Many leaders make assumptions that ironically limit their leadership capacity every single day. One assumption is that they always objectively view the leadership and performance capabilities within themselves and their team. Another is that they are already so smart and experienced that they can shrug off learning and development. These assumptions are a blind spot. The belief that the way that we see life is objective…we assume we are right, that how we see is “the way it is” – is often the very thing that creates a leadership stumbling block. This is a closed mindset.
In other words, we really don’t know what we don’t know and unfortunately, all too often we are not open to examining our own thinking. Why? I believe one reason is that we assume (there that word is again) that to raise our hand for leadership development implies that we are “broken” – that we need to “fix” ourselves. Our society as a whole seems to assume this connotation is true as well.
Busy work is not productivity. It is just activity. We have too much of it and it is costing us our excellence in performance. It is costing us our health and happiness due to the killer, stress. It is a contributor to poor relationships – who has time for relationships after all? It reduces creativity. In 2012 Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine et al. did a study in which they deprived 13 people in IT business access to email for five days and studied them intensively. They found that people without email concentrated on task for longer periods of time and experienced less stress. This would support the McKinsey Global Institute’s study that revealed that skilled workers spend a quarter of each working day responding and writing emails. That’s 25%!
There are many people going nowhere fast. When we see life in pieces – such as “to do” lists without an overarching purpose, we can lose our meaning for living, our zest for life. Passion is lacking because we are too busy to develop it, too busy to “in joy” our work. Most people have forgotten who they are at their core, and life is a series of going through endless motions.
My conclusion, based on my experience with perception and also neuroscience (which is validating my conclusion) is that, our energy is going where our attention is going. We believe that to be successful we have to work really hard. What, enjoy work? Now that would be a novel idea! We believe that more is always better and that to rest is to be lazy. We believe that “enough is never enough” so we keep working harder and harder – instead of smarter. Smarter would include purpose, clarity and innovation. It would include re-energizing so that you can be more efficient in less time. Then you can have more time to have some fun.
Emotional and mental agility is a skill set. Repressing feelings instead of learning how to manage them reduces performance levels and can negatively impact health. Of course it is not rational to believe we can “check our emotions and feelings at the door.” It is not very intelligent to believe we can disconnect from our body’s physiology. Numbing or distracting our self is not the same as actually disconnecting.
Unfortunately it was a type of cultural “code” at one time to think that we could ignore our feelings.
The intention was to avoid discomfort. Yet, when we become more self-aware, we can learn to become comfortable with feelings. The feelings were not checked at the door; they were circulating in the mind and body causing havoc within the body and inauthentic, and not surprisingly disengaging relationships within the office. It was just an example of being asleep or in denial about what was really going on within us. I used to deny my feelings admittedly; I bought into this myth at one time myself. An added benefit to me for quitting this self-deceptive practice has been an even healthier body – and heart.
One important, intelligent and giant step forward is to recognize that “you are not your thoughts and feelings.” We get into trouble when we buy into thoughts running through our minds as if they are facts/truth. We need to question our thoughts before mindlessly accepting them. You must learn to “name them” if you are ever to get a grip on self-managing your state of mind. You must be mindful to call out the thoughts and to begin to notice the repeating patterns.
You can’t get unstuck without becoming aware of them – so that you can take charge of them. You can learn to redirect them in healthy ways, and in so doing, reconnect with your passion for life, joy and inner peace.
Here are three common patterns for managing thoughts, emotion and feeling. When we are not aware of what feelings are or that we can manage them, they tend to:
Happiness for many people seems to be constantly out of reach. Mindfulness can lead to happier and more productive lives. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Fortunately there is now a way to objectively change your “state of mind” on purpose – with purpose. This method is known as mindfulness or the general term of “meditation” can be used. This is an ancient practice that has historically been resisted by science and western culture – until now. Thanks to technology, we are better able to objectively measure and reproduce outstanding results attributed to practicing mindfulness such as:
• A reduction in stress and feelings of overwhelm
• Strengthening “mind muscle” in the area of the brain connected with learning
• Rewiring your brain to calm hyperactivity in our brain’s fear and worry center
• Reducing feelings of melancholy, even depression
• Improving empathy and your ability to connect and relate to other people better
I can say without reservation, that I began to experience these types of results over a decade ago. I was able to move ahead of the curve because I was seeking to perform at my best, and fortunately, I listened to my own intuition to guide me. Science is evolving. While we don’t have all the answers, we do know enough to show objectively that we can retrain and rewire our brain to more easily change our behaviors that no longer serve us.
We can lead happier and more productive lives with greater ease.
When we come from a place of self-awareness, we can see clearly how to get the job done without necessarily working so “hard.” We can work from a place of purpose, passion and peace of mind.
