Orison Marden Swett once said, “There are powers inside of you which, if you could discover and use, would make of you everything you ever dreamed or imagined you could become.”
James Allen published a beautiful book in 1901 called “As a Man Thinketh”, in which he wrote “Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.”
Henry David Thoreau told us “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
And Napoleon Hill proclaimed, “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
These quotes speak to our ability to create that which we most desire.
It is not some kind of magic or special power. And it is not something we must rely on others for. It is an innate gift that we gradually learn to utilize as we become more and more aligned with what is most true within us.
This gift is quite simply the strength of the feeling we generate when we identify with something so strongly that we take it to be real. With continual and unwavering belief, whatever we hold in our minds and our hearts in this way becomes our reality.
I began reading about the power of positive thinking and visualization as a teenager.
I was enthralled by stories of athletes who imagined themselves sinking those critical shots and performed at game time exactly as they rehearsed in their minds. I used positive affirmations about the person I was becoming and the wonderful things coming into my life. I created large vision boards for myself that featured pictures or symbols that represented things or experiences I longed for. I envisioned movies in my head in which I performed anything from sports to public speaking powerfully and passionately and with great success.
Some of these visions and dreams have come true over the years. And others have not.
After reflecting at length on what differentiated the dreams and visions that came to fruition from those that didn’t, I have come to the conclusion that there are three significant factors.
Lack of Alignment with a Higher Purpose
One is quite simply that some of the things my mind (and ego) believed I needed to have were not in the best interests of my spirit, aligned with my true purpose, or in service to something greater than myself. Believe me, I have had many occasions to thank God for unanswered prayers that I originally believed would have been the best thing that could have happened.
Don’t push the river.
The energy you would otherwise expend trying to make something happen, or lamenting over something that fell through can be much better directed. Our willingness to let go is buffered by a strong faith that things are happening in a way that will serve our highest interest. In retrospect, we often see how things fell together in a way that helped us get where we are now – though at the time it just felt frustrating and disappointing. Cultivating this faith helps us to recognize and act on new and different opportunities that are much more aligned with our true purpose in life.
Becoming Overly Attached
The second factor often present when things didn’t play out the way I envisioned was my fervent attachment to needing something happen exactly the way (or at just the time) I thought it should – or attachment to anything in particular. While it is true that we need to be passionate about our visions and dreams, it is important to remain willing to let go of the details and trust that something bigger than ourselves will step in to collaborate with us.
This higher intelligence, to which I believe we are all innately connected, is capable of orchestrating things far more magnificently than we could ever attempt to do. It is important that we are willing, but when we step over the line and become too willful our thoughts and actions have a way of throwing a monkey wrench in things.
The urgency in our desire can have us acting out of desperation rather than trust.
As a result, instead of identifying with that which we most want, we embody the state of not having it and trying fervently to do anything to change that. Taking our current state to be more real than what we truly desire, the power of thought works perfectly to deliver what our minds have been fixated on – leaving us in a state of want, working madly to make everything happen the way we think it should.
Try practicing passionate detachment.
We must learn to give ourselves to our visions and dreams while allowing for divine timing, unforeseen incidents and the hand of providence, which often enables things to happen in ways that exceed our wildest expectations. I like to call this state passionate detachment.
“Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Seeing it in Your Mind is Not Enough
You can dream great dreams, but if they lack feeling and passion, they fall as flat as the set of a five act play after the audience has left the final performance. We must go beyond simply watching the movies we create in our minds that have us sinking that shot, mesmerizing that audience, or jumping for joy at our victories. Rather than seeing ourselves up there on the screen of our minds, we must see from the eyes of the person in the movie.
Feeling is as important as seeing, because it leads to proper action.
We must experience in our minds and our bodies the feelings associated with that which we desire most – the elation of victory, the liberating release of having completed something we were unsure or afraid of, and the sweet satisfaction and joy that accompanies success.
Similarly, it is not enough to create a visual wish list or a series of affirmations or declarations about the things we would like to have, achieve or experience. We need to look upon these things as gifts that have already been given to us and feel the gratitude welling up in our hearts for having received them. Only then will we be compelled to truly ACT in ways that bring it about.
Practice grateful certainty.
The state of grateful certainty we need to give ourselves to is similar to the way you may feel after ordering something via the internet. After clicking the purchase button and entering your shipping address and credit card information, you can have reasonable certainty that what you ordered is on its way. With this assurance, you identify with the state of already having owned that which you just bought – even though you do not yet physically possess it. It is this same state of graceful anticipation, gratitude, and faith that those who seem to magically attract exactly what they want into their lives have learned to enter into time and time again.
