Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

Seeing things from the 30,000ft view or keeping the big picture in mind can be immensely helpful especially during challenging and uncertain times. When we get caught up in reacting to everything in our life it can be a lot like experiencing turbulence on a plane. We feel like we are out of control, have lost control of our situation and or control is at the hands of someone else; we can’t see very far ahead to the future and visibility is low due to clouds or clouded thinking; we feel like we are getting pushed around and are constantly having to react or ‘put out fires’. It’s uncomfortable, draining, stressful, and downright exhausting.

Just like on a flight, when the plane is experiencing turbulence, pilots know that rather than ‘putting up with it’ they take control, pull up on the yolk and get up to a higher altitude where it is smoother, and visibility is clearer. If we can challenge ourselves to choose to see the bigger picture, especially in times of our own turbulence, it can improve our ability to navigate our short-term challenges, be more effective problem-solvers, keep us focused, and maintain perspective.

The following are strategies to help you do that.

Begin with the end in mind. There is a reason for why the front window of a car is much bigger than the rear-view mirror. It is much more important to see where you are going than to focus on where you have been. One of the most powerful ways to create certainty especially in uncertain times is to engage your visual brain and focus on what you want to create. Go out to future time, act ‘as if’ it has already occurred, and see yourself in that future. Explore the possibilities. How will you know you have arrived at this future time? What’s the evidence criteria? What do you want to be seeing, hearing, feeling, knowing, experiencing? Who are you being in that future? Identify why this outcome or future is important to you? Flexing that imagination muscle is your key to creating more of what you want to have happen. What you focus on grows. (see the “Big Picture Thinking Way to Achieve Epic Results” worksheet).

Use anchoring words. Acting ‘as if’ it is your future date, what three words would you want to use to describe your journey to your outcome or goal? These three words then act as guideposts and are a great way to anchor in your big picture into your day to day living. They become almost like a compass to measure daily actions or behaviours against. Is what I am doing or about to do in alignment with those three words?

Exercise creative thinking. Too often the way we think reinforces, defines, and confines us to seeing things only one way. Challenge your assumptions and yourself to expand your frame of reference and shift perspective by exploring other ways to approach your desired outcomes or future. The more choices you create for overcoming a challenge or creating more pathways of possibilities means you have flexibility. This flexibility means you have more freedom of movement to overcome or move around any challenge on way towards your outcome or future. This is a powerful mindset.

Challenge your way of thinking to come up with at least 5 new ways to approach a goal or outcome or challenge. The more creative and imaginative the better. When you train your brain to think in a more expansive way means that you can overcome challenges or adapt a lot faster to change. This type of strategy is so important to employ especially in times of uncertainty.

“How else can we approach this that we haven’t tried before?”

“What are additional ways to overcome this that I haven’t yet considered?”

“In what new and exciting ways can I move forward toward my goal/outcome?”

“What are our new and best ways to approach this?”

“If that route/path/solution is no longer available, what new solution appears?”

Standing on the shoulders of giants. During our short-term challenges, we forget just how resourceful and resilient we really are. Sometimes it can be helpful to think of people who inspire you. This could be family, ancestors, mentors, sport heros or others who you look up to. Ask yourself: What would they do in your situation? How might they handle things? What advice would they give you? In addition, it can be extremely helpful to spend some time to call on your own capabilities and recall your references of times in your life when against the odds you persevered. You are giant too after all!

Fire Walking Like Oprah

This past fall I had a profound experience that shifted my life trajectory and elevated my energy to stratospheric heights. It literally resuscitated the joy back into me.

That’s what walking on 2100 degree hot coals will do to you.

I wasn’t aware I had old stories or limiting beliefs that were holding me back. As a self-development junkie for the past 20+ years I thought I had cleared the big ones. Sure “doubt”, “fear”, “not enough” would creep in from time to time; this I always thought that this was my introverted side piping up trying to keep me safe. What else was there?

Ah, that was the fear talking and rightly so.

Then something deep within said “Oh yes you are.” I had a strong sense that I was going to experience a shift; this was going to be an opportunity to leave something behind (and hopefully not burnt flesh).

Over ten thousand people from 54 countries were going to do this together. The build up to this moment was indescribable. Imagine for a moment what it must have been like to have thousands of people barefoot and walking out of an arena together into the Californian moonlit night. It was surreal.

