How to Meet Change, Challenge and Uncertainty with Courage and Grace
A few weeks ago, I traveled to one of my client’s global quarterly leader meetings to deliver a presentation on navigating change and uncertainty. It’s something many executives are working through right now – in organizations both large and small.
In fact, ironically, change is the one thing that is certain to be a constant challenge for all of us.
The very nature of change thrusts us into circumstances that lead us to feel out of control, beyond our comfort zones, and potentially at risk in one way or another. And when your future is uncertain and all the things that used to work are no longer effective (or relevant), your self-protective mechanisms get triggered.
Left unchecked, your instinct for self-preservation can lead you to engage in behavior that is not particularly productive or constructive. It would have you reacting out of fear, putting your own needs above those of others, mired in doubt and negativity and fixated on obstacles and limitations. From that mindset, you’ll (often unconsciously) act in ways that exacerbate the problems you are already facing.
But there is a wiser, stronger part of you that you can access during times that test you – one that will allow you to rise above the fray and meet change and uncertainty head on with courage and grace.
This wiser part of yourself (which I call your Genius) meets fear with resilience and puts service and self-realization over self-interest. It replaces doubt and negativity with optimism and possibility. And it sees beyond limitations to recognize possibilities. It utilizes challenge as opportunity to become stronger, to rise up and discover that you have within you all that you need to prevail.
This part of you is the essence of Real Leadership – which brings out the very best in everyone and everything and channels it into something that serves a greater good. Real leadership is what is required in times of great change, challenge and uncertainty. And it is something that can be exercised by anyone, at any level of an organization at any time.
What most people don’t realize is that the true cause of stress, frustration (and the knee jerk reactions it often triggers) is not their circumstances themselves, but rather the thoughts they are believing (and the stories they are telling themselves) about their situations. Cognitive science tells us that confirmation bias leads us to take in information that aligns with our current beliefs and screen anything that contradicts them out.
So let’s say you believe the problems you face are insurmountable, the people who surround you cannot be trusted, and that you (or others) lack the resources, skill or resolve to overcome your current challenges. Confirmation bias would lead you to take in information that confirms those beliefs and overlook (or disregard) information that contradicts them – even though that information is the very thing that could potentially turn everything around.
And from that mindset, you’ll behave in ways that make things worse. You could very well act in a manner that makes your worst stories (which are likely based on conjecture) become true.
The biggest problem is that you likely won’t even realize you are falling into this trap. You’ll attribute the cause of your frustration, anxiety and stress to your situation rather than your mindset.
As long as you see the problem as “out there”, you’ll feel more like a victim than a victor.
But even in the most daunting of circumstances, you can find something within yourself that has the potential to change the way you are seeing things. And when you change the way you are seeing things, you’ll notice opportunities, resources, strengths and possibilities that would have otherwise been completely off your radar.
The key to liberating yourself from a self-defeating phenomenon is to recognize frustration, anxiety and stress as a key indicator that your thoughts are not aligned with your Genius, so that you don’t take them quite so seriously.
Rather than getting set on what you think you know, ask yourself what you don’t know. What are you not seeing? What are you believing about what is happening? And how much of that are you certain is actually true?
If you are willing to see things differently, your whole world could change in an instant.
The thing about change is that nothing is certain. And when nothing is certain, anything is possible.
If it is possible that we tend to act in ways that make our stories true – and bring about more of what we are focusing on, then the most powerful thing we can do is allow our stories and our focus to shift to something more empowering.
- Rather than putting your attention on what you don’t want, you can create a compelling vision for yourself and others of what you do Resolve to move toward what you desire rather than away from what you fear.
- When you notice you are fixated on obstacles, see if you can look beyond them to discern opportunities.
- When feeling threatened about all there is to lose, consider what there is to gain.
- Instead of thinking of what you need to get, ask yourself what you have to give.
- Rather than getting lost in your head, reliving the past or worrying about a future that has you living the worst case scenario, challenge yourself to be intensely present to what is unfolding in the moment and the best way to respond to and leverage it.
- When plagued by doubt, think back to previous challenges you successfully overcame and recognize your strengths can get you through this one too.
- When you begin to worry about all the things that are beyond your control, ask yourself what you have the ability to influence and start to make positive change there. Do what you can where you are with what you have.
These practices of Real Leaders will come more naturally when you keep yourself from falling into the trap of identifying with your doubts and limiting beliefs.
It is essential to recognize that you do not need to banish your doubts and limiting beliefs. Doing so is an exercise in futility, since as a human being you will continue to be barraged by these thoughts whether you want them or not.
All you need to do is recognize that there is more to the picture than your current mindset is allowing you see. Don’t let those random thoughts blind you to the solutions that are right in front of you or obstruct your vision of what is possible.
The simple recognition that your thoughts are not serving you in the current moment is enough to allow your mindset to get unstuck. Without a whole lot of effort on your part it will begin to expand, allowing you to get a broader, better view – and connecting you naturally to the mindset of a real leader.
The Real Leader Revolution is already underway, liberating the power of the human spirit in the workplace again even the most insurmountable odds. We are all so much stronger than we think we are, and each one of us is capable of so much more than we realize.
In the face of inevitable change, we can rise up as adventurers and warriors and summon strength that often lies dormant within us until given an opportunity to emerge.
If you are interested in learning more about the qualities of Real Leadership and how to unleash it in yourself and others in your organization, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Stay tuned for my next article, where I’ll walk you through a concrete process you can use in the midst of challenge that will help you access your best answers and unearth your strength and resilience.