Archive for the ‘getting unstuck’ Category

The Most Important Thing to Know About Questions: ‘Why’ You’re Digging a Hole

Friday, August 1st, 2014

struggling to the topWhen you’re in a hole, stop digging!

Questions, questions, questions. There isn’t a day that goes by that someone, somewhere, isn’t asking the question, “Why?” It seems we have a persistent and insatiable desire to understand the cause of things.

And it’s led me to believe there must have been a genetic advantage for our ancestors to ask that question. Why else would we have developed such a fondness for asking it?

An inquiry into why we saw an effect in the world helped us understand its yet unknown mysteries and led to an increased chance for survival. For instance, looking for the cause of dewdrops led to our ability to create water from condensation.

Asking why was the right question, in the right context, yielding the right result. It allowed us to create more of the effect we wanted to see—water.

But, there’s one thing you need to know about questions. They’re going to take you in different directions, depending on the context.

As it turns out, being genetically predisposed to ask why might not always be good for you. It’s a question that can get you into trouble when used in the context of personal improvement—because asking why leads you backwards towards cause, never forward toward change.

Asking why you’re having a problem (the effect or result) is looking for cause. Metaphorically speaking, it’s a shovel question. You’re looking for reasons and causes.

Why does this always happen to me?

Why do I feel this way?

Why s/he like that?

Why am I so (fill in the blank)?

Why can’t it be (fill in the blank)?

You’re digging into the problem, trying to understand and unlock it’s mysteries. The more you ask why, the more information you’ll gather up. And it’s a seductive question, because it feels fruitful. You’re producing a result. But is it the result you’re looking for?

At the end of all your whys, you may find the cause—but more often than not, you’ll only end up with a hole you can’t fill in. What’s your priority, to understand the problem … or solve the problem? Unless you’re looking to recreate the result (more problem), put down the shovel and stop asking why.

Because the result you’re really looking for is to create or develop something other than the problem.  And for that, you need more useful questions. Remember—right questions, right context, right result.

What’s missing (what belief about myself or the world, what perspective, attitude, capability, talent or skill) that if I had it—right now—this couldn’t possibly be a problem for me?

What do I want to have happen, and what steps do I need to take toward it?

Who do I know (either living or dead) who can act as a model for me—someone that has already solved this in their own life? How did they solve it?

Taking the information you gather from these powerful questions will find you well on your way toward creating something other than the problem.

And if you, like so many others, have been digging a hole? That hole you’ve been digging will soon be filled in with enough solution to pour the foundation for a whole new something else.




Stuck, Stuck – Goose!

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Why Being Stuck Is No Reason To Become Unglued

You teach best what you most need to learn.” ~ Richard David Bach

Just about every client we meet these days, at some point during our intake session, admits rather ashamedly that they’re hopelessly stuck. 

Although this is often offered up with more than just a hint of “you just don’t understand,” they soon discover that we most certainly do.

Because we get it.  The fact is: being a client can be rather like going to the doctor.

The vulnerability of ‘dressing down’ to let someone else take a peak can be pretty overwhelming at first.

So let me stand naked before you and tell you right up front, “Any problem you can do, I used to do better!” (more…)

Overwhelmed and Stressed

Monday, November 14th, 2011

A Case For Never Picking Up Strangers

If we only get one body, then why do I sometimes feel like I’m walking around with two heads?

Of course I’m now at an age where I get to blame it on hormones.

But perhaps that’s just a convenient excuse for explaining why I keep forgetting where I left my keys only to realize minutes later where they are.  Which just happens to be after I’ve already locked myself out of the house.

But if I’m really being honest, it’s because the busier I become, the behind-er I get.  My mind is one step ahead of where I’m trying to go and I’m . . .

Overwhelmed and Stressed

Overwhelmed and her evil twin sister, Stressed, seductively lure you in.

One minute you’re going down life’s highway minding your own business.  The next?

There they are – with their thumbs out asking for a free ride.  There’s a reason Mom warns you to never pick up strangers.

Because just like some strange hitchhikers you’ve picked up and forgotten to drop off along the way, pretty soon you’re driving them around and they haven’t even paid a nickle for the gas.

