Hardwired to Fail

Nov 06
2018

Hardwired to Fail You were supposed to be the new vice president, but a colleague got the promotion instead. Instantly, a wave of doubt and humiliation washed over you. Your first thought was “I’m never going to get promoted here.” Your next thought was “This will thwart my life’s work.” You quit on the spot.

In that one moment, you again got caught up in the pattern of negativity that has derailed you from achieving your goals. You acted rashly—and you don’t get to go back in time to do it over again.

You still cringe when you think of the person you were and the choice you made.  You’re wondering, are you just hardwired to fail?

The answer is YES.

But there’s good news, too.  You get to make a different choice next time. You have the power to step off the treadmill that leads to negative thoughts and emotions and unveil a fresh new mindset that primes you for success.

Next time you feel the pressure to give in to negative emotions, here’s what you can do to change the outcome —in both big and small ways.

Step 1: Jot Down Your Fears

Grab a journal or notebook and write down the negative thoughts and emotions that are playing like a broken record, repeating over and over again, in your head. You have to recognize that you’re stuck before you can begin to break free.

Step 2: Reality-Test It

Ask yourself, “How do I know this is true?” Seeing your thoughts and feelings for what they are— just beliefs and emotions that may or may not be true—means that you get to discuss, debate, and decide for yourself if they are truly important.

Step 3: If It’s Not True, Kick It to the Curb

–Negative thoughts and emotions only have as much power as you give them.  When you kick them to the curb and let them go, you find new ways to connect what you think and believe about yourself to the things you’re passionate about.  Be willing to see yourself in new and different ways, and evaluate what resonates with you positively. This primes you to see yourself more realistically.

Step 4: Commit and Act with Clarity

Success isn’t a linear path.  Once you commit to making a different choice, be bold and act with clarity.  Start small and as you build momentum your inner critic will recede. Balance is key: you don’t want to overwhelm yourself and be unable to work through steps 1 through 3.

Your successes will rewire your brain to succeed. Staying there over the long term will mean taking risks and remaining intentional about your choices.

Adopting This Strategy Can Keep Adversity from Bludgeoning You Again

Feb 27
2018

Adversity Your plan to get what you want falls woefully short of the mark. You endure the defeat with discouragement, as the victim — not the victor – yet again. Why? The answer is simple: you didn’t have a plan to counter the wrecking ball known as adversity.

Adversity is part of life. Things won’t always go our way. Without a plan to knock down the roadblocks, adversity will bludgeon you every time. Do yourself a favor: start to plan for adversity and make room for both successes and failures to exist in your life.
Here’s what you need to do – and not do:

Don’t Be at War with Adversity

Practice acceptance. Don’t pretend that you can ignore an obstruction away. Accept that the best way to knock it down is to not try to control it. And accept responsibility for your choices, past and present. Stop fighting to minimize problems as unexpected, impossible-to-anticipate surprises. Instead, focus your energy on the choices you can make to deal with them.

Don’t Be an Absolutist

Life isn’t lived on the extremes. Get comfortable with the world as a mix of success and adversity. Don’t always expect perfection, or to anticipate disaster.

Don’t Rub Salt in the Wound

When adversity arrives, don’t take a wrecking ball to your life. Silence your inner critic. Look at your strengths, shortcomings, and unknowns from many different angles. Kick to the curb anything that won’t help you move past the obstacle.

Do Get Contradictory

Look for the paradox in the situation, and for the lessons you can take from your experience. Think of a way it may have saved you from an even more catastrophic mistake. This practice eliminates the uncertainty that comes with adversity. Biases are exposed, distance is created, and a new clarity of thought emerges.

Do Let It Go

Success and adversity happen in bursts. Throughout your life you will experience moments of both. Let go of your conscious focus on the setbacks when you deal with them and the successes when you celebrate them. The memories and lessons learned can be recalled when you need them in the future.

Plan for adversity, take the lead, and decide what you want to get in life.

