FrustrationI used to believe that if you just kept pushing yourself and were tenacious you would get to your goal. In other words, you have to keep your fist in your back until the goal is achieved. This involves using time management techniques such as to do lists and checking things off to keep moving forward. I think if you are a type A personality who has BIG dreams and ambitions it is hard to ever feel content. You can never do enough. This feeling of never doing enough can translate to feeling bad about yourself and feeling like you will never achieve those BIG dreams. Recent research has demonstrated that when you’re experiencing a negative emotion, the thoughts available to your mind are limited, yielding fixated and more predictable thinking and action versus when you are experiencing a positive emotion, more possibilities come into your view. (Transforming Anxiety. The Heartmath® solution for overcoming Fear and Worry and Creating Serenity, by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman.) So, it seems to me that the typical time management techniques such as list making and staying organized may be necessary to help you chart your progress, but they may not be sufficient to generate the positive emotions necessary to stay focused on achieving the BIG dreams. Therefore, the key to effective time management for us HIGH achievers is to create habits that yield more positive emotions. The challenge is how to make this happen every day?

I recently completed the Newfield Coaching Certification program. One of the key tenets of their philosophy is that moods and emotions can influence thinking and speaking versus the other way around. And, that we North Americans are nascent learners when it comes to understanding how to manage and control our emotions. My mentor coach during the first part of the program was Carol Courcy, who has just finished her first book and this month’s recommended reading: Save your Inner Tortoise: Learn how to cross the finish line Joyful and Satisfied.  Carol taught me to stay away from ultimates and learn to be emotionally agile. According to Carol, “Emotional agility is the ability to enter and exit emotions with skill, ease, and intentionality.” It is learning to shift your emotions in a way that supports you NOT going back to a life of having to achieve things no matter what the cost. Or, another way to think about it is learning to balance all of our hard work with activities that replenish us so that we feel more competent, agile, and playful.

One of the new emotions I learned from my work with Carol was the emotion of satisfaction. Satisfaction means feeling that you have taken enough action. What is enough action? This is the challenge for me – how to not feel guilty because I feel like I can NEVER put in enough effort. What I have learned is that achieving enough action involves making a promise to make 5 client calls or whatever and be satisfied with my efforts. To still work hard BUT feel satisfied with my efforts which results in increased motivation. This is the BIG AHA for me – I feel more motivated when I set limits on what I am achieving versus feeling depleted by continuously striving for the never achievable perfection.

Happy_DanceMy approach to celebrating my achievements was to do a satisfaction dance. This involved me making promises of a few key things that I would do every day and then dancing for 2 minutes to my favorite music to celebrate. I did this once a day for 21 days in a row and it became a habit. Then, I wanted to experiment to see what would happen if I increased the dancing or didn’t dance on any given day. What I noticed was that when I did the dancing, the rest of the day went better and was more productive.  It generates more positive emotions which in turn results in increased productivity, effectiveness and well being…and, one day, several clients had to reschedule, so the day was full of interruptions and I didn’t dance or celebrate key achievements. I felt less energized and less productive…. so, it has reminded me of the importance of returning to simple practices: dance at least once a day and celebrate even the tiniest accomplishments. The satisfaction dances generate positive feelings and give less time to the tension required for those negative feelings of anger or resentment to creep in because I am not achieving enough.

Now that I am can see the power of this habit for myself, I wanted to explore, could this small habit increase a group’s power exponentially? I wanted to introduce this concept of satisfaction to a group of Type A people. I thought the Women’s Project Lab, for which I do career coaching, would be the perfect choice. This Lab brings together early and mid-career playwrights, directors and producers to form a vibrant network of women theater artists and provides them with opportunities to brainstorm, test ideas, make new connections, and build work for the stage. The women who are selected into this competitive program are type As and have BIG dreams as they face stiff competition being that only 20% of the work in Off-Broadway is produced, written, or directed by women. They also have full time jobs; many have families, and are trying to write, and snag directing and producing jobs in their spare time! How can they keep going?

I conducted a yearly follow-up discussion recently to learn how the women were progressing on their goals. The women began this 18 month program by initially setting goals such as getting their play produced at an Off-Broadway theatre. What was exciting was that most of the women had sold work and it was being produced off-Broadway. But what was also evident was that the women felt overwhelmed, not satisfied, and frustrated regarding how much more there was to do. Many of them felt stuck as to what to do next or worse, they felt discouraged. I suggested doing a satisfaction dance to celebrate the group’s achievements. We danced for 10 -15 minutes as we had a whole year to celebrate! The women loved the idea. This dancing reenergized them and resulted in some new ideas and solutions to their many challenges. I followed up a week later and asked what the benefits were. They said, “It served as a mini-catharsis, woke up the whole body, and invigorated the brain!” And, it only takes a few minutes. What if this group danced more regularly? What might happen to their results? Might we see more plays written, directed, and produced by women?

I invite all of you with BIG dreams to consider adding emotional management techniques to your regimen as a way of staying focused on the prize. Indulge in feeling satisfied without guilt….. Imagine the possibilities! And, I invite you to consider celebrating by attending the play that the lab participants are putting on in NYC between June 1-23, 2012! Hope to see you there!


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