Posts Tagged ‘fear’

“Honey, do I look fat in this dress?” That is a question any wise man approaches carefully – very carefully. It is prescient when it comes to change management. Why? Well, we all say we prize honesty but upon closer examination there is a desire to get by which comes in direct conflict with the need to be honest.

Everyone loves to clean house and get rid of the bad guy(s) and girl(s). After the euphoria the sweeping out creates dies down something surprising happens. It is the fear created by the need for those remaining to be honest in a piercing manner. Why is that?

As mentioned in previous blogs, having the bad guy around supports the creation of bad habits. For example, there is the opportunity to fudge billable time and expenses. A while back there was the infamous $500 coffee pot charged to the U.S. Air Force. (I got to talk with one of the lead accountants on that issue and it turns out dishonesty wasn’t present but let’s assume for this blog it was a blatant rip off.) In the every day world of projects how can that occur? All that is needed is a leader out to get as much money as possible and will gouge the client to the extent the client is blind, naive or both. When an engineer has worked under such a person for a long enough period of time it becomes easy to get sloppy and gradually expand what “honesty means right along with “cheating.”

Sociologically, it is well established that we all like to leave ourselves some space, some wiggle room. Let’s say 15 minutes a day of billable time. So, if we only charge for 15 non-productive minutes we can claim we are honest. After a while under a disreputable boss that 15 minutes becomes an hour. The process continues until all hell breaks loose and then all sorts of time is charged simply because we can do it. So what happens when you clean house?

For the housecleaning to be complete there is a need to return to honesty. This is the point at which panic sets in. If your situation is typical a flood of requests start coming in to explain exactly what you mean when you say, “In order to bill for one hour you have to do one hour’s worth of work.” All sorts of lawyering begins. It is accompanied by confusion and more than a slight degree of hysteria. Remember, people have been let go for not being honest. The question on everyone’s mind is, “Am I next?” (For what it is worth, I am championed for bringing the light of day and a breath of fresh air to the organization when getting rid of the bad guy. That quickly turns to pitchforks, tar, and feathers once the issue of accountability is brought to the masses.) What to do? Answer: State the obvious.

“The only way out of the mess you are in is through frank discussions as to what it means to bill an hour of time. This isn’t free-floating. It needs to reference a sound business case.

In other words, know what will work in your industry. Find standards that are reliable. Then add that to a solid business case. Determine what “serving the customer” means in terms of billable hours, expenses, and productivity. By all means, stay away from witch-hunts. Tell the troops you will be out of business if the sloppiness continues. The best way to keep one’s job is to work to acceptable standards. Have them participate in the defining of standards as it applies to their discipline, keeping in mind that who ever is responsible for the business case will have the final say.

What this all amounts to is a focus on emotional honesty rather than a Salem witch trial. When done in a respectful tone those who want to work and feel significant appreciate it. As to the others…well…the human resource changes must continue. The challenges will continue and people will wonder if the housekeeping was worth it. In the long run, though, there will be an appreciation of getting back on track and billing one hour for an hour’s worth of work.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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As the Paradigm Shifts #T: Turbulence

by Rosie Kuhn on September 7, 2011

To state the obvious, there’s no question we are living in turbulent times. The winds of change are creating upheaval and instability, leaving chaos and confusion in its wake. The almighty dollar upon which we’ve built just about all of our institutions, including religion, as well as a sense of security and stability is rocking and rolling like those areas around the planet that are experiencing earthquakes. Everything is getting shaken up.

In the workplace, job security is getting to be a bankrupt concept. And, if you manage to keep your job, most likely you’ve taken on the work of those who have lost theirs. More stress and fewer fulfillment.

Naomi, a client of mine in San Francisco used to love going to work every morning. Now, with a new CEO pressuring the very small staff to produce way beyond their capability, the strain is such that she experiences overwhelm, frustration and, what we normally call depression. “What’s the point?” Naomi asks, rhetorically.  “I used to love my work, but now I’m thinking of leaving. It’s all too much?”

As a sailor who crossed the Atlantic Ocean, I could see the changes on the surface of the water that tells us whether we’ll be experiencing turbulence or calm seas. We could see miles off in the distance any sea change that was coming our way. We could prepare appropriately and settle in for any turbulence.

Though I fly frequently, I am disconcerted by any turbulence we experience in the air because it is invisible, generally speaking. I look out the window intending on discovering that which is the catalyst for my discomfort. As an analogy, I find that these instabilities we are currently experiencing is much the same; where or what is the instigator of all of this turbulence in all of our institutions, our solar system, in the Universe at large? I find it fascinating!