Out With The Old And In With The New: Getting Unstuck

Mar 14
2017

You’ve invested a great deal of time and determination in pursuing the plan you, or perhaps someone else, wrote for your life. Though you don’t totally despise what you’ve been doing, you wake up each morning with the nagging feeling that you’re not moving in the right direction either. As the days tick by, the nagging turns to unease, and unease into discontent. The pressure mounts, and you’re unable to find the connection between who you are, what you’re certain of, and what you’re doing with your life. Simply said: you’re stuck.

You probably took a stab at trying to get unstuck by doing what most people in that circumstance do—you decried that you weren’t stuck, and to prove it you began taking action. You set out to either add things to the plan or subtract things from the plan: trying everything and anything to make it work. But the more you focused on making it work, the more the sense of discontent grew. Today turned into tomorrow, and tomorrow into next month, and you still didn’t know what would work and what wouldn’t. You were more disheartened and even more stuck.

But getting unstuck isn’t about continuing to do what you’ve always done plus or minus a few things. After all, where’s it written that you have to stay on the path you’re currently on? And yes, I know it isn’t easy to think about giving up on a plan that you’ve dedicated years to pursuing—yet you have to accept that being stuck is your first and best signal that you’re ready for an important realignment in your life.

Being stuck is a great puzzle to solve, and it isn’t as difficult as you think once you accept that being stuck can lead to that start of something new. Digging out of the hole starts when stuck becomes the springboard for understanding what might be within your grasp. Knowing what we want starts with knowing what we might want and then figuring out what we what we need to pull it off.

There are many paths to living an incredible life, and many chances in our lifetime to reinvent ourselves—you won’t be stuck for long if you accept where you are, get over being stuck quickly, and start getting about the business of discovering what you might want to do next.

Expanding your possibilities gets simpler when you follow these four steps:

1. Realign Your Compass

Feeling stuck often leaves you questioning everything: your past, your present, and your future. Before you can even begin to find out where you want to go, you have to take a moment and figure out where you are in relation to your true north. Spend the time you need getting back in touch with the things that honor your values, interests, and core beliefs. Take the time to really ask yourself questions that shed light on what you really want to do with the work you do each day, and then ask yourself questions about what you want your life to be about. There are many great tools and exercises to help you do this (shameless plug: many of them you can find posts about on the Leadership Compound blog—check some out and give them a try). Find and ask the questions that most resonate with you, or the tools that work best for you, and if you don’t see any you can create your own. There really are no rules other than to write things down—it really does help you bring them into reality. The key is to begin.

2. You Have To Generate Ideas And Quantity Is King

Once you’ve realigned your compass and know your true north, you can begin to explore new ideas, preferences, and capabilities. In certain things quality does matter more than quantity, except when you’re trying to dig yourself out of the roadblock known as being stuck. Getting on with your life starts when you consciously engage in activities that spike your creativity and idea generation to the levels where ideas, options, and possibilities begin to flow freely and without judgment. The key is to begin free-associating, imagining, and coming up with lots of outrageous, enticing, and electrifying probable and improbable ideas that spark your interest or intrigue you. Zeroing in too quickly and/or attempting to think up a handful of high quality ideas in the early stages of idea formation is totally counterproductive to becoming unstuck. It only serves to intensify the pressure and indecision, stymie your creativity, and block any forward progress. Options—and lots of them—are what eventually lead to better quality ideas. They magnify our thinking, and energize and help us give thought to things we might have previously dismissed as impractical or outlandish. Quantity then leads to more choices, which result in better options and eventually a few quality ideas, which are optimal to implement. Some of my favorite tips for doing this are creating mind maps, journaling, word association, vision boards, and writing ideas on post it notes—find something that is creative and works best for you.

