I was watching a documentary the other day about the demise of the dinosaurs. What was fascinating was that before the 6 mile wide asteroid hit what is now the Gulf of Mexico all those millions of years ago, dinosaurs dominated the earth. Dinosaur fossils have been found in vast numbers on every continent and their sheer size meant wherever they went, they were in charge!
But after the asteroid the only creatures that survived and then thrived were the tiny mammals and reptiles.
Why was that?
Its simple. Charles Darwin put it best:
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
These tiny creatures were able to survive because of their adaptability, their ability to move quickly and change according to circumstances, their ability to store energy and most importantly of all, their agility.
Looking at businesses today we can see that the corporate world is dominated by vast global enterprises but these enterprises have much in common with their ancient ancestors! When faced with challenges they don’t have the agility to adapt in a rapidly changing world. And the more energy they put into trying to change the world to suit them, the less they have for their true purpose. And the less sustainable they become.
The question is, is your business a dinosaur… or a mouse?
I’ve had some interesting conversations recently about positive thinking so I thought I’d try to clarify some classic misconceptions that people have. It seems to be a function of those who subscribe to the kind of “magical thinking” made popular by books such as The Secret and the Abraham Hicks phenomena, that they believe that constantly “being in a happy place”, telling everyone things are wonderful when they clearly aren’t and telling themselves that “everything in the universe is in its rightful place”, or that “everything happens for a reason” is somehow going to make them more successful and get them what they want in life.
Sorry to burst your bubble guys, but it won’t!
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of optimism! I think going about having the belief that things can and will get better is one of the most certain ways, if not the only way, for them to get better. And here’s why: if you believe that things will get better you will most likely be willing to take the actions that will make them get better. At the very least you will set about looking for solutions and will start to formulate in your mind what those solutions might look like.
But the very first principle of positive thinking is being honest. You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. So forcing yourself into feeling happy about a life that is falling apart is not only stressful, its actively unhelpful. Tell your mind often enough that you are happy in this miserable place and one day it might just believe you! And once it does that, why would you bother actively looking for solutions. So acknowledge the situation you are in, get very clear about it and most importantly get very clear on how you have created this situation. Because like it or not, you have. And even if it isn’t all your fault (the world economy, deadbeat partners, useless parents, physical challenges or whoever else you’re trying to shift the blame onto), its still 100% your responsibility to change it if you don’t like it. No one else is going to change it for you.
The second principle of positive thinking is to learn to think in terms of solutions. Believe there is a solution and as much as possible look for evidence that there is. Read biographies of your favourite successful people, I can guarantee most of them have been in messes as big, if not bigger than yours! Its always heartwarming to discover that your biggest heroes are just as fallible as you, but more importantly, its inspiring to read about how they got out of them! Find yourself a mentor, join a good networking group and ask for advice from people you trust. You don’t need to take all of the advice offered but do take action on the advice that makes sense to you. But don’t try to do this on your own. Create empowering relationships with people who uplift you and make you feel strong and capable and dump those who make you feel small and inadequate. There are loads of people out there willing and able to help you if only you learn to keep asking until you get an answer that is useful to you.
The third principle is be open to admitting that you’re wrong! This is the hardest part. The thing is, if you’re in a situation you don’t like, there’s a good chance it’s a result of some bad decisions you made at some point. Accept this, but at the same time be kind to yourself. Let’s face it, if you’d known better you’d probably have made better decisions and all decisions carry with them learning. But if you want things to get better you are going to have to change what you’re doing, what got you here is not going to get you where you want to go!
Change is difficult and the biggest problem is that most of us want change, but we don’t want to change. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get fit without having to exercise, lose weight without having to cut down on chocolate, earn huge amounts of money without having to work harder or smarter? Change is not easy, it’s not meant to be. It’s about growth, it’s about challenge and it’s about becoming the amazingly powerful and abundant human being that you know you are.
Your positive thinking needs to be about asking yourself powerful questions about what actions you can take right now to make things better. There are few things more empowering than finding yourself on the other side of a huge challenge and realising how much you have grown as a result. That’s positive thinking!
It’s a question I get asked so often and the answer is really simple. Having clarity about what your values are and why they are important to you makes decision making easier, makes you stronger and most importantly it lets people know that you have integrity and consistency.
