Every once in awhile I treat myself to a massage.
It is especially enjoyable when my muscles are sore. I make a special effort to be as aware of every little sensation as I can – so that nothing escapes my perception. I want to completely immerse myself in the experience and enjoy every second of it.
And when I do this, I have often felt as though it might be possible to slow time down. While this is likely not possible, I do think being intensely present allows us to fill each second of our time with more awareness, more enjoyment and more of life’s sweetness than ever.
I contrast this to how I have felt at the end of a long day.
Faced with somewhat banal or unpleasant activities as being stuck in traffic, cleaning up after our pets, or getting a cavity filled, I’ve found that I can disengage altogether and occupy my mind with other things. And when I do, things seem to have a way of speeding up. The whole experience becomes distant and a bit blurred. I can drive all the way home and not be able to recall a single landmark I passed along the way.
Knowing I can slow down or speed up time for myself like this is interesting to me.
But what is even more intriguing – and somewhat unsettling – is the thought of how much of my life has been spent somewhere between these two extremes, on a kind of auto pilot. How many times when talking with a friend has my mind been somewhere else – reviewing my “to do” list, thinking of what I could cook for dinner, or even determining what I want to say next?
How many times when my kids came proudly marching into the house to show me their latest artwork did I half-heartedly glanced up from what I was doing and offer feigned enthusiasm? What I missed in those moments is something I can never get back.
I used to think it was vital to capture special times on film.
When my kids were young I was intent on capturing photos and video at the kids’ recitals, ball games, or during vacations and holiday dinners. Then one day I realized I was so caught up in getting the perfect shots that I missed those precious moments altogether. And it’s never quite the same when you watch the replay.
So I started resisting the urge to reach for my camera.
Instead, I made it a point to simply immerse myself in whatever was going on. And I believe the quality of my memories has improved significantly – even if I don’t have a lot of photos or videos to show for it.
What if we lived more often with the presence of not wanting to miss a thing?
How much stronger would we connect with each other? How much more of our special moments together would we actually experience and enjoy? How much more trust could we inspire and cultivate? How much more joy could we create?
How many more problems would we solve with solutions that addressed those little things that previously escaped our awareness and came back to bite us? How much more of our very selves could we bring to everything we do and everyone we are with? And how much better the world would be because of it!
Perhaps as we become more aware of the degree to which we are really showing up, we can begin to gauge how much of our lives we are truly living. And then we can consciously create – and enjoy – lives worth living for.
Conscious living is akin to engagement, a topic about which much has been written over the last several years. It is the lifeblood of not only enjoying our work and bringing our very best to it, but also to creating thriving organizational cultures that lead people to come alive, attract raving customers and allow people and organizations to stand out in the marketplace.
If you are interested in increasing your own level of engagement, presence and vitality (and learning how to help others do it too), consider joining me in the spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.
This 13-week leadership development program is designed to help high achieving professionals bring out their very best performance in such a way that fills them up rather than depleting them – and allows them to make a bigger impact doing meaningful, inspiring work while leading others to do the same.
The program will kick off in late April and go through early June. Registration has opened for those on the waiting list and will soon be available to a wider audience. Enrollment is limited to 9 people. To ensure the very best group dynamics, I now personally select participants after talking with them in a brief (20-30 minute) chemistry call to determine whether the program is the right fit.
If you are interested in joining the spring session, you can click here to schedule your chemistry call.
Imagine that software you’ve relied on for years stops working for you. You notice your computer has been freezing up a lot and you’ve been experiencing some glitches. At first, it didn’t really bother you. You just made do and went on. But now it’s happening so often that you’re having trouble getting things done.
When you look into the problem, you find you’re not the only one experiencing it. In fact, after receiving numerous user complaints, the company discovered its software was having incompatibilities. Much to your relief, a new version of the program is being rolled out that has fixed all the bugs. And happily, this updated program is now available for you to download.
The same thing happens to each of us. You’re cruising along doing what you’ve always done only to find it just isn’t working so well anymore. You aren’t getting the results you wanted. Or worse, what worked before is actually causing new problems. And despite your best efforts, these problems are throwing a big monkey wrench in things.
Take Shiela as an example.
Shiela is a high achieving executive who has always prided herself on her ability to be the “go to” person for solutions. Her energy and enthusiasm led her to be sought out for plum projects and invited to serve on numerous committees and boards. She happily took these things on and went the extra mile to deliver excellence in everything she did. And her career trajectory was headed ever upward.
But over time, the number of initiatives she was regularly involved in began to wear on her. Her calendar was packed and she hit the ground running each day only to find that her to do list was growing faster than her ability to get things done. She had multiple balls in the air and lived in constant fear that one of them would come crashing down at any moment.
Her solution was to double down on what helped her succeed in the past. She worked more, slept less, and pushed herself beyond the limits of her own exhaustion. And though she was working harder than ever, her performance began to suffer. The work that once energized and inspired her was beginning to feel like an endless grind she just couldn’t rise above. And people began to notice.
Well-intentioned friends and colleagues gave her books and advice, and she did her best to try to institute new approaches, take better care of herself, delegate, prioritize, rely on systems and get support. But when things got tense, she reverted to old patterns of behavior that were deeply ingrained.
Shiela’s old program was interfering with her new one. And this interference was causing major glitches. But those glitches didn’t have to keep her from achieving her desired results. She just had to find the bug that was creating the havoc and take steps to eliminate it.
So how do you find a bug in your program?
Like Shiela, you start by recognizing that you aren’t getting the results you want. And then you work backward. Finding the bug in your program requires that you detach from your actions in such a way that you can observe and evaluate them.
One way to do this is to replay events in your mind to identify any causal factors. You can designate time at the end of the day to mentally review the day’s events and evaluate what went well and what didn’t. You can journal about it. Or you can talk with someone who is an objective third party, like a friend, family member, mentor or coach.
The bug in your program is almost always a knee jerk reaction.
When Shiela replayed her interactions with others, she realized that what she really wanted (and needed) to do when someone asked her to become involved in yet another project, committee or board was to ensure that it was the best fit and use of her time before responding. But she also recognized that before her mental faculty was engaged, she had already pledged her sole support and involvement. And before she knew it, despite her best intentions, she had unwittingly pushed herself further into overwhelm.
She was reacting instead of responding.
Knee jerk reactions are the product of conditioning.
Conditioning is what happens when a behavior becomes so automatic that you no longer need to think about it. And conditioning is good when it leads you to behave in a way that is constructive — like when you practice a new skill over and over again until you can do it without having to remind yourself of each step.
But conditioning that leads you to spring into action when what you really need to do is give a little more consideration to your response can get you into trouble.
There is a neurobiological component to conditioning. Every time you practice something or respond to a stimulus in a certain way, you are creating neural networks in your brain. Neurons that fire together wire together. And the more they fire, the stronger and more automatic their connections (and your behaviors) get. Conversely, when a neural network is interrupted or not used for a certain period of time, these connections begin to weaken.
Once you have identified the bug, you can begin to eliminate it.
Simply being aware of a knee jerk reaction will begin to loosen its grip on you. When Sheila realized she had a tendency to override her true intention by launching into an old undesirable pattern before she even knew what was happening, she also became increasingly aware of the negative consequences that behavior created.
This is not to say that Sheila could instantaneously eradicate her bug and immediately improve her results. On the contrary, she grew increasingly frustrated because now she was not only engaging in problematic behavior — she was doing it even though she knew better. But this awareness is half the battle.
Initially, she didn’t recognize her oversights until after the fact, but with increased awareness and attention Sheila noticed them sooner and sooner. The time it took her to catch herself went from hours to minutes and with continued diligence, she was able to take steps to correct them in real-time. Ultimately, she got to the point where she could prevent herself from engaging in this automatic reaction altogether.
As the bug is eliminated, the program can be upgraded.
Upgrading the program is a matter of replacing an old behavior with a new one. Unlike software upgrades, this one isn’t a matter of a simple download. It requires attention, thought and persistence.
As mentioned previously, neural networks that correspond to old, undesirable patterns of behavior weaken when they are not engaged. And as they weaken, repeated practice allows new neural nets to be formed that support a more desirable behavior.
But doesn’t creating new neural networks require a huge amount of practice?
The interesting thing about the formation of these neural networks is that they do not have to happen in real-time. Research has shown that mentally rehearsing a new pattern of behavior leads to the same growth in neural networks that physical practice does.
As Sheila began mentally reviewing the way she handled herself in conversations, she reflected on what she would have liked to do differently. And then she replayed the scene in her mind with a new, more desirable ending. She continued to do this daily. As she did, she literally rewired her brain.
Doing so allowed her to create and increasingly rely on new neural networks in situations that necessitated a different response. Gradually she was able to replace her tendency to automatically take more and more on with a more thoughtful, respectful response that offered solutions without adding to her overload. She began to recognize opportunities to involve and empower others to do things that would allow them to grow and buy her much needed time to regroup and reengage in a more focused, less frenetic way.
And over time Sheila once again became known not only for getting results but for making a more strategic impact and growing talent within her organization.
Let’s review the process of upgrading your internal programming
• Step One: Find your bug. The first step is to recognize when you have a tendency to engage in behavior that keeps you from getting the results you desire. Most likely this will be a knee jerk reaction that propels you into action before you have a chance to think.
• Step Two: Disempower your bug. Becoming aware of behavior you fall into and the impact it has on your effectiveness ultimately weakens its hold on you because while it still may be automatic, it is no longer unconscious. Though falling into old patterns when you know better is frustrating, this awareness is a sign of tremendous progress.
• Step Three: Substitute a new program for the old one. As your old habits and the corresponding neural nets that lead you to engage in them begin to weaken, you can replace them with new behaviors. The more you practice these new behaviors (whether physically or mentally), the stronger the new neural networks and your new patterns will become. And the less you engage the old behaviors, the weaker and less prominent the old neural networks (and the corresponding behaviors) get.
If you find yourself engaging in behavior that is interfering with your effectiveness, the most important thing to remember is that you are not the program that is running it. You are the programmer. You have the ability to consciously choose the behaviors and the responses you have to any given stimulus.
Though interrupting and upgrading your internal programming takes time, the results will be well worth your effort. And the best part is that you don’t have to lodge a complaint with or rely on anyone but yourself in order to do it.
If you’d like some support in recognizing and overcoming bugs in your programming, consider joining me in the Spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. A few seats remain for this exclusive 13-week leadership development program, which kicks off on March 3. If you have questions or would like to chat about whether the program is a fit for you, you can schedule a call directly with me.
Here’s what a previous participant had to say…
“My professional goals were not going the way that I wanted them to and I had a suspicion that I was pounding my head against the wall trying the same tools or switching the tools differently and I just needed a fresh perspective on them. I enrolled in the Freedom & Flow program after receiving encouragement from people who work with Diane who raved about their interactions with her and how impactful she’s been in their life.
One of the things that this course helped me realize is that I always believed the tools that made me successful early in my life and my career would be the same tools that would see me through to the end. The truth is that my toolbox needed more tools, or different tools in it.
This is important for folks that would be thinking about this program, and it was revolutionary for me – what worked for me early in my career isn’t going to work all the time, I can’t say that enough. You need to reexamine. You can’t have the same script for your whole professional career, you just can’t. You have to adjust the script. I’m in leadership positions versus before, I was a follower. I was trying to get somewhere. Now I’m somewhere and it’s different.
I’ve taken a lot of leadership courses. They’re usually big group settings. This is a smaller more intimate group. The one on one calls are terrific and super helpful. Diane is energetic, vibrant, engaged, open-minded, and thoughtful. Her program has helped me better influence and connect to others, decrease my stress, and get much more done. I’m more mindful and have replaced old, ineffective tools with new ones – it feels great, it’s really refreshing.
My message to folks who are considering this course is pretty simple: you will learn new skills, new tools that you haven’t used before which are going to help move you forward. The program is awesome, and I highly recommend it.”
Dr. Tony Sciscione, Director, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Christiana Care Health System
Last week I posted a video about the story of Pinocchio and the relevance it has as a metaphor for each of us as leaders. As I mentioned in that video, that story is about much more than a puppet whose nose grew when he lied.
It’s the story of a puppet that longs to become REAL. It’s also the story of anyone who feels like they’re trapped by their circumstances – who knows there’s got to be something more than the way things have been going, who doesn’t quite feel ALIVE and may feel like life is beating them down.
Like Pinocchio, we too have a burning desire to become REAL – to access the greatness (Genius) within, to be a part of something meaningful, to make a greater impact as only we can. We’re born with these impulses.
But until we become REAL LEADERS, we function largely as puppets – bound by our conditioning, trapped by our well-worn habits and patterns, operated by external forces pulling our strings, and confined by the programming we’ve inherited or internalized.
And when we exercise the courage to embrace our own journey toward becoming a Real Leader, we free ourselves from those strings and unleash our GENIUS.
What is Genius, exactly?
People often think of genius as an extreme level of intelligence that only certain people have. But it is more than just intellectual capacity. And we are all born with it.
Genius is the masterpiece in the marble – what stands after everything that is not the masterpiece is carved away. It is the life blood of our organizations, our people, our very selves. It is what unites us and makes us strong. It allows us to overcome our most formidable obstacles and rise to our most daunting challenges and promising opportunities.
GENIUS is the power of the human spirit.
How do you know if you are operating from your Puppet or your Genius?
Here are a few indicators that I teach in my thirteen-week signature program, The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.
When you are operating from your puppet, you are largely focused on…
- …what you are afraid of (fear)
- …getting something (for yourself)
- …self-doubt (inadequacy)
- …what’s out of your control
- …worry, anxiety and preoccupations
- …what brings you down (irritation)
- …what you want to move away from (“have to’s”)
- …judgement and set stories about how things are
In contrast, when you are operating from your Genius, you’ll see things quite differently:
And when you move from your Puppet to your Genius, you’ll have a very different experience too.
- the energy and vitality to perform at your highest level without getting beaten down by stress, pressure and overwhelm,
- a renewed passion and sense of meaning that gives you the strength to overcome obstacles and resilience to bounce back from setbacks,
- heightened creativity and ingenuity to find answers to problems that previously stumped you – and to navigate change, challenge and uncertainty with courage, confidence and ease, and
- the ability to create strong connections with people that inspire trust and increase your ability to influence and truly lead.
What can you do to better align with your Genius more of the time?
It all starts with awareness. Most of us do not realize the degree to which we operate as Puppets. Nor do we appreciate the Genius that is waiting in the wings, eager to emerge.
Start by checking in with yourself regularly to determine where your focus is. Notice how you feel when you are operating from Puppet, as well as Genius. Referencing the chart above, ask yourself what you can do to make the necessary shift.
And if you’d like more support on the journey, consider enrolling in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. Registration for the spring session, which will kick off in March, is now open. To maximize personal interaction and individualized support, enrollment is limited to 10 people.
Do you remember what it was like to be unconstrained by the world’s limitations?
Maybe you were a young child, wanting to fly to the moon or discover buried treasure. How long was it before the people around you compelled you to be more “practical and realistic”?
They didn’t mean any harm. In fact, those people likely had your best interests in mind. They wanted to help you learn the rules for engagement in a world of challenges and limitations– to keep you from experiencing pain and disappointment.
Chances are you do that for your own children. I know I do.
But over time, the rules for engagement can become more constraining than they are empowering. Especially when those rules don’t really apply the way they used to.
Have you noticed that many of the old, ingrained ways of getting things done and achieving success are no longer effective, or even relevant?
We are all experiencing it – on both an individual and a collective level, in our homes, our communities and our organizations. And we need to find a better way of dealing with these emerging challenges and opportunities. To do that, we must transcend old, well-worn, even tried and true methods that just aren’t working anymore.
The time has come for us to access the creativity, ingenuity, curiosity and wonder of that little kid that knew no limits and had the willingness and determination to blaze a new trail.
We need to unearth the GENIUS that each of us was born with – a part of ourselves that all too often gets silenced and constricted by the very conditioning that was intended to keep us safe.
That’s what this week’s video is about. It marks the opening of public registration for the spring session The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – How to Access the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, which will kick off on March 3.
For more information or to reserve your seat, visit www.UnleashtheExtraordinary.com.
Here’s to your Genius!
“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.”
~ Henry B. Adams
Like many of us, I grew up thinking that things happened in a linear way.
First this, then that. One building block upon another in a definite order. Cause and effect. But over the years, I’ve noticed that life isn’t always like that.
Often it seems life is a series of random events that don’t seem to make much sense.
But when you have a larger vision and experience that vision as though it has already happened, you can begin to see this apparent chaos in a whole different way. Often what we experience is a chain of seemingly disjointed events that are in reality very connected.
Think of watching a movie of a glass shattering, only in reverse motion.
Pieces fly together from all directions in a disjointed fashion and assemble into a perfect whole. Each piece is absolutely necessary, though, in and of itself, incomplete and inconceivably connected to a larger picture.
We will experience ups and downs and travel roads that deviate from what we anticipated.
Nevertheless, these seemingly divergent paths may in fact be prerequisite to experiencing the totality of our vision. At times the healing process entails pain, discomfort or other symptoms. While we may point to these as signs of illness, we could alternatively consider them evidence of our recovery.
Seasons will change, and so will we.
A phase of growth and expansion is often preceded by a period where things unexpectedly fall away. We can look at the void as a loss, or recognize it as the space necessary for new creations to take root and flourish.
We may not initially realize the significance or relevance of our chaotic experiences.
But in hindsight we often realize the importance of enduring specific challenges, setbacks, delays, or what felt like irrelevant nuisances. These obstacles give us a greater perspective on who we are, deeper appreciation for where we have been and where we are going, and compassion for others who have experiences similar to our own.
As we rise up to these little challenges, we find strength we didn’t know we had and realize we are far greater than we thought we were. And as leaders, we can help others appreciate and leverage their own chaos as well.
Appreciating the perfect order unfolding in our lives more of an art than a science.
Most of us never really take the time to recognize it. If you are interested in leveraging the seeming chaos in your own life and life’s work, I encourage you to consider enrolling for the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of September 23rd.
The program is filling up – and it is a great group of people so far! Enrollment is limited – click the link to save your seat.
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.
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.
Have you ever had a really hard time getting something done? Something big?
When you are up against a large task or project, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the details and the magnitude of what is before you. Sometimes it hard to know where to start, and once you do it can feel like a never-ending process. To make matters worse, when the project you are working on necessitates that you do something new—something uncomfortable and challenging—it often elicits fear, frustration, and anxiety. All of these things can keep you feeling stuck.
In a state of overwhelm, the focus goes from the joy of getting something done to the aggravation of having something undone.
We can become mechanized in our attempts to figure out what needs to get done and exactly how to go about it. We may also put a lot of pressure on ourselves and beat ourselves up for things we haven’t done, rather than recognizing and acknowledging ourselves for what we have done.
In what is often an unconscious attempt to regain a sense of control, we are easily lulled into doing things that we know will be easier and potentially more enjoyable.
Some tasks don’t really need to get done right now (or ever) or should really be delegated to others, but we often prefer those. Some of the time-wasters we get sucked into include surfing the web, making idle conversation, cleaning out your inbox, or—my personal favorite—making more lists of everything we think needs to get done and identifying all the steps we need to take. This is actually a great thing to do when you’re focused, but, in a procrastination mode, it becomes to planning to plan—and then plan some more—until you have a rock solid strategy that you never actually execute.
It may feel like you are spinning your wheels—running like hell and just not getting anywhere.
I know this, of course, because I have been there. Repeatedly. And I’ve worked with others who fall into this pattern, as well, to stop the madness by recognizing what’s happening and making a shift to get back on a road that leads them where they need to go.
One of the most powerful things I have found for breaking out of a “spinning your wheels” cycle is to take some time to revisit your purpose—or the larger mission or goal behind what you are doing.
- Get clear about what—or who—the work is for.
- Identify how it will improve the quality of life for yourself or those around you.
- Reflect on the degree to which it will help people, contribute to something greater, or allow you to achieve a meaningful goal for yourself.
This doesn’t have to take hours and hours. Just pause for a few moments and ask, when this project/task/ initiative is finished, what larger goal or purpose will it accomplish? What would you like to accomplish? Write it down. Add to it as you think of additional bonuses. Then, sit for a moment and see if you can envision what it would feel like to satisfy that larger purpose, vision or goal. See if you can feel it so clearly that you are actually grateful for it.
This simple act will help you reconnect with something inside you that will propel you beyond the minutia. It will give you the courage and strength to walk through your fear or resistance to do something that you may not be so good at yet. And it will help you to get back to the joy that comes through the process as well as the attainment of the end goal.
When you approach things in this manner, all that you do will be instilled with a new energy—one that uplifts, delights, and inspires.
Whatever you experience as you work on a project will be the same thing people will feel when they partake of the fruit of your efforts. The more we remember this, the more we will experience the satisfaction and gratification of having done something truly meaningful—something that lifts us out of the humdrum and into a place of brilliance. And all who come into contact with our work will be better off because of it.
Interested in additional strategies and practices for getting out of overwhelm so you can have more traction, make a greater impact, and infuse more life and meaning into your work? Check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Unleashing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.
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.
“Ryan, if you knew how this day was going to end, would you do it over again?” I asked him.
“Yeah.” He answered without missing a beat.
“Would you have any hesitation going snowboarding again after your wrist heals?” I inquired.
“Nah!” he replied. “Let’s come back for sure.”
This is an excerpt of a conversation I had with my son at age thirteen on the way to urgent care after his first attempt to snowboard. I was inspired by his lack of hesitation. And his courage. But most of all, with his mindset.
Mindset is the key to overcoming setbacks. Your mindset determines—to a large degree—whether you see the experience as a success or a failure. And the way you see the experience will have an enormous impact on whether or not you will try that experience again.
What’s the big deal if you don’t try an experience again?
Well, the problem isn’t so much the broken bone—in my son’s case—which will inevitably be accompanied by a certain amount of pain. The problem is letting the setback deprive you of a future that could bring you an immense amount of joy and satisfaction. And most people let seeming setbacks deprive them of joy and satisfaction more often than they realize.
It could be the proposals they poured their hearts into to that never really went anywhere. Or the promotions they were working toward for months that ended up going to someone else. Perhaps it was the first time they went out their comfort zones, only to feel as though they landed on their backside with nothing but broken bones to show for it.
Confusing Skill with Potential
You confuse skill with potential when you decide that you’ll never be good at something because you didn’t get it right the first time you tried it. Or the second time. Or the tenth time. Most people do not have a high degree of skill when they try something new. But doesn’t mean they don’t have an enormous amount of potential.
When you confuse skill with potential, you tell yourself a story that has you making an assessment of yourself based on a very limited amount of data. The story goes like this: “Boy, I was really bad at that. I’m just not cut out for it. I should leave it to other people who actually have talent.”
You allow it to keep you from trying something again. And trying something again is exactly what you need to do in order to gain the very skill you are having difficulty executing. So your story becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You miss out on the joy of ultimately mastering that skill. And so do all the people who would have benefited from what you could have accomplished if you did.
But that’ s not the only story that can get you into trouble.
Taking an Experience Personally
When you take an experience personally, you make it more about you than anything or anyone else. Your universe constricts and you become the center of it. You feel hurt and rejected, or angry and resentful. You replay events in your mind and question what you did to screw things up. You think, “if only I would have done this, or been more like that, things would have gone better.”
You become so fixated in feeling wronged or victimized that you render yourself powerless. In an effort to avoid being hurt again, you may hedge your bets, fly under the radar, try not to get your hopes up. And this act of withholding keeps you from doing the very thing that could allow you to succeed next time.
Often, setbacks have nothing to do with you as a person.
You lost a big client. Yet in retrospect, you realize the client was a huge pain in your rear end, sucking up time and energy that you could have dedicated to someone you really love to work with. And if you take it personally, you’ll keep your perfect client from seeing the very thing in you that could cinch the deal.
What If It Was Personal?
But what if it did have to do with you? What if you came on too strong? Or too meek? Or if there was something you could have done to get that promotion, keep that client, succeed with that proposal? Well, if you take it personally you may never have the courage, the confidence and the open mind it takes to solicit or receive the feedback you need and to act on it in a way that allows you to succeed next time.
There is a difference between taking things personally and learning what you could do differently next time. Taking things personally causes you to contract. And learning allows you to expand. Which will you choose?
My 13-year-old son reminded me of the importance of mindset in my own life.
Though it’s not likely that snowboarding will be in my future, there is a good chance that I will fall the next time I try something new. When I do, I will remember how his lack of regret and eagerness to try again kept him from an unproductive mindset.
And I will pick myself up, tend to my broken bones, and allow myself to enjoy the joy and satisfaction that comes from getting back on the slopes.
Aligning your mindset with your desired outcome is an essential and often overlooked practice – a major focus of The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.
Implications for Real Leaders
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