I was meeting with a client this week when a typical problem arose, "How can we do all this, when we’re already overloaded?" Sound familiar? Well, the answer is, "You can’t . . . if you keep operating the way you are." In other words, nothing changes unless something changes. Or to put it another way, the good news is that working harder and faster is not the solution. The bad news is that both the problem and the solution happen to be in our heads.
So what I said to them (since they were looking at me like you are) was, "How many of you would say that you are doing more, and capable of doing more, now than you were five years ago?" Question number two. "And how many of you would say that you were doing more five years ago, and capable of doing more five years ago, than you were the five years before that?" Question number three. "So based on your experience, how many of you would agree that you will probably be doing more, and capable of doing more, five years from now than you are today?" Response, all agreed.
The truth is, all of us are capable of doing more and of functioning at a higher level than we currently are. None of us has reached our full capacity. So the key for getting to the next level is to challenge whatever mental blocks we have about what can or can’t be done or the way things need to be done. In other words, challenging assumptions is always essential to creating a new breakthrough.
For example, I have a friend who’s a senior executive of a division of a Fortune 500 company. When we were talking, one of his frustrations was that his life was filled with meeting after meeting, scheduled back to back, with no time to make calls of handle email, etc. until the end of the day when he just wanted to go home. Since I like to challenge assumptions, my first thoughts were, "Well, who says you have to be in all of those meetings?" "Or why do they have to be scheduled back to back?" "Or why can’t you delegate some of those responsibilities?" Etc. But the idea I suggested was this, "Who says that meetings have to be sixty minutes long? What if you scheduled 45 minute meetings? Your people would be more focused. You’d get a fifteen minute break between meetings to handle calls and email or prep for the next meeting. And it would be easier to enforce a no-Blackberry usage during meetings rule." The idea worked.
All of us get stuck at some point–and that point is almost always a mental point where we think we’re stuck. And as long as we buy into that line, we are. But, we don’t need to be.
So, where are you stuck today? Where are you saying, "I can only do this much, and no more?" Or where are saying, "This has to be done this way. There’s no other way?" Or where are you saying, "I can’t do x, because of y?" Chances are five years from now you will be doing what you’re currently saying can’t be done, so why wait? Challenge your assumptions. Play the, "Who says?" game. And watch how much faster you’ll be functioning at a higher level, doing what you think today you can’t.
Trust me, I don’t like this principle any more than you do, but it’s true. Most of the problems you and I face are in our heads. However, the golden lining in all this is that most of the solutions are in our heads as well!