Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…

“All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas Layin’ In The Sun, Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done… But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas All Ran Away And Hid From One Little Did.”

Shel Silverstein

Have you ever given much thought to your life moments when someone tries to help you think about options to an issue you are facing and they say, “Hey, maybe you should…”? Or how about when you make a hasty decision and then realize in hindsight you “should” have chosen differently?

How about when you play the game of if I were you I would, those times in our lives we imagine trading places with someone else’s chances to make better decisions, like “Oh, if only I were rich I would….”.

What about when the “I can’t” takes control where the little voice inside of you comes up with all kinds of reasons why you just can’t get something done, or volunteer, or find the time. “Well you know I would help if only I could get out of this other thing I’m doing” or “I could go with you if….”.

I think it is safe to say that we have all been through these scenarios at least once.

What if I told you there is a way, a real way, to feel more confident about how to approach these situations when they arise?

Let’s break it down:

For the most part, these 3 words, would, could, should, have top implications even though they each have a variety of definitions. For example,

SHOULD usually implies a personal obligation. “I should have been more careful.”

WOULD implies consequence. “I would lose too much time taking that other route.”

COULD indicates possibility. “I could go out with him tonight if I get my homework done now.”

When thinking about a “should” situation I have found that people are very eager and willing to help others by telling them what to do or giving them ideas about how they should go about solving their dilemma or how they should address a specific situation that crops up. I myself have used the word should a thousand times with my husband. “Hun, you should take the older chairs to Goodwill before we bring in anything new.” Or, “Well, I think you should spend time with the kids today because it’s important.”

When “should” comes along it leaves a very dictatorial presence and takes away a piece of autonomy from the person trying to figure things out. What might be obvious to you is not usually so obvious to the person with the problem. I have found that turning the should into a question gives power back to the person trying to solve the problem. The reframe sounds like this: “Hey hun, what are your thoughts about taking the chairs to Goodwill first?” or “Hey babe, what are you doing with the kids today?” Rephrasing the should implication into a question of choice leaves the person you are speaking to in charge of their own issue and more importantly their own decisions. What if the person with the problem asks you for your opinion? Should you offer up your own should? In cases like these I like to simply ask, “Well, what do you think you should do?” Sometimes it helps to be the sounding board for all the options they might offer up. Power to the people.

In the instance of “would” there is pressure to decide and be right because being wrong not only feels awful but creates doubt in oneself and doubt toward your decision-making process from others. When facing a “would” situation I have seen many times where clients choose to just not decide rather than make a wrong decision and so there is no forward movement. Again, I have used this line of thinking in my own relationships and on myself more times than I care to count. It sounds something like this: “I would consider going to that meeting but I hate driving in the dark” or “If I were you I would….”; that’s a tried and true one right there especially with my children. It almost crosses the line into “should”.

We can’t possibly ever be that other person so let’s find another way down this rabbit hole, shall we? There is an awesome technique that works just about every time I use it with my clients assuming I get their permission to try it. It is called the “if, then” game. Here is how to play:

My client presents a situation where she perceives her reputation is on the line with the decision she ultimately needs to make or she just doesn’t want to decide because she is having a hard time finding solutions. She is honestly looking for me to consult her rather than coach her and this means that I am being looked upon to give her A, B, and C options to choose from. No way says I. You, my dear decision-making client, will be creating your own best fitting option. The situation goes something like this: “I promised I would bring dessert to the meeting tomorrow night but I realize now that I really do not want to go to the meeting and I hate driving home in the dark and I do not have time to make a nice dessert and well, I just don’t want to go to the meeting.”

Let’s create an if, then option plan. “If I go to the meeting then I could…., If I don’t go to the meeting then…?”. In this creative decision-making game, the client gets to think up many options that run the gamut from crazy out there to more down to earth and realistic possibilities. The idea is that at some point the client, you, will have created an option that fits, an option he/she can live with and feel empowered by because the final decision feels right. The crazy out there options always get a laugh or two and truly relieve some pressure.

Finally, the “could” situation. This word is positive in its implication. “Could” creates possibility, is hopeful and has an air of lightness and freedom to it. The situation that creates the “could” might not be great but the outcome might turn a negative into a positive. Let’s give it a try: “I could be sitting on this highway all night if the news report is right.” Not a great situation. At this point ask yourself, what are my options? It seems obvious to me that this would be the question to ask, thinking of ways to not have to sit in traffic but I have found that when I or my clients ask the question out loud then in that moment their bodies are starting to de-stress because the brain is going into problem solving mode. Sure, you could scream and shout and curse and stay annoyed and wallow in self-pity for your rotten luck or you can get creative and think about ways to get moving. Even if there are no other roads to take at least you tried and can live with the trying.

