Category Archives: Motivation

Creative Thinking: Living Outside the Box

When you live in a box, think in a box, it is hard to see anything outside the box.  The tendency that people have who think in a box is to reject anything that will not fit in their box, criticize it and throw it away.  Creative thinking is a hallmark of intelligence and problem solving.  A problem presents in life when the focus is upon compliance, pathology, and what is wrong.  What results is that is that all energy focuses upon defending a rationale for what is wrong and virtually what will not fit in the box.  Linear thinkers tend to think on a straight line, not being able to see anything that is not on the straight line.  People call it concrete thinking, close mindedness, black and white thinking, but something to think about is that thinking in a box can be a symptom of someone who needs to control life in certain definable terms to rid themselves of the anxiety that occurs when something does not fit in the box.  Learning to give up control of the way reality is constructed in certain definable terms is a step in developing an ability to think creatively about problems. Thinking outside the box is not unfaithfulness to an ideology; it is being faithful to your own capability to think about creative solutions.  The choice that we have is to live in a box– or not, to use your innate intelligence, to focus upon your strengths in ways to bring a positive outcome.


Destination: Where the Road is Going

Where is the Road Leading?

Uncertainty about what is ahead makes it hard to focus upon where the road is at today. Looking back at where the journey has been and remembering the safety found in memories of how things were comfortable, manageable, and predictable; there is a desire to go back to a place built in the castle of the mind.  Living in the memory of the past and feeling the uncertainty of the present leaves fear of where the road is going and what will be there when I arrive. A destination is too much to fathom, to fearful to embrace; a place that having no certainty and no familiar faces.  Looking forward to undefined potential reality which can be experienced the call of the destination is understood.  Feeling anxiety in the present experience controlled by idealism about the past holds potential captive bringing ambivalence feeding the hesitation to move forward and embrace the destination: where the road is going.

Finding Hope in the Holidays

is it christmas?During the season of Christmas, one of the themes commonly heard is focused on message of hope. In the last few years it seems that job losses, foreclosures, and a general direction of decline has been developing undermines the expectation that things will get any better any time soon.  As a result, we typically look to our leaders in Washington and others to whom we look to for leadership and direction to inspire some sense of hope that things will get better.  Unfortunately, the absence of hope joined with eroding confidence is intensified by  an inability by those in places of leadership to be able to instill confidence and seed the evolving shift in culture, industry, and culture with hope. Consequently, no one knows if our leaders even remotely understand what they are doing or know where the road will lead for the average person.

A question that looms beneath the problems of our times is what is the basis for hope that we can have in a world that is filled with instability, uncertainty, and unclear expectations? A good place to start is to examine how we think about life, measure success, and obtain happiness. For some people, hope is magical thinking of thinking about life dominated by wishful dreams about how  life should be.  What most of us understand is that thinking, or what we think upon, has a tremendous capacity  upon behavior, attitudes, and what we believe is possible to happen.  Some people believe intently that they cannot be happy unless life works out within expectations and person beliefs about life.  To support this,  “Hope is defined as the perceived capability to derive pathways to desired goals and motivate oneself … thinking to use those pathways” (Snyder C.R., 2002).  As a result, hope is that the capability to construct ways to see what we want to achieve to come to pass is established in the perception those things will actually happen. Furthermore, the way that we motivate behavior to be consistent with hope is to believe that what we hope for is possible, attainable, and can be achieved.

This statement sounds closely akin to the Christian expression of faith and hope in the spiritual life. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). A way to make this practical is that having a firm trust in the character and nature of a loving, sovereign God, creates a pathway to express hope and a way to experience efficacy in life. The critical difference may be that hope that is expressed in Christianity is a spiritual reality based upon the person of Jesus Christ.  It is a belief based in a firm trust that He is the hope of the world. He is way to find redemption and salvation; he is the evidence of things not seen and the source of hope in all of life here and into the infinite future. As a result, hope is  a way of organizing thinking about the probabilities and possibilities in a life .  The significant  difference in the two approaches is that one approach is based on an infinite loving God  and the other upon finite human expressions and ways of understanding life in the way that we express life in human thinking,  ability, and perception.

In conclusion, there a way to correlate belief and resulting hope in theological terms and the experience of humanity? The answer to the question depends upon you and what frames your perception of life.  One thing that troubles me, in this the approach to hope is excesses of both approaches; one that divorces itself from God and the other that denies the process of logical processes.  If there is any message that needs to be heard today in a time which may seem that there is little hope, it is that there is hope as we can look to God as a source of hope in the direction that He provides in a relationship to Him by what Jesus did in His life, sacrifice, death, and resurrection. One thought that can provide confidence in today’s challenges and propel trust into the future is that in this time of the year God can provide hope in the midst of any situation when place our trust in Him

Snyder C. R., Hope theory: rainbows in the Mind. Psychological Inquiry. (2002) vol. 13,(4), pp.249-275.

Adjust Your Focus So You Can See Clearly

Out of Focus Picture

One of the great difficulties that leaders experience is the inability to change when it is necessary to stay vital and continue to experience success. One leadership principle that John Maxwell teaches in The Twenty One Laws of Leadership is that an organization cannot grow higher than the level of leadership at the top. He calls this the leadership lid. Does it seem like your organization is stuck; like someone has put a lid on the top and things have plateaued? It may be that the organization has grown as high as it can go because of the level of leadership it has. One of the reasons that organizations do not grow is because the leader has not been growing and as a result, both the leader and the organization are stuck in a complacent rut of ineffectiveness: everything is out of focus. Staying focused is difficult when you aim is off. One way to stay on track is by keeping a narrow focus. “…pressing towards the mark…” narrowing the focus to define what will be done. It is easy to look around and find someone to blame when things are not going well, but maybe the place to look is in the mirror and realize that when an organization is having difficulty that the answer may be that it is a leadership problem. One of the reasons we fall of track, so often, is that distractions, circumstances, and life change the center of our everyday world. The result is that organizations and leadership gets out of focus.

If there is one thing that will help leaders to continue to be successful, what would that be? People may have many different opinions, but the one defining truth is that leaders must continue to learn, grow, and develop their selves to maintain vitality. Learning to adapt to change is a requisite for leading in today’s leader. Talent Management Perspectives reports that, “Against the backdrop of an ever-changing global business environment and unstable economic conditions, it’s no longer sufficient for leaders to embrace the status-quo …”The organization has to lead change, rapid change. The environment is changing — someone’s inventing something before you expect it or something is collapsing in front of your eyes …’”It’s becoming much more important to deal with change and creativity and innovation and speed and nimbleness,” she said. “Those are part of producing the results; you have to pay attention to those factors”’ ( It may be that leaders have a lot of information at their disposal, but knowing how to use the information and where to apply change in style, strategy, and innovation will define how leadership will be applied in the context of change.

Personal growth and development are indications of a leaders potential for success. The moment you stop growing, you stop leading. All leaders are learners because there is no growth without change and there is no change without being flexible. When a leader stops growing, he/she becomes inflexible. Effectiveness can be measured in terms of predispositions and attitudes toward having never done it that way before. If the attitude is maintained that, “I want to lead the way I used to lead, the way I’ve always led” is maintained, then yesterdays methods will only yield results in yesterday’s constructs. The attitudes and skills that brought you to this point in your leadership are not going to take you to the future. New problems require new solutions. New situations require new attitudes. New difficulties and new opportunities require new skills and new attitudes. What brought you this far and made you a success – that’s why success creates inability to manage new ideas and challenges, because the rules are forever changing.

The root behind resistance to change is fear. There are times when fear paralyzes forward movement: I don’t want to change because I’m afraid of loss–I’ve done it this way and I feel comfortable with it. Therefore what am I going to lose if I do ministry in a new way? The root is the fear of change. Whenever you find yourself resisting a new way of doing something, or defending the status quo or striving simply to repeat the past because it worked last, it may be that there is a danger of terminal failure. What’s the key to overcoming this trap in leadership? The antithesis is to never stop developing. Never stop developing your skills, your character, your perspective, your vision, your heart, and what you bring to your leadership.

Skill brings success. You may be dedicated to what you are doing, but if development of the necessary skills is not occurring, the tools you have may not fit a new situation. A farming analogy might be: you can’t use a corn harvester on a wheat field, a cotton picker in an apple orchard. The tools that are used have to match the context, culture, organization, people that you are working within. Consequently, if learning stops then the axiom, that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence and then they get stuck there, kicks in and drives what will happen.

The Emptiness of a Life Without Meaning

Interstate 70 exit sign for Dayton Internation...
Where will the road go?

There is a preoccupation that people in America have with achieving happiness. Observing the economic downturn and the impact upon people’s lives every day drives home the message that many people today have the right to be unhappy. Everyone wants to know the sense of well-being known as happiness — feeling content, satisfied, and even joyful. Sometimes people feel they need to make a major life change to feel happy, but other times they might derive happiness from just appreciating everything they have and the people close to them. It may be that the path to happiness is to be found in being able to negotiate change in whatever happens to us in life. In the study of life-span development in psychology, there is a paradigm of truth that is taught that says that in each stage of life, we must be building the skills, abilities, and information base to effectively negotiate the changes in life. One of the factors of unhappiness in life is having unrealistic or false expectations of the future. In other words, if something that we believe and experience today is believed to be true for all of time and every season of life, we may be disappointed in the future.

Last week, I watched a special on television special that reported that, “on December 23, 2008, the General Motors assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, shut its doors. It was the last plant in the Dayton, Ohio, area to do so … [a] new reality for Moraine—one defined by hardship, resilience, and the end of an era” ( This story is the stark reminder of how fragile the American economy is and the impact that the shift from being an industrial economy to a service is having upon the American worker. Gary Smalley (1998) writes that this generation of Americans is the first to not to have the expectation that there life will be better than their parents (The soul search: a spiritual journey to authentic intimacy with God). One of the ways that what is happening in our world may be described is by the emptiness that many are experiencing … troubled by moments of emptiness … that raises the question: Is this it—is this all there is? The answer may be described by getting perspective. Can experiences with such a radical change be peaceful, and even welcome, if viewed with a different mind-set?

It is very true that the way we view life can leave us thinking that life is unfair as suffering the consequences of changes engulfs the experience of life. You can start connecting life to a meaningful existence when you think in a new way about the meaning of life. One of the developmental deficits that is experienced by people is the deception that life will always be as it is today. George Kelley stated that the constructs of life are continually being renegotiated. It is disappointing and detrimental to what life can be to always look through the same binoculars. Tunnel vision in the hopes of life is a subtle form of self-deception. The problem that is faced in self deception is that it becomes a self-defeating behavior that has to be maintained: “Life is the art of being well deceived; and in order that the deception may succeed it must be habitual and uninterrupted” (William Hazlitt). Breaking free from self-deception is not an easy or painless task, it requires an awareness that how life is understood must be thought of in new terms to bring new meaning to existence.

The problem is that when we deceive ourselves, it is to maintain a sense of control that results from the anxiety of loss of control and feeling of helpless—hopeless, coupled with vulnerability. The results of the deception; the empty feeling left behind and the bad decisions that always births disappointment. Getting out of the trap is the secret and stop interpreting life in terms of disappointment and feeling like a victim. It has been well said that we all have problems: The question is what are you going to do about it? After a reasonable amount of time of experiencing and feeling the pain of the moment, we have to, sorta “suck it up” and figure out what is going to bring meaning to this thing that we call life?

Erickson, who was famous for the Life Stages Theory teaches, that there is a crisis of identity in every stage of life. When there are developmental occurrences, such as tragedy, stressful events, or death, it triggers a new search for identity, meaning, and purpose for existence. If the skills have not been developed in previous stages of life to make the transition, then skills must be built in the here and now to enable continuity and understanding of how to transition and continue to grow. When that does not happen, then life goes on, but there is not the ability to build a bridge to personal spiritual growth and maturity. So what are you going to do? You can wallow in the mud of life or develop yourself to move on.

Accepting and understanding the transitions in life is critical to a dynamic life that continues to grow and develop. Adjustment to new times, seasons, things, and people is necessary if we do not want to be stuck in the mud. Is it change that is the issue or that it forces one to think different, act different, and feel different? Let change be your friend not your foe …. Happiness is a moving target, but meaning is the arrow.

Staying On Target

TargetIt’s no secret that the economy is failing and businesses and organizations will fail also. Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve  found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Perspective about negative factors affects what strategies are used to respond to what is happening in organizations today. One response is to allow negativity to stimulate a reactive behavior pattern or to understand what is happening as an opportunity to create change that enables success.

Describe the niche, market, purpose drives what is trying to be done. Putting behaviors in context with the reason for existence provides a understandable way of understanding why certain action are taken and what is trying to be achieved. In coaching baseball it has been suggested that returning to fundamentals will result in a good game being played. It may be that the team may not always win, but it is an efficient way to evaluate performance in times that are constantly. When there is no understanding what you are trying to do, it yields a zero in productivity.

Develop those who are on the team to increase potential. One way to create positive change in an organization is to identify those who have the greatest potential. Developing those can be most effective is never a mistake. In fact, it strengthens our position. John Maxwell says that an organization only grows as high as the level of those in leadership.Leading others to create success is multiplied when an investment is made developing the team. It is wonderful when a star player is at the top, but it’s the team that carries the ball and how well they play their position is determined by what is invested in development.

Deploy efforts to a clear target. The bull’s eye can never be hit if the sights are off. It may be that with a changing economic market that focus needs to be adjusted. Evaluation is critical to having success in a changing climate. An axiom that demonstrates this is: “if you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting.” Changing times mean that needs change and may indicate refocusing,finding a new target,or maybe just readjusting the sights.

Determine to be disciplined. Every athlete that is successful is someone who has talent, but also someone who has discipline. It is easy to get sloppy when things get difficult, but there are some things that can be done to improve results. The discipline of accountability; people only do what is inspected. If this true for others, it is true for us also– honest evaluation enables success. The discipline of reward: celebrating achievement gets a better response than criticizing behavior. The discipline of stress management: if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Knowing what to do is an important step to take towards success, but the results will not come until you do what you know to do.

Everyone understands that there are challenges to be met in the present state of the economy, but putting your head in the sand will not result in anything, only getting sand in your ears. Staying on target means thinking like an entrepreneur not an employee and looking outside of the box to see what can be done to stay viable and productive.