Sunday, September 25, 2011

In a fog?

Walking along the boardwalk last week in Asbury Park, NJ I was enveloped by a dense fog rolling off the ocean. At times I could not see 15 feet in front of me and then it would clear a bit. The fog altered my vision, changed my direction and hindered a direct path to where I wanted to go.

Though the fog off the ocean was beautiful it reminded me of how we can be caught up in a personal fog obscuring who we really are from ourselves. Great individuals have a clarity and frankness about who they are, what they've accomplished and what they have to do next. One of the inhibitors of personal to many of us is that we don't really have a clear view of ourselves.

For some of us our "self-portrait" has been created by what others have told us. Outside perspective and feedback is important, but people also tend to tell others what they "should" do and how they "must" act. Taking on those demands we can mistakenly alter our own focus and clarity of who we are and what we are called to do. Additionally we can be our own fog machine. Being overly optimistic about our skills and abilities can hinder rather than help us.

Being totally honest with ourselves about our skills and abilities is a step toward our personal greatness. Once we look clearly at ourselves we understand the assets we have and also the liabilities, the strengths and weaknesses. That is when we can plan and move forward.

A foggy beach can be a peaceful experience, but not a foggy self-awareness. If we are honest with ourselves, we will be more at peace and be better able to focus on where we want to be and what we need to get there.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Take a Break. Achieve Greatness

Labor Day is past and most of us have returned to our rapid pace lives. But some of us never stopped or even slowed down. Though we are approximately 23rd in the world in productivity the United States is first in the least amount of vacation taken. Yet I'll be the first to admit that it feels good to accomplish things, to work hard and see something at the end of the day. Just sitting around is not my idea of a good time. And people always challenge me that you won't get to greatness by relaxing. Well, we might want to rethink that idea. I know. It seems crazy to encourage people to find their greatness on one hand and tell them to relax on the other. There is a place for both. And, there is some good evidence that relaxing, even in small amounts, can change our productivity. There is an article in the June 2010 issue of Educational Psychology that highlights a very interesting study. With exams approaching, G√ľnter Krampen, Ph.D. taught a group of students how to do a relaxation meditation. All of the students in each grade took the same exams and then were given 4 minutes to relax. At the end of the 4 minutes they could look over their writing one more time before handing it in. The group trained in relaxation mediation did better initially on the exam, but after using the 4 minutes for relaxation meditation, they made more corrections and better ones than those who were not taught relaxation meditation. Overall, they outperformed the control group significantly. The past few months have taught me something. I don't remember how to relax. Perhaps I knew it once, but I've forgotten it. Yet now, as I try to recover relaxation I am finding myself more productive, creative and less tense. So, getting to greatness by taking a break now and then... there's an idea to pursue.