Friday, January 23, 2015

#creatingchallenge day 23 / creative confidence busters

Four fears that block many people from taking creative steps forward, according to Tom Kelley and David Kelley in their book Creative Confidence, are:

  1. Fear of the messy unknown,
  2. Fear of being judged,
  3. Fear of the first step, and
  4. Fear of losing control.
Which one(s) get in your way the most? 

What is one, small, creative step you can take right now to move you towards your desired direction or goal? 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

#creatingchallenge day 22 / opening story

Robert McKee, a renown script writer and story expert, knows how to use stories to create impact with an audience. He was interviewed by the National Speaker Association's Speaker Magazine in the July/August 2013 issue and one of the topics was on using signature stories. McKee recommended not defaulting to the same signature story every time you speak, but to have multiple stories that can be tailored to each audience. And even better...begin each speaking engagement with a story that you made up that morning using current events that effect the lives in the audience. How's that for keeping us on our toes?

I'm going to use the current event approach when I teach my next class at Concordia University in February. The Organizational Communication course covers seven major types of communication in organizational settings. I'd say there is a lot in the news that could provide fodder for an opening story each class.

How might you use current events to spice up your presentations or other speaking engagements?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#creatingchallenge day 21 / start here

"Always start by 'attending to the crack.' Where do we meet the future first? 'Seek it with your hands, don't think about it, feel it' is the essential instruction that Bagger Vance gives to Junah in the Robert Redford movie Bagger Vance. The future shows up first in our feelings and through our hands, not in our abstract analysis. 'Attend to the crack' means attend to the openings, the challenges, and the disruptions where you feel the past ending, and the future wanting to begin." Presencing Institute, Principle #6
One area I'm seeing cracks in is my business brand. It's exciting and also uncomfortable at times. I'm attending to these cracks through study, collaboration and intentional movement to cooperate with the emerging future.  

What cracks are showing up in your life? What are you noticing or feeling that is different? What will you do about it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

#creatingchallenge day 20 / declutter your brain...everyday

A very simple yet profound method for daily clearing out that clutter in your brain is "morning pages." Morning pages is a simple exercise of writing three pages, in longhand, every morning, first thing. The goal is to just write out whatever stream of consciousness you have and get it on paper. The exercise activates your brain to declutter and get all those ideas, lists, worries, inner critic voices, reflections, and random thoughts out of your head and onto paper where you can either let it go, or do something with it.

Today I decided to do morning pages and add it into my daily morning ritual. I had read about this exercise a few years ago in Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way, but had not adopted the practice as a part of my ongoing morning ritual...until now. Honestly, I was challenged today as I read a few pages in Learning to Listen Learning to Teach by Jane Vella. She wrote that "Carl Jung insisted that all those who wish to be clinical analysts (counselors) should themselves undertake a long, arduous program of analysis...The same holds true for the adult learning process. We teachers have to honor our own need to learn. We must talk about that honestly." These words reminded me, yet again, the need to "walk the talk" and do what I need to do to be my best self even as I support others in doing the same...and morning pages are a practical way to declutter my own brain.

So what happened? I put on paper what was on my mind this morning (I have to admit that I finished page three during the afternoon) and then launched into another task I had been putting off for weeks. Hmmm...if this is a sign of things to come it is so worth it.

I also found several articles and posts about this exercise online. One of those was on called Why It’s Worth Making Time for This Lengthy Morning Ritual by Jessica Stillman. From business owners to creatives...we all want to have the best access to our creative selves throughout the day and this practice can help clear the mental clutter for a more focused day.

I'm going to keep going on this one as part of my "write every day" challenge. 

Want to join me? If you do, I'd like to hear how it goes for you. And I'll share the same. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

#creatingchallenge day 15 / baby steps OR taking a vacation from your problems

One of my favorite movies is "What About Bob?" and one of my favorite lines was Bob's when declared "I'm taking a vacation from my problems!" But I digress. This post on entitled "Forget Big Goals. Take Baby Steps for Small, Daily Wins." is about taking baby steps (another allusion to the movie) to accomplish your goals.

I've heard this concept countless times...but what does it really mean? 

Today I tried it out in a new way. I had some tasks on my list for today that I wasn't sure if I could complete. Instead of getting stressed, I decided to take a baby step towards completing one of the tasks by writing out my thoughts and unanswered questions about the project. This action alone moved me forward and actually helped provide some clarity that I can use tomorrow when I take the next step. 

What do baby steps mean to you? Are you an all or nothing type worker? How might a baby step keep you moving forward on a project or task that seems overwhelming or too complicated? you just need to take a vacation from your problems today? 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#creatingchallenge day 14 / brand = walk the talk

Entrepreneur magazine posted a great article this week on branding called "A Month-by-Month Strategy to Reinvent Your Personal Brand" by Lida caught my eye since I have dedicated the first quarter of 2015 to clarifying and unifying my brand. Citroen's approach is to focus the branding process in three month increments throughout the year. I think there is something to this as I've heard more than once about the importance of setting attainable, short term time goals (60-90 days). See my post on "be the 8%."

Here are a couple elements that stuck out for me for January - March:
1. "Your desired brand is the cornerstone for all reputation strategies."
2. "The only way to build credibility is to articulate your values and then walk the talk."
So really, at the end of the day, it's about expressing your values and using that as the basis for everything you do. Our brand is more than what colors are on our's about how we walk out our values and stay true to what we say is important.

What a great challenge. My hope is to be able to do this with my own brand more fully this year.

What does walking the talk mean for your brand this year?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#creatingchallenge day 13 / flexible focus

According to Edward M. Hallowell, author of "Driven to Distraction at Work: How to Focus and Be More Productivethere is a place between focus and flow called "flexible focus." I recently discovered Hallowell's work through the Fast Company article "10 Unconventional Ways to Find Your Optimal Level of Focus" posted on January 6, 2015. Here is an excerpt: 
"According to Csikszentmihalyi’s research, corroborated by many people I’ve interviewed as well as my own experience, in flow a person experiences life at its peak, its most joyful, its most intensely fulfilling. It is also the state in which people exceed their personal best, often achieving much better work than they’ve ever done before.
Short of flow, there is focus. We all know what focus is. It is the standard term for a concentrated, clear state of mind, focused on one target. Between focus and flow lies what I call "flexible focus." It differs from flow in that it’s not the high that flow is; it’s a way of tapping into some of the qualities of flow without being so absorbed that you can’t attend to anything else. In a state of flexible focus, you retain the ability to concentrate on a task, while at the same time remaining open to new input."
The article goes on to give 10 ways to increase your "flexible focus" throughout the day. Interestingly enough, these 10 ways may not be new ideas to many. They were not necessarily new ideas to me. 

BUT, which ones have I actually adopted? I have read and heard about enough brain science to be convinced that these suggestions could make a difference...but there seems to be a gap between the knowledge and the implementation for many of us, including me. 

One reason I think this is true for me is that when I'm in flow...I don't want to stop to take a break. I'm on a roll and lose track of time and want to leverage the energy and attention and focus that is present. 

On the other hand, I don't take a break when I'm stressed either. I keep trying to reason my way through a challenge and keep thinking that if I stick with it just a little while longer the answer will emerge. 

In both scenarios, it feels counter-intuitive to stop and take a breather. Its truly articles like this one and other resources that have helped me to choose to stop and refresh my brain and energy. The times when I do stop and take a break, breathe, stretch, drink some water, etc. my brain is much happier and my body feels better too. 

So my challenge this year is to take the knowledge of optimal focus and put it into practice. I'm starting with #3...time to take a break!

How about you?