Do you have some secret dream of becoming more than you currently are?
Of tapping into the vast field of potential that lies waiting for you to discover it? See if you can see through the eyes of someone who has already realized your dream, and enjoy each moment as though you are reliving the memory of its beautiful unfolding. Allow your vision to inform your action, and trust that as you give yourself fully to living your dream, you simply cannot fail.
This process is just one of the many techniques taught in The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive to help you get the results you want with less stress and greater fulfillment. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.
Do you ever feel like—despite your best, most diligent, inspired effort, discipline, and patience—you don’t seem to be getting anywhere?
Maybe you have a vision that excites you – an idea of how something could be done differently, a creation you’d like to breathe life into, a way of improving your quality of life or that of others. You plan, you prepare, you do the work. Repeatedly. But despite all that effort and persistence, you have little if anything to show for it.
You might question yourself. Are you doing it right? Are you missing something?
You might get angry and try harder to control the outcome – double down your efforts, research extensively to figure out how to foolproof your plan, do whatever you can to MAKE it happen.
You may take your anger out on others. Why aren’t they cooperating? And how is it that everyone else seems to have it easier than you do?
You may question your vision. Is this really worth investing your time and energy in?
You might feel like quitting and moving onto something easier, more mainstream, with less risk or exposure. You gave it a good run. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
But the idea of throwing in the towel feels even worse than fighting what seems to be a losing battle.
And try as you might, you just can’t shake the hold of that vision. It beckons. It haunts. It enchants – revisiting you in your quiet hours, whispering about what is possible.
What do you do?
Have you ever heard the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree?
It’s quite unusual. A farmer who plants these seeds will water, fertilize, and tend to them daily. After a year of care and nurturing, the ground looks the same way it did when the seeds were planted.
Another year will pass as the farmer continues his efforts, with no seeming growth at all. A third year of care and feeding will go by. NOTHING. And then another year of watering, fertilizing, and patiently waiting. Still nothing.
In the fifth year, small sprouts will appear. And in the six weeks that follow, the little shoot will grow up to ninety feet tall.
These seeds are like our most precious dreams and visions.
What we don’t realize about them is that while patience, faith, and perseverance may not produce tangible signs of progress for quite some time, they work wonders beneath the surface, laying the groundwork for what will follow.
To sustain the towering height these trees grow to, the root system must be deep and vast.
We too must have a strong inner foundation to ensure we have what we need before we can share it with others. So many of our efforts are a quest to prove to ourselves that we are worthy. We often mistakenly think that accolades, prestige, wealth, and all that comes with success will allow us to feel strong and fulfilled. But that approach is backwards.
The “trappings” of success fade over time and are as easily toppled as a tree with no root system.
If instead we start with a strong, grounded feeling of worthiness and appreciation for ourselves, we can extend our gifts to others knowing that we have all we need and that sharing it with others will only make us stronger – in the same way that bamboo continues to grow after it is harvested.
This strength is cultivated over time, and often happens during times that feel most barren.
We endure disappointments, we try something and fail, we learn about who we are and why we are here. This is all growth that happens beneath the surface. And it makes us strong and resilient enough to stand tall, reach high, and do the work we have been inspired to do out of joy rather than necessity.
The visions worth working for often don’t come to fruition right away.
Their timing is not something that can be controlled. When we try desperately to speed things up, we will often experience frustration, and feelings of desperation that may lead to anger and/or withdrawal. Just as we cannot peel rosebuds open or shorten the time it takes for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, we cannot rush the progress and transformation that happens with our visions and our very selves.
The “overnight success” we often hear about is often the result of years of dedication, commitment, perseverance and faith that like the growth of the Chinese bamboo tree took several years to come to fruition. As you pursue your grandest dreams and visions, many will tell you that your efforts are in vain, that you do not have what it takes, that you should quit while you are ahead.
And you may begin to question yourself as well. But as you weather these storms and continue to believe in and cultivate something that cannot yet be seen, you will ultimately be rewarded with seeing that which you believe. And it will enrich your life – and that of others in ways you may never have anticipated.
For more on bringing your grandest dreams and visions to fruition and laying the foundation necessary to sustain them, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.
“The key thing to remember is not that we need to be fast but that we are running a race that has no finish line. So the fuel that drives us needs to be made of something substantial — something for the heart that the head can also follow.”
~ Vincent Kralyevich, American film producer, director, author, art director and composer
Have you ever had an idea that made the hair on your arms stand up?
