Imagine that software you’ve relied on for years stops working for you. You notice your computer has been freezing up a lot and you’ve been experiencing some glitches. At first, it didn’t really bother you. You just made do and went on. But now it’s happening so often that you’re having trouble getting things done.
When you look into the problem, you find you’re not the only one experiencing it. In fact, after receiving numerous user complaints, the company discovered its software was having incompatibilities. Much to your relief, a new version of the program is being rolled out that has fixed all the bugs. And happily, this updated program is now available for you to download.
The same thing happens to each of us. You’re cruising along doing what you’ve always done only to find it just isn’t working so well anymore. You aren’t getting the results you wanted. Or worse, what worked before is actually causing new problems. And despite your best efforts, these problems are throwing a big monkey wrench in things.
Take Shiela as an example.
Shiela is a high achieving executive who has always prided herself on her ability to be the “go to” person for solutions. Her energy and enthusiasm led her to be sought out for plum projects and invited to serve on numerous committees and boards. She happily took these things on and went the extra mile to deliver excellence in everything she did. And her career trajectory was headed ever upward.
But over time, the number of initiatives she was regularly involved in began to wear on her. Her calendar was packed and she hit the ground running each day only to find that her to do list was growing faster than her ability to get things done. She had multiple balls in the air and lived in constant fear that one of them would come crashing down at any moment.
Her solution was to double down on what helped her succeed in the past. She worked more, slept less, and pushed herself beyond the limits of her own exhaustion. And though she was working harder than ever, her performance began to suffer. The work that once energized and inspired her was beginning to feel like an endless grind she just couldn’t rise above. And people began to notice.
Well-intentioned friends and colleagues gave her books and advice, and she did her best to try to institute new approaches, take better care of herself, delegate, prioritize, rely on systems and get support. But when things got tense, she reverted to old patterns of behavior that were deeply ingrained.
Shiela’s old program was interfering with her new one. And this interference was causing major glitches. But those glitches didn’t have to keep her from achieving her desired results. She just had to find the bug that was creating the havoc and take steps to eliminate it.
So how do you find a bug in your program?
Like Shiela, you start by recognizing that you aren’t getting the results you want. And then you work backward. Finding the bug in your program requires that you detach from your actions in such a way that you can observe and evaluate them.
One way to do this is to replay events in your mind to identify any causal factors. You can designate time at the end of the day to mentally review the day’s events and evaluate what went well and what didn’t. You can journal about it. Or you can talk with someone who is an objective third party, like a friend, family member, mentor or coach.
The bug in your program is almost always a knee jerk reaction.
When Shiela replayed her interactions with others, she realized that what she really wanted (and needed) to do when someone asked her to become involved in yet another project, committee or board was to ensure that it was the best fit and use of her time before responding. But she also recognized that before her mental faculty was engaged, she had already pledged her sole support and involvement. And before she knew it, despite her best intentions, she had unwittingly pushed herself further into overwhelm.
She was reacting instead of responding.
Knee jerk reactions are the product of conditioning.
Conditioning is what happens when a behavior becomes so automatic that you no longer need to think about it. And conditioning is good when it leads you to behave in a way that is constructive — like when you practice a new skill over and over again until you can do it without having to remind yourself of each step.
But conditioning that leads you to spring into action when what you really need to do is give a little more consideration to your response can get you into trouble.
There is a neurobiological component to conditioning. Every time you practice something or respond to a stimulus in a certain way, you are creating neural networks in your brain. Neurons that fire together wire together. And the more they fire, the stronger and more automatic their connections (and your behaviors) get. Conversely, when a neural network is interrupted or not used for a certain period of time, these connections begin to weaken.
Once you have identified the bug, you can begin to eliminate it.
Simply being aware of a knee jerk reaction will begin to loosen its grip on you. When Sheila realized she had a tendency to override her true intention by launching into an old undesirable pattern before she even knew what was happening, she also became increasingly aware of the negative consequences that behavior created.
This is not to say that Sheila could instantaneously eradicate her bug and immediately improve her results. On the contrary, she grew increasingly frustrated because now she was not only engaging in problematic behavior — she was doing it even though she knew better. But this awareness is half the battle.
