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Get rid of clutter and success will follow

>> 29 December 2010

What do the following items have in common?

  1. A loose button on your shirt that you have meant to mend for weeks.
  2. Your grandma's old china that you never use but keep anyway.
  3. An old grudge against an old friend.
  4. Unworn clothes in your wardrobe.
  5. Gifts you received but don't really like.
  6. Fear of failure in your future business
  7. The oil change your car is in desperate need of.
  8. The rented DVDs you need to return.
  9. The filing you need to do.
They are all clutter.

Clutter doesn't have to be a physical object (like the candle holder you got for your birthday that fits neither next to the television nor with the colors of your living room).

Clutter can also take the form of a thank you note that you have meant to write but didn't, a dentist's appointment you know you should make but keep 'forgetting'.

Whether it's the physical or incomplete clutter, they both drain your energy: every time you see them and they bother you, every time you think about them being unfinished.

My coach told me that you get up in the morning with 100 units of energy.

This is the energy you need to focus on your life, your intention, your passion, your happiness, the things you want to achieve.

Every time you come across some clutter, some units are taken away from you.

You are leaking energy towards either past events (the grudge your holding against your old friend), or imagined future events (fear of failing in your future business)

And these leaks keep you from focusing on what's important in the present: your goals, your intention, your future business, your healthy teeth, your car not breaking down.

How to get rid of clutter?

The above list of clutter didn't arrive on your doorstep this morning. You have been piling them up over the last months or even years (remember those old books and photos from university? when was the last time you look at them?).

And it is impossible to get rid of them all in a day. You need to proceed in small steps:

  1. Make a list: You can't fix what you can't name.
    (A4 landscape, make three columns)
    For the physical clutter, it is easiest to go around your house and write down what bothers you. Divide the list into each room of the house.
    Don't start with the basement.
    Take the least cluttered room, the bedroom for example (write down in first column):
    • Dirty socks on the floor
    • Coat hangers on the dresser
    • Clothes on the chair
    • Shirt with missing button
    • Old, ugly wallpaper
    • I hate the color and pattern of the bed sheets
    • That statue doesn't fit there
    • Kids toys under our bed
    Then move to the next room.
    Don't pick things up. Don't start clearing things away. Don't start being overwhelmed.
    Just write them down.
  2. Make another list:
    (A4 landscape, make three columns)
    For the incomplete (or unfinished) clutter, create another list. Empty your brain (first column):
    • Make dentist appointment
    • Write thank you note
    • Make service appointment for the oil change
    • Clear grudge with old friend
    Don't look for solutions, just write them down as they come up.
  3. Understand the purpose:
    These two list you have created are not TO DO Lists.
    They are there to:
    • make you aware that these items drain your energy
    • make you start repairing those energy leaks
    • give your brain a break (it's on the list, I don't have to continuously think about them)
  4. Create actions: you can't fix it if you don't know how
    • Take two items of one of the two lists (pick those that are easily doable/fixable) and circle them.
    • In the second column, write down how you can fix this problem - you can write down multiple solutions:
      • find a place for the statue
      • give to my cleaning lady (ask her first! you don't want to make your clutter hers!)
      • bring to the Salvation Army
    • In the third column, write down a completion date.
    • Do these two items this week.
  5. Don't over-unclutter:
    Next week, pick another 2 or 3 items off one of the two lists, add a solution, and do them during the week.

  6. Feel victory:
    As you start accomplishing more and more of these actions, notice the difference.

  7. Welcome success:
    As you start literally cleaning up your life and space, you are getting rid of leaks that drain your energy. This energy can now be used to create the life you intended for. You are able to focus and success will naturally follow.

  8. Future leaks:
    Although you will create new habits which prevent most energy drains, it is normal that over time, small leaks creep in. Now you have the tools to identify and fix them.
    If something is not going so well in the future, ask yourself which energy drain might be the cause of it. Maybe you didn't exercise enough, lag behind in your filing or haven't had a massage in a year. Put it on the leak list and fix it this week!


Creativity tip: hack others' ideas

>> 26 December 2010

Being creative is often not more than taking two existing things or ideas to create something new.

So basically, you are stealing from others to create your own, new version.

It is not enough to add a new feature to an existing product.

It's more like working for a glue company, sitting on a plane, seeing a woman use a lipstick and coming up with the first glue stick. A-ha!

So look at common objects and think what you could turn them into.

Some examples:


Word of the Year 2010: CREATE

>> 24 December 2010

Some time ago, Christine Kane had the idea of choosing a word for the new year instead making resolutions one didn't keep. The original idea is described here.

I have been doing this for some years now and must say that the concept really resonates with me.

My word for 2009 was Serenity and you can read about it here.

2010 was a year full of creativity and I have a guest post today on Christine's blog about my 2010 Word of the year which was CREATE.

If you want to try it yourself, please check out her free Word of the Year Discover Tool.


“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” -- William arthur Ward

>> 22 December 2010

As Albert Schweitzer wisely said:

To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.
Every evening, before the kids go to sleep, we review the day and I ask them what they liked best and are grateful for. It gives closure to the day and focuses on the good things. It teaches them to be grateful which will make them more balanced and happy people.

I am grateful for:
  • a loving and supportive husband (oh and sexy and good looking on top of that...)
  • having two healthy sons who are smart and funny
  • being healthy
  • living in a safe, beautiful country
  • being able to look out my window and see the sky, the trees and being able to take a walk in the countryside whenever I want to
  • my family
  • great friends who love me despite of all my flaws
  • my freedom of choice, of speech, of movement
  • all experiences that teach me something, make me stronger
  • having feelings: happy ones, sad ones, scary ones - they make me alive
What are you grateful for?


