When my wife of 22 years left me I became paralyzed. I was so depressed that I didn't even know I was depressed. I was relieved that the constant fighting was over, but I had no ambition for life. My usual creative energy was gone and I was just going through the motions. I was no longer looking to the future; I was stuck in the past and barely functioning in the present. The only things that kept me going were my children.
I found purpose in coaching their sports teams, and becoming the leader of their Cub Scout pack. Those were actions that gave me a sense of accomplishment; and the feeling that I was still important somewhere. Meanwhile, my business was at a standstill.
There were innovations I wanted to bring into my business, but I couldn't seem to implement them. In particular, I wanted to give tele-seminars. They would serve two functions: make my services more affordable to a greater number of clients in a tightening economy; and reduce my travel now that I was a single father. But I couldn't seem to wrap my brain around the steps I needed to take.
I read several how-to articles, I talked with people who had produced their own tele-seminars, and I learned about the equipment necessary to put one on. None of this helped. I finally hired an expensive consultant. In retrospect, he really only showed me what I already knew. It seemed that the very act of spending a lot of money spurred me to action where nothing else could. Once again I was productive and moving forward. It wouldn't, however, last.
What's the Problem?
Three years later, I found myself in the same situation once again. Another relationship had crashed and burned; and in the fallout I found that I was paralyzed and unable to be the driving force my business needed to stay afloat.
It was then that I realized I had failed to take a critical beginning step. It was something I should have known. It was a vital component of creative thinking that I'd been teaching others for years. I failed to identify the problem. Innovation is all about solving problems or satisfying needs; and before you can be creative, you need to know why you should be.
To move forward, whether in business or in a relationship, you have to identify what is holding you back. For me, my blocks were both professional and personal. My business and my relationship were so closely intertwined that I didn’t realize I had a problem until I got stuck again.
The innovation technique I share with my clients is to accurately and succinctly state the problem; because the better you do this, the faster you will solve it. Unfortunately, I didn't know what the problem was - just that I had one. Nevertheless, I was determined to find out what it was so that I wouldn’t have to repeat the cycle again.
I made inquiries, read self-help books, wrote in my journal, and attended therapy before I could identify it. Once done, however, the process of changing seemed easy by comparison. Even though I had only identified the problem (not solved it), my creative energy and ambition were back - which meant I knew I would finally succeed.
It's Not the Economy, Stupid
I know many of you are feeling stuck because of our languid economy. Forget the economy for a moment, and ask yourself how you would tackle your problem if the economy were robust. Sure the economy is a problem, but it is one that is out of your hands. Identify the problem(s) that you do have control over.
Innovation and change - moving forward - involve risk. When you clearly identify the direction you need to go, it makes the risk seem less frightening because you can visualize the rewards. Slow economies are a great time to initiate change because most everyone else is paralyzed. They are hunkering down and waiting for times to get better. It's a perfect time for you to take the lead. Times will get better for you when you work to change the things within your control.