Initially, she didn’t recognize her oversights until after the fact, but with increased awareness and attention Sheila noticed them sooner and sooner. The time it took her to catch herself went from hours to minutes and with continued diligence, she was able to take steps to correct them in real-time. Ultimately, she got to the point where she could prevent herself from engaging in this automatic reaction altogether.
As the bug is eliminated, the program can be upgraded.
Upgrading the program is a matter of replacing an old behavior with a new one. Unlike software upgrades, this one isn’t a matter of a simple download. It requires attention, thought and persistence.
As mentioned previously, neural networks that correspond to old, undesirable patterns of behavior weaken when they are not engaged. And as they weaken, repeated practice allows new neural nets to be formed that support a more desirable behavior.
But doesn’t creating new neural networks require a huge amount of practice?
The interesting thing about the formation of these neural networks is that they do not have to happen in real-time. Research has shown that mentally rehearsing a new pattern of behavior leads to the same growth in neural networks that physical practice does.
As Sheila began mentally reviewing the way she handled herself in conversations, she reflected on what she would have liked to do differently. And then she replayed the scene in her mind with a new, more desirable ending. She continued to do this daily. As she did, she literally rewired her brain.
Doing so allowed her to create and increasingly rely on new neural networks in situations that necessitated a different response. Gradually she was able to replace her tendency to automatically take more and more on with a more thoughtful, respectful response that offered solutions without adding to her overload. She began to recognize opportunities to involve and empower others to do things that would allow them to grow and buy her much needed time to regroup and reengage in a more focused, less frenetic way.
And over time Sheila once again became known not only for getting results but for making a more strategic impact and growing talent within her organization.
Let’s review the process of upgrading your internal programming
• Step One: Find your bug. The first step is to recognize when you have a tendency to engage in behavior that keeps you from getting the results you desire. Most likely this will be a knee jerk reaction that propels you into action before you have a chance to think.
• Step Two: Disempower your bug. Becoming aware of behavior you fall into and the impact it has on your effectiveness ultimately weakens its hold on you because while it still may be automatic, it is no longer unconscious. Though falling into old patterns when you know better is frustrating, this awareness is a sign of tremendous progress.
• Step Three: Substitute a new program for the old one. As your old habits and the corresponding neural nets that lead you to engage in them begin to weaken, you can replace them with new behaviors. The more you practice these new behaviors (whether physically or mentally), the stronger the new neural networks and your new patterns will become. And the less you engage the old behaviors, the weaker and less prominent the old neural networks (and the corresponding behaviors) get.
If you find yourself engaging in behavior that is interfering with your effectiveness, the most important thing to remember is that you are not the program that is running it. You are the programmer. You have the ability to consciously choose the behaviors and the responses you have to any given stimulus.
Though interrupting and upgrading your internal programming takes time, the results will be well worth your effort. And the best part is that you don’t have to lodge a complaint with or rely on anyone but yourself in order to do it.
If you’d like some support in recognizing and overcoming bugs in your programming, consider joining me in the Spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. A few seats remain for this exclusive 13-week leadership development program, which kicks off on March 3. If you have questions or would like to chat about whether the program is a fit for you, you can schedule a call directly with me.
Here’s what a previous participant had to say…
“My professional goals were not going the way that I wanted them to and I had a suspicion that I was pounding my head against the wall trying the same tools or switching the tools differently and I just needed a fresh perspective on them. I enrolled in the Freedom & Flow program after receiving encouragement from people who work with Diane who raved about their interactions with her and how impactful she’s been in their life.
One of the things that this course helped me realize is that I always believed the tools that made me successful early in my life and my career would be the same tools that would see me through to the end. The truth is that my toolbox needed more tools, or different tools in it.
This is important for folks that would be thinking about this program, and it was revolutionary for me – what worked for me early in my career isn’t going to work all the time, I can’t say that enough. You need to reexamine. You can’t have the same script for your whole professional career, you just can’t. You have to adjust the script. I’m in leadership positions versus before, I was a follower. I was trying to get somewhere. Now I’m somewhere and it’s different.
I’ve taken a lot of leadership courses. They’re usually big group settings. This is a smaller more intimate group. The one on one calls are terrific and super helpful. Diane is energetic, vibrant, engaged, open-minded, and thoughtful. Her program has helped me better influence and connect to others, decrease my stress, and get much more done. I’m more mindful and have replaced old, ineffective tools with new ones – it feels great, it’s really refreshing.
