences and see the perfect order in which things are unfolding in their personal and professional lives to help them get where they truly want to go.
The pertinent thing was no longer to give people answers, but rather to help them find their own and to recognize they already possess everything they need to get them through whatever challenge is before them. And this is something each of us can do as leaders to help those around us on their own journeys as well.
What is life trying to teach you or prepare you for right now?
And how can you seize these opportunities in front of you to bring out your very best so that you can help someone else do the same?
“The future enters into us in order to transform us, long before it happens.” – Rainer Maria Wilke
For more on how to embrace life’s toughest lessons and come out on top, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead . You can claim your Kindle copy for just $2.99 through Friday 11/15/19 (and even gift it to colleagues, clients and members of your team at that price).
If you prefer reading the old fashioned way, the paperback version is also available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. To inquire about special pricing on volume purchases of the paperback version, email Support@DianeBolden.com.
I’m thrilled to announce the re-release of my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader with a brand new cover! In addition to a new image, the revised cover sports a new subtitle: “How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead”.
Often when I tell people that I wrote a leadership book called The Pinocchio Principle, they assume it must have something to do with ethics. It’s understandable, since the first thing most of us think of when we hear “Pinocchio” is a puppet whose nose grew when he lied. Pinocchio could easily be used as a metaphor for people who lie through their teeth while their proverbial noses grow…
And… it’s also easy to see why some might think it is a commentary on the importance of honesty in leadership.
While being truthful to oneself and others is a vital part of being a “real” leader, the reason I chose Pinocchio as a metaphor goes much deeper than his nose.
You see, the underlying narrative is, Pinocchio is a puppet who longs to become REAL.
Like Pinocchio, at our core we too have a burning desire to become real, (authentic, resourceful, truer to ourselves, in better service to others, etc.) to bring into creation the greatness that resides somewhere within us.
After all, you were born with these impulses — to give form to your distinctive blends of talent, energy, passion and style.
We all come into the world equipped with far more than we are immediately able to utilize or even comprehend. And though these rich parts of ourselves are always there, they have a way of becoming latent over time.
Throughout your career, you’ve no doubt come across people who have a special way of tapping into that well of available greatness.
They seem to effortlessly draw forth bits of the magic, access energy reserves, continually improve skills and pursue their passions. These are the people we love to watch and be around — they do what they do so well that it is an art.
As they tap their inner reserves and unleash their own greatness, they inspire each of us to do the same… and that’s what sets them apart and elevates them to the level of “Real Leadership”.
In Walt Disney’s rendition of Pinocchio, the puppet encounters a blue fairy. She tells him, “When you prove yourself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish, Pinocchio, then you will become a real boy.” You can imagine what Pinocchio might have been thinking upon hearing these words. What are these things this fairy speaks of? How do I get them? What must I do? How long will it take? Where do I start?
With the promise of a dream fulfilled, he endeavors to do whatever is necessary. And the odyssey begins. The twists and turns it takes are trials we can all relate to, and challenges that are a part of our human experience.
The qualities that the blue fairy encourages Pinocchio to demonstrate are not things he must acquire. They are attributes he already possesses. But to activate them, he must endure a series of events that allow him to realize these qualities are there and to exercise them accordingly.
In order to return to himself—his true self—Pinocchio must endure a journey of trials and tribulations that first lure him away from himself. And the same kind of drama seems to unfold in one way or another for each of us.
You have — within you — an animating Genius.
This Genius yearns to take different forms depending on the circumstances. Real Leaders could be defined as those whose Genius longs to create something for the greatest good, which is ultimately accomplished for, with and through others.
It has a keen ability to look around, see possibilities and utilize resources in a way that brings something into existence that benefits others, whether that is a family, a community, a non-profit organization, a corporation, or the world at large.
To accomplish this, leaders have the distinct charge of working with others in a way that brings out their best — that allows those we can impact to find the Genius within them and apply it in service of accomplishing a common goal.
However, before you can bring out Genius in others, you must start with yourself.
Many times the primary meaning of “to lead” is associated with directing something on a given course, or being in charge, and this can be one of the functions of leadership. But the essence of leadership is much more than that. The Merriam Webster Dictionary has the following entry as the first definition listed for the word “lead”: “a: to guide on a way especially by going in advance.”
