Wisdom//

Hit a Major Life Road Block? Here’s What to Do

It all starts with your mindset.

Courtesy of  Muriel de Seze / Getty Images 

Nothing is worse than feeling stuck. 

Whether your organization cannot seem to move forward or you’re paralyzed in your personal life, the result is the same: frustration and confusion. It’s almost a feeling of hopelessness when you think about how much effort you’ve put in, how much money you’ve spent on outside expertise, how many different things you’ve tried — and yet, nothing has really changed. 

And you think, “Maybe it never will.” 

I call that existing in the “A State.” 

In the A State, your organization cannot possibly keep up with today’s urgency to beat the competition, respond to fluctuating market conditions or satisfy ever-increasing customer expectations. No matter how much time and resources you spend on “continuous process improvement,” “skill building,” “leadership programs,” “team-building exercises,” “lean and agile systems” and “culture-shaping regimens,” you cannot maintain your market share or profitability ratio. Your culture is stuck in archaic silos. Workers, supervisors, middle and senior managers, and executives resort to the “blame game” to justify breakdowns. Few issues ever get satisfactorily, much less permanently, resolved. And power struggles, bureaucracy and old-school mind-sets prevent your younger, more tuned-in leaders from having any innovative impact. 

Yup, you’re stuck. 

In the individual A State, you cannot make your relationships work, find the job or career path that makes you happy, or maintain the diet/exercise regimen you swore to your friends and family — and doctor — you’d keep up to feel better. No matter how many personal-growth workshops you go to, how much positive thinking you employ, how many affirmations you dutifully write out, or how many life coaches, therapists, and gurus you follow, you cannot seem to get out of your own way. 

You’re still discouraged — maybe even depressed. You still look for someone or something to “complete” you. You still pray for a miracle from every lottery ticket. You still cannot talk to your kids… or siblings… or parents without coming away upset. You still hope the next pill, supplement or organic concoction will fill you up and take away the gnawing hole in your psyche. You still wonder what you’re doing with your life and whether anyone will ever love you — and if they do, for how long? 

Yeah, you’re stuck. 

Time to move into the “B State.”

In the pictured triangle, the bottom represents those functional areas that generally operate in silos and thus focus only on their own optimization. Since they all have different priorities, constraints, metrics and even language, trying to work together raises almost unavoidable conflict, which typically result in unsolvable lose-lose compromises or win-lose power plays.

Someone outside the conflict and midway up the triangle, such as human resources or a consultant or an upper manager, can use their broader perspective to provide solutions those at the bottom cannot see. But we only think about what’s best for the organization as a whole when we’re at the top of the triangle, where differences between functional areas disappear.

That’s where our customers are — when they receive damaged goods, they don’t say, “Gee, I wonder which department messed this up!” They say: “Damn, I should have bought a different brand!” — so that’s where the B State is.

“Shared ownership,” that oft-bandied term, doesn’t mean everyone must be involved in every decision, or that we won’t run into new conflicts as we try to resolve old ones. It means we’re all invested in eliminating anything obstructing the organization’s success, whether or not we’re directly involved in those obstructions. “It’s not my problem” and “It’s not my job” don’t exist at the top of the triangle. “It” is their problem — and everyone else’s problem on the team and in the organization.

How is it not the whole team’s problem if an infielder keeps missing grounders? How can a band not “take ownership” to fix the issue if a backup singer consistently flubs a particular harmony? Authors and consultants who talk about putting the organization first generally offer advice that flows from the bottom up: “Here’s what my area — my group, my team, my results — can do to benefit the company’s overall success.” But that’s classic, stuck-in-a silo A State thinking.

A Senior VP of Marketing took his leadership team — two directors and a mid-level VP he’d been mentoring for over three years — to lunch. On the way to the restaurant, the mid-level VP suggested a process change that would support another department’s revenue stream. “We’re not here to support any other department’s revenue!” the Senior VP exploded. “I don’t get a bonus for their business! That’s it — we’re done! I’m not going to keep mentoring anyone so disloyal!”

He was really stuck in the A State — and, frankly, disloyal to his organization. It’s a common scenario: A department significantly reduces its operating costs by hundreds of thousands every month by streamlining its processes, yet in doing so negatively impacts five other departments, which raise the organization’s costs by millions. At the bottom of the triangle, that first department celebrates its major success — but at the top, it’s now a liability.

Fortunately, the entire BMC SLT’s consciousness was so aligned their output was also aligned, even though their paragraphs addressed different topics.

YOUR PERSONAL SUCCESS

You, too, may need a B-State transformation to create the new reality you desire.

Creating a Picture of Success of your new future reality is not about developing goals, metrics or priorities. It’s about imagining the ideal behaviors, feelings and thoughts you’d like to embody today and from now on.

My personal Picture of Success was about living with my ideal life partner. Yours might be about reinventing your life.

Maybe you want your spouse, children or parental relationships to transform so you can enjoy more openness, trust, and intimacy.

Maybe you want to transform your health but are tired of diets and gym memberships you don’t use.

Maybe you want to renovate your career, which has plateaued despite all the personal coaches, certificate courses and “prosperity” guidance you’ve gone through.

If you just feel stuck and aren’t sure why — whatever the cause — it’s time to revitalize your nonnegotiable Picture of Success. A Picture of Success doesn’t provide a makeover roadmap, but the act of creating it will mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare you to manifest expansion. This is not “just another goal.” It’s a transformation: a new way of thinking, an evolved set of the feelings and actions you will experience in your new reality.

I first learned the value of this during the opening game of a National Basketball Association championship series when the sportscaster interviewed Isaiah Thomas, who was starting for the Boston Celtics for the first time.

“Isaiah, you are one of the youngest ballplayers to be in the NBA Championship Series. Are you nervous?”

Isaiah tilted his head. “Not at all! I’ve pictured myself defending, shooting baskets, and running up and down the court in this championship series 1,000 times since I was seven years old. This game isn’t new for me. In fact, I finally feel at home being here to play it.”

“You did not come to face reality. You came to create reality.” – Hicks-Abraham

More information about my newest book B State: A New Roadmap for Bold Leadership, Brave Culture and Breakthrough Results is available at www.BState.com.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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