Overwhelmed? Try this!

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Have you ever had one of those days, or at least one of those moments, when you knew exactly what to do to solve a problem or make something happen and perhaps even knew how to do it, but you just didn’t feel like doing it? If you’re like me, the internal dialogue in your head usually shifts into overdrive during such times, debating every little detail of whether you should get in action or not. Don’t you wish you could defeat that little voice in your head that’s always trying to talk you out of doing extraordinary things? Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn to just ignore it and get going anyway? And I don’t mean only when you feel like it; I mean whether or not you feel like it at the time. Well, I have good news for you. There is a way. Even when you feel physically tired and mentally beaten down, there is a way to make the quantum leap from how you feel right now to how you would be feeling if you were where you wanted to be. How do you do that? You re-generate yourself. The even better news is that you can do this on demand and it takes less than one minute. 

What does it mean to “re-generate” yourself? Well we can get a sense of what it means by looking at the word itself. The word “generate” comes from the same root as the word “genesis,” which means beginning or creation or birth. We naturally and automatically generate ourselves based on the past, because that’s just how time works, and that is true of every living thing on the planet; the past by default dictates our behavior in the present. When we re-generate ourselves, however, we are being intentional rather than automatic; instead of letting the past dictate who we are by default, we re-create ourselves—our mindset and behaviors—based on a future possibility that we have created in our minds. By re-generating ourselves, we do what no other living thing on the planet can do: we “begin with the end in mind," as Stephen R. Covey puts it in his world renowned book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Let me give an example that illustrates your natural ability to shift your way of being instantly. Have you ever had an argument with your spouse or significant other just before you arrived at a gathering with friends or family? What do you do when you arrive at the party? You maintain your sullen or irritated attitude and explain to everyone there why you both are acting so unsociable, exposing the trivial vagaries of your relationship to their scrutiny and judgment, right? No, of course not!  Regardless of how many daggers you were shooting at one another a moment before, you instantly put on a smile and act like everything is okay for the duration of the gathering. It’s called “fake it ‘til you make it!” Because of social pressure, you re-generate yourself basically automatically, because you don’t want to spill the beans to others about what is going on. While this shows that the mechanics of re-generating yourself do indeed work—you can shift your state instantaneously regardless of how you feel initially if you have a reason compelling enough. However, this is not exactly what I mean in terms of re-generation of yourself. What I’m talking about has nothing to do with faking it, because faking it is all about pretense and appearance; the aim is to change the way you seem to others. What I’m talking about is transformative re-generation, because transformation is about your effectiveness and fulfillment within the context of future possibilities; the aim is to change the way you are being to line up with the intentional future you are living into.

Let me give you another example, this time of something closer to what I mean by re-generating in the transformative sense. My brother and his family were visiting us a few years back when his two kids where 8 and 10 years old. We were out shopping and the kids were constantly nagging and complaining about being tired, hungry and bored, etc. I decided to put my “elite motivational skills” to work and went up to them and told them that, while I had been planning to take them to the toy store to buy them something, since they were so tired and so bored, we were just going to go home so that they didn’t have to suffer anymore. No sooner than I had turned to walk away, both kids were standing up straight, completely energetic, and showing no signs of lethargy or boredom. Not only that, but they also enthusiastically set about convincing me that my original idea of going to the toy store was still a viable plan, and that they were certainly not too tired or demotivated to take me up on that offer. After a brief exchange, it was clear to me that they were no longer feeling physically or mentally tired as they had been for the previous hour! And I assure you, they weren’t faking it at all. They were genuinely and authentically feeling energetic and enthusiastic. And I can also assure you, that nothing about their bodies or brains had physiologically changed to all of a sudden feel that energy and enthusiasm; the source of their re-generation came entirely from within themselves and from tapping into their own minds’ powerful systems of self-motivation. They had indeed re-generated themselves, but not based on a short-lived desire to not seem tired; rather, by tapping into a future possibility that they were excited about, they re-generated themselves to the point that they were literally no longer tired.

The same principle applies to us as adults. When we feel defeated and can’t muster the energy to get in action, it is because we have lost sight of something to look forward to in the future. It is not necessarily that the immediate challenges we face seem insurmountable, but that the effort to overcome them simply does not seem worthwhile in light of the default future we are drifting into. The key is to get back in touch with, and be inspired by, the greater outcome we are committed to and excited about.

One undeniable factor in being able to do this is to cultivate a sense of purpose in what you are doing at the moment. I’m reminded of the two bricklayers, one of which related to what he was doing as merely laying bricks and the other, as building a cathedral. The one with a greater purpose is much more likely to be enthusiastic about doing what needs to be done even in the face of setbacks. If you have gotten settled into a routine at work and you cannot see the connection between what you do and a cause that you consider worthwhile, it is time to evaluate whether or not you are in the right role or the right company or, most importantly, the right frame of mind. Although one bricklayer had a sense that he was creating something great and the other did not, the fact still remains that they were both taking the exact same actions in the present. Your sense of purpose does not have to be as lofty as creating a holy structure or saving the world or ending all disease, but it should be something that you find personally meaningful and makes what you are currently doing seem worthwhile in context. In most cases, you don’t have to change jobs or companies to rekindle the spark that once got you excited about your work. If you are intentional about connecting the dots and creating a possibility that you are inspired by, you will be able to re-generate yourself based on your commitment to that outcome at any moment, regardless of your current circumstances.

