Are You Safe or Trapped?

Dave and I have been teaching and giving talks for over 30 years and so it was surprising to both of us just how much angst we both experienced getting ready to present at DisruptHR Victoria. To be fair, it was a bit of a different format – 20 slides automatically forwarded every 15 seconds – and it was being video taped but nonetheless I have given hundreds of talks over the years … WTF? Why did my inner critic rear its ugly head to such a degree? My first thought was that my angst was all about not having control over when the slides advanced, but upon reflection there was a lot more going on.

Serendipity being what it is, I was just reading Tara Mohr’s Playing Big and Denise Jacobs’ Banish your Inner Critic, both of which offer insight and tips for dealing with your inner critic, albeit from slightly different perspectives.  Both of them suggest that the inner critic is a hardwired safety instinct. The role of the inner critic is to protect us from harm,  whether that’s physical or emotional.  This insight alone has helped me reframe what’s happening. Instead of the usual “this is ridiculous” message I give myself, I’m now saying, “Thank you for trying to  protect me, but I’ve got enough experience to handle this.” It’s a subtle but powerful shift that leaves me feeling more grounded.

My next insight came from Tara’s book … that our inner critic will yell most loudly when we are getting ready to play a bigger game. I realized that while I have given many talks, I can only think of one or two that were actually videotaped and none were going to get circulated more broadly.  There were several firsts in this talk … first time with a 5 minute, highly structured talk, and first time with a video about to be circulated. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to be “perfect,” another sign that the inner critic truly has a hold on you. I reminded myself of the Leonard Cohen quote I often say when perfectionism is taking over

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

My final insight came from Denise Jacobs’ book. She has a chapter on “comparison syndrome” that really resonated for me. She talks a lot about the role of social media in feeding the inner critic and how to deal with that by tracking your triggers and then eliminating some of those sources. It was her ideas around becoming self-referential, however, that were so helpful to me. In preparing for the DisruptHR talk, I watched quite a few talks from the previous year, watched a number of shorter TED talks and read quite a few blogs about what to do/not do. The more I did this “preparation” the more freaked out I became. I was becoming other referential, not self referential. I needed to stop preparing and comparing,  get centered in on what I wanted to say and trust my own experience.

Jacobs’ suggests that to be self referential you determine your success by looking at who you’ve become over time. You then focus on becoming the best version of yourself. I was so anxious my first day of teaching high school English (many years ago now), I actually vomited in the staff washroom before I made it up to the class to teach! I realized that I had come a long way.  Embracing my “onlyness,” the space in which only you can stand, allowed me to embrace who I am and what I have to offer and do the talk “Tammy style” instead of “everyone else style.”

I’m happy to say that I got myself centered and, while I did feel many nervous flutters while waiting to give my talk, I did not vomit 😉 I have not seen the tape yet, but I will deal with that inner critic when the time comes 😉 In the meantime, I’m excited that I took the risk and very appreciative of the entire learning experience!

Go Where You’re Loved

 Go Where Youre Loved learning leadership happiness engagement decision making creativity appreciative inquiry

I remember listening to an author once (sorry I can’t recall who it was!) who was asked about how she dealt with critics of her work. She replied, “I go where I am loved.” Most of us already have really well developed inner critics and so we don’t need to seek them out. Going where we are loved to find an audience for our work and our style (whatever work that might be!), leaves more energy to continue developing ourselves. Continually going down a path with people who don’t appreciate who we are leaves us demotivated, uninspired and worn out. Find those who love you and nurture them!

Didn’t I Do This Yesterday?

 Didnt I Do This Yesterday? uncategorized leadership creativity coaching change  Vanity Fair Bruce Springsteen
I’m a bit of a biography nut and was intrigued by an article on Bruce Springsteen in a recent Vanity Fair article. In it he stated that, ““You have to create the show anew, and find it anew, on a nightly basis,” Springsteen said. “And sometimes,” he concluded, laughing, “it takes me longer than I thought it would.” Later on in the article, he says, “I’ve always felt a lot in common with Sisyphus. I’m always rolling that rock, man. One way or another, I’m always rolling that rock.”

I was struck by the connections to creativity and leadership in what he said. Our creativity gets expressed when we continue to push that rock uphill. In my case, just because I may have created a blog I really liked yesterday (or many other previous days!), doesn’t mean I don’t have to go through my creative process again and find some inspiration. While my creative process might become familiar to me, I don’t know that it’s gotten any easier. Some days that rock is pretty heavy!

And this is certainly true of leadership as well. We need to show up every day and find the inspiration and best parts of ourselves. Just because we made a difference one day doesn’t mean we don’t need to do the same the next day. We have to recreate our passion and commitment for leadership every day. And that, too, can feel like pushing a big rock uphill.

