[This post was co-written by Don Maruska, who is co-author of "Taking Charge of Your Talent" with Jay Perry.]
Success requires a constructive frame of mind. As Don’s long-time friend and mentor, Eugene Kleiner of the Kleiner Perkins venture firm fame, observed, “Mental outlook trumps knowledge.” In short, it doesn’t matter what you know if self-protective behaviors either block or sabotage your efforts.
In our surveys of hundreds of high tech employees and professionals, we’ve found that more than half note one or more obstacles in maintaining a productive outlook. In fact, 22% to 37% identify one or more factors of “major concern.” They identify, “Many things stand in my way.” Or, “Too much to do; I need encouragement.” These are natural responses to uncertainty and change, but you don’t have to be captive of them.
From front-line employees to corner office executives, the following tools have proven effective in nurturing a hopeful frame of mind and sustaining motivation and enthusiasm. Experiment to find which ones you enjoy using.
Spend five minutes a day giving focused attention to your hopes for your talent: journal, meditate, read, listen to music or an inspirational speaker, look at affirming images, or play with possibilities.
Make your hopes visible.
If you wanted to learn the guitar, wouldn’t it help to pull it out of your closet and place it in the living room as a conscious reminder of your intention? Similarly, create images and reminders in your environment to keep your deepest hopes in mind.
Have your very own Hope Holders.
Ask the right people to tend the flame of your inspiration and never let you give up on yourself.
Get your but out of the way.
Examine how you think about things that get in your way. Notice the “big but” (I’d like to do ____, but ______.) that drains your energy. Remove whatever is interfering with moving toward your hopes, or shift your attention so that you can let your hopes burn more brightly.
Flip your concerns into hopes.
The size of our concern about something reflects how much we care about it. Explore your concerns to see what hopes underlie them. They will help you turn to positive outcomes.
Craft an inspirational story with yourself in the lead.
A wise man once said that what makes us human is that we tell stories and then live by the stories we tell. If you don’t like the story you’ve got, write a new one that describes how you want your hopes to come to fruition. Describe how you will get of out of the ruts and make the story flow.
Look for creative ways to combine these tools. For example, when an up and coming, out of shape, high-tech employee noticed how many “buts” (obstacles) got in her way; she took charge of her talent and wrote an inspirational story that depicted her taking charge of her physical fitness and leading others to do the same. Then, she made her hopes visible in her workstation and enlisted others to hold these hopes with her. As she directed her thinking in more constructive ways, she started to see, develop, and capitalize on more opportunities around her. Her physical health began to match the new story she had written about herself, and, in the process, she inspired the people around her.
When you keep your hopes humming, your talent will come alive.