Are you at a crossroads in your life or your career?
Do you feel like something amazing is ready to bust through but not sure exactly what it is, or how it will take form? Does it scare you? Do you find that things you used to be really good at are no longer satisfying or even interesting? Have you been daydreaming or even just longing for something different but not sure where to start? It might feel disconcerting and even overwhelming. Maybe you think you need to change jobs or even careers.
Or perhaps you just feel you need a change of scene – different projects, new challenges, new opportunities. You might have already experienced some kind of significant change and are still reeling from it, not sure what to do next.
Is there a great idea brewing that you just haven’t had the time (or the courage) to explore? Is something new and different beckoning? Perhaps you’ve put it on the back burner and tried to dismiss recurring daydreams to go back to the tried and true, but it just doesn’t seem to work for you anymore. In fact, it could be becoming downright miserable. And though you continue to resist the feeling that there’s got to be more than this, you can’t help but wonder if it might be true.
If any of this resonates with you, you are on the verge of an exciting, energizing, transformation. But it may or may not feel exciting and energizing. Right now it could just be disconcerting and uncomfortable. And you may not know exactly what to do about it.
What if you were not alone?
Would it help to know that many people are feeling the same way? Some of them have just quit their jobs because they were miserable. Some have been laid off. Others are at the pinnacles of their careers, by all appearances wildly successful but dying on the inside. Some are at the helms of corporations or large organizations, wanting to take things in new, exciting directions but not sure where to go or how to get there. Others are inside organizations, acutely aware of what is possible and what is not working, but not sure it is their place to volunteer their thoughts and ideas or fearful that doing so is just too risky. Still more are entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, writers, and other creative, innovative, and resourceful people that are playing (or wrestling) with the idea of entering unchartered territory.
The good news is, you don’t have to go off the deep end.
Though change is knocking at your door (and may already have come through it), you don’t necessarily have to tear everything down and start over again. You just need to learn to see things differently – your opportunities, your challenges, your very self. And you need to learn to tap the reserves and the brilliance that is within you. Everything you have done up to this point has prepared you for what you are about to do. The world is waiting for it.
Because you are human, you will resist it.
It may overwhelm you because you can’t figure it out. As hard as you try to create a solid plan for moving through it and making sense of it, you will most likely continue to be baffled. Because it is not a matter for your head. You need to trust in something bigger than that — the same way that great visionaries, inventors, scientists, writers, artists, musicians and leaders have throughout the history of time. Your head and your ego will create illusions that will terrify you. They will weigh you down and exhaust you. Under their influence, you’ll talk yourself out of your greatest ideas, dreams and visions before you can even get your key in the ignition.
What has helped me (and is still helping me) is enlisting the support of other people who are in the same place.
People who are dreaming and searching and even suffering, people who are knee deep in their own fear and resistance and trudging through it, people who are REAL and not afraid to let others see that they don’t have all the answers but are STILL SHOWING UP, doing what they are called to do each day, and asking powerful questions that get them closer to finding their answers. These people inspire me. They support and challenge me. And they give me the courage to keep at it.
Do you have someone in your life that helps you in that way?
If you don’t, FIND someone. It isn’t as hard as you think. Start by being honest with yourself about where you are and what you want. Challenge the fears and assumptions that keep you from sharing that side of yourself with people. You may be surprised to find there might be someone right next to you who is feeling the same way you are and will welcome the opportunity to confide in you.
What I have discovered and rediscovered is that the moment I connect with someone in a similar place that I am in, I become infused with the very wisdom and answers I need myself.
In the act of sharing it with others, I am able to benefit from it too. Similarly, those I have connected with in the past have unlocked their own wisdom and found their answers as they endeavored to tell me things we both needed to hear.
Being at a crossroads means you are on the verge of an exciting, energizing transformation. Embrace the journey – all of these moments, good and bad are opportunities for growth.
Implications for Real Leaders
Becoming REAL is about moving beyond all the conditioning that you’ve internalized over the years about who you need to be and what you have to do in order to “succeed”. When you’re ready to bust out of the box and experience the freedom of being who you really are, you can trade those old illusions for truth. And once you experience the freedom of doing that for yourself, you can help those you lead do it too. If you’re interested in learning more about how that’s done, download your free copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto: How to Stop Doing Business as Usual and Start Liberating the Power of the Human Spirit to Achieve Unprecedented and Sustainable Success.
