Mental Skills

43 Quotes about Innovation to Inspire Your Next Big Idea

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“Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship...the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” - Peter F. Drucker

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” - Walt Disney

“The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.” - Albert Einstein

“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.” - Jonas Salk

“The purpose of Innovation Management is not to promote innovation, but to manage innovation as a process.” - Pearl Zhu

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” - Steve Jobs

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” - Jonathan Swift

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” - Albert von Szent-Gyorgy

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” - Nelson Mandela

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” - Henry David Thoreau

“It isn't all over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning.” - Gene Roddenberry

“There’s a way to do it better — find it.” - Thomas Edison

“Innovation is creativity with a job to do.” - John Emmerling

“To accomplish great things we must dream as well as act.” - Anatole France

“The best vision is insight.” - Malcolm Forbes

“Without the playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.” - Carl Jung

“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” - Eric Hoffer

“Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.” - George Knelle

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” - Henry Ford

“Do not get obsolete like an old technology, keep innovating yourself.” - Sukant Ratnakar

“Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.” - Michael Porter

“This notion that it is up to each person to innovate in some way flies in the face of the industrial age, but you know what, the industrial age is over.” - Seth Godin

“Keep in mind that imagination is at the heart of all innovation. Crush or constrain it and the fun will vanish.” - Albert-László Barabási

“Creating a better future requires creativity in the present.” - Matthew Goldfinger

“Innovation is finding the door of opportunity and revealing its beauty.” - Debasish Mridha

“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” - Thomas Edison

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” - Walt Disney

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” - Goethe

“I will act as if what I do will make a difference.” - William James

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” - Linus Pauling

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” - General George Patton

“Money never starts an idea; it is the idea that starts the money.” - William J. Cameron

“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive one.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The enterprise that does not innovate ages and declines. And in a period of rapid change such as the present the decline will be fast.” - Peter Drucker

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” - Steve Jobs

"Where do you put the fear when you choose to innovate? The fear is there, but you have to find a place to put it." - Seth Godin

"...all technology starts as a spark in someone's brain." - Nathan Myhrvold, CEO, Intellectual Ventures

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” - Albert Einstein

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Alan Kay

“A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.” - A. von Szent-Gyorgyi.

“Innovation comes from the producer – not from the customer.” - W. Edwards Deming

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” - Anthony Jay

 


Easy 4 Ingredient Recipe to Staying in the Zone of Peak Performance

Victory

The flow state, sometimes known as the "zone," is a state of peak performance treasured by athletes, artists, and high performing businesspeople. Fields like Sports Psychology and NLP study this “peak performance” state in order to help people create it more consistently and utilize it for higher achievement.


Can you remember times when everything seemed to flow? When you were immersed in what you were doing and lifted by inspiration?


With our attention scattered by multiple devices and a steady stream of emails, learning and implementing the peak performance flow state has more relevance and strategic advantage than ever.

 

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If you'd like to know a simple recipe for peak performance, read on and let's consider a simple 4-step process for bringing more of it to your life, your team, company, or wherever else you'd like to apply it:


The 4 Steps are:


Define - Discover - Analyze - Implement


1. Define the state of peak performance


Charles Garfield, in his book Peak Performance, defined that state with these 8 characteristics he calls "neurophysiological cues of peak performance feelings" which I here summarize and paraphrase-

  1. Mentally Relaxed - inner calm and peace
  2. Physically Relaxed - no undue muscle tension
  3. Confident/ Optimistic - expecting success
  4. Focused on the Present - attention on the here and now
  5. Highly Energized - feeling "charged" with energy, more than enough for the task at hand
  6. Extraordinary Awareness - acutely sensitive to the sensory environment
  7. In Control - directing mind and body to do what is needed
  8. In the Cocoon - In an envelope of power, undistracted by the irrelevant and extraneous

Garfield used these criteria to help both athletes and business people better recognize their personal peak experiences with exercises like rating them on a 1-10 scale.  Drills like that help to clearly "mark out" peak performances from lesser ones, clearing the path to having them more often.

 

2. Discover a set of peak experiences


Make an inventory of the best personal peak experiences you can remember. You can use Garfield's 8 characteristics above as criteria. Remember specific times when you were really in the zone and feeling extremely focused and successful about whatever it is you were doing. What you were actually doing and whether or not you succeeded in the eyes of the world isn't as important as your own feelings of success. Find at least 3 or 4 personal peak experiences and give each one a name and short description that will jog your memory.