My message to folks who are considering this course is pretty simple: you will learn new skills, new tools that you haven’t used before which are going to help move you forward. The program is awesome, and I highly recommend it.”
Dr. Tony Sciscione, Director, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Christiana Care Health System
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit with a relative who was having an echo cardiogram – which is essentially an ultrasound of the heart. It was an awe-inspiring experience.
We’re obviously all familiar with the fact that we have hearts. And that they beat. And that without them, we wouldn’t be alive.
But I realized that in many ways, we (or at least I) have become all TOO familiar with that fact. So familiar that it’s easy to forget about it altogether – and completely take it for granted.
There was something about seeing that image of a real human heart – beating steadily and with such incredible precision – that simply took my breath away.
It may sound silly, but I couldn’t help but muse over the fact that the vast majority of us don’t have to be plugged into anything or pack pre-charged batteries into our bodies for our hearts to continue doing what they do. We don’t need to set reminders, or worry about getting it right, or rely on anyone, or do anything at all for that matter.
A few days later I found myself sitting in one of my favorite places, next to a little creek under a canopy of sprawling eucalyptus trees that lines one of the streets in my neighborhood. It’s a place that I can lose myself in entirely, so full of beauty and peace that if I sit there long enough, I can feel the stress dissolve like little beads of water that evaporate in the sun.
A moment later, a car came screeching down the road – very likely exceeding the 25 MPH speed limit by double or more. My peace and ease were shattered for a moment, as I felt the anger bubble up within my body. I watched as my quiet mind was barraged by thoughts of frustration and resentment, conjuring all kinds of unpleasant scenarios at the danger that was created for kids riding their bikes or people walking their dogs.
And then I turned my gaze once again, from the street to the little creek with the light dancing upon the water and the graceful, willowing branches of leaves fluttering in the breeze above it. I took a deep breath, and in that moment I realized three things…
(1) I could choose which sensation I wanted to experience by deciding which thought I would give my attention to. The feelings of peace and contentment were still available to me – I just had to be willing to release the sudden attachment I felt to anger and hostility.
(2) The decision I would make in that moment would impact the trajectory of the rest of my day. Giving in to my irritation would not only keep me from enjoying a peaceful, easy feeling; it would also keep me from sharing it with others and using it to navigate gracefully through whatever challenges and opportunities awaited me.
(3) The beauty and bliss and peace I was previously experiencing, like my heartbeat, is always available to me – to all of us. I am just not always aware of it. And sometimes I unwittingly choose to put my attention on things that completely eclipse my awareness of it altogether. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Despite the changing times we live in, the little (and big) disturbances we often have to deal with, and the frustrations and challenges that threaten our peace, we all have some things that are constant in our lives – that when appreciated allow us to feel truly blessed, loved and cared for.
As the holidays grow nearer, and we prepare to gather and break bread with people who are special to us, it does us all well to pause and appreciate with wonder and awe the things in our lives that we don’t often stop to think all that much about.
Here’s to the beauty that surrounds us, the love that is always available, and the uncompromising glory of our magnificent beating hearts.
Many of us are on the verge of entering new, unchartered territory.
Some are having to do that by necessity, as a result of changing circumstances. Others are recognizing – and answering – the call to step out and try something we’ve never done before.
Either way, it isn’t easy. Especially if you are accustomed to (and pride yourself on) being able to do something really well.
Anytime you try something new or different, you will encounter resistance.
To assist you through these vital transitions – and to help you overcome what I call “the curse of competence”, I wanted to share something with you that I teach in my 13 week Pinocchio Principle Unleashed program.
It’s an excerpt from a video on embracing uncertainty and redefining failure. In less than 6 minutes, you’ll gain a whole new perspective that’ll help you move beyond your greatest resistance to create and enjoy the success you are truly capable of.
Interested in enrolling in the spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed? Join the waiting list to be the first to hear when registration is open.
And change is naturally somewhat disconcerting.
But it can also be liberating and empowering – if you use it as a doorway to rediscover you who really are at your core – to unleash your GENIUS.