Have you ever had one of those days/weeks/months where it felt like one darn thing after another?
But these ideas enter into us long before they are ready to be brought into the world. They prepare us, transform us, and lead us through a myriad of experiences that allow us to develop what we need in order to manifest them.
These experiences are not always pleasant.
We suffer disappointments, setbacks, frustrations. During times like these it is easy to feel as though life would be just fine as soon as these turbulences subside. But what if these little disturbances are the very things we need in order to breathe life into these visions that lie within us?
How many of the world’s greatest healers once experienced some kind of malady that they needed to overcome on their own before they had what it took to help others through the same challenge? How many people transcended their suffering by finding meaning in it and then went on to help others do the same? How many leaders rose to great heights charged with a mission of improving an organization or a community after having experienced something that needed to be changed?
What does this suggest for you?
If your journey as a leader will require you to exercise courage, you may find yourself in several situations that scare the hell out of you. If it requires you to show compassion, you may find yourself in situations where you must learn to transform your anger into something more constructive.
You will continue to draw to yourself the experiences you need to develop what is required to bring your vision into the world. The blessing and the curse in all of this is that those experiences will continue to present themselves until you finally learn the things you need to learn.
We learn best through action.
Early in my career as an instructor and developer of courses and workshops, I realized that an effective learning experience required a balance of lecture and discussion with some kind of experiential activity that would allow participants to translate into action what they just learned in theory. Life has a beautiful way of doing this for us.
The funny thing is that in the classroom no one ever much seemed to enjoy breaking into pairs and triads and having to practice something they were not very good at yet, and the same thing seems to be true when those experiences present themselves in our daily lives.
But life doesn’t give up on us.
If it doesn’t go so well with one person or situation, we get another to practice on. And it doesn’t even matter so much how well we do with these challenges, as long as we show up and do what’s in front of us. We will continue to be given opportunities to choose different responses, learn from them and adapt our behavior once again.
Think about anything you ever had to learn.
You began at the beginning. You started with the easy stuff. Then when you became stronger and more capable, you went onto a more advanced level, where the challenges were tougher and you had to apply greater skill, muscle and intellect. You emerged from each of these lessons with something you didn’t have before. And you couldn’t have acquired it through any other route than your own experience.
Low and behold – there is order in chaos.
As I began coaching executives several years ago, the emphasis in my work shifted from trying to impart a lesson to helping people learn from their own experiences and see the perfect order in which things are unfolding in their personal and professional lives to help them get where they truly want to go.
The pertinent thing was no longer to give people answers, but rather to help them find their own and to recognize they already possess everything they need to get them through whatever challenge is before them. And this is something each of us can do as leaders to help those around us on their own journeys as well.
What is life trying to teach you or prepare you for right now?
And how can you seize these opportunities in front of you to bring out your very best so that you can help someone else do the same?
“The future enters into us in order to transform us, long before it happens.” – Rainer Maria Wilke
For more on how to embrace life’s toughest lessons and come out on top, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead . You can claim your Kindle copy for just $2.99 through Friday 11/15/19 (and even gift it to colleagues, clients and members of your team at that price).
If you prefer reading the old fashioned way, the paperback version is also available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. To inquire about special pricing on volume purchases of the paperback version, email Support@DianeBolden.com.
Not all that long ago, I went through a period where I felt overwhelmed and stuck. Beneath my frustration was curiosity about where it was coming from and what was the best way to move beyond it.
One day, as I was watching my young son do his homework, I had a fascinating and frustrating insight.
This kid is really smart. And his homework is just not that hard for him. He could finish it in the time it takes to make a peanut butter sandwich. But seconds after he would pull it from his backpack a whole new dynamic came into play. It was as though a huge brick wall suddenly erupted from the page and grew a hundred feet tall.
He’d sit and stare at his paper. He’d complain about all the work he had to do. He’d worry that he wouldn’t be able to do it right (or at all). And then he’d become completely fixated on any little thing that captured his attention. A bug. A drop of water on the counter. The way the numbers on the digital clock change with each minute. And hours could go by before he had even touched his pencil to paper.
After watching for a while, I heard myself telling him, “In the time it takes you to moan and complain about it, you could have it done! You can get through this easily – you are so smart!” But nothing I said was getting through.