3. Choose What Fits—And First Isn’t Always Best

Despite our best intentions, our biases can often work against our best interests, especially when we lose sight that they exist. Failing to recognize and take into account their impact on our decision-making can prove disastrous. In highly charged emotional situations, like overcoming being stuck, we can sometimes forget that biology outmaneuvers rationality. The high and rush that we get from generating new ideas and seeing possibilities again can cause us to view more favorably our first idea and consider it “the one,” even though we’ve given it little scrutiny. Our desire to do this is more related to the chemical response of the brain’s positive hormones than a rational validation of the solution. Getting moored to a solution just because it seems good enough might right the ship, but it also closes down the exploration of many other really good and often beneficial options. Many times, what we first come up with is the safe or familiar choice. In the long term, choosing what is safe or comfortable could lead to being anchored in another sandbar: stuck again with some familiar issues. Learning how to keep working beyond the first quality idea and coming up with several other options helps us overcome the natural inclination to settle for the first thing we arrive at. Once we’ve uncovered, walked around in, and reviewed in depth several really solid options, we have the information we need to begin to draw the contrasts and weigh the advantages of each choice. The process of learning in depth about several high quality choices by asking questions and getting additional data and facts reduces the fear of uncertainty and increases our clarity about our choice and the outcome.

4. Don’t Critique, Sabotage, Or Stifle Your Forward Progress

The more ideas we have, the more choices that are open to us. If we are to imagine things in ways that we haven’t before, and think about things more broadly than ever before, we can’t sabotage ourselves along the way. Our brains are designed to be critical, find problems to solve, and make spur-of-the-moment judgments—nothing could be more detrimental to free-associating for creativity and inside-out thinking. Knowing this is how our minds work is the first step toward quieting the inner voice that, if left unattended, can impede our ability to do the two steps outlined above. You have to be mindful as you embark on this journey. Prepare yourself by first spending some time becoming aware of your own destructive self-talk: the messages you give yourself that say you can’t do something. Keep a journal as you start this process and make note of every time you think, “You can’t do that,” or “This idea is too crazy.” Put a plan in place to stop yourself from making that judgment and reward yourself for banishing the inner voice that says no and choosing to do things differently. Enjoy the benefits and the stress relief from knowing that this isn’t about getting it right the first time—it is about experimenting, learning, and small steps. With practice, you’ll see the fog will lift and you’ll be less stuck and more willing to push the door open to consider what once seemed unimaginable.

If you’re feeling stuck today, I encourage you to embrace it, accept it as the great puzzle it is to solve, and figure out what path will lead you back to your true north. If you’ve solved the puzzle before, I’d love to hear about your journey and what worked best for you.

 

Give It To Me Straight: Getting People To Tell You The Truth

Feb 01
2017

As a leader, each and every day you’re besieged with irreconcilable demands from those you work with and for. And although you have sway over the direction of your business, you rarely have access to the much-needed objective and ongoing feedback about your ideas, plans, and performance. Perhaps you’re not that worried about it, but here is why you should be.

Failing to seek out and encourage those you lead to share the unvarnished truth and actionable feedback about how best you can boost your performance and lead better can have dire consequences for you and your long-term success.

The longer you delay asking, the less likely it will be that you’ll get the type of candid perspective and opinion you need to keep you from making critical errors in judgment. You can’t become an effective leader by trial and error, but conversely, you certainly can become a terrible one.

So why are so many leaders afraid to ask those they lead to give it to them straight?

The answer is really two‐fold. As a leader they haven’t learned how to or don’t want to open themselves up to being vulnerable in this way with their team. They haven’t invested in building the trust that encourages people around them to tell them the truth without fearing negative repercussions—especially when what is being said will contradict them or be negative about their performance as a leader.  Realizing your success as a leader goes through and depends on those who work for you is the first step in getting those you lead to tell you what you might not want to hear.

Here’s How You Make Give It To Me Straight The Rule Of The Day

Make sure you’re the one who shakes up the status quo and takes the active role in asking for feedback about how you’re doing on a recurring basis. Follow these simple guidelines:

  • Call Out The Fear – Recognize there is a degree of fear and risk when someone is willing to be candid with you. As the leader, it is your obligation to take the first step toward making the situation a relaxed one for the other person. Enable them to speak openly by calling out the fear and acknowledging it. Let them know that you appreciate and understand that it is difficult to share feedback with a boss—especially if it is negative in nature. Tell them you want to know no matter what because if you don’t have a realistic picture of what you’re doing well and not doing well, then you don’t improve as a leader.
  • Make It A No Repercussion Zone – Make it clear there are never any repercussions for sharing feedback that helps learning or growth, even if it is different than what you think or believe. Be consistent and apply this beyond these feedback conversations to meetings and all matters.
  • Have A Go-To Question – Have a go-to question that you can easily call upon to break the ice and start the conversation flowing like, “What is it that I can do to become a more effective leader for our team?”
  • Speak To More Than One Person – Make sure you ask more than one person the same question separately and outside of a formal conversation. Reiterate that you want them to give it to you straight. You don’t have to ask everyone every time—just make sure that you reach out to everyone over the course of a few months.
  • Read Between The Lines – Listen for what is being said and perhaps not being said. Follow up and get clear by asking for specifics and asking for examples and use open ended questions to solicit more input.
  • Get A Concrete Step You Can Take And Implement – Ask them for one future-focused suggestion that if you implemented today would improve your performance.
  • Share What You’re Going To Do – Look for areas in which to agree, and say so when you find them. Let them know what you’ve chosen from what they said to implement.
  • Reward The Sharing – With “thank you”—as a leader, remember that any time someone shares his or her insight with you it is a gift.
  • Make Asking For Feedback Your MO – Ask for their input often and in all things that impact the work and performance of the team. Especially follow up on how you’re doing with the suggestions you implemented from your conversation with them. It doesn’t just have to be in formal ways. Ask for quick feedback on ideas also. The key here is consistency.

The people who work for us shouldn’t be the only ones desperately seeking more frequent and actionable feedback—as their leader, you should shake up the dynamic and be the first one to ask for future-focused suggestions, opinions, and perspectives on everything ranging from business matters to how you can boost your performance as their leader.

Let me know how you’re planning to ask those you lead how you’re doing.

 

The Year’s End: Life Changing Connection For 2017

Dec 20
2016

The Year's End - New BeginningOver the past few weeks I’ve been trying—without much success, I’ll admit—to come up with a novel way to start my end of year post. After numerous false starts, piles of crumpled sheets of paper filling the wastebasket—yes I still do handwrite my first draft—I decided to take a well-needed break and bolster my spirits by reading through my quote journal. And there to my surprise was the solution to my writer’s block. On one of the well-worn pages I’d written the following quote, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” –Seneca.

As the quote reverberated in my mind, I realized that a shift in my thinking was also taking place. Traditionally, I’d always viewed the end of the year as a concrete ending point and the start of a new year as a beginning. The more I thought about the quote, however, the more I realized that how I saw this was based on how I chose to define and describe it, and by extension I realized that much of the way in which we describe, define, and assign meaning to things in our lives is based solely on our perspective, beliefs about ourselves, and our choices at the time we decide what something means. In essence, the things in our lives only have the meaning and power they do because we impart it to them. It was then that it dawned on me there was a better way for all of us to begin 2017, and it certainly didn’t involve making another set of the same old tired resolutions that we all know will never work.

Every new beginning doesn’t have to start with a complete overhaul of the past—it just has to start with some other beginning’s end. Overcoming the inertia of what has become comfortable for us in 2016, and replacing it with what is less so in 2017, is a great place to start. Knowing where endings have to begin in order for new beginnings to emerge starts when you rethink what you have the capability to do, and contest the habits, rationalizations, and meanings that you’ve assigned to things that are keeping you stuck and not seeing the potential in yourself and in others.

I hope that you’re willing to begin to end something so that you find your new beginning in 2017. The beginning that sees you connect to your passions in new ways, build connections with others more deeply, and accept that all is possible—if you know how to connect what you’re capable of with what you pursue.

With perseverance, intention, and commitment, 2017 will be a great new beginning!

 

How To Own A Compliment

Sep 27
2016

How To Own A ComplimentWe set high expectations for ourselves and strive to meet those expectations, but when someone notices and offers us a well-earned compliment, many of us in a quavering voice quickly launch into a stream of self-deprecating comments, denials, and deflections. Perhaps you can empathize, because someone simply giving you a compliment disarms and dissembles you so completely that you immediately shift the focus, talk down, or cast off the compliment entirely.

