Saturday, July 11, 2009

How To Get Better At "Trying Everything"

Sometimes we tell ourselves (or hear someone else say):

"I've tried everything. I just can't do it."
(With some variation of the second sentence.) The only problem is: it is hardly ever true.

It's important to recognize there is a difference between trying everything possible versus trying everything we can think of. This comes up daily, for all of us, while in the search for solutions to problems (ex: getting new business, finding a job, etc.) , tackling projects at work, and personal goals.

Sometimes we even convince ourselves we've been "working our ass off", where the real problem isn't that we're not motivated but that we've been floundering around doing seemingly useful "busy work" because we lack a clear idea what we should be doing next to move forward towards our goal. (An aside: Copying what others are doing, who may be not be all that better off, often isn't a good shortcut either).

I usually get into these ruts when I'm feeling one or more of:
  • tired
  • overworked
  • too focused
  • overwhelmed
  • unfocused
The best cure for me is some combination of:
  • taking a walk
  • studying something unrelated
  • reading a good, intellectual and perspective stimulating, newspaper (ex: NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, etc.) in print (hard copy, old school, not on-line)
  • grabbing a letter or legal pad and writing down all the to do, worrisome, and upcoming items, goals, ideas, etc. I have sloshing around in my head (and also in my sub-conscious as a result)
  • watching a favorite or engaging fictional TV show
  • breaking the priorities/goals/to do items down into smaller blocks, chunks, to do lists
  • sleeping on it
  • clearing my calendar of outside appointments
  • taking a long drive (sometimes with the commitment to not come back until I've figured out a next step)
  • kicking the idea around with my wife, a partner, or a close friend or colleague
  • getting out, often to a coffeehouse to do some people watching
  • re-prioritizing my top 5 items (and adding anything else that comes to mind to the "6+ item", not bothering to prioritize it specifically since there's little point in worrying about the specific order of anything other than the top 3 to 5 at any given point in time)
  • cleaning my work area, home office, or the even some area of the house
You get the gist.

It's just too easy to get stuck. It is inevitable. There's no profit in worrying or trying to prevent it. The only two things worth spending some time coming up with solutions to are:
  1. How to recognize when you are stuck, as early and often as possible
  2. Things to do to cure it
We have to develop personalized ways to get unstuck. There's no point in fighting or trying to avoid these situations outright -- they are bound to occur despite our best intentions.

This post was (in part) inspired by this excerpt from an excellent book I'm reading by Jay Abraham called "The Sticking Point Solution: 9 Ways to Move Your Business from Stagnation to Stunning Growth in Touch Economic Times":
Usually when people claim to have "tried it all," they haven't. They're stuck thinking within the same old mindset. And I've seen this revealed--firsthand.

At a Tony Robbins seminar I ounce attended, a man came up on stage, in front of thousands of people, and asked for advice. "Tony I've tried everything to make more money. I can't do it."

Tony was skeptical. "Name the last twenty-five to thirty new tactics you've tried in the last six or seven months and describe how each performed."

The man was speechless. He couldn't name a single one. Tony didn't give up. "Okay, name just ten." The man could only mutter unintelligibly before Tony finally drove the point home: "Just what have you done?"

The man's response shocked me: "I've looked in the want ads, and I've gone to a few franchise shows." Those two attempts hardly amounted to the "everything" he claimed to have tried. With his creative process stuck, the man was simply unable to see beyond the traditional methods he knew.
Usually, when I'm working with clients or myself, and start to feel "stuck" it's not due to a lack of intelligence, capability, confidence, or ambition. It's just a loss of perspective. When these times hit, it may be good to remember this post. We could all use a little perspective every once in a while.

Sometimes I (we) get stuck and don't even realize it. That has me thinking that we should build some of the cures for being stuck into our routines, even when we think we're on top of things. Because, even under the best of circumstances and when we're making lots of progress towards our goals, there are always others ways to look at things.

So, in conclusion, I'm suggesting this philosophy (for myself and perhaps for you too): Don't lose sleep over it, just keep your eyes wide open and keep moving forward. Go out of your way every day, to use some of the cures that you know keep you from getting stuck, so that you can be confident you're keeping your eyes wide open.

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