Creativity tip: use the compass

>> 19 December 2010

Often enough when we have a problem we dive right into trying to solve it.
But how can we be sure whether the problem is really well defined?
Or whether it's the right problem we should be tackling?
There may be some underlying levels that we have not even thought about.

The compass technique puts you in the right direction.

  1. Start with a problem statement (preferably as a How to... question or  We need to...statement).
    We need to improve the level of attendance to our trainings?
  2. Then you ask: WHY?
  3. Whatever the first answer to this question is, write it down.
    Because the trainers are expensive and we need to make good use of their time.
  4. Then ask WHY? again and write down the next answer.
    Spending big trainings budgets for a small amount of people is a waste.
  5. Keep repeating this process until you feel you have reached a dead end.

From each response you can derive another How to question:
- How to get cheaper trainers?
- How to make best use of the trainers' time?
- How to organize trainings for few people?

These might be more fruitful areas of exploration than your initial question.

It is a very easy and quick but also very useful technique which you can slide into a meeting at anytime without anyone noticing :-)

It can help a team get unstuck, give new direction or perspective and often drills down to the very essence of the problem.


9 simple ways to bring some WOW (Ways Of Wonder) back into your life

>> 15 December 2010

Do you still wonder?

WONDER: to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel (at).

You are submerged with information, have all the latest technological gadgets and travel to the world's nicest holiday destinations.

But do you still wonder? Really wonder?

Here are a few things to bring some simple awesomeness back into your life.

  1. Space:
    We think we know a lot about our solar system and the stars and planets that are in it. But we only know a finite portion of what's out there. When I was little, I used to scare myself just by thinking what would be if the earth did not exist. That brought up a lot of scary thoughts and questions, but also made me go 'wow' I am so little in all this immensity.
    Astronomy Picture of the Day
    Hubble site
  2. Art:
    Have you ever seen a Van Gogh painting (or a Klimt or Monet etc)? A real one? Have you looked at the whole composition? And have you also approached the canvas so closely that you could almost put your nose against it? Try that! It gives you a different perspective about it. It shows you the tiny slow or wild brushstrokes and form little pieces of art all by themselves (visit here and click on show enlargement) to experience that with one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings).
    Van Gogh Gallery
    Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
  3. Babies:
    Go visit a friend who has just had a baby. Ask if you may carry her/him. Look at the perfection in this miniature creature. Tiny fingernails, eyelashes, a mouth and eyes to make faces at you, their little hand clinging to your finger although he doesn't even know you...
    Anne Geddes
  4. Weather:
    It may not be the season to lie on your back in the grass and look at the amazing formations clouds provide you with (so keep that in mind for spring or summer). But the weather provides wonderful things every season: the perfect symmetry of snowflakes, the wild force of a storm tugging at your sleeves... So go out, brave the elements and look for wonder.
    Storm photos
  5. Music:
    They say listening to Mozart's music changes your brain waves. I am not a person who can listen to Mozart everyday. However, like with everything else, I like to look at it from a different perspective. So instead of listening to it, why don't you LOOK at it for a change? Take some sheet music and look at the little notes, the individual low or high ones, the ones clustered together to form a family, the ones without legs. Try to read them visually (not musically). Wow, what a pretty, moving picture they paint.
    Example: Sheet music Mozart piano concert N 21
    Digital Mozart Edition (access to complete works of Mozart)
  6. People:
    We have all heard about wonderful people such as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela etc. But there are so many people close by and much more accessible who are equally admirable.
    Look at the nurse in your local hospital. She gets up in the middle of the night to wake up her patients every morning with a smile.
    Look at your child's teacher who has the patience to explain the world to him.
    Look at the volunteer who helps out at the soup kitchen.
    All of them, small Wow's, So say thank you to them next time you come across one.
    Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
  7. Nature:
    Being outdoors is something we tend to not get enough of. We work inside, we shop inside, we do sports inside. The outdoors is full of small wonders. Take a walk through the woods for example and approach a tree. Hug it, and look at its bark.
    The abstract art of bark can complete mesmerize you.
  8. Read:
    Read the Awesome Book to your kids.
    Read 1000 awesome things.
    Create some WOW with Bookboats for kids in Laos.
  9. Watch:
    Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium:


Creativity tip: take your time

>> 12 December 2010

Many studies show that creativity is reduced when people's attention is more on the result and its consequences than on the question itself.

Putting people under pressure to deliver pushes them back into overdependence on familiar lines of thought.

So basically: having good ideas takes time.

Do you know the 'Bed, Bath and Bus' theory of creativity?

It basically comes down to the fact that for many people, the best ideas come to them when they're either in bed, in their bath or riding the bus...

Which is typically when they are no longer working on any problems but have shifted their minds into wandering, gazing, boredom,...

Creative people build this 'incubation' time into their creative work.
Whether it's creating a painting, working on a project or figuring out a scientific problem.

That's when they set the painting aside for a while.
It's when they let petri dishes sit for a week.

  • So, stop running after the result. 
  • Don't let yourself be pressured for an answer, an idea or a solution.
  • Take your time. 
  • Put the project/problem on the shelf for a while and go do something else.
  • Take a break.

And next time you're out jogging, shopping or riding the bus, an idea may pop into your head that puts you on the right track, brings you a step further or even hands you the solution.


Inspiration vs. Motivation:

>> 8 December 2010

Today I would like to point you to my guest post over at womansquotes.com

Do you know the difference between inspiration and motivation?
Didn't think there was one?
Well there is and it matters to your sucess.

