Do you find yourself pulled between your personal desires or responsibilities and doing what needs to be done for your business or career?
In the early 2000’s while managing over one hundred and fifty staff spread across more than forty-one thousand square kilometers, (without Zoom or MS Teams) I was introduced to the concept of work life balance, and I began instilling the idea with the team.
It sounded like a great theory at the time, especially with early mornings and late evenings after driving from location to location to visit team members. But with hindsight and knowledge backed by personal experience I came to understand that to obtain true work life balance, a 50/50 split, was not only impossible but trying to achieve it was creating unnecessary stress… kinda defeating the purpose.
In the world we woke up in today, things are vastly different than twenty years ago, we can access work from personal devices, and connect with team members across multiple time-zones with the click of a mouse and more of us are choosing to work from home making it so much easier for our focus to be hijacked by less important and often trivial distractions.
This can have a detrimental flow on effect on our productivity, relationships and performance as we unconsciously relegate the things that matter the most to the ‘I’ll get to that later’ list.
In the leadership programs we run, there is a fun and often tormenting activity we do where participants are forced to let go of the things they believe are important to them in order to get to what really matters most…
One by one we witness managers and leaders letting go of their gym memberships, their barista brewed coffee, their nightly glass of wine, their entertainment subscriptions, their hobbies, and even personal freedom is sacrificed as they narrow down to the one thing that matters most to them.
Do you know what 98% of participants declare as their most important thing, what they couldn’t live without? It’s Family!
If you find yourself doing things that are not important, or chipping away at outdated processes, maintaining unproductive habits that take you further and further away from what matters most to you or heck, you may still be trying to achieve the impossible 50/50 work life balance, you know, feeling guilty at home on the days when work needs to be a priority and thinking you’re in the wrong, or your reputation will be ruined, when personal and family commitments impact your work.
It doesn’t have to be this way, you can equip yourself with cutting edge tools to help you navigate the demands of the day, increase productivity, and focus on what matters.
I know it can be painful doing things that are not working for us and at the same time not having the knowledge to push back confidently and intelligently on the things that negatively impact our well-being, relationships, goals, values, and time.
Before learning or sharpening the tools that will help you do more of what matters… you may want to first understand the 6 most widely experienced derailers I see people from all walks of life struggle with.
After 20+ years of diving into the fields of human potential, mindset and neurobiology and psychology combined with 1000’s of hours coaching I noticed common traps we all unwittingly fall into when it comes to getting to the things we really want to do or spending time with the people that matter most.
If you are like me and want good results, I have no doubt that you know that to achieve results and perform at our best we need to be confident in our decisions, efficient in our thinking and productive with our time.
This is easier said than done because no matter how hard we try to be productive and do what matters, there always seems to be people, situations, notifications, and that pesky inner voice that have the potential to distract and derail us.
Derailer #1 - The People Pleaser
What I have noticed both within myself in the past, and with coaching clients is the first issue we face. To put it simply, we want to please everyone.
Being a people pleaser and not being able to say no effectively leads to doing things not aligned to our goals or doing things to keep other people happy or maintain an unhealthy peace.
Derailer #2 - Wired to Avoid Change
The second derailer comes from our neurobiology - we are wired to avoid uncertainty.
This innate need to feel safe can slow down or even prevent decisions from being made. This leads to procrastination because we’re afraid to make a start or do things differently. We end up fighting against anything that takes us away from homeostasis, clinging to how things are or how things were, wired to stay in the safety of an outdated way of being.
Derailer #3 - Unhealthy Habits
We can look to biology to understand the third derailer. Derailer number three is our unhealthy well-being habits draining us of the energy we need to get things done.
Our energy is derived from the type of food we eat, how much we move, and the quality of our sleep.
These are all important factors that impact energy levels and our ability to do what matters, often giving preference to an easy task (think Netflix, gossiping or social scrolling) to match our low energy levels.
Derailer #4 - Misaligned Identity
The fourth derailer is a psychological one. When our subconscious identity is not aligned to the work we need to do we will unconsciously sabotage our efforts.
When who we assume and believe we are is not aligned to who we need to be to get the work done we end up going in circles often reverting to our old ways.
If you want to dive a little deeper into the power of your self-image, grab copies of Gay Hendricks book ‘The Big Leap', Chip and Dan heaths Book 'Switch' or Maxwell Maltz book ‘Psycho Cybernetics’.
The deeply held beliefs you hold about yourself create a protective system that can sometimes lead to us sabotaging our efforts to focus on what really matters.
Derailer #5 - Unsupportive Environment
The fifth derailer is an environmental one.
You can't be productive if your physical, social, or mental environments are unsupportive.
To set yourself up for success in this area be sure to create an uncluttered space dedicated to the work that needs to be done. Ensure that you are socially supported by engaging in a coach or buddy to cheer you on and hold you accountable to delivering on your objectives.
It is equally important that you create a supportive mental environment by choosing narratives that support your outcomes such as telling yourself things like:
In essence you’re giving yourself a pep talk to override any beliefs that suggest you don’t have the time, energy, or capacity.
Remember: Your mental attitude will always influence you output.
Derailer #6 - Distractions
And sixth most common thing that derails us is distractions, and wow… the world certainly has turned up the volume on distractions and shiny objects, stealing our attention away from what’s important.
Distractions big or small such as noise, notifications, interruptions from other people or pets, regularly checking emails or your phone. Anything that takes you away from what you are doing are the biggest derailers of productivity.
These unwanted intrusions on our time slowly eat away at any hope we may have of consciously integrating our work with our life.
Believe it or not distractions are the easiest to fix when you know how to set boundaries for yourself and for others. If you'd like some easy fixes to help you deal with distractions grab yourself a copy of Nir Eyal’s book ‘Indistractible’
Getting Back On Track
What’s interesting about these six common derailers is that we can overcome all of them by overcoming the first one.
Once we know how to say no in an enlightened way, we begin to help ourselves and others to let go of the things that no longer serve us and to focus on what’s important.
We can set boundaries for ourselves to create healthy well-being habits, we can set clear limits and expectations as to the person that we want to become, we can say no to the things in our environment that get in the way of our best performance, and we can deliberately put measures in place to ensure we are not distracted from what matters most moment to moment.
It’s up to you to get yourself on track and more importantly, stay there. The tools are available in books, podcasts, and courses.
The first step is to determine what really matters to you, what’s your priority in any given moment then check to see which of the derailers are present.
We know that knowledge alone doesn’t do a darn thing, so if you want support to kick any of your bad habits, outdated self-beliefs or fixed mindset to the curb…
I’m opening up my diary to 6 people who are yet to experience Blue Chip Minds Coaching and who want to get back on track to join me for some complimentary 1:1 time in a 30min get me back on track session.
So… what stops you most often?
Drop me a line, I’d love to hear what derails you and how you plan to get back on track.
Here’s to you doing more of what matters.
Contributed by Georgia Ellis
Contributed by Georgia Ellis
Deciding is one of the single most powerful mental moves you can make to help solve your problems. Your entire life is dictated by the decisions you make moment to moment. The health of your mind and body, the well-being of your family, your financial stability, your career success, how much a person will trust you and, the type of relationships you develop, all depend on your ability to make sound decisions.
In the workplace 60% of two thousand executives surveyed reported that bad decisions were as frequent as good ones. When it comes to our personal lives people are making as many bad decisions as good one too. Consider the people who haven’t saved enough for retirement, and if they have ‘squirreled’ some money away, they often erode their portfolios with fear-based decisions or short-term payoffs. This was evident in Australia in 2020 when due to the global pandemic, people were given the option to access their superannuation savings to help meet their living requirements, yet some people withdrew the funds for hobbies, sports equipment, entertainment or to purchase a car.
Ultimately decisions bring order to our mind, and this order is then reflected in our life. British philosophical writer James Allen wrote:
“No one can see you making decisions, but they will almost always see the results of your decisions.” - James Allen
I personally subscribe to the notion that we live and die by the decisions we make, and that for the most part we can rectify any ill-informed decisions. There are, however, people who make a decision and if they don’t get the desired results, they feel like a failure.
The thing is, failing doesn’t make anyone a failure but being quick to throw in the towel when the going gets tough… well maybe that could be seen as failing. Pushing through or quitting are both decisions therefore any lack of accomplishment or high levels of achievement on your part are both the result of your decisions.
What I find interesting about decision making is that we often think we make well informed decisions, yet the truth is, unless we have high levels of self and environmental awareness, we will neglect to consider the hidden influences both internal and external that unconsciously impact our judgements.
