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.
The Spring 2022 session will kick off in March. Enrollment will be limited to eight participants and offered to those on the waiting list before registration opens to the public.
Though the Halloween parties and trick or treaters have come and gone, 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 your attention. It is important to realize that just as you need not answer the phone every time it rings, you also do not need to allow your attention to be hijacked by everything that demands it. Instead, you can be intentional about what you allow to occupy your mind and consume your 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, download my special report, Why Real Leaders Don’t Set Goals (and what they do instead).
Have you ever noticed that your experience directly reflects your state of mind? When your mind is cluttered, your surroundings have a way of mirroring that. Feelings of being scattered are often accompanied by piles of unfinished business everywhere you look or lists and notes of things to do that seem to multiply.
When you feel heavy and bogged down, everything you do will feel harder and more cumbersome.
You may think that the way you feel is a result of your experiences, and that is true — the more you have to do, the more overwhelmed you will feel. But the reverse also applies — the more overwhelmed you feel, the more you are likely to approach things in a way that draws them out — perhaps by procrastinating, making things more complicated than they need to be, or using more energy to resist and worry than it would take to actually get things done. If you become fixated on evidence that suggests you can never rise above the way you are feeling, you’ll trap yourself in vicious circles where you will continue to see that which you long to rise above and feel the frustration of not being able to break free.
In fact, your frame of mind with everything you do will have a direct effect on whether the experience of doing it will be exhilarating and satisfying or frustrating and heavy.
The stories we tell ourselves have a way of coming true – “There’s just way too much to do and not enough time to do it. I’m too busy to do anything fun, to take time out for my family, friends or myself, to ever get beyond the day to day and into those things I dream about…” The way out of the traps we set for ourselves is to start not with our experiences, but our thoughts.
One day a while back, I turned into my driveway and caught sight of the hedges that needed trimming. “Wouldn’t it be fun to drop everything and go cut those right now – to just get out there and work in the yard for awhile?” I found myself thinking. And then I laughed as I realized that this task that seemed so enjoyable compared to the list of things on my plate at that moment was one of the very things I was dreading a few weekends ago. The task itself hadn’t changed, just the way I was thinking about it.
And it hit me that perhaps there was a way to transform all the things I needed to do that day — which were really bringing me down — into experiences that could be lighter and simpler — and maybe even fun. The key had to be in the way that I approached them – in what I was believing about them, and what I was focusing on as I did them. As I became aware of my attitude toward the tasks at hand, I realized that I was more fixated on checking the box than I was on enjoying the experience. And I was also swept up in the belief that the work ahead of me was going to be hard, onerous and complicated.
What if all that changed? What if instead of believing I had to get everything done perfectly, I just played at things, took myself a little less seriously, and lightened up a bit? And what if instead of believing I needed to get it ALL done, I just focused on what was most important — most aligned with the highest priorities in my day and in my life? And what if instead of driving solely toward the outcome, I allowed myself to be fully present in every moment that led up to it? Hmm.
Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” And I have also heard it said that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
The fundamental shift must come not in what you do, or even how you do it, but what you are thinking, believing and allowing yourself to feel about what you are doing.
To this end, setting an intention or statement of our desired experience can be very powerful. If what you want is greater freedom and joy, more meaning and satisfaction and heightened effectiveness, you must align your thoughts around enjoying those experiences before you even start. And you need to become diligently aware of the degree to which your thoughts stay aligned with your overarching intention. When they drift, you can come back to them, remember what you really want, and align yourself with the state you wish to be in once again.
In this way, you can break the vicious cycle of allowing your experiences to bring you down in ways that result in more lousy experiences — and begin anew. You consciously align your thoughts with what you most want, rather than letting them denigrate into the negative emotional states you seek to rise above. Your actions align with your thoughts, and you’ll find yourself coming up with creative ways to simplify, get focused on what is most important and get it done while enjoying yourself in the process – and sharing your joy with everyone around you.
Looking for a better way to lighten your load?
Check out the The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, an exclusive 13-week leadership development program designed to help high achieving (and often overextended) leaders minimize pressure and stress so they can access their best work — and enjoy their lives more both on and off the job.
