Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You Are A Creative Genius

The words “creativity” and “genius” have taken on many meanings – often reserved for those with unique intelligence and talent. However, these terms were originally intended to be far more inclusive than they have become – pointing to something we all possess.

I see creativity as an act of creation. It can take the form of an art or a science, but can also show up as any sort of innovation or divergent thought that is manifested in the world in some way. This can occur as a created moment, a relationship, or in directing a passion or belief in a particular way. It might be tender parenting, or birthing a business, or a thoughtful conversation where both parties are present and engaged.

Sometimes creation is wholly inspired and seems to simply flow; other times it can be challenge and struggle. Whatever the experience, the beauty of creativity is that we all have access to it in our own unique ways. It is the channeling of something bigger than us through us – an access to the divine created right here on earth in our experience. The origin of the word "genius" comes from this same place. The Ancient Romans did not see genius as something that a human possessed, but something that was granted from outside of us (the Gods) – directed through a human as an expression and an assistant in creation.

Each of us has creative genius available when we are able to slow down and open ourselves to our true voice (see the post: “Finding Your Voice”). Whether you believe in a higher power or not, you have the ability to tap into who you are and what you are passionate about to manifest your creative genius in the world.

For a really awesome discussion of this topic, see the video below of Elizabeth Gilbert speaking at the TED Conference in February. She wrote the well-received book, Eat, Pray, Love, and offers an inspiring, thoughtful, and often humorous perspective on bringing all of yourself to your creation. It's well worth the 19 minutes.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Decision-Making: No-Win or No-Lose

For many people, making a decision (whether big or small) can be a difficult process. Terrified of making a wrong choice or a series of mistakes, we can get stuck in analysis/paralysis – afraid to make a move and suffer the potential consequences.

We play the “what if” game of “what if I go this way and that happens… what if I go that way and it doesn’t work out…?” Am I going to get it right? What will people think? Am I going to fail? Or, even scarier, am I actually going to succeed and what will that mean? And if we can bring ourselves to make a decision, we get caught up in a nail-biting session: Did I do the right thing? Now what? Etc. etc. etc. All so exhausting!!

What about focusing on the potential wins instead? Instead of trying to be perfect and get it "right," what if we were to remember that every “mistake” is actually a ripe opportunity to learn something valuable – regardless of the outcome of our decision? This is where perspective shifting can come into play – changing your world entails changing your view on how you think about it.

Dr. Susan Jeffers, in her book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, has a smart approach to decision-making. To follow is a discussion of her two models and how you can shift your perspective to assist in your decision-making process. You get to choose either No-Win or No-Lose. Based on name alone, which already seems more appealing?

Let’s first consider the No-Win Model, where we: 1) see the world through the lens of a continuous reassessment of the situation, 2) fear the future and potential mistakes, and 3) keep looking back and berating ourselves for what we “could/should” have done differently. To top it off, this can all lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, reinforcing our own sense of doubt and lack of confidence – which we carry into our next decision to start the cycle over. The experience is tedious and frustrating, and is a big waste of energy and emotion. Even if we did end up with a "win," we lost peace of mind along the way.

Let’s next consider the No-Lose Model. Here, we look at the journey more than the destination. Rather than focusing on the "right/wrong" result, we choose to focus on the path as what is right. Regardless of the outcome, it's "no-lose." Throughout, we are given opportunities to have a new experience of life, to learn and grow, and to discover what we are about. We can toss out the “what if’s” and consider the potential and possibilities. Perspective is everything.

