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 thing that kept me going was 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.
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 it is 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, journaled, 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.
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.
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is also the author of the humorous children's book: The Annoying Ghost Kid. For more information on Robert, please visit http://www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com