In today’s uncertain world knowing that someone stands for something counts for a huge amount. We often talk about the concept of Brand You in business today. Brand You is not just about your logo, or your title or your profession or even your business name or how you look. Its all of these, but in addition, what it really means is that everything you do and everything you say, positive and negative, is part of Brand You.
When you are crystal clear on your values it is much easier to stay in integrity and not allow anything to taint your brand, simply because you know who you are and what you stand for, and perhaps most importantly, who you stand with. Because if you say one thing, and then endorse people who stand for its opposite, your brand is instantly tarnished.
This might be hard at first. You might have to upset some people and you might have to change a few allegiances. You might feel you are missing out on opportunities and losing touch with the “cool” crowd. You also might feel vulnerable, letting people know who you really are and what you stand for can feel really scary at first. You might feel exposed and all alone. But in the long run it’s much less stressful than pretending to be someone you’re not, compromising what you believe for the sake of expediency and living your life on shifting sands.
In the long run like attracts like and you will draw to you others who share your values. Leaders do what they say they will do and by doing that they attract other leaders to help them.
So do you want to be in with the cool crowd? Or do you want to run with the leaders?
Its really interesting when you ask people what their values are. Mostly the responses are predictable – family, honesty, integrity… all the usual suspects. The thing is, are these really your values? Or are they simply the values you think you ought to have? Or worse, the values you think other people want to think you have?
What’s more interesting is not what values you have, lets face it, nearly everyone values family, and we all want people around us to be honest and have integrity. What’s really interesting is the values you live.
You say family is a top value for you? What does your diary look like? Do you spend more time on the golf course than with your partner?
You say honesty is a top value? Really, so tell me about that tax return that you got away with! Or that meeting that you forgot about, or that traffic jam that you weren’t in!
And what about integrity? Is it always there or does it tend to slip sometimes when you’re under pressure?
And how about money? Very few people admit to money being a top value, and yet you can see that it is in how they work, how they treat people and how they spend it.
Your values are yours, you don’t have to account to anyone else for them so OWN them. Be proud of them. Be honest about what is really important to you and stop worrying about what other people think. The truth is, a lot of the time they don’t think!
Momentum is always a good thing so here’s another idea to get you moving when you’re feeling stuck.
When you are really stuck momentum is far more important than direction. Imagine trying to push a car. Would you try to push it round a corner from a standing stop? Or would you always get it moving first and then push it in the direction you want it to go.
Its the same with us, its much easier to move in the right direction once you’re actually moving. So when you are really stuck you need to find something that will raise your energy enough that you can regain some momentum. So here’s a suggestion:
When you’re feeling full of energy and optimism make yourself a big long list of at least 101 things you want to do, be, have or give in your lifetime. You can make it longer if you like and keep adding to this list all the time as you get new ideas. In fact I believe you should never stop adding to this list because the moment you do your life will start running out of energy! George Bernard Shaw said
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
And having goals is a huge part of playing!
Your list will contain some goals, some big and some small, and it will contain long term plans and every day to-do tasks, big things, small things, easy things, things you have no earthly idea how to do now and things you can do in the next 30 seconds, fun things and challenging things. The more you can put on this list the more useful to you it will be.
Now next time you are feeling stuck and you don’t know what to do next have a look at this list and pick one thing that jumps out at you and do it. It might have nothing to do with your goals or what you are supposed to be doing – you might decide to go and get a manicure when you “should” be finishing your book! But the simple act of taking action will create more momentum that sitting looking at the screen feeling guilty will ever do!
Give it a try next time you’re stuck and let me know how it goes.
Creating momentum towards a goal is one of the most powerful things we can do to make sure we achieve the goal but sometimes its really challenging to maintain that momentum, especially if its a huge goal that is going to take a lot of time to achieve.
I found this great post by Mike Michalowicz, author of The Pumpkin Plan which has some really good ideas about how to motivate yourself when the momentum seems to be running out. Lets face it, even the most motivated of us runs short of energy once in a while. But if we have strategies in place that can get us up and running again quickly we don’t need to take up residence in that stuck place!
Let me know what you think and please share the strategies you use when you get stuck.