The invisible catalyst is a known entity to those who know. For most of us though we feel victimized by the unseen forces that have wreaked havoc to our lifestyles, our sense of security and stability. We are losing our ground of being that we thought was us! Every aspect of life is getting a good shake up. The question I pose is what is our role in this shake up? How do we be with the devastation of our life paths that lay in ruin? Is there a way to create stability in an unstable environment?

Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide!

In any work environment, each of us brings with us, on a daily basis, a sense of un-assuredness. And, with that comes stress, worry and perhaps a less then calm and serene demeanor. We feel helpless and powerless in the face of these turbulent times. Like Naomi, the heads of institutions are bringing in the sails, battening down the hatches, throwing access baggage overboard. We are always wondering if today is the day that we walk the plank.

So what’s the solution? Well, since, on a spiritual level, there is no problem, then there’s no solutions required. What is required is remembering who you are in the first place. Who were you before you were a business person, a member of a cultural or religious tradition; before you were a man or a woman? It takes a lot of sifting through the myriad identities that we’ve overlaid upon our essential nature, however, by remembering who you really are, you come to find the calm sea within, realizing that, like Shakespeare says we are merely players on this stage we call THIS LIFE. We can leave the behind our roles, identities and characters. In doing so we come back to the “me” underneath it all.

I googled spirituality in business, again, and found more articles and blogs that share the degree to which business people are engaging in spiritual conversations in the workplace.  I’m not making this stuff up, attempting to convince you of the paradigm shift within which we are immersed. I am encouraging you to see how disempowered you can believe yourself to be in this moment, or, you can cultivate awareness and awaken to how empowered you are to empower yourself and others.

Our business institutions are the spiritual centers now. It is where we practice the essential truths of our religious and spiritual traditions. Its where we practice acceptance of what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference; its where we practice compassion, for there but for the grace of God go thee; it’s were we deliver ourselves from evil for the sake of well-being of every being on the planet as well as the planet herself; its, as Mahatma Gandhi said – being the change we wish to see.

Turbulence? You bet. It gives us the opportunity to discover clarity of knowing there is nothing to fear but fear itself (I’m so grateful for all of those who’ve created these incredibly wise statements.). Discovering, recognizing and acknowledging this Truth is essential to the journey. With this in mind, enjoy the adventure!

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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As the Paradigm Shifts #N: Noticing

by Rosie Kuhn on July 20, 2011

Noticing is the most powerful tool for cultivating awareness and for bringing valuable spiritual concepts to the workplace. Most importantly though, is having the intention to notice, in order to notice whether you are noticing or not.

Notice, for a moment, what is occurring within your work environment. Notice the lighting, the sounds, the smells and what the space looks like to you. As you are noticing, notice what senses you are using to notice. Is it just your hearing, sight, smell and your touch? What other senses are engaged through noticing? What’s happening inside your body, what emotions or sensations are present in this moment. Notice sensations, such as hunger, fatigue, stress, anxiety, worry, guilt, anger or aggravation. Notice where are you putting your attention. Notice if you are avoiding, distracting and delaying and what it is or who it is that you are avoiding, distracting yourself from or what specifically you are delaying. Notice, too what it takes to be you in this moment as you notice and bring awareness to your reality.

Lot Going On!

There is a lot going on, isn’t there? By bringing attention to your reality you are able to get clear about what it is that you are creating. By gaining clarity you are then able to notice what choices you are making and the results and consequences that ensue. What’s the quality of experience you are having in this moment? Is this the quality of being you’re wanting to have throughout your day?

Bringing spirituality to the work place is an inside job. It starts with noticing how you be who you be, then deciding whether this is a reflection of the environment you wish to create. Ask yourself this question: Do you really want to be the change you wish to see? If so, what needs to shift within you, then begin to notice how you, yourself is in alignment with that you wish to create. You can only change what you are conscious of, and you can only become conscious by cultivating awareness through noticing.

On a Similar Note

My sweetie and I were playing Backgammon the other night, which we do on a regular basis. This particular evening we noticed that when rolling the dice, there were a phenomenal number of doubles. The odds were against us for rolling as many doubles as we did. Something was being brought to our attention – we couldn’t help but notice it! We played six games and all of them were filled with vast amounts of doubles.

After Backgammon we decided to play some cribbage. Again, we couldn’t help but notice that Todd’s hand or mine had consistently held three of a kind – again, way beyond the odds of it happening. There was no logical or rational reasoning. We had to go outside our current paradigm to understand the phenomenon that was undeniable.