Now, as we would say in NLP, "elicit the state" of peak performance to bring these experiences fully back to life. Relax and fully immerse into each one and relive it with all your senses engaged . . . see what you were seeing . . . hear what you were hearing . . . feel what you were feeling . Notice how your body position, posture, and facial expression shift with feelings like confidence, focus, and control reawakened.

 

3. Analyze your peak experiences

Once you have a few peak experiences closer at hand, analyzing them helps you learn they didn't just happen by chance. There are things you did and thought that helped create the climate that high performance thrives in.

Doing a "mind map" is a good way to better understand how you created these experiences and can create more in the future.

As you think about one, let your thinking flow as you use a mind mapping app or just doodle on a piece of paper, listing all the things that were going both physically and mentally before and during that time. Afterwards, as you review several, you will see things you did or thought that were consistent between them that can become your personal keys to peak experience.

 

4. Implement what you have learned.

Studying these mind maps of your personal peak experiences and inventorying the controllable factors that brought them about helps you arrange your life to be in "the zone" more consistently and consciously.

Design your environment and actions so peak experiences happen more often. For example, if you found that having a coach was a common to your past peak experiences, you know to build a coach into your current plan.

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By knowing the definition of peak performance, discovering such times in your own life, analyzing how they came about, and implementing what you learned, you can live at a higher level of inspiration and success.


How will your life be different, rallying and amplifying your highest state of peak performance and then consistently focusing it on the activities and outcomes important to you?


Thought Experiment 6 - The Computer Simulation

The cyberpunk classic The Matrix  imagined a future where people live simulated lives projected by computers 

 
Elon Musk referenced the concept this past summer in an interview where he said we could be living in a computer simulation.


Absurd? Maybe... but it makes for an interesting "what if" thought experiment in shifting perception. You'll want to read the introduction 6 Thought Experiments to Inspire Innovation if you haven't already as it sets up this context of thought experiments as a tool for innovation.


Now, if you are intrigued by the concept, let's set up a framework to continue playing with the concept of the Computer Simulation Thought Experiment:


Can you imagine how things would be different if Musk is right and we are in a simulation? .... if you found you are living in a big video game and nothing you experience is real in the manner you thought it was?


How would the awareness of living in such a simulation affect your perspective on things you may have previously considered obstacles?


Now, to take things up a level, imagine that you discover you are actually the programmer of the reality game projecting your consciousness into the game to become the character you thought you were. As the programmer, you can leave the virtual reality and change the game in any way you like before reentering it.


Knowing this, how would you change it?


After doing so, how would things be different when you re-entered the identity of the game character you thought you were?

 

Let yourself slip into a daydream state (NOT while driving or operating heavy machinery!) and spend enough time with these questions for interesting new thoughts to emerge...

 

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Thoughts experiments like this one, The Model of Excellence, The Time Machine, or The Abstract Sculpture may not come easily at first. Most people aren't used to thinking in such out of the box ways. Then again, most people aren't experiencing the benefits of regularly generating  innovative ideas. So, if that's the case for you, maybe you can consider it like a first exercise session that wakes up a body that has been sedentary. With enough frequency and intensity, staying at it means you will make regular progress and, eventually, transformation.


In NLP , we call thought experiments like this "reframes" (link to NLP blog post). When you are in a rut, putting a different frame around the situation can bring the fresh perspectives, new soundtrack, and different feelings that facilitate the breakthroughs that take things to new levels.


Thought Experiment 4 - The Abstract Sculpture

"Eureka!" Archimedes

Thought experiments can trigger breakthrough ideas.

This post is part of a series of thought experiments for innovation in business. Previously, we dove deeper into the Model of Excellence and Time Machine methods.

If you haven't read the introduction 6 Thought Experiments to Inspire Innovation, you'll want to digest that first to set the stage.

Here, we consider a method of using the mind's abstract visual thinking abilities to stimulate innovation with The Abstract Sculpture thought experiment.

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“Abstraction forces you to reach the highest level of the basics.” – Alan Soffer

"I am searching for abstract ways of expressing reality, abstract forms that will enlighten my own mystery." – Eric Cantona

Before you start, set clear intent. A key to success with this (or any) thought experiment is creating the state of having achieved what you want in advance. What would you accomplish if anything was possible and you could not fail?

Seeing and hearing this achieved as if you are there, how do you feel different? How does this feeling move?