Most of us don’t realise that our important decisions could be swayed by seemingly meaningless external factors. In the workplace judgements and decisions can be swayed by who spoke first in the meeting, what day of the week it is or whether the local football team won last night’s match. At home we could be swayed by the room temperature, whether we’ve eaten or how much sleep we had.
Internal factors that can impede our decision making include subconscious programming that has formed certain biases over time, our unchecked assumptions, and our short-term emotions. These internal influences often move us away from rational and intuitive processing and lead to uneducated often bad decisions.
Our hidden influences are rarely considered in our everyday approach to decision-making. When we encounter a choice, we tend to not entertain alternative options, often analysing our options through the lens of our confirmation bias which is only seeing information that we want to see. While our short-term emotion tempts us to make the wrong decision for the wrong reasons. Consider the times you made an irrational decision in a moment of anger, frustration or even during those warm fuzzy feelings of new love.
We can make better decisions by bringing these hidden influences to the surface.
A method I have been playing with in recent times has helped me to begin to recognise and lean into my biases and assumptions. And I’d love to share it with you here.
When faced with a decision our incredible brains filtering system likes to point us towards the information that backs up our beliefs and values. As we consider our options and form our assumptions, the confirmation bias begins to block out information outside of our beliefs, leading us towards self-serving information.
It’s at this early stage of the decision making process that I try to become aware that this is likely happening to me and I go about testing my assumptions.
Testing Assumptions doesn’t come naturally. That’s the whole point of the confirmation bias—deep down, we never really want to hear the negative information.
When testing assumptions, the aim is to collect information that you can trust however the confirmation bias skews your assessment by making you prefer one option over another and homing in on favourable data. To overcome this blind spot, you can develop the discipline of considering the opposite of your initial instincts. (I’m trying to build this muscle and boy oh boy the confirmation bias force is strong)
You can also test your assumptions by asking yourself this simple question:
“Is what I’m assuming happening 100% of the time to 100% of the population?"
You can also test assumptions with constructive disagreement either with another person, or if your critical thinking is dialed up, pull out your journal and disagree with yourself. A curious mindset is super helpful too, you can dial up your curiosity by asking yourself and other people probing and open-ended questions to uncover information that your biases had previously blocked.
Our assumptions and confirmation bias doesn’t just affect what information we go looking for; it also affects what we notice in the first place. (Damn our brains are clever at making us see what we want to see!)
Depending on the importance of your decision, you can challenge your assumptions with formal well conducted research. This type of research is a learned skill; it is challenging, nuanced, complex and time consuming. Most of us don’t have the time, skills, or desire to do proper research. Most of us have become lazy, relying on gossip, information from less than credible sources, social media feeds and the mainstream news for information to help inform decisions that in some instances can have far reaching and negative effects on our results and wellbeing.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine the level of due diligence your decision requires, choosing what vacuum cleaner to purchase, deciding if you want to be the first to trial a medical procedure, or contemplating whether to take a job that requires uprooting the entire family and taking them to a foreign country all involve different levels of research (Unless you’re like me who spent way too long researching a recent vacuum cleaner purchase!)
If you do choose to conduct research, it’s helpful to know what formal research isn’t.
Formal Research is Not:
This type of ‘fact finding’ is confirmation bias. Any of these sources are quickly and easily ruled out when doing actual formal research. Beware of google algorithms, they too are heavily biased to point you in the direction of your search history.
When a decision requires accurate balanced research, it’s important that you apply critical thinking to discern the facts from the fiction. You can do this by:
When faced with important decisions the type of analysis and research you do will help you to make better decisions. A healthy dose of scepticism can be a good thing especially when applied to the things we believe or want to be true, and not just to those things outside of what we believe.
Decisions can range from simple, to complicated, to complex and in our faced paced world we need to develop a level of awareness that moves us away from our entrained thinking and conditioned responses. We must widen our perspective so that we aren’t blinded to new ways of thinking and stop thinking that our 'expertise' means we always know what the best decision is or what is the right way forward.
The truth is none of us have a crystal ball and we’re all making the best decisions we can with the information we have… just do your best to source reliable and credible information for the decisions that matter to you.
I’m confident that you would have experienced being in a conversation with someone, and you get a sense that they aren't really paying attention to you, maybe it’s not a sense, maybe its downright obvious that their attention has been hijacked. You notice their eyes not meeting yours, they’re checking a device, or their attention span has been shortened from device overuse. They may randomly comment but what they say is totally irrelevant to the thread of the conversation. Personally, I find this not only frustrating, but it quickly dials down my respect and trust in the other person.
By no means am I always an active listener angel, I notice my ability to pay attention diminishes when I am tired, stressed out or preoccupied with a project. I assume this may be the case for you too. What I have come to understand over time is that listening, like any other skill, can be improved and more importantly, our ears, eyes and for some of us our highly tuned empathic sensing provides a direct link to our hidden modes of communication.
There is something magical about being fully heard by another human. When we share ideas and experiences unencumbered by judgement or having someone want to solve our problems we feel liberated and connected. The shared space creates a deep connection with the other person increasing mutual trust, respect and sometimes a feeling of catharsis.
One of the biggest challenges in personal and professional relationships is creating space for effective two-way communication to occur. We need to manage both our internal and external environments effectively in order to do this.
Manage your External Environment to connect deeply.
One of the things I love to do is catch up with friends, not over a coffee, but for a walk-in nature. There are a number of reasons for this, the first being I love being in nature and all the benefits it brings, and secondly to create a space for undisturbed connection, nature has fewer background distractions that are often found in a café, no dobt you’ve experienced the clanging of coffee machines, conversations nearby reverberating off the tables, walls and floors, and the constant interruption of a staff member asking if the meal or coffee was ok.
Consciously choosing where you meet, or talk is a great start, then removing any distractions is always helpful. If you’re at home, put the TV on mute, or turn it off, put your phone on silent and pop it away and out of sight and for those of you with smart watches, there is nothing more frustrating than having a conversation with someone who repeatedly lifts their wrist to check notifications or interrupts the conversation to share that their watch was telling them that mum’s calling, but they won’t answer it. So, maybe turn of your vibrating notifications too.
When we converse over the phone or online, the same rules of deep engagement apply. Although you may not be in the same physical location, you can still be 100% present. Do your best to dial in from a location with as little distraction as possible away from pets, partners and children, turn off notifications and close down any other apps. When you do this your focused attention on the conversation will pay huge dividends for yourself and the relationship.
When scheduling time to be with another human be sure to use the time to be fully present for each other and allow for the natural flow of the conversation to take you to a place where nothing else exists, there’s no time, no one else and nothing else matters.
Notice your Internal Environment to be fully present.
When dealing with other people being able to share your thoughts and wishes effectively is a something most of us can do with some level of success. But we also have to be open to what others have to say. The most important aspect of creating and nurturing relationships begins with active listening. Active listening is an inside job and can be a challenge to master.
Most people confuse hearing with listening. This can lead to misunderstandings, arguments and frustration for both parties. If you are the one needing to be heard, and you’re not, you may end up lowering your respect levels and trust for the person you are with. We can't control other people’s actions or how they listen to us, however we can set boundaries or rules of engagement if someone is continually distracted when they are in our presence. (we’ll cover how to set boundaries in another article)
Active listening is an inside job, it requires awareness, curiosity and compassion. Often when communicating, our inbuilt filtering system prevents us from really hearing the other person. Our beliefs create confirmation bias, our assumptions cause misunderstanding, our predetermined judgements about a person or situation may stir up a perceptual defence and our emotional state may lead to us to only hearing what we want to hear.
We often think that it takes courage and confidence to share our deepest thoughts and to be heard, and it does, but it also takes awareness, courage and confidence to shut up and listen.
Become a great listener
Active listening is a skill any one can learn (and most of us need plenty of practice) Active listening will become your go to tool once you discover its power to improve personal and professional relationships. If you don't invest in becoming better at active listening, you will unconsciously discount other people’s perspective, ideas and experiences and they in turn will become emotionally distant (not a great thing in an intimate relationship) and they will no longer want to contribute to conversations or provide creative ideas (Impacting the progress of a business)
Active listening basics
The aim of Active Listening is to build respect, gather information, expand our perspective and increase understanding. In a world of constant distractions where our attention span has become less than that of a goldfish perhaps we can borrow a line from Mark Anthony’s request for attention in the play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. Where he announces “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears"
It takes attention, focus and the willingness to accept what is being expressed without judgement. Can we lend our ears and eyes 100% to the person attempting to communicate with us?
Here are 5 tips to help you become an Active Listener Angel.
