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and can go on to produce unwanted ripple effects in their own life and the lives of the collective as misinformation or outdated ideas becomes a mainstream belief or world view.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.
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:
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