Emotional intelligence, as a term was first documented in an article by Slovey and Mayer in 1990. We have multiple intelligences, not only IQ as Howard Gardner from Harvard University has theorized. If we want to perform at our very best, with confidence and purpose, we must know ourselves. IQ has its place, yet, in order to apply the data and factual information, we also need to have an understanding on other levels of our intelligence beyond just the facts themselves. Problem-solving effectiveness depends also on our emotional intelligence.
It’s time to stop the attitude of, ‘checking your emotion at the door” as this is only a self-deceptive concept. Decision-making involves our emotional brain and without it, there have been studies shown that even making simple decisions – such as what to wear in the morning – can be insurmountable. By the way, there have also been psychological studies revealing that people who seem to be so out of touch and repressed in their emotion are more likely to test as psycho/sociopaths. I think I’ll happily learn about healthy emotional states of mind, thank-you.
An important part of that understanding is knowing who we are and what we can do… Ultimately, we must synthesize our understandings for ourselves. ~Howard Gardner
Self-awareness helps us to raise our emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is not only awareness of your “self”; it includes your ability to become aware of the emotional states of others and your relationship to society at large. Not only are you able to be in tune with your internal landscape; you are better able to navigate the external world landscape all around you. The foundation to developing emotional intelligence begins with addressing your “Intrapersonal Self-awareness” – by making friends with your feelings.
Performing on the stages of life with enjoyment and success will require among other qualities a sense of humor. It will also require self-management. Often times we face challenges when we attempt to achieve new heights – be it getting into physical shape at the gym or starting a new business. Optimism and lightheartedness can go a long way when you have to have to rise to the occasion to learn and grow out of your current comfort zone. Things don’t always work out as plan so,
“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it!” ~Jonathan Winters
While you are swimming, hopefully you are learning new skills to enable you to complete the course. We can always learn to swim better as the waters can become unexpectedly choppy at times. I have found that it matters not how smart you are, how many degrees you may have or who you know – sooner or later uncertainty will find you and the environment will shift. You see to perform at your best you will need a growth mindset, one that is flexible and willing to expand. Are you able to relax and also enjoy the journey?
You will need to have good people skills, as it is getting quite tough to go it alone; the Lone Ranger is no longer popular. You will need to think and see clearly to avoid potholes along the way. Here are five factors that can fuel high performance that are not often taught in “How to be Successful” tips when making a career shift, starting or expanding a business. These are factors that are not as simple as taking a sales course and hiring a new accountant or consultant. They are skills or traits that we all need to develop within ourselves to a functional degree if we desire to perform at our very best.
Productivity and performance is more likely to be higher when you are energized. Feeling stressed and sluggish reduces focus and makes work hard. Have you considered that the reason why success takes ‘hard work’ is because you are plowing through so much resistance? Resistance is created when:
1. You don’t like your work
2. You are feeling stressed and pressured
3. You are worried about your job
4. You are afraid of change or new challenges
5. You are just plain…tired and drained
Did you know that sitting at the computer for hours at a time is a health hazard? It contributes to a stiff neck, knots in your back and shoulders and it is highly likely that your breathing is very shallow under these conditions. Shallow breathing is stimulating your stress response and it not allowing healthy oxygenation of your blood – this is certainly not going to help you to think clearly. A brain that is poorly oxygenated and stressed will not only reduce your performance – it will reduce your memory. None of this will contribute to your happiness, to say the least.
Productivity is not simply activity. Without a clear vision, a heart-felt why and a clear strategy, you will waste your resources – time, energy and money. You will also increase the likelihood that you will create dis-ease in your body from overworking and stress.
On the surface, these different aspects would appear to be disconnected issues. Really, underneath there is a cause for the effects. The cause is a lack of, “brain awareness” – we don’t understand how to control our own brain and mind consciously. We have lost a sense of PEACE in our lives because we live in “pieces.” Just running down a ‘to-do’ list, or creating a goal without a clear context and clarity for long-term results will cause burnout – emotionally, physically and organizationally. You won’t have a sense of purpose. The interesting fact is we must slow down in order to accelerate our results. Life is full of paradox. When we can optimally operate our brain, we can perform at our best.
Our left-brain logic alone doesn’t see the “big-picture.” It is great at steps and strategies, but if you don’t create a clear blueprint, a clear map, you will probably end up who knows where. Our right brain is wonderful at the big picture. Yet, we will have to slow down to see it. Reflection comes when accessing not only our “right-brain” but also the area of our brain that can envision and problem solve. You need a calm mind to access this level of thinking. This is the area that pulls together SEEMINGLY dissimilar parts. It weaves new creative solutions together. Then your left-brain can take action on these new ideas. The catch here is that you will have to be willing to slow down in order to:0
Since optimism can be learned, why is pessimism so rampant? Do we have any say in our attitude or is it simply, “just the way we are?”
“If you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t do a thing– you are right” ~Henry