As leaders, we all make a conscious effort to walk the talk, especially when it comes to implementing change. Showing others that we follow through on our thinking with our own action sets the pace for others to follow. But sometimes this turns into a very short walk. We can lose momentum, get sidetracked, run into obstacles, or even get frustrated and turn back. Walking the talk is not an easy stroll in the park.
I am in the middle of such a walk right now. Last month I attended a program at the Institute for Zen Leadership (IZL). This was a 4-day immersion in how to make difficult "flips" that can greatly enhance my leadership skills, along with an introduction to zen meditation. I've read enough about the benefits of meditation to know that this could help me immensely, so I went. For the 4 mornings that I was there, sitting on my cushion with the other small group of leaders who had come for the same purpose, I wasn't just doing it, I was enjoying it. I liked how clear my mind became, how refreshed and energized I felt, and I was determined to make this a real practice in my life.
Then I returned home.
I don't need to tell you how quickly this "practice" fell off. Time became my biggest excuse, aided by a dose of procrastination. What struck me is how difficult it is to walk the talk. As agents of change, we are expected to lead the march without faltering. How can I expect others to keep taking those steps if I don't keep moving forward at a sustained pace myself? So, I've put together a few suggestions that have helped me walk the talk, or continue the journey down a difficult path.
Push through the pain and just DO IT!
I know this seems like I'm stating the obvious, but take a lesson from our greatest athletes and push through whatever resistance gets in your way - including yourself. As Ginny Whitelaw (author of The Zen Leader and director of the IZL program I attended) would say, "Get out of your own way!" This might be a "flip" in consciousness, like getting out of coping mode… or a fierce desire to see it through. Find your resolve and determination that came with the original idea and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Don't think about it and just DO IT!
This may seem equally obvious, but recognize that your thoughts can be the greatest procrastinators. Move beyond the question of whether you're going to do it or not do it - similar to brushing your teeth in the morning. Once you shut down the internal debate and simply do what you said you were going to do, you'll find it's much easier than thinking about it.
Make small rewards along the way
If it's hard for you to keep the momentum going, imagine how hard it is for others who are now in pace behind you? Define some milestones that are quickly attainable and reward them (and yourself) once they get there. This is no different than breaking down an insurmountable task into bite-size pieces. Keep your eye on the end goal, but make it a series of walks, not just one long marathon… and celebrate the little victories along the way.
A positive attitude works. Don't have it today? Fake it… and keep faking until it comes naturally again. People are looking to you for inspiration. When they see you smiling in the face of adversity, they find hope for themselves and will push through the hard times. Don't ever underestimate the power of a smile in changing the energy around a situation.
Today I am hitting the cushion again and will be doing it tomorrow, too. In writing this, I find a new confidence… one that will carry me through those rough patches of indifference. To walk the talk. To do what I said I was going to because I know this change WILL make a difference.
And I'm going to do it with a little buddha smile:-)