And then I realized that my son was a mirror image of me when I get overwhelmed.
It’s not that what must get done is all that difficult.
It’s that my mind had a way of magnifying things several times their normal size so that it felt like I must tackle Mount Everest when in reality I only needed to take a little walk around the block. I told myself stories (sometimes consciously and other times unconsciously) about how hard things will be or how long they would take – especially things that were new to me.
And then I’d fall into my old, familiar pitfall of trying to make everything perfect. Before I even realized what was going on, I felt totally exhausted and depleted. And then I needed relief—even just doing something that’s easy—so I could check a box and feel like I had accomplished something, anything.
Once I realized where my son got it, I decided to stop trying to teach him and let him teach me.
In addition to showing me what was standing in my way, he reminded me that all the words in the world don’t make a difference when you are trying to teach someone to do something you have not yet mastered. Kids learn through action, not words. And so do adults.
I knew that to help my son (or anyone else for that matter) in even the smallest way, I had to get busy working on myself. And then a new question arose: how can I overcome a lifetime of perfectionistic patterns that keep me from doing what’s necessary to achieve my grandest visions and goals?
With that question at the top of my mind, I went for a run. As with just about any of my runs, the first few minutes were tough. I was tired and stiff. It wasn’t fun. But I just kept going. And then I fell into my zone. My legs felt lighter. My breathing evened out. My head started to clear. I was actually enjoying myself. I ran a little faster and a little harder. It felt good.
And then I had a second, equally powerful insight.
To break out of the perfectionism trap—to get out of overwhelm, to free myself from my own self-imposed prison—I simply needed to get into action. Even one tiny step toward my desired goal would help – though at first it may be uncomfortable, messy, and far from perfect. And then I could take another, and another and another, until l finally I reach my zone.
Over the last several months, I have found that the more diligence and effort I put into those first few steps, the more quickly I get through that “warm up” period and into a place where I can make some real headway – and even have some fun in the process.
So that’s my simple plan for getting and staying unstuck. And when I need a little more motivation and inspiration, I just go hang out with my son for awhile.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” ~Albert Einstein
Overwhelm is just one of the many states that keep us from taking action toward our goals and visions and doing our best work. If you are interested in learning more about how to find your optimal zone of performance so that your work becomes less cumbersome and more enjoyable, check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of September 23rd.
This 13-week leadership development program will help you find and stay in your optimal zone of performance so that your work becomes less cumbersome and more enjoyable. It’s designed to help high achieving professionals get better results and make a bigger impact while enjoying their lives more – both on and off the job.
Registration will close soon. Save your seat today!
What are you longing to create for yourself?
And what do you need to let go of to allow it to fully take root?
We are a goal driven society that is conditioned to seek more.
Our egos desire more money, more fame and prestige, and more stuff. A deeper part of ourselves longs for more peace, more meaning, and more purpose in our lives. We want to move beyond our previous realizations of what we’ve already accomplished to master newer, better ways of doing things—whether that be what we create in our lives or in our organizations—and as leaders what we can inspire others to do as well.
What if you started with less instead of more?
Though it is tempting to occupy ourselves with thoughts of how we can go about achieving all of this and what we need to do more of, perhaps what we really need to start with is what we need to do less of – what we need to let go of to create the space for something new to come in.
We are constantly evolving as human beings.
It is so easy to look to the past to define who we are through the things we’ve already done – goals we’ve achieved, titles we’ve acquired, and creations we have built. Our previous experiences coagulate to form an identity that is easy to confuse with our true nature.
The fact of the matter is, you are not your accomplishments, your creations, or the sum of the various roles you play in your life – manager, director, vice president, mother, father, friend, son, daughter, etc. You are much, much more than that. Your potential is limitless.
And yet, we limit ourselves by definitions of who we think we are – or should be.
They filter the experiences we allow ourselves to have and compel us to define the form that our deepest longings should take. To be happy, we reason – we must get that promotion, achieve this or that goal, hit that target. So we continue to go through the motions, doing the kinds of things we’ve always done – on a sort of autopilot.
Some of this may bring satisfaction, and some may lead to discontentment.
We need to attune ourselves to that which brings us the most of what we truly desire and open ourselves to the possibility that what we really want may need to come in a form that has previously been undefined for us. In short, we must allow ourselves to surrender what we think we know to open to the mystery that is unfolding in each of our lives.
