If you really want to unleash momentum, you have to be in the moment.
What’s standing in your way?
That question may strike you as odd — particularly if you have heard motivational speakers or leadership coaches say, “Focus on the goal, not the obstacle.”
But by identifying your obstacles — those things that are blocking you or holding you back — you can start removing them now. And then, when the time is right, you’ll be ready to move.
This is why I ask participants in my Leadership in the Moment seminars to make a list of the obstacles they encounter at work, i.e. how their own organization actually inhibits momentum. Sadly, this usually generates a long list of the constraints imposed by organizations on employees’ desire and ability to take responsibility, generate ideas, and get projects off the ground.
These constraints can take many forms, including excessive workload, inflexible rules, over-scheduled calendars, tightly-controlled agendas, needlessly-complicated procedures, and planning that is too rigid.
In many organizations the obstacles to momentum are deeply ingrained or systemic. For example, when decision-making is centralized rather than distributed, this restricts the development of new projects. When communication channels are blocked, this impedes collaboration. When there is a lack of trust or a culture of fear, people are unwilling to try something new.
What all these constraints have in common is that they restrict the ability of people and ideas to move freely in the moment. And this is death to momentum.
In such organizational cultures there is a pervasive sense — I have heard this even from senior leaders — that “it’s impossible to get anything done around here.”
Even those people who were once full of enthusiasm become dispirited. They start to feel stuck. They get stressed. And depressed. And then they leave.
Even so, when an organization wants to change, many strategic planners, consultants, and leaders assume the only thing needed is to give their new plan a big push.
There are many, many things wrong with this simplistic understanding of organizational change. But the key point is this: stop worrying so much about which pet project to push, or how hard to push it. Instead, just focus on creating the conditions for momentum. Start by unsticking what’s stuck.
Of course, many constraints exist within individuals, too. Each of us has built up structures that inhibit momentum in our own personal and professional lives. This is why, when I work with leaders on their personal development, the same billion-dollar question applies: What factors are inhibiting your ability to move freely right now? What is blocking you from being bigger? What is standing in the way of change you need to make?
After first identifying these obstacles, we start dismantling them.
This is absolutely necessary if you want to be sure that, once you get the ball, you can run with it. If you have too many things holding you back, if you are carrying too many burdens, if you have too many commitments, or if you don’t have any room to maneuver, you will certainly fumble that opportunity when it comes.
Creating optimal conditions for momentum is not just about expanding your freedom physically, of course. Everything I have said so far also applies to mindset. For if you really want to accelerate change, or be ready when the time is right, you must have a mindset that is ready to move. You have to be ready, able, and willing.
This means examining those factors in your own mind that might be holding you back right now: attitudes such as insecurity, lack of curiosity, outdated beliefs, disinterestedness, negativity, stubbornness, doubt, and fear — to name a few.
As soon as you invest in the moment, however, everything that is holding you back begins to lose its grip. This is why being in the moment is often described as a liberating — when you are in the moment, you are fully available to engage with what is here, right now.
A good metaphor for this state of mind is the “ready position” in tennis. In the ready position, you are standing on the balls of your feet, knees bent, racket poised. Calm, energized, and balanced, you are primed to dash to the left or to the right, to charge the net, or even to run backwards. You could hit forehand or backhand. And although you are able to wait patiently, you are also ready to pounce. Your eyes are on the ball.
Twenty-first-century leadership requires leaders who are not just ready in themselves, however; they have to make sure everyone else on their team can get ready and stay ready. In other words, as a leader, you have to make sure that everyone on your team has the ability and the flexibility to respond in the moment.
It might seem surprising to you that training in meditation or mindfulness, such as I have proposed in this series of articles, can be such a powerful support in liberating momentum, for much of the language used to describe meditation and mindfulness is about slowing down, not speeding up.
Yes, it’s true: people do turn to meditation training to get help in slowing down, particularly if they are suffering from stress. But the assumption that meditation is only about slowing down is really, really limited.
Yes, meditation training can help you find a state of peace or stillness—sometimes called just being–and this can be a wonderful counterpoint to your busy life. But finding that state of just being doesn’t mean that you stop doing. Meditation training should make doing more effective.
Meditation simply clears away what is hindering your mind, and this enables you to function more efficiently and more effectively. When your mind is refreshed and recharged by meditation, you can go either fast or slow as needed.
Ultimately, the goal of meditation training is to help you become more present, in this moment, now. Thus meditation training should give you neither a slow mind nor a fast mind — it should give you an in-the-moment mind.
This is why having the skill of meditation in your toolkit can help you unleash momentum. Smart leaders—leaders who want to create the conditions for momentum—build capacity where it really counts—their mindset. For they know that their state of mind—and the state of mind of everyone on their team—is their greatest asset.
Ask yourself this …
If you really want to learn faster, innovate better, experience more, respond faster to new opportunities, and live a more vibrant life, is there any more important capacity to develop than your mindset?
So take a moment, right now, to imagine how it will feel when you can get up in the morning and go to work in an environment that is flexible, dynamic, energized, and creative. Imagine how it will feel when you are leading a team–or maybe a whole company–that is truly in the moment.
Now realize this …
You can take the first step to achieving that mindset–unleashing your own potential and the creative force of all the people who work for you—right now.
Once you have made the decision to invest in the moment, that investment will reward you, over and over again.
Think how much potential you will unleash when you can greet each moment as a source of new insight. For the better you are at being present in this moment, the more inspiration you can find in any moment. And you will be able to respond to that inspiration—to to seize the moment–when the time is right.
The first step in this transformation is right here. As a taster, take one deep, intentional breath. And now take another. And now, as you breathe, bring your full attention to what is right here now, for you, in this moment. Allow your attention to deepen. Use your intention to invest in this moment.
Although this may seem like a very small step, you will get better and better at it, and the benefits will be powerful and profound. One moment at a time, you will become more relaxed and engaged. You will become ready for anything. You will know how to put on the mindset for momentum. And it only takes a moment.