So hop on over to read more.


Creativity tip - train your brain

>> 5 December 2010

In order to be creative you need to break connections and make new ones. Our brains however like habits and routine and those paths are neurological hardwired and often difficult to break.

Below are a few exercises you can do to train your brain differently :-)

According to Wikipedia, in psychology, the Stroop effect is a demonstration of interference in the reaction time of a task. When a word such as blue, green, red, etc. is printed in a color differing from the color expressed by the word's semantic meaning (e.g. the word "red" printed in blue ink), a delay occurs in the processing of the word's color, leading to slower test reaction times and an increase in mistakes. The effect is named after John Ridley Stroop who first published the effect in English in 1935.


Say aloud the colors of each of these words, as fast as you can:

Now do it again:

If naming the first group of colors is easier and quicker than the second, then your performance exhibits the Stroop effect.

Why does this seem difficult?

The words themselves have a strong influence over your ability to say the color. The interference between the different information (what the words say and the color of the words) your brain receives causes a problem. There are two theories that may explain the Stroop effect:
  • Speed of Processing Theory: the interference occurs because words are read faster than colors are named.
  • Selective Attention Theory: the interference occurs because naming colors requires more attention than reading words.
Now do the Interactive JavaScript Demonstration of Stroop effect and see how neuropsychologically balanced you are.

Here are some cards to train yourself or test others.

Here are three new variations of the Stroop Effect:
Interactive DIRECTIONAL Stroop Effect Experiment
Interactive NUMBER Stroop Effect Experiment
Interactive ANIMAL Stroop Effect Experiment

The original reference to the Stroop paper is: Stroop, J.R. Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. J. Exp. Psychol., 18:643-662, 1935. You can even read this complete 1935 paper on the web!


8 ways to mindfully avoid overwhelm

>> 1 December 2010

We all lead busy lives.
Our agendas are chock-full with appointments.
Our to do lists hardly leave us time to breathe.

We have become multi-taskers, juggling work and life but struggling to find the right balance.

Usually we manage pretty well.

But sometimes, things spin out of control and OVERWHELM takes over.

What are the signs of overwhelm?
  • you don't know what the next thing is you need to be doing
  • you break down and cry because you think you are a bad mother for wanting a career and kids
  • you get head- or back-aches from too much office stress
  • you forget important things
  • you don't find the time to meet your best friend
  • you don't find pleasure anymore in the things you used to love
  • ...
Recognize any of this?
For me, the last one is ringing a bell loudly at the moment.
After running my first half marathon in September, I have not been running much.
I have lost the pleasure in what I used to love doing without having to motivate myself.

It's the beginning of an overwhelm alarm bell for me... If you feel the same and want to make a change, read on...

How can we avoid overwhelm to hit us over the head?
  1. Define and get clear:
    More often than not we tumble forward and fire-fight instead of living the life we want and were meant to live. This often happens when we lack clarity and a clear definition of what that life actually IS.
    So over the course of the next days, sit down for small chunks of time and think about your next year in broad terms. Where do you want to be a year from now?
    • I want to loose 20 pounds
    • I want to have started my own business
    • I want to find the right balance between work and private life
    Try to be be as precise and detailed as possible.
  2. Choose:
    You cannot have 3 to 4 major goals in a year to happen at the same time.
    You need to choose!
    Oh, but you want to start a business, loose 20 pounds, have a kid before you're 40, be a good wife, learn French and take cooking classes.
    I repeat: you need to CHOOSE. I am not saying you can't have them all. You can :-) in time.
    For now:
    • take poster board or flip chart and write them all down
    • glue pictures for each goal
    • draw all the advantages and disadvantages of each goal
    Do you get drawn to one more than the others? Pick that one!
  3. Define again:
    your goal and write down everything that comes to mind around it.
    • Movement: join a gym, find a sport you like, find people who like that sport, start using stairs instead of elevators...
    • Health: buy more fruits and vegetables, check out Weight Watchers, stop smoking
    • Misc.: stick picture of ideal you on bathroom mirror, etc
    What are you already doing to achieve your goal? What areas do you need to adapt? How?
  4. Take baby steps:
    It's all very nice to have a big goal, but it just adds things to your to do list, right?
    Right. That's why we chop them into small doable portions.
    • Today: print a list of gyms in your area
    • By the end of the week: call at least 2 of them to check on details
    • By the end of next week: call two more and visit at least one of them.
  5. Get accountability:
    Once you have made your list of baby steps, make sure you share it with someone. This can be your coach, your partner, your best friend, your mom. Give them a copy if you are comfortable with it. The more people you tell about your venture, the more they will support you and  motivate you.

  6. Align weekly:
    On one day of the weekend (Sunday evenings, or Monday mornings are best), set aside some alone time. Take out your baby steps list and your agenda and pencil everything in. Go through things, make changes according to what else is going on that week. Nothing is cast in stone.
    This will make you aligned and clear of your goal and actions every week.
  7. Reward yourself:
    Striving for something big is no easy task. And it can become tedious after a while. Motivation to keep it up can falter. There is a simple way to avoid that.
    Reward yourself.
    No, you should not allow yourself a burger and chocolate after you have lost 5 pounds.
    Instead, celebrate the small victories.
    Buy yourself a little candle to blow out after week one.
    Treat yourself to a massage when you have accomplished all baby steps after 2 or three weeks.
  8. Stumble, fall and try again:
    When a baby starts walking, it keeps falling down, bumping its head.
    Does it go 'Darn, guess walking was not for me.' and give up?
    No. It stumbles, falls and tries again.
There is no perfect way to reach a goal without being overwhelmed.

If during the course you feel that something is off, start with step one again and get clear on your intention again. No one said you couldn't stop or even go backwards for a while. 

If it brings you more clarity to move forward, it's all good.


Creativity tip: ask a four year old

>> 28 November 2010

What better and simpler way to get fresh ideas than to ask other people?

In business terms we tend to call this brainstorming: we sit in a room and discuss the same topic, bounce things off each other in the hope of coming up with that one bright idea that will make our project sky rocket.

Some serious research however suggests that most brainstorming sessions fail to achieve exactly that.

Also, brainstorming the way we know it requires a small group of people, which you don't always have around when you need it.

So one day, when I needed some ideas and didn't have a willing group of brainstormers handy, I used the closest thing to it... my children.

Seth Godin has very simple advice on how to raise your children:

  • ask them to solve complicated problems, and
  • teach them to be leaders
I am taking that at heart and whenever I need to get some creative input, I ask my children all sorts of adult and complicated questions.

Like how to solve the Greek debt crisis for example.
Or how to get rid of the Iceland ash cloud.

And you know what?
They are actually pretty good at solving problems and coming up with original ideas.
And you, as their parent (or aunt, or friend) know them well enough to translate their answers into usable (adult) information.

So next time you are looking for a great idea, a solution to a problem, grab yourself a 4 year old.


12 sites for mindful presents for the holidays

>> 24 November 2010

The holiday season is known for spending money. Often on gifts that end up being not wanted.

To make your choice this year a bit easier, I would like to point out a few sites for gifts that are:
  • original and creative
  • ethnic and ethical
  • ecological
  • mindful and for a good cause 

The movement for tribal people. Survival is the only organization working for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide.
Their shop offers cards, t-shirts stationary, jewelery, books, etc

The bubble tree offers organic, fair trade, recycled gifts often manufactured by locals. (site in French)

Ethnic and modern African fair trade decoration.

This Fair Earth believes that handmade, ethical products can be more desirable, more individual and higher quality than their mass-produced counterparts. This Fair Earth has a fantastic range of ethical home ware and ethical jewelery. The home ware includes striking, fair trade and environmentally-friendly photo albums, photo frames, journals and candles. The beautiful range of jewelery is either fairly traded from small producers in developing nations or hand made closer to home in the UK.

If you are looking for unusual gift ideas then quirky shop Daisy Daisy is just the place. The shop is bursting with fabulous fair trade goodies including handmade jewelery and accessories, hand painted ceramics, wooden toys, fair trade organic cotton kids clothes, handmade homewares and organic skin care. Daisy Daisy is proud to be a member of the British Association for Fair Trade Shops. 

Tree2mydoor is a unique gift company that specialises in sending personalised trees as gifts to people all over the UK and Ireland. They have created special tree gift packs for newborn baby gifts, green wedding gifts and 4th, 5th and 25th wedding anniversary gifts. Tree gifts range from native UK tree species to garden fruit trees and indoor citrus trees. 

Wishcraft has carefully selected the most unusual and beautifully handcrafted gift ideas from around the world. Every striking piece in Wishcraft’s collection is ethically sourced and individually created by master artisans. They offer a huge range of beautiful handcrafts and fashion accessories created under fair trade conditions. Their collection includes contemporary silk bags, traditional hand embroidered soft furnishings and colourful children’s items. 

Nkuku specialise in eco friendly, fair trade gifts and home accessories. They combine contemporary designs with age old techniques, natural materials and sustainable methods of production. Nkuku is socially responsible and is built on the principles of fair trade and equal opportunity. They are a member of WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) and BAFTS.

THE FAIR TRADE STORE  is an Online Shop bringing you unique, handmade Fair Trade products from around the developing world in an easy, convenient and secure way. Select from a wide range of Fair Trade Gifts including Fair Trade Jewellery, Bags and Recycled Fashion Accessories.

Fairwind is about gifts and fair trade. They pride themselves on great customer service and on being kind to the planet. They offer a high quality range of the most desirable fair trade gifts from across the globe, safe in the knowledge that nobody in the third world is being disadvantaged, and the environment is not being harmed.

Visit Pure Design's online gallery and be amazed by their range of beautiful designer eco accessories for you and your home. Made in the UK by award-winning designers, their range of organic, recycled and sustainable accessories are all available to order online. They also offer a consultancy and commissioning service; whether you are decorating a new home or simply looking for a centre piece to refresh a room or outfit, let Pure Design help you find an exclusive design piece just for you. 

The Travelling Souk was set up in 2003 by Georgiana Grimston and Anna Craven. Inspired by a trip to the magical souks & markets of Marrakesh, Georgiana realised there was an opportunity to re-create them in the heart of British homes and raise money for charity. Each Travelling Souk event would become a unique private sale bringing together small businesses selling unique and exotic wares. 

If you have kids, you might want to think about making some gifts yourself. It's guaranteed family fun and an original gift.

If all this is still too much for you, you can always decide to buy nothing this Christmas



Creativity tip - Morph it!

>> 21 November 2010

Today I want to give you another way to crank out some new ideas.

I call it 'MORPH IT' as you try to look at the problem as if it were something completely different.