What is the difference between how you feel with the status quo and the feelings of this success through the right innovations actualized? Note this difference.

 Set aside some time when you can give this all your attention. Cut your smart phone off and let that act be an anchor for letting concerns slip away ... a good regular practice to have regardless.

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On to the Abstract Sculpture Thought Experiment.

Think of the times when you were in a relaxed, dreamlike state.

How were things different in those times? How did things look different?

How was your internal dialogue different?

What feelings did you notice that let you know you were relaxing and letting your imagination wander?

How was your breathing changed?

To go deeper, you can cycle through the senses like this a few times. What you saw, heard, felt ...

Now, if you could see your current level of achievement in that area of business as an abstract sculpture, what would it look like? What colors, forms, shadows and lighting would best evoke the feeling of it? Let enough time pass for this representation to fully form.

You can consciously sculpt it , just let shapes emerge, or both.

Look at it from different perspectives. Step back and see it from a distance. Imagine walking around it, looking at it from different angles. How would it look from above? Below? What details would you notice if you zoomed in close to it?

As this congeals in your mind's eye, imagine how the sculpture would look different if, instead, it represented the higher level of achievement, joy, focus, or whatever you would sense with the accomplishment you want. Again, keep it abstract so that it evokes the feeling without being a clear representation. Spend some time contemplating this changed art piece. Again, you can zoom in close, then zoom out to see it from a distance as well as see it from various angles.

Ideally spend at least 15 minutes contemplating the abstract sculpture in both original and evolved forms.

When you are ready, just come back and reorient yourself to your normal day-today concerns, maybe with a look at your calendar or planner.

“Abstraction generally involves implication, suggestion and mystery, rather than obvious description.” – Robert Genn

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The thought experiment is like bait on a fishing line in murky, unfamiliar waters teeming with life. You can't see what's down there but you will discover it when you reel it in. As the chef of innovation, you don't know what dinner will be but it will be good.

How would things be different with enhanced mental agility from regular thought experiments?


Thought Experiment 2 - The Time Machine

Back2FutureSm

This is the second of the detailed thought experiments posts following the more general introduction 6 Thought Experiments to Inspire Innovation which is where you will want to start if you haven't read it yet.


Last time, we looked at the Model of Excellence method. Here, we are digging deeper into the Time Machine.


Have you seen the time travel comedy skit featuring identical twins?


What if time travel was a real thing in an alternate universe? After all, quantum mechanics says it is possible.

 
Here is a way to play with that concept to generate possibilities:


First, think of some ability or accomplishment you have now that 5 or 10 years ago, you wouldn't have even imagined.


In your imagination, travel back in time and share that information with the "past you". How does the "past you" react? Maybe deer-in-the-headlights? How would the reply sound as you shared this? How would he or she feel about learning of the future self's abilities or accomplishments?


Now, keeping this in mind, return fully to the present. Shake it off.


Imagine you are getting in your time machine again, but this time travelling to the future, looking back on your present self  - seeing and hearing your present self similarly to how you experienced your past self.


As your future self, imagine travelling back in time to the present (confusing, I know) telling your present (now, past) self about something you now do or have in this future time that your present self responds to in the same way.


What would that be?


Thought Experiment 1 - The Model of Excellence

The post 6 Thought Experiments to Inspire Innovation makes the case for thought experiments for innovation and achievement in business. It gives an overview of six thought experiments suitable for that purpose and is where you will want to start if you haven't read it yet.


This is the first of the promised subsequent posts to unfurl specific thought experiments in more detail. Here we are examining the "model of excellence" method.


The field of NLP was largely founded on modeling excellence. The founders created a syntax that decoded the essential aspects of high level achievement into replicable components that could produce similar results.


Aspects worth modeling can include physiology, attitude, beliefs, sensory experience . . . It works in part because it is easier for a beginning entrepreneur to see Steve Jobs coming up with an innovation that reinvents his field than to see himself doing it. Making such an inner movie vivid, dramatic, and bigger-than-life can amp things up yet another level.

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The first step is to choose a model...


Who, to you, represents excellence in handling the issues like those you are dealing with? Is it a famous author, marketing consultant, or businessperson? Is it a historical genius like Tesla or Einstein? A mythological figure like Apollo or Thor? How would it look and sound if this person took your place for a while in dealing with your business challenges?

Move-Theater


Now let's make a movie . . .


