Category Archives: Boosting Creativity, Productivity & Effectiveness

In Search of Greatness: Finding Your Zone

Last night Tom Petty was in town and I was lucky enough to get a last minute opportunity to watch him perform.  Chuck Berry – at age 83 – was the opening act.  He moved and grooved and belted out his tunes with just as much energy and passion that he did fifty years ago.  And then TP and the Heartbreakers took the stage.  They rocked the house.  People were out of their seats from the very first song and transported to a place that transcended time and space – where worries, tension and stress simply melt away.

I love to watch people who have mastered their craft enter their zones.  They are mesmerizing.  Uplifting.  Inspiring.  Fascinating to watch.  And their energy is contagious.  They have the ability to connect with people they’ve never even seen before and somehow leave them in a better state than they were before.  Their impact on us remains long after we have parted ways.

It’s easy to see this state of grace in people who perform – like musicians, actors, athletes, speakers, dancers, etc.  But any of us can get into a zone that allows us to experience a state of flow, where we become one with the work in such a way that it can feel effortless and transformational.  And that can have a powerful impact on everyone around us as well.

As I watched Tom Petty perform, I noticed  three major things about him that I believe are key to finding your zone – no matter who you are or what you do.

(1)  Don’t take yourself too seriously.

“It’s all right if you love me.  It’s all right if you don’t.”  Classic line from a classic Tom Petty song.  I imagine the first time he performed, he probably cared a lot about what people thought of him.  Most of us have gotten hooked into worrying about the opinion of others at one time or another.  Wanting to win approval and admiration isn’t a crime.  And there is nothing wrong with desiring success.  But getting too attached to it can have adverse effects.  It’ll trip you up and keep you from entering your zone.  There is a sweet spot that Tom Petty and other great masters of their crafts have found – one that allows them to play at success without becoming preoccupied with it.  The paradox is that letting go of the intense need for success seems to have a way of somehow unlocking the gates for it to come in – and it makes everything a lot more fun.

(2)  Be WHERE you are.

The timeless place Tom Petty transported his audience to was largely a product of his own ability to completely immerse himself in what was taking place around him in each moment.  He could not have been more present.  In this state, we do not fret over things that happened yesterday or worry about what might happen tomorrow.  We simply allow things to unfold around us in such a way that we can remain tuned in and turned on.  We connect with our intuition.  We act on our insights and learn to improvise.  Rather than waiting for the “right opportunity” to do what we love, we begin where we are and allow everything that we do to be an expression of love in and of itself.  And we create a space that connects us to others in profound ways.

(3)  Be WHO you are.

Tom Petty’s voice is distinctive.  And so is his style.  Maybe he found it immediately.  Maybe, like many of us, he started out by emulating someone else before he discovered that what came naturally to him worked better than anything else he tried.    Great artists often learn by studying and duplicating the work of other artists.  But the best of the best eventually break out of the mold and find their unique form.  The same is true for each of us.  We begin our lives by learning from and  mirroring others, but at some point the time comes for us to step into and embrace our uniqueness.  Gradually, we learn to trust that the gifts we have each been given are there for a reason and find ways to put them to use.  As we believe in ourselves and our ability to contribute to something greater than ourselves, our work – like that of Tom Petty and Chuck Berry – becomes an inspiration to others.

As I was leaving the stadium after the concert had ended, I noticed a man on the street playing his heart out on a tenor sax.   Taped to the pole he was standing next to was a large cardboard sign on which was written in bold black letters the words:

“YOU HAVE GREATNESS WITHIN YOU.

SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR DREAMS

AND THEY WILL COME TRUE.”

I couldn’t agree more.

My new book, The Pinocchio Principle ~ Becoming Real: Authentic Leadership for the 21st Century is about unleashing your greatness.  It will be released on January 11, 2011 and will soon be available to pre-order.  Stay tuned for more information and subscribe to my free monthly ezine at www.DianeBolden.com to hear about free upcoming events, videos and teleseminars.

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

Outwitting Overwhelm – from Frustration to Freedom

If you’ve been following my blog for the last few weeks, you may have noticed that many of the posts have been about getting unstuck, overcoming procrastination and overwhelm, and moving forward.  That’s because these are challenges I’ve been working through lately.  And one of the best ways I know to find answers and solutions to my challenges is, well, to write about them.  I think it’s because writing about something requires you to hold a question in your mind that allows you to access answers.  Sometimes my answers come through writing, and sometimes they come through in other ways.

