If you stir muddy water, it will become murky and dark.
But if you allow the water to settle, the debris will eventually sink and you’ll be able to see more clearly.
The same is true of each of us.
There’s a lot to be stirred up about right now. And perhaps that’s why it’s more important than ever for us to find our calm.
Though our current Covid-19 response is leading us to drive less and stay home more, many of us are having difficulty finding places of peace and stillness. You might feel like you’re working more than ever, now that the lines between work and home are completely blurred.
Throw a kid or two into the mix whose routines (and lives) have been completely upended and you have a perfect mix for chaos.
And of course, there is the ever-present temptation to grab your phone or iPad or fire up the television to tune into the latest news or binge watch those shows on Netflix you’ve been wanting to see.
In addition to our external distractions there is the internal commotion of our never-ending thoughts, worries, and preoccupations.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
But perhaps there is hope amidst the chaos…
I recently read that for the first time in thirty years, the Himalayas are visible from northern India. Air quality has improved in several areas of the world, including right here in the United States. These improvements are said to largely be a product of the coronavirus response that has led to fewer emissions.
What if in addition to cleaning up our air we could find a way to clear our heads as well?
What if our future depended on it?
In such an unpredictable time as this, one thing is fairly certain: there is no more “business as usual”. Even after our social distancing and stay at home mandates have been lifted, things are likely to be different moving forward than they’ve ever been in the past.
Out of necessity, much of life as we’ve known it has had to change – often for the better. Many of the ways we have always done things will likely no longer be effective (or even relevant).
We have the opportunity to reinvent ways of working and being that weren’t serving us all that well and chart a new course into our future.
Now more than ever, we must cultivate the insight necessary to know what we need to do next.
And insight is a product of slowing down, quieting our minds and tuning in to ourselves and each other. It requires us to cut through the noise and create space for new ideas to land.
The best way to do that is to practice presence.
What exactly is presence?
The word present derives from the Latin past participle praesse meaning “to be before one”, from the roots pra – pre + esse – to be.
Presence is a state of being that’s achieved when we are truly in the moment, allowing it to unfold without judging it, labeling it, or getting lost in our thoughts about what it means or what we believe should be happening.
Presence allows us to cut through the clamor of our preoccupations, worries and fears so that our true selves can emerge. It is a gateway through which our intuition and inner wisdom enters and expresses itself.
A moment of presence is a state of grace that can produce great insights that help us to truly learn from our experiences, make the most of our opportunities and rise to our challenges in creative ways.
In moments of presence, we know who we really are and what we are truly capable of.
Have you ever noticed that people tend to match each other’s intensity and tone when they are together?
Comments about trivial matters are often matched with similar banter. Expressions of fear or dread often elicit responses that are equally charged, and expressions of anger have a way of provoking reactions that people later regret.
In a similar manner, moments of presence when shared with others can evoke powerful responses that can be revealing and transformational.
This is because when you are truly present with another human being you create a space that allows that person’s true self to come out as well.
This is why the best leaders have learned to become comfortable with silence. They listen more than they talk, and to allow themselves to become instruments that help others to recognize their own greatness – not necessarily through anything that say or do, but rather through moments of presence that are created and shared with others.
So how does one cultivate a moment of presence?
It is really rather simple, though far easier said than done.
1) The first step is to be still.
That’s right. Sit still. I know it goes against everything you were probably taught about getting things done and being useful. But do it anyway.
You can practice now, while you read this. Become aware of your breathing, of the space you are sitting in, of the weight of your body and how it feels in this moment. Feel the life inside you and trace it to each part of your body. Listen to the sounds around you. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.
2) Become aware of your thoughts.
Observe the activity of your mind as it continues to process whatever is there – thoughts like, “this is silly, really – I have way too much to do to be sitting here, doing this…” and “I have to remember to call so and so back today,” and “What did my [boss, colleague, friend, etc.] mean when he/she said…”.
Recognize that you are not your thoughts, but rather the thinker of your thoughts. Simply watch them parade around, without getting sucked into them. Feel how much bigger you are than all of that. Continue to breathe it in.
3) There really is no step three.
Simply continue to repeat steps one and two, immersing yourself more deeply into the experience with each breath.
You don’t need to do this for an extended period of time, unless you want to. Often even a couple of minutes are sufficient to bring you to a more intense state of awareness and aliveness.
In these moments of presence, you will experience things on a different level – one that allows you to respond from a deeper, wiser part of yourself. And when you are with others, you will bring out that deeper, wiser part of them as well.
The wonderful thing about practicing presence is that it creates a fertile landing place for creativity and new ideas. The more often you do, the more frequently you may find yourself receiving inklings (often when you least expect them) about solutions to even the most confounding of problems.