When you access your Genius, you’ll not only unlock your highest levels of performance and advance your career, you’ll also enjoy more freedom and fulfillment both on and off the job.
The Pinocchio Principle: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, my 13 week signature program, is designed to help high achieving executives do just that. The fall session is kicking off on Wednesday, September 30.
I believe it’s more timely now than ever. I filmed a short (5 min) video to tell you why…
You can find all the details about the program here: The Pinocchio Principle: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. If you have questions or just want to chat about it, you can also schedule a call with me.
But don’t wait long! The fall session will start on Wednesday, September 30 and I intentionally limit enrollment to a small, intimate size so that each person can have the highest level of support and personalized attention.
Here’s to your Genius!
“I shared before that your program was life changing, but I wanted you to know that is even more true now. I was going through some of my session notes and I had written down some of the characteristics when you are operating in your genius, which I wrote down – trust, faith and curiosity. In a time when it would be so easy to be in fear, judgement and anxiety, I have operated in my genius during this time more than ever before at any point in my life. I have you to thank for that and I am truly grateful. Thank you!”
Porsha M. Caddell, Sr. Manager, Customer Service Business Planning, Southern California Edison
We’re all working through our share of change – change that comes to us from the outside in.
But there’s another kind of change that happens from the inside out.
And that feels a little different. It usually comes on gradually – so gradually you may not even notice it at first.
In the video below, I’ll share the five phases of transformation that I’ve observed in my own life as well as the lives of executives I’ve coached over the years. You’ll learn what you can expect in each phase – and I’ll give you some tips for making the most of it, so you can move through it with ease and grace.
Change – even the kind that comes from the inside out – can be unsettling and anxiety producing. But it is a doorway that leads us to some of the greatest gifts life has to offer.
If you’d like some support and guidance navigating through your own transformation, I encourage you to consider joining me and a small group of fellow leaders in the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius kicking off on Wednesday, 9/30.
I’ll be personally guiding an intimate group of executives through this process over the next thirteen weeks utilizing a powerful blend of online training, small group mastermind meetings and one-on-one coaching support. Space is limited and there are a few seats remaining.
If you have questions or want to chat about the program, feel free to set up a call.
Change seems to be the only constant these days. You can’t always stop it from happening. And it may not be something you have a lot of control over.
But there are things you can do to take away the sting of it – and even make the changes coming at you work in your favor.
In this video, I’ll share a story of an unwelcome change I recently had to deal with and what I learned through the experience about what to do – and NOT do.
You’ll come away with 3 tips for not only making the best of the changes coming at you, but also leveraging them in a way that allows you to come out on top.
If you stir muddy water, it will become murky and dark.
But if you allow the water to settle, the debris will eventually sink and you’ll be able to see more clearly.
The same is true of each of us.
There’s a lot to be stirred up about right now. And perhaps that’s why it’s more important than ever for us to find our calm.
Though our current Covid-19 response is leading us to drive less and stay home more, many of us are having difficulty finding places of peace and stillness. You might feel like you’re working more than ever, now that the lines between work and home are completely blurred.
Throw a kid or two into the mix whose routines (and lives) have been completely upended and you have a perfect mix for chaos.
And of course, there is the ever-present temptation to grab your phone or iPad or fire up the television to tune into the latest news or binge watch those shows on Netflix you’ve been wanting to see.
In addition to our external distractions there is the internal commotion of our never-ending thoughts, worries, and preoccupations.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
But perhaps there is hope amidst the chaos…
I recently read that for the first time in thirty years, the Himalayas are visible from northern India. Air quality has improved in several areas of the world, including right here in the United States. These improvements are said to largely be a product of the coronavirus response that has led to fewer emissions.
What if in addition to cleaning up our air we could find a way to clear our heads as well?
What if our future depended on it?
In such an unpredictable time as this, one thing is fairly certain: there is no more “business as usual”. Even after our social distancing and stay at home mandates have been lifted, things are likely to be different moving forward than they’ve ever been in the past.
Out of necessity, much of life as we’ve known it has had to change – often for the better. Many of the ways we have always done things will likely no longer be effective (or even relevant).
We have the opportunity to reinvent ways of working and being that weren’t serving us all that well and chart a new course into our future.