Imagine you are at the theater. There's the usual squeaking of chairs, hushed lighting, and smell of popcorn. You are watching a film about your model of excellence taking your place and facing your challenges. How would things turn out differently? Fully immerse in watching your model of excellence create results in your situation. Maybe Nikola Tesla invents something or Steve Jobs instigates a breakthrough that reinvents an industry. Let it play all the way out.


Now, rewind the movie to the beginning and watch it again, only this time, superimpose an image of another you over the model of excellence. . . seeing both at the same time until the "other you" matches the actions, the way of looking at the world differently, and the energy and drive of the model.


Play the movie all the way to the end, gradually replacing the model of excellence with the "other you" until you clearly see the other you acting, thinking, and feeling the same way. Feel free to add a soundtrack of motivating music.

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As the producer of this inner movie, you can enhance the drama of the achievement with perspective tricks or special effects. For example, you can add fireworks sparkling high above, celebrating the achievements, or a crowd roaring in a large stadium. Take time to make it vivid and bigger than life.


Now, use your remote control to restart the movie from the beginning, step into it fully and see, hear, and feel the events from the perspective of the "other you" that has modeled your ideal of excellence. Again, play it all the way to the end.


What new actions and thoughts emerge? What different feelings do you notice playing this enhanced character?


How would things be different if you consistently applied this going forward? How would your results change? Your relationships? Your mindset?


Remember when an image displayed too long on an computer monitor would get "burned in". Practicing such mental movies regularly can similarly imprint them deeply. What skills and achievements of models of excellence would be helpful to "burn in" the theater of your mind?


Like any of these thought experiments, try the Model of Excellence on for size and, if it works for you, keep doing it. Or you can try another.

Stay tuned to this channel as the next Thought Experiment post will go into more detail about "The Time Machine".

 


6 Thought Experiments to Inspire Innovation

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. " Albert Einstein

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Young Einstein was riding his bicycle in Munich when he saw shafts of sunlight and wondered what it would be like to ride on a light beam. That thought experiment helped develop special relativity.


Thought experiments can be used for breakthrough innovation in many areas of life, including business. 


Do you sometimes feel like you are pushing against a wall and would rather find the door?


Would you like a fresh perspective on a business situation?


Could you be surprised at new solutions that seem to come from nowhere?


The right thought experiment is an exquisite tool for generating new possibilities. This post aims to set the stage for such a mental journey by sharing an overview of six suitable thoughts experiments.


The Stanford Encyclopedia says, " The primary philosophical challenge of thought experiments is simple: How can we learn about reality ... just by thinking?" These thought experiments are intended to expand one's reality by accessing hidden human reserves, untapped possibilities outside the boundaries of what we normally think we can do. Breaking the chains of  mental habits can unveil hidden resources and spur one to accomplish at higher levels.


"Change your thoughts and you change your world." Normal Vincent Peale


There is much outside of our perception. Peale's quote acknowledges that we don't respond to the world, but to our mental models of the world. If you ask 5 people who left a room together to describe their recollection, you'd get 5 different descriptions. Bees see ultraviolet shades invisible to humans to better find nectar. When my dog, Jefferson, sniffs a tree, I remember dogs have a sense of smell up to 100,000 times more sensitive than humans. People hear sound waves from 20 to 20,000 hertz yet dolphins and bats can hear up to 100,000 hertz. Instruments can measure frequencies yet further beyond our sensory perception. And that is far from all that is. 


Thought experiments are ladders over the mental walls of our thinking habits.  Once you have climbed up and are peeking over those walls, you may also hear the whispers of a new story. How would it make things different if you more regularly generated breakthrough ideas and inspiring new insights?


Two short tips before you start:


Sometimes a thought experiment can bring instant insight and other times there is an incubation period before an seemingly comes "out of the blue". Can you be surprised at what you are doing when an inspiring innovation comes to you? 


The right spirit to approach these with is taking a mental break from routine for an inner adventure in which you suspend your usual patterns of thinking and enter a trance-like, dreamy state. Enjoy taking the time out.


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Following are brief descriptions of 6 thought experiments. This may be enough to set you off on a fruitful mental journal and, if you need more, there will be subsequent posts that share more detailed step-by-step instructions.

 

 The Model of Excellence

Who represents excellence in handling issues like you are dealing with? Is it a famous author, consultant, or businessperson? Or is it a historical genius like Tesla or Einstein? What would be different if this person took your place in dealing with your business challenges? How might things turn out differently? More details on the Model of Excellence method here.


The Time Machine


How would it change your perspective if you could time travel years into the past and surprise the younger you with the knowledge of later accomplishments or skills that would have seemed unimaginable then? What extra resource might you give your younger self to achieve more in the coming years? What might you similarly learn from your future self if you traveled 10 or 20 years into the future to find out what you learned or accomplished later? More details on The Time Machine here.


The Olympic Athlete


How would things be different if you could borrow the focus, beliefs, and standards of an Olympic athlete in training and focus them on a goal you want to accomplish? Where do you notice the feelings that go with this drive and intensity?


The Abstract Art Form


If you could see your business achievements as an abstract art sculpture, what would it look like? How would it look different if it represented a higher level of achievement instead? Spend some time contemplating it in detail. What new perspective or inner dialogue emerge when you return to thinking about the issue? This can work with different sensory systems as well - try it with a piece of instrumental music or even a gourmet meal.


The Systems View


Systems thinking uses visual models to help us see how interrelationships and goal of a system drive performance in a way that transcends the individual parts. If you were to step out of your business challenge and see the dynamics of it instead as such a diagram, what would it look like? See it from a distance with detachment. What ideas emerge for optimizing the situation when you look at it this way?


The Computer Simulation


Elon Musk said in an interview that we could be living in a computer simulation . What if this was actually the case and we were living in a big video game so that nothing you experience is "real" in the sense you thought it was? What would you change if you were the programmer of this virtual reality that you previously mistook as real life?


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If your initial tries at these admittedly unusual ways of thinking don't immediately bear fruit, consider it like beginning a physical exercise program. The tentative first steps wake up a previously sedentary body to more activity and focusing on enough frequency and regular progress steps reap great benefits in the long run.


In NLP , we call thought experiments like this "reframes". When you feel you are in a mental rut, a reframe can brings fresh perspectives, a new, more invigorating soundtrack, or a pull into new directions previously unconsidered.  Enjoy the surprises.

 


5 Powerful Applications for NLP in Business

Do you value excellence in business? One definition of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is the study and replication of excellence. As such, it has many applications in the business arena.


NLP was originally developed in the 1970s by linguist John Grinder and programmer Richard Bandler. They created a language for decoding the communication skills of masters like Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnotherapy. Bandler and Grinder created a syntax to make the formerly mysterious abilities teachable. They and other early leaders of NLP also modeled peak performers in sports, business, therapy, and  science  to develop codified patterns of high performance that became NLP . The power and applications of what they created run deep and wide.


Here, we'll look at five skills from NLP that are especially useful in business. This is an overview to give a sense of how much there is to gain with their application in business. You can dig deeper with study and perhaps a certification course if you become intrigued enough to look into mastering these practices. Or you could hire an NLP  Certified Practitioner or Master Practitioner to assist with evolving your business as a sales or management trainer or organizational consultant with these skills:


1- Building Rapport


Great communicators develop rapport before they attempt to persuade. NLP defines rapport on several levels. Matching and pacing another's physical movements and speech gives the feeling "this person is like me." If it's just subtle enough, it can be very effective at creating comfort while going unnoticed on a conscious level. This can be as simple as holding the same posture while speaking in the same loudness and with the same rhythm as your counterpart.


A deeper level of rapport is "criterial rapport". You create this by feeding back another's desired outcome with precision. Find out his or her intended result and feed it back to get agreement and the sense of being aligned towards a common goal.


2- Eliciting and Anchoring Positive States


Wouldn't it be nice to be able to call upon your highest level of motivation and focus it exactly where you want it? NLP has processes for eliciting any positive state of mind you have experienced and putting it wherever you find helpful. For example, in NLP sales training, measurable improvements in phone sales have been gained by anchoring the expectation of success to answering the phone.


3- Belief Change


In Systems Thinking, brought to a wider audience by Peter Senge's book The Fifth Discipline, "mental models" are often levers for making positive change in companies. "Mental Models" is another name for "Belief Systems", or the assumptions we make that underpin our decisions. These are usually unconscious. Being able to uncover, examine, then change a belief system underlying an underperforming business system can be extremely powerful. An example might be finding a belief that "you should always purchase the lowest bid" is at the root of an unreliable product and can be changed to the more appropriate belief (mental model) that "it's better to choose vendors that add the most value to the end customer". NLP is rich in systems to discover and change disempowering beliefs.


