Life has a tendency to disappoint at times – sometimes more than others, of course. For many of us, the frequency has increased disproportionately over the last year or so.
We have lost things we valued, endured things we never would have wished for, and weathered the increased tension and anxiety that comes when vital issues (some long buried) surface and come to a head.
We all naturally focus on what we most want – and in times of stress, anxiety and frustration we often feel as though despite our best efforts we just aren’t getting it. You can lose yourself in disappointment and irritation and stay in it for days, weeks, months and even years.
But perhaps there is a way out of it. One that provides you not only what you most need – but has the potential to spill over and benefit others as well.
I saw a profound example of a quite uncommon approach for dealing with frustration, disappointment and grief back when I was an undergraduate.
My roommate had been uncharacteristically gloomy for several weeks. Her usually delightful demeanor had become heavy and dark.
One day when I came home from class, there was an envelope taped to our door. As I looked around the building we lived in, I noticed similar envelopes hanging on other doors. This one had my name on it, handwritten.
I tore it open and found a piece of notebook paper upon which was written one of the most heartfelt notes I had ever read. It was signed “from someone who appreciates you deeply”.
As I read it, I found myself falling into the page while small tears began to collect at the corners of my eyes. The author of the note had recounted things I had done over the last several weeks (many of which I thought were insignificant) that made a difference in that person’s life.
There were kind, warm words of praise and gratitude as well as encouragement and inspiration. Whoever wrote it apparently thought I was special and took the time to tell me why in such a way that it profoundly touched me.
I looked up and saw someone across the hall reading her note and watched as her face began to light up.
When I opened the door to our place, I found my roommate sitting contentedly writing in her journal and sipping a cup of tea. She looked up and smiled for what seemed the first time in weeks.
“Did you get one of these notes?’ I asked her.
“No,” She responded with a grin.
And then it hit me. She was the one who wrote the notes. She didn’t admit it at first, but I finally got it out of her.
“What led you to do this?” I asked her. “It must have taken you hours!”
“I was tired of feeling tired and sad and lonely,” she said. I was sick of my gloomy little world. And I decided that if I couldn’t make it better for myself, maybe I could make it better for someone else.”
She had started with one note. And then she wrote another. And then another. And it felt so good, she said, that she decided she’d just write until she didn’t feel like writing anymore.
That was almost thirty years ago. And it still inspires me.
She taught me more through her actions than I would have learned by reading ten books that day. I don’t think she intended it at the time, or even realized it until she started writing, but the gift she gave to everyone in that building ended up being something that benefitted her just as much as everyone else.
And my guess is that it is still benefitting her and everyone else – because I know it’s still meaningful and significant to me.
Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away. To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives.”
Perhaps this is one of the true gifts in giving – that when we get outside of ourselves to touch another human being, it has a way of bringing us gently back to ourselves so that we too receive the gift.
And it holds true even when we think we have nothing left to give.
When our egos get the best of us and we think nothing will ever go the way we want it to, we can transcend a state of wanting by moving into a state of giving.
Think of something you want right now, in this moment. What is it that “something” will give you? Most likely it is a feeling – perhaps a feeling of contentment, satisfaction, prosperity, abundance, or joy.
Now, see if there is something you can do for another person to help them experience those things.
Often when we give to others, we find we already had that which we were seeking. We realize the thing we thought we needed is a means to an end that we have already arrived at. And perhaps this, in and of itself is the true gift of giving.
For more on how to transcend frustration, pressure and stress to get what you really want, check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Unique Genius. Though the spring group session has closed, you can join the waiting list to be notified of the next session.
Rainer Maria Wilke once said, “The future enters into us, long before it happens, in order to transform itself in us.”
I believe that quote speaks to some of those random experiences that on the face of things don’t make a lot of sense – but in retrospect seem to provide a sense of order to the seemingly chaotic (and often undesirable) events that take place in our lives.
This week’s video, “Life’s Perfect Classroom” is an example of how that played out in my life. I offer it in the hope that my story will help you recognize events in your own life that have allowed you to get where you are today – and perhaps even more importantly, those now unfolding that will play a pivotal role in what you will ultimately do next.
Here’s to your growth and inevitable success!
It’s been said that how you do anything is how you do everything. If that’s true, then the improvements you make in the way you do things anywhere will spill over into what you do EVERYWHERE.