As I was walking, I noticed that I was wrestling with thoughts; back and forth with my logical mind and something deeper. Fight or flight is a powerful innate response as we are hardwired to avoid things like this and yet I was determined to do it.

As I got closer, fear like a crescendo was getting louder as was the excitement. Back and forth and forth and back; so much self-talk between these two sides. I finally had one last rational thought before it came my turn.

“If Oprah can freaking do this; so can I!”

That was enough to tip the needle in favour of doing this walk. It made me laugh to think that this thought would be the thing that would propel me forward; and yet there it was.

Cool moss under my feet let me know it was time. Head up and anchoring my view on a star just off of the horizon I began to walk. I only recall feeling my left foot strike the fire walk then I must have levitated the rest of the way.

Had it not been for the kind volunteers at the end of the walk that let me know I had done it I probably would have kept walking clear across the parking lot!

“Wipe your feet and celebrate!”

That high was something I have never experienced before. There isn’t an emotional register for me to equate what this was.

Mind over matter.

What that experience taught me was how a story that I created in my own mind might have prevented me from experiencing this incredible shift.

I had to wonder, how many stories had I created in the past that held me back and caused me to miss out on delicious opportunities that life offered?

Stop the BS.

So often these self constructed stories or BS as I like to call it (that’s belief systems) hold us back. We keep putting our dreams, hopes, goals on the back burner while we continue to put these old unfounded beliefs or stories in front of us. We rest back thinking that time is on our side except that it isn’t. No wonder we aren’t creating the progress and results that we really want.

There is no such thing as perfect timing to create and go after what you want. I know you get it but what specifically are you doing about those dreams and goals of yours? What actions are you taking?

Here’s the invitation, what old story are you ready to leave behind?

What new story can you now invent moving forward?

What you focus on grows.

NOW is the time.

Time to make your move and say yes.

10 Tips to Stay Sane and on the Bright Side No Matter Who is Around

Has this ever happened to you? You walk into work feeling rather good about life in general when you are met with negativity and toxic behaviour of co-workers. Before you know it, you find yourself immersed in the griping, complaining, and head nodding. Is this how you wanted your day to start?

You are not alone.

Negativity and the behaviours that go along with it are contagious and corrosive in any environment; be it at work, at home, or on an athletic team. Behaviours to look out for are complaining, blaming, gossiping, criticizing, and comparing. Some folks are committed to seeing only the ‘bad’ in everything and have a propensity to “major in the minors”.

Here is what you can do to stay sane and positive. You might even help shift the mindset of the those in your life who tend to see the “glass half-empty”.

1. Recite in your mind “I am not this story.” When you notice someone is running the same old, negative, tired out story recite in your mind “I am not this story.” What this does is it keeps you detached and reduces the chance of you finding yourself pulled into the drama.

2a) Respond only with “OK.” or “I see.” One of the reasons why negativity perpetuates is because it gets fueled by reactions, emotional reactions. These suggested responses are respectful and indicate to the person that you are listening and are not going to react or engage the way they may wish you to. If they are not getting the response they want from you, the less likely they’ll be in approaching you next time with the same issue.

2b) Then ask a solutions focused question such as:  “What specifically are you going to do about it?” or “What is your next best step?”  If this ‘story’ keeps coming up help the person by asking “Ah, this seems to come up a lot for you and I heard you yesterday when you were talking about it. I want to support you so, if there is a new development to this, I will listen. Otherwise how can I best help you?” or “Given what you’ve said I am curious, what do you think your next best step is?” Use your judgement as to what question will work in the situation and topic at hand.

3. People are not their behaviours. This one may feel like a stretch for some and yet once you understand this it can be liberating in how you choose to cope, deal with, and approach those that tend to see only scarcity and negativity. This is an act of compassion, and it reminds us to see the person for who they are; not for what they do or say. A person’s negativity may stem from low self-esteem or a low sense of self-worth. People are doing the best with what they have and with what they know.

4. Shift your physiology. Pay attention to how you stand with the person. If the conversation shifts south avoid mirroring their body language. Shift to the side or be at an angle; close your arms or clasp them in front of you; and avoid too much eye contact. Doing this will help protect you from taking on the negative weight of the conversation and it is another way to disengage.

5. Set a time limit. This is a great boundary setting strategy. It will let the person know right up front that you only have X amount of time. For example, Person: “Got a sec? I need to vent.” You, “I only have five minutes before I need to head off for a meeting. You’ll have my attention for five minutes then I must go. What’s going on for you?”