The second essential factor when it comes to re-generating yourself is a sense of excitement or anticipation toward the future you are living into and creating with your actions in the present. If you aren’t personally excited by the goal you are working toward, it doesn’t matter how “important” and “purposeful” your job is, because you won’t want to keep doing it long enough to reach that goal. This is why you sometimes hear those stories about people in highly influential or lucrative jobs who give it all up to open a small restaurant, or buy a farm, or do whatever it is that they have always been truly passionate about. Now, I realize that we can’t all of a sudden just go “follow our passions” and abandon everything that we associate with drudgery, and that isn’t what I’m advocating. What I am suggesting is that we pursue goals and milestones that excite us so that we can transcend what we used to view as drudgery, or even transform it into something fun.

Is that even possible? To view what we previously regarded as boring as something fun, or at least not as a source of misery, as a result of anticipating an exciting or fun future goal? Well, if you weren’t convinced by the example of my niece and nephew, let me try a more adult example of how we already all do this without even realizing. Those of you who are familiar with my talks may know where I am going. Just picture how your state of being shifts throughout the workweek. If you are like most people, Monday or Tuesday is probably the day you dread the most, and Friday is probably the day on which you are the most excited and unflappable when it comes to issues that come up at work. Or, think about vacation; I’m betting that in the weeks and days leading up to a vacation, your state of being shifts gradually until pretty much nothing can bother you, while in the days leading up to the end of a vacation, you may find yourself becoming gradually more stressed out and lacking energy. Why is this? It certainly isn’t a function of what you are doing in the present. The reason that this happens is because your present state of being is shaped by your anticipation of the future you are living in to.

On the surface, this kind of behavior might seem contradictory, but that isn’t really the case; your state of being consistently and coherently changes along with changes in how you view the future you are living into. In fact, I believe most of us would agree that we can simultaneously be energetic and in action in one area of our lives while we are completely reluctant to get in action in another. Some of us may be very excited to go out socializing but extremely underwhelmed by the prospect of movie marathons, or someone might be extremely passionate about their work but not particularly excited by activities in their personal time, and so on. We are each the same person in every case, but what makes the difference in how we show up in various aspects of our lives depends on how inspired we are about the future that we anticipate in that area and whether it excites us or not. And if shifting our state this quickly and powerfully is something that happens automatically, you can bet it is something we can put to good use intentionally.

For instance, what if you find that the work you are doing right now doesn’t come with intrinsic goals that excite you? Well, then there is only one thing to do: make your own! Be intentional about setting up your own goals and milestones that are exciting to you, and be intentional about associating them with what you are doing right now so that you motivate yourself! This is especially helpful in the case of doing things that you may not find pleasant in the present, but have benefits in the future, like exercising.

Oftentimes, what stops us is that we get caught up in making ourselves wrong because we feel that we should be disciplined enough to do something without needing extrinsic motivators. Consequently, because we are in denial of the fact that we do need those motivators, we shun them and end up not getting anything done, starting a vicious cycle of disempowerment and demotivation. This is like saying a good horse should be motivated to pull a cart without having to hang a carrot in front of it, and then complaining that your cart isn’t moving because you refuse to dangle the carrot, and then blaming it all on the horse. If your goal is to get moving, it doesn’t matter how you think things should be; it only matters how they actually are, and that you respond to that fact. If you want the cart to move, sometimes you just have to dangle the carrot; if you want to be motivated to make progress, sometimes you just have to make the motivation for yourself. When you can intentionally create personal motivators that excite and compel you—that you actually care about—regardless of what others think, you will constantly be re-generating yourself to be however you need to be, to do whatever needs to get done, and to create the future you are out to create. And that is what real discipline is.

For leaders, the benefits of intentionally altering how you show up based on your commitments go beyond merely your own attitude and energy and personal productivity. The space you create by living into a future you are enthusiastic about touches others and causes them to be enthusiastic just by association. I remember when I was a plant manager and I would go out to the floor to chat with employees and see how they were doing. On some days, everyone seemed totally enthusiastic and on other days, morale seemed to be low. After months of trying to figure out the correlation between the mood swings that I was seeing and various factors such as our results, I painfully discovered that they had simply been mirroring my mood and how I had been projecting myself at the time. On the days when I appeared to be enthusiastic, so were they, and on the days when they felt I was concerned and not very happy, their mood was affected by mine.

It is important to recognize that each of us contributed to creating the culture of our workplace and our families and our communities and the culture we create influences just how we show up. This is why it is extremely important that we each accept the accountability to be intentional about how we show up and re-generate ourselves to be who we must be to accomplish what we have set out to achieve.


The Bottom Line:

No matter who you are or where you are, you always live in the present. That is something you have no control over and no choice about. However, something you do get to choose is if and how your past or future state of being gives birth to your present state of being. Do you choose to resign your present state to being automatically defined by your past, or do you choose for your present state to be intentionally determined by a future of your choosing? Transformative Leaders dwell on the future they create, and live in the present as a path to that future possibility, constantly re-generating themselves to sustain transformation. 

The key to instant motivation and energy is to re-generate yourself based on a future that is not just a projection of the “same old, same old” from the past, but rather an exhilarating and meaningful possibility that you can be excited about right at this very moment. The two most important elements to being able to do this are getting in touch with that aspect of your created future that is meaningful to you, and motivating yourself with those aspects of your created future that are exciting and fun for you. Getting in touch with a possibility that inspires you gives you immediate access to that part of you that is an abundant source of unlimited enthusiasm and energy, and all transformation, both personal and professional.

Have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! As always, I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges. Please leave your comments below or send me an email at amir@theghannadgroup.com.

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