Easier said than done, right?
How exactly do you go about letting go of the known when it is all you know?
We can take our cues from nature. Snakes and other reptiles shed their skin, trees drop their leaves, and caterpillars create cocoons in which their forms entirely dissolve before recreating themselves in the form of butterflies. Even a fish in a bowl cannot stay in water that contains its excrement – the waste must either be emptied and replaced with new water, or absorbed by something else that will remove it from the fish’s environment. Without engaging in these renewing processes, these creatures will die. And so it is with us. Many of us are already walking around encased in layers of old, dead stuff that needs to be released.
What are you holding onto in your life that has run its course?
- What are the old outmoded ways of doing things that no longer bring you energy?
- What are the things you’ve acquired that you no longer need?
- What beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer true for you?
Pay attention to the times that you feel constricted, anxious, or tired and in those moments ask what you can let go of. Don’t be afraid of the answer. Though it may frighten you because it introduces an element of the unknown, following these insights will always lead to freedom and liberation.
Your computer can only handle so much data, and the same is true of you.
If you do not delete old email and get rid of files that have been accumulating over the years, and if you continue to add new programs without deleting old ones, you will find that it becomes sluggish and unresponsive. Just as freeing up space allows your computer to process things more quickly, so too will clearing your own personal space (whether of things or thoughts) allow you to access new levels of clarity and creativity.
Space brings freedom.
You will breathe easier, be more present in every action and interaction you partake of, and bring more of who you really are to what you do. And you will open the space of possibility that will allow something to come in that may surprise and delight you. Rather than being something you slave away for, it will simply emerge and reveal itself to you.
And of course, any work you do on yourself will serve as a form of leadership for others who, like you, seek their own answers and could benefit from your example of unearthing what is possible and allowing it to take form in new and unexpected ways.
Taking the time to discern what is and isn’t working in your life and up level your game becomes easier and more fun when you have support.
If you are ready to do a deep dive to supercharge your leadership and your life, I encourage you to check out 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.
Though the spring program has now closed, registration for the fall program will open soon. To get on the waiting list, email Support@DianeBolden.com.
Can you recall the last time you were faced with great change, challenge and/or uncertainty?
Times of great upheaval and transition require that we bring our very best to the scene, and yet they also have a way of unnerving us. When you don’t know what to expect and feel as though much of what is happening around you is out of your control, it’s easy to begin to doubt your ability to successfully navigate through it (not to mention lead others to do the same).
Check out this video for insight on how to summon and embody your true strength — one that isn’t dependent on external circumstances, but rather self reliant and resilient in the face of any situation.
I hope you enjoy it!
If you’re experiencing upheaval in the face of change, 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.
Though the spring program has now closed, registration for the fall program will open soon. To get on the waiting list, email Support@DianeBolden.com.
We’ve all been to a lot of classes – whether on leadership or related subjects – where we sit passively and listen to someone teach us things from a workbook or a power point presentation. Some of these classes infuse us with new ideas and inspirations, and others do not. Either way, the chief challenge is coming back to our daily work and implementing what we have learned. Class or no class, putting into practice the ideas and insights we get on a daily basis is a challenge. It is a challenge because it calls for us to integrate them into a way of doing things that we have established for ourselves over a long period of time.
To change, grow or improve in any way, we must consciously look at ourselves.
We need to look at both what is working and what is not. Often we are so accustomed to running from project to project and meeting to meeting, that we aren’t even aware of the dynamics at play under the surface. This frenetic approach leads to a pattern of similar results, similar experiences, and inevitably similar frustrations, and often the feeling that there has to be more to it than this.
The truth is, you already possess within you the core essentials you need to be successful.
The question is, are you using them? And are you using them to the best of your ability? If the answer is no, it doesn’t matter how many new tools you acquire or methodologies you learn. Our chief challenge is not to continue looking to others for solutions and answers, but instead to take the time to tap that part of ourselves that remains our purest potential. The prerequisite for being an effective leader of others is to learn to lead ourselves.
Michelangelo once said “The masterpiece is already in the marble.”
