Here—again in no particular order—are 10 more ways to transform your working life. Maybe you should try them.
- Slow down. Give yourself time and space. Never be in more of a hurry than you have to be. Allow time for thinking, musing, just noodling around in your head with no apparent purpose. Give space in your thinking for ideas you haven’t had yet; allow openings for sniffing out the ideas of others. Haste is the enemy of creativity. Being busy all the time is a great way to stop any possibility of breakthroughs. You won’t break out of your old habits by rushing. When people are under pressure, they don’t have energy to try anything new. They reach for whatever they’ve done before, or for some supposedly “tried-and-true” answer. They don’t believe they have time to take risks with change. As a result, they rush headlong down the same old paths into the same old messes. Refuse to be hurried and surprising ideas and opportunities may present themselves.
- When you think you’ve gone absolutely as far as you can, keep going. You’ve just reached the starting point. Breakthrough can’t happen until you pass the boundaries you believe are there in your life and thought. If you find a boundary, be happy. You’ve just found what you need to break through. Learning and creative thinking are your only sources of sustainable competitive advantage. Never let anything close them down.
- Take your mind and thinking on trips away. Deliberately step outside your comfort zone. See what you can find. You may come back a changed person. Conservatism is the philosophy of always sticking with what you have and trying to defend it against change. It’s a hopeless attempt. The best, longest-lasting and most valuable ideas remain because they continually adapt to the times. There’s a word for things that don’t change . . . dead. The world is bigger, stranger, more wonderful, and less predictable than you imagine. You won’t find it limited to programs on your TV, or what you can find on the Internet, or what the media present to you. Go out there and look for yourself.
- Listen. Listen to everyone you can. Really listen. You don’t learn by talking about yourself and your own experience. You learn by listening to the ideas and experiences of others. By listening to the ideas of those around you, you can pick up whatever’s useful. Even the things you reject have taught you something—if only what to avoid. Everyone you talk with can bring you learning opportunities you might otherwise have missed. Never be snobbish either. The best lessons come in unexpected packages. One of the hallmarks of the fool is that he or she thinks learning is restricted to the “right” situations and people. Like birds of a feather, fools flock together, reinforcing their foolishness by deciding they’ll only listen to one another. Wise people know they can’t predict who or what will provide the best lessons in life. Sometimes it will be the voices all the “right” people have rejected.
- Delight in metaphors and analogies. Every object or idea can stand for something else, or suggest an unexpected link. Dull people restrict their thinking and reading to what seems obviously relevant. Clever ones peer into what isn’t. You’ll maybe discover far more about working life from poetry, philosophy, or good novels that you ever will from business books and self-satisfied self-help writers.
- Run away from any kind of dogma. Dogma is the product of a closed mind. It’s an idea with a threat attached. If you suffer from dogma, get it out of your life. Let it go. Kick it out. Try thinking the opposite. Treat it like a crazy joke. Do anything you can to get rid of it. It’s the greatest source of barriers to breakthrough.
- Never aspire to be fashionable. Fashion is the foolish imitating the arrogant. Being cool is fear of change dressed in designer clothes. Following fashion is a sure way to prevent any kind of breakthrough in your life. Free yourself from barriers like this. Be who you are, not who everyone else is pretending to be.
- Stand on the shoulders of those who went before you. You’ll see so much better and farther. Never imitate the past. Use it to understand better and provoke questions in your mind. History is too often neglected as a source of breakthroughs. By learning from what has already been done, you can make faster steps towards what hasn’t. Innovation is mostly sticking things together in unexpected ways. To create unique ideas and stimulate breakthrough thinking, hybridize from what you have already. Fresh combinations of old ideas can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. It’s simply not true that creative people come up with ideas from nowhere. Even the most startlingly innovative people need material to work with.
- If it’s habitual, consider dumping it. Habits are the iron bands that hold you in your current ways of thinking and behaving. No one ever made a breakthrough without letting go of whatever has become habitual and automatic. Breaking those tough old habits won’t be easy. You may have to endure some “cold turkey.” It will be well worth it.
- Begin anywhere. There’s no right place, nor any better place to start from that where you are right now. Waiting to find the right time and place to begin on your quest for breakthrough is a sure way to induce paralysis. New ideas arrive unexpectedly. Whenever they do, allow them to be heard. Learn to be alert always for good ideas and opportunities for breakthrough. Be flexible. Grab opportunities when they come. Don’t sit back and expect another one to be along in a moment. The universe isn’t like that. The idea or opportunity you just chose to ignore may have been the best one you’ll ever have. Begin anywhere. Begin now. Just do it.
- Taking Time Out to Listen
- Be Careful What You Teach
- Five reasons to forget about money and focus on what makes you happy at work
- Problems, Predicaments and Sleight of Hand
- Job satisfaction keeps falling
- When “Near Enough” Isn’t
Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and working life. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.
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