Answering a compliment with anything other than gratitude and a sincere thank you has only one lasting effect—it creates awkwardness for both the person extending the compliment and you. Failing to acknowledge the gift of that compliment can help you be seen as ungrateful, lacking confidence, and worst of all unappreciative. From your vantage point, how confident can you really feel about yourself when you second-guess, deflect, or deny what you’ve done well to the point where you can’t even concede that you were able to achieve something?

Here are four surefire ways that you can own a compliment the next time someone is gracious enough to offer one.

Let Your Body Language Speak For You

A smile and a nod go a long way in conveying that you appreciate what someone is saying to you. Before even your words express your sense of gratitude, your body language can be your best ally. Smiling and looking the other person directly in the eye not only indicates agreement, but it also goes a long way in building and reinforcing the trust and connection between you and the other person. If you’re feeling comfortable in your own skin, you’ll be less likely to walk down the road of shifting the focus, deflecting, or not accepting the compliment as it is intended and given.

Simply Say Thank You

You can simply express your gratitude by saying thank you, and then either adding a short personal anecdote about the thing the person complimented, or how you feel about what they complimented. A thank you can express so much in so few words, it’s really easy to learn to say, and it can be practiced beforehand. Saying thank you to others and watching how they respond can really help you become comfortable with saying thank you to others because you understand firsthand how powerful those words really are.

Don’t Trade Compliments

When someone gives you a compliment, your first feeling might be to offer him or her a compliment in exchange. No matter how well-intended and honest your compliment may be, in truth this is really another form of deflecting the focus from you and the compliment you were given. Trading compliments isn’t going to help you learn to accept a compliment any better. If you truly feel a compliment is merited for something they’ve done, save it for a time where they have the chance to be the focus and shine.

Be Humble Not Boastful

Sometimes we lean toward diminishing what we contributed or what we’ve done when others pay us a compliment because we’ve been taught that focusing on our accomplishments is boastful. There is a real difference in boasting and being overly focused on what you do, and being humble and accepting praise for what you rightly have earned. Knowing the difference will help you own a compliment without deflecting or attributing the good expressed to someone or something else. Not recognizing your abilities and strengths in an honest way—especially when someone else does—isn’t strength of character. It is false modesty. Being humble is about knowing what you know and what you don’t, and it doesn’t preclude being pleased that someone else notices.

The next time someone takes the time to offer you a compliment, I hope you own it with all the grace and gratitude you have. It will be the best thing you can do for yourself and the other person.

 

Concentrating On Your Best Intentions

Aug 23
2016

Concentrating on Your Best Intentions“Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition. Yawn and stretch and try to come to life.” — Who among us doesn’t identify with the sentiment expressed in this Dolly Parton lyric? It resonates with us because we begin many of our days looking for the get-up-and-go approach to the upcoming day with a positive outlook and plan. We have way too many things on our plate, limited time and attention to devote to them, and too many other distractions vying for our attention that we never originally planned on. Woefully, at days end, we realize that we were on autopilot addressing other people’s concerns, priorities, and unexpected situations. Our mood decayed throughout the day, and opportunities to influence others were overlooked. In the end, instead of taking the reins, we let the world around us dictate our priorities and direction for the day.

But turning off the autopilot and flying under our own power means understanding how important our perceptions, assumptions, and intentions are in creating and shaping our experiences.

Intentionally determining what deserves, demands, and drives our focus means adopting some essential strategies that leverage the power of the brain’s automatic systems to our advantage. We don’t have unlimited attention to give the world, and as such our automatic systems are very adept at prioritizing what seems most relevant to our stated intentions, and filters out input that isn’t as important. Tapping in to them is just what we need to regain control and accomplish what we want to achieve.

After you’ve poured yourself that cup of ambition, you can do these few essential things below to help set your intention for the day, and tell your brain what you’d like it to pay more attention to.

1.  Pave The Way And Prime The Pump

Determine what your intentions are for the upcoming day. Think about the task(s) for the day, what needs to be accomplished, and what really matters most. Consciously ask yourself what needs to happen for those goals to be achieved. This will help you define your real goal(s) for the day. The conscious focus on the task(s) helps you prime the pump and pave the way for your mind to recognize them as priorities, and attune your brain to look for things related to achieving that outcome as relevant and not off topic.