The same is true for each of us. Our chief task as leaders is to chip away at the stuff that surrounds the masterpiece. What stuff? You may ask. The habits, patterns and approaches you’ve been utilizing over the years that are no longer getting you the results you want. And the inaccurate beliefs, assumptions and doubts you have about yourself, others, and what is generally possible in any given situation. These are the major factors that keep you from unearthing your best work.
So how do you chip the away at the extraneous?
The part that is especially challenging for people is that they often don’t even realize they are operating from a mindset that isn’t serving them. They may recognize the results they’re getting aren’t what they’d like without necessarily realizing that the core issue lies within them. And the tricky thing is that until you recognize that the mindset you have isn’t serving you, you will continue to make decisions and attempt to solve problems operating within the very frame of mind that is keeping you from seeing the outcomes you want.
Here are some steps you can take to shift into a way of thinking that allows you to bring out your very best – and in the process help others to do the same.
The first step is to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.
The next time you have an experience that doesn’t go the way you’d like it to, replay it in your mind and try to identify the role you played in it –not only with your actions (or lack of action) but also your thoughts – what you were believing at the time, where your focus was, and how others reacted to you. Ask yourself what you would do differently next time. Then envision what that would look like and feel like if you were to have the same situation, but a more favorable response. In this way, you can allow your experiences to teach and mold you into something better – even the ones that are less than optimal.
The second step is to PAY ATTENTION.
You are bound to fall into old patterns again and again, but the more you become aware of them, the less compelling they become. At first you may not catch yourself until after the fact, but over time you will find you can interrupt the cycle sooner, until finally you are able to head it off at the pass and choose a different response altogether.
The third step is to IDENTIFY WITH THE MASTERPIECE, NOT THE MARBLE.
You are not your thoughts, your patterns or your habits. You are much bigger than that. Once you are aware of how those things are operating in your life, you free yourself up to choose new ones. Rather than chipping away at the marble, you will begin to grow from within it, busting through the constraints that no longer hold you captive. Instead of dwelling on your limitations, focus on your strengths. Instead of putting your attention on the things you don’t want to see, begin identifying with what you do want and recognize that you have the ability to achieve it.
As you begin to clear the debris from your view, you will see things in a whole different light – including those around you that you have the opportunity to lead. These folks are far more likely to take their cues from your action than your words. And when you begin to help them identify with their masterpieces as you have learned to do, there is nothing you cannot achieve.
If you are interested in additional strategies for inspiring and motivating yourself and others to higher levels of performance and impact – as well as greater fulfillment both on and off the job, check out 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 kicking off the week of April 1st.
“I’m so tired of feeling unorganized and scattered all the time.”
A client told me in a recent meeting. He added, “I come into the office and there are papers flung all over my desk, half started projects buried in piles with new requests heaped on top of them. But I never seem to have time to go through them because by the time I get there, a line of people waiting to talk to me has already formed outside my door and I have no choice but to spring into action. And my days are full of requests that add new papers, projects and action items to a pile that grows faster than it shrinks.”
He felt like Sisyphus – like he was constantly pushing a big rock up a hill only to have it roll back down as soon as he got near the top.
“What do you think I should do about it?” he asked me. I knew he wouldn’t like my answer.
“Move into it,” I told him. “Tell me more about how starting your day like that affects the quality of your life.”
He was perplexed. “Why would I want to move into something so awful? Shouldn’t I be figuring out how I can move away from it? Rise above it?”
He was essentially living as Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, constantly reliving the same day over and over again. However, there are hidden gifts in such a predicament.
That is the reaction most of us (including yours truly) have when faced with an unpleasant predicament. But rising above an unpleasant predicament often requires us to change habits or patterns that are ingrained and comfortable. And initiating and sustaining a change like that requires fuel — fuel that will allow us to break through our obstacles and limitations at the very moment when it seems most difficult.
Change occurs when the pain of the current state is greater than the perceived pain of making a change, and the pleasure of making a change is greater than the pleasure (or payoff) of staying the same.
When you truly move into your frustration, you begin to open your eyes widely to recognize the impact a problem is having on your life. You allow yourself to accept that this pain will continue until you do something about it. And until you are truly ready to do something about it, you will continue to do what you’ve always done and suffer as a result.
This can be done long before you know what that solution is. And just as you can move into your pain, so too can you move into the pleasure of what life would be like without your problem. This too, serves as fuel that will ultimately allow you to do what it takes to create and implement a lasting solution.