Our world is full of events like this and they are occurring far more often than ever before. We are being asked to look and notice what was once inaccessible to us. The cultivation of consciousness comes when at first we least expect it. Now more than ever we have an opportunity to witness a paradigm shift right before our eyes, at work, at home – everywhere. There is no doubt that this phenomenon is world wide – Universe wide.

Each generation that has gone before us has facilitated a greater and greater degree of consciousness. Many of you have heard, I’m sure that we are standing at the precipice of a paradigm shift. We are generating this shift and at the same time it is being foisted upon us by cosmic activity far beyond our wildest imagination – at least for most of us. Cosmologists – scientists who study the cosmos, totally understand what is causing such a rift in our world. It all makes sense to them.

There’s two ways one can respond when considering this unfoldment of the Universe. We either allow ourselves to be scared out of our wits and bury our heads in the sand, or we watch the extraordinary evolution of our time with fascination and curiosity. Some call it the time of the apocalypse, when we will be paying for the sins of our fathers and their fathers before them. Some call it the end times, but perhaps it is the end of the concept of sin and fear and war and sickness. Perhaps if we take on a practice of noticing we can begin to see the many opportunities to participate in this shift – cultivating awareness that will bring about a different way of being human; shifting from a fear-based paradigm to one based on our essence of being – love, kindness, compassion and creativity; one that inspires each of us to empower others to live into their fullest potential – no holds barred!

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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As the Paradigm Shifts #H: Hope and Hogwash

by Rosie Kuhn on June 1, 2011

Many years ago, before I had any sense of spirituality, a friend of mine, a practicing Buddhist shared with me that most of us are constantly immersed in thoughts that are driven by hopes and fears. Think about that for a moment … My thoughts coalesce around either fear-based monologs or I’m hoping for good stuff and not bad stuff. There is a lot of energy going in that direction, eh?

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, 70% of the time we are thinking negative thoughts. When I’m being fearful or being hopeful I’m not open to being here, in this moment. I’m not allowing new opportunities and ideas to emerge with which to engage. I’m not being with what is, I’m being with what could be that’s either going to turn out the way I hope or the way I fear it to be. What is unavailable while consumed in these unending internal conversations?

Our current paradigm has us feel as though we are trapped and victims to our current circumstances. This is absolute HOGWASH!

If and when we get totally honest with ourselves we come to discover how incredibly powerful we are to manifest limitations beyond our wildest dreams. Yes, you read that correctly. We brilliantly empower ourselves to disempower ourselves. Remaining within this current paradigm will forever more require you to live within your hopes and fears and nothing more.

Abandoning Hope

Hope springs eternal and is so essential to our sense of well-being.

On the other hand, I’ve found that when used as a strategy to avoid the truth of our current circumstances, hope interferes with possibility. Hoping is actually not a very empowering strategy. The strategy of hoping leaves the power in the hands of the Universe. As we hope that the will of God or our Higher Power in on our side, are we relinquishing power and courage to change the things we can? We have to look at our own relationship to hope if we are going to participate in this paradigm shift. How am I being while I’m hoping? Am I being hopeless, helpless and powerless while I’m hoping? Or, am I engaged with actions that will bring about a more likely and favorable outcome?

My friend and colleague Michael Sky died yesterday of cancer, here on Orcas Island. Not only was Michael a friend but he was a support person for me and my business.

Michael had been ill for some time, yet no matter what his circumstances, we never gave up hope that Michael would remain with us in physical form. It wasn’t until he actually died did hope die too. It’s a terrible thing to be with – the loss of hope. Promised miracles and magic that continually inspire us to live one day to the next, vanish. We are left with nothing and no thing to believe in. We struggle to understand why. There are no answers forthcoming.

I believe that to surrender hope takes us outside the domain of our humanity, back to the Source of all that is. For most of us, this moment of transcendence is far too uncomfortable. Our mind struggles to make sense – in hopes of finding concrete rationalization for what cannot be understood; only accepted.

Sometimes abandoning hope is actually the miracle. It may be what is required in order to shift what is currently impossible to be possible.

“Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Letting go of hope frees us to look at life and our circumstances differently. It is not easy and effortless to take this leap of faith. Opening of our hearts, flooding ourselves with innovation, surrendering attachments; the result of which is to soar beyond our limited thinking – isn’t this what we are all wanting? Isn’t this why organizations hire executive coaches and consultants to create think tanks, so as to produce results through simulated means? Yes, they work to a degree, yet too often the facilitators of change guard against their participants actually leaping the full measure, of which we have no comprehension. How does one steward an individual through a leap of faith?

