Monday, May 28, 2012

Your 'Eureka' Moments

We have likely all experienced those moments when the answer to a question or dilemma we have been mulling over seems to suddenly pop into our heads. It often feels like it has done so out of no-where, coming from some unknown inner source. However, these answers actually come from a form of unconscious reasoning, rooted in the ways in which our brain functions.

We are constantly accumulating knowledge, through one medium or another, that our brain stores for us. Our brain though, likes organization and it is constantly sifting our knowledge to find and recognise the patterns that run throughout the different pieces of information we are collecting.  As it does, the brain organizes all of the similar pieces of information into 'chunks' that it then links to other chunks of patterns and data, forming clusters.  (with me still?)

When we are faced with a decision, our brains will think through the decision itself, looking for familiar patterns within it, looking to find a common link with clusters and chunks of information already stored.  When it discovers such a link you then flash to that larger picture, giving you that Eureka! moment.  We interpret it as a flash of intuition, coming out of the blue.

How to craft your Eureka! moments more strategically?  Here are a couple of great tips that will help you develop and learn to listen with greater clarity to your 'intuition'...

  1. Pay attention to your hunches.  You needn't 'act' upon them to start but do record them and then 'see' down the road how accurate they are.  Likely you will gain confidence in listening to your hunches in future when you take this step to 'prove' to yourself their relative degree of accuracy.
  2. Use the Red Light/Green Light game.  Picture a stoplight in your mind's eye.  We know that Green means go and red means stop, therefore green is yes and positive, while red is no and negative.  To start off you need to prime your mind to use the stoplight correctly, so start off with statements that you know to be clearly true or false, positive or negative.  For instance...  say your name and then picture the stoplight... what colour light flashes (should be green).  Now say a different name and view the stoplight in your head... it should flash red.  Do this a number of times ensuring that the stoplight is 'working' as it should.  Then...  state your decision out loud and 'see' what light colour flashes.  Whichever colour is highlighted is your unconscious mind's thoughts about what choice you should make.  
  3. Use your subconscious mind while sleeping.  We all know that our mind remains active while we are at 'sleep'. This tactic helps you direct and target it to work for you, even while the rest of you isn't working!  Just before bed, write your key thought or question on a piece of paper.  Read it over a couple of times and then go to sleep (leaving your pen and paper beside the bed).  Immediately upon rising in the morning, read the question again, writing down all thoughts that occur to you in that moment.  This is likely a 'dumping' of everything that your brain was able to pull out of its files overnight.  You may find that you wake up during the night with some thoughts... jot them down immediately to not lose them and then go back to sleep!
The next time you are stuck between two choices and you have a little voice in your head that is pointing you in one direction over another...  take the time to listen to it.  That voice is real and is often right!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Finding Your Purpose

As I write this it is the long-weekend here in Canada and I am enjoying the break up at our family cottage.  Okay... 'break' might be a bit of a misnomer since I am busy cleaning out cupboards of any traces of the mice that decided to join us over the colder winter months, cleaning out the gardens, putting the dock in... and whatever pieces of work I've brought with me from the office because... there's always something!

However, it is a totally different environment from the one I left behind and it definitely feels 'break-like' because of that.  As I sit here, early morning, sipping my Chai and watching the mist rise from the lake as the sun catches hold, the sole loon drifting past the end of the dock...  it seems the perfect time and place to think about the concept of Purpose.

I just finished a number of weeks of intensive coaching sessions.  Although we were there for an entirely different intent, it was interesting how often people would ask me what 'work' I thought they were suited for.  They were looking for some direction in finding work that was more satisfying to them, that seemed to 'fit' them better than what they were currently doing.  In essence, they were wondering if I had insights into their Purpose.

Like many, they were frustrated that others had seemingly found 'it' while they continued to struggle with finding anything that seemed to resonate within them, something that filled them with joy, satisfaction or... calling.  I recently came across a great exercise designed to help you discover your Purpose.  Anyone can do this exercise... even those of you that do not believe in the concept of Purpose!  This is taken from the blog of Steve Pavlina, a Personal Development guru.  I do recommend checking out his website (

The Exercise:  Sit down in a quiet place at a time that you won't be disturbed (and yes, this means no phone calls, text messages or emails either!).  Take out a blank piece of paper, write My Life's Purpose across the top and... start writing.  Write down anything and everything that comes to mind.  No qualifying.  It doesn't matter if it's practical, doable or even remotely interesting to you.  Keep writing.

Push out the thoughts as though it's your life's mission to fill page after page of ideas.  As Steve puts it, you keep writing ...
...until you have the answer that makes you cry.  This is your purpose.
For some this will come quickly, you are looking for the moment where you write down an idea that fills you with emotion.  You might experience smaller emotional moments along the way that are signs you are getting closer to your true purpose.  It is that larger emotional surge, the idea that resonates fully within you, that defines your purpose.  You don't even have to believe in the idea of  a life's purpose for this exercise to work!

The perfect exercise to do at the end of the dock on a peaceful day at the cottage, or on your back patio, in a coffeeshop with your favourite beverage, or hunkered down over your kitchen table.  The location doesn't matter.  You can do it on a laptop, in a journal or on the back of a napkin.  Hmmm... make that napkins...  you're going to need a bunch!  The main point of course is that you need to DO the exercise, not just think about it.  I'm heading out to the end of the dock, you head on out to what is going to be comfortable for you.

Let me know how this goes for you, what you discover... I'm anticipating a more Purpose-ful and Purpose-filled life.  Not a bad outcome at all!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Focus on the 'Flipping' Point

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell shared with us the concepts behind how a particular idea, trend or behaviour somehow 'catches' and goes viral.  It's the magical moment when the momentum behind something tips the scales and the idea takes off, spreading with epidemic-like speed.  This is a fascinating concept for businesses to explore and apply to their marketing efforts certainly, but what about its applicability to each of us and our individual self-promotion and bragging campaigns?

To help us see 'how' we can personally create leverage from this Tipping Point concept, Seth Godin coined the phrase The Flipping Point in a recent blog post. As Seth explains, the Flipping Point is all about getting one person buzzing about your message.  Start your Bragging Campaign with one person, give one person one thing to get excited about, and then get one more.

The reality is that there is no Tipping Point, without a prior Flipping Point.  If you can't get one person to flip over the idea of you, then how are you looking to flip an entire group?  Start small.  Keep your focus targeted.  Sell a few select people fully and watch the magic happen.

In essence, you look to strategically identify the 'few' folks within your organization that are likely to have the greatest influence on your campaign.  First of all, Malcolm Gladwell points out, we should focus on the Connectors.  These are the people you know who seemingly 'know' everyone.  Don't focus on their position... that's not the important component.  If you want to get the word out about 'You' and your accomplishments, then you need to get your message in the hands of these people.  The people in your life that almost effortlessly accumulate acquaintances can be especially helpful to you in generating more 'buzz' quickly.

When you get one person to 'flip' they are likely to join your personal cheerleading squad and help you to flip others.  The more people you flip, the bigger the buzz until you hit that magical Tipping Point moment where everyone is buzzing.

The key of course... give them something to 'Flip' over!

(for insights into how you can develop your self-marketing and promotional campaign, check out our new, online Bragging Rights program! It's ready whenever you are to help you learn the Strategies and Tactics that will help you hit that Flipping Point with others.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Personality vs. Character

Although often used synonymously, these terms represent two very distinct attributes of being. Personality is generally believed to remain fairly constant over time, and is inclusive of traits such as extroversion, competitiveness, organization, assertiveness and the like.  Though these characteristics may feel as though they mellow over time (our years of experience seeming to temper many of our more extreme personality traits), we often feel that there has been a bigger shift in our personality taking place than is actually the case.

Personality therefore, is deemed to be largely hereditary in its origin.  Character, on the other hand, is believed to be shaped more through socialization and experience.  Our belief systems drive much of our character, which means that, unlike our personality, they may shift and change over time as our experiences impact our beliefs.  This does not mean that character changes are easy, we do not easily give up our beliefs, but it is possible, typically in the face of huge emotional upheaval.

It is our character, comprised of such attributes as honesty, trust, kindness, respect, loyalty, courage, that establishes our morals and ethics.  As a result, our character is not as easily seen or read as our personality may be.  Think of Personality as sitting more on the surface of our interactions with others, while our Character is a little more deep-seated.  In essence...
  • Personality: is what we say and do when everyone is watching
  • Character: is what we say and do when no one is watching
The challenge we each face relates to our ability to accurately gauge the associated personality and character of others we are working and interacting with.  Studies show us that we tend to be better at accurately decoding personality elements but are not nearly as intuitive or accurate in our assessment of character.  In fact, we have a strong tendency to assign more positive character traits to those we deem to have a more attractive and positive personality.  This, of course may not have any direct correlation, but we tend to think that if someone is more outgoing, confident and fun that they are also more honest, moral and kind.  Making this association could come back to bite us in the butt later though, when we discover that our fun-loving friend is much more deceitful than we had earlier believed.

Generally, it is found that we have two key reasons for unconsciously linking personality to character.  
  1. we want to think positively of people that we like (so we assign them other positive characteristics)
  2. truly trying to assess someones character is extremely time-consuming.  In fact, the best way to assess someones character is to observe their behaviour during truly character-challenging situations, using their behaviour there as a predictor of future behaviour
  • the friend that is the life of the party, so much fun to be around... but who speaks about others behind their back...
  • the business partner who seems so easy to talk to, open and gregarious, but who easily pockets 'extra' change given by a server in error...
  • the prospective life partner who seems like the 'perfect' complement to your personality, but who never returns items they 'borrow' from others...
...may each require a closer inspection.  You may find that your perception of their Personality is influencing the accurate judgement of their Character.  In our relationships with others, personality may help us with our initial attraction to someone, but it will be character that makes or breaks it in the long run.  Deceitful and unethical behaviours are all a question of Character. 

How has yours been shaping up lately?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Death of Dreams

  • 'You've never really been any good at that sort of thing'
  • 'I've heard there are tons of people going after the same thing... almost no one ever makes it'
  • 'You know that never happens to people like us'

These are the types of things 'they' say, the kinds of innocent-seeming statements 'they' make to slowly, but surely, kill our dreams.  You know - those visions and plans we have that would somehow serve to make us 'more' than we are now, that would have us do different, to get different, to be different.

We all have people in our lives that would rather we stay where we are in life. They will offer their thoughts under the guise of caring...
  • 'You know it's only because I care about you that I'm telling you this...'
  • 'It pains me to say this...'
  • 'You know I love you but...'
The expectation, of course, is that if they care about us, if they love us... maybe they are right.  Oh, we may not be so willing to let go of our dreams completely, but their words plant the seeds of doubt and we hesitate. The continual reinforcement of these messages serves to water those seeds, allowing them to take root and grow, eroding our self beliefs, until our dreams drift away.

'They' say it's out of love that they tell us such things... the you can'ts, you aren'ts... but is it really?  Often, we are told these things less from a belief that we truly couldn't and more from a fear that we truly could! The objections 'they' offer us are less about us than they are about them.  They like things as they are.  They like us as we are.  Mostly because, in some way, we - as we are - make them feel better about themselves as they are.  If we change in some way then it changes things... for them!  They may feel bad... about themselves.  Because if we can do it, then all of the excuses they have given themselves as to why they aren't doing it get challenged.  

Regardless of the dream that you have, others in your life may not want you to change for one of two reasons.
  1. they felt better about having/being/doing more than you when you had/were less (they like feeling superior to you and don't want you leveling the playing field)
  2. They felt better about not having/being/doing something because you were right there with them, providing them with proof that it's not just them (misery does love company after all!)
These people are dream stealer's. They will do whatever they can to kill your dreams off so that their dreams aren't threatened.  Make no mistake, this is done out of love of themselves, not of you.  We need, therefore, to learn to maintain our own belief and momentum, by ensuring that our self-love supersedes the need to be loved by those 'others' in our life.  Out of that self-love comes the commitment to live our dreams not negate them, to live a life of self-belief not self-doubt, to live a life of purpose not regret.

Let others choose their own path, just as you need to choose yours.  And... for all those that doubted and questioned your dreams and choices?  Let your success stand on its own and serve as your personal statement of...

I Told You So!