2.  Adopting The Right Attitude Is Everything

Once you’ve focused your brain’s energy on the tasks that are important, it’s time to ensure that your attitude supports your success. It should be no surprise that a happier, more positive attitude strongly influences our frame of mind and how we approach the day. Our brain looks for resonance between our intentions and our attitude about them as a way of confirming that they are indeed our priorities. If you have concerns about the upcoming task and they are really driving your mood in a less than positive direction, you have to determine if they help or impede your achieving the desired outcome. If they don’t have merit or a factual basis, and come from a place of unfounded fear or emotion, set them aside and redirect your thinking to the positive aspects of what you are setting out to do.

3.  We Get What We Focus On So Lock In Your Intentions

Now that you’ve primed the pump and synced your attitude, the only remaining task is to firmly set your sights and lock your attention on your priorities. Attuning your focus with your priorities helps you identify what you want to see more of—especially those things that support achieving your goal. You will become more aware of and vigilant for the things that will help you get there, traps that must be avoided, and yes, even potential opportunities to adjust and re-calibrate. Once you know what you’re looking for or what to avoid, you’ve engaged a level of awareness that will help you make sure that you focus on what you want to achieve. You might even want to capture them on an index card or memo on your phone so that you can look at it before you go into that big meeting, or consider what comes next—especially when the day gets challenging.

Establishing a process that carves out some time for personal reflection and intentional thinking in our complex world doesn’t mean giving up vast amounts of time—it means taking a few minutes, perhaps as long as it takes to make and drink your coffee. The investment of a few minutes each morning, however, returns vast rewards. The next time you tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen to pour yourself that cup of ambition, set your intentions for the day, and let me know how it goes.

 

Calling All Coaches

Jul 12
2016

Calling All Coaches

Leadership Compound, LLC is excited to announce a new strategic partnership program designed specifically to support coaches with their biggest challenge – building a sustainable business that ensures a robust demand for their services.

 

When you entrust your vision to me, you should expect a powerful and highly collaborative partnership with someone who has the experience, skill and passion to bring your vision to reality. Here are just a few examples of the skills and results I will help you master:

  • Design and flawlessly execute a focused, inspired and attainable business plan that drives a steady beat of clients, future clients and profits.
  • Identify your perfect niche.
  • Be present and agile enough to handle the unexpected bumps along the way.
  • Create the synergy between your individual success and the strategic and operational performance of your business.
  • Get the tools and support you need make a great living doing what you’re passionate about.

If you’re ready to begin creating the flourishing coaching practice you’ve been craving, there is only one way to see if we’re a fit… let’s set-up a call. You can reach me at 973-404-0172 or contact me here.

If We’re Not Scared, It Isn’t Big Enough

May 24
2016

If We're Not Scared, It Isn't Big EnoughScrawled across the whiteboard of a large conference room, in vibrant red, were the words, “If we’re not scared, it isn’t big enough.” To the casual observer, these words may have not meant much, but to the team assembled in that room, it was a well-understood and familiar refrain designed to propel that group of brilliant people to take action that firmly placed them in their discomfort zone. This refrain was their rallying cry—a less-than-subtle nudge by a truly innovative leader calling them to rely on their own creativity, step beyond what was comfortable, and do what others might consider the impossible.

Every industry has its great leaders: those people who enthuse, energize, induce, and propel others to accomplish more than they ever dreamed possible. But what does it take to create the excitement, energy, and intensity required to propel those talented people around you to excel and move beyond their self-imposed limits?

Energize, Enthuse Rather than Simply Engage Them

Creating the excitement, energy, and intensity in those you lead is less about engaging them and more about energizing them. Energizing them is about building their internal drive to excel beyond what they even think they are capable of. This requires you to give those you lead the opportunities they don’t even know they’re ready for. Place value on expecting high levels of performance by setting what appears to be impossible as possible. Setting high expectations and aspirations encourages people to develop the skills that lead to their being able not only to survive, but also thrive in an intense environment. Your acknowledgment of their skill and successes will lead those exceptional people to want to excel even more. The high and energy they get from succeeding, your acknowledgement of their success, and their confidence gained gives them a sense of being extraordinary, which drives them to be seen in only that way.