I have no doubt that this is where spirituality in business will be taking our organizations. Corporations are desperate to discover ways to shift their business. Eventually they will reveal that the seat of every employee contains the wisdom and the brilliance they are looking for. Let’s hope that realization comes soon!

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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Students from around the world list starting the project without clear requirements as their #1 problem. Last week, in a workshop addressing this issue an interesting response surfaced in about a third of the students. In a word, discomfort. Why would this happen when something that benefits the PM and team is being developed? Let’s explore.

Some background about the method will help. It teaches simultaneous development of a scope of work and determination of a possible political path providing a high probability of successful implementation of the proposed scope of work. No small feat, just ask any project manager!

Scope and Politics

Developing scope in a no-scope environment entails using a method developed by the astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky. It is called Morphological Analysis. The short version of how to use it goes something like this: using the variables associated with the project think of all possible scopes in the situation. Go through and eliminate those that have contradictory requirements, e.g., simultaneously tall and short. This will reduce the list of possible scopes dramatically.

Now, switch to game theory. List the stakeholders (players) who can impact the development of the project and its execution. By stakeholder, list the way they are playing their particular game (strategy), and the reward (payoff) they want. Generate a 3 dimensional grid, comprising player, strategy, and payoff. Now the fun begins!

Map the list of possible scopes into the strategies and payoffs.  List the scopes that have the highest probability of surviving the games being played. This typically leaves a very short list of possible scopes. Pick one and start promoting it. Keep the other scopes as possible backups should a shift in plans be needed.

Seems straightforward enough and, for many it was. So why would some attendees experience discomfort?

Fear and Honesty

In her classic book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron states:

“Fear is a natural reaction to getting closer to the truth.”

In the workshop confusion, discomfort, fear, and some anger arose. The class was paused and a chart session was used to find out what was happening. Students gave a range of responses. Here are a few:

“Looking at gamesmanship so directly pushes on me. I have to go into my unconscious incompetencies and decide what to do about the politics. This is good.”

I made a career-altering decision 8 months ago and things have been tough ever since. This class, though, is validating I made the right decision and will continue implementing it.”

“I work with a nice guy who isn’t pulling his weight. We have the same boss, whom I like, and she wants him to do better but nothing gets done. I am feeling a lot of pressure. This class is getting confusing!”

“Why this game stuff? We have technical work to get done and I just don’t see where politics applies.”

“I don’t see where any of this is relevant! Just how am I supposed to use this?”

That first respondent is very self-aware. She stayed with her discomfort and did quite well with the material. Prima fascia, she would make a good team member. The last respondent left in anger at the next break.

But the other respondents, what about them? There isn’t enough space to go into them right now. Instead, it would be better to close with a list showing a few responses people may choose in a no-scope situation. Having this list may help you profile your own situation and determine how far you could get with a given scope based on the stakeholder population, time, money, and resources present. Here are a few of the possible positions people can take:

  1. Is a natural in this situation and is on board;
  2. Has a fear of dealing with politics and reacts by actively work against the project;
  3. Can see benefit but is afraid to go to those uncomfortable spaces where politics is addressed and stalls;
  4. Is afraid but sees the benefit of pushing on themselves and working through the difficulties and is willing to push through;
  5. Only likes working in defined situations and goes blank in no-scope environments.

Maybe by keeping the above in mind and looking at your own power, authority, time, and resources you can gauge just how far to push with which scope. Ideally, you’ll do reasonably well and live to see another day and manage another project.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Every organization whether it be for profit or non-profit are in their line of business in order to gain something – it’s most likely in their vision statement. My vision statement, for example is:

The fulfillment of the human spirit through the empowerment of every individual on the planet.

This vision requires an acquisition of fulfillment and personal empowerment.

Gain

Whether to gain access to clean water, acquire political power, or to expand one’s capacity to lead effectively, we are all out to gain.

With the economic turn, the way it’s going, businesses are facing major dilemmas. On the one hand they – the choice-makers are facing potential loss of everything they’ve gained. Too often this drives them to act in ways that will hopefully allow them to not lose anything. Fear too often drives them to act in haste, making choices that may not be in alignment with their original vision. They are afraid. People make interesting choices when they are afraid.

We like to think of ourselves as gainfully employed or engaged, yet few of us want to associate ourselves with words such as greed. However too often we are unconscious of when and how we withhold what we’ve gained out of a fear we aren’t even aware of. Our greediness is often disguised.