Now more than ever, we must cultivate the insight necessary to know what we need to do next.
And insight is a product of slowing down, quieting our minds and tuning in to ourselves and each other. It requires us to cut through the noise and create space for new ideas to land.
The best way to do that is to practice presence.
What exactly is presence?
The word present derives from the Latin past participle praesse meaning “to be before one”, from the roots pra – pre + esse – to be.
Presence is a state of being that’s achieved when we are truly in the moment, allowing it to unfold without judging it, labeling it, or getting lost in our thoughts about what it means or what we believe should be happening.
Presence allows us to cut through the clamor of our preoccupations, worries and fears so that our true selves can emerge. It is a gateway through which our intuition and inner wisdom enters and expresses itself.
A moment of presence is a state of grace that can produce great insights that help us to truly learn from our experiences, make the most of our opportunities and rise to our challenges in creative ways.
In moments of presence, we know who we really are and what we are truly capable of.
Have you ever noticed that people tend to match each other’s intensity and tone when they are together?
Comments about trivial matters are often matched with similar banter. Expressions of fear or dread often elicit responses that are equally charged, and expressions of anger have a way of provoking reactions that people later regret.
In a similar manner, moments of presence when shared with others can evoke powerful responses that can be revealing and transformational.
This is because when you are truly present with another human being you create a space that allows that person’s true self to come out as well.
This is why the best leaders have learned to become comfortable with silence. They listen more than they talk, and to allow themselves to become instruments that help others to recognize their own greatness – not necessarily through anything that say or do, but rather through moments of presence that are created and shared with others.
So how does one cultivate a moment of presence?
It is really rather simple, though far easier said than done.
1) The first step is to be still.
That’s right. Sit still. I know it goes against everything you were probably taught about getting things done and being useful. But do it anyway.
You can practice now, while you read this. Become aware of your breathing, of the space you are sitting in, of the weight of your body and how it feels in this moment. Feel the life inside you and trace it to each part of your body. Listen to the sounds around you. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.
2) Become aware of your thoughts.
Observe the activity of your mind as it continues to process whatever is there – thoughts like, “this is silly, really – I have way too much to do to be sitting here, doing this…” and “I have to remember to call so and so back today,” and “What did my [boss, colleague, friend, etc.] mean when he/she said…”.
Recognize that you are not your thoughts, but rather the thinker of your thoughts. Simply watch them parade around, without getting sucked into them. Feel how much bigger you are than all of that. Continue to breathe it in.
3) There really is no step three.
Simply continue to repeat steps one and two, immersing yourself more deeply into the experience with each breath.
You don’t need to do this for an extended period of time, unless you want to. Often even a couple of minutes are sufficient to bring you to a more intense state of awareness and aliveness.
In these moments of presence, you will experience things on a different level – one that allows you to respond from a deeper, wiser part of yourself. And when you are with others, you will bring out that deeper, wiser part of them as well.
The wonderful thing about practicing presence is that it creates a fertile landing place for creativity and new ideas. The more often you do, the more frequently you may find yourself receiving inklings (often when you least expect them) about solutions to even the most confounding of problems.
Presence is incredibly powerful to practice with others as well, and a wonderful thing to engage in with the family members in your home (who you are likely seeing more of than ever before). The process is the same, except that you expand your awareness to take in the other person as well.
First, put your phone down. Turn off your IPad, computer, television and/or any other device that could potentially steal your attention and focus.
Then, look into the eyes of the person in front of you, and listen to what they are saying. But listen to what they are not saying as well.
Presence is more about being than doing. So, allow yourself to truly BE with another, devoid of judgments, labels, and agendas. When you listen from this place, you are like water to a thirsty plant, allowing others to open up and soak in needed nutrients.
And in this space, they may just find the answers they seek as well – not because you are giving them, but because you have created a space that is illuminating for everyone.
For more on practicing presence, cultivating insight, and reinventing the way you live and lead, check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. Registration for the fall session will open soon (and if you join the waiting list, you’ll have first dibs on the limited seats that will become available).
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.
In the midst of change, challenge and uncertainty as massive as what are collectively facing, every one of us is being called upon to exercise a very important kind of leadership. Whether you are at the helm of an organization, a team, a community or a family, people are likely looking to you for strength and guidance – at a time when you, yourself are seeking it as well.