No-Lose Decision-Making Process

Before Making a Decision
  1. Focus immediately on the No-Lose Model. Affirm to yourself, “I can’t lose – regardless of the outcome of the decision I make. The world is a place for opportunity, and I look forward to the opportunities for learning and growing that either pathway gives me.” Focus on what can be gained and push away thoughts of what can be lost.
  2. Do your homework. Talk to the “right” people (those who support your learning and growing), seek out feedback on your plans from experts and people you trust (swallow your pride!), and get your facts straight. But don’t get caught up in perpetual research; draw a line for yourself of when enough is enough.
  3. Establish your priorities. Consider your values and vision and which pathway is more in line with your overall goals for your life. Remember that we are constantly evolving and it is important to consider where you stand NOW versus where you “have always stood” or where others “think you should stand.” Pay attention and don’t be afraid of being honest with yourself.
  4. Trust your impulses. After you’ve done all the research, considered your alternatives, and have come up with the logical choice, do a gut check. Don’t be afraid to trust what you feel, as the subconscious is often sending you messages as to what is “right” for you at a particular point in time. Reflect on past experiences of when you did or did not make choices in alignment with your impulses/instincts/gut – and how those turned out. That alone might give you the confidence to move forward, or even to go back and reevaluate. There are no right or wrong choices, just different ones.
  5. Lighten up. Nothing is as significant as you are making it. If the results of your decision do not go according to “plan,” so what! You can always sort it out…you always have! This is all part of the journey in life. Chill out and go with it.
After Making a Decision
  1. Throw away your picture. You can’t control the outcome nor predict the future, so let go of your expectations and image of how it’s “supposed” to go. The more freedom you give yourself, and the more space you give the choice, the easier it will be for you to roll with the process and journey.
  2. Accept total responsibility for your decisions. If you can own your choice, you can own your learning as well. Blaming others will not offer you the ripe opportunity for growth, and will put you in a "victim mode." Even if you were operating on information from another, the ultimate choice was yours. Own it and you can own the opportunities it afforded you.
  3. Don’t protect, correct. Commit and follow-through with everything you can. But don’t become so fixated on the choice that you are unwilling to recognize when a course correction is necessary…or even more wisely, when it is time to choose something different. Ego and attachment can only hurt you here. Give up your desire to look good, and your fear of looking bad if you change direction. Ultimately, it is the quality of your life experience at stake.
If you really, really, really want to put yourself through the wringer and feel terrible throughout the process, you can choose the…

No-Win Decision-Making Process

Before Making a Decision

  1. Focus on the No-Win Model.
  2. Listen to your mind drive you crazy.
  3. Paralyze yourself with anxiety as you try to predict the future.
  4. Don’t trust your impulses – listen to what everyone else thinks.
  5. Feel the heaviness of having to make a decision.
After Making a Decision
  1. Create anxiety by trying to control the outcome.
  2. Blame someone else if it doesn’t work out as you pictured.
  3. If it doesn’t work out, keep wondering if it would have been better the other way.
  4. Don’t correct if the decision is “wrong” – you have too much invested.
It’s completely up to you. However, the No-Lose Process seems far less painful.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Are You Really Listening? Probably Not.

Imagine what it would be like if you felt heard – not just listened to, but like someone fully got what you were communicating. Now, flip that around. When was the last time you fully heard someone else?

So much emphasis is placed on messaging and oratory skills. But very little time and energy is spent on developing facility with the act of listening. Some people are simply gifted with this skill, but more often than not, listening must be practiced and developed. It requires that the person on the receiving end is able to turn off that inner voice/critic to consciously absorb the words and messages that are being sent.

When I went through coaching training, a great amount of the focus was on the varying levels of listening. They were broken down as follows:
  • Level I is internal – we hear the words, but the focus is on what they mean to us
  • Level II is focused – the attention is about listening for something…focused over there, on the other person
  • Level III is conscious and global – it is hearing that picks up the various nuances underlying the communication, including sensory data (emotion, body language, mood, pace, energy level), and the context and environment.
Most of the time, people are listening at Level I. Hopefully, they are at least hearing the words that are being spoken, but often they are disconnected, evaluating or judging the message (they think they are hearing!), or thinking about what they will say next.

Level II and III listening are so much more powerful. It is not about passively hearing, but about taking action through listening. In those experiences, you are not only connecting to the actual message as it was intended, but to the person him/herself. In that space, you open up the ability to co-create a true dialogue where each person feels heard, valued, and respected. Finally, by modeling active listening, you are encouraging the other person to listen actively as well.

Here are some suggestions.
  • W.A.I.T. – “Why am I talking?” is a great question to ask yourself when you feel compelled to interject. Is what you're saying or about to say really contributing? Are you piggybacking or stealing the topic (“I can completely relate. It reminds me of the time…”)? Or are you simply trying to show how smart or compassionate you are?
  • Curiosity – If you find your mind wandering because you are not fully engaged or are even confused, bring curiosity to the table. Refocus your attention on more than just the words and try to deeply listen for what is going on over there in the speaker’s world. Ask questions to delve deeper into the topic.
  • Be other-directed – Focus on the person communicating. Follow and understand the speaker as if you were walking in their shoes. Listen with your ears but also with your eyes and other senses.
  • Be aware – Non-verbally acknowledge to yourself points in the speech. Let the argument or presentation run its course. Don't agree or disagree, but encourage the train of thought.
  • Be involved – Actively respond to questions and directions. Use your body position (e.g. lean forward) and attention to encourage the speaker and signal your interest.
These may seem obvious, but most people don’t bring this level of listening to their conversations. Consider for a moment that what you thought was listening is actually just hearing. Like a scientist, throw out your assumptions and ego and assume that you are not well-adept at listening. Think about what you could shift when in the moment, and practice being present with your ears and heart open. By simply changing your focus, you may discover something new about the message or even about the person.