On the other hand of the dilemma, there are those companies that are looking at their circumstances not from a fear-based perspective but from one that can benefit many during this time of adversity?

When we start to shift our contexts we see what’s to be gained – not from fear-based greed, but from some place other than fear – generosity.

Less is More

Do you remember the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, in A Christmas Carole? Scrooge’s greed wasn’t limited to money. He was greedy with his heart. We find out why, as we’re given the opportunity to witness specific events in his life that created devastating loneliness and heart break. Because of these events he chose to withhold and be miserly with his gains, which greatly impacted many people.

Like Scrooge, every one of us experiences, to some degree, loneliness and heartbreak. We experience, like Scrooge the inevitability of abandonment, betrayal and rejection. And, much like Ebenezer, we bury the pain deep inside, distancing ourselves from that pain, which wreaks havoc on the façade we’ve invented. This façade has us look and feel powerful and invulnerable, yet inevitably we find, as Scrooge found that this limits the potential to fulfill our true potential.

Fear is an enormously powerful muscle that is exercised far too frequently; so much so that we are unconscious as to how much it impacts on our choice to enjoy being engaged in the business of doing business. Our fears limit the pleasures of relating, connecting and sharing ourselves and our talents in service of our vision, which inspired us in the first place.

All of us – the Human Race – have the capacity to overcome the adversities of our pasts. Hiding our hearts in a scrooge-like fashion, though, is not the way to do it, but practicing generosity can be.

The Muscle of Generosity

This muscle called generosity is always with us. It just hasn’t had a whole lot of exercise.

Exercising this muscle generates the experience of abundance, openness and allowing, innovation and expansion. Scrooge found this place after his journey with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. He came to see that he had nothing to lose and had so much to gain in discarding his lengthy practice of greed.

As the paradigm shifts, we are so much more capable of witnessing our attachments to our gains, our fear of losing what we’ve gained and of finding that through some playful curiosity we can discover other ways to gain without fear of losing what we’ve gained.

Those committed to bringing spirituality into the workplace may feel like they have an uphill battle ahead of them. Simple exercises now will, however generate the necessary strength, courage and wisdom to engage in what’s to come. You will find the shift easy and effortless – trust me!

Just for one day I want you to try something (Maybe for some of us, it will be just an hour or a minute.): Notice opportunities to share a smile. Notice who you are willing to share a smile with, and from whom you withhold a smile. That’s it! That’s the practice.

You’re probably asking: “What’s a smile got to do with generosity?” Good question. I could explain it to you but it wouldn’t be the same as having you experience what happens when you smile. Plus, this practice isn’t about whether you smile more or less. It’s about noticing when you choose to allow yourself to smile and when you choose to withhold a smile. It’s about noticing how you are choosing to choose to smile. This choice-making process underlies so much of your being with fear, with gain and with spirituality.

Notice what it feels like inside you, without judging or assessing yourself. Our actions can be so automatic sometimes that we aren’t even aware of the thoughts or feelings we’re having underneath.

How can we be the generosity we so wish to experience?

I have the following three suggestions:

  1. Smile more often, even when you are challenged by your circumstances;
  2. Notice your desire to complain about anything and everything;
  3. Notice if what you are doing inspires generosity of spirit in your own heart. If it doesn’t inspire generosity of spirit in your own heart, consider doing something else.

Know that each and every one of us comes into our work environment anticipating and hoping that we will experience generosity of spirit from those we engage with during the course of our day. Like Scrooge, many of us don’t have the capacity to even share a smile. Even though it may be disappointing, see if you can share compassion to those who have less capacity to be giving of their hearts. Your compassion may be the most generous gift of the day. You may gain far more from that activity than you ever imagined.

… and of course, your sharing goes a long way, be it through a smile, or through this article. So, do share your experiences via your comments.

Enjoy the Exploration!

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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As the Paradigm Shifts #F: Fear

by Rosie Kuhn on May 18, 2011

The current paradigm within which we are deeply rooted and that is ingrained in every cell of our body is cultivated solely around fear-based thinking. Research shows that 70% of our thoughts are precipitated from fear. Imagine that! How did we come to reside in such an environment permeated with a pervasive and automatic trigger to think fear-based thoughts? Is there another way? Do we have a choice in the matter?

In the previous blog I distinguished essence-based thinking from fear-based thinking. We have a knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are something far beyond the fear-based reality within which we are immersed. At the same time, there is a field or paradigm that corrupts this knowing fragmenting it into millions of tiny particles that then reflects back to us in mere instances the brilliance and radiant beings that we are.