If one of the essential functions of a leader is to bring out the best in others, this definition would suggest doing so requires that leaders first bring out the best in themselves. This, in and of itself, is the very same odyssey our friend Pinocchio finds himself on: To discover and liberate within himself what is real — divinely inspired Genius — and to courageously apply it in a way that is truthful and unselfish.
I wrote The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader to serve as a roadmap for bringing out the best in yourself and others. My desire is to help you bring to fruition your greatest dreams and visions and better navigate through the perils and possibilities along the way. The book was written to help you:
- Better differentiate what is true within yourself from the conditioning that would have you acting in ways that are inauthentic and self-defeating.
- Gain clarity on your unique call to leadership and leverage your experiences to prepare for something bigger.
- Explore navigational tools that will help you determine the extent to which you are on or off course and the direction you need to take next on your journey to becoming a Real Leader.
- Recognize and prevent assumptions and beliefs (your strings) that keep you from your best work so that you can utilize ego in service to something greater.
- Recognize and steer clear of the elusive promises (Pleasure Island) that divert you from your truest fulfillment.
- Face your greatest fears (the belly of the whale) in a transformational way that will reunite you with your own determination, courage and heroism.
- Rediscover the power that lies within (the fairy’s wand) to create and live your dreams.
- Find ways to return to the quiet places within yourself that nurture and inform your greatest visions.
The ultimate odyssey is always that of self-discovery. Every challenge, every opportunity gives you a chance to learn more about who you really are and to utilize your inherent gifts in service to something greater than yourself.
As I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius program, it’s only when you give yourself completely to the journey and find meaning in each step along the way, that you will truly live.
It’s your example and the unique contributions you make in the world that defines you as a Real Leader.
Now, more than ever, Real Leaders are differentiating themselves from people who simply hold fancy titles or have multitudes of people reporting to them. They exist at all levels of an organization, and they have the ability to transform it in ways that will allow it to achieve unprecedented levels of success.
Though the Halloween parties and trick or treaters will come and go, as I wrote in my last post, 3 Fundamental Truths to Help You Become What You Most Admire, you can continue to enjoy the fun and intrigue of stepping into the version of yourself you most want to explore. Every day brings with it a fresh opportunity to transform in ways that allow you to create, achieve or experience a new way of living and leading – and become more of who you truly are.
But how do you get from here to there? Last week’s article was about how to overcome the mental barriers that can keep you from even entertaining the idea of dressing up to become a better you. This week we’ll explore what you can do to play in this new arena once you’ve made that critical decision to step into a whole new level of possibility.
(1) GET CLARITY ON WHAT YOU ARE MOVING TOWARD AND WHY
Creating a compelling vision can be daunting to some because it often leads people to think they need to know exactly what everything will look like and all (or many) of the steps they need to take to get there. But the beauty of having a vision is that you don’t need to have it all figured out. You just have to want it. And getting clarity on your vision is more a matter of tuning in than crafting something that doesn’t yet exist.
When you want to move toward something, whatever it is you desire already lives and breathes in your mind. While you may not be able to describe every nuance of what it will look or feel like, chances are there are aspects of it that are quite vivid in your imagination. The more time you spend and the more freedom you give yourself to play with that vision, the more it will flesh itself out.
Just as important as tuning into what the vision looks and feels like is strengthening your connection to WHY you want it. The more it speaks to your values and deepest desires, the more meaning your vision will have and the more it will fuel you with the energy necessary to bring it into reality. This leads us to the next step.
(2) LET YOUR VISION INFORM YOUR ACTIONS
Vision provides the guiding principle around which actions organize themselves. When you start from a powerful and compelling vision, the act of planning becomes much more organic and natural. You can start by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- What major milestones would I need to accomplish to make my vision a reality?
- What steps would I need to take to achieve each of these milestones?
- What actions or habits could I institute to enhance or speed my progress?
- What would I need to learn that I don’t already know, and how could I gain that knowledge?
- What, if anything, do I need to stop doing that could impede or derail my progress?
The answers to these questions may come like a downpour in a brainstorming session you have with yourself. They could also continue to drop in and reveal themselves slowly, over time. Your ability to receive and discern these answers will be greatly enhanced with the third vital step to personal and professional transformation.
