Here are some ideas around attitude, language and activity that I hope will make these late winter days a bit less grey.
1: That Buenos Aires Attitude
Bob Johnson, Senior Facilitator with Bluepoint Leadership Development, recalled in a recent Blue Point newsletter that he was teaching in Buenos Aires and became frustrated by how difficult it was to get participants back into the classroom after lunch or breaks.
They insisted on chatting away, joking with each other, even looking for a while at a painting in the hallway. Suddenly Johnson appreciated the irony of his irritation:
"In North America I find much of my work centers around a client finding their way through the maze of daily life, particularly their jobs, rushing with such furor that they often forget to slow down, connect with others and enjoy life. I get paid well to help open their eyes to the art of connecting with others, slow down the pace and take a strong look at what is most important. And here I am in Buenos Aires completely frustrated with a culture that honors friendship, connection and appreciating life as it unfolds! Why won't they just get back in the classroom, sit down and pay attention to what we have to say?"
He realized, "My friends from South America can teach all of us a few things... Stop to smell the roses, connect with the people that are important in your life and consistently value the gift of relationships. We spend precious little time in both our professional and personal lives nurturing these valued connections."
ACTION: It's typical to start the year focused on your work goals, but have you also made time for the other important things in your life? If not, how can you bring a little "Buenos Aires Attitude" into your life this week?
2: It's a bird! It's a plane! It's nothing!
Robert Cialdini's book, "Influence," is one of my favorites, and one of the stories he tells underlines the influence of group behaviour.
The experiment took place in New York. When one man stood and looked up at the sky, passers-by ignored him. But when a group of 15 did it, a crowd formed within seconds, all looking up and continued to do so even when they didn't see anything up there.
The same principle is at work with Amazon.com reviews - if there are lots of positive reviews for a book, it sells more copies, even though probably many of the comments were written by friends and relatives of the author. (Note to self: must get more friends and relatives to write positive reviews of my books on Amazon…).
ACTION: If you are trying to sell people on your project or idea, start with those most likely to agree so that by the time you get to the more skeptical ones you'll have the psychology of group influence on your side.
3: Watch your language - part one
Nick Kemp is an Neuro Linguistic Programming trainer who has worked in schools to help students and teachers be more effective. In an article published some time ago in the magazine, "ReSource," he mentions a simple change in language that created positive effects.
He noticed that in interviews with staff, many of them used phrases like "We'll try to..." or "We'll aim to..." or "Hopefully..." or "All being well..." All of these imply that failure is possible (perhaps even that it's likely). When he had them switch to definite statements like "We will..." it changed their thinking and their whole state in the classroom.
ACTION: Listen to how you speak about things you are about to undertake. Do you use qualifiers that suggest you may not/will not succeed? (If you find it difficult to be aware of this as it goes on, try tape recording yourself for a few hours.) Switch to definite statements that presuppose success and notice the difference in how you feel and how you carry out the tasks.
4: Watch your language - part two
Another tip from Nick Kemp that teachers found very useful was setting the scene for a lesson with a phrase like, "Have you noticed that…" or "How do you know that…" or "Are you aware that..." All of these make the listener relate the rest of the sentence to himself or herself. This is more involving than starting by simply stating a fact.
Similarly, when I give a talk on creativity, instead of saying, "We all start out creative - when a child plays with a box it turns into a space ship, a cave, or a haunted house," I say, "Have you ever watched a child play with a box? Isn't it great how that box immediately turns into a space ship, or a cave, or a haunted house?" That calls for the listeners to relate what I'm saying to a memory of their own and they're immediately more engaged.
ACTION: The next time you are giving a presentation, pitching a project, or trying to involve someone else in a task or get them interested in something, start with a question that calls for them to make a personal link with what you're about to say.
5: Active body, creative mind
There's more evidence that exercise is good for your creativity as well as your body. Marketing professor Stephen Ramocki, of Rhode Island College, found that a single aerobic workout was enough to make college students more creative for the two hours following their exercise.
This has been demonstrated previously with animals: fit rats and monkeys do better at problem-solving than inactive ones. Exercise increases the supply of oxygen and blood to the brain and stimulates the production of important brain chemicals.
ACTION: If your resolution to get more fit has stalled, restart it. Find an exercise that doesn't require your full concentration, so that your mind can wander. Walking in a park, swimming, or using a cross-trainer at a gym are all ideal. Be sure to have a pen and pad with you or nearby you so you can record any great ideas that come up.
6: And a quote to think about
"The most successful people are those who are good at plan B." - James Yorke, mathematician