History of war and persecution for thinking and being different than what is prescribed by political and religious dogma reminds us that we are not immune to the horrible things that human beings can do to one another. We remember and imagine what it has been like to be subjected to such treatment. And, the same time we may be living it, unconscious of the pervasiveness of it within our everyday life.

Notice Your Thoughts

Imagine heading to work. You in your car, on the train or bus and you’re sensing some anxiety, resistance or something that isn’t peaceful. If you were to just notice for a moments the thoughts running through your mind that is the catalyst for these feelings, what would you notice? If researchers are right and 70% of what you are thinking is negative and fear-based, what environment are you creating inside your head as you prepare to engage with the work, the people and the environment? Are these thoughts and bodily sensations preparing you for a day of peaceful, fun and creative interactions, or are they preparing you to do battle with yourself and everything that confronts you? Are these thoughts memories of what occurred in the past? Are they worries about what may unfold, or are you thinking about what you might say or would like to say to someone who is really bugging you?

So much of what is occurring in our brains are random firings of impulses that have become habitual in nature. Honestly, we have no clue as to how many programs are running concurrently in our brain. Some of them are essential and some of them are just a form of masturbation, stimulating endorphin and adrenaline that make us feel good about ourselves, and at the same time allow us to distract ourselves from feeling bad about ourselves.

Say STOP!

As long as we are in this game of focusing on maintaining what we’ve gained, avoiding loss of any sort, and ignoring the choice-making process that keeps us playing the same strategies over and over again, winning will never be the outcome. It isn’t even a possibility because we’ve limited our capacity to think beyond the fear-based paradigm.

Einstein’s words come to mind.

“We can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them”.

There’s a practice I’ve been working with for years. When I catch myself thinking thoughts that are not serving my essence-self, which desires peace, clarity of purpose and fulfillment, I just say STOP! A couple of curious things showed up when I first started this practice. First, that part of me that wanted to think all of the “what if’s and shoulda’s and coulda’s; it didn’t stop. It went right on blabbering. Much like an unruly child, my mind had learned it didn’t need to respond to my demand that it stop. I had to become more insistent before it would even consider listening to me. And…

I realized too that when that unruly part of me stopped creating thoughts that contributed to, well essentially nothing, what showed up was fear. I found myself fearful of not having fear-based thoughts! I experienced a great deal of fear when I insisted my mind take a break. I didn’t know who I was when I stopped thinking.

Questions to Ask Yourself

In the workplace, we are constantly bombarded with circumstances that require an incredible amount of attention. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What’s the degree of quality you are bringing and is it in alignment with what you are wanting for yourself and your business?
  • Is fearful, anxious, antagonistic or resistance the foundation upon which you want your actions to come from when engaged with customers, clients and all of those with whom you interact?
  • What commitment is underlying this come-from?

For me, I come from anxious, worried and disempowered when I’m committed to staying in an old story of a helpless, powerless, victim. I have to ask myself frequently; am I really committed to that story? I then have to give myself an alternative – that to which I know I’m committed – empowered, engaged and empowering of others.

Yes, I too sit in the dilemma of what to choose – my fear based commitments or my essence-based commitments. More effortlessly than ever before, I’m able to take action in alignment with my choice to grow myself and my work from my essence-based truth.

Shifting the Paradigm

Shifting our paradigm requires each of us to be willing to perceive our reality through lenses that reflect the positive attributes of our reality, making that the 70% of our thinking process. This in itself would make such an incredibly profound contribution to our work environment, not to mention to our family, friends and the world at large.

Consider being curious about your thoughts and emotions. Notice that your emotions are just energy that is generated by your thoughts. Shift your thoughts and your emotional state will shift immediately. I know it’s a lot to ask, however, I believe you are ready to step into the question. Enjoy the journey!

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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I feel a fraud writing on self-discipline. I started this post over 6 weeks ago. Yet, here I am—just days before deadline–finally coming back to push through the hard work of completing it and making it readable.

I am definitely not a guru or master of self-discipline. More times than not, I am a master of procrastination. I am brilliant at finding important interruptions to fill my time when I have a big project sitting there.

But, I’m forced to address these issues because of the fundamental truth: A small step completed is a million times better than a big plan thought about. Seth Godin says that “Professionals ship”. Ship means they finish what they start. There are many, many people who are like bullfrogs in a china shop – they make lots of noise, but no actual action (or breakage) happens.