Lead by Example from Deep Within Your Own Discomfort Zone

Asking others to embrace the journey into their discomfort zone begins with modeling that behavior oneself. Visibly demonstrate the willingness to challenge your own thinking and behavior, and also set those seemingly impossible standards for you. Let those you lead see that you keep the pressure on yourself as intently as you do them. Your continued quest to elevate your own performance reassures those you lead that pushing the limits is more than just rhetoric, and that possibility lies in the zone of high expectations. Those you lead learn that, working together, you can all become more resourceful, innovative, and creative. And that enables them to see the possibilities in themselves.

Illuminate and Articulate the Challenge in Terms of the Vision

We can all become mired in the details of a problem and faced with only unexceptional solutions. Shedding light on the matter at hand in terms of the why helps you, your team, and the organization recast the matter at hand in ways that expand options, outcomes, and possibilities. Instilling and expanding the possibilities creates that wow and energy-producing moment. It inspires and affirms the underlying purpose for acting, helps guide the individual’s unique contribution to the outcome, and leads to more innovative, impactful, and authentic connection to the vision from which groundbreaking and revolutionary growth and resolution happen.

Being in the orbit of a leader like that can at times be pressure-filled, hard driving, and arduous. However, it spurs you to disrupt long-held patterns and to see what else you’ve got. I’d like you to share your memories of those people who’ve dared you to ask yourself: Is it big enough?

 

Information Overload

Apr 13
2016

Information OverloadWe are bombarded daily with texts, emails, and endless choices about what to order from the multitude of choices on the average menu board. It never ceases to amaze me how vast amounts of information can transform seemingly easy choices—like ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks—into amazingly befuddling moments for people. There is a simple explanation for this phenomenon: we are trying process more information than our brain is designed to handle at any given time. When our brain is over-stimulated and our nervous system engages, we get what is more commonly known as “analysis paralysis.”

At most, our conscious mind can focus and retain three or four things simultaneously. Beyond that point, exposure to more information than the brain can process at one time rapidly diminishes our ability to focus, increases our stress levels, and reduces our ability to make choices. Ultimately, when we cannot endure any longer, they overwhelm us and we choose things that are less than ideal.

What approach works best when we are experiencing this type of overwhelming situation? Is it to exploit what we already know to make the choice, or step out of our routine and explore new possibilities? Let’s take a look a both strategies.

Exploiting What We Already Know

Taking advantage of what we already know can optimize our performance with respect to the current task at hand. The sections of the brain used in optimizing current performance and reward seeking are triggered, narrowing the field of choices to what we know best as a means of being efficient in the pursuit of a reward (the choice). Taking advantage of what we know can also be valuable as a means of making more routine and less complicated choices, as it pushes us toward maintaining balance as the best means of making a choice while seeing the world through a familiar lens. The downside is that we miss seeing what could be over the horizon—trying something new, and what might be hidden, leading to rash judgments made with familiar biases when the choice is more complicated.

Exploration Beyond What We Already Know

Opening up our minds and engaging in a process of exploration gives us the chance to “psychologically distance” ourselves from the quagmire of details surrounding the choice and consider it in a more abstract way. The process of exploration and abstraction triggers the parts of the brain that are responsible for our attention control features, and the executive functioning areas of our brain that are tasked with managing new situations. Distancing ourselves and beginning the process of exploring beyond what we already know sharpens our focus, and allows us to disengage from routine thinking and take a needed pause to discover something that we didn’t know we wanted, or come up with an innovative way of solving a problem. We become more flexible, adaptable, and less risk averse.

Both strategies can combat information overload—in varying degrees and under certain circumstances—and are highly dependent on the outcome being sought. Figuring out which way you need to go will depend on what the choice is. Regardless of which one you decide to try, realize that any choice to reduce the bombardment will help you reduce stress, anxiety, and make better choices.