“The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common in that they all began their journeys when they were none of these.”
Mike Dooley, author and speaker
There is more excitement and optimism moving into 2014 than there has been in years. You can see it and feel it. Businesses are gearing up; hiring is heating up, home sales are moving up, and many other signs point to a recovery.
The worst is over. Finally. Now what? How do we make our own 2014 more productive, creative, and possibly the best year of our lives? The answer is we have to embrace and even welcome the limitations in our personal and professional lives, and in that process become more creative than ever before.
Think about favorite films and books – almost all have a theme of overcoming limitations and struggling against all odds. In a true story made into the film Philomena, we cheer when a determined 71-year-old mother, Philomena Lee, decides to find her son who was forcibly taken from her 50 years before. We marvel at Walt Disney who demonstrated 20 years of creativity, imagination, and patience with the cranky author of Mary Poppins to get the original movie version made, as seen in the recent release of Saving Mr. Banks. Studying the life of celebrated author, Ernest Hemmingway, we wonder what pushed him through the stunning loss of a suitcase that contained 3 years of his unpublished manuscripts, to later be awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in literature for work he created after the loss.
Nothing stirs creativity, resourcefulness, and determination quite like big, seemingly insurmountable limitations and disappointments. Limitations drive creativity. Disappointments can get us out of our ruts. We have also seen or experienced the reverse of limitations: how too much unlimited time, money, or talent can create so many options and confusion that little is ever accomplished. It happens with individuals and companies alike.
So let’s get tactical. Here are some ways to shake up your thinking and clear the way for a creative, energized, and successful year.
I sincerely hope it is your best year yet!
1. Take a personal retreat this month. Schedule a day or a weekend at a monastery, a Scout retreat, a nice spa or quiet hotel, a mountain cabin, a place by the ocean, or swap houses with a friend. Separating yourself from your routine is essential to broadened perspective and creative thinking. Bring just one book on your retreat–I highly suggest The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and a personal planner – click here to print one out. Dream big, write it down, and remap the course of your life.
2. Create a small board of personal advisors in your life who will keep you accountable to your goals and help dispel pessimism. This board of personal advisors can help you reframe limitations and stay resilient. Connect with them at least once a month and share your frustrations and goals.
3. Prepare yourself now for your next position. Success builds on success. Make some bold moves. Determine what problems you are good at solving and what strengths you offer. Then move forward to increase your experience, credentials, education, and networking in those areas. Fill the gaps where needed. Observe what your boss or others don’t like to do, and if you can add value, step in to do it. By taking care of the parts of the business that are important but underserved, you create your own job description.
4. Sign up for a course that interests you this year at your local Community College or University. There is a wide range for continuing education as well as options to complete a degree. It is also a great way to connect with people and add fresh thinking outside of your work. It could be coding, design, dance, economics, history, finance, energy, flight, art, CPR, or any other type of self-improvement. Also check out a free educational option. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) are a recent phenomenon. They feature on-line classes at top universities with world-class professors and are referred to as “The Ivy League for the Masses.” Coursera.com is a recent collaboration with Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania. Udacity.com is another option and offers a full Masters Degree from Georgia Tech for $7,000.
5. If money can solve a distraction or chronic worry that has been in your life for too long, find a way to fund it. Hire a team to clean out your basement or garage. Hire a lawyer to take care of your will or other legal matters. Hire a personal trainer to regain your health. Hire a smart young person to show you how to work your phone, tablet, social media, and apps. Hire someone to help you clean out your closets and give away half of what you own. Hire someone to fix all the broken things around your house. Hire someone through TaskRabbit.com to do your errands.
6. Pay it Forward. We are the beneficiaries of so much of what has gone before us. Every building that we walk into is there because of the planning and sacrifice of others. Every company has a founder. Every non-profit started with an original team who wanted to change the world, or at least the community. So as others have paid to forward, so must we. Volunteer for a cause that has meaning for you. Teach and mentor young people, plant trees, build a house, feed the homeless, help out a veterans group, visit an assisted care facility regularly, raise money for clean water in Ethiopia, volunteer to foster a child or a pet. Be on the board of a non-profit, write a big check, offer to head the capital campaign. Pick one volunteer area where you have a passion and commit to it for one year.
As you make a difference in your life, you will make a difference in the lives of many, many others. Growing beyond our limitations is the ultimate energizer. It reinvents, repurposes, and even resurrects our lives. Welcoming our limitations and becoming creative with them is a prerequisite to all the growth and success that awaits us.