In times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever
to hold fast to the conviction that each one of us has what it takes to rise above anything life may bring us.
This is what the greatest leaders have done throughout history. It’s easy to lead when things are stable and successful. It’s when all chaos breaks loose and the chances of survival are slim that the world’s heroes have inspired people to remember who they are and rise up to their most daunting challenges.
Here are three things to remember to help you summon true leadership in yourself and others:
(1) Nothing will come your way that you cannot handle.
If you want proof, consider the fact that you are still here. Think back to the last struggle or setback you faced. What did you do? How did you get through it? What did you learn? In retrospect, what would you tell yourself in order to help you get through that? And what will you tell yourself now?
Sometimes it helps to think of the worst-case scenario. What would you do? Really. What would you do? If you sit with that question and allow yourself to remain calm, you will find an answer.
Because when you get quiet, you summon that which is timeless within you – that which will not change with the uncertainty, but rather grow stronger in the face of it – your inner strength, resilience, creativity and ingenuity.
Benjamin Franklin said it well many years ago: “To be thrown upon one’s own resources, is to be cast into the very lap of fortune; four our faculties then undergo a development and display an energy of which they were previously unsusceptible.”
Getting connected to your core strength is essential and must be done before you can provide any real inspiration and motivation to others. Your confidence will emanate at a level that people will feel – before you even say a word.
(2) Once you have reconnected with your own inner reserves, help others reconnect with theirs.
Extraordinary leaders connect with people at a deeper level. They see not only what each person they lead has done in the past, but also what they are capable of in the future.
In times of chaos and uncertainty, people need to be reminded of their strengths because trying times tend to lead us to doubt ourselves and forget how very capable and strong we really are.
Think about the people who look to you for guidance and support. What has each of them done in the past that has impressed you? What are their natural talents – the things they are so good at that they make look easy? What do they tend to do that has a positive impact on themselves and everyone around them?
Maybe it is a sense of humor. Perhaps it is an ability to foresee obstacles no one anticipated and create a plan for overcoming them. Maybe it is an ability to think outside the box, a dogged determination to make things work, or a natural tendency to partner with others.
What is it that gives you faith that no matter what happens, this person will rise above it? Speak to it with sincere appreciation and encouragement. Help that person to embody those qualities once again.
When you focus on the positive attributes in others, you help them recognize they have greatness within and catalyze their potential. This is what is needed most in times of change, challenge and uncertainty.
(3) Keep people’s focus (including your own) on possibilities rather than frustrations.
As with everything in life, whatever you focus on has a way of becoming amplified. When you allow yourself to become consumed with fear and doubt, your brain has a way of finding things that feed those states. As a result, you’ll find there seems to be even more to be afraid of or frustrated by.
This phenomenon often happens without your conscious awareness, and it is a vicious cycle that can keep you falling deeper and deeper into despair.
Reversing this cycle requires a conscious effort.
When you notice you are feeling upset by a certain thought, the first step is to become aware of the thought that has caused the reaction and deliberately choose another one to focus on. There is always something positive or hopeful to focus on. Sometimes finding it takes a bit of work, but that effort will be met with rich rewards.
A man named Ambrose Redmoon once said “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important.”
So, figure out what is more important – more worthy of your attention and energy and focus on that. As you do, your innate talents and strengths will rise to the occasion.
As you shift your attention from obstacles to opportunities and put your energy on what is possible, you’ll see solutions that previously evaded you and recognize that you are capable of far more than you initially realized. And when you act from this frame of reference, you’ll inspire others to do the same.
Regardless of your title, position or role, you have an opportunity to practice REAL leadership at a time when people around you need it the most. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on yourself and others. Remember:
(1) Nothing will come your way that you cannot handle.
(2) Once you have reconnected with your own inner reserves, help others reconnect with theirs.
(3) Keep people’s focus (including your own) on possibilities rather than frustrations.
For more tips on navigating through change and uncertainty, check out my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
To say we are living in a time of great challenge and uncertainty would be a major understatement.
There’s no dispute that we’re currently facing a virus over which we have very little control.
But there is another contagion being propagated that we have every ability to contain.