Registration for the fall session is now open! The program will kick off on Wednesday 9/22 and go through early December. To maximize individualized support and interaction, enrollment is limited to 8-10 people. Click here for more information or to reserve your seat.
Very few of us would drive for long without a seatbelt, especially with the loud blaring noises most cars make to alert us of the fact that we’ve forgotten to take such an important precaution. But if you ask people how long they’ve driven accompanied by a warning light that tells them they are due for an oil change or a tire rotation or are low on fuel, you’d likely hear a different story.
The same tends to be true in the way we approach our work and personal lives. We readily give our attention, time and energy to the issues that demand our attention – urgent requests, ringing phones, things that are in our faces. But we are all too likely to ignore those subtle little warning signs that indicate we need general maintenance to stay healthy and vibrant enough to make it to our ultimate destinations.
Think about your own life for a moment. Chances are you’re very busy, with a lot on your plate and many things in the pipeline. You are likely juggling many balls – and not just at work. With telecommuting becoming more of the norm, separating your personal and professional life has likely become a bit more challenging, as the line has become more blurred than ever. You may not be spending as much time in your car, but your compulsion to jump on the computer to knock a few things out when you’d otherwise be having personal time has likely taken a huge leap – even more so if your work expands across different time zones. And when you do that, the minutes all too easily stretch into hours.
The tendency of most high achievers who find themselves shouldering an increased load is to double down on their efforts – to work harder, longer, faster. If that is a familiar pattern for you, you know that when you get locked and loaded on a target, you are very likely to dismiss (or completely overlook) the subtle indicators that you are overextending your capacity and putting yourself at risk.
Occasionally though, the stress and overwhelm come to a head and you can’t help but notice them. Just as a car whose oil has become very dirty or whose gas tank is running on fumes doesn’t quite operate as effectively, you too will begin to notice more and more visible signs that something has got to be done to get your system back in optimal working condition.
How does that show up for you?
Do your shoulders gradually creep closer to your ears? Does your breathing get more and more shallow? Do you find yourself clenching your fists? Gritting your teeth? Losing your temper more often than you’d like?
Perhaps it’s more of a gnawing awareness that something’s got to give. You might feel as though you’re not sure you can continue at this pace. You may have a feeling that something is missing, or out of kilter. You could find that the things that used to satisfy you just don’t move the needle anymore like everything is just blending together in a kind of gray mush that you are continually trudging through.
The good news is that this is a state you can definitely do something about.
It’s more a product of LACK of consciousness than anything. This means that when you intentionally make a conscious, deliberate decision that you are ready to do something different, you can – and you will.
This week, I want to share with you some tips that can help you regain your sanity and tend to those little warning signs that you may have been overlooking for a little too long.
Today, we’ll explore a common “success formula” that tends to get people into trouble. This success formula is one that is so ingrained into the fabric of our existence that you may not even be aware of it. It is the conditioning that leads us to believe that the harder we work, the more we do, the busier we are, the more successful/valuable/worthy we will be (pick the adjective that resonates most for you).
It is not without some merit. After all, it is true that most things worth working for do require some degree of effort, and that obstacles often require diligence and increased commitment and grit to overcome.
But this approach, when overdone, can lead to the very burnout that keeps you from operating at all.
While it is true that you need to practice the kind of resilience that will keep you in the game rather than forfeiting the race, the best race car drivers know that you have to make occasional pit stops to make it through the long haul. The best athletes know that their bodies need to rest in order to perform at their best. And the best leaders and executives understand that sometimes you need to slow down in order to speed up.
The assumption that underlies the “success formula” that turns against us is one that leads you to believe you don’t have time to slow down, to be intentional, to gain clarity on where it is you are going and what you need to do along the way. That assumption leads you to overlook the importance of reflecting on where you’ve been and how the journey is going, what’s working and what needs to change, and how you can shift your action in a way that aligns with your desired result. It leads you to keep driving even when your tank is empty, your oil is dirty and your tires are bald. It’ll drive you into a ditch (or worse).
The first step to keeping that kind of programming from derailing you is to become aware that it is in fact operating and to realize what the impact of that programming has been.
Human beings don’t change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain or discomfort of doing things differently. But we often don’t recognize that this pain is self-imposed – as a result of the kind of thinking that compels us to keep pushing when we need to take our foot off the gas. Instead, we attribute our exhaustion, frustration, disillusionment, overwhelm, etc. to our circumstances.