1. Pay Attention
2. Show You're Listening
3. Compassionate Curiosity
4. Defer Judgment
5. Respond Respectfully
Active listening is one of the many communication tools we can use to build trustworthy relationships. Make time to listen to the people that matter in your life, it doesn’t make sense to be too busy to listen to someone else's story, opinion, idea or point of view. Listening is a beautiful gift of our most precious resource ‘time’ that we can give to others allowing humanity to thrive and grow together!
p.s remember to have some fun!
Contributed by: Georgia Ellis
I know it's hard right now balancing commercial goals with the well-being and growth of your people and somehow you did it! It is an absolute honour to work with business leaders and decision makers who not only realise that that their people must come first, above the customer and the shareholder, but they take inspired action towards making it a reality for their organisation.
I often wonder how many organisations expect their tired, wired and depleted team to show up and be the best for each other and their customers, especially when they have not been able to invest in themselves first. How can a person truly connect, influence and shine for a business if at first, they can't shine for themselves?
I love the challenge of working with you to help you serve your people in a way that has never been done before. I love that you knew there was a better and different way to invest in your team and when we shared our approach it resonated deeply with you, and you took immediate action to get started. I now realise you had been searching for unique and proven ways to serve your people and the business at the same time, and here we are :)
I love that you generously invest in your people’s personal growth, professional development and wellbeing, to help them thrive in life so that in their thriving your workplace becomes a hive of positive and profitable activity.
I admire the work you do and your bigger vision as a business to truly make the world a better place with your products and services. Instead of playing the short and finite game, your organisation plays the long and infinite game where everyone wins including your customers, clients, team members, shareholders, stakeholders, vendors and the world we share.
I am forever grateful that you found us and that we have worked together to create solutions to meet your unique needs. It is a delight working with you all, most importantly and above all, we love your team, your leaders and all the people who participate in our programs, they show up, play full out and in doing so they become better humans. Together your organisation gets to meet your goals and Blue Chip Minds gets to meet ours.
I admire that you listened to that deeper knowing that went against convention, you sensed
and truly believed that you have to, need to, and want to do more for your people. Your commitment to building self-awareness, helping people think differently and providing a wider lens for them to see challenges in a new light and providing them with the tools to thrive… not just at work…. but in life, is a massive paradigm shift as to how organisations approached their workforce in the past. It’s because of you that I have faith in the future of humanity and big business.
Your leaders have shown that they are ready to lead in a multidimensional way and now they have the tools to do it, helping your organisation to become a human centered commercially minded workforce.
I can’t say I’ve ever felt this way about a business client, and not sure if it’s good for business to say this out loud, but to hell with convention right! I have to say it.
I Love You!
I'm thankful that we are aligned and our work together is profitable and beneficial for everyone! Thank you for reaching out. Thank you for being a modern-day Robin Hood and showing up for your people.
Thank you for caring - together we can help to make the world a better place.
Georgia + The BCM Team.
Contributed by Georgia Ellis
In social gatherings I often find myself simply sitting and observing. I’m teaching myself to take in the surroundings and pay attention to what people are saying and doing. Overtime I have trained myself to notice the slight nuisances in a person’s tone of voice, their posture, the pace in which they speak and the words they choose as I’m observing I then get curious, I ask myself, I wonder what experience, information, values, and perspectives sit behind how they are showing up?
The truth is I will never know how someone comes to their view of the world, this in and of itself doesn’t bother me. I may be able to better understand them and their motivation by how they are communicating, which can be helpful, if I get it right that is but what often raises a mildy disapproving eyebrow is when I hear people sharing an opinion or information that is not backed by personal experience or clear evidence. There is a word for this kind of communication, gossiping. These interactions usually lead to misinformation as a story is rehashed to suit a particular situation or the storyteller’s agenda; a little like the ‘Whisper Challenge’ the further away or down the line you are from the original source, the more likely you are receiving embellishments, untruths, or biased information.
For the receivers of information who are not fully trained in the art of thinking, the misinformation can lead to misguided actions and reactions and can go on to produce unwanted ripple effects in their own life and the lives of the collective as misinformation or outdated ideas becomes a mainstream belief or world view.
Each of us holds a unique and personal perspective of reality that is often formed through childhood as part of our induction into being human, and then as adults we unconsciously and consciously give certain people and organisations credibility and a halo of godliness, automatically believing what they say without question. For the most part we are influenced and manipulated by external forces, too lazy to think for ourselves. When we’re busy being too busy, it is much easier to scroll social media or turn on the TV and listen to a person dressed in a suit tell us how to think and act.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of people who are no longer swayed by the glitz and glamour of a celebrity clambering for recognition, a politician trying to win votes, or a friends ego getting the better of them. These people are in the process of mastering the art of thinking. They usually do this through curiosity, discernment, trusting their intuitive nudges and an awareness of human nature. This skill, yes, it is a skill, is one that anyone can learn. Through practice we can learn how to ask the right questions to determine the motivation and credibility of our sources of information. In short, we can tune our ‘Bullshit detector’ to a high level of accuracy and know when and how to boldly respond in a way that doesn’t lead to conflict.
Over time as a species, we have and will continue to collectively increase our mental complexity. This form of human evolution is often the result of an individual or group making a bold stand and challenging a commonly held perspective that has been inaccurately accepted to be true or mainstream. Unfortunately, sometimes their questioning or new perspective is subject to harsh and even life ending consequences, all because their view or questioning was not in line with the mainstream perspective, or they did not agree with those who claimed “authority” at the time.
Humans are funny creatures, we fight so hard to hold on to our perspective, and when someone comes along with a different approach, idea or viewpoint that could change an individual’s life, increase an organisations productivity, or maybe even make the world a better place for future generations – we scoff, snigger, shoot them down, insult them and publicly ridicule them – go team human?!
“The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.” - Mark Twain
We seem to quickly forget that thinking differently has been key to major shifts that have so profoundly influenced the advancement of our collective pursuits in philosophy, science, and technology.
So, back to my social observations. Why do I do this? Why sit there and watch what’s going on? The truth is, I am trying to master the art of thinking. I am trying not to let my past dictate my future. I am having meta conversations with myself to try and allow my habitual, egotistic, biased thoughts and feelings to rise above my accepted norm in that moment. I am practicing how to entertain an enquiry that takes me outside of the constraints of my default perspective of how things are or are meant to be. I must admit, it’s not easy and I find myself asking the wrong question and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Real thinking is an artform that requires awareness, practice and time. The hardest part for me has been adopting a willingness to be wrong in a belief or view and learning from my misguided enquiries in the hope that I will be able to gracefully transcend ideas that once were deemed by myself or society to be absolute truth that have no relevance in the world we woke up in today.
Throughout my life I have had various mentors (some alive some alive through the medium of books) some whom at the time I trusted impeccably, only to find as my mental complexity grew, as my values evolved, their views no longer served me or my changing worldview. Right now, I have a few mentors who offer me a wide angled view of the world and who unbeknown to them, continually challenge my world view. They are teaching me to think, to discern and to test my assumptions. I must admit this process is often a destabilising and challenging experience as I muster up the courage to unlearn and to think differently. It’s exhausting! Pass me the remote for some six-o’clock news someone please.
But wait, there is more to this challenge of shifting perspective.
As I am begin shifting my personal world view, and feeling off kilter, skidding between guard rails, the people around me assume I’m the same me. They believe I hold the same view, values and beliefs that I did yesterday. This becomes a next level challenge as I emerge in my familiar surroundings, looking the same on the outside, with an internal updated operating system that no-one is aware of unless I open my mouth and talk. Friends and family must feel like they’re sitting down at their trusty PC only to switch it on to find it’s using an Apple operating system, they are lost, confused, and don’t understand the language I now speak. Interactions become disjointed and frustrating to everyone especially those who may not agree with or understand my emerging view. It feels lonely, I want to curl up in the foetal position and suck my thumb until it’s safe to come out again. Although as enticing as it seems, hiding away is not courage, it’s an act of fear and potential conformity where nothing changes, my world stays the same and I won’t make a positive difference sucking my thumb.
In his unified science course, Nassin Haramein Founder of the Resonance Science Foundation writes,
Historically, thinking differently amidst a strongly held philosophic and scientific set of beliefs has proven all too often to be a difficult road to walk. The authority structures of the time will typically put-up great resistance to new ideas, and the individuals and groups who are willing to voice these new ideas are challenged or allegedly “debunked”, in many cases without either an unbiased evaluation of their ideas or a reasonable argument against them based upon such an evaluation.”