4- Multiple Perspectives


In NLP, we talk about first, second, and third positions as three different ways to perceive a situation. For example, "first position" might be described as seeing things from the eyes of a service rep serving a customer. "Second position", conversely, would be seeing things from the customer's point of view in the same situation (as well as hearing things from the customer's ears). Things can feel quite a bit different from there! Feeling what a customer feels leads to more empathy, a key principle in customer oriented businesses. Third position is observing the situation as an uninvolved third party, watching from the distance . Different information is gathered from third position, where the interplay can be better observed with detachment.


Being able to see things from the customers’ point of view as well as from the detached observer perspective brings new information that helps gain rapport and understanding. Switching positions is a also a useful skill for negotiation and resolving conflict.


5- Reframing


The ability to put a new frame around a situation can add motivational "juice" and put problems in a new perspective. An example of a reframe that changed an entire industry is when certain restaurateurs realized they were in the entertainment business and not simply in the nourishment business. Personal Fitness Training flourished as more people saw helping people get fit through the frame of a coach rather than that of a teacher. Nearly any business situation can be reframed to gather new information from seeing it in a different context.


NLP has proven to be a powerful tool in sales and business leadership, enabling creating more aligned teams with higher motivation, uncovering the source of and solving business problems, and shedding light on new, innovative perspectives.

 


4 Ways to Get Focus in the Age of Distraction

NotASquirrel

I want to look at a goal the way Jefferson looks at a cat. Jefferson is a sturdy, athletic black lab mix, and the clinching chain around his neck is completely ignored as he strains with all his 85 pounds after the feline frenemy. A plane could crash into a nearby house and he wouldn't notice.


How often, though, do we humans  get that kind of focused drive in this age of distraction? According to a recent study, our personal symphonies of attention scattering alerts are a one trillion (yes, with a T) dollar problem.


So, it seems to me that, in today's world, the ability to consciously create focus is a tremendous strategic advantage. If you master that, you are a shark amongst minnows, a crocodile amongst turtles.


So, ignore your beeping phone for a few minutes, and read on, future crocodile-shark, to see how:


1. Meditation


Learning to calm your rational mind and separate from your thoughts is a powerful way to learn to manage your attention and where you direct it. I've seen a lot of definitions for meditation, but to me, they all have the common goal of finding the place of deep inner silence. Practice physically relaxing and mentally clearing your thoughts for at least 20 minutes a day and you will find your ability to put your attention where you want improving . . . in addition to the myriad other benefits to your health and well being meditation offers. Take time to sharpen the saw and you’ll cut the trees faster.


2. Consciously Schedule Time for Being Distracted


While it seems counterintuitive, intentionally planning time to be available to the interruptions from your beeping phone and binging laptop will help you calibrate the difference between being focused and being distracted. Becoming familiar with the difference between these two states means you can more readily adjust yourself to where you want to be. Try scheduling a half hour once or twice a day to respond to all distractions as if they were important. After a while, you might even find this hard to do, as you better learn the value of the state of focusing on one important thing at a time.


3. Work in Time Cycles Between Analytic Work and Creative Absorption


I am far more productive with software development when I take 10 minutes out of every half hour to play guitar. It gives the "left brain" a rest and I return to the work refreshed, often with new ideas that seemed to unconsciously gestate as I took this "creative rest". You may not be a musician, but you can get most of the same benefits by listening to music, doodling, or whatever else triggers your creative feelings. And if you don't have a creative outlet you enjoy, this would be a good time to one that to your life.


4. Analyze Your Personal State of Immersion


I'm sure there have been times in your life when you have been fully absorbed in an activity. I became more familiar with my own state of absorption when I was riding motorcycles: situation awareness can save your life when you are on two wheels in a sea of texting SUV drivers. Weight lifting is another activity in which I have had experiences of deep concentration. Think back through your own personal history and find some specific times where you were deeply absorbed in what you were doing. In your imagination, step back into those times and relive them, one by one. What were the common factors? Did you see what you were focused on in a particular way? How did you talk to yourself, or did you? What feelings accompanied these times? Now, imagine how much more productive you will be by having that state where you want it in the future, seeing things the same way, hearing the same way, and feeling the same way.


These four methods are but a small sampling of all the ways you can build the mental skill of focus and emerge the victor over the endless stream of distractions we live with. How much more can you do with a highly developed skill of concentration that is there when you need it? How much more satisfaction can you gain from being fully aligned with what you intend to do? What is the first thing from this list that you can practice today to affirm to yourself you've made the decision to master awareness?