Recently I interviewed the treasurer of a local university for their alumni magazine, and at one point in the conversation he said, “Your processes are geared towards getting you the results you’ve been getting. If you don’t like the results, then your processes are no good.”
I love this. It makes a lot of sense for everyone, not just university administrators: If you’re not getting the work you want, then you need to tweak what you’re doing.
The statement also resonated with me personally. I’ve been writing full-time since 1997, and browsing through my journal, which I’ve been keeping since 2004, I can see that I’ve felt burned out on and off for the last seven years.
I’d always wanted, since co-authoring Becoming a Personal Trainer for Dummies, to become a personal trainer and wellness coach. But it was such a far-fetched idea that when I told friends about it, I would preface it by saying, “I have this pipe dream…” or “You wouldn’t believe the crazy dream I have…”
But one day this past spring, my mind shifted from “You wouldn’t believe this crazy dream I have” to “I’m going to do this!” And instead of just thinking about it, I suddenly decided to sign up for personal training and wellness coaching certification courses, rent a personal training studio in Cary, and hire my life coach and my old personal trainer to mentor me.
I call situations like this, where you suddenly take a leap into a new way of thinking and working, mind shifts. It was a mind shift in the summer of 2009 when I decided to cut my workweek down to two days (while maintaining the same income), and it was a mind a year before that when a coach talked me into offering phone mentoring for writers (when I was previously scared of the idea).
Sometimes mind shifts come on of their own accord, like mine did, but there are ways to help spur a mind shift when you feel stuck. So if you’re having trouble deciding on your career direction, wanting to find new ways to get healthy, or even feeling stuck with your novel, here are some ways to force a mind shift.
Sometimes we get stuck because we spend so much time running around putting out fires that we have no time or mental space to tackle the big issues. When this happens, I force myself to take a few minutes to lie on the floor and meditate. I often come up with fresh new ideas as, ironically, I’m trying to not attach to random floating thoughts.
Sometimes, opening yourself up this way brings on benefits without your even trying. The other day I was feeling harried and worried about not having enough work, so I shut my laptop and lay down on the floor. When I got up a little while later and checked my e-mail, there was a message from one of my favorite editors asking if I’d like to write a column for her magazine! That night before bed, I did a guided meditation from The Meditation Podcast. When I woke up in the morning, there was an e-mail from a custom publishing company I had written to weeks before, saying they were looking for freelance writers and would be in touch. I checked the time stamp and realized the e-mail had been sent at 10:30 pm the night before — the exact time I was doing the meditation.
Ask a Coach
Whenever I feel like I’m stuck in low gear and need a mind shift, I set a session with my life coach. She’s the one who talked me into teaching e-courses even though my initial market research was less than positive. And it was a coach at The Yoga of Writing retreat who finally convinced me to start phone mentoring for writers even though the very idea scared me out of my wits. These were two pivotal points in my career. Sometimes you need an outside perspective on how you can get unstuck, and coaches (even wellness coaches like me) are trained to spot sticking points and help you work through them.
As fast as you can, make a list of every idea you have on how to fix whatever problem is bugging you — for example, say you’re looking for new ways to improve your health. Don’t censor your ideas…just let them flow. Then go through them one by one and seriously consider what would happen if you gave these ideas a try. The ones that sound crazy could be just the game-changing tactics you need to get out of your rut. Maybe you join a roller derby team, spring for a personal trainer, sign up for a 5K (when you have no running experience yet), hire a personal chef to create healthy meals for you, try a detox, or find an accountability buddy at work. Those ideas sound crazy at first, but are they really? (My take: No.)
Like my wise source said, you can’t get radical new results using the same old tactics. Have you ever had a mind shift? Did it come on naturally or did you need to force it?