According to Abraham Maslow, one of our deepest needs and drivers is the need to fit in and having a point of view that is at odds with those we live and work with can feel threatening to our survival. One way I see around this is for as many of us as possible to dig deep and be bold - together. Yes, we will come up against friends, family, colleagues, policies, procedures and structures that feel like a form or resistance to a new and often better way of thinking and being. We may feel like an oddball, with no tribe to fit in with and become discouraged to stand up to an injustice, or an outdated workplace policy, in some instances we may feel threatened and even begin to question our own conclusions and logic and may even start to judge ourselves as being stupid for even thinking something different. It’s hard to swim against a current of arguments that appear to be truth and accepted as ‘right’ in our culture. This is the wave some of us are riding now as new ideas and ways of working are emerging and confronting long held collective views, can we ride the wave arm in arm? If we see someone swimming against the current, can we throw them a perry buoy in the form of encouragement, being interested in their point of view and using curiosity to validate their position with them?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some questions that we can ponder together.
How to practice the 'Art of Thinking' to widen your perspective.
Shifting your perspective is a deeply personal experience. It’s up to each of us to pay close attention to where information is coming from and our personal relationship to the information and decide for ourselves what feels true.
Continually shifting my perspective and being open to new ideas is an ongoing learning process for me, by no means am I perfect. Over time I have noticed that as each of my outdated perspectives fall away and as I listen deeply and pay close attention to the motivations of those around me, my life has become richer, and I have a deep sense of freedom and faith in a better future for everyone.
As you navigate life, I invite you to become a ‘Virtuoso of Thought’ by asking yourself some questions during your interactions with other people and sources of information:
When you decide to open your mind and start shifting your perspective, you begin to positively contribute to a greater organisational, community or even global shift.
Contributed by Caterina Viterale
Reframing responsibility to help organisations, teams and individuals be better humans
Until recently, I have had a tug-of-war like relationship with the idea of responsibility for as long as I can remember. This recent shift felt like I was handed a key to a new understanding that nested in my mind and then expanded to create a form of internal freedom.
As if handed down by the magical powers that be directly into my awareness, I was offered a unique and transformative way to reshape how I look at, and understand, responsibility beyond what I had thought previously, which was always associated with a role, title or position.
I now consider this a framework, a concept, a potential mapping of sorts, for how we can navigate ourselves and each other through the terrain of modern living and all of its complexities, and in this article I will be sharing it with you.
So, grab yourself a glass of your favourite beverage, sit back and let’s go on a little meditative and contemplative ride of curiosity and wonder together about how we can potentially reshape how, and what, we think when it comes to responsibility.
Responsibility, for a very significant amount of my 32 years of life, has been an extremely heavy, yet liberating, topic and experience for me. On a personal level, it’s been extremely burdening. On a professional level, I have always thrived with some form of weight on my shoulders – a team to manage, a goal to hit, something to organise, pieces to put together.
Recognising why I have these two experiences of the same topic was something I really struggled to understand and master.
Why was I exceptional at managing a team, being a good leader, and exceeding professional goals, but I could barely manage my personal life?
Why was it different?
I couldn’t figure it out because the weight of my personal responsibility was too heavy for me to be able to look up, look around, and see things differently.
Then, one day, a few months ago whilst meditating, an entirely new way of looking at responsibility came to and through me, right when I was no longer looking to understand it.
And this is what I will share with you.
The New Understanding
“The application of one’s ability to provide an appropriate response to any moment or situation, whereby one has, or is perceived to have, something that is of benefit to someone or something, including themselves”.
Let’s highlight the many important, and specific, elements to provide us with the guidelines for putting this into practice, and break down this new way of thinking about response-ability.
Application: because the rest of the definition becomes completely useless if we do not APPLY it. Simples.
Ability: ability for humans is never one dimensional. It is both within and between the elements of physical, emotional and mental that we may or may not actually be able to do something.
I may know you have the intellectual capacity to fulfil a task based on past experience, but not know that you’re physically unable to do so in this moment because you’re exhausted from lack of sleep as your new born child is unwell. Or because you’ve started seeing a therapist about that childhood trauma no one knows about and it’s emotionally and physically exhausting you.
We may have assumptions about someone (colleague, friend, partner, parent, employee, neighbour, person at the checkout) with regards to their ability to fulfil a task, without considering the infinite number of factors that contribute to one’s ability to do so, even if it appears, they are, in fact, able to do so on face value.
This is where the co-founder of the Flow Genome Project Jamie Wheal’s ‘Playground Rules’ provides a handy rule to live by:
#2 “Benefit of the Doubt (Everyone's Doing Their Best!)”
Appropriate: This is about emphasising whether or not we have consciously assessed the situation and considered the response we are about to make is, in fact, as appropriate as we can assess it to be.
This requires a certain level of mental development and complexity - specifically the utilisation of a particular mental faculty, ‘perspective’.
How many perspectives outside of our own have we considered in our analysis of an appropriate response?
What internal space is this analysis coming from?
Are we angry, tired, hungry (or hangry), overly excited, focused on one perspective?
Does it feel rather cerebral, meaning, are we just thinking about it intellectually, or are we allowing for things such as empathy and compassion to enter our consideration of what’s appropriate?
The findings of our internal investigation provide important reflections and considerations for how we may expand what we consider appropriate.
Response: without getting into technicalities of dictionary meanings, I feel the significance of response is that, in embodied practice, it is very grounded. It is clear, open, attentive. It is a state of assessing as much available information as possible whilst knowing that even in this state we are unable to know absolutely everything. Thus, remaining open to the information we receive as a unique opportunity to add to our knowledge base.
I want to emphasise also what it is not, and more specifically what it isn’t in comparison to a reaction.
Typically, when using ‘reaction’ in conversation, there is an assumption that the reaction was a direct and immutable outcome as a result of a specific cause that is often emotionally explosive; it’s automated and without control or influence.
This is definitely not what I feel a response to be.
Response seeks to find the causation(s) of the present moment, assesses it in as many ways as it seems appropriate that is the most expansive and inclusive, then consciously CHOOSES an outcome.
A moment or situation: this brings the mind’s attention, and the practical application of this response-ability principle, to the here and now (whatever present moment we find ourselves in).
Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not in five minutes time, nor the previous encounters with this person/s in the environment we are in.
It’s the here and now, which requires a specific state of mind that has the ability to absorb it for what it is, and not what it has been previously or what we anticipate it to be.
Has, or is perceived to have: sometimes we know what we have, and sometimes we need others to provide the information to bring it to our attention.
This is particularly useful in times when we forget that we have a skill, resource or piece of information that is so automatic in our existence that we forget we have it.
Take speaking our native language as an example.
Most people use it so frequently and have become so acquainted with its existence and use that they forget that it is, in fact, a skill that could be used to help others – a foreigner, a blind person who is unable to read/see something, or even as a means to voice an injustice/issue that requires attention.
Something: it’s important to remember that something isn’t always an object – it can be an idea, a word, a resource, and in fact, something can even be a nothing. The thing that you may be able to provide as an appropriate response is, well, absolutely nothing (silence, for example, when listening to someone share their story).
Benefit: most often, we are used to considering benefit as strictly on the positive side of the negative to positive spectrum. It is important to note, however, that benefit may also include an outcome where there is a reduction in the negative, thus, moving the indicator within the spectrum closer to the positive side and away from the extreme negative side.
Someone, or something: we live on a planet, that doesn’t just have people. It has objects, other living organisms, constructs, ideas, beliefs, houses and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g else that exists outside of our present here and now. Therefore, it isn’t just about responding to people within a moment or situation, it is also guiding us towards paying attention to, and considering the benefit of, e-v-e-r-y single thing that exists.
Including ourselves: well, because, most of us just don’t think of ourselves, especially when it comes to responsibility! It’s often housed in the environment of others – our roles and duties to others and things outside of ourselves. This can create an array of negative consequences. From illness, to stress, to poor health, poor sleep, no money, poor relationships, minimal joy, and everything else that you can think of when you take a moment to reflect on all the ways you’ve neglected yourself – your body, your wants and needs, your desires, your feelings and emotions, your experiences.
Now that we’ve delved a bit deeper into the elements of this alternative perspective of response-ability, let’s ask a really important question.
Why is this even important?
If we consider many of the issues we face globally, much of it stems from a lack of response-ability.
“How many times have I seen someone (including myself) dismiss an idea or action - a response – when something clearly needed to be done?”
For example, a task at work that wasn’t part of your “job title/duties” so you ignored it; a conversation you avoided having about something that needed addressing but was put off and the issue became far greater than it needed to be.
The list goes on.
And when we collectively leave a large amount of small things unchecked or ignored, they build to HUGE mountains of things that suddenly seem too overwhelming.
I mean, just take a look at the news over the last year, where do we begin?
More deeply, if we consider the global social, economical, political and environmental landscape, a significant portion of it involves us needing to pick up the pieces of other people’s lack of response-ability - we are constantly having to utilise our time, energy and resources rectifying the consequences of others behaviour, decisions and actions, as opposed to showing up in the world and living a life that is full of richness and the freedom to create playfully.
We are devoting the one resource that we have always known to be finite and irreversible in the physical plane – time – to resolving issues as a result of a lack of response-ability of our fellow humans in the past, instead of basking in the playfulness of existence itself.
And, sometimes there’s no stronger blockage than a perception of finite time that limits our ability to be conscious and aware in our actions.
This is an important segue into an often ignored, yet extremely influential element that can dramatically impact one’s ability to practice response-ability.
Burdened people burden people.
Photo by Ben White
We’ve all heard the common phrase: ‘hurt people hurt people’, but when do we consider the reality that often, burdened people burden people?
Think about the Manager who is overworked, stressed out, and feeling overwhelmed by the disproportionate ratio of their skills to the tasks required of them by those above (and sometimes, below) and so unfairly demands more from those they manage and increases their workload?
The single parent, working their asses off (or are unable to), struggling to overcome a past trauma and so demands more from their child, intentionally or unintentionally?
The person in a position of power who is burdened by a personal situation, who comes to work carrying that weight into a decision-making process, and then chooses the less personally consequential option that has an increased workload on others, as opposed to the harder, but more appropriate, option?
What happens in all of these situations?
The person burdened, begins to unwittingly burden those around them.
Whether by having to take on tasks, or holding space for them to react to their stresses (as opposed to processing their emotions in a healthy manner), the weight gets distributed to others who are already carrying the burden of the people and environments they’ve previously been in.
And so the burdened becomes the burdener.
When we’re burdened, we cannot perform optimally, and at our best; we cannot give to ourselves, each other and the here and now moment we find ourselves in. Essentially, we cannot be response-able.
So, what can we do?
2. Remember that during times of emotional, physical and/or mental internal imbalance, people are not at their best, and therefore, we need to recognise the inability of the other person to provide what we believe to be an appropriate response.
A potential tool for these moments would be to become curious and ask the person we are about to request something from, “what is your current energetic, emotional, and physical capacity?”
We could even go so far as to ask them to rate their levels out of 10 or 100, and if used in a team environment, whoever has the highest score may be able to take the reins for a moment to allow others to regain their equilibrium.
3. Use the description of ‘response-ability’ as a principle to live by, outside of roles, duties, status and labels – let’s perceive it as a guiding principle.
Here are nine ideas I invite you to consider to help make the shift from responsibility to response-ability a little more easier collectively.
1. It’s a paradox that we must develop in to
We must both let go of, and embrace, the past and future in helping us navigate the now.
In the context of providing an appropriate response, we must clear ourselves of the past conditioning and future assumptions that blind us to providing an appropriate response, whilst also utilising past knowledge and holding future ideas and plans to help us navigate the situation to the most appropriate and beneficial outcome.
This can be challenging for some, as it requires a high level of mental complexity that many of us are not yet capable of, or are still developing into.
Therefore, we must consider this a journey towards response-ability mastery on both an individual and collective level due to the navigation towards, and transformation to, living this as a guiding principle.
Developing self awareness through mindfulness practices such as meditation can assist us in the optimisation of processing throughout the here and now and maximise the ease at which we can practice this principle fully.
2. We’re all going to be students, and teachers
No one is a master at this, nor will they be. Every moment we are growing, evolving and changing, as is everything else that exists, and therefore, there will always be more to learn, to adapt to and to consider.
What’s that playground rule again we need to follow?
“Benefit of the Doubt (Everyone's Doing Their Best!)”
3. It’s never going to be 100%
There’s ALWAYS going to be some form of “problem”. This perspective isn’t about solving and eradicating all of the tension in the world, it’s about limiting the amount of unnecessary realities we’re creating that require subsequent solutions - the burdened burdening others included.
We must ensure our thinking going forward is built upon a foundation of knowing there is no final and complete utopian destination.
4. Try to refrain from worrying about over there, focus on your here
Until your ‘here’ is functioning optimally and beneficially, refrain from utilising your valuable energy, time and resources on the “over there” situations – trust that they are being dealt with by those there, experiencing their own here and now within it and utilising these same principles.
Make sure your house is in check first, then go out and help others optimise theirs.
5. There’s no reason not to play and have fun
This piece was written deliberately with a hint of playfulness to provide a glimpse of the light-heartedness that we can bring to the spaces we occupy.
It may feel as though we have a big job to do – personally, professionally or collectively as a human race - but if we bring an element of play and child-like wonder, we can get the job done in a much faster and cohesive manner.
Maybe we can start asking ourselves “how can I make this a more enjoyable process?”
6. Trust ourselves, each other and the bigger picture – all of which we know very little about
The greatest of minds have always proclaimed that the more they know, the more they know not.
Let’s take that piece of advice on face value and act accordingly.
7. We have a choice
Response-ability is a tool we can use to help us CREATE the world we want to live in – it gives us agency, sovereignty and conscious engagement, and not simply be a passer-by in this great adventure that is life as a human on this planet.
Let’s CHOOSE to be the person/s we want to see in the world.
8. Not everyone is as keen as you are
When we think something is important, we forget, or simply fail to consider, that whilst we are having an experience right now of something having our focused attention, so too are the people around us who we are interacting with.
We must remember that no matter how important or significant we feel and believe, or even know, a thing that is requiring our attention is, we must accept and forgive those who cannot give us the energy, focus and attention we may want or need.
9. Response-ability is always a 100% game
If you are conscious, and in a body that is able to move with conscious engagement, then you are 100% responsible for your response-ability - remember, existence equals responsibility.
No situation is about breaking down who contributed what percentage of 100% of the outcome.
It’s about taking personal accountability for our own actions, choices, and behaviours (including what we do not do), and recognising that we are 100% responsible for the contribution we made in any given moment.
We shift our focus and analysis from “they did A, B and C!” (usually blame) to “what did I do here?” (self empowerment and mastery).
The more I think about this, the more I feel there’s so much to say, develop and find clarity on how the actual practical application of such a framework fits across our lived experiences.
Though, essentially, I think it can be summed up by being more considerate of others and the environments we find ourselves in, and shifting our focus and attention from other people’s choices, actions and behaviours to our own.
If we at least start from there, I trust the magnificence of who we are on a fundamental level - kindness, compassion, openness, curiosity, playfulness, joyfulness - will help us find our way.
Reigniting Human Commerce with Visionary Leadership
To my continually learning mind, I always thought commerce was a business term that related to an intent of making a profit. I had not come across an older meaning, which I might add, I love, where commerce once related to the social dealings between people.
Imagine, if you will for a brief moment, a business that focused equally on making a profit and improving the interactions between humans.
Over the last few weeks, I have been delving into a few different business models and research articles, chatting with senior leaders and heck, I even chatted all things leadership on Clubhouse to better understand how we can create more warmth and understanding in our human interactions both at work and socially, and whether organisations actually invest in improving their Human Commerce. Sadly, I have found only a handful of socially responsible organisations channelling their L&D funding into creating better humans within their workforce while also investing in technical and on the job skills.
If philosophers have been telling us for centuries that the ultimate goal of existence is to achieve our highest good, for our values to be met and priorities to be achieved, then we can’t deny that we need a supportive social system to help us in our personal pursuit of happiness.
Everything about our existence nowadays relies heavily on human interactions, from the parcels being delivered from amazon, to the checkout assistant at the supermarket and the person in a foreign country doing their best to solve our problems over the phone. Interactions with friends, colleagues and family also get added into the mix. We can’t deny that our happiness is entangled with, and relies on, Human Commerce. Each of us, regardless of our assigned roles at home or work, needs to take responsibility for becoming better within ourselves in order to support others in an effort to improve the warmth of human interactions and to increase our collective happiness quotient.
How can you contribute to our collective happiness quotient?
The answer is simple, aspire to become a Visionary Leader.
Most of the population either works for a business or owns a business. It seems strange to say that happiness and business have anything to do with each other since for most people work can be soul destroying. Yet research is showing us that the two are linked business can enhance human wellbeing!
In July 2019 during her TED talk, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland displayed Visionary Leadership and discussed the importance of creating an environment that allows everyone to thrive. She said:
“What we choose to measure as a country matters. It really matters, because it drives political focus, it drives public activity…. GDP measures the output of all of our work, but it says nothing about the nature of that work, about whether that work is worthwhile or fulfilling.”
She goes on to say that:
“Economic growth matters -- it is important -- but it is not all that is important. And growth in GDP should not be pursued at any or all cost… the objective of economic policy should be collective well-being: how happy and healthy a population is, not just how wealthy a population is…. when we focus on well-being, we start a conversation that provokes profound and fundamental questions. What really matters to us in our lives? What do we value in the communities we live in? What kind of country, what kind of society, do we really want to be?”
It is refreshing to hear world leaders speak of balancing Human Commerce with gross domestic product, and I hope that one day it is reality. In the short term, perhaps we need to look to businesses, not to governments, to effectively kick-start the wellbeing movement by balancing profit and people and contributing to the wellbeing and welfare of its workforce and community.
By helping their employees grow and delighting their customers with innovative and meaningful products, businesses have an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the world. This type of approach (if adopted) would also have a positive effect on the business as the community reciprocates support. The aim of a visionary leader would be to nurture and create more visionary leaders. Creating a movement of people who know how to infuse soul, in the form of emotional and intellectual energy, into their organisation and community.
How do you become a Visionary Leader?
1. Have a Vision that is Greater than You.
Designing a vision that is beyond yourself creates opportunity and challenge for you and the people you lead to do their best. All of the studies that I have researched investigating Flow states, show that it is experienced predominantly at work, in contrast to the belief that it show up in our free time. This rich experience often occurs at times that involve moments of crisis or when a person is stretched beyond their known limits or challenged to be creative in the pursuit of a meaningful vision. These moments of deep Flow, caused by the right amount of challenge, infuse soul into a person’s work - they end up transformed through their efforts and become someone more complex than they had been before. This is usually good for the individual and the business. Think about how much time you spend either at work or working on tasks for work at home. It’s a lot of your time! If you are part of a business that doesn’t enable you to grow as a person, to grow in self-knowledge and wisdom and build your ability to relate to others, the business is not doing you (Human Commerce) or their bottom line (Business Commerce) any favours. What we need are more workplaces where people can learn more about themselves through the pursuit of a worthy vision and integrate the knowledge to promote self-awareness and increase their mental complexity.
2. Build Trust
Having a vision for your team, family or organisation to move towards can be an incredible motivator, however, a vision on its own won’t build sustainable Human Commerce. The most important principle of Human Commerce is trust. No one will buy into your vision if they don’t trust you or each other.
When working towards a common goal, a Visionary Leader can build trust through motivating people by combining the Individuals Interests and the Common Interest of the group while also embodying the four trust building leadership traits; Credibility, Reliability, Empathy and Low Self-Orientation.
A Leader can usually improve an Individuals interests with external incentives such as pay increases, promotion or a fancy job title. However common interest is earned through a demonstration of respect for the value of each person. Most team members won’t be of service to a leader’s vision unless the rules are fair, their contribution is recognised, and their integrity is respected.
When a Leader cuts corners, shows favouritism, is unfair, doesn’t do what they say they will do or is thoughtless, they undermine the common interest of the group and trust diminishes. When this happens on a regular basis, the only thing keeping the vision alive will be external incentives. Which, unfortunately, over time will have a detrimental effect on the business in the form of low morale and less profit as more extrinsic incentives are needed to keep people performing their job.
A Visionary Leader can build trust by investing their mental energy into monitoring and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone. More importantly, to build credibility, reliability, empathy and to balance their focus between their personal needs and the needs of the collective. they must develop self-discipline based on self-knowledge.
3. Develop Self-Discipline and Self-knowledge.
“The only journey is the one within”.
We all know that nothing is ‘free’ in the material economy, similarly nothing comes free in your psychic economy either. If you are not willing to invest energy in understanding your mind and body (your internal reality) and end up wasting time and money chasing external rewards, you lose the ability to master your life and end up a puppet of circumstances.
Getting to know yourself as a leader must involve questioning which of your values and beliefs are fundamental and support your vision and which ones have no substance or have been acquired by accident and no longer serve you or your vision. Knowing how to think is far more valuable in this day and age than knowing what to think. A cutting-edge way to gain self-knowledge is to make accessing Flow an integral part of your life.
4. Create an Environment that Allows People to Thrive
In his book “Good Business” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests there are two pillars of happiness and the fulfilment of potential. The first pillar is ‘differentiation’ this involves realising that you are unique and responsible for your well-being and are willing to develop your uniqueness wherever it leads, enjoying the expression of our being in action. The second pillar involves ‘integration’ this is realising that even though we are unique, we are also enmeshed in networks of relationships with other humans, culture, and with the surrounding natural and man-made environment.
A person who is fully differentiated and integrated develops high levels of mental complexity and is more likely to lead a happy, vital and meaningful life. They are also known to contribute positively to their work and improve Human Commerce. They are, as Abraham Maslow describes ‘Self-actualised humans’, and they are happy knowing they can continue to activate their potential. A Visionary Leader ensures they develop every team member, regardless of job title, to reach this level of awareness.
To do this a Visionary Leader purposely creates an environment that allows people to;
Conventional Leadership Be Gone!
So, what if nothing changes? What if businesses and their Leaders continue to tip the scale in favour of making a profit over the increasing need to balance profit with Human Commerce?
In my role at Blue Chip Minds, I see first-hand the effects on business and their workforce when conventional thinking and leading is the norm. People are either overworked, burnt-out, feeling devalued, or not encouraged to perform at their best. They are often treated as cogs in the process of production which ends up diminishing them as humans.
It appears that focusing on profit and developing the technical skills to make greater profits, is doing more harm than good. Participants of our programs often share stories of Leaders they don’t trust, toxic work environments, feeling undervalued and not heard. Most express deep appreciation to us for creating the right circumstances for them to integrate knowledge within themselves and help them to gain clarity on how they can be a better human personally and professionally.
What We Can Do – Together!
Instead of ignoring the complexity of humans, businesses and leaders can embrace our need for love and growth and help motivate workers to pursue common goals by having an appealing vision, establishing trust, encouraging individual growth and to stop depriving workers of the joy that comes naturally from doing their best.
If you are an individual in an organisation, I invite you to take full responsibility for creating your happiness. If your workplace or manager doesn’t give you clear goals, create your own. If you are not provided with immediate feedback in relation to your performance so that you can adapt, ask for feedback outside your annual or six-monthly review. If your work is not challenging you to grow, find a way to dial up the challenge of your role.
We all have an incredible opportunity to help create a better future for each other and to shape workplaces that are as exciting as a sports match final and as soulful as a spiritual retreat. Where Human Commerce and business profit both share equal space on meeting agendas and in business expenditure.
When the well-being of a workforce is at the heart of every business decision, it creates a better, healthier, fairer and happier organisation, and the business role models how society can find happiness together in a disconnected world.
If you are looking for ways to develop Visionary Leaders, a responsible workforce, or invest in yourself, our most popular professional and personal development programmes include:
Written & contributed by Georgia Ellis
I have always found being human fascinating, and as I continued to dive into the different sciences that underpin our humanness, I soon learned there is still so much we don’t know… which makes me wonder, with the pace of scientific enquiry and discoveries, how long will it be before what I know today… is well… irrelevant and outdated?
For Humans to get along with each other, there is a need for all of us to increase our capacity for critical thinking. To move from thinking our way is the right and only way and from hunkering down on outdated thinking and paradigms, to being curious enough to seek more information, look at things from every angle and formulate a flexible adaptive opinion. In other words, not being stubborn in thinking that the conclusion I came to today, will still be valid and relevant tomorrow when more or new information comes to hand.
Whether they know it or not, everyone lives most of their life from a biased vantage point, their Mindset. Our mindset is as unique as our thumbprint. It consists of our various values, perceptions, conclusions, assumptions and beliefs. All of these components create a filter or lens that you view the world through. To be able to see things differently, to appreciate new and diverse information, and sometimes opposing perspectives, and even solve wicked problems, we all need to be able view life from different vantage points.
We must notice when we are experiencing cognitive dissonance and at least be open to the perspectives of those who challenge and disrupt our long held (and sometimes outdated) patterns of thinking. Open and curious dialogue can help us bounce between the black and white thinking that keeps us stuck, to meander and experiment in the grey between what we believe is right and wrong. We need to know how to get off of our self-imposed playing field and up into the grandstand to see the game of life being played out before our eyes. Then, and only then, can we join the dots, make the connections, see where we have gone wrong and more importantly what moves to make to improve the game of life, for ourselves and everyone.
Your ability to see life from new or even opposing points of view is one element of critical thinking, it’s a mental muscle and similar to your physical muscles, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
In 2018 a picture of Prince William that went viral. It showed what looked like the prince giving the “bird” to a crowd of onlookers. However, different photographers captured the same moment from different vantage points, revealing that Prince William was actually holding up three fingers indicating the birth of his third child.