Maybe it’s a dream that beckons to you – one that holds promise for your future and that of others as well. When you think of the possibilities, you may find yourself feeling light, energized, and connected to something greater than yourself.
This is what inspiration feel like.
It is buoyant and powerful. Simple, yet strong. And it is contagious. Inspired action tends to touch others in a way that activates something inside of them as well. It connects them not only to you, but also to themselves. I like to think of inspiration as a pull – like a magnet that draws us toward something and gives us the power to bridge the gap – even if we aren’t sure exactly how to do it. Inspiration is something we receive and it comes to us when we are receptive to it. It requires trust, faith and patience.
Sometimes inspiration gets blocked.
What gets in the way of inspiration is our doubts, fears and faulty assumptions about what we can or cannot do, or what is even possible. These doubts are like layers of stuff that dilute the magnetic force of inspiration. Inspiration still beckons to us, but something stands in our way. This is where motivation comes in. It is something we summon up inside ourselves to get us to overcome the obstacles that are in front of us. And as leaders (regardless of your vocation, title, or role), it is something we often try to summon up in others to get them to do the same.
Motivation often takes the form of the carrot or the stick.
What gets us off the dime when we are balled up in our own fear is the willingness and the will to take action. Where inspiration is the pull, motivation is the push. The word motive is derived from motivation. Our motives can be in service to a higher good, or they can be in service to ourselves alone.
When motivation is aligned with inspiration, miracles can happen.
But when it is not, we will find ourselves feeling out of sync. Inspiration (a higher calling) without motivation (the will to act on it) leaves us feeling stagnant, stuck, and/or unfulfilled. When we refuse to answer our calls to greatness and play small instead, it is often because we have let our fear and doubt get the better of us. Though we may be very busy, we will likely feel as though we are not accomplishing anything of great significance.
Motivation serves us best when it works through obstacles in our own thinking that get in the way of acting on our inspiration.
Motivation without inspiration feels a lot like driving a car without power steering. Or it can be like trying to run through mud. It requires a lot of effort and strength and leaves us feeling exhausted. When motivation serves a higher purpose (that provided by inspiration), the load is lightened and the way becomes clear. But when the object of our desire is one that derives solely from our ego’s need for things like power, prestige, control, approval, or wealth, the push of motivation is not aligned with the pull of inspiration and we stray off course. That’s when things get difficult – we may feel as though we are exerting a lot of effort but not really getting anywhere.
Sometimes motivation and inspiration begin in alignment and then gradually become disconnected.
We start out feeling in sync, making great progress and experiencing a state of flow, and then hit a bump in the road. The bump may be a fear or some other kind of assumption that we need to examine and disempower before we can move on. Or, it may be that we simply need to wait awhile.
The cool thing about inspiration is that it comes from a higher source.
One that sees a bigger picture than we do. Sometimes there will be delays that we do not understand. Our egos can become impatient and steal the show – trying to push through these barriers with sheer force and exhausting us and everyone around us in the process. And once our egos are in charge, things have a way of deteriorating. Our motivation (or motive) mutates from being in service to a greater good to being in service to ourselves – or some ego need.
What do you do when things stall out?
It can be tough to discern what kind of action (or inaction) is required when we encounter an impasse. But if we get quiet, we can tap our source of inner wisdom to find the answers we need. When we purify our motives (motivation) so that they are in service to a higher calling (inspiration) we get back on the path that leads to greatest fulfillment for ourselves and everyone around us. And using motivation to remove the blocks that stand in our way will ensure that we actually make progress on that path and bring our greatness into the world in a way that inspires others to do the same.
My life’s work has largely been around unleashing inspiration in my own work and helping others to do the same.
And I’m so excited about a new program I’m about to launch where I will partner with a very small group (limited to eight people) in a highly transformational process. If you are interested in delving deeper into how you can infuse your life and leadership with inspiration and experience a greater sense of meaning, higher level of performance, and lasting fulfillment, I encourage you to check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow Group Intensive, an exclusive twelve-week group mastermind/coaching program/online training course kicking off on March 20. Sign up before March 10 and receive a 15% early bird discount!
Has work become a bit of a grind?
You might tell yourself that work isn’t supposed to be fun – that’s why they call it work. But when you spend the majority of your waking hours just getting through the day or counting down to the weekend, you have a bigger problem than you might think.
Most of us don’t start our professions that way, but over the years disappointment, frustration and pressure can lead to disillusionment, disengagement, and burnout. Lack of passion and joy on the job will hit you hard in three major areas:
Let’s take a look at how work becoming a grind affects you personally.