But what if it were overuse of the “success formula” itself that leads you to deal with stress in a way that actually makes things more stressful?
Do you believe you can’t afford to slow down?
Is it really true? If you were to insert an hour into your schedule to do something that tends to your well-being, or allows you to gain some clarity or to replenish your energy, would you really be worse off? Do you know others who somehow find a way to do slow down and take breaks every once in a while, or do the things they love – and still manage to perform well (maybe even better?)
When you believe you can’t slow down, you’ll take in information that confirms it and screen everything else out. So if all that comes to mind is what you’d have to lose, see what happens when you get curious about what you’d have to gain.
Just for a moment, think about who you could be if you no longer let that thought dictate your response. Would you be willing to entertain the idea that there may be some things you can do to interrupt that crazy compulsion that has a way of keeping you on a hamster wheel, running faster than ever but not really getting anywhere? Or pushing a big rock up a hill only to have it come rolling back down again and again?
All you need at this point is the curiosity to entertain the thought that perhaps that old “success formula” has some holes in it – and that if you are open and willing to find a better way, the path will reveal itself to you.
In the coming days, I’ll give you some more tips and tools that will help you find it.
If you’d like to more fully explore what your life and work could be like beyond the conditioning that may be holding you back, consider enrolling in the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Unique Genius. This thirteen-week leadership development program is ideal for leaders and professionals experiencing high levels of stress, pressure and overwhelm who long to experience more passion, meaning and joy in their work and their lives and especially fitting for those who tend to take a lot on and want to minimize stress, pressure and overwhelm without sacrificing performance.
Public registration will open on September 1. Subscribers to DianeBolden.com are eligible to pre-register – email support@DianeBolden.com for more information.
With all things being equal, what differentiates those who rise to success (and continue to achieve it over an extended period) from those who stay where they are?
That was a question Mike Ettore, Executive Leadership Coach, author of Trust-Based Leadership, and founder of Fidelis Leadership Group, asked me on his podcast recently. The seven-minute clip below features my answer as well as Mike’s thoughts on the best way to advance. Click below to listen in.
Here is a summary of the tips and take-a-ways:
- Take the time to build solid relationships. Seek people out, ask a lot of questions, and get advice. Listen deeply and learn as much as you can from them.
- Relate to people in a way that makes them feel valued and supported. Make it clear you have their best interests in mind. Be completely present. Give people your full attention.
- Make the success of others just as, if not more important than your own. Be humble and service oriented. Find ways to contribute – even the smallest gestures can go a long way.
- Be curious. Learn about what others believe are unmet needs – for both individuals and the organization as a whole. Gather information that allows you to identify emerging challenges and opportunities, and what can be done to address them.
- Create opportunities instead of waiting for them to emerge. Determine how you can utilize your own unique blend of talent, experience, passion and energy to address unmet needs as well as emerging challenges and opportunities. Show resourcefulness and ingenuity.
- Be patient and persevere. The connections and conversations you have with people will position you as someone who is a service-oriented team player that is serious about contributing to the success of the organization. When consistent and thoughtful, your initiative can put you at the top of a candidate list before a job opening is ever even publicized.
One day when my youngest son was eight years old, he came home from summer camp with a riddle.
“Mom, pretend you are in a box that is sealed shut – air tight – with no doors and no windows.” OK,” I replied, picturing walls on all sides of me.
“How do you get out?” he asked.
I offered some lame solutions, each of which compelled him to roll his eyes and shake his head. When I saw that he could no longer take it I said, “I give up. How do you get out?”
“You stop pretending!” he said with a wide grin spreading across his face.
This little riddle has profound implications for all of us.
Because we have a way of creating our own boxes every day of our lives. Sometimes we do it when we wake up with preconceived ideas of how our day is going to be.
We do it when we make a judgment of whether or not we believe people will come through for us, or whether we will be able to come through for ourselves.
We create boxes that keep us walled off from our greatest potential and the myriad of possibilities that exist all around us when we believe that the chances of achieving something are less than optimal.
We are often told that being truly creative requires that we “think outside of the box.”
