Monday Mornings with Madison


Here’s a joke for this Monday morning. A guy walking home one night sees a drunk on his hands and knees under a street light. When the guy asks what he’s doing, the drunk answers, “I’ve lost the keys to my house, so I’m looking for them.” Feeling sorry for the drunk, the guy starts to looks as well but after 15 minutes with no luck, he says, “Maybe if we retrace your steps, we’ll figure out where you dropped the keys.”  The drunk replies, “Oh, I know where I dropped them — they’re somewhere across the street.” So the guy asks, “Then why are you looking for them here?!” To which the drunk responds, “Because there’s more light here!”

The point? We often try to solve our problems by seeking solutions where the going seems easy and not where we know the problems really are. This is especially true when we do the same thing day after day. We get accustomed to thinking in the same way every day and we start to believe that this, in fact, is all there is. We get stuck.

Recently, many people have had to look for new ways to earn a living. All too often, they can’t seem to come up with any options other than what they’ve done for the last few years — or the last few decades. But the reality is that we can all do a lot more than we think we can. There are a myriad ways to use our skills and experience but we first have to break free from our own self-created set of limitations.  Even in the midst of economic stress, the world is one big, active, ever-changing marketplace with lots of opportunities for those with the guts to take a fresh look around.

Here are a few steps that can help you get unstuck and discover new options.

Identify your patterns  Much of how we think and act is habitual. We fall into patterns and then we forget that there are always other options, other choices available. Some of us are always late; some of us always have full desks of unfinished tasks, while others always think that things will get worse. To get unstuck, take the time to identify your patterns on paper. Ask yourself what you’re gaining from repeating these patterns. Obviously, there’s a level of comfort and security when you do the same thing over and over, but is that enough for you now? Are you able to grow and flourish with the habits you’ve established, or are you stuck?

Change the small things first  Don’t sweat the small things, but do focus on making small changes. Every little break in your usual habits will go a long way to freeing up your beliefs and behavior. Experiment with getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual, or walk to work instead of driving. Try an unfamiliar food or type of entertainment; talk to strangers!  Any change opens up a crack to a new way of life.

Make and keep one change at a time  Many people fail to make real changes because they take an all-or-nothing approach to the challenge. They decide one day to turn everything around but after a few hours or days, they find that such a drastic approach is bound to fail.  A little self-defeating voice says, “Oh, what’s the point?” and back they go to their old patterns. The only way to successfully and permanently make changes is to take up one new behavior at a time. Stick with one small change for 3 or 4 weeks until it becomes a new habit, and only then move on to the next little change. 

Change your expectations  Ask people who have made significant changes in their careers or habits and they’ll tell you that it has been a great experience. They talk about how many more opportunities they now have and how much they’ve grown personally.  Look at change as a chance for your life to get better, rather than as an awful problem to avoid. Catch your doom-and-gloom scenarios when they start up, and contradict them point by point with logical arguments for why you can make the changes you want.

 Believe in yourself  You are more talented than you think are. You have skills and abilities that you haven’t even begun to explore. Prepare yourself, step by step, for the changes you want and there’s every reason to think that you’ll do very well.  The keys to your new life are out there, and you even know where to look. So go to it!

“Yes, we can!”  Barack Obama

© 2008 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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