You might think that as long as you can enjoy yourself after five (or six, or seven) and on the weekends, you will be just fine. But when you spend the better part of your day on a kind of autopilot, feeling like you’d rather be somewhere else, it’s hard to keep that negativity from spilling over to the rest of your life.
You may find yourself irritable, preoccupied, exhausted or just brain dead.
And whether you know it or not, that infringes on your ability to fully enjoy the things, experiences, and people in your personal life that you hold most precious.
You may even have a decent paycheck and enjoy a position of influence and status in your organization. But when the work you spend more of your waking hours doing is a continual grind, it’s easy to begin feeling as though life itself lacks meaning and fulfillment.
Perhaps you’ve made the decision (consciously or unconsciously) to put your personal happiness on the backburner in the name of your professional success and upward mobility.
Well, unfortunately lack of passion and joy on the job has a negative impact on your professional effectiveness as well. Let’s take a closer look at that.
You can try all you want, but when you are exhausted and overwhelmed you will work very long days spinning your wheels without getting a whole lot done. You may think you just don’t have enough time to finish everything on your plate. And while it is true that time is finite, your real problem is lack of energy.
Creativity and Problem Solving
Lack of energy makes everything take far longer than it should. It blocks you from accessing your creativity, leads you to unnecessarily complicate things, and pushes the solutions to your problems just out of reach. All of this will contribute to a feeling of being unable to get important things done, which will cause you to work longer hours and become even more exhausted.
If your job requires you to have even the slightest degree of influence over others, consider this: getting someone excited about doing something is largely a matter of sharing your enthusiasm. But enthusiasm isn’t something that is easily feigned. And when you try to fake it, you will come across as being disingenuous, which will keep others from trusting you.
It’s exceedingly difficult to get anyone — whether they are your coworkers, your direct reports, or your customers — to become excited about something you can’t muster up the passion for yourself. And while we’re on the subject of coworkers, direct reports, and customers, let’s talk about the impact lack of passion and joy on the job has organizationally.
If you are a leader of others — whether you know it or not — you are setting the tone for the entire organization.
If you are not feeling emotionally committed, passionate, enthusiastic and connected to your work and the people you partner with to do it, chances are the people you lead will not be feeling it either.
Research indicates that as much as 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged. That translates into people who are physically present on the job, but not emotionally or mentally all there. When people are disengaged they go through the motions, doing as little as possible to fly under the radar.
The Cost of Complacency
This complacency causes all kinds of problems, including low quality products and services, plummeting productivity, low creativity and innovation, strained customer relationships, intra and interdepartmental conflict, absenteeism, high turnover, and ultimately low profitability. It does little to attract key talent, and certainly does not contribute to having a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
What does that have to do with you?
Engaged employees are people who feel part of something bigger than themselves — an organization with a shared purpose that has meaning to them. And they want to work for a boss who is turned on and tuned in to the organization and them as people.
If you have no passion or joy for your own work, you will be hard pressed to inspire it in others. In fact, you could end up unwittingly sucking the joy from those who already are engaged, and/or driving them to look for work elsewhere.
Losing your passion and joy at work has significant implications for you on three different levels:
(1) Personally. You just can’t turn it on and off like a light switch. If you are feeling a lack of passion and joy at work, chances are good it will translate into your personal life, like a dark cloud that follows you around despite your insistence that you can shoe it away. You deserve more out of life than that.
(2) Professionally. The overwhelm, frustration, and exhaustion you feel is likely keeping you from performing at your best. While you may be working very long hours, your problem is not lack of time but rather lack of energy. Lack of energy is accompanied by lack of creativity, problem solving and influence. Energy comes with passion and joy. And when passion and joy are lacking, your performance will be lacking too.
(3) Organizationally. Just as passion and joy can be contagious, so too is the lack of it. A leader’s lack of passion and joy gets translated into disengagement, both for the leader, and the followers. Disengagement negatively impacts productivity, innovation, customer satisfaction, employee recruitment and retention — and ultimately profitability.
So if you feel like work has become a grind — but not a problem you have the luxury to address right now, think again. It may well be that you can’t afford not to. Rejuvenating your passion and joy on the job is easier than you think. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to find another job.
Consider making reigniting your passion at work a priority.
And if you are interested in receiving some support and guidance, I encourage you to check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow Group Intensive, an exclusive twelve-week small group mastermind/coaching program/online training course kicking off on March 20. Sign up before March 10 and receive a 15% early bird discount!
