Every winter I promise myself that next summer I'll spend more time enjoying the sunshine (when we're lucky enough to see it here in London), but this time I'm determined to actually do it! How about you - are you taking some time off to sit in the park or take a walk in nature to remind yourself it's not ALL about emails, to-do lists, and paperwork? I hope so. Meanwhile, here are some ideas I hope you'll find helpful.
1: What starts your motor?
If, if like me, you're not a morning person, sometimes it's hard to get started. In an interview in The Writer magazine, author Ayelet Waldman reveals how she does it: "I often start the day with a Lorrie Moore short story. I have reread them all countless times. Something about her voice, the elegance of her prose, the humor, really inspires me."
ACTION: What would be a good trigger to get you moving at the start of the day? It might be something inspirational to read, a rousing piece of music on your stereo or iPod, or a meaningful image. See whether starting the day with one of these motivators makes it easier to get up to speed.
2: What are you supposing?
One of the ideas of Neuro Linguistic Programming is that we all have certain pre-suppositions (things we assume) when we go into a situation. Someone who is paranoid, for example, presupposes that everybody is out to get them. Richard Bandler, co-creator of NLP, once suggested we'd have better experiences by being pronoid: that is, assuming that everybody is out to help us. What we assume colors our experience.
Here's an example: in the NLP magazine, Rapport, expert trainer Lara Ewing said the presuppositions she uses at the beginning of a training include assuming that we all make mistakes and learn from them, that everyone is competent, and that the group will work collaboratively and supportively.
She says: "You demonstrate your presuppositions in your behaviour. They come through in how you stand, the openness of your body, your tone of voice, the order in which you call on people."
ACTION: The next time you are about to go into a situation that you consider challenging, stop and ask yourself what are your presuppositions about it. Are there equally valid different presuppositions that might influence the outcome in a good direction? Try taking those into the situation and notice the effect.
3: Give yourself a good talking to!
If you ever have to give presentations, here's an unusual tip (it might be equally useful in any situation where you are nervous about what you are communicating). It comes from presentation coach Jennifer Scott, and she calls it "shading."
You augment what you say out loud with something you say silently, to yourself. For example, she might introduce herself by saying, "Good morning, I'm Jennifer Scott," and pause and say to herself, "and I'm a warm and friendly person." Then, out loud: "I work for a company called Theatre Techniques for Business," followed by the silent, "and I love what I do." She says most of us talk to ourselves anyway, so why not make that work for us.
ACTION: The next time you're communicating with someone - one-to-one or a group - try this technique and see whether it helps you come across more positively.
4: A Short Course in Human Relations
I don't know the original source for this, but I think there's a lot of wisdom in it:
- The six most important words: "I admit I made a mistake."
- The five most important words: "You did a good job."
- The four most important words: "What is your opinion? "
- The three most important words: "I love you."
- The two most important words: "Thank you."
- The one most important word: "We."
- The least important word: "I"
ACTION: Which words do you use most? Least? Any need for a change?
5: What's the worst solution to your challenge?
At the marketing agency Play, located in Virginia, one of the creativity techniques they use is to start with the WORST solution to a challenge. From there, they try to brainstorm their way to something related that might work. For example, some years ago they were charged with creating an event that would promote summer-weight wool clothing. The worst solution that came up was setting a bunch of sheep loose in New York City. They refined this until they came up with the idea of having models wearing wool lead a bunch of sheep on leashes along Madison Avenue. According to Fast Company magazine, the stunt got more than 8 million media impressions.
ACTION: If you have a challenge, think of the worst solution possible. Then brainstorm how to transform that into a good solution.
6: And a quote to think about (not just for painters):
"If you hear a voice within you saying, 'You are not a painter,' then by all means paint…and that voice will be silenced." – Vincent van Gogh