In The Shower …

 In The Shower ... creativity

In our creativity workshops, we talk about managing your energy which means paying attention to how and when you get your best ideas. While we talk about the importance of taking walks, we don’t mention as often that both Dave and I find that some of our best ideas come when we are in the shower! It feels like too much information to say this in a workshop, but alas it turns out that there is research to back this up!

Gregoire and Kaufman in their 2015 book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind highlight their 2014 research that 72% of respondents around the world reported having some kind of new insight in the shower! So the next time you are struggling for insight at work, just head to the locker room 😉 Hmmm … now that might just be TMI!

 

Letting go of fear

 Letting go of fear risk taking learning happiness creativity

Earlier this year I wrote about what it took to say yes to writing a book. Well the day has arrived when that book is actually published! I have let go of many fears – that I have nothing to say, that I can’t write, that I will expose myself too much, that no one is interested in this topic and, in particular, that people might think bosses already have too much power … why should we forgive them?

Much like letting go of fear, forgiveness helps you let go of pain, suffering and angst. 

It doesn’t mean you agree with or condone someone’s behavior. It just lets you get your life back.

If there is someone occupying space in your head and you’re tired of carrying that negative energy around, you may find my book, How to Forgive Your Boss (or anyone who has done you wrong), a useful read. And for those in Victoria on December 1, please join me at the book launch.

And watch this space for more as I will be sharing tidbits from the book in future blogs.

But I Have No Time …

  But I Have No Time ... strategy 2 risk taking happiness emotional intelligence creativity

“But I have no time,” is something I hear myself and my clients often say in relation to expressed desires about what we’d rather be doing. What I have learned from my 30-day blogging challenge is that by not prioritizing our creativity and making time for it, we just drift through our weeks, and one day jumbles into the next.

When we make time, however, things come together, they fall into place, we complete puzzles. And, according to Amabile and Kramer of The Progress Principle, engagement relates to our ability to see progress everyday.

For people who work on complex, long term projects with lots of moving pieces, doing something tangible every day that nurtures you and your creativity is not a nice to have, it’s a need to have.

Moving Past I Can’t Do This

 Moving Past I Cant Do This uncategorized creativity
For those readers who may have been counting, today is day 30 of my 30-day challenge to blog everyday. While I am planning to write much more about what I learned, today I am reflecting on the interesting connection between time and creativity.

A lot of days I struggled to blog. I was too busy with “real work”, tired and uninspired. I said on many days, “I can’t do this.” Ordinarily I would have stopped there and waited for another day.

But the challenge to blog everyday got me pushing through the confusion, anxiety and insecurity that I have nothing to say and am not capable of drawing anything. While praying might be too strong a word, being truly open and receptive to inspiration is something I hope to remember moving forward.

That, and pushing through when it seems like I can’t.

Who’s In Your Network?

  Whos In Your Network? strategy 2 learning leadership decision making creativity   
I’ve written about the importance of having cheerleaders in your life, especially when you are trying something new and/or taking risks. 

But we also need to step back and analyze who’s in our network more broadly in order that we don’t get blindsided by circumstances and perspectives we hadn’t considered.

Who do you interact with most and/or consult with around projects? Are they all like you? Or is your network diverse?

The Number One Way to Dishonour Your Own Creativity

  The Number One Way to Dishonour Your Own Creativity risk taking perfectionism happiness creativity   

I base today’s blog foremost on my own ongoing struggle with perfectionism, as well as watching other perfectionists. While I know intellectually that perfectionism has a negative impact on me, putting that insight into practice still eludes me at times, particularly when I’m stressed. 

I will spend hours creating something and then dishonour it by picking it apart, under the guise of “learning” or “striving for excellence.” It’s not either of those in actuality, just a well worn pattern that doesn’t serve me well.

Fortunately I have two people close to me who are endlessly cheerleading for me, and I am inching my way forward. If you struggle like me, find those people who “love the blue” in you and listen to them. Today give that perfectionism a rest and celebrate whatever you have created!

Are You Drowning?

  Are You Drowning? learning emotional intelligence creativity  Julia Cameron

I’m a big fan of Julia Cameron’s work and have completed the Artist’s Way at Work many times over the years. Her latest blog on social media and creative energy is brilliant and this quote stood out for me. What’s interesting is the transition between immersion and submersion – how do we know when we’re heading towards submersion?
For some,  it might be when the spa just doesn’t cut it anymore but here are a few other signals for me:

  • I spend more time trying to figure out other people than trying to figure out me.
  • I don’t protect my creative time.
  • I find myself striving for perfection.

What are your signals?

And a big thanks to my friend Claire Abbott for sending me this quote. Dear readers, if any of you have an idea or quote for the blog please send it my way. This 30 day challenge is challenging my idea generating skills!