I decided to play with that logic one weekend when attempting to find an easier, less grueling way to get through all the things I wanted to accomplish. And I discovered a tiny little tweak that ended up making a big difference not only in my productivity at home, but also at work.
In less than five minutes, this week’s video, A Visionary Approach for Getting More Done with Less Effort will tell you all about it – so you can try it for yourself.
Here’s to your success!
My recent post, Don’t Let Your To Do List Keep You From Living Your Best Life, was born of a growing awareness that a fixation on to-do lists and time management systems can actually work against you if you’re not careful. That being said, with or without to-do lists, there is never a shortage of things that need tending to.
So how do you get stuff done without becoming trapped in your system? Here are ten tips for how not to be a slave to your to-do list:
- 1) Write things down to get them out of your head, but don’t let them become set in stone. You are just freeing up brain space so that you can take a look at the gook in there and sort through it. Think of your list more as a collection of options than an inventory of things that all have to be done. Challenge yourself on whether these tasks (a) really need to get done at all (b) really need to get done now and (c) really need to be done by you. The more often you engage this filter, the more your to-do list will become an accurate of a reflection what you really, honestly need to do.
- 2) Don’t allow your list to be something that hangs over your head and haunts you. Procrastination is largely a function of avoiding a decision we think will be painful. But the resistance this procrastination reinforces and feeds ultimately becomes more painful than anything it could protect you from. So, make some decisions about the things you will commit yourself to, and those you will give yourself permission to delegate, defer, or dump.
- 3) Schedule some time each day to do something you really love – even if it is only twenty minutes or a half-hour. Dedicate yourself fully to it – do whatever you can not to let anything interfere with it. This little gift you give yourself will make you feel good throughout your whole day, and the energy you gain by doing something that feeds you will help you to get more of the mundane things done in less time and with less effort.
- 4) If there is something that must be done by a certain time, designate a block of time to work on it. This is especially helpful with big projects that can (and often need to be) broken down into smaller steps. Even a half-hour here and there will allow you to make progress. When you put it in your calendar you can be certain that you will get to it, and it will not weigh heavy on your mind and suck up energy that you can use to do other things.
- 5) Remember that little things expand. So designate blocks of time to tend to the little things that you think will only take a few minutes but often end up taking three or four times longer than you anticipated. These little things expand for many reasons – sometimes we just underestimate how long they will take, but other times we linger over them and allow them to become avoidance mechanisms that keep us from doing what’s really important (and nurturing for ourselves and others). This could be anything from checking email to scheduling meetings to going through a pile of papers. When you set limits on how much time you will designate for these things, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get through them.
- 6) Allow for flexibility so that you can listen to your intuition on what to do in each moment. As you go to undertake a task, pay attention to how you feel about it. If a wall goes up as you sit down to do something and you just can’t seem to make any progress or if you keep running into obstacles, it may be an indication that it just isn’t the best time for you to work on it. You may want to designate another time to work on that thing and in its place, do something you have more energy around. Often when you come back to what you were snagged on, you will find that things flow much better.
- 7) Don’t let things sit for too long. If it can be done (or delegated) in the time it takes you to write it down or find another time to do it – and you are not in the middle of something more important, just take care of it quickly. This nugget applies to little things – like dropping someone a quick note or filing something in its proper place instead of putting it in a pile you have to sort through later.
- 8) Reflect and celebrate. At the end of the day, spend some time reflecting on what brought you most satisfaction, rather than all the things you have yet to do. Celebrate the progress you are making and the degree to which you really brought your whole self to whatever it is you did that day.
- 9) Be sure to zoom out and not just in. Taking care of your to-do list involves a lot of keeping your head down. So, make sure you take some time to look up and out every once in a while. Check-in with yourself on the bigger picture of what you most want to create, achieve and become and let that vision guide your actions. Doing this regularly will keep you from getting caught in the weeds and allow you to have a bigger, more strategic impact.
- 10) Rest in the knowing that you will get done that which is most important. You no longer need to run that loop in your head that has you worried that something will fall through the cracks. You have it handled, so you can devote your full attention to whatever you choose to do in each moment.
