Friday, March 18, 2011

Stay Positive. Stay Up. Stay Motivated… Give Me A Break!

You’ve heard it all before, you have to feel motivated; you have to be determined to achieve what you want. I don’t know about you, but those words are feeling pretty empty and shallow to me these days. That’s because when you go beyond your reliance on those meaningless words, you uncover a power to concentrate that is so significant you know deep down that you will succeed and others feel it too.

There is no B.S., no trying to manipulate yourself into feeling positive instead your attitude and actions are quiet, humble and focused.

I had a wonderful conversation with a friend about why some people achieve their goals and others don’t. He used his own experience of feeling excited about “working out” and losing weight. His excitement and determination was high for about a month, and then waned significantly when he injured himself. After that, his interest in his goal fizzled out. He shared that he felt frustrated with himself that he couldn’t get back to his regime.

We have all been there, we start something with vigour and passion only to find our excitement and energy naturally dissipates.  The problem is we interpret this waning as a loss of interest which makes it difficult to overcome the natural ups and downs we are inevitably going to face. I can feel your head nodding as I write this.

The issue is not the loss of enthusiasm; the issue is where you have placed your attention and energy.

Typically, we place a great deal of emphasis on the initial excitement and passion we feel for our cause and this focus on that unbridled energy is what we rely on to move us forward. This energy is difficult to sustain because of its naive nature can disappear very quickly at the first set back. It can be seen in people and in companies wanting to improve; great beginning short lived follow through.

If we feel passionate and enthusiastic we move forward. If we feel it’s lost we unfortunately:
  • panic,
  • question our decision,
  • beat our self up.

An enormous amount of energy is spent on wondering why we are not excited any more. Our mistake is relying on a passion or excitement that isn’t deep enough to handle varying external conditions or fragile internal emotions.

Shift your focus away from whether you are excited and you will see that this lost energy can be directed to a re-commitment to the original purpose.

Contrary to what is said in motivational talks, you don’t need to get up every morning feeling passionate about your life. Nor is it necessary to be excited about your goal every moment.

You don’t need to artificially build yourself up. The energy it takes to do so is energy better spent on just achieving what you want.

The goal is to use your energy efficiently and economically right now.  When you do this you sustain higher levels of energy and focus over a longer period of time and ultimately achieve your goal faster.

The same occurs across companies when new initiatives are implemented. The classic assumption is to “bring out the band” build energy and enthusiasm for the initiative. This of course is unsustainable for when it is needed most. Many of you have experienced change initiatives which were perceived to be a failure and so die prematurely.

 It is never about the level of sustained enthusiasm, it’s about the efficient use of energy and focus over time at a high level that creates quality outcomes. And believe it or not this is easily attainable.

Whether in companies or with in yourself, your decision and commitment to who you are IS the driver, not the level of enthusiasm that you have.

When you place your attention on who you are and your abilities, you actually move beyond reliance on enthusiasm to experience, true passion and inspiration.

You will find something more profound:
  • a simple knowing that moves you forward regardless of external conditions and emotions
  • an unquestioning acceptance of what you do and why you do it - the true mechanism of achievement.
There is no struggle, there is no doubt. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Books On The Bedside Table

So you have a stack of books waiting to be read and they are calling out to you every time you get ready to sleep. “READ ME”, “no read me I was the one recommended by your good friend.  Remember, he’s going to ask how the book is coming the next time you meet.” NO read me I am the book you actually borrowed.”

Is this the chatter you hear as your eyes close and you fall into a troubled sleep? You have the best of intentions but the books are never cracked open. What exactly do you want?

During a deeper dialogue with a client, we discussed living a “passionate life” and used the books on his bedside table as an example.

“A passionate life is one lived with natural ease, simplicity, peace and incredible power and energy." 

There is no passion in mind games, pushing, manipulating, guilt, shame or being dishonest with yourself. 

If you don’t want to read the damn books don’t read them! 

Running with this idea we moved to discussions that have even more significance to life, such as relationships with in-laws, the ex and other issues he deals with as leader of a couple of hundred people.

In my previous life as a business coach we would have discussed that he go home and take control of the situation and put the books away as a statement of finality and real honesty. This though not a bad idea, misses the point. 

In fact, he started to suggest he put the books away and stopped himself by saying – “so what you really mean is that I don’t even have to move the books do I?  I agreed saying that when the books need to be moved they will be. Either by being read or moved or given back. The issue I said was not the books it was the addiction to the emotions you are feeling by not reading the books.

 As you accept that reality you will be free to do what ever the hell you want to do with the books or anything else in life. It will be done naturally and with little or no effort.”  This is living a passionate life.

To live naturally and passionately is to merely observe without commentary or judgment what you are doing or not doing, thinking or not thinking and what is going on around you.

  • No commentary creates an opening for you to see the reality with clarity and allows you to respond ‘naturally” to situations and events that are occurring.

This maybe a leap, but it means that you can let go of the struggle of wondering what the best course of action could be, should be or ought to be. No amount of manipulation or cajoling will create enough energy for action so lighten up and start trusting that what you want is what you want.

The bottom line is, if you want the books to stay on the bedside table untouched, unread and taking up space, go for it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Procrastination Doesn’t Actually Exist!

A few weeks ago I was talking with my brother who said he was procrastinating on a project at work and his lack of action was beginning to affect his credibility with his team.  I heard him beat himself up over his lack of action and blamed it on procrastination. I suggested to him that procrastination was a made up word and that it doesn’t actually exist. He of course had a hard time with this and it took quite a long time to convince him otherwise, after all both of us had grown up believing in the concept as real.
Procrastination is a concept, a word that someone at sometime in the past made up to describe a human condition of action or non-action. We humans believe we need these labels to help us understand ourselves but believing in the concept is the problem not the inaction or time passing.
The label allows us to:
·         easily become distracted from the real issue,
·         feel guilty,
·         beat ourselves up and generally feel bad, thereby wasting more time and energy.

Just for a moment take the concept of procrastination out of your thinking and free yourself to explore what is really going on:
  1. You may be going against your natural rhythm of how you accomplish tasks.
  2. The creative process and ideas sometimes require space, stasis or "downtime" to fully form.
  3. There is not enough information available to make a decision or take action.
  4. You don't believe that what you want is what you want.
  5. You don't really want to do what you think you “should” do.
  6. It's not yet time.
  7. You don't trust yourself.
  8. The task is too overwhelming when envisioned in your mind.
  9. Habit and conditioning.
When I had finally convinced my brother that his focus on the idea of procrastination was distracting him from actually discovering the issue of his inaction, I described it to him as a blanket over his thoughts, he was able to identify that, the real issue was his belief that he had to complete aspects he was not good at. Within 5 minutes of this discovery he had drawn out his strategy. The next day he made a phone call and the project was completed shortly thereafter. What was interesting for me was the sudden relief he felt and the corresponding release of energy and confidence the sudden insight created. This happens quite frequently.  Energy creates follow-through.
Many people feel this release, this freedom, when they realize they are not procrastinating at all. How could they be, it can’t exist. Like my brother they are merely missing a key piece of information that is outside of their discovery because of clouded thinking and blame.
Now I am not for a moment suggesting that there is not a feeling of time passing, or distracted action or a general shouting within your head that you “should be doing something dammit”. Rather release the idea of this being a problem from your thinking. This should let your natural insights and intelligence emerge to help you understand what is really going on for you.
Stop thinking so hard, stop trying so hard, let go and breathe. Feel confident in the discovery that procrastination does not exist.  By letting go of a fixation on language and a label and recognizing that what is going on is natural and fine we can give ourselves the freedom to act or not. This freedom after all is really what you want anyway.
How do you want freedom to show up today?