6. Take the lead in the conversation. Come prepared with different things to talk about that are more positive. Put a positive spin on the topic at hand if it starts to spiral to the negative.

7. Train them with your attention. Ignore behaviors you don’t want and reward those you do with positive feedback or reinforcement. Don’t reward your perpetually ‘glass half empty’ colleagues with your attention when they’re caught in yet another negativity loop. This actually enables them to stay stuck in their ‘story’.

8. Keep your body and mind healthy. Get your sleep; engage in regular exercise; practice gratitude; do stress reduction activities; and eat healthy. If your body is worn down, it will be easier for the office drama to start stressing you out. Looking after how you eat, move, sleep, and think will protect you from being drawn into negativity.

9. Model the way. Never underestimate the extent to which how you choose to show up, talk, and behave has a powerful impact on those around you. It is contagious as well; the key is to be consistent. Lead from where you are with what you have.

10. Focus on what is in YOUR control. Your thoughts, how you choose to react or respond, are always in your control no matter the situation. Let go of what is not. We cannot control the behaviours of other people nor can we fix or rescue them. That’s their journey. Focus on yours.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

With International Women’s Day approaching I thought it would be fitting to focus the following Mindset Shift Strategy in honour of and to celebrate the powerful women in my life.

I promise that I will get to the strategy. First, bear with me as I recount the story behind this photo and reflect on what it means to me.

This picture, taken many years ago at my Aunt Kate’s wedding (who herself was also a giant in my life) represents four generations of the women in my family – my Great Gram, Gran, Mom, my older sister and me (the one holding a hand under my Gran’s chin).

I remember this photo being taken like it was yesterday. Given that we didn’t get to see Great Gram very much as she lived in Ontario, my Mom thought it would be special and important to capture this photo of all of us together – four generations. I got into trouble mere moments before this photo was taken. I was admiring how lovely my Gran looked and had got the bright idea of putting my hand up under Gran’s chin to showcase this for the photo when my Mom curtly instructed “Sara, put your hand down. Get it away from Gran’s face!” In cheeky defiance, I said “No! I want to show just how beautiful Gran is!”

Click.

To this day this photo is one of my most cherished and it takes its place in a prominent location on my desk. It is a powerful anchor that reminds me daily of the empowered and strong women in my family. Each woman in this photo has endured more than their fair share of tragedies, significant life events (the kind of ‘knock you to your knees’ events), surviving life’s many twists, turns, and detours, plot twists, pitfalls and obstacles (you get the point).

Yet, through all that they endured, their resilient and indomitable spirits persevered against all odds, improvised, adapted, made do, embraced faith, and somehow found a way to put one foot in front of the other to keep moving forward. Over the years, their stories and wisdom have been a great source of comfort and guidance to me. This picture, their collective stories, have also acted as a catalyst in redirecting my focus to reclaim the grit, perseverance, and tenacity required to overcome my own challenges.

These women are not only family. They are legends to me. I remind myself in times of great challenge and uncertainty that I stand on the shoulders of these giants.

Now for the strategy.

During difficult times and challenging circumstances. our emotions can cloud our judgement and temporarily disable our ability to see things clearly. During such times it can be helpful to take another’s viewpoint or perspective to gain fresh insights or clues on our best ways to move forward. The “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” mindset shift strategy invites you think of a person (or people) that have inspired you or who have been a positive influence in your life. This could be family members, ancestors, mentors, a favourite schoolteacher, a sport hero or anyone who you look up to and see as a role model.

Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, take a few deep relaxing breaths, and imagine that they are sitting right across from you. They are here to fully support you and provide you with the intel you need to resolve or work through the present challenge. You can ask them anything!

To get you started you might consider asking them:

  • Given your situation, what would they advise are your best ways forward?
  • How might they handle or approach things?
  • What would they offer as your next best steps to take?
  • What would they tell you to remember?
  • What are you not seeing?
  • What advice or words of encouragement would they give you?
  • What is the one thing that you can do that will create the best results and positively impact all who are involved?

Listen for their answers. It can be helpful to capture what you learn or discover in writing to help with recalling things later. Be sure to offer your appreciation and gratitude for their guidance. You can repeat the process and ‘visit’ with them anytime you need or want to.

By taking on another’s viewpoint or perspective it will help you to create space in your mind to consider new possibilities, choices, and options that you hadn’t thought of or were available before.