One of the insights I received came through watching my nine year old son do his homework.  There is a dynamic there that has both fascinated and frustrated me.  The kid is really smart.  And his homework is really not that hard.  He could sit down and finish it in a matter of minutes.  But the second he pulls it out of his backpack, something happens that literally freezes him in his tracks.  It’s as if a huge mountain has suddenly erupted out of the page and grown into a formidable and intimidating barrier between what he needs to do and his ability to get it done.

He sits and stares at the paper.  He complains about the work it requires him to do.  He worries that he’s not going to be able to do it right (or at all).  And then any little thing that captures his attention suddenly absorbs every ounce of energy and focus he has.  A bug.  A little drop of water on the counter.  The way the numbers on the digital clock change with each minute.  Thin air has even captivated him in this state.  And hours can go by before he has mustered enough courage and motivation to even raise a pencil to paper.

“Ryan,” my husband and I tell him, “in the time you take to complain and fuss about it, you could have it finished!”  “You can easily do this – you are so smart!”  we tell him.  Amazing.  None of that seems to get through.

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

It’s not that the tasks are all that hard or the obstacles too entirely difficult to overcome.  It’s that somehow my mind enlarges them to several times their normal size so that it feels as though I am getting ready to tackle Mount Everest when in reality I only need to take a little stroll around the block.  I tell myself stories (sometimes consciously and other times unconsciously) about how difficult things will be – especially things I’ve never done before.  And I get sucked into the crazy fallacy I have battled my entire life that has me believing I need to get everything perfect.  Before I even realize what’s going on, I feel totally fatigued – can’t even think straight.  And then I need to just sit for awhile – or go find something to do that is easy, so I can check a box and feel as though I have accomplished something, anything.

So now I know where my son gets it.  Instead of trying to teach him.  I have decided to allow him to be my teacher.  In addition to showing me what is standing in my way, he has 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.

So if I’m going to do even a lick of good for this kid, (and my other kids, and my clients, and anyone else I might want to help), I have got to get busy working on myself.  But how do you overcome a lifetime of perfectionistic  patterns that keep you from taking the action necessary to achieve your grandest visions and goals?

With this question at the top of my mind, I went for a run.  As with just about any of my runs, the first fifteen minutes was hard.  I was tired and stiff.  It wasn’t fun.  But I powered through it.   And then I got into my zone.  My legs felt lighter.  My breathing evened out.  My head began to clear.  I started to enjoy myself.  And 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-created prison, I simply need to get into action To take even one small step toward my desired goal – with the knowledge that at first it may be uncomfortable, stilted, far from pretty, less than perfect.  And then to take another, and another and another.  Until finally I reach my zone.  I have a feeling the more diligence and effort I put into those initial steps, the more quickly I will get through that “warm up” period and into a place where I can actually make headway – and – dare I say it – even have some fun?! 

So that’s my simple plan.  And I’m sticking to it.  And when I need a little more motivation and inspiration, I’m going to go hang out with my son for awhile.

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

~ Albert Einstein

  Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010.  All rights reserved.

If you liked this post, you may enjoy other articles written about Boosting Creativity, Productivity & EffectivenessDownload these and others for free at www.DianeBolden.com/solutions.  While you are there, you can subscribe to receive a new feature article each month.  You will also receive my free report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves – and How to Avoid Them.

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

Getting Unstuck – The Power of Purpose

Do you ever have trouble getting something done?  Something big?

(Or maybe something that feels big?)

When faced with a rather large task or project, it is easy to get bogged down in the details and the heaviness that comes with them.  We can experience what feels like a never ending process of having to check a bunch of boxes to advance something toward completion.  And when the project we are working on requires us to do something new – something uncomfortable and challenging – it is easy to get mired in feelings of fear, frustration and anxiety.  All of these things can keep us feeling stuck.

Our focus goes from the joy of getting something done to the frustration of having something undoneIn this state, many of us tend to become rather mechanized, as we try to get clear on the steps before us and what we need to do to accomplish them.  We can also put a lot of pressure on ourselves, beating ourselves up for any lack of progress and failing to recognize and acknowledge ourselves for what we have done.

We may become easily distracted by things that we know will be easier and potentially more enjoyable – tasks that don’t really need to get done right now (or at all), and things that may really be more appropriately delegated to others.  We can get sucked into unproductive activities, such as surfing the internet, engaging in idle conversation, taking several coffee breaks, or – my personal favorite – making more lists of all the things we need to do and identifying the steps we need to take in order to get them done.  This is actually a great practice when we are focused, but in a procrastination mode it can become relegated to planning to plan – and then plan some more – until we have a rock solid strategy that we never actually implement.

