A few years ago I put myself through a 360-degree feedback process in which I requested developmental input from peers, clients, staff, friends and family.  The strongest “needs improvement” area that emerged was “Work-Life Balance.”  Written-in comments indicated that people were not concerned that I neglected family or friends – but rather that I did not make time for myself – for reflection and rejuvenation.

That feedback really stunned me, especially because it was consistent across all respondents, including clients with whom I do not typically share too much about my personal life or habits.  I took it to heart, and engaged in a lot of soul-searching, resulting in changes to my personal and professional routines.  One of the most important changes was to schedule downtime – no devices, no distractions, no companions – and to step outside my normal environment to take a walk in nature (that is, if we weren’t in the midst of a polar vortex!).

I share this because it was during one of those scheduled downtimes that “CQ” was born.  As I was walking, I heard this phrase bubble up into my conscious mind: “you know your IQ, you’ve probably heard of EQ, but what’s your CQ?  Isn’t that what’s missing from our leadership toolkit that’s causing the high rate of failed change:  the lack of CQ, or Change Intelligence?!”

The rest, as they say, is history.  

After inspiration, it’s just a matter of implementation!  (Well that, along with a couple of years of hard work and support from partners like everyone reading this newsletter, of course!)

We all “know” intellectually about the importance of solitary time-outs, but how many of us really hold them as “sacred space” not to be scheduled over when the inevitable urgent crisis of the moment arises?  

These “Aha moments” – from the apple falling on Newton’s head while resting under a tree to a major breakthrough in the design for the Hubble Telescope that originated while the engineer was taking a shower – so  often occur while we are taking a “creative pause.”

Note that I didn’t go on my walk at fateful day when I conceived of CQ thinking to myself, “I’m going to invent a ground-breaking innovation right now while strolling around the lake” or anything to that effect.  The point is to deliberately disconnect even from one’s own “intentions” – to intentionally set aside the challenges and problems of the day and simply to let the mind wonder where it will.

As a psychologist (and a human!) I know this can be intimidating.  A mind left to wonder often travels to scary places – where worry and fears run rampant.  Perhaps that’s why we seem to crave constant external stimulation and fill every waking minute with activity, whether or not it’s productive, meaningful or fulfilling.  I fall prey to these dysfunctional dynamics just like everyone else.  I have to remind myself that I’m a human being not a human doing, and that sometimes the fastest way to “get there” (achieve my goals) is to just “be here” (now, in the present moment, in the calm and creative white space).

Paradoxically, it’s often in the white space of creative pauses that we achieve significant breakthroughs.  New possibilities present themselves for vexing problems.  We see opportunities where before we perceived only roadblocks.  I invite you to ask yourself where in your current change initiatives do you feel like you are “pushing the string,” frustrated that no matter what you try, you’re not getting traction.  Consider that perhaps by stepping back, stepping aside, and giving the problem and yourself some space, you might arrive at an insight to help you move forward.

The fact that you are reading this blog post and have derived value from the CQ System is living proof of the transformative impact of intentional disengagement! Don’t forget to give yourself the gift of a mental holiday.  Yours could be a walk in nature, a quiet drive, a longer shower, a mindful meditation, or simply staring out the window.  Reflect upon whether carving out space in your schedule to check-out might be a winning way for you too to perhaps counter-intuitively power-down to speed-up realization of professional and personal goals and dreams.  Not to mention a feel-good experience for your body and spirit – and a way to rekindle your passion.  It worked for me!

Feel free to drop me a line and let me know of any insights or “ahas” that emerge around your change projects as a result of unplugging and taking time away.

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