And I believe this is true. Perhaps we can also increase our creativity and effectiveness by recognizing the ways in which we create our own boxes to begin with so that we can prevent them from reigning us in altogether.
Anytime you believe an assumption, you’ll tend to act in ways that validate it.
If you believe you are not capable of doing something – speaking in public, taking a stand, initiating a conversation with someone, pursuing some kind of opportunity – with the belief that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, you’ll behave in ways that make that assumption true.
As the saying goes, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”
You may believe you cannot do something because there is no evidence that suggests you can. But the lack of evidence is a direct result of believing something about yourself that is based completely in conjecture.
Many times the only real evidence we have is actually a lack of evidence.
Your beliefs of what is possible also have a direct impact your ability to find solutions to problems and challenges.
You won’t be motivated to find answers to problems you don’t believe are solvable. And though there may be potential solutions all around you, with that mindset you likely will not see them at all.
But when you move beyond a belief that something is not possible, you’ll have access to a whole new field of possibilities you never would have otherwise entertained.
We are all to prone to “believe it when we see it”, but perhaps in reality a good portion of what we see is actually a product of what we are believing.
Your beliefs can impact people around you too.
When you believe an assumption about others that suggests they are not capable of achieving something, you may well act in ways that can bring out their insecurities and doubts, thus inhibiting their performance. It is not uncommon for people to accomplish amazing feats in front of some audiences and become all thumbs in front of others.
And sometimes other people’s beliefs about us have a way of boxing us in.
But there is a way out of that trap.
If you find yourself intimidated by others who may have doubts about your abilities, you need to be aware of the fact that their doubts are not what is inhibiting you at all. Their doubts are only triggering the stories of inadequacy you may (even unknowingly) have about yourself – and that is what gets in the way of your ability to do any given task.
When you begin to pay attention to what it is you are believing, you can question the validity of your assumptions and take steps to disengage yourself from beliefs that keep you reigned in.
The key is not to simply get rid of your assumptions.
What you really need to do is replace your limiting beliefs with empowering truths.
Rather than focusing on what’s going wrong, you can focus on what’s going right and build on that. Instead of beating yourself up for your seeming shortcomings, you can appreciate your strengths and the progress you have made and go from there. You can move from the improbable to the possible and look to the talent you and others possess that will help you to achieve it.
Action follows thought.
Your doubts are like the walls of a box that keep you from seeing and acting on the array of possibilities all around you. The truth about who you are and what you are capable of dissolves those walls and allows you to bust out of your box so that you can experience life as it is truly meant to be lived – unencumbered, limitless, and free.
So, if you find yourself in a box, remember the advice of an eight year old boy – and STOP PRETENDING.
For more on busting out of your box and experiencing the freedom, potential and possibility that lies beyond your self-imposed limitations, consider enrolling in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Unique Genius.
Registration for the fall session will begin soon. Join the waiting list to get first dibs on the limited seats when they become available.
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!
Have you ever driven by a construction site and wondered what was being built?
You may have seen people working diligently, each focused on their own specific task. Maybe there were steel girders, half constructed walls, and unidentifiable objects at various stages of completion.
Upon first glance, it likely appears chaotic and messy.
But amidst the sawdust and cement blocks, something pulls it all together. Though we may not know exactly what the larger plan is, over time the construction starts to take shape and we begin to recognize a room here, and another there. Soon we can start to surmise the purpose and function of each room.
As the walls are plastered and paint is applied, the appearance becomes neater.
And suddenly, it is completed in all its glory – a stunning compilation of raw materials, sweat, and focused action.
Perhaps we too build things in this way. It is nice to know in advance exactly what we are building. But at times things may feel chaotic, disconnected and random. We have some experiences that uplift us and others that disappoint. Often we are without an explanation of why certain events and experiences are taking place.
But maybe underneath it all, there is a larger plan at work.
One that will reveal itself over time. As we undertake each new experience, another wall is constructed and a new room is being built.
What if we were willing to experience our lives with the same wonder and curiosity with which we look upon that building undergoing construction? And what if we were able to engender that same enthusiasm and optimism in everyone around us?
Are you willing to entertain the thought that somewhere within you there is a perfect blueprint of everything your life and your leadership will bring about?
And can you delight in the mystery of its gradual unfolding?
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery