Sunday, March 27, 2011

What pressure?

I should send my 12-year old to one of my time-management workshops. She's a good student, but sometimes she's off with the fairies (or, more accurately, off with her friends on MSN).

On Thursday, she announced that her Food Technology assignment was due the next day. She had to create, concoct and write about a gourmet salad that must use twelve fresh ingredients and at least eight pieces of kitchen equipment.


While I could write about her woeful organisational skills regarding this assignment, I wanted to highlight instead her ability to work under pressure. Basically, it's down to this: she sings. She dances. She has one eye on Neighbours and the other on her phone in case she should miss an incoming text message. In short, she acts as if there is no pressure.

Start today

There are urgent tasks that must be done, whether we flap around or not. If you don't feel calm, try acting as if you are.

What would you be doing differently if there was no pressure right now?

How would your breathing be different? What would you be telling yourself? Which thoughts wouldn't be clogging your mind and causing fear and panic?

Replicate as many of the habits and behaviours that you know work well when you are calm, and you'll have constructed a gourmet salad in no time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Here are the qualities you were born with

Sebastian is 4.5 months old now and he learnt to roll over this week. The previous sentence doesn't do justice to the effort he invested in the task.

He's been trying to master this for weeks. He'd get his feet in the air and roll them to the side, then in an attempt to hoy his head off the ground, his feet would swing back. Without taking a break, he'd try again.

He'd fail. He'd try again.

Fail. Try. Fail. Try. Fail. Try. Fail.

He'd have a break and a sleep, wake up, have a feed then get straight back onto the job. Try. Fail. Try. Fail.

For days and days and days he kept at it.

Then, this weekend. HE DID IT!

(Of course, when he got there, he wondered what the fuss was about and wanted someone to roll him back, but that's beside the point).

Start today

We're born with the innate ability to persist. It's essential to our personal development.

When do so many of us lose it?

Perhaps someone says something to us when we're young that makes us feel de-valued. Maybe something happens in primary school and we make it mean, 'I'll never be good enough' or 'it's not worth the effort', or 'it's too hard', or 'I'm not that kind of person', or 'there's no point trying'.

In those moments, we clip our own wings.

We cut off opportunities for progress because actually achieving it seems out of reach.

Imagine if Sebastian had stopped trying to roll over the first time it didn't work. He'd have sentenced himself to a lifetime of lying stagnant on the floor.

What if JK Rowling had given up submitting the manuscript of Harry Potter after any of the twelve times it was rejected by different publishers?

What are you missing out on - that lies on the other side of your own persistence?

Next time something seems difficult, out of reach, or even impossible, think about how you got here. You learnt to roll over, to sit up, to crawl, then you tried and tried and tried over and over again to take your first steps, stay on your feet and RUN.

Was it easy? Of course not. It was incredibly challenging. It required massive persistence, dedication, effort and patience.

Those are qualities you were born with.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lose the drama

What impressed me most about the Japanese over the last few days was the lack of 'drama'.

They might be thoroughly schooled in how to respond during an earthquake, and experience tremors often, but when the seventh biggest quake in history rattles your country and a tsunami slams into the coast and swallows everything in its path, you expect a bit of widespread panic.

We're used to seeing that on our screens during disasters or terrorist events of this magnitude - people screaming, crying and throwing themselves on the ground in despair. While some individuals may have responded in that way in Japan, the footage I've seen showed none of it.

Did you see the footage taken in a supermarket when the quake hit? The shelves may be flinging their produce sideways but people quickly 'got a grip'. The building had barely stopped shaking and you could hear the familiar 'bleep, bleep, bleep' of the bar code scanner. Business as usual.

Another video shows the skyscrapers of Tokyo swaying wildly following the earthquake. All that could be heard was the squeak of metal and some calm discussion. No yelling. No panic.

We can learn a lot from this approach.

Start today

It is unlikely that most of us will have to endure an earthquake or a tsunami in our lifetimes (thankfully). Many of us, however, have been guilty of more drama over mere blips and ripples in our daily lives than we witnessed over the weekend from the stoic, graceful people of Japan.

What purpose does our drama serve? Does it help us handle our challenges? Get us somewhere earlier? Make it easier to juggle multiple tasks? Assist us during a challenging conversation?

Or does it waste our time, expend our energy and draw our focus away from dealing with something that won't go away no matter how hysterical we become.

How much more useful might we be to ourselves (and others) if we handle the blips and ripples in our lives with applomb?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Leap over it and get on with it!

I was on Skype with a dear friend last week who, for a number of reasons, has been struggling to complete her business website.

Perfectionism is possibly her biggest obstacle, though what was literally holding her back was that she needed technical advice from the guy who created the site for her, and was too embarrassed to contact him and admit that the site still wasn't live.

It's a familiar problem. We let one small action stand in the way of making massive progress.

At the risk of turning her off ever wanting to Skype with me again, I insisted she phone him then and there while we were still on our call.

The conversation lasted about three minutes, was painless, and during the next twenty minutes while we were still chatting, she'd 'hidden' all the partly-written pages that were making the job feel overwhelming, and finished her home page.

Having watched how easy it was to make enormous progress in such a short burst, as soon as we got off the call, I logged onto my own website and did some long-overdue content maintenance. I'd envisaged the task taking about a week. It took two hours.

Start today

We all allow 'silly things' to hold us back at times, not realising just how easy it would be to leap over that hurdle and snowball into progress.

We'll sit on a work task because we're anxious about asking for clarification on something we 'should know'. We'll hesitate to make a dental appointment because we're envisaging the 'worst case scenario'. We'll avoid a difficult conversation because the pain of going through it seems worse than the longer-term pain we're putting ourselves through by avoiding it.

What 'little thing' are you currently letting stop you from achieving a 'big thing'?

Don't give it another moment's thought. Do it RIGHT NOW.