1. Formulate the issue (for example as a HOW TO statement):

  • How to increase traffic to our website?
2. Create 2 columns:
  • Column 1: Pick a totally different product or service and describe it:
    • What are its attributes?
    • What are its functions?
    • Does it have unusual aspects?
  • Column 2: Relate each attribute back to your issue:
    • How could these attributes be used to resolve your issue?
    • Look for ideas and write them all down
    Examples of other products/services:
How to increase traffic to our website? -> morphed into Fedex:
Fedex attributes:
  • Delivery the next day before noon
  • Personal delivery
  • Fast
  • Different options for sending
  • Online tracking
  • ...
 Ideas sprouting from there:
  • Put a face of your employees/CEO on the website
  • Offer subscription to weekly newsletter
  • Reply faster than anyone to online questions
  • Make it load fast
  • Give people different options when coming to landing page (just browsing: open random page, looking for specific info: field to let them enter what they look for, etc)
  • Add widgets that allow them to follow you
From now on, try giving your issue a different morphology whenever you encounter a problem and see what jumps up!


The Secret to getting from A to B

>> 17 November 2010

I often get asked 'How do you do all the things that you do? How do you manage to do them all? How did you get to where you are now?'

Well, let me tell you a secret:

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” -- --John Pierpont Morgan


That is indeed the very first step. And it is the most important one.

So let's stay with it for a minute here and analyze what it really means.

Many people have realized that something needs to change, that something is not right. And they keep looking for the kind fairy to spin her wand and miraculously make it all right.

Well, let me tell you another secret:

There are no miracles. There are no fairies.

And even if there were, you would still be stuck at the first step. 


YOU need to DECIDE that you are NOT going to STAY where you are.


Read that again.

So you, need to take an action to create movement. As simple as that.


Many people are stuck or unhappy and they know it. They moan about everything to everyone. But they don't do anything about the situation. They complain that it's too complicated, too difficult, too risky or that they just don't know where to start.

So let me tell you another secret:

Once you have decided that you don't want to stay where you are, all it takes is a small step.

  • You don't need to stop smoking by tomorrow (that would be very smart, but very hard).

  • You don't have to loose 20 pounds in a week (that wouldn't be very smart and probably very unhealthy).

  • You don't have to start your business by the end of next month (that would be possible but you would just feel overwhelm and experience no fun).

All you need to do is take a small step:

  • Tell someone you would like to stop smoking (tell them tomorrow). Or, buy some nicotine patches to see how they can help you reach your goal (buy some by the end of this week).

  • Take out some pictures of yourself when you liked the way you looked and stick them on the bathroom mirror (do that tomorrow). Make an appointment with your doctor in view of making a weight loss plan with him (do that by next week).

  • Make a list of all the things that need to be done (by the end of the week). Then break each big step up into small steps and those again into smaller, doable steps (do that by the end of this month).
Start wherever you are and start small. -- Rita Baily 

You are not changing the starting point (A) or the end result (B: quit smoking, loosing 20 pounds or starting a business), you are just breaking the path up into doable portions, baby steps, little A to B sub steps.

This will allow you to:
  • experience completion along the way (and hey, you can celebrate the little successes!)
  • remain motivated
  • experience fun
  • keep up momentum (once one step is finished, another one is already lined up)
It will also prevent you from:
  • experiencing overwhelm
  • giving up before you even really started
  • being stressed and bitchy and no fun
And look, all these famous people can't be wrong?

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. -- Confucious 

The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living the life of your dreams today, in every little way you possibly can. -- Mike Dooley 

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.
Henry Ford 

Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.
Indira Gandhi 

The elevator to success is out of order. You'll have to use the stairs...one step at a time.
Joe Girard  

The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.
Lee Iacocca 

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Martin Luther King, Jr. 

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
Lao Tzu 

We don't try to be 100% better, rather 1% better a hundred ways.
Ann Mitchell     

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Baby step by baby step, you have what you need right now to start moving in the direction of your happiest dreams.
Marta Davidovich Ockuly 
It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.
Chinese Proverb 

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place.
Nora Roberts 

Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.
Helmut Schmidt

All great things have small beginnings.
Peter Senge 

The first step is to find out what you love – and don’t be practical about it. The second step is to start doing what you love immediately, in any small way possible.
Barbara Sher 
When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all that I can permit myself to contemplate.
John Steinbeck

Every change starts in a small step.
Ron Stolero
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.
Mark Twain


Creativity tip - Reverse it!

>> 14 November 2010

A good and fast way to crank out some new ideas is to reverse them.

1. Formulate the issue as a HOW TO statement:
  • How to increase training attendance by 30%?
2. Create 3 columns:
  • Column 1: Assumptions
    • What are the key characteristics, elements,...?
    • What must we have/do?
    • What would we get fired for changing?
  • Column 2: Reverse Assumptions
    • Negate the whole statement
    • Reverse elements of the phrase
    • Do not spend time looking for a precise reversal (just write it as it comes)
  • Column 3: Look for ideas in the reversal and write them into column 3
What can this mean/bring you?


From now on, try reversing whenever you encounter a problem and see what jumps up!


How to be kind on world kindness day

>> 10 November 2010

This Saturday it's World Kindness Day


Philospher and psychologist Piero Ferrucci says kindness is composed of 7 ingredients:

Understand a friend, see his point of view instead of answering with anger or impatience.

Be humble with your friends, listen to them instead of boasting about your successes.

Connections are more important than gaining three minutes. Think about this next time you impatiently stand in line at the supermarket.

Offer an object, a feeling, a thought, time. It allows you to go from owning to the pleasure to be with your friends.

Listen to the other without judgment. Accept his point of view even if it's different from yours. It gives the other the space he deserves. Without this respect, kindness remains superficial.

It forms the base of constant solid relationship with those we love. Being loyal allows you to be in line with yourself and to keep our word.

