1: Your Periphery and Theirs
On his website, communications designer Chuck Green wrote about his high school teacher who put him in touch with an illustrator who influenced his decision to become a communications designer by answering a couple of his letters with "pa tient, simple words of encouragement." Green writes:
"I believe that people on our periphery hold an extraordinary potential for positive influence that those closest to us do not. We (rightly so) should expect a certain level of encouragement from friends, colleagues, and family members, but when someone we don't know well, someone with no motive other than kindness, expresses even a small bit of interest in our lives, it can have a profound and powerful effect."
ACTION: Take every opportunity to be one of these 'peripheral' people - and maybe to thank someone on your periphery who has encouraged you (thank you, Mrs. Drake, from your former junior high school student...).
2: Get in the Mood Quickly With Music No, not, not in the mood for THAT. Although... Anyway, here's a tip I shared with writers on my writing blog (www.timetowrite.blogs.com). Even if you're not a writer, you may be able to adapt the idea to help you quickly get in the mood to focus on any activity when there's not much time:
In an interview in Writing Magazine, novelist Santa Montefiore shared a tip with Judith Spelman regarding how to quickly get in the writing mood when you have only a little time. She listens to music:
"She listens to the same track over and over again. Each book has a certain piece of music connected with it so it gets her straight back into the story again. 'If I have only half an hour to write, I put the music on and I'm absolutely back in again. It really helps and it also moves me. I find if I have a moving piece of music I get into the feel. It's like a soundtrack to a movie. You take the music away and the movie is fine but when you have the music in it, it is suddenly very moving. That's why the combination of writing to music makes me feel stronger and helps a lot."
Helpful hint: If there are others in your working area, use headphones!
ACTION: How could you adapt this method to help you focus quickly?
3: Dump Your Assumptions Forbes magazine recently had a feature about how to foster innovation. Here's one of their core ideas, and an example:
"Death and taxes aside, make no assumptions. Reed Hastings didn't. When he launched Netflix in 1997, Blockbusters were virtually on every block. Hastings shelved three assumptions: 1) that customers would only pay to rent movies they could watch on the same day they thought about watching them; 2) that late fees were a necessary evil and revenue driver; and 3) that a start-up can't compete with an entrenched giant. Netflix's recent market cap: $2.1 billion. Blockbuster's: $643 million."
ACTION: Jot down three basic assumptions about your line of work, your personal life, or anything else to which you'd like to inject some fresh energy. Then challenge each one of them and see what comes up.
4: Can Crossing Your Arms Make You More Determined? If you cross your arms you will persevere for longer at whatever you're doing. Sounds like a joke, right? OK, it was a limited test at the University of Rochester, and the task the volunteers were doing was trying to solve anagrams.
But it has been shown previously that it's not only that your mood or mental state affects your body m ovement - it also works the other way. For instance, it's hard to feel 'up' if you are slouching with your eyes on the ground, and harder to feel depressed if you stand up straight and look up.
In the case of crossed arms, it seems to be an intuitive association that probably goes back thousands of years in our evolution. Try it right now: cross your arms and notice whether you get an emotional reaction as well. (It works for me - also seems to trigger a slight clenching of the jaw).
ACTION: The next time you feel your determination flagging, try crossing your arms!
5: You May Think You're Thinking Differently... We're always told to think outside the box, but often we're not thinking far enough out of it. In one of his articles, author and lecturer Paul Sloane (www.destination-innovation.com) mentions a great example of clever thinking by lateral thinking guru Edward de Bono. The story goes that de Bono was hired by the Ford Motor Corporation to come up with ideas for making their cars more attractive to consumers.
De Bono came up with the suggestion that Ford buy up all the car parks in all the major city centers and make them available to Ford cars only. What a great idea (although it probably would have caused huge controversy and ultimately some kind of political response). Ford didn't act on it, of course.
ACTION: When you brainstorm, take your ten most radical ideas and tell yourself that they are 'normal' responses that you now want to get beyond by thinking even more radically. By expanding the boundaries of what you will allow yourself to think, you may hit on a better solution.
6: And a Quote to Consider: "You can't solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level."- Albert Einstein