To-do lists are only a small part of moving the needle and making the impact you are capable of. For more tips on achieving and sustaining the success you desire, download my special report: Why Real Leaders Don’t Set Goals (and what they do instead).
The other day I came across a piece of paper that brought back a rather unsettling memory of a pivotal conversation I had long ago, about something that was very important to me. I didn’t realize just what an impact it had on me until I stopped to recall it – and consider all the things that have unfolded in the years that passed.
I filmed a video about it that you can find on my LinkedIn page.
I’d love to hear your thoughts after you watch – you can leave a comment right on LinkedIn. And if we are not yet connected there, hit that blue “Connect” button while you’re at it.
Sometimes it takes a while to embody the things you strive for. The journey may have a lot of twists and turns and ups and downs. But it’s definitely well worth traveling.
If you’d like some support on your journey, there are still a couple of seats remaining in the spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius kicking off on Wednesday (3/3). It’s a thirteen-week leadership development program that will help you move beyond the conditioning that keeps you from rising to the extraordinary results you are capable of achieving – with less effort and more joy along the way.
I’d love to have the opportunity to work with you.
Here’s to the journey – and the ever-unfolding destination!
Imagine that software you’ve relied on for years stops working for you. You notice your computer has been freezing up a lot and you’ve been experiencing some glitches. At first, it didn’t really bother you. You just made do and went on. But now it’s happening so often that you’re having trouble getting things done.
When you look into the problem, you find you’re not the only one experiencing it. In fact, after receiving numerous user complaints, the company discovered its software was having incompatibilities. 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. You’re cruising along doing what you’ve always done only to find it just isn’t working so well anymore. You aren’t getting the results you wanted. Or worse, what worked before is actually causing new problems. And despite your best efforts, these problems are throwing a big monkey wrench in things.
Take Shiela as an example.
Shiela is a high achieving executive who has always prided herself on her ability to be the “go to” person for solutions. Her energy and enthusiasm led her to be sought out for plum projects and invited to serve on numerous committees and boards. She happily took these things on and went the extra mile to deliver excellence in everything she did. And her career trajectory was headed ever upward.
But over time, the number of initiatives she was regularly involved in began to wear on her. Her calendar was packed and she hit the ground running each day only to find that her to do list was growing faster than her ability to get things done. She had multiple balls in the air and lived in constant fear that one of them would come crashing down at any moment.
Her solution was to double down on what helped her succeed in the past. She worked more, slept less, and pushed herself beyond the limits of her own exhaustion. And though she was working harder than ever, her performance began to suffer. The work that once energized and inspired her was beginning to feel like an endless grind she just couldn’t rise above. And people began to notice.
Well-intentioned friends and colleagues gave her books and advice, and she did her best to try to institute new approaches, take better care of herself, delegate, prioritize, rely on systems and get support. But when things got tense, she reverted to old patterns of behavior that were deeply ingrained.
Shiela’s old program was interfering with her new one. And this interference was causing major glitches. But those glitches didn’t have to keep her from achieving her desired results. She 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 Shiela, you start by recognizing that you aren’t getting the results you want. And then you work backward. Finding the bug in your program requires that you detach from your actions in such a way that you can observe and evaluate them.
One way to do this is to replay events in your mind to identify any causal factors. You can designate time at the end of the day to 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 Shiela replayed her interactions with others, she realized that what she really wanted (and needed) to do when someone asked her to become involved in yet another project, committee or board was to ensure that it was the best fit and use of her time before responding. But she also recognized that before her mental faculty was engaged, she had already pledged her sole support and involvement. And before she knew it, despite her best intentions, she had unwittingly pushed herself further into overwhelm.
She 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 Sheila realized she had a tendency to override her true intention by launching into an old undesirable pattern before she even knew what was happening, she also became increasingly aware of the negative consequences that behavior created.
This is not to say that Sheila could instantaneously eradicate her bug and immediately improve her results. On the contrary, she grew increasingly frustrated because now she was not only engaging in problematic behavior — she was doing it even though she knew better. But this awareness is half the battle.
Initially, she didn’t recognize her oversights until after the fact, but with increased awareness and attention Sheila noticed them sooner and sooner. The time it took her to catch herself went from hours to minutes and with continued diligence, she was able to take steps to correct them in real-time. Ultimately, she got to the point where she could prevent herself 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 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 Sheila began mentally reviewing the way she handled herself in conversations, she reflected on what she would have liked to do differently. And then she replayed the scene in her mind with a new, more desirable ending. She continued to do this daily. As she did, she literally rewired her brain.