Measure the chance you have to be healthy, thank your loved ones to be there for you,... Gratitude allows you to feel content with what you have and are without taking it for granted. Gratitude nourishes the sensation of plenitude and softens our regrets and frustrations.


  1. It makes you happy.
  2. It reinforces your immune system (check out research of Heartmath)
  3. It improves the performances of others (The Art of being kind)
  4. It relieves pain (The Healing Power of Doing Good)
  5. It gives pleasure (Healthy Pleasures)
  6. It is motivating.
  7. It is contagious (The Art of being kind)


  1. Distribute coffee or tea in the street (to the homeless, the mailman, the paperboy...)
  2. Organize a fundraiser for a charity.
  3. Bring flowers to someone you like.
  4. Thank the teacher of your child with a little gift.
  5. Leave a big tip to the waiter and leave a note of thanks.
  6. Invite a neighbor or lonely elder for dinner.
  7. Write to someone you have lost touch with or are angry with.
  8. At the hospital, visit those who get no visitors.
  9. Put some coins into the snack dispenser with a post-it that says 'Enjoy'.
  10. Play 'I noticed': observe your colleagues, friends and notice their new outfits, haircuts etc and compliment them.
For more ideas, visit:

Acts of Kindness
World Kindness Movement


Creativity tip: Trigger list

>> 7 November 2010

This week I was talking about A wish is a niche and how a bug list can help you come up with the next hype.

There are other lists I tend to maintain to get a creative spark.

One of them is a trigger list.

Every time I come across something where I think 'Hey, that is a great idea' or 'Darn, wish I'd invented that', I keep it:

  • I tear out the page of the magazine (yes, even if it's at the doctors')
  • I bookmark the webpage in a special folder
  • I put them on Tumblr or Squidoo
I use them as stepping stones for gathering new ideas, for writing blog posts, for mindful surfing, for inspiration, for combining ideas etc.

Start collecting today!


Is the 'pike syndrome' keeping your from your success?

>> 3 November 2010

Do you get paralised by imaginary barriers?
Do you suffer defeat because of some made-up obstacles?
Do you have preconceived notions or arbitrary fears?
Do you let outside things (like norms and rituals) cloud your judgment?

How do you respond to change?

Do you adapt?

What is holding you back? Is it real or fictional?

Do you evolve? Or die?


Creativity tip - Find a recorder

>> 31 October 2010

You are creative every day.


Oh yes you are!

You have ideas right?

  • At work to improve a project.
  • At home to fix a toy.
  • With your kids to come up with games to play.
What do you do with them?
  • You implement them.
  • You share them.
  • You test them.
But do you record them?

Leonardo Da Vinci had no Ipad. He had a notebook.
He recorded all of his ideas in it. So did Edison.

Where do you keep your ideas? Do you let them be lost in space?

Ah, but I have no such brilliant ideas as Edison and Da Vinci, you say.

Not yet, I answer. Not all their ideas were groundbreaking either. The thing is: they had MANY ideas. They recorded them. And that enabled them to come back to them, analyze them, ponder over them, and eventually make the unlikely connection that becomes a brilliant idea.

So, get a notebook, Ipad or phone, dictaphone, rolodex...whatever system suits you best.
And start recording.

Come back to your treasure chest from time to time when you are looking for ideas. You might be surprised what you find.


A wish is a niche

>> 27 October 2010

(or how a bug list can help you invent the next hype)

The other day, someone posted a wish on Twitter along the lines of 'I wish teabags wouldn't drip when you try to throw them away'.

I answered with 'A wish is a niche'.

Think about it for a while.

The dripping teabag bugged someone enough to come up with a solution for it.

Does it ever happen to you that you wish something was different or worked better?

Let's do a little exercise here:

Create your Bug List (or problem bank) by listing all the things that:

  • don’t work quite right, 
  • bug or annoy you, 
  • you notice people struggling with
  • you struggle with
  • you think need improvement

You add to this list by observing people around you, your customers, your competitors, your family.

Here is my today's bug list:
  • Buttons coming off shirts
  • Standard helpdesk response emails
  • Unscrewing a screw when you have no screwdriver
  • Time lost during driving
  • I have the best ideas in my car - but I need to record them while driving: I wish I could just speak a text and a device would turn it into a text document - my blog posts would be written in no time! (something like it exists, but not available in Luxembourg, duh!)
  • Remembering all your codes and passwords
Use your list of problems for idea generating using some of the creative techniques presented to you in my Sunday Creativity Tips (like random object).

Combine any new ideas with your bug list.

Connect the unlikely, the impossible, the unthinkable. See what comes out of it.

It might be a niche!


Creativity tip: Constraint and limitations

>> 24 October 2010

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away. -- Linus Pauling
In previous creativity tips, I have given you a few tips on how to generate new ideas.

And as Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling rightly points out, you need to have a lot of ideas to be able to have a few good ones.

Often enough we are so happy to have found a great idea that we jump though hoops to get it implemented right away.

And it is exactly at that point where we should sometimes try to restrain and constrain ourselves, yes even give ourselves some limitations.

This may sound contradictory.

Ideas circulate when we let our mind wander loosely, when we have no limitations to what is possible, when we fantasize, when we combine the seemingly uncombinable (is that a word? - it is now!).

But let's experiment. Let's take your great idea and list 7 or 8 major elements that make up this

Let's say I want to launch a project that circulates new ideas among employees, a sort of black media box, with a theme each month (far from the work floor, such as 'Success' or 'Happiness'), You Tube videos will be shown on the subject, community partners will be interviewed etc.