So, I’m dedicating this Topic to exploring ways we can all ship more often?  A little over a year ago I wrote my most-read-ever post – 17 Habits for a fulfilling life – and Self-Discipline was habit #1.

What would my parents say?

My parents would laugh to see me, Conor, writing on self-discipline! Alter all, they observed my high-school years where they watched me avoid studying, avoid starting essays, leaving homework to the last possible minute (and often somewhat later).

Likewise, my housemates from my time at university would be falling off their chairs laughing if you were to point them to this post.

Why I’m taking a fresh look at self-discipline

I began writing seriously about 2 years ago. This has led me to have a deep interest in why I am highly productive in some periods and totally useless during other periods. Through these musings, my hope is that some day those useless periods will be smashed to smithereens and I will become a “proper writer”.

I am not going to write a post today that says that you must become totally disciplined in order to be successful. There are some tricks, there is some psychology, there is a lot of pushing through and keeping working when things don’t look so easy.

What would Nike say?

I have spent a lot of time during the past few months interviewing high performance athletes. My goal was to understand their motivations, how they train, how they prepare mentally, and how they face anxiety.

In many cases these successful athletes have an ability to focus on the one next step and, in the words of Nike, Just do it!

Josef Ajram, Spain’s top endurance athlete, tells himself “I will run another 15 minutes. Come on. Anyone can run another 15 minutes.”

In Josef Ajram’s words, he has completed the Marathon de Sables – 243km across the Sahara desert in 6 days – by only ever allowing himself to think about the next 15 minutes!

The Pomodor Technique

Today, when I write, I use an execution tool called The Pomodoro Technique.

This was created by Italian student Francesco Cirillo during the time that he was writing his university thesis. He was having a hard time getting started.

One day, he went to his mother’s kitchen where he found a cooking timer in the shape of a tomato – pomodoro in italian. He took the pomodoro timer back to his desk and thought “right, I am going to set this to 20 minutes and I will keep writing until the timer finishes”.

He began to use this execution tool on a daily basis and quickly got on top of the thesis he had to write. He has documented the full method and provides tools at the Pomodoro technique home page.

So, set a timer and focus on just taking one small step.

Why do we procrastinate?

Why do we sabotage ourselves even when we know what we should do to move towards our goal? I read a great post by Leo Baubata of Zen Habits a couple of months ago where he talked of 4 reasons why we procrastinate:

  1. It provides Instant Gratification – It feels better right now
  2. It avoids Fear – If I do it wrong what will they say? What will they think of me? If I don’t act then I avoid the risk of making a mistake.
  3. It has no immediate negative consequencesJim Rohn says “We all have the choice of one of two great pains in the world – the pain of regret or the pain of discipline”. The pain of discipline is here and now. The pain of regret comes later… but is by far the worse pain.
  4. I overestimate my future self – I have some inner belief that I will be smarter, better, faster in the future. This is a strong belief. The work that is hard today must somehow be easier for the better future me? But, what if’s not? I am deceiving myself.

Good and Bad Procrastination.

There is good and bad procrastination. Putting off going to the supermarket so that I can finish this article because I am on a roll would be good procrastination; checking my email because I am hitting a wall in my writing of this article would be bad procrastination.

Many highly productive people manage to succeed by procrastinating on important work when avoiding unimportant tasks. My desk here is quite a mess. I should tidy it, but writing this article is my way of procrastinating away from cleaning up.

Building Your Support Community

Which co-workers and friends want to see you succeed? Who are the people in your life who like to see you make progress on the things that are important to you? If you want to get big things done, you must spend time with others who are on this journey and support your journey.

Self-discipline grows with use

Self-discipline, like muscle, grows with use. Keep one promise, the next one will be is easier. Run tonight, tomorrow easier. Write now, tomorrow easier.

The other side of the coin, however, is that without use, discipline shrinks! No run today, harder tomorrow. No writing today, harder tomorrow.

How can you develop your self-discipline?

Here are some simple “first steps” you might want to try after reading this article:

  • Try the Pomodoro technique. Do 10 minutes on something important right now.
  • Take time each morning to reflect on what is important
  • Avoid “the watercooler gang” – the groups in our offices and schools who are happily unproductive and enjoy helping others take their place in the group. Make a list of 2-3 people who support you when you talk of your progress in something important in your life.
  • Never underestimate the role of practice and persistence and hard work in success. The “3 steps to untold riches programs” don’t work. The “flat tummy in 1 week while watching TV plan” doesn’t work. There are no shortcuts. Don’t waste time looking.
  • Inspiration tends to come when you have trudged through 40 minutes of painful effort and have not allowed yourself to check email, make a coffee, eat chocolate, check IM… You have to push through to get to inspiration.