(3) CREATE SPACE TO RECEIVE ONGOING INSIGHT
Often we are so busy moving from one thing to the next, and so preoccupied by thought that we fail to notice critical pieces of information, creative ideas and solutions that land softly in the corners of our minds. The noise in our heads has a way of drowning them out and the multitude of things in our line of sight obstructs our view.
There will never be a shortage of things competing for our attention. It is important for us to realize that just as we need not answer the phone every time it rings, we also do not need to allow our attention to be hijacked by everything that demands it. We must be intentional about what we allow to occupy our minds and consume our vital energy.
Creating space happens on both the physical and mental realms. Physical space is created when you block time on your calendar to work toward your vision and treat it with the same regard you would time with a client or other vital stakeholder. Mental space is created when you refuse to engage with thoughts that are bringing you down or clouding your optimism.
It is easy to believe that to make progress, you must quell your anxiety, overcome your resistance and turn negativity into positivity. But as I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, when your thinking is in a low state, no amount of additional thinking will help. It only adds to the problem and blocks your innate creativity, ingenuity and resilience. You’ll likely feel bad about feeling bad, and throw yourself into an unnecessary (and easily avoided) downward thought spiral.
You don’t have to feel well to perform well. Thoughts come and go. When you resist the temptation to engage with thoughts that bring you down, they eventually pass in the same way water becomes clear when it settles. Sometimes the very act of doing things without thinking too much about them opens up new insights and leads you to do the very thing you worried you couldn’t – much more proficiently than you ever imagined.
Personal and professional transformation doesn’t need to be a heavy, serious endeavor. The most powerful visions are those that have us moving toward something we desire because we want it, but know that even if it didn’t come to pass, our innate well-being is not at stake.
There is nothing to fix and nothing to fear. So have some fun exploring the possibilities. The more you play at it, in much the same way you play at dressing up for Halloween, the less pressure you’ll put on yourself – and the more space you create for your transformation to occur.
For more on how to bring your grandest dreams and visions into reality, download my special report Why Real Leaders Don’t Set Goals (and what they do instead) and stay tuned for more tools, techniques and tips to come.
When Halloween rolls around, it invites the question: if you could be anything for one evening, what would it be?
The tradition invokes a feeling of fantasy. Whether your answer is a super hero or a villain or something in between, the very act of asking the question and imagining a response reminds us that we have the ability, even if for a simple costume party, to explore aspects of ourselves that want to be expressed.
And the invitation to step into a new way of experiencing the world (or projecting what the world experiences of us) doesn’t have to wait for Halloween or stop when it’s over.
Have you ever secretly dreamed of becoming something different than what you are right now? Maybe you’d like to be more of a strategic player, become more visible, make a bigger impact, or lead more people. Perhaps you have visions of learning a new skill, working in a different industry, or serving a different customer base. Or maybe you’d simply like to step into a new way of living and leading – one that allows you to be more confident, calm, and engaging, or less stressed, pressured and anxious.
Regardless of the change you seek, you would not have the desire if you didn’t also have the capability to achieve it. As Napolean Hill once told us, “Whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.” Moving from thought to reality requires that we embrace three simple, yet powerful truths:
- You don’t have to be born with an innate talent to do something in order to learn it,
- You don’t have to eliminate anxiety and doubt in order to perform well, and
- You don’t have to sacrifice who you truly are in order to become who you want to be.
Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these.
You don’t have to be born with an innate talent in order to learn it.
On its face, this statement seems fairly obvious. After all, none of us knew how to walk or talk when we were babies. Many of the things you know how to do today were things you had no idea how to approach at some point in your past. While it is true that some of the things you learned over the course of your life came more easily to you than others, with practice and persistence you were able to increase your proficiency and improve your desired results.
You may think you don’t have the aptitude to learn or become certain things. But the problem may be more in what you are believing than anything. In her ground-breaking book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck discusses two different approaches to learning a new skill. Some people operate from a “fixed mindset”, considering talent to be an inborn trait for some (but not others). Others operate with a “growth mindset” which allows for the possibility of learning something that doesn’t come naturally to them. Her research shows that those in the latter group consistently outperform those in the former.