The major elements would be:
  1. Physical Black Box (contradicting elements: constraining people to a box to give them horizon enlarging inspiration)
  2. One theme a month, subjects not work related
  3. Internet contribution (Youtube, TED etc)
  4. Community interviews on the subject (with the local cycling star, the farmer next door, the owner of the grocery store, etc)
  5. Employee contribution on the subject (anything that inspires them on that subject and that can be communicated via the black box)
  6. Benefits:
    * community partners get free publicity among company's employees
    * employees get freebies from community partners during the month (free milk tasting at the farmer, discount at the grocery store, etc)
    * company gets employees that become more creative through this stimulation
  7. Low cost, high impact.

Now, let's eliminate 3 of them. Go ahead, pick any 3.

In what ways would my creation change if I developed it without these 3 elements?

This constraint can trigger new, original, useful ideas, which might actually spice up the project a bit.

Try it at home :-)


How do you know you have taken the right decision?

>> 20 October 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Our life, our days are full of them.

To get up or not to get up?

Cross the road now or wait until the car passes?
Get gas or wait until later?
Give my child an apple or a pear for recess?

And then there are the more important ones.

Those that we don't usually take on the spot.
Those that need a few good nights' sleep.
Or those that keep us awake.
Those that need talking to friends about.
Or those that we need to take all by ourselves.

And the difficulty with all of them is this:

How do we know that we have taken the right decision?

Because once we have made a decision to go for A or B, that's it right?
What if after some time we find out it was wrong?
We can't go back can we?

When I was living abroad, an older colleague introduced me to the PRO and CON system to help me make decisions. She said "Take a piece of paper and draw two columns. Put a plus on the left and a minus sign on the right. Then just start filling it in with everything that comes to mind. On the left write down all the positive results of taking the action. On the right all the negative effects. And give them points for importance and relevance."

I still do this occasionally but I have since learned a few more things:

  1. Procrastination:
    Are you pushing the decision from one day to the next? If so, ask yourself why. What are you afraid of? How can you mend this? Maybe the decision is too big to take and you need to do step 2 first.
  2. From big to small:
    If your decision is big (or even huge), try to slice it into smaller, doable, less scary parts. Parts that you can achieve and complete easily and celebrate a certain achievement.

    The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
    -- Mark Twain 

  3. Intention:
    Decision is intention with legs. Whatever it is you put out there (I want another job, I want a partner, I want a music career), it won't start walking anywhere until you give it legs and make some decisions. Once you have taken a decision, you can still steer it, you can still stop it and turn it around. However, the next step is very important from the start.
  4. Clarity:
    Intention is all very nice, but if they are formulated like above, they are not very clear or precise. Your intention will have no idea where to walk to.
    What kind of job? Where? When? Why? To do what? What will that bring you? How will you grow? Visualize it. Write an elevator pitch for it. Does it sound clear? Credible?
  5. Support:
    Before, during and after decision making: get a support system in place. Whether it's a friend who listens to your doubts, a mentor who steers you in the right direction, a mother who cooks your favorite meal when you had a setback, some money in the bank just in case. This can be as simple or as big as you need it to be. It will help you feel safe to take decisions. And after a while you will learn how to use it better. And maybe you might not need it as much. Although the favorite meal is something that always gives you a boost.
  6. No half things:
    We often take a decision but don't really mean it.
    It's like saying I'm going ice-skating and forgetting your skates (on purpose).
    Decide like you mean it! To help you with that, go to step 7.
  7. Accountability:
    So you have taken a decision. You mean business. But do you?
    To make sure you do, get accountability. Talk about your decision to people (maybe the same people from your support step). Put yourself out there so that you have to report on your progress.
Once you have completed these steps there is of course no guarantee that the decision you have taken is the right one.
But if you are really clear on your intention, then no decision is really wrong in the end.

And sometimes you have to adapt your intention because you change, situations change, life changes.

And that is ok.

It's okay to change direction.

It's also okay to fail and admit it was the wrong decision.

Any failure is really just an opportunity in disguise.

What decisions are you taking today? How clear are you about them? What is your intention?

Take a little test:
How good are your decision making skills?


Creativity tip - Look at nature

>> 17 October 2010

Nature is incredibly diverse.

Nature is incredibly complex.

Nature has overcome obstacles and adapted to a changing environment.

Nature has found solutions to problems it was facing.

Nature can give us ideas for problems we are facing.

Biomimicry studies nature and all its elements and takes inspiration from it in order to solve human problems.

Here are a few examples:

  • Wound healing inspired by flies
  • Solar cells inspired by leaves
  • Friction-free fans inspired by nautilus
  • Bacterial control inspired by barberry
  • Self-cleaning surfaces inspired by lotus plant

For more examples visit the “Nature’s 100 Best” web site.

So next time you are looking for a solution, go for a walk in the woods, run through a field, look at the birds and the bees. Think about how a plant or animal would solve your problem.

Something out there might give you a clue.


The surprising truth about what motivates us

>> 13 October 2010

Are you motivated right now? Why? Why not?

Does your job suck?

What would need to happen for it to be good or even great?

  • More money? 
  • More / less responsibility? 
  • A new boss?
  • A new job?
  • More challenges?
  • More freedom?

What is it that actually gets you motivated?

Dan Pink who wrote the excellent 'A whole new mind' gives us the surprising truth about what motivates us.

So, money is a motivator in some situations only. It's extrinsic.

  1. Autonomy: I like to decide how and when I do things
  2. Mastery: I like to get better at it
  3. Purpose: I want to make a contribution
are intrinsic motivators that have a much bigger chance of making us happy people.