If you had only seen the first image, you would have likely created a story about the prince, your clever brain filling in the blanks to make an erroneous assumption. This is just how we work, and if you didn't have the opportunity to see the same event from a different vantage point, you likely would hold on to your incorrect assumption for some time. This simple example shows you how even a slight change of view or stepping into the shoes of someone else (in this case a different photographer), allows you to perceive an event, problem or situation in a different way. It also builds your ability to think critically and enhances your mental complexity.
Perceptions are extensions of repeated and revisited thoughts and feelings. Strong emotions create very strong perceptions. You will only see the world, and people according to how your brain has been wired. This means that your beliefs and perceptions are completely attached to your past experiences and past thinking. Your perception may not be based on actual events and how they happened, it will be based on the thoughts, feelings and mental state at the time of an event.
Your perception is formed about a person, situation, thing or experience once you become aware of it. Your brain fills in any missing information from past memories and experiences or by asking questions or making assumptions. Finally, you develop an understanding or belief about the person, situation, thing or experience. It becomes your point of view. How you saw the situation, how it made you feel and the thoughts you had about it creates your unique personal experience which will often be at odds with how other people who were involved in the same situation experienced it. This is why the people we live and work with have a different point of view to ours. Often causing conflict, confusion and even a break down in relationships, especially when people stubbornly hold on to their experience as the ultimate truth.
This does not mean that there is no truth in someone’s account of a situation, there is often an element of truth to a person’s experience. Sometimes we can see their truth and sometimes due to our different perspective we can’t see what they see, often leading to disagreement. Rather than arguing, you can use a difference of opinion or perspective as an opportunity, an invitation, to become curious and better understand how or why people see things the way they do.
The three factors that can influence your perception are your experiences, your motivational state and your emotional state. In different motivational or emotional states, you will react to or perceive something in different ways. Also, in different situations you might employ a "perceptual defence" where you "see what you want to see" and disregard the facts. This is commonly known as ‘confirmation bias’, a unique way to distort reality to have it fit into how we believe the world to be.
Steve Jobs is well known for doing this, his success was largely driven by holding on to an idea or point of view that brought Apples products to life. When people, including his own team, believed things couldn’t be done, Steve often saw things differently. Biographer Walter Isaacson writes that Robert Friedland "taught Steve the reality distortion field." (RDF). The RDF was said to be Steve Jobs' ability to convince himself, and others around him, to believe almost anything. He used a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, marketing prowess, appeasement and persistence. This approach was said to distort his co-workers' sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and to make them believe that whatever impossible task he had at hand was possible. This was the upside of his distorted reality, however Jobs also used the RDF to claim other peoples ideas as his own, even pitching an idea back to its originator, after dismissing it days earlier.
Knowing that your point of view is based on your past thinking, and possibly outdated beliefs allows you to expand and strengthen your perception by taking on new points of view, perhaps like Steve, believing in possibility when no one else does. This is especially useful when you are faced with a problem you can’t solve. Changing the way you look at a problem, or changing the thoughts and beliefs you have about an issue can often lead to solutions and save many an argument. Most arguments are caused simply by the different ways in which we all see the world. Doing your best to put yourself in someone else's shoes can help to build stronger and more meaningful professional and personal relationships.
In our Life Reloaded suite of programs, we explore tools designed to help broaden perspective and increase mental complexity. We look at how a team or individual can map differing points of view to solve organisational challenges and polarising viewpoints. We also explore how to use a simple activity (shared below) to help people step into the shoes of anybody, at any time, in any given situation.
Einstein has been attributed as saying “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that caused it”
You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that caused it
We tend to approach the world from the same perception that causes and creates our issues, making it difficult to find a solution or a way through it. I personally started using this simple activity after reading about a similar approach recommended in the classic book “Think & Grow Rich”. This is how easy it can be:
Although it appears simple this activity allows you use your imagination to see things from another person’s point of view. Imagining that you are someone else shifts your thinking patterns, helps you to temporarily suspend your own mindset, release your biased point of view allowing new information to flow to you. You may find this to be a simplistic way of looking at your problems, however I encourage you to experiment with it the next time you feel stuck.
With a deeper understanding of perception and the right tools to shift your point of view, you will build confidence in your ability to resolve conflict, solve your own problems and shift your perspective in a powerful way.
Learning to walk in another persons shoes and manage polarisation are great tools to have, especially in the world we live in. This form or critical thinking allows you to tap into new information and to see the upside of the things that are opposite to what you personally value, and acknowledge that your side isn’t perfect, it allows you and those you live and work with to be better humans together.
Contact Blue Chip Minds to learn how to strengthen yours or your teams perception and increase mental flexibility.
Written and contributed by Stephen Gibb
Around nine months ago, my daughter Willow developed a fear of elevators. Each time we walked towards one, Willow would become hyper-vigilant. Her breath would quicken, and she would cling tightly to me. If I resisted, Willow would begin to cry and become incredibly distressed.
Willow and I live on the top floor of an apartment block. It was upsetting to see her in distress every time we would leave or return home together. My reassurances that elevators held nothing to fear didn’t help. And, while I did my best to convince her, infants don’t care about calming breathing techniques or cognitive reframing when in floods of tears. These tools are, however, very beneficial for adults — more on that later.
On one swelteringly hot day, when the elevator was out of order, Willow and I were forced to climb down and then back up four flights of stairs. Willow complained of sore legs and tiredness every step of the way (other than when I was carrying her of course), which made what happened next even more surprising.
Every day afterwards, Willow asked to use the stairs rather than the elevator, even volunteering to climb all four flights unassisted. Willow had found a way to avoid the uncomfortable feelings brought on by the elevator and was undeterred by the extra effort, discomfort and inconvenience involved.
I, however, wasn’t a fan of Willows labour-intensive plan. I believed she would outgrow her fear and, in what now seems like an act of torture, subjected her to many more stressful rides in the elevator. That was until I understood the underlying cause of her distress.
Fear primarily refers to an experience in which we are faced with an immediate or expected threat to our life or wellbeing. This is called a rational or appropriate fear and is typical and even helpful in dangerous situations. It serves a protective purpose, activating the automatic “fight-or-flight” response to keep us safe.
Another category of fear exists, namely irrational or inappropriate fear. These are fears of something that poses little or no actual danger. Although irrational fears can become so severe that they interfere with everyday life. When they do, they’re called phobias. When confronted with the thing feared, the terror is automatic and overwhelming. The experience can be so nerve-wracking that you will go to great lengths to avoid it — inconveniencing yourself or even changing your lifestyle. This is what was happening to Willow.
As it turns out, Willow didn’t feel threatened by the elevator at all. In fact, the elevator was only a trigger for Willows phobia and experience of anxiety. Willow was anxious about the elevator doors separating her from her dad, and the potential of becoming lost.
Anxiety is a natural part of life and, at normal levels, helps us to function at our best. It’s what motivates us to plan for the future. In this sense, it’s a good thing. It’s that nagging feeling that encourages us to study for that test practice harder for that game or be at our very best in that presentation. However, some people experience such intense anxiety that it is no longer helpful or useful. They may become so overwhelmed and distracted by anxiety that they fail their test, fumble the ball, or spend the whole presentation stumbling over their words and staring at the floor. Anxiety can be incredibly challenging to control and at its worst completely debilitating.
The difference between fear and anxiety is exceptionally nuanced. The perceived threats (physical or imagined) are processed in the same parts of our brain and cause us to experience many similar symptoms and feelings when they occur. However, being able to spot the difference is critical in being able to handle the situation and alleviate the discomfort.
Because Willow never feared the elevator, my attempts to convince her that it was safe were destined to fail. When Willow offered to take the stairs, it wasn’t to avoid using the elevator, it was to dodge the stimulus of the anxiety associated with becoming lost. Willow had stumbled upon a way to suppress the anxiety through avoidance. However, she wasn’t addressing the underlying phobia, meaning there could be numerous other triggers that could cause distress in the future.
Stress, the bodies response to fear and anxiety, is a rapidly increasing challenge of modern society. From an evolutionarily perspective, stress was designed to help us focus on the present moment and by preparing the body to move. It was intended for short irregular applications to help us escape from something or capture something else. Today, however, many of us live in a state of perpetual stress, or, to give it its clinical name, chronic stress. Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. It can cause high blood pressure, the formation of artery-clogging deposits, changes in the brain that may lead to depression and addiction and even obesity.
It appears that benign irrational fears can, in fact, be as life-threatening as their rational equivalents. It is critical, therefore, to take steps to lessen stress in life to maintain a clean bill of health.
I am adept at findings ways to relieve the discomfort of stress, and like Willow, will accept sacrifices to do so. These can be as trivial as leaving the house early to avoid busy public transport or as significant as giving up a personal ambition for fear of failure. Regretfully, this behaviour has deprived me of our meaningful opportunities to learn, grow and lead a liberated more vibrant life.
Most people know when something in their life isn’t working. However, they lack the tools to understand what’s wrong and what remedial steps to take. Fear, or more specifically, anxiety, can be a great indicator of what’s not working. It can also be the catalyst and impetus to step outside of our comfort zone to address the root cause and develop as an individual.
The way I permanently address anxiety and alleviate stress is to eliminate the uncertainty associated with the underlying fear. For Willow, that is a work in progress. I’ve been teaching her what to do if we become separated, not just by the elevator but anywhere. However, the solution to becoming lost goes beyond just knowing how to find each other again. It includes reassuring Willow that I am there for her, that she can rely on me and when she is a little older, that she’ll be capable of independence. This is a tougher nut to crack, but we will get there.
Working through uncertainty is a cognitive process of gathering information that invalidates your fear or increases your comprehension of the imagined situation and how to handle it. Providing your brain with the understanding, you can overcome the fear serves to turn down the volume on the anxiety. The more certainty you can develop around fear, the quieter the anxiety and the resultant stress becomes.
Managing uncertainty can take time, and unsurprisingly, anxiety and stress doesn’t disappear while we are trying to develop certainty. It’s beneficial, therefore, to have some tools that can help release the pressure when it all gets too much. The tools below were shared by Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman from Stanford University on a recent Thrive Global post. They act on the core nervous system to shift us from “fight-or-flight” into the “rest-and-digest” state, and in doing so, calm us down.
1. Use Panoramic Vision
The focus of the eyes is closely linked to felt levels of stress. Engaging panoramic vision (looking straight ahead and allowing the peripheral vision to expand), can positively impact stress levels.
When feeling stressed or experiencing a build-up of anxiety. Lifting the gaze away from the screen and looking ahead can have a profoundly positive affect. Or better still, increase the impact by getting outside into nature and viewing the horizon; bonus points for a sunrise or sunset.
2. Exhale Emphasised Breathing/Physiological Sighs
One of the most common things people say when someone is stressed is to take a deep breath. However, studies show that it’s actually the exhale that plays the most significant role in the calming the nervous system. Inhale focused breathing (any breathing technique in which the inhale is longer) increases agitation and stress in the body; which can be valuable under certain circumstances. Exhale emphasised breathing, where the exhale is longer, allows the nervous system to be reset to base levels.
Completing two to five rounds of a physiological sigh — double inhale (breath in, pause, breath in again) and long sigh out the mouth — will be impactful in lowering stress levels.
3. Take Action
Often times when stress arises, the last thing I feel like is doing is moving. I have even found myself in a state of paralysis in exceptional circumstances. Other times I have attempted to suppress the overwhelming feeling of stress because I’m not sure how to handle it. These reactions are counterintuitive to our physiology.
Rising levels of stress are the nervous systems way of encouraging forward movement to take action towards confronting a challenge or problem. Doing so provides the rewarded of a release of dopamine — a feel-good chemical in the brain that is part of the body’s reward system. This dopamine hit suppressed the internal chemicals responsible for the feeling of stress and strengthens the “take action” circuit of the brain. Making it easier to take action the next time stress takes hold.
I can achieve a similar outcome by taking action on something wholly disassociated from the source of the stress. Just succeeding at making a cup of coffee, putting on a load of washing on or making the bed can also stimulate a release of dopamine in moments of heightened distress.
So, what can we learn from Willow, a three-year-old little girl with a fear of becoming lost?
1. All fear, including anxiety-inducing irrational fear, can be life-threatening. What life-threatening anxiety and suffering are you choosing to live with?
2. It’s easier for us to find avoidant workarounds rather than facing our fears. What are the workarounds masking your fears, and inhibiting your growth opportunities?
3. Irrational fear and the resultant feeling of anxiety can be overcome by eliminating uncertainty. What steps will you take to bring certainty to the context of an existing fear?
Just before I published this article, I spoke to some close friends. I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing by putting a story about my beloved daughter on the internet. One piece of feedback was so thought-provoking; I thought it worth sharing.
“…maybe change this line, because it is only when it comes to lifts, the line below implies she has it in all situations?
So, what can we learn from Willow, a three-year-old girl with a fear of becoming lost?
I don’t know if you want to label her. All kids look for their parents”
The same concern had crossed my mind. Willows situation is primarily concerning elevators, but there have been other instances too, and most kids do worry about becoming lost. But, I think this is an excellent illustration of a large part of the problem. We are societally scared to label and confront our fears. Instead, we put on a brave face, muddle through and die a little more inside each day.
I don’t want that for my daughter or for anyone else. It is my hope that the research I did to write this will allow me to help Willow overcome her fear and that in reading it, others will be inspired to do the same.
In March 2020, life started to feel a little funky, and not in the cool hip, bluesy kind of way, more of a holy almighty what has just happened to the world as I knew it kind of panic funk, and I’m certain I wasn’t the only one feeling this heavy uneasy feeling.
Retrospect is a wonderful thing and six months on, I am grateful for all the knowledge and practices I had leading up to the occurrence of this global funk. I was able to navigate out of it, with a quick journey up to a higher perspective, noticing what was contributing to my personal experience of what was going on in the world, taking stock of what I could control, and then taking decisive action and maintaining practices that would allow me to weather this unrelenting onslaught of confusion.
Taking decisive action and maintaining practices that would allow me to weather this unrelenting onslaught of confusion.
There are many tools and ideas that I called on during this time, but the one I believe that served me the most was an idea I was introduced to in 2004 as part of a Leadership program I had attended.
The idea was simple; I could either choose to approach life from one of two narratives, that of a person who has mastery over their life or one who has adopted a victim mentality. I recall having to list all the traits of a victim and a master. Upon reflection, I promptly decided that Mastering my life was where it was all a. So began the long and never-ending path to Mastery of Self, I began doing my best to model my life on being a person who took full responsibility for their outcomes, I began reflecting and adapting behaviours along the way. This was a game changer for me, I was letting go of allowing external forces such as relationships, the economy, managers or any situation outside of my control define who I was and how I felt, I was determined to dive into the depths of my being to see what I was really made of, oh and for what it’s worth, I am still doing that!
Years later I would come across two other frameworks that expanded on these Victim / Master narratives. I was introduced to two new roles that keep us in a state of Funk and two additional roles that would allow me to show up as a better human to those I was sharing life with, move beyond the ongoing cycle of uncertainty and victim hood. Enter ‘The Drama Triangle’ (Stephen Karpmen) and ‘The Empowerment Dynamic’ (David Emerald). These ideas took me from looking at how I showed up for myself in life and introduced me to the roles I (and you) play in every human interaction and in every situation. I now had a detailed brief of the games we all unwittingly play together. The ongoing narratives we shift between that keeps us, and as we are experiencing on a global scale, the world in the funk of Drama and the roles we can choose to step into, to finally lift that funk.
Roles that keep us in the Funk.
The three roles in Karpman’s Drama Triangle are Victim, Rescuer & Persecutor.
Freeing yourself from the Funk, requires a shift from reacting in a situation to choosing to pause and consciously respond to life’s events. When you practice responding, you take yourself out of the situation and are better equipped to observe your behaviours. David Emerald ‘s book “The Empowerment Dynamic” provides alternatives to playing in the dysfunctional Drama Triangle. You can move from showing up as a Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer to interacting in a positive and empowering way. With curiosity and compassion, you can move from being a rescuer to a supporter, from a persecutor to a challenger and from being a Victim of Circumstances to Self-Authoring and creating your life.
Freed From The Funk
“In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.” - Buckminster Fuller
Using the wisdom of Buckminster Fuller you can switch out the Drama roles by creating new mental models that would look like this.
You will notice a clear difference between the roles, the roles trapped in drama keep everyone stagnant, angry, anxious and frustrated. While the empowering roles facilitate growth, and physical, mental and emotional well being.
It takes moments to read about these roles, however it takes a lifetime of application to master the empowering behaviours that will free you from the funk.
As you reflect on life right now, this perpetual funk that most find themselves in, ask yourself, am I keeping myself here, am I dancing around with my friends and family in Drama or are we empowering ourselves and those we care about to take responsibility and self-author our way to greater agency?
I want to leave you with this quote by Jim Rohn as food for thought and to inspire you to no longer being the victim to what is happening in the world we share, but to choose to take responsibility and create circumstances that turn the Funk into Funky (in a bluesy kind of way)
“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” - Jim Rohn
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