The fundamental difference comes in how those mindsets impact your behavior. With a fixed mindset, you’ll dread failure because you believe it is a reflection of your innate abilities. However, with a growth mindset you’ll be more likely to see things not going well at first as an opportunity to learn and grow in ways that improve your performance. A fixed mindset will lead you to quit before you even start, while a growth mindset will impel you to continue to practice, learn and improve.
The words of Henry Ford come to mind, whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
But that doesn’t mean it will come easily, which leads to the next fundamental truth we must embrace.
You don’t have to eliminate anxiety and doubt in order to perform well.
Chances are that whatever you aspire to become is something that is beyond your current zone of comfort. If it wasn’t, you’d already be doing it. As I wrote in The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, anytime you endeavor to make a change in your life, you will be met with resistance. Whether that resistance takes the form of anxiety or doubt or plain old yellow-bellied fear, no amount of careful learning and preparation will completely alleviate it.
Many of us (myself included) have spent years attempting to hone and refine our skill from a mental level before ever attempting to execute. The irony is the that most impactful and effective way to learn is often to simply do. In doing, we discover what works and what doesn’t and gain an intuitive feel for what we need to adapt to achieve the success we desire. Through trial and error our skill and effectiveness grow.
But the anxiety and the doubt and that little voice in your head that incessantly rattles on in ways that lead you to question your ability and your nerve will continue. If you can see those feelings as signs of progress that you are stepping up your game, you can perform in spite of them – and maybe even begin to appreciate them.
You can also learn to recognize that little nagging voice for what it is: a product of your thoughts and nothing more. As you stop giving it so much of your energy and attention, you may find that you can coexist with it in the same way you tolerate any other irritating but seemingly harmless disturbances, like a rattle in your car or an annoying commercial on the radio.
Sometimes that little voice will ask, “who do you think you are?” which leads us to the third fundamental truth we must embrace to move from desire to reality.
You don’t have to sacrifice who you truly are in order to become who you want to be.
The idea of dressing up implies that we are putting on a mask that eclipses our true identify. But often the things we desire to explore are actually innate parts of ourselves that are ready to emerge. We are drawn to people who exemplify the qualities we want to emulate. Sometimes we are even envious of them.
It is important to honor our own evolution by giving credence to our desire to grow and change and allowing those desires to guide us. They key to being authentic and true to ourselves is to listen to the beat of our own drummer rather than allowing the sheer force of our accumulated patterns, habits and the expectations of others determine our identity. Often the way we have behaved or expressed ourselves over the course of our lives is more a product of what we’ve always done than who we truly are.
So when the idea of trying something new, or exploring a different way of showing up in the world is appealing to you, indulge yourself and see what happens. Finding your own authentic expression is a matter of fine tuning. Try something and see how it feels. You can start by emulating what someone else has done. And then add your own twist. Let go of or tweak what doesn’t work and do more of what feels good to you.
This is what the most impactful of leaders have done throughout the course of history. They start by leading themselves – listening and indulging the desires of their hearts, believing in their ability to grow, evolve and achieve, and finding their own unique expression. And in so doing, they serve as leaders to the rest of us.
So don’t let the fantasy and fun of Halloween stop when October ends. Ask yourself what you’d most like to become and don’t be afraid to see where it takes you. In the words of George Eliot, “It is never too late to be what you could have been.”
If you are interested in more strategies for getting clarity on what you would most like to accomplish, create or become, as well as steps to help you close the gap between desire and reality, click here to download my special report, Why Real Leaders Don’t Set Goals (and what they do instead).
My recent article, “How to Meet Change, Challenge and Uncertainty with Courage and Grace” discussed the importance of shifting from a reactive mode that is (often unthinkingly) triggered by fear and conditioning to the conscious, thoughtful, and intentionally constructive response that is characteristic of Real Leadership.
Today, I’d like to give you a concrete tool for helping you do just that – one that I often share in my presentations and workshops and also work with participants in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius program to apply. It’s called Using the Wisdom of Hindsight in the Present.
Are you in the midst of some kind of change or challenge right now? What is occupying your thoughts and energy these days? Think about it until you can come up with a concrete example of something you may be struggling with – or simply in the process of working through.