Throughout our lifetime we are all faced with uncomfortable situations that we must get through. These situations cause us to, in hindsight, create wishful thinking feelings, things we wish we had done or said in that critical moment. By course correcting, taking a bit of time to ask ourselves some simple but key questions and/or doing a mental comparison of pros and cons we all can get a bit closer to an outcome of resolution we feel proud of.

Call to Action

Share some of your woulda, coulda, shoulda situations with me. How did you get through it?

What were the consequences of your decisions? Remember, consequences can be good and/or bad?

In what ways have you learned from each incident that has made you more aware and self-confident the next time a woulda, coulda, shoulda situation presented itself?

Spring Clean Your Creativity

 

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Spring Clean Your Creativity

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Walt Disney Company

Does your mind runeth over with ideas and creativity? Do you ever find that your creativity is blocked and you feel lost as to what to do next? Sometimes when I’m writing I feel lost in either too much to write about or not enough topics to choose from and I freeze.

In those times I wish I could take a vacation from my mind, just leave it home and just breathe without wondering about everything there is to wonder about. It’s not really a good idea for me to do this because I’d lose a very important part of who I am. BUT…. What if I could spring clean my mind instead?

According to the gurus of positive psychology, the late Dr. Christopher Peterson and UPENN professor Martin Seligman, the act of creativity falls under the virtues heading of “wisdom and knowledge.” In their book Character Strengths and Virtues they write that “creativity is a cognitive strength of thinking that is used in novel and productive ways to understand and accomplish things. It is NOT limited to artistic expression alone.” In other words, you don’t have to be a musician or a painter to have creativity or to be creative.

Recently, I volunteered to do something creative that I’ve never done before: work with a colleague to produce a virtual-workshop to present to our coaching community. Our workshop was on the topic of home business loneliness and we specifically centered our presentation on loneliness prevention strategies that exist with regard to the mental isolation and geographical isolation of running your own home business. This was very challenging for me because I had high expectations for my presentation and also had certain content criteria I had to meet. I got clear in my mind about what I wanted to present and gave myself a pep talk. My mind, my brain, my spirit, my creativity were all challenged and as a result raised in consciousness.

The short story is that the workshop was a huge success filled to the brim with giveaways, resource lists, hope and passion. The long story is that it involved a lot of research, practice time, re-writes and a spring cleaning of my own personal doubts. I found that anxiety and perfectionism are the enemies of creativity. I stayed with my objective to meet my participants’ needs as well as maintain my passion for this subject. I needed to stay focused, creative and empathetic and curious.

The take away for me after stretching myself with this workshop is that everyone has the ability, capability and tools to be creative. We just have to clean out old notions of what creativity means and open our minds to what we can discover when the clutter clears away and we allow ourselves to explore the depth of our imaginations.

Where To Begin

“Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.”
Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

Where does one begin to spring clean the mind to discover creativity? I think it’s important to know that at its core creativity is valuable. This means, “The created product and its creator have brought beauty, elegance and/or function into the world”, so says Drs. Peterson and Seligman. They go on to say that “creativity is trait-like, meaning it’s an everyday creative who can use objects to create something new from something old.” For example: someone who rearranges furniture to create more pleasing aesthetics to a room and create better function, or the person that changes an ingredient in a recipe to make it their own dish. Creativity is and should be fulfilling. Creation on any level just feels good.

Just like when you get ready to spring clean your garage or attic, spring cleaning your mind to allow for expansive creativity opens emotional doors to worlds you’ve yet to discover.

Tina Turner said it best when she said, “Sometimes you’ve got to let everything else go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything….whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it, because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”

In order to gain perspective, ask yourself:

1)      What is possible?

2)      Who will this affect/benefit?

3)      If this doesn’t lead to the result I want, would I still be glad I took the time to work on it?

Your answers should be personal because after all, creativity starts within your heart, mind, environment, soul depending on where the influences are allowed to flow from. If you are going to benefit, if you are going to be positively affected, if this is important to you, then everyone around you will benefit as well.

Every day “creatives” leave room for curiosity, open-mindedness and critical thinking. Are you an in the box every day creative meaning you only seek creativity within the structure of your daily routines or an out of the box everyday creative meaning that you follow where your thoughts and ideas lead you whether it is on the t0-do list for the day or a stimulus in your environment that caught your imagination? I am learning to be an out of the box every day creative by practicing it. I stay present in my daily agenda and goals but within those goals I let myself stay with a thought a lot longer than normal; I try not to only stick to my agenda, I do the creative things that I feel passionate about and allow myself to explore more deeply the things I am curious about, and I allow myself time to breathe and get clear so that I can be ready for the next idea to wash over me.