Doing so allowed her to create and increasingly rely on new neural networks in situations that necessitated a different response. Gradually she was able to replace her tendency to automatically take more and more on with a more thoughtful, respectful response that offered solutions without adding to her overload. She began to recognize opportunities to involve and empower others to do things that would allow them to grow and buy her much needed time to regroup and reengage in a more focused, less frenetic way.
And over time Sheila once again became known not only for getting results but for making a more strategic impact and growing talent within her organization.
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.
If you’d like some support in recognizing and overcoming bugs in your programming, consider joining me in the Spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. A few seats remain for this exclusive 13-week leadership development program, which kicks off on March 3. If you have questions or would like to chat about whether the program is a fit for you, you can schedule a call directly with me.
Here’s what a previous participant had to say…
“My professional goals were not going the way that I wanted them to and I had a suspicion that I was pounding my head against the wall trying the same tools or switching the tools differently and I just needed a fresh perspective on them. I enrolled in the Freedom & Flow program after receiving encouragement from people who work with Diane who raved about their interactions with her and how impactful she’s been in their life.
One of the things that this course helped me realize is that I always believed the tools that made me successful early in my life and my career would be the same tools that would see me through to the end. The truth is that my toolbox needed more tools, or different tools in it.
This is important for folks that would be thinking about this program, and it was revolutionary for me – what worked for me early in my career isn’t going to work all the time, I can’t say that enough. You need to reexamine. You can’t have the same script for your whole professional career, you just can’t. You have to adjust the script. I’m in leadership positions versus before, I was a follower. I was trying to get somewhere. Now I’m somewhere and it’s different.
I’ve taken a lot of leadership courses. They’re usually big group settings. This is a smaller more intimate group. The one on one calls are terrific and super helpful. Diane is energetic, vibrant, engaged, open-minded, and thoughtful. Her program has helped me better influence and connect to others, decrease my stress, and get much more done. I’m more mindful and have replaced old, ineffective tools with new ones – it feels great, it’s really refreshing.
My message to folks who are considering this course is pretty simple: you will learn new skills, new tools that you haven’t used before which are going to help move you forward. The program is awesome, and I highly recommend it.”
Dr. Tony Sciscione, Director, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Christiana Care Health System
Last week I posted a video about the story of Pinocchio and the relevance it has as a metaphor for each of us as leaders. As I mentioned in that video, that story is about much more than a puppet whose nose grew when he lied.
It’s the story of a puppet that longs to become REAL. It’s also the story of anyone who feels like they’re trapped by their circumstances – who knows there’s got to be something more than the way things have been going, who doesn’t quite feel ALIVE and may feel like life is beating them down.
Like Pinocchio, we too have a burning desire to become REAL – to access the greatness (Genius) within, to be a part of something meaningful, to make a greater impact as only we can. We’re born with these impulses.
But until we become REAL LEADERS, we function largely as puppets – bound by our conditioning, trapped by our well-worn habits and patterns, operated by external forces pulling our strings, and confined by the programming we’ve inherited or internalized.
And when we exercise the courage to embrace our own journey toward becoming a Real Leader, we free ourselves from those strings and unleash our GENIUS.
What is Genius, exactly?
People often think of genius as an extreme level of intelligence that only certain people have. But it is more than just intellectual capacity. And we are all born with it.
Genius is the masterpiece in the marble – what stands after everything that is not the masterpiece is carved away. It is the life blood of our organizations, our people, our very selves. It is what unites us and makes us strong. It allows us to overcome our most formidable obstacles and rise to our most daunting challenges and promising opportunities.
GENIUS is the power of the human spirit.
How do you know if you are operating from your Puppet or your Genius?
Here are a few indicators that I teach in my thirteen-week signature program, The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.
When you are operating from your puppet, you are largely focused on…
- …what you are afraid of (fear)
- …getting something (for yourself)
- …self-doubt (inadequacy)
- …what’s out of your control
- …worry, anxiety and preoccupations
- …what brings you down (irritation)
- …what you want to move away from (“have to’s”)
- …judgement and set stories about how things are
In contrast, when you are operating from your Genius, you’ll see things quite differently:
And when you move from your Puppet to your Genius, you’ll have a very different experience too.
