Tuesday, June 05, 2020

Do you dare to be different?

A “slow” way to make long-term, positive change

People come to blogs like this one seeking to make change. But because most have been conditioned by our “I want it all and I want it now“ society, they are tempted to look for quick and easy ways to become whatever they want to be, or achieve whatever they want to achieve. That’s not a very sensible way to look at things. After all, it’s taken you 20, 30, 40, 50, or more years to get the way you are. What makes you think that you can change that in days or weeks?

If you want to be different, there are three essential steps. Missing out even on one of them will most likely keep you pretty much where you are today. That’s because every time you push hard in the new direction that you want to go, you’ll find that your old habits and ways of thinking push right back. Every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. The harder you push and the faster you try to go, the stronger the reaction you’ll encounter. Try these steps instead. The key to making quicker process is a paradox: slow down more.

Slow down

You won’t break out of your old habits by rushing. When people are under pressure, they don’t have energy to try anything new. They’re afraid of risks. They can’t face the idea of stirring up opposition. So they reach for whatever they’ve done before, or for some supposedly “tried-and-true” answer. As a result, they rush headlong down the same old paths into the same old messes. If you refuse to be hurried, surprising ideas and opportunities may present themselves. Think of a garden. You can try to force the plants to grow quickly by pouring on the fertilizer, but it rarely produces much beyond quick, lush growth that soon becomes weak and collapses under the first strong wind or heavy rain. Like many of today’s whiz-kid managers, things look great until tough times come along. Then all the weaknesses show and you can see there are no strong roots to provide long-term survival.

Give yourself time and space. Never be in a hurry. Allow time for thinking, musing, just noodling around in your head with no apparent purpose. Give space in your thinking for ideas you haven’t had yet; allow openings for sniffing out the ideas of others. Haste is the enemy of creativity. Being busy all the time is a great way to stop any possibility of significant change.

Rushing means that you have to tackle all problems head-on. That stirs up the maximum amount of opposition and push-back. So just at the time when you want to make fastest progress, you are making sure that you meet the most problems. By slowing down, you will make fewer waves and cause less upset. You will also be able to creep up on blockages and find ways around them, instead of throwing yourself at them in a frontal attack.

Let go

Let growth happen. New ideas usually arrive unexpectedly. Whenever they do, allow them to be heard. Learn to be alert always for good ideas and opportunities for breakthrough. Be flexible and grab opportunities when they come. Don’t sit back and expect another one to be along in a moment. The universe isn’t like that. The idea or opportunity you just ignored may have been the best one you’ll ever have.

Keep learning and moving. If something works, there’s a natural tendency to stop right there and think you’ve reached Nirvana. We all have a tendency to hang on to our successes and go on repeating them as long as we can. Resist. Say “thanks” and move on. Don’t cling to your achievements. Let them go to make way for more failures and new ideas. The achievements you cling to and repeat are the ones that are most likely to turn into your greatest failures, if you persist in them past their "sell by" date. Plus you’ll have spoiled the recollection of them for all time.

Open up

Shut down the critic inside your head. Ignore it. Tell it to go pester someone else. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore ideas and possibilities that your inner critic tells you are useless. Constant judgment and criticism are enemies of change. Listening to your inner critic will convince you every idea you have, every opportunity that you consider, every change you plan or make are worthless. The truly worthless element is that nagging inner voice. Sometimes the best way to deal with it is just to laugh.

If something is becoming habitual, dump it. Habits are the iron bands that hold you in your current ways of thinking and behaving. No one ever made a breakthrough without letting go of whatever has become habitual and automatic. Breaking those tough old habits won’t be easy. You may have to endure some “cold turkey.” It will be well worth it.

Keep a wide open mind. Real growth often happens well away from where we intend it to. You never know when an idea will hit you, or you’ll meet someone, completely by chance, who will have a profound and wonderful impact on your life. Don’t create your own artificial boundaries by deciding in advance what you will learn from and what you will ignore. Life doesn’t come in neat packages, clearly labeled “learning opportunity.”

Despise dogma. Dogma is the product of closed minds. It’s an idea with a threat attached. If you suffer from dogma, get it out of your life. Let it go. Kick it out. Try thinking the opposite. Treat it like a crazy joke. Do anything you can to get rid of it. It’s the greatest source of all of barriers to change.

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