As scary as it was to create and deliver my workshop presentation, I allowed myself to enjoy the time spent on the research. I enjoyed the collaboration process with my colleague. The feedback from the participants was so much more than I could have ever imagined. The content was something I really resonated with and, therefore, it allowed for my own richness and passion to come through. Participants used words like empowering, uplifting, over-flowing. Passion and curiosity created content, content created interest, interest created exploration, exploration created creativity for out of the box research and open-mindedness.

Best- selling author, Michael Neill says,

“If we treat whatever stands in our way as an obstacle, we can bring the full creative resources of our mind to bear on the situation and find ways to get over, around, or through it.”

Being scared was my obstacle and I am so glad to have found a way to get over it and through it. I am armed for next time. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when facing your creative block or fear of being blocked creatively,

“You must to the thing you think you cannot do.”

What are some ideas we can all practice toward becoming more creative? To free our minds; to spring clean what we know and allow for the unknown to propel us toward new discoveries?  

10 Stepping Stones to Becoming more Creative:

1-      Meditation breathing: This allows for you to begin the positive open-minded flow of ideas

2-      Visualize: What do you want? Get clear, see your ideas. Make a vision board that shows in pictures, drawings and writing all that you intend and hope for.

3-      Stay present: Don’t spring too far ahead of you ideas that you start to feel overwhelmed or try not to fall too far behind that you become overwhelmed with trying to catch up.

4-      Don’t forget your funny bone: According to Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher of the successful book, “The Levity Effect”, incorporate fun and humor into your agenda and project. Bring fun snacks, spin around in your chair while brainstorming, tell a joke, keep fun toys nearby like silly putty, paper airplanes, etc., play great music. Lightening up and approaching from a fun point of view allows for out of the box thinking and powerful creativity.

5-      Journal your journey: This will allow you to keep moving your thoughts and creativity forward and to remember what you want to achieve without the pressure of cluttering your agenda or goals.

6-      Get physical: Use warm up exercises to get you ready for the days’ tasks even if it’s physical tasks. This gets your mind, your heart and muscles determined and ready. It lets your happy cells and happy chemicals (endorphins) flow through you to feel energized toward your accomplishments. Physical can also mean taking a trip to a library, museum, park or perhaps a show to help you see even more of what your imagination needs to propel you toward your creativity.

7-      Recruit: If your task is too big for just you, ask for help. “The more the merrier” cliché applies here.

8-      Time Out: Music breaks, food breaks, journaling breaks, walking breaks. BUT…. be mindful of your break time. Taking too much time could cause your momentum to suffer.

9-      Step back, take notice: Allow for perspective and evaluation. Allow yourself to feel grateful for every tiny step you take toward your goal. Allow gratitude for your interpretation, your voice, your spirit.

10-   Celebrate: Acknowledge your success by celebrating your every accomplishment. Creativity is a celebration, a great and wonderful, out loud reflection of YOU. Be proud and celebrate.

Inspiration To Get You Started

I recently came across a story that I think gets to the heart of creativity:

An Old Sioux Legend

In ancient times, the Creator wanted to hide something from the humans until they were ready to see it. He gathered all the other creatures of creation to ask for their advice.

The eagle said, “Give it to me and I will take it to the highest mountain in all the land,” but the Creator said, “No, one day they will conquer the mountains and find it.”

The salmon said, “Leave it with me and I will hide it at the very bottom of the ocean,” but the Creator said, “No, for humans are explorers at heart, and one day they will go there, too.”

The Buffalo said, “I will take it and bury it in the very heart of the Great Plains,” but the Creator said, “No, for one day even the skin of the earth will be ripped open, and they will find it there.”

The creatures of creation were stumped, but then an old blind mole spoke up. “Why don’t you put it inside them—that’s the last place they’ll look.”

The Creator said, “It is done.”

In the very popular book “The Artist’s Way”, author and teacher Julia Cameron lists 10 basic principles of creativity. The one that resonates with me the most, the one that inspires me is her #4 principle: We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to create.”

The Vietnamese Zen Buddist monk, teacher, author, poet, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Every thought you produce (create), anything you say (write, sing, etc…), any action you do, it bears your signature (creativity).”

Deepak Chopra writes, “The most creative act you will ever undertake is the act of creating yourself.”

To all of these great and wonderful inspirational thoughts and words I say, never stop creating who you are and who you want to be. No one suffers for your intuition, your courage, or your curiosity.

Spring is a great time for renewal, regeneration, release. Clean out what is holding you back and get your creativity on.

Call to Action

What did you take away from the Old Sioux Legend?

How can you use this legend to spark your creativity?

What would you like to explore this year, this spring, that you have been holding yourself back from exploring?

I challenge you to spring clean your mind and explore the endless possibilities of what you can allow yourself to see and what you allow yourself to find. All it takes is one thought, one idea, one spark and your big deep breath to say “I can do it.”