And that is FEAR.
Fear does funny things to people. At its worst, it produces panic — a physical state that literally disables the brain’s ability to think clearly. There is seemingly no other explanation for the current shortage of toilet paper. It just isn’t rational. But the greater the shortage, the higher the demand.
When people are in fear, they bypass their ability to think and are easily influenced by mass hysteria and knee jerk reactions. They also tend to put their own needs above those of others.
Fear triggers our instinct for self-preservation, leading us to scan our environment for anything that indicates that danger is present.
But when we’re gripped by fear, we just don’t see things clearly. And the more fear there is, the more evidence there seems to be to suggest there is something to fear, which of course elicits more fear.
Fear narrows the aperture of the lens we view things through. In other words, we are only seeing a small fraction of the entire picture. It’s like staring at a dot on the wall by smashing your face against it. The dot is all you’ll see, even though the room you are in is exponentially larger than the small dot right in front of you.
- You’ll put your attention on what is wrong, rather than what is right.
- You’ll spend more time and energy on describing, complaining about, and magnifying the problem than on finding the solution.
- You’ll be more concerned with what you can get rather than what you have to give.
- You’ll focus more on what is out of your control than on things you are able to influence.
- You’ll tend to feel helpless rather than hopeful – and you’ll act in ways that lead others to feel that way too.
But each of us has the power to turn this fear response around. And it is imperative that we do it now.
Though most of us have never lived through a pandemic as extensive as COVID-19, we have all likely weathered a few storms over the course of our lives.
And we’ve not only lived to tell about it, but also learned a thing or two along the way. In times like these it is essential to draw upon that wiser, calmer part of ourselves that knows this too will pass – and that we can rise to these challenges with courage and grace.
I call this vital part of ourselves Genius. Here are three simple ways to activate it:
1. Do whatever you can to quiet your mind and calm yourself down.
When fear hijacks your system, your thinking will be cloudy, and your body will be on high alert. The cortisol that gets released will increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Your neural activity will be diverted from the most highly developed part of your brain to the most primal.
As a result, you’ll experience a fight, flight or freeze response. You’ll be prone to seeing dangerous things that aren’t there – and inclined to screen out helpful things that are.
To counter that reaction, take some deep breaths. Get oxygen flowing back into your cells. Then, ask yourself a question that moves your neural activity back into your prefrontal cortex, the part that allows you to think deeply and make good decisions.
A question like, “What do I really want?” or “What could I do to make this situation better?” will help you get back on the right track.
The more you can quiet your mind, the more space you’ll create for inspiration and answers to come in – and the more likely you will be to recognize and act on them when they do. Rather than unconsciously reacting, you can respond with thoughtful intention.
2. Choose curiosity over judgment.
Once you’ve come to a fixed conclusion about something, you are not likely to consider other perspectives. 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.
And from that mindset, you’ll run the risk of behaving in ways that make things worse.
But while judgment narrows your aperture and keeps you in a fixed position, curiosity opens it and allows you to get unstuck. Your lens zooms OUT rather than IN.
Instead of only seeing that small black dot, you’ll take in more of your surroundings. In place of the wall that once blocked your progress, you’ll see possibilities and solutions that can move you forward.
Notice anything you may currently be believing that could be shutting you down or causing more stress – and challenge it. Ask yourself, “Is it really true?”. Rather than paying attention to what your eyes are showing you, get curious and ask, “What am I NOT seeing?”
3. Shift your focus from what you stand to lose to what you have to gain.
In the face of this international calamity, we have all had to make sacrifices. Life as we know it has drastically changed.
Offices, schools, stores, restaurants and other establishments are closed (or have limited access). Travel has been halted. The market is taking a hit. Your daily routine has likely been obliterated. The safety of people you love (and you, yourself) is in question. And as a result, social distancing has become an imperative.
But amidst all this, there are things to be optimistic about.
- For many of us, the crazy hustle bustle that compelled us to run from one thing to another is giving way to opportunities to slow down, rest and find our bearings.
- Our true priorities are coming into focus, allowing us to find more meaning and purpose in the things that we do and the way that we do them.
- Though we cannot always be in each other’s physical presence, we can stay connected. We can (and must) lean on our advancing technology to communicate with, support and care for one another without being in the same room.