It may feel as though you are spinning your wheels  – running like heck,

but not getting a whole lot of traction.

I know this, of course, because I have experienced it myself.  Many times.  And I have worked with a lot of people who fall into this pattern as well to recognize what’s happening and shift into something that will get them back on a more productive track.

One of the most powerful things I have found to break out of a “spinning your wheels” cycle is to take a few moments to revisit your purpose – or the larger mission or goal you have which relates in some way to what you are doing.

  • Get clear about what – or who – the work is for.
  • How will it improve the quality of life for yourself or those around you?
  • In what way will it help people, contribute to something greater, or allow you to achieve a meaningful goal for yourself?

You don’t have to take several hours to do this.  Just stop yourself for a few moments and ask, when this project/task/ initiative is finished, what bigger goal or purpose will it accomplish?  What would you like to accomplish?  Write it down.  Add to it as you think of additional bonuses.  Now, sit for a moment and see if you can envision what it would feel like to satisfy that larger purpose, vision or goal.  See if you can feel it so clearly that you are actually grateful for it.

This simple act will help you reconnect with something that will fuel you beyond the minutia.  It will give you the courage and strength to walk through your fear or hesitation to do something that you may not be all that good at yet.  And it will help you to get back to the joy that comes through the process  as well as the achievement of the end goal.

When you go about accomplishing things in this way, all that you do will become infused with a new energy – one that uplifts, delights and inspires.  Whatever you are experiencing as you work on something will be the same thing people will experience when they partake of the fruit of your efforts.  The more we keep this in mind on a daily basis, the more we will experience the satisfaction and gratification of having done something truly meaningful – something that lifts us out of the mundane and into a place of magnificence.  And everyone that comes into contact with our work will be better off because of it.

Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010.  All rights reserved.

If you liked this post, you may enjoy other articles written about Boosting Creativity, Productivity & EffectivenessDownload these and others for free at www.DianeBolden.com/solutions.  While you are there, you can subscribe to receive a new feature article each month.  You will also receive my free report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves – and How to Avoid Them.

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

Getting Connected ~ What Intuition and the Internet Have in Common

“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”  ~ Jonas Salk

I have been marveling a lot lately over the power of the internet.  I feel so old when I explain to my kids that when I was in school, doing a research paper meant spending hours in a library pouring over books and periodicals to get the required information.  Now, all they need to complete their papers and projects is a computer that has internet access.  The idea that you can tap into a vast reservoir of data, selectively identify what you want to read about, and have it delivered to your screen in a matter of seconds is truly amazing.  And now, it’s so commonplace that most of us no longer really think all that much about it – we just expect it.

And then I began to realize that this process of connecting to something bigger is not unlike what we do when we move from using logical, analytical thought to a more intuitive knowing – going from our heads to our guts. When we are in our heads, we utilize the data that we can see, feel, touch, hear, and taste.  It’s a lot like being in a library or using a computer that is off line – we only have access to the data that is stored in the immediate vicinity – much of which can be irrelevant or outdated.  And we often have to do a lot of manual work to get it.  We spend a lot of time trying to figure stuff out and make things happen the way we think they should.  When they don’t, we tend to get frustrated, try harder to get everything to fit, and ultimately feel as though we just keep hitting walls.  The frustration can lead us to cut ourselves off even more from our intuition, which like the internet, has access to far greater things than what we might realize.

When we access our intuition, we hook up to knowledge that goes beyond what we can immediately see, feel, hear, touch or taste. We can access information that links us to others – which allows us to feel connected to them – to hear not only the words they are saying, but also what they are not saying but feeling.  We can access information that is in the realm of possibilities – about opportunities that are all around us and what we might need to do to leverage and act on them.  We can also access warnings about options that are not in our best interest or will lead us to experience something that is not aligned with where we most want to go.  When we are in our heads, we are inclined to resist or overlook these promptings because they are not “rational” or explainable.

I believe that  our connection to something greater than ourselves allows us to not only receive data, but also to send it – in much the same way we do a search on the internet. When we are in need of a given piece of data, we enter a search term and then receive a variety of links that give us more information about that subject.  Similarly, when we decide on an overarching intention, like wanting clarity, peace, or a mutually satisfying resolution to conflict or challenge, we send a signal to the vast field beyond our heads that gathers information and energy aligned with that intention and brings it into our awareness. We access a field of infinite creativity and wisdom from which some of the greatest inventions and ideas of our time originated.

For some people the information delivered via intuition is easily decoded, like words on a screen.  But for most of us, it is delivered in the form of an inkling, a feeling or a strong prompting to do one thing or another.  Or perhaps it might come in the form of a sign or object that takes on increased meaning – or an experience that in some way relays information, like seeing a movie or having a conversation with another person that is somehow related to our inquiry or intention. When we act on these promptings, things have a way of falling into place such that our intention comes to pass.

Unlike our computers, I believe we are always connected to this larger field, whether we want to be or not.  When we acknowledge and rely on this connection, keeping our thoughts focused on what we want most in life, we will experience a sense of flow, peace and deep satisfaction that comes from experiences we draw to ourselves that match those thoughts. When we fail to recognize the power of this connection, and allow our minds to become consumed with frustration, doubt, anxiety and fear, this same dynamic seems to draw to us additional data, experiences and challenges that match our state of mind – and we find ourselves mired deeper and deeper in frustration.

So the next time you catch yourself feeling anxious  or stressed about anything – frustrated over not being able to solve a problem, resolve a conflict, address an emerging issue or challenge – make a conscious decision to move from your head to your gut, and then balance the two.   Decide what you want to experience and let that be your guiding intention. Your gut intuition will allow you access to ideas and possibilities that are just outside the boundaries of your mind, and your head will help you process and act on that information in a way that brings you the results you desire.

Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010.  All rights reserved.

If you liked this post, you may enjoy other articles written about Boosting Creativity, Productivity & Effectiveness. Download these and others for free at www.DianeBolden.com/solutions.  While you are there, you can subscribe to receive a new feature article each month.  You will also receive my free report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves – and How to Avoid Them.

Leader, Know Thyself

Feel like there’s got to be more to being a leader than running from meeting to meeting, repeatedly fixing the same problems, and beating your head against a wall trying to get people and things to change?

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Gandhi

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

In order to change, grow or improve in any way, we must consciously look at ourselves – at what is working and at what is not. Often we are so accustomed to running from project to project and meeting to meeting, that we aren’t even aware of the dynamics at play under the surface. This frenetic approach leads to a pattern of similar results, similar experiences, and inevitably similar frustrations, and often the feeling that there has to be more to it than this.

There is.

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

This blog post is an excerpt from a longer article, titled “Leader, Know Thyself – Unearthing Your Best Work”.  Click here to read the full article, which includes practical steps for bringing out your best.  For more articles on Boosting Creativity, Productivity and Effectiveness, visit www.DianeBolden.com/solutions.  While you are there, you can subscribe to receive a new feature article each month.  You will also receive my free report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves – and How to Avoid Them.

Getting Out of Overwhelm

The last several weeks have been fraught with technical challenges that almost had me throwing my computer through the window or taking a sledgehammer to it. Fortunately, I was able to resist my destructive urges and instead come to a realization that led me to some vital insights about better leveraging my time without losing my head (and other things that are important to me). Recognizing I’m not the only one who faces productivity issues, I decided to write about what I learned in my May ezine.  Below is an excerpt of the full article, Getting Out of Overwhelm, with a link to read more.

If you would like to have these monthly articles emailed to you directly, you can subscribe at www.dianebolden.com  (and I’ll also send you my special report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves, and How to Avoid Them.)

Getting Out of Overwhelm

Do you ever feel as though there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done?

timeTime is an interesting concept. On some days it seems to fly by and on others it drags. At times you might feel as though you have been muddling through something for hours with nothing to show for it, and at others you may find yourself experiencing a sudden burst of productivity and energy that allows you to do in a short amount of time what may have previously taken you several hours or even days. What is the differentiator? Wouldn’t it be great if there were some kind of lever you could pull inside yourself to get you into that productive zone?

Sometimes I just wish there were a lever to get me out of the zone that keeps me spinning from one thing to the next without making much progress on anything. Seems I’ve been in that place a lot lately. And curious by nature, I have done my best to pay attention to what I’ve been experiencing so that I can somehow make heads or tails of it. At times like these, often my surroundings have a way of reflecting back to me my own state. In this particular case, my computer was the perfect mirror.  Read more…

Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010.  All rights reserved.