- the energy and vitality to perform at your highest level without getting beaten down by stress, pressure and overwhelm,
- a renewed passion and sense of meaning that gives you the strength to overcome obstacles and resilience to bounce back from setbacks,
- heightened creativity and ingenuity to find answers to problems that previously stumped you – and to navigate change, challenge and uncertainty with courage, confidence and ease, and
- the ability to create strong connections with people that inspire trust and increase your ability to influence and truly lead.
What can you do to better align with your Genius more of the time?
It all starts with awareness. Most of us do not realize the degree to which we operate as Puppets. Nor do we appreciate the Genius that is waiting in the wings, eager to emerge.
Start by checking in with yourself regularly to determine where your focus is. Notice how you feel when you are operating from Puppet, as well as Genius. Referencing the chart above, ask yourself what you can do to make the necessary shift.
And if you’d like more support on the journey, consider enrolling in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. Registration for the spring session, which will kick off in March, is now open. To maximize personal interaction and individualized support, enrollment is limited to 10 people.
Many of us are on the verge of entering new, unchartered territory.
Some are having to do that by necessity, as a result of changing circumstances. Others are recognizing – and answering – the call to step out and try something we’ve never done before.
Either way, it isn’t easy. Especially if you are accustomed to (and pride yourself on) being able to do something really well.
Anytime you try something new or different, you will encounter resistance.
To assist you through these vital transitions – and to help you overcome what I call “the curse of competence”, I wanted to share something with you that I teach in my 13 week Pinocchio Principle Unleashed program.
It’s an excerpt from a video on embracing uncertainty and redefining failure. In less than 6 minutes, you’ll gain a whole new perspective that’ll help you move beyond your greatest resistance to create and enjoy the success you are truly capable of.
Interested in enrolling in the spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed? Join the waiting list to be the first to hear when registration is open.
And change is naturally somewhat disconcerting.
But it can also be liberating and empowering – if you use it as a doorway to rediscover you who really are at your core – to unleash your GENIUS.
When you access your Genius, you’ll not only unlock your highest levels of performance and advance your career, you’ll also enjoy more freedom and fulfillment both on and off the job.
The Pinocchio Principle: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, my 13 week signature program, is designed to help high achieving executives do just that. The fall session is kicking off on Wednesday, September 30.
I believe it’s more timely now than ever. I filmed a short (5 min) video to tell you why…
You can find all the details about the program here: The Pinocchio Principle: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. If you have questions or just want to chat about it, you can also schedule a call with me.
But don’t wait long! The fall session will start on Wednesday, September 30 and I intentionally limit enrollment to a small, intimate size so that each person can have the highest level of support and personalized attention.
Here’s to your Genius!
“I shared before that your program was life changing, but I wanted you to know that is even more true now. I was going through some of my session notes and I had written down some of the characteristics when you are operating in your genius, which I wrote down – trust, faith and curiosity. In a time when it would be so easy to be in fear, judgement and anxiety, I have operated in my genius during this time more than ever before at any point in my life. I have you to thank for that and I am truly grateful. Thank you!”
Porsha M. Caddell, Sr. Manager, Customer Service Business Planning, Southern California Edison
We’re all working through our share of change – change that comes to us from the outside in.
But there’s another kind of change that happens from the inside out.
And that feels a little different. It usually comes on gradually – so gradually you may not even notice it at first.
In the video below, I’ll share the five phases of transformation that I’ve observed in my own life as well as the lives of executives I’ve coached over the years. You’ll learn what you can expect in each phase – and I’ll give you some tips for making the most of it, so you can move through it with ease and grace.
Change – even the kind that comes from the inside out – can be unsettling and anxiety producing. But it is a doorway that leads us to some of the greatest gifts life has to offer.
If you’d like some support and guidance navigating through your own transformation, I encourage you to consider joining me and a small group of fellow leaders in the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius kicking off on Wednesday, 9/30.
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, small group mastermind meetings and one-on-one coaching support. Space is limited and there are a few seats remaining.
If you have questions or want to chat about the program, feel free to set up a call.