Not only that, but the longer they hang around, the more entitled they feel to shout directions – in stereo – from the back seat, “Do this, do that, go here, go there – now, now, now!”

 Suddenly “too much” meets “not enough.”

And, surprise:  the “not enough” has nothing to do with time.  You always have all the time there is.  There’s nothing you can do to change “clock” time.

What I’m talking about is too much information and not enough “sorting criteria.”  And this inevitably forces you onto the road where Sisters Overwhelm and Stressed are waiting to be picked up.

This is how it happens.

Let’s say you start out with a few things you need to get done.  Each of them is important in its own way.  So you put up a mental remember to do list.

Which is fine, if you only had a few things up there.  But as life gets increasingly busier and busier?

Pretty soon your mental checklist is greater than your capacity to easily recall . . . which, in case you were curious, is around 5 to 9 “bits” of information at any one time.

So let’s say you’ve got about 20 To Dos on your list and 5 of them are about to go nuclear.

At this point, it’s no longer a remember to do list, it’s now become a remember to worry about this list.  Your mind now tries to keep you on track by unconsciously bringing all those To Do’s  to your attention (even if only for a millisecond in between other tasks).

The Proper Way to Eat an Elephant?

What started out as a simple remember to do list now occupies your mental airspace with ever increasing demands on you to not forget to do.  Sisters Overwhelmed and Stressed have just jumped on board.

Because you’re focused on not forgetting, your mind becomes busy at trying to remember everything.  Now by the time you think of the last remember to do, you’re already mentally circling back to the first.  You’re suddenly in a roundabout.

You’re caught in an infinite loop, a Wheel of Worry, where the end of one thought is simply the beginning of another.

What’s even weirder?  Once things start going round and round, you haven’t any way to prioritize your to dos, or to distinguish the big from the small.   Everything is equally important and equally challenging.  Cleaning crumbs out of the cutlery drawer is lumped together with finishing a client presentation.

You might try to ignore Sisters Overwhelm and Stress who are suddenly along for the ride on this Wheel of Worry, but they’re pretty much a case of the “elephant in the room.”

They’re loud, they smell, they take up too much room, and they’re hell to feed (not to mention the constant clean up).

Well Done and Always One Bite At a Time

But there’s a way to get out of this roundabout and drop the Sisters off at the nearest intersection.

First, you need to do a mental purge.

Here’s an easy way how.

Breaking all your “to dos” into smaller, individual, bite size tasks gives you a way to create sorting criteria.  You’ll be able to evaluate and prioritize your way out of your mental roundabout in no time at all.

Simply grab a bunch of different colored index cards.  Choose a color for each category (i.e., green for household, blue for business, etc.)

Now write each to do onto its own separate index card by category.  Keep writing until you exhaust your supply of mental to dos.  Don’t stop until you’ve mentally purged each and every one onto a card.

No matter how many to dos you have, eventually you’ll reach the end of your list.  It’s no longer infinite.

Now take your cards and sort them according to category.  Once you have your categories, each card within your category can be evaluated.

Can a bigger task be broken down into smaller steps?

If so, create individual cards that represent those smaller steps and clip them in a sequence to the back of your larger to do.

Once you’ve done this, organize your cards by:

Category and/or subject and

Priority (using a numbering system 1 through 10, ten being most important).

Make sure you’ve noted on each one:

The steps needed to accomplish each task, and

How much time you need to accomplish it.

From these, calendar the necessary time based on priority.

When I do this I find that I do indeed have enough time.  I can get everything done . . . just not all at once.

I’ve soon left the Evil Sisters Overwhelm and Stress at the curb and I’m headed down the road again.

Cleaning crumbs out of the cutlery drawer doesn’t seem nearly as important or herculean an effort as it used to be.  And my presentation is calendared into smaller, more manageable steps that I can easily finish in time.

Simply by breaking things down to their smallest elements, I suddenly find I have all the time I need to get everything I need to get done.

And since I’ve written it all down, I can relax.   I can let my cards hold onto the information while my mind is free to focus on the task at hand.

Mom was right, never pick up strangers!