April Brainstorm


The clocks have changed, the sun is out (more often), and it's a great time to start new ventures. Spring is also a time for new energy and ideas. Here are some items that might spark a few more.

1: How to Give Advice... and How Not to
I have a friend who interprets every statement as a cry for help. Tell him you plan to go on a picnic and he'll immediately reel off ten tips on how you should do it.

Needless to say, this doesn't make him universally popular. Author and consultant Michael Masterson, who makes a lot of money giving advice, recently made some suggestions about how to do it well, in his Early to Rise e-bulletin:

  • the best time to give advice is when someone wants it-usually this is only when their way of doing something has failed;
  • give the best advice you can but don't get emotionally attached to whether or not it is followed;
  • sometimes what people really are looking for is confirmation for a decision they've already made;
  • when you guide people to coming to their own answer, rather than trying to impose yours, you empower them.

ACTION: Check to make sure that you're not like my friend. If you're not sure, ask someone: "I need your advice-do you think I give too much advice?"

As we know, men tend to have this flaw more than women. The next time someone asks you for advice, try to guide them to their answer rather than immediately blurting out yours.

2: The Secrets of Following Through
We've all started things... and never gotten around to finishing them. In "Following Through," a book that unfortunately is now out of print, Steve Levinson and Pete C. Greider give some great strategies for helping us finish what we start.

  • Willpower leveraging: take a simple action step today that makes it more likely you'll do the desired action tomorrow. For example, if there's a phone call you've procrastinated about, send an email to the person today, saying you'll phone him tomorrow at a specific time;
  • Leading the horse to water: make it easy for yourself to take at least the first step toward doing the desired action. For example, if you want to catch up on filing, put out all the supplies you will need. Or if you're still procrastinating about that phone call, write the number in large size on a sticky note and stick it to your computer.
  • Strike while the iron is hot: anytime you have the impulse to do the desired action, do it right away. For example, I find if I feel like going to the gym for some cardio exercise, it works best if I go right then-otherwise the feeling passes!

ACTION: Pick one thing you've been avoiding doing and apply one of the above three strategies.

3: Six Ways to be More Creative
Mitchel Ditkoff (www.ideachampions.com) wrote an article featuring 68 ways to be more creative on the job. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Brainstorm daily with a friend or co-worker (maybe at lunch-you could take a walk together and brainstorm at the same time)
  • Redesign your work environment (consider doing this once a month so there is always some fresh visual stimulation)
  • Take a shower in the middle of the day to refresh yourself Wander around a book store while thinking about a business challenge
  • Imagine you already knew the answer-what would it be?
  • Ask five people how they would improve on your idea

ACTION: Try out one or two of these ideas-and see if you can come up with another few of your own (let me hear them, too: [email protected]).

4: For Greater Happiness, Limit Your Choices!
Barry Schwartz is the author of a book called "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less." His main point is that although we usually assume more choices are better, it's not necessarily so.

For one thing, too many choices can paralyze us; it becomes easier to do nothing than to choose. He gives the example that when a vendor offered a choice between a few types of jams, and many more, he actually sold fewer jars when the choice was greater. Apparently the same is true of speed dating-the more potential partners are offered, the fewer the number of dates arranged.

He also says that choosing one of many choices makes more regret, because you imagine that you could have made a better choice. Also, when there are many choices you raise your expectation of the satisfaction you expect when you finally choose one.

He cites Apple as a company that has wisely limited the number of choices of iPods or computer models.

ACTION: If you offer products or services, consider whether you may be offering too many. Generally, if you offer two price points, many people will go for the cheaper one. If you offer three, many will opt for the middle one. If you offer more than three, you begin to risk choice paralysis.

5: Dust off that Journal
Many of us keep journals when we are younger, and then get out of the habit as our lives get busier. Ira Progoff (1921-1998) an American psychotherapist, was a great champion of the power of journals.

He developed what he called the Intensive Journal Method. There's not room here to describe it fully, but if you would like more clarity about your life or some aspect of it, you might want to try using a large 3-ring notebook filled with paper, split into these sections:

  • Period Log: write about what's going on in your life now;
  • Twilight Imagery Log: try to recreate that floaty state between waking and sleeping and observe and jot down the images that come up and what you think they might mean;
  • Daily Log: write about the emotions you experienced during your day;
  • Stepping Stones: write about the dozen or so key events that have shaped your life;
  • Life-history Log: jot down any memories that come up that don't fit in other sections;
  • Intersections: write about roads taken and not taken, choice points;
  • Dialogues: write about relationships, work, your body;
  • The Open Moment: write about your future in the context of your life history.

You don't have to write in every section or every day. But these categories could be useful guides for exploring where you've been, where you are, and where you're going.

ACTION: Experiment with this technique, perhaps just once a week or even once a month at first. If you wish to go more deeply into this process, read Progoff's book, "At a Journal Workshop: Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Creative Ability."

6: And a Quote to Consider:
"They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." - Edgar Allen Poe

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".