Moving into your frustration illuminates not only the problem, but also the underlying factors that contribute to and exacerbate that problem. It gives you insight.
Most of us instinctively move away from pain, firing shots over our shoulder at what we believe to be the antagonist without really recognizing or locking onto a target.
To really know what needs to be done to slay the beast, my client needed to take a closer look and recognize what it eats, how it grows stronger, and how he might unwittingly be feeding and nurturing it. That’s exactly what moving into the frustration with a spirit of curiosity does.
When he got curious about his predicament, he began to notice that he had a tendency to book his appointments back-to-back, starting first thing in the morning and say yes to more things than he could realistically accomplish. He realized that he didn’t have a clear sense of what was truly a priority and that in the absence of that clarity, he was making everything number one — except his own sanity.
The more awareness he cultivated in the presence of his frustration, the more he began to identify and understand what was really causing your frustration. This also led my client to discover and embrace the third gift of frustration.
Insight opens the door to possibility. Once you have an understanding of the factors that cause or contribute to a problem, you begin to recognize a multitude of options that can lead to lasting resolution.
In the days and weeks that followed, my client identified a number of strategies that could potentially work for him, including scheduling, communication, and delegation tactics.
The next time you feel like you are living the life of Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day, remind yourself that frustration comes bearing gifts. Reliving the same experience over and over again isn’t so bad if it ultimately yields fuel, insight, and possibility. Move into your discomfort, pay attention, get curious, and connect the dots. Then, you too will find a way to transform your frustration into freedom.
If you are interested in additional strategies for recognizing and moving beyond self-limiting patterns of behavior and thought, I encourage you to check out 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 kicking off the week of April 1st.
Imagine that software you’ve relied on for years stops working for you.
You notice that it has been freezing up a lot. At first, it didn’t really bother you. But now these little glitches are happening so often that you’re having trouble getting things done.
When you look into the problem, you find you are not the only one that has been experiencing it. Much to your relief, a new version of the program is being rolled out that has fixed all the bugs. And happily, this updated program is now available for you to download.
The same thing happens to each of us.
We are cruising along doing what we’ve always done only to find it just isn’t working so well anymore. We aren’t getting the results we wanted. Or worse, what worked before is actually causing new problems. And despite our best efforts, these problems are throwing a big monkey wrench in things.
So how do you find a bug in your program?
First, you start by recognizing that you aren’t getting the results you want. And then you work backward. Finding the bug in your program requires that you detach from your actions in such a way that you can observe and evaluate them.
One way to do this is to replay events in your mind to identify any causal factors.
You can do this in the car on the way home from work as you mentally review the day’s events and evaluate what went well and what didn’t. You can journal about it. Or you can talk with someone who is an objective third party, like a friend, family member, mentor or coach.
The bug in your program is almost always a knee jerk reaction.
Knee jerk reactions are the product of conditioning—what happens when a behavior becomes so automatic that you no longer need to think about it. And conditioning is good when it leads you to behave in a way that is constructive—like when you practice a new skill over and over again until you can do it without having to remind yourself of each step.
But conditioning that leads you to spring into action when what you really need to do is give a little more consideration to your response can get you into trouble.
There is a neurobiological component to conditioning.
Every time you practice something or respond to a stimulus in a certain way, you are creating neural networks in your brain. Neurons that fire together wire together. And the more they fire, the stronger and more automatic their connections (and your behaviors) get. Conversely, when a neural network is interrupted or not used for a certain period of time, these connections begin to weaken.
Once you have identified the bug, you can begin to eliminate it.
Simply being aware of a knee jerk reaction will begin to loosen its grip on you. This is not to say that someone could instantaneously eradicate a bug and immediately improve his or her results. It takes time. Awareness is half the battle.
Initially, errors are not caught until after the fact, but with increased awareness and attention, you can notice them sooner and sooner. The time it takes to realize blunders drops from hours to minutes, and, with continued diligence, you’re able to take steps to correct them in real time. Ultimately, you can get to the point where you can prevent yourself from engaging in this automatic reaction altogether.
As the bug is eliminated, the program can be upgraded.
Upgrading the program is a matter of replacing an old behavior with a new one. Unlike software upgrades, this one doesn’t isn’t a matter of a simple download. It requires attention, thought and persistence.