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Over the holidays, I had the delightful experience of traveling to Disneyland with family.
Every time I go there, it is like stepping into an alternate reality—one where the stresses and anxieties of the week before simply dissolve and the child in me emerges.
I am mesmerized by every intricate detail so carefully attended to by the multitude of people that make Disneyland what it is—from the enchanting castles and belly-dropping rides, to the perfectly manicured gardens and the warm smiles and tireless energy of every cast member.
And I can’t help but revel in a deliciously goose-bump-building thought.
All the wonder, delight and magic of this place—as well as everything that is associated with it (the movies, cartoons, storybooks and associated media)—ALL OF THIS began with a single thought in the mind of a man who took action to make it real.
I don’t know a lot about Walt Disney, but I imagine he was gripped by an idea—a dream that captured his heart and burst inside of him until he was compelled to gather the people and resources to make it happen.
This guy had a vision that couldn’t help but be embraced by others.
It spoke to their hearts and their spirits, and allowed them to be a part of something that does the same for everyone who encounters it. Disneyland is the “happiest place on earth” because it brings out the best in everyone who experiences it. It unleashes the magic each of us carries somewhere deep within us, and the most traditional of fairy tales are about that very subject. Even the performers on the various stages throughout the park sing refrains about looking within to find our heroes. What an amazing creation!
We all get inspirations from time to time. And the more we act on them the more we seem to receive them.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. When was the last time you got one that gave you goose bumps? And what did you do to take it to the next level of creation? Were you overwhelmed, thinking it was too big, or unrealistic to actually achieve? Perhaps it is too big for one person. But what if you were able to create a vision like Walt Disney did, that resonated in the very core of people who would gladly partner with you to make it real?
You have something inside of you that is waiting to be unleashed into the world.
The very act of doing it will rock your world, and that of others as well. Maybe it isn’t a multimillion dollar theme park, or a screenplay, or an organization. But whatever it is will carry the unique essence of you—who you are—and the compilation of everything each of your individual experiences has prepared you for. And if you bring it forward with the intention of making the world a better place, you will.
Who are you to deny that you are meant for greatness?
The beginning of every new year brings with it questions of what we most want to create in our lives and our work. If you are interested in strategies for better connecting with your vision and taking steps to bring it to fruition in a way that feeds and fulfills you, stay tuned for more information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow, or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.
We have all experienced times of pressure, anxiety and sudden change.
When jobs are tenuous or organizations are restructuring, it might feel as though life itself is turning upside down. Frustration and turmoil is a common response to this kind of uncertainty and disorientation. It can lead to exhaustion and hopelessness. But consider this as you think about the things in your life and career that may feel as though they are spinning out of control…
What if the only thing standing in your way of perfect peace, true productivity and the satisfaction of living a life of purpose – was your thinking?
I know it may feel as though you are at the mercy of your circumstances. However, even in the worst of situations you have more control than you might realize. One of the key attributes embodied by extraordinary leaders in all walks of life is encapsulated in the word “responsibility” – not just in a moral or ethical sense of being accountable for our actions, but also – and perhaps just as essential in times of change and chaos – remembering that there is wisdom in recognizing that we have the ability to choose our response. And that the response we choose will have a resounding impact on ourselves and everyone around us.
Start with awareness.
The greatest change agents start by recognizing what they have to work with before they can create change that will be sustained. They assess their environment to determine what the best entry point for that change is before they make their move. They don’t waste their time worrying about things that are truly out of their control, like changing the weather. Instead, they focus their attention and energy on those things that they do have the ability to influence and start there.
Extraordinary leaders know that the most powerful and sustainable change must start from within themselves.
Watch your stories.
The thing that fascinates me about a seemingly chaotic state of affairs is not so much what is happening, but the stories we are telling ourselves about what it means — and the impact those stories are having on the way we are responding to it. When we react to things with fear, we end up amplifying that which we are afraid of and adding to the anxiety. Our fears drive us to act in ways that keep us from acting on our intuition and finding the answers that will truly serve us. Sometimes, we end up behaving in ways that make our fictional stories become real.
As an example, when you tell yourself a story about what is happening that leaves you feeling threatened, you may find yourself closing up and treating others with suspicion and mistrust. The way you are behaving toward people may well provoke a response in them that appears to validate your fearful story. However, in this scenario, it is very likely that their behavior is more of a reaction to the actions your story led you to take than anything else.
Our fearful stories are like the viruses we protect our computers from.
These nasty viruses are often embedded in emails that pique our curiosity or rouse our fear. When we unwittingly activate them, they spread often uncontrollably and we risk passing them to the computer of our friends, associates and countless others. The viruses corrupt our systems until they no longer function effectively. Like computer viruses, our stories have a way of spinning us out of control and interfering with our ability to rise up to our challenges to find the opportunity that is always there waiting for us to discover and leverage it.
Our rational minds want answers and security.
They need to figure everything out and almost automatically occupy themselves with trying to sort through data to arrive at conclusions. The problem is that our minds are plugging imaginary variables into the equation that end up further exacerbating the anxiety we are already experiencing. When they are done with one variable, they plug in another and the churning continues, leaving us with an uneasiness that keeps us on edge.
What’s the worst that can happen?
In the grip of this madness, sometimes the best thing you can do is indulge your mind with a variable that will allow it to do its thing. Go ahead and plug in the worst case scenario. If the worst possible thing happened, what would you do? Alloy yourself to sit with that question for awhile. Let the fear move through you and keep asking the question, what would I do that would allow everything to be OK? If you sit long enough with your question, you will arrive at some workable alternatives and reconnect with that part of yourself that is strong, resourceful and resilient.
Armed with the knowledge that you will be OK in the worst of scenarios, you can come back into the present and recognize your fearful thoughts for what they are – fearful thoughts. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, which I pass along frequently is don’t believe everything you think.
You have everything you need.
In the present moment, devoid of your stories about variables that are truly unknown, you are OK. And when new events begin to unfold, if you stay in the moment and access your inner wisdom, you will know exactly what you need to do – or not to do – to be OK then too. And as you go about your daily life in this way, your calm resolve will permeate your interactions with others and through your example, you will help others to rise up to their challenges in ways that unearth the greatness in themselves as well.
For more tips on navigating through change and uncertainty, check out my book, The Pinocchio Principle ~ Becoming a Real Leader, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
“When I’m not running in circles, I’m pretty much collapsing in a heap.”
That flew out of my mouth one day when I was on a call with a few of my friends trying to find a time to get together. They told me it should be the title of my next book.
And yet, I know the importance of taking regular time to rest. Well, intellectually anyway. I can see it in my clients – when they begin to tell me the same things over and over — when all they can seem to talk about is what they have to do, or how exhausted they are. And I certainly know it from my own experience. It’s that old familiar feeling of rolling a huge ball up a hill only to have it come careening back down again.
There is never a shortage of things to do, people to get back to, and in my case, kids to shuttle from practice to sporting event to some other gathering. I know I need a time out when my surroundings begin to reflect my state of mind – becoming cluttered, messy, and completely disordered. When I am tired, I don’t make decisions very well (if at all). I tend to leave them for later, when I will have a little more energy. But then I use the piles that have accumulated around me as an excuse for why I cannot rest – at least not now – not with everything looking like this! And the cycle continues.
My head tells me this makes perfect sense. But my heart and the rest of my body is screaming for relief.
In yoga classes, there is something called “child’s pose”. You start by getting on your knees and sitting back on your heels. The knees can stay together or move wider apart. And then you simply lean forward slowly onto the ground with your arms either by your side or stretched out in front of you. Every time I get into that pose, I am reminded of how at least one of my children liked to fall asleep when they were babies.
Yoga instructors tell people that the most important thing in yoga is the breath. it is important to breathe full and evenly in and out your nose. When your breathing becomes uneven or choppy, when you start to lose your breath in yoga, you will be encouraged to return to this child’s pose until your breathing evens out again.
At the end of yoga classes, there is a pose – one of my favorites – called “shivasana”. This one consists of laying flat on your back and relaxing every part of your body while you allow yourself to sink into the floor for about three to five minutes. It’s the pose that allows your body to integrate all the work you did in the class that preceded it. And many will tell you it is the most important pose in yoga. And yet, I often see people leaving the class instead of allowing themselves to experience it.
But I get it. We are a society that is driven to do more, to be more, to be busy, and to always step things up a notch. The thing is, when we insist on speeding up when we really need to slow down, we lose touch with the wiser, calmer part of ourselves that has all our answers. We run around doing things that may not even need to get done, and creating more piles and messes for ourselves that we’ll have to clean up later. We may run fast, but it is often in a direction that doesn’t serve us — or anyone else for that matter. And it often leads us to crash into walls we would have avoided if we weren’t so tired.
Sometimes you’ll get a rush when you do that. A rush of adrenaline, maybe. Or a little sense of accomplishment or importance that comes with being really busy. But my experience is that it is usually fleeting and often replaced by a feeling of exhaustion and overwhelm and a somewhat panic induced state that leads me to believe I have to run twice as fast just to keep up.
The thing is, I used to think that in order to replenish my batteries, I needed to take a long vacation – leave and go somewhere else, sip a pretty drink on a beach or sleep for days. And while that is nice, it’s not always necessary. What I’ve learned – and need to remind myself of periodically – is that it is often a matter of simply pausing every once in a while to check in with myself. It is doing something that interrupts the autopilot nature of the running in circles thing. It’s like looking into a pond that has been churning so fast that the water is murky. Instead of continuing to make all kinds of commotion, you sit for a few moments and let the water become still until the swirling debris sinks to the bottom and the water becomes clear.
Sometimes this takes the form of a power nap for me. Even just fifteen minutes of resting my head will do wonders. Other times it’s a little walk that allows me to breathe deeply and move around a bit. Sometimes it’s grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend and getting a little distance from whatever is going on. And sometimes it means saying NO to things I really don’t have time to do. Often the clarity and the courage I need to do that comes from the brief pause I took that allowed me to realize whatever I was about to say yes to wouldn’t really have been for the best.
These little pauses shouldn’t be reserved for the times that we feel like we just can’t do another thing. We need to give them to ourselves frequently. Research indicates that people need a fifteen minute break after ninety minutes of concentration – and some studies suggest that we would benefit from a five minute break after every twenty five minutes. You might think you are losing (or wasting) precious time, but you’ll find that it is more like an investment that pays dividends when you come back from your short break and are able to do in twenty minutes what would have otherwise taken an hour.
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted – as though you need to move faster but just can’t seem to find the energy – try slowing down for a little while. Press the pause button. Find your child’s pose and catch your breath – whatever that may be for you. Let the dust settle until you can see clearly again. Chances are that when it does, you will know just what you need to do – or NOT do. And you will meet whatever challenge or opportunity awaits you with a fresh mind and a new energy and vitality – one that allows you to access the wisdom, creativity and resilience you need most.
“You have to put in the clutch to shift gears. You have to let go to re-engage at another, more high-leveraged ratio. And when you least feel like slowing down may be the most critical time to do it.”
– David Allen’s Productivity Principles
Tired business people image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you ever feel as though your life is just one big to do list that never gets completed?
Well, if you do you’re not alone. Many of us feel as though a starting gun goes off at the beginning of the day and the hours that follow seem a lot like a marathon with no finish line. Some spend their nights dreaming of the things they worked on during the day or what has yet to be done. And others lie awake thinking about it. It reminds me of the poor guy in Greek mythology, Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a great boulder to the top of a hill only to have it roll back down just before he reached the summit.
I was feeling this way recently, and in the midst of the craze I was aware of a longing to escape from the tyranny I had created for myself. And it really is a self created tyranny. So much of our lives is dictated by the habits and patterns we fall into and the way we think about things. The danger is when we become so tangled up in routines and thoughts that we forget that we are the ones who created them. A good coach can help you pinpoint the underlying patterns that are the root of the anxiety you are experiencing – so that you can take steps to alleviate your suffering. And with practice, we can all learn to do this for ourselves as well.
I don’t know if I have this whole thing licked just yet, but I believe I’m making progress. I thought it might be helpful to share the process I went through. Though the solution I came up with may not be the right one for you, the process itself may help you find one that is a perfect fit.
(1) GET A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.
When you get to that point where you feel something’s got to give, the most powerful thing you can do is find a way to pull yourself up and out for a bit – so that instead of being immersed in your pattern, you can simply observe it. I noticed that I was in a continual state of churning — so preoccupied with wanting to keep working at things on my list that I had little patience for anything else that required my attention, including my kids. I was acting in a way that was inconsistent with my true values. And I didn’t like what I saw.
It became apparent that I was having trouble shifting gears from achieving my work related goals to giving energy to other equally important parts of my life. I realized the pressure I was experiencing to finish everything before I could attend to what was next was largely self imposed. What I really want is to experience a sense of ease and lightness in the things that I do — to enjoy not just the outcome, but also the process of achieving my goals and living my life itself – all areas of my life.
(2) CREATE A SYSTEM THAT SUPPORTS YOUR NEW PERSPECTIVE.
Ask yourself the question, what do I need to do to align my actions with my new way of thinking? What new habits or patterns can I create that will better serve me? I had to remind myself that finishing everything on my to do list is a pipe dream that only leads to disappointment. I remembered my own advice to clients – use your never ending “to do” list as a “maybe I’ll do list” so that your mind can rest in knowing that nothing is going to fall through the cracks. With that in mind, I created the following system for myself:
- Each day, I identify a list of my top three to five priority tasks from my “maybe I’ll do list” as well as some additional items that would be great to do but okay to leave undone if necessary. I enter these things on a “THINGS TO DO TODAY” list on my calendar in an appointment slot at the beginning of the day. I also create a “THINGS I DID TODAY” entry as an appointment slot at the end of the day.
- Throughout the day, as I accomplish things, I transfer them from my “THINGS TO DO” list to my “THINGS I DID” list, and take delight as the former list gets smaller while the latter grows larger. (It’s even a bigger thrill for me than checking a box!)
- At the end of the day I spend twenty minutes to stop, assess and plan for the next day. I acknowledge myself for what I have completed. I look at what remains on my “THINGS TO DO LIST” for that day and transfer any incomplete items to my “THINGS TO DO” list for the next day (which leaves my THINGS TO DO list for that day blank and gives me a feeling of closure – woo hoo!). I take a look at my calendar and my “maybe I’ll do list” to assess what my priorities are for the following day and add them to the next day’s list. Then I clean off my desk and go pick up my kids.
Granted, there will be days where all heck breaks loose and I’m unable to follow my system the way I’ve planned it. And that’s OK. The more I follow it, the more engrained and natural it will become. My goal is to change my feeling of being out of control to become more intentional and conscious about the way I use my time. So any little change will be progress. I encourage you to be kind to yourself as you endeavor to change your habits and patterns as well.
(3) BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
You can start this before you go to bed at night. Envision yourself waking with energy, enthusiasm and inspiration. I like to take a quick glance at my “THINGS TO DO LIST” for the next day with gratitude that I will have everything I need to accomplish it. I believe this allows my subconscious mind to begin working on things while I sleep – which will potentially lead to new insights when I awaken.
As you begin your day, get very clear on what you’d like to experience by day’s end — and every moment in between and see if you can experience that state before you even begin. See if you can remember the last time you were in your productive zone, where you accomplished more than you thought possible. Move into that feeling and replicate it for yourself. If you find yourself becoming anxious, stressed, or slipping into old patterns, come back to your intention and desired perspective, take a deep breath and let it inform your action.
The important thing is to tap into your inner genius to find the answers you most need. I’ve found this to be so important that I’ve written a book about it. It’s called The Pinocchio Principle ~ Being Real: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be and it will be released on 1/11/11. I’ve also decided to work with a small group of eight people to lead them through this process (based on the book) as well. A few spots still remain. We’ll meet at my office in Phoenix for 90 minutes twice a month for a period of six months, beginning in January. Contact me at Diane@DianeBolden.com if you are interested in participating. The cost is $900 ($75 a session) and payment plans are available.
Stay tuned for more information and subscribe to my free monthly ezine at www.DianeBolden.com to hear about free upcoming events, videos and teleseminars.
Though comments are currently closed, please feel free to email me at Diane@DianeBolden.com with your feedback, questions and thoughts. Have a specific challenge you’d like to see a post written about? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!
The last several weeks have been fraught with technical challenges that almost had me throwing my computer through the window or taking a sledgehammer to it. Fortunately, I was able to resist my destructive urges and instead come to a realization that led me to some vital insights about better leveraging my time without losing my head (and other things that are important to me). Recognizing I’m not the only one who faces productivity issues, I decided to write about what I learned in my May ezine. Below is an excerpt of the full article, Getting Out of Overwhelm, with a link to read more.
If you would like to have these monthly articles emailed to you directly, you can subscribe at www.dianebolden.com (and I’ll also send you my special report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves, and How to Avoid Them.)
Getting Out of Overwhelm
Do you ever feel as though there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done?
Time is an interesting concept. On some days it seems to fly by and on others it drags. At times you might feel as though you have been muddling through something for hours with nothing to show for it, and at others you may find yourself experiencing a sudden burst of productivity and energy that allows you to do in a short amount of time what may have previously taken you several hours or even days. What is the differentiator? Wouldn’t it be great if there were some kind of lever you could pull inside yourself to get you into that productive zone?
Sometimes I just wish there were a lever to get me out of the zone that keeps me spinning from one thing to the next without making much progress on anything. Seems I’ve been in that place a lot lately. And curious by nature, I have done my best to pay attention to what I’ve been experiencing so that I can somehow make heads or tails of it. At times like these, often my surroundings have a way of reflecting back to me my own state. In this particular case, my computer was the perfect mirror. Read more…
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