Summary (or how to change the world…  one step at a time)

The only people who can change the world are those that want to. Many don’t want to. Some want to, but don’t accept the discipline of hard work. Anything you want will never be as hard as you imagine it will be! So, get started and push on through. Do it “just because.” Even if it is a failure as a product, it will teach you. You will come out stronger.

In my next post we will look at how to take Imagination, Ambition, Learning and Self-Discipline and make the journey easier with each day. A friend of mine, Verne Harnish says: “Routine sets you free.” I welcome your comments, retweets and general link-love!

Conor NeillConor Neill is the professor of Leadership Communication at IESE Business School in Barcelona and an entrepreneur who has founded four companies. Years ago, he was a manager in the Human Performance consulting practice of Accenture. He loves rugby, mountain climbing and will run a marathon next march. Conor frequently blogs at conorneill.com and tweets as cuchullainn
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Should we fear change or embrace it?

by Vijay Peduru on January 1, 2010

ChangeOur natural instinct is to fight change. We always want stability. Our ancestors in the jungle had to be extra cautious about any change in the surroundings  and that instinct still remains in our genes and we fear change. We imagine something bad is going to happen and that is why we fear change.

In the Industrial Revolution, change was slow..  People went to the same factory and almost did the same job and their day was almost the same the whole 40 years of their working life.

If we look at the current reality in our knowledge economy , Change is happening at lightning pace in the world. If we live in this ever changing world and if we fear change. we are stressed every moment. When we are stressed, the side effects are unhappiness and health problems.. Is there a way out.  Yes there is and… it is to learn to embrace change. Like any other skill this can be learnt and can become enjoyable.

There are three ways to learn to embrace change:

  1. Accept that most of the time change cannot be anticipated and we will always live in uncertainties : If we look at it, we cannot stop the change happening in the world, so accept it. Seth Godin in his book “Survival is not enough” talks about the following article he read in the New york times. It explains why most of the time, we may not be able to anticipate change  The title was “What happens when the Jaguars die”
  2. “Jaguars, as it turns out live is Mexico. Their favorite food is rabbits. And when jaguars die(due to encroachments on their habitat by people), the rabbits multiply like , well, rabbits. And when the number of rabbits dramatically increases, the grassland turns to desert. In other words, a small change in the status of one animal ( the jaguar) can lead to millions of acres becoming a desert.

    The ecosystem is very responsive. kill off one crop and entire species that depend on it become extinct–Just like the ecosystem your business operates in. A small change– say the availability of competitive pricing data to your customer base– can have implications for the way your company must run all of its operations in order to succeed”

    There are very few ecosystems which are stable but the majority of them are unstable. So accept that we cannot always anticipate change and will have to accept uncertainty.

  3. Know that we are capable of embracing change: In our workplace or in any endeavor we don’t like, change appears as bad and threatening.. but you change the context – for example, lets say you are planning to go on a vacation… suddenly Change is fun, exploring is fun. mystery is fun. This indicates, that we are capable of embracing change if we decide to embrace it.
  4. Embrace Change: The only way, species in our planet earth survived is by evolving themselves. Seth Godin recommends to to get into the habit of making frequent small changes first, then work your way to bigger and bigger things.  He calls it zooming .. Zooming is about constant change, for no particular reason, and with no particular goal.

Zooming is about stretching your limits by adapting to new ideas, opportunities, and challenges without triggering our inherent human change-avoidance reflex. Zooming is about adapting small changes over time. You can practice zooming in everyday life,  Seth Godin proposes the following five simple things to try in our daily lives.

  1. For dinner tonight, eat a food that you’ve never tasted. Then try another one tomorrow night.
  2. On your way to work tomorrow, listen to a CD from a musical genre that you hate or that’s new to you.
  3. Once a week, meet with someone from outside your area of expertise. Go to a trade show on a topic in which you have no interest whatsoever.
  4. Read a magazine you’ve never read before.
  5. Change the layout of your office.

…or just do something for the first time, as often as possible. Once you master these five steps, you are much more likely to invent five more steps and gradually you will view every change as an opportunity. Companies that zoom do the same thing.

Keep Zooming…

Vijay Peduru is an entrepreneur in the bay area and is the co-founder of a bootstrapped startup. His interests are bootstrapping, leadership and spirituality.
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