Presence is incredibly powerful to practice with others as well, and a wonderful thing to engage in with the family members in your home (who you are likely seeing more of than ever before). The process is the same, except that you expand your awareness to take in the other person as well.
First, put your phone down. Turn off your IPad, computer, television and/or any other device that could potentially steal your attention and focus.
Then, look into the eyes of the person in front of you, and listen to what they are saying. But listen to what they are not saying as well.
Presence is more about being than doing. So, allow yourself to truly BE with another, devoid of judgments, labels, and agendas. When you listen from this place, you are like water to a thirsty plant, allowing others to open up and soak in needed nutrients.
And in this space, they may just find the answers they seek as well – not because you are giving them, but because you have created a space that is illuminating for everyone.
For more on practicing presence, cultivating insight, and reinventing the way you live and lead, check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. Registration for the fall session will open soon (and if you join the waiting list, you’ll have first dibs on the limited seats that will become available).
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.
To say we are living in a time of great challenge and uncertainty would be a major understatement.
There’s no dispute that we’re currently facing a virus over which we have very little control.
But there is another contagion being propagated that we have every ability to contain.
And that is FEAR.
Fear does funny things to people. At its worst, it produces panic — a physical state that literally disables the brain’s ability to think clearly. There is seemingly no other explanation for the current shortage of toilet paper. It just isn’t rational. But the greater the shortage, the higher the demand.
When people are in fear, they bypass their ability to think and are easily influenced by mass hysteria and knee jerk reactions. They also tend to put their own needs above those of others.
Fear triggers our instinct for self-preservation, leading us to scan our environment for anything that indicates that danger is present.
But when we’re gripped by fear, we just don’t see things clearly. And the more fear there is, the more evidence there seems to be to suggest there is something to fear, which of course elicits more fear.
Fear narrows the aperture of the lens we view things through. In other words, we are only seeing a small fraction of the entire picture. It’s like staring at a dot on the wall by smashing your face against it. The dot is all you’ll see, even though the room you are in is exponentially larger than the small dot right in front of you.
- You’ll put your attention on what is wrong, rather than what is right.
- You’ll spend more time and energy on describing, complaining about, and magnifying the problem than on finding the solution.
- You’ll be more concerned with what you can get rather than what you have to give.
- You’ll focus more on what is out of your control than on things you are able to influence.
- You’ll tend to feel helpless rather than hopeful – and you’ll act in ways that lead others to feel that way too.
But each of us has the power to turn this fear response around. And it is imperative that we do it now.
Though most of us have never lived through a pandemic as extensive as COVID-19, we have all likely weathered a few storms over the course of our lives.
And we’ve not only lived to tell about it, but also learned a thing or two along the way. In times like these it is essential to draw upon that wiser, calmer part of ourselves that knows this too will pass – and that we can rise to these challenges with courage and grace.
I call this vital part of ourselves Genius. Here are three simple ways to activate it:
1. Do whatever you can to quiet your mind and calm yourself down.
When fear hijacks your system, your thinking will be cloudy, and your body will be on high alert. The cortisol that gets released will increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Your neural activity will be diverted from the most highly developed part of your brain to the most primal.
As a result, you’ll experience a fight, flight or freeze response. You’ll be prone to seeing dangerous things that aren’t there – and inclined to screen out helpful things that are.
To counter that reaction, take some deep breaths. Get oxygen flowing back into your cells. Then, ask yourself a question that moves your neural activity back into your prefrontal cortex, the part that allows you to think deeply and make good decisions.
A question like, “What do I really want?” or “What could I do to make this situation better?” will help you get back on the right track.
The more you can quiet your mind, the more space you’ll create for inspiration and answers to come in – and the more likely you will be to recognize and act on them when they do. Rather than unconsciously reacting, you can respond with thoughtful intention.
2. Choose curiosity over judgment.
Once you’ve come to a fixed conclusion about something, you are not likely to consider other perspectives. 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.
And from that mindset, you’ll run the risk of behaving in ways that make things worse.
But while judgment narrows your aperture and keeps you in a fixed position, curiosity opens it and allows you to get unstuck. Your lens zooms OUT rather than IN.
Instead of only seeing that small black dot, you’ll take in more of your surroundings. In place of the wall that once blocked your progress, you’ll see possibilities and solutions that can move you forward.
Notice anything you may currently be believing that could be shutting you down or causing more stress – and challenge it. Ask yourself, “Is it really true?”. Rather than paying attention to what your eyes are showing you, get curious and ask, “What am I NOT seeing?”
3. Shift your focus from what you stand to lose to what you have to gain.
In the face of this international calamity, we have all had to make sacrifices. Life as we know it has drastically changed.
Offices, schools, stores, restaurants and other establishments are closed (or have limited access). Travel has been halted. The market is taking a hit. Your daily routine has likely been obliterated. The safety of people you love (and you, yourself) is in question. And as a result, social distancing has become an imperative.
But amidst all this, there are things to be optimistic about.
- For many of us, the crazy hustle bustle that compelled us to run from one thing to another is giving way to opportunities to slow down, rest and find our bearings.
- Our true priorities are coming into focus, allowing us to find more meaning and purpose in the things that we do and the way that we do them.
- Though we cannot always be in each other’s physical presence, we can stay connected. We can (and must) lean on our advancing technology to communicate with, support and care for one another without being in the same room.
- We are facing a collective challenge that has the power to bring us together despite our differences. As we worry less about ourselves and find ways to help each other, we activate reserves of strength and resilience we may not have realized we had.
- When nothing is certain, anything is possible. We can view the current disruptions we must deal with as opportunities to find better ways of doing things we never had reason to evaluate. We can be more intentional and conscious in everything we do.
1. Do whatever you can to quiet your mind and calm yourself down.
2. Choose curiosity over judgment.
3. Shift your focus from what you stand to lose to what you have to gain.
As you take these steps to become more connected with your own Genius, you’ll hold a space for others to do the same. Your ability to remain calm and optimistic will rub off. And you’ll not only quell the virus of fear but also proactively extend the hope and optimism that will allow us to prevail both individually and collectively.
Now THAT’s something worth spreading.
For more on connecting with your Genius, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Others.
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*Image: Pixabay 2020
One day when my kids were younger, they had a play date with some friends. I heard one of them telling the other that Santa Claus wasn’t real. My son, who was eight years old at the time, vehemently defended the jolly old man, with elaborate explanations of why something not easily proven was worth believing in anyway.
It reminded me of my own childhood.
I had to laugh, as I flashed back to one of my own experiences with a little girl in my neighborhood who made fun of me for believing that a fat man in a red coat actually came down my chimney every year. I was so mad that, when she wasn’t looking, I broke all her crayons and put them back in the box (and spent the rest of the holiday season worrying that I had just put myself on the naughty list).
I have since learned that it is okay if everyone doesn’t believe what I do.
And if he hasn’t already, my son will learn that too. But he is the one who taught me something that day. I was buoyed by his unwavering belief and faith in something he’s never really seen and inspired by his example.
I can’t help but believe that those who trust in something magical will experience that magic in ways the skeptics will not. And I think the same is true in life.
There will always be someone around to tell us what cannot be done.
And there will also always be people who, upon being so told, will do it anyway. Their faith, determination, and belief in something they have yet to see will allow them to persevere until their dreams become reality.
One of my favorite authors on personal and spiritual growth, Alan Cohen, once said “You do not need to get others to believe in your truth. You just need to live it.”
Trust, faith, and perseverance go a long way.
In a world where much is uncertain and the old success formulas no longer seem to work, I believe it is more important than ever to trust in what we know to be true in hearts, even if our minds cannot figure it all out. It may go against what we have been conditioned to believe, see, and do – but perhaps this makes it even more important.
To bust out of old paradigms that keep us from realizing our greatness, perhaps we need to stop questioning what is possible and start challenging our limits instead. As we do, we will begin to make manifest that which we previously only dreamed was possible and, through our example, show others the way to rise.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a bright blessed New Year!
If you are interested in moving beyond old success formulas to unlock the greatness within you and those you lead, consider enrolling for the Spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of 2/17/20.
Register before 12/31/19 to lock in the 2019 price before it goes up. Click here for more information and to save your seat today!
“You ready for the holidays?”
It’s a question people often ask each other this time of year. I don’t know if I’m ever ready – from the standpoint of having all the boxes checked, anyway.
I know there are people out there – you may be one of them – who finished their holiday shopping weeks ago, had their houses beautifully decorated on or before Thanksgiving day, and seem to find the time to send handmade cards to everyone they know. I have secretly dreamt of being one of those people, and maybe someday I will be.
I tend to identify more with those still scurrying around at the last minute. You know, the ones dashing to the mall on Christmas eve for that one last present they forgot about and return home to feverishly wrap gifts before people come over – all the while swearing that next year will be different.
What I really long for is to simply enjoy every aspect of the holidays.
It is a season of giving, sharing, and celebrating something bigger than ourselves. It brings us together and transforms our everyday lives into something sacred.
And this opportunity is always available to us.
With every gift we buy or wrap, every card we send, or every decoration we hang, we have the ability to infuse it with presence – our ability to be truly engaged not only with whatever it is we are doing, but with the bigger reason of WHY we are doing it – even if we get a late start.
Perhaps the ideal is not in being able to do more things sooner, but to put more of ourselves into the things we are able to do now despite whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
When people pour their hearts into whatever they are doing, you can feel it.
The cards that arrive in our mailbox that have been perfunctorily generated don’t seem to move us as much as those people have taken the time to hand write something on – even if it is just our name. Likewise, the gifts that had some element of thought in them often end up meaning more to us than those someone spent a lot of money on. The true spirit of giving is more about the spirit than the gift itself.
And the spirit of giving and celebration doesn’t have to end in December.
We have the ability to enrich every moment of our lives with it. Albert Camus once said, “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” That means forgetting about all our preoccupations and busyness and being right here, right now – truly engaged in the purpose of whatever it is we are doing and deeply connected to whoever we are with.
In business and in life, this practice separates the most truly prosperous and successful people from all the rest. They have a knack for making others feel valued and for infusing meaning into whatever it is they do or invite others to do. They spend their time doing what is most important and pour their hearts and souls into it. As a result, they are living examples of whatever they believe most strongly in.
Perhaps this is the true art of giving, living, and leading – one that transcends holidays and spills over into our everyday lives.
And maybe it’s never too late to start.
If you want to enjoy more meaning and fulfillment along with stellar results all year round (both at work and at home), consider enrolling in the spring 2020 session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.
This exclusive 13-week leadership development experience goes beneath the surface of what most programs deliver, to help you learn to unleash genius in yourself and those you lead. The price will be increasing in 2020, but for a limited time you can click the above link to lock in your seat at the 2019 rates.
To ensure the highest level of support and individualized attention for each participant in the group, enrollment will be capped at ten people. Save your seat today!
Wishing you and yours a beautiful and blessed holiday season!
“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
~ Robert H. Schuller
I have come across the above quote often and pondered it reflectively. It inspires me to think big – contemplating all the many things I have dreamed of creating or being a part of. I often feel compelled to make a list – and have done so many times. I encourage my clients to do this as well.
But the most interesting and show stopping part of that quote for me is the idea of “failure”.
It’s easy to think of shooting for the moon when the idea of crashing down to the ground doesn’t enter the picture. We can dream and scheme all we want, but in order to make our dreams real, we must take action. And when we do, this idea of failure seems to have a way of creeping in despite our best attempts to move forward in spite of it.
Failure means different things to different people. But I think the most debilitating thing about the idea of failure is having to experience or endure some kind of pain – pain of rejection, embarrassment, loss, financial ruin – not to mention its actual physical variations.
The interesting thing to me about pain is that – thankfully – it is usually finite. It comes and it goes. And while we don’t always have any control over whether we experience it, we do seem to play a part in how long it lasts and how uncomfortable it gets.
As a kid, getting immunizations was terrifying. I remember how worked up I would get before the needle even came close to my skin. And I’ve watched my kids do the same thing – even screaming or wailing before contact was ever actually made. But a few seconds later, the injections were completed before the kids even realized it.
They got off the exam table and immediately went onto other things – except perhaps when one of them needed a little more sympathy and deliberately focused on the site of the shot and the blood on the bandage – prolonging the unpleasant experience and making it into something far more painful than it really needed to be.
I think we do the same thing when we contemplate the pain that accompanies what we believe would be “failure”. Our minds have a way of making it far more ominous than it ever is in reality. And if we happen to find ourselves experiencing it, we can also fall into the trap of unwittingly making it more uncomfortable than it really needs to be.
But we can also exercise resilience and determination in our ability to bounce back and focus on something that will allow us to move forward in spite of an otherwise unpleasant experience.
Because what it really comes down to is what your experience – regardless of the way it turns out – has given you, rather than cost you. People who have accomplished extraordinary things in the world are the first to tell you that what many refer to as “failure” has plagued them time after time – and many will tell you those experiences were prerequisites for their success.
What differentiates them from those who allowed “failure” to defeat them is that they picked themselves up, figured out what they could learn, and moved forward armed with a new awareness, a new understanding, and a renewed commitment to their greatest dreams and visions.
I think we all need a shot from time to time. A shot of humility, compassion – and humor. A shot that will only serve to make us stronger, more determined, and far more resilient than we were before. What great thing can YOU achieve today, knowing that you simply cannot fail?
If you’re ready to play a bigger game, consider enrolling in the spring 2020 session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. It’s an exclusive thirteen week leadership development program that will help you push through the resistance and sidestep the pitfalls that keep you from unleashing GENIUS in yourself and those you lead — and unlock extraordinary performance in yourself and other while experiencing greater joy and fulfillment both on and off the job.
For a limited time, you can lock in the 2019 prices before they go up in 2020. Give yourself an early holiday gift that’ll help you usher in a bigger, brighter 2020 by claiming one of the ten seats that are now available.
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.
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).
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.