See if you can tune into the way this challenge is leading you to feel. Frustration? Uneasiness? Doubt? Worry? Can you put your finger on what is most unnerving about the situation at hand?
Now, think back to another time that you have felt this same way. A time when you had to work through an earlier challenge. One that was perhaps equally difficult and/or anxiety provoking – or even worse than the issue you are currently facing.
Can you recall what you were thinking at the time? What were you telling yourself? What questions were you asking yourself? What worries were plaguing you? What doubts were eroding your confidence?
Imagine that you can go visit that younger version of yourself and share some advice. What would you tell yourself? What do you wish you would have known back then that you know now? What encouragement would you provide? What would you tell yourself to stop, start or continue?
You may want to pause for a moment and write that advice down.
Chances are the advice you would give to your younger self is pretty darn good guidance for you now. Rainer Maria Wilke once wrote, “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.”
What if the very experiences you have had over the course of your life happened in perfect order to prepare you for what you would experience in your future?
What if those challenges that that left you stumped or feeling uneasy or pushed you to your edge served the purpose of helping you to discover in yourself a strength you didn’t know you had – and develop a muscle that would allow you to lift heavier weight and move bigger mountains?
Much of my work as a coach is helping people connect the dots of their own experiences in ways that help them see they have exactly what it takes to successfully address and rise above their current issues and obstacles. It is not uncommon for people to realize that what they thought was unchartered territory at its core is in fact something they are not all that unfamiliar with.
Even something you may have written off as “failure” may reveal rich insights and answers if you take the time to identify what you learned in your past that you can potentially apply to your present.
Most of us don’t pause long enough to realize the ways life has prepared us for what we face. We are all too quick to want to forget about the frustrations and anxieties of the past rather than leverage them in ways that allow us to learn and grow. And when presented with what feels like an insurmountable challenge, we tend to think we need to speed up rather than slow down.
So, you have to make a deliberate, concerted effort to turn that pattern around.
When you do that using The Wisdom of Hindsight in the Present process, you’ll begin to recognize that the biggest source of anxiety and frustration is largely based on conjecture and hypothetical situations.
You’ll also realize as you examine your past, that you likely have concrete data – evidence-based proof that you have what it takes to successfully navigate through uncertainty, to think on your feet, and to find solutions where it appeared none existed.
In so doing, you’ll shift from doubt to confidence – from what you don’t know to what you do know. And you’ll focus on what is in your control to influence rather than all the things that are beyond it.
From that mindset, you are infinitely more likely to access the courage, confidence, ingenuity, determination and resilience necessary to be successful in any situation. You’ll be more likely to see solutions to the problems that once confounded you – and to lead and inspire others to do the same.
This is the essence of Real Leadership.
If you are interested in learning more about Real Leadership and how you can unearth it in yourself and your organization, download your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto, my most recent white paper on how to stop doing business as usual and start liberating the power of the human spirit to achieve unprecedented and sustainable success.
One of the most common challenges I help my executive clients work through (and often face myself) is navigating through change, challenge and uncertainty.
It’s true what they say – change really is the only thing that is a constant for most of us.
And it has a way of evoking our worst fears, anxieties and insecurities.
The very nature of change thrusts us into circumstances that lead us to feel out of control, beyond our comfort zones, and potentially at risk in one way or another. And when your future is uncertain and all the things that used to work are no longer effective (or relevant), your self-protective mechanisms get triggered.
Left unchecked, your instinct for self-preservation can lead you to engage in behavior that is not particularly productive or constructive. It would have you reacting out of fear, putting your own needs above those of others, mired in doubt and negativity and fixated on obstacles and limitations. From that mindset, you’ll (often unconsciously) act in ways that exacerbate the problems you are already facing.
But, as I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius program, there is a wiser, stronger part of you that you can access during times that test you – one that will allow you to rise above the fray and meet change and uncertainty head on with courage and grace.
This wiser part of yourself (which I call your Genius) meets fear with resilience and puts service and self-realization over self-interest. It replaces doubt and negativity with optimism and possibility. And it sees beyond limitations to recognize possibilities. It utilizes challenge as opportunity to become stronger, to rise up and discover that you have within you all that you need to prevail.