As mentioned previously, neural networks that correspond to old, undesirable patterns of behavior weaken when they are not engaged. And as they weaken, repeated practice allows new neural nets to be formed that support a more desirable behavior.
But doesn’t creating new neural networks require a huge amount of practice?
The interesting thing about the formation of these neural networks is that they do not have to happen in real time. Research has shown that mentally rehearsing a new pattern of behavior leads to the same growth in neural networks that physical practice does.
Really. If you replay the situation you wish you could have handled differently and “edit” your action to the desirable choice, you are literally rewiring your brain to act the correct way in the future.
Doing so will allow you to create and increasingly rely on new neural networks when in situations that necessitated different responses. Gradually, you are able to replace your tendency to demand compliance with a more thoughtful, respectful, and engaging approach to influencing others.
Let’s review the process of upgrading your internal programming:
- Step One: Find your bug. The first step is to recognize when you have a tendency to engage in behavior that keeps you from getting the results you desire. Most likely this will be a knee jerk reaction that propels you into action before you have a chance to think.
- Step Two: Disempower your bug. Becoming aware of behavior you fall into and the impact it has on your effectiveness ultimately weakens its hold on you because while it still may be automatic, it is no longer unconscious. Though falling into old patterns when you know better is frustrating, this awareness is a sign of tremendous progress.
- Step Three: Substitute a new program for the old one. As your old habits and the corresponding neural nets that lead you to engage in them begin to weaken, you can replace them with new behaviors. The more you practice these new behaviors (whether physically or mentally), the stronger the new neural networks and your new patterns will become. And the less you engage the old behaviors, the weaker and less prominent the old neural networks (and the corresponding behaviors) get.
If you find yourself engaging in behavior that is interfering with your effectiveness, the most important thing to remember is that you are not the program that is running it. You are the programmer. You have the ability to consciously choose the behaviors and the responses you have to any given stimulus.
Though interrupting and upgrading your internal programming takes time, the results will be well worth your effort. And the best part is that you don’t have to lodge a complaint with or rely on anyone but yourself in order to do it.
Now if only we could keep those darn devices from freezing up!
If you are interested in additional strategies for upgrading your internal programming so that you can access your very best performance, I encourage you to check out 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 kicking off the week of April 1st.
Do you find yourself running from one thing to the next with little time to really think about what you are doing and why?
If you answered yes, you are not alone.
Many high achieving professionals feel as though they have way more to do than they have time to do it. Their ambition, drive and passion have served them well, and gotten them to a nice place, but still they know they are capable of more. More visibility, more opportunity, more income, and dare I say – more freedom to enjoy their careers and their lives.
The daily grind has a way of keeping us tethered to the ground, feeling as though our best is just around the corner, if only we can get through what’s in front of us, which is often an accumulation of projects, events and other commitments that ends up growing far faster than it shrinks. Every once in a while, it becomes apparent that something’s got to give.
But who has time to slow down when there is so much more to get done?
The fantasy many of us have bought into is that if we just work longer and harder, we will get there. And despite our longing to find balance and the sweet spot that will finally allow us to relax and be more effective, we often act in ways that bring greater levels of anxiety and toil. As leaders, we also unwittingly create entire cultures of people who emulate our frenetic behavior in the name of getting ahead.
The hamster in the wheel doesn’t realize he isn’t getting anywhere.
And before he can, he must realize that he is, in fact, in a wheel. Our wheels are much more sophisticated and deceiving than those of the hamster. Because initially, our wheels do get us somewhere. It’s just that over time, they lose traction and become stuck in comfortable ruts. And we don’t realize when we’re stuck, because it doesn’t seem possible to be standing still when you are running like hell.
Are you ready to stop the madness and take things up a notch?
Can you conceive of finding a better way to do things? How badly do you want it? Bad enough to try something that goes against every compulsion you currently have to keep doing what you’ve been doing all along?
Consider the prerequisite for successful change.
Have you ever noticed that when you upgrade software, the program often needs to uninstall or extract something before it can successfully run? Gardeners know that new blossoms proliferate when the old flowers and branches have been pruned. Bargain shoppers know that stores sell older merchandise at a significant discount to get it off the shelves to make room for what’s coming in the new season.
How about you?
What tried and true ways of doing things have lost their leverage?
How willing are you to recognize that perhaps there is a better way of doing things than what you’ve done up to this point? All change begins with awareness that is coupled with desire. To move beyond your madness, try the following:
- Pay attention to the times during the day that you feel the most anxious, stressed, or tense. Recognize the pattern of thought or behavior you are engaging in that may be causing this discomfort. This may be a prime area for you to make a shift.
- Ask yourself some discerning questions such as, “What small, but powerful change could I make today that would allow me to be more effective and make the most of my opportunities?”
- Notice what catches your attention in the coming days. The answers to your questions will reveal themselves to you, but you must open yourself up to them and be willing to listen.
Once you begin to notice that the patterns and triggers that create the highest degree of anxiety, stress and pressure – and the impact they are having in your life, they begin to lose their hold on you. When you open yourself to new ways of doing things, you move from a point of view to a higher viewing point – one that allows you to see solutions that may have previously evaded you. Allowing yourself to envision and believe in a new way of doing things will transform your frustration into fuel and help you summon the courage you need to overcome obstacles along the way.
If you are interested in specific strategies for breaking through old habits and patterns that no longer serve you so that you can create more freedom and flow in your work and your life, check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Unleashing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius that is coming soon! Registration will be limited to 25 people, and I’m in the process of hand selecting participants. If you would like to schedule a complimentary consultation call to see if you (and/or others from your organization) are a good fit, contact support@DianeBolden.com.
One morning when my daughter was about six years old, she spotted some clothes she had outgrown sitting on a high shelf in her closet. On the top of the pile were a pair of sparkly tennis shoes she used to treasure. Seeing them up there reignited her adoration and she insisted on wearing them to school. Knowing they were at least a size and a half too small, I told her she could wear them around the house for awhile instead.
She did, along with a soft purple sweater whose long sleeves were now almost to her elbows. Watching her cram her little feet into those even littler shoes reminded me of the stepsisters from the story of Cinderella. A strong-minded and somewhat stubborn child, she shoved and yanked until she finally got both heels into the shoes along with her poor little toes, which were likely crammed into a small ball. When she stood up, the sweater exposed her belly button. “Look Mom,” she proudly proclaimed, “They still fit!”
I smiled and went on with my morning routine while she pranced through the house, stopping periodically to play with something she found interesting. After about ten minutes, I walked into the kitchen to see my daughter disgustedly fling the shoes in opposite directions across the room. “Mom, those shoes hurt me!” she complained. “And I don’t like this sweater anymore either.”
“Sweetheart, that’s because you’ve grown since you last wore them. You’re a bigger girl now.” I explained. “Do you grow out of your clothes too?” she asked. I thought about my jeans which had become a little more snug, but decided not to go there. “Well, once you get to be as old as Mommy, you’re body doesn’t really grow much,” I answered.
Hours after I brought her to school I reflected on that conversation and the experience my young daughter had shared with me. I realized that though my body isn’t growing anymore (with the occasionally unfortunate exception of my waist and hips), the rest of me still is. I think we all are in some way.
The more we cling to what we have outgrown, the more painful the experience becomes until, as my daughter learned, the discomfort of wearing the old stuff becomes greater than that of letting it go. I must admit there have been times in my life where I’ve inflicted quite a bit of pain on myself out of fear of letting go and moving onto something new and roomier. And I have clients, family members and friends who have done the same thing.
Sometimes when change comes we resist it because we fear that it will be too hard to adapt, or that it will land us in the middle of something we are unequipped to handle. Paradoxically, my experience has been that the resistance itself can create far more pain than the new experience.
Having children is a great example. With each child, my life changed dramatically. My daughter was our third – causing my husband and me to be outnumbered and effectively propelling our household into a chaos that we have learned to roll with over the years. Any creation you give birth to is bound to do the same thing. But it will also bring you greater joy than you ever could have imagined.
To allow ourselves to experience all the magic these new opportunities and challenges bring, we need to do all that we can to avoid tightening up and blocking ourselves from the experience. Even the act of childbirth itself becomes more painful when the muscles involved contract in different directions in response to fear. Having had three opportunities to experience this phenomenon, I can tell you that learning to relax and allow the muscles to harmoniously work together makes all the difference in the world. And I believe the same is true with life itself.
What is trying to happen in your life right now? And what can you do to give yourself fully to the experience?
Implications for Real Leaders
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