So how can you change your work or that of others today to add these three elements to it?


Creativity tip - Explain it to grandma

>> 10 October 2010

We live in a fast paced world, where new technology is thrown at us daily.

We work on complicated projects, elaborate complex plans and often try to reinvent the wheel.

And sometimes we overdo it.
  • We use acronyms and a high tech language
  • We use complex diagrams to explain our solution
  • We use 100 slides to convince management
  • We talk about us before we listen to our customers

Well, sometimes it is needed of course. We need to go into technical details when we talk to engineers for example.

But think about it.

Is Apple doing the tech talk when they sell their Ipad?
Is the Google search engine crowded with explanations on how to use it?

When I catch myself trying to reinvent the wheel, or thinking about a fancy word to use, I stop.
I breathe.
And I try to think about how I would explain this thing I'm working on to my grandma.

I'm not talking about making the message stupid. Your grandma is not stupid, right? (if she is, pick someone else :-)

I'm talking about making it more simple:
  • simplify your problem as far as you can so that it still makes sense
  • formulate things differently
  • use less words, simpler words
  • delete all acronyms
  • tell a story
  • make a drawing or use images
  • make it low tech (do you really need a computer and powerpoint?)
That puts it all in perspective.

Grandma understands the Ipad and can use Google.
Grandma will understand my pitch to management because I only use images and tell a  story.
Grandma will like a short and simple creativity tip on Sunday (I will need to print it though because she doesn't have a computer...)

So, next time you're stuck, try explaining it to grandma.


How to become a likable control freak

>> 6 October 2010

I was in a training course recently about Stakeholder Management.

We were taught the different levels of buy-in and involvement stakeholders need to have over the course of a project.

A colleague of mine, let's call her Melissa, was having trouble with this.

To her, it seemed normal that ALL her stakeholders needed to be kept happy and up to date ALL THE TIME from the beginning to the end of a project.

But at the same time she was admitting that she was stressed and afraid things would get out of hand if she lost that control.

I sent her a post on perfectionism and she replied that it wasn't so much perfection that she was striving for but that she probably was a bit of a control freak and if I had any posts on that, she'd be glad to receive them.

Well, I didn't.

And as I used to have some control issues in the past, I thought I might as well write a post about this myself.
  • What is control?
    If you look in the dictionary, it's a scary word.
    It has to do with power, domination, restraint, regulation.
    It implies that something is bad and needs to be changed.
    It insinuates that something or someone is better than another.
  • Is it good or bad?
    Probably neither. The opposite of control may be chaos. If there were no control over anything, where would we be? Would we all be running around wildly? Or would we just adapt to the new way things are?
  • How much control do you need?
    A certain amount of control can certainly be beneficial, depending on the goal you need to achieve. The more you control people though, the more you restrain them from a lot of things (like being spontaneous, creative, individual or just simply your friend). Most people don't like the feeling of being controlled. Some are being controlled and don't even notice (because they think it's normal, because they are in love...).
  • When do you become a freak?
    It is normal that you should want to be in control of your life. YOUR life, not other people's.
    Control freaks are terrified of failure. They don't trust other people can do things as well as they can. Being in control gives them a temporary illusion and sense of calmness.
    Control freaks suffer from perfectionism, they are very orderly, can't delegate, micro-manage and have workaholic tendencies. They are afraid of being vulnerable. 
There is a lot of advice out there on how to deal with a control freak.
There is not much help out there if you ARE one and want to change.

I'm a control freak. How do I change?
  1. Childhood:
    First of all, it is good to know that most behaviors (good and bad) are with you since childhood. You learned to behave this way. Whether from your parents or other meaningful people around you. You copied the pattern that you were shown.

    I am not saying you should go into therapy to return to your childhood and analyze how evil your parents were so that you can blame everything on them!
    But it is good to know where this behavior comes from and why you're doing it.

  2. Attention:

    Okay, so you figured out why you are the freak that you are. And a behavior you have learned over the last x years is not something you shake in a day. So, instead of trying to stop controlling completely, let's start with little steps:

    Try to be aware of your actions. Notice whenever you are controlling something or someone. Give it some attention. Ask yourself 'What's going on here? and why?' Then breathe, let it go.

    The more you focus your attention on your behavior, the more you become aware of it. The more you become aware of it, the more you can steer it.

  3. Change the HOW not the WHAT

    You're a control freak. That's your WHAT. It's WHAT you DO. That's what you have been trying to change because deep down you know it's getting you stressed, making you unhappy and not gaining you any friends.

    What would happen if you tried to change the HOW instead?

    This can be many different things depending on the type of your controlling behavior

    • How you behave with people
    • How you see and value yourself
    • How you are organized
    • How do do things

    How can you change a few little things to alter the above?

    Ask yourself what it is that you really want. Slow down and get clear. Why do you do what you do? Where do you want to go?
A few quick and dirty tips:

Woah! I hear you say. That's like a looong process. Isn't there a shortcut?

No, there isn't. But there are a few things that you should know that may kick you in the butt:
  • Showing a weakness does not mean you loose control. It makes you human and likable.
  • Trust your instincts: does this need to be controlled by you or is it gonna be fine without it?
  • If you have to use control, use it in a respectful way (don't belittle, shout, pressure, manipulate...)
  • Watch your tone of voice, your body language, the way you deliver something. How does that make you come across?
And most importantly: You teach people how to treat you. 

Don't say that your kids never clean up or that your husband never does the dishes.
Because you've always done it, people get that you will always do it....


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