- We are facing a collective challenge that has the power to bring us together despite our differences. As we worry less about ourselves and find ways to help each other, we activate reserves of strength and resilience we may not have realized we had.
- When nothing is certain, anything is possible. We can view the current disruptions we must deal with as opportunities to find better ways of doing things we never had reason to evaluate. We can be more intentional and conscious in everything we do.
1. Do whatever you can to quiet your mind and calm yourself down.
2. Choose curiosity over judgment.
3. Shift your focus from what you stand to lose to what you have to gain.
As you take these steps to become more connected with your own Genius, you’ll hold a space for others to do the same. Your ability to remain calm and optimistic will rub off. And you’ll not only quell the virus of fear but also proactively extend the hope and optimism that will allow us to prevail both individually and collectively.
Now THAT’s something worth spreading.
For more on connecting with your Genius, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Others.
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*Image: Pixabay 2020
Have you ever set a goal for yourself that left you feeling less than fulfilled when you actually achieved it?
Maybe it was a target you wanted to meet, a possession you longed to acquire, or a promotion you were hoping to receive. You kept your eye on the ball and hunkered down to do whatever it took to get there.
When obstacles presented themselves, you busted through them and may have felt as though you were repeatedly banging your head against a wall. “The reward for your exhaustion would be the sweet taste of victory in the end,” you may have told yourself.
I did. And when I got to the top of the hill I was climbing I realized the mountain I was scaling was not mine, but someone else’s.
What if it didn’t have to be that hard?
Contrary to what we’ve been conditioned to believe, success doesn’t have to involve suffering or sacrifice. It is not only possible, but also advantageous to enjoy the journey along the way. And if we didn’t insist on having to blaze the trail in front of us, we might find that off in the distance a lovely path is being revealed – if only we would stop long enough to pay attention.
When I take on new clients, they are often in the same state I have often found myself in. They have worked hard to get somewhere, but they know in their hearts there is something greater available to them. Perhaps they haven’t been getting the results they wanted, have been experiencing a great deal of stress or even burnout, or are just ready for a change. During times like these often the best thing we can do is not to speed up, but to slow down – way down.
If the path you’re running on isn’t getting you where you want to go, moving faster won’t do you any favors.
I have found over the years that the best leaders are not those who have all the answers, but rather those who ask the best questions. What are the possibilities? What are the opportunities? How are we uniquely positioned to make the most of them? In what ways can we leverage our strengths to rise up to our challenges?
In asking such questions, these leaders bring to the surface answers, insights and knowledge people hold inside that allow great things to happen. Rather than imposing a vision on others, they allow it to develop collectively, with the knowledge that they can’t possibly see and accomplish everything singlehandedly.
Before these great leaders can do this for others, they must do it for themselves. So I challenge you (and myself as well) to focus on asking the important questions and to be still long enough to hear the answers.
In Native American cultures, young adults are sent on vision quests. These rituals involve sending the youth on a journey, packed with provisions that allow basic needs to be met. Instructions are simply to wander around and find a place that calls to them.
Upon doing so, further direction is simply to sit and reflect. The belief behind this is that we do not necessarily need to actively find our vision. When we quiet ourselves and pay attention, our visions find us.
In our complex society, few of us have the time to go wander around the desert and sit for indefinite periods of time. So we need to make the time in our busy schedules to connect the dots. This may be a few minutes here and there. You may find yourself repeatedly daydreaming about something, or playfully entertaining an idea or possibility that will not allow itself to be dismissed.
These are critical pieces of information that, like pieces of a puzzle, will eventually come together to reveal a bigger picture. Pay attention to them, and do whatever is necessary to nurture and protect them. Capture these thoughts on paper or in your computer and add to them as new ideas continue to emerge. Some of these nuggets will become more valuable to you than others – like gold in the miner’s pan, they will begin to shine amongst the grains of sand.
Notice also the synchronicities that occur all around you that help make your visions real – chance encounters with people uniquely connected or qualified to help you, valuable information that effortlessly comes your way, and little serendipities that allow you to feel as though you are in the flow of something bigger than yourself. Chances are, you will be.
Enjoy the ride!
This article contains an excerpt from my book The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead.