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10 MORE ways to create a breakthrough in your life.

10 MORE ways to create a breakthrough in your life.

Here—again in no particular order—are 10 more ways to transform your working life. Maybe you should try them.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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