Many of us are experiencing a great deal of pressure, anxiety and change.
The holidays are upon us. The leadership of our country is transitioning. And many are in the midst of personal or professional change as well. Frustration and turmoil are common responses to this kind of uncertainty and disorientation, leading to exhaustion and hopelessness. But consider this as you think about things that may feel as though they are spinning out of control…
What if the only thing truly standing in your way of peace, productivity, and purpose – was your thinking?
One of the key attributes embodied by extraordinary leaders in all walks of life is encapsulated in the word “responsibility” – not just in a moral or ethical sense of being accountable for our actions, but also remembering that there is wisdom in recognizing that we have the ability to choose our response. That response we choose will have a resounding impact on ourselves and everyone around us.
Here are four tips to help you move gracefully through change and chaos:
(1) Identify what is within your power to influence.
The greatest change agents start by recognizing what they have to work with before identifying change that can be sustained. They don’t waste their time worrying about things that are truly out of their control, like changing the weather. Instead, they focus their attention and energy on those things that they can influence. The greatest leaders know that the most powerful and sustainable change must start from within themselves.
(2) Recognize your stories.
“We are not troubled by things, but by the opinion we have of things.” – Epictetus
The thing that fascinates me about a seemingly chaotic state of affairs is not so much what is happening, but the stories we are telling ourselves about what it means and the impact those stories are having on the way we are responding to it. When we react to things with fear, we end up amplifying what we are afraid of and add to the anxiety. Our fears drive us to act in ways that keep us from acting on our intuition and finding the answers that will truly serve us. Sometimes, we end up behaving in ways that make our fictional stories become real.
As an example, when you are feeling so overwhelmed that you question whether you’ll get all the important things done, you are likely to approach things in a way that draws them out – perhaps by procrastinating, making things more complicated than they need to be, or using more energy to resist and worry than it would take to actually get things done.
(3) Think of the worst-case scenario.
Our rational minds want answers and security. They need to figure everything out and almost automatically occupy themselves with trying to sort through data to arrive at conclusions. The problem is that our minds are plugging imaginary variables into the equation that end up further exacerbating the anxiety we are already experiencing. When they are done with one variable, they plug in another and the churning continues, leaving us with an uneasiness that keeps us on edge.
In the grip of this madness, sometimes the best thing you can do is indulge your mind with a variable that will allow it to do its thing. Go ahead and plug in the worst-case scenario. If the worst possible thing happened, what would you do? Allow yourself to sit with that question for awhile. Let the fear move through you and keep asking the question, what would I do that would allow everything to be OK? If you sit long enough with your question, you will arrive at some workable alternatives and reconnect with that part of yourself that is strong, resourceful and resilient.
(4) Now, come back to the present.
Armed with the knowledge that you will be OK even if the worst possible thing happens, you can come back into the present and recognize your fearful thoughts for what they are – fearful thoughts. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, which I pass along frequently, is don’t believe everything you think.
In the present moment, devoid of your stories about variables that are truly unknown, you are OK. And when new events begin to unfold, if you stay in the moment and access your inner wisdom, you will know exactly what you need to do – or not to do – to be OK then too. And as you go about your daily life in this way, your calm resolve will permeate your interactions with others and through your example, you will help others to rise to their challenges in ways that unearth the greatness in themselves as well.
Interested in additional strategies for navigating change, challenge, and uncertainty with effectiveness and grace? Stay tuned for more information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.
The above article contains excerpts from my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Have you ever had one of those days/weeks/months where it felt like one darn thing after another?
But these ideas enter into us long before they are ready to be brought into the world. They prepare us, transform us, and lead us through a myriad of experiences that allow us to develop what we need in order to manifest them.
These experiences are not always pleasant.
We suffer disappointments, setbacks, frustrations. During times like these it is easy to feel as though life would be just fine as soon as these turbulences subside. But what if these little disturbances are the very things we need in order to breathe life into these visions that lie within us?
How many of the world’s greatest healers once experienced some kind of malady that they needed to overcome on their own before they had what it took to help others through the same challenge? How many people transcended their suffering by finding meaning in it and then went on to help others do the same? How many leaders rose to great heights charged with a mission of improving an organization or a community after having experienced something that needed to be changed?
What does this suggest for you?
If your journey as a leader will require you to exercise courage, you may find yourself in several situations that scare the hell out of you. If it requires you to show compassion, you may find yourself in situations where you must learn to transform your anger into something more constructive.
You will continue to draw to yourself the experiences you need to develop what is required to bring your vision into the world. The blessing and the curse in all of this is that those experiences will continue to present themselves until you finally learn the things you need to learn.
We learn best through action.
Early in my career as an instructor and developer of courses and workshops, I realized that an effective learning experience required a balance of lecture and discussion with some kind of experiential activity that would allow participants to translate into action what they just learned in theory. Life has a beautiful way of doing this for us.
The funny thing is that in the classroom no one ever much seemed to enjoy breaking into pairs and triads and having to practice something they were not very good at yet, and the same thing seems to be true when those experiences present themselves in our daily lives.
But life doesn’t give up on us.
If it doesn’t go so well with one person or situation, we get another to practice on. And it doesn’t even matter so much how well we do with these challenges, as long as we show up and do what’s in front of us. We will continue to be given opportunities to choose different responses, learn from them and adapt our behavior once again.
Think about anything you ever had to learn.
You began at the beginning. You started with the easy stuff. Then when you became stronger and more capable, you went onto a more advanced level, where the challenges were tougher and you had to apply greater skill, muscle and intellect. You emerged from each of these lessons with something you didn’t have before. And you couldn’t have acquired it through any other route than your own experience.
Low and behold – there is order in chaos.
As I began coaching executives several years ago, the emphasis in my work shifted from trying to impart a lesson to helping people learn from their own experiences and see the perfect order in which things are unfolding in their personal and professional lives to help them get where they truly want to go.
The pertinent thing was no longer to give people answers, but rather to help them find their own and to recognize they already possess everything they need to get them through whatever challenge is before them. And this is something each of us can do as leaders to help those around us on their own journeys as well.
What is life trying to teach you or prepare you for right now?
And how can you seize these opportunities in front of you to bring out your very best so that you can help someone else do the same?
“The future enters into us in order to transform us, long before it happens.” – Rainer Maria Wilke
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Have you ever walked by a building under construction and been curious about what was being built? Perhaps there were people working diligently, each focusing on their own specific task. Maybe there were steel girders, half constructed walls, and unidentifiable objects at some stage of completion.
At first glance, it may appear chaotic and messy. But amidst the sawdust and cement blocks there is something that pulls it all together. Though we may not know exactly what is being built, over time the construction begins to take shape and we start to recognize a room here, and another there. And then we may begin to surmise the purpose and function of each room.
As the walls are plastered and the paint is applied, the appearance becomes neater. And suddenly, it is completed in all its glory – a stunning compilation of raw materials, sweat, and focused action.
Perhaps we too build things in this way. It is nice to know in advance exactly what we are building. But at times things may feel chaotic, disconnected and random. We have some experiences that uplift us and others that disappoint. We may find ourselves without an explanation of why certain events and experiences are taking place.
But maybe underneath it all, there is a larger plan at work – one that will reveal itself over time. As we undertake each new experience, another wall is constructed and a new room is being built. What if we were willing to experience our lives with the same wonder and curiosity with which we look upon that building that is under construction? And what if we were able to engender that same enthusiasm and optimism in everyone around us?
Are you willing to entertain the thought that somewhere within you there is a perfect blueprint of everything your life and your leadership will bring about? And can you delight in the mystery of its gradual unfolding?
Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010. All rights reserved.
If you liked this post, you may also enjoy In the Flow and Life’s Perfect Classroom. Download these and other articles for free at www.DianeBolden.com/articles. While you are there, you can subscribe to receive a new feature article each month. You will also receive my free report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves – and How to Avoid Them.
The more I work with people, the more I realize how very similar and connected we all are. At one time or another, we all ponder deeper questions of who we are, what it all means, and how we can take what we’ve got and use it to make an impact in some small (or large) way. More and more, people seem to be focusing their energy and attention on creating a life of meaning and significance and bringing more of who they really are to what they do.
This act of bringing out the very best of ourselves and others and focusing unique talents, strengths and energy into something that contributes to a greater good is what I call leadership. It transcends vocation, title and role. And it is more important now than ever.
Every day gives us a new opportunity to learn more about what we are capable of, what is possible, and how we can become part of something greater than ourselves. We learn both through our disappointments and our successes, as well as those of others. The best leaders habitually look beneath the surface to behold something greater and find a way to leverage it. There is much to be said on the convergence of life, learning and leadership. And that is exactly what this blog is about.
I believe there is something to be gained from collectively musing and reflecting on every day experiences. Perhaps by examining seemingly unrelated events, we can understand and appreciate the synchronistic current that seems to pulse through all of our lives. In the process we can unearth and harness the raw potential that lies waiting to be rediscovered within each of us – and in so doing, practice true leadership.
I don’t have all the answers. It seems no one really does. But I do have a lot of questions. And sometimes all it takes to find what we seek is curiosity coupled with the awareness that these answers come from many sources. May this blog be one more source of that wisdom – through the collective pondering and musing of a community of seekers like me and all the people I have had the good fortune to cross paths with over the course of my life.
Welcome friends, and Namaste.
For more on learning from and leveraging your everyday experiences, download Life’s Perfect Classroom at www.DianeBolden.com/articles and subscribe to the Synchronistically Speaking ezine while you are there.