This part of you is the essence of Real Leadership – which brings out the very best in everyone and everything and channels it into something that serves a greater good. Real leadership is what is required in times of great change, challenge and uncertainty. And it is something that can be exercised by anyone, at any level of an organization at any time.
What most people don’t realize is that the true cause of stress, frustration (and the knee jerk reactions it often triggers) is not their circumstances themselves, but rather the thoughts they are believing (and the stories they are telling themselves) about their situations. Cognitive science tells us that confirmation bias leads us to take in information that aligns with our current beliefs and screen anything that contradicts them out.
So let’s say you believe the problems you face are insurmountable, the people who surround you cannot be trusted, and that you (or others) lack the resources, skill or resolve to overcome your current challenges. Confirmation bias would lead you to take in information that confirms those beliefs and overlook (or disregard) information that contradicts them – even though that information is the very thing that could potentially turn everything around.
And from that mindset, you’ll behave in ways that make things worse. You could very well act in a manner that makes your worst stories (which are likely based on conjecture) become true.
The biggest problem is that you likely won’t even realize you are falling into this trap. You’ll attribute the cause of your frustration, anxiety and stress to your situation rather than your mindset.
As long as you see the problem as “out there”, you’ll feel more like a victim than a victor.
But even in the most daunting of circumstances, you can find something within yourself that has the potential to change the way you are seeing things. And when you change the way you are seeing things, you’ll notice opportunities, resources, strengths and possibilities that would have otherwise been completely off your radar.
The key to liberating yourself from a self-defeating phenomenon is to recognize frustration, anxiety and stress as a key indicator that your thoughts are not aligned with your Genius, so that you don’t take them quite so seriously.
Rather than getting set on what you think you know, ask yourself what you don’t know. What are you not seeing? What are you believing about what is happening? And how much of that are you certain is actually true?
If you are willing to see things differently, your whole world could change in an instant.
The thing about change is that nothing is certain. And when nothing is certain, anything is possible.
If it is possible that we tend to act in ways that make our stories true – and bring about more of what we are focusing on, then the most powerful thing we can do is allow our stories and our focus to shift to something more empowering.
- Rather than putting your attention on what you don’t want, you can create a compelling vision for yourself and others of what you do. Resolve to move toward what you desire rather than away from what you fear.
- When you notice you are fixated on obstacles, see if you can look beyond them to discern opportunities.
- When feeling threatened about all there is to lose, consider what there is to gain.
- Instead of thinking of what you need to get, ask yourself what you have to give.
- Rather than getting lost in your head, reliving the past or worrying about a future that has you living the worst case scenario, challenge yourself to be intensely present to what is unfolding in the moment and the best way to respond to and leverage it.
- When plagued by doubt, think back to previous challenges you successfully overcame and recognize your strengths can get you through this one too.
- When you begin to worry about all the things that are beyond your control, ask yourself what you have the ability to influence and start to make positive change there. Do what you can where you are with what you have.
These practices of Real Leaders will come more naturally when you keep yourself from falling into the trap of identifying with your doubts and limiting beliefs.
It is essential to recognize that you do not need to banish your doubts and limiting beliefs. Doing so is an exercise in futility, since as a human being you will continue to be barraged by these thoughts whether you want them or not.
All you need to do is recognize that there is more to the picture than your current mindset is allowing you see. Don’t let those random thoughts blind you to the solutions that are right in front of you or obstruct your vision of what is possible.
The simple recognition that your thoughts are not serving you in the current moment is enough to allow your mindset to get unstuck. Without a whole lot of effort on your part it will begin to expand, allowing you to get a broader, better view – and connecting you naturally to the mindset of a real leader.
The Real Leader Revolution is already underway, liberating the power of the human spirit in the workplace again even the most insurmountable odds. We are all so much stronger than we think we are, and each one of us is capable of so much more than we realize.
In the face of inevitable change, we can rise up as adventurers and warriors and summon strength that often lies dormant within us until given an opportunity to emerge.
If you are interested in learning more about the qualities of Real Leadership and how to unleash it in yourself and others in your organization, I encourage you to download your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto, my most recent white paper on how to stop doing business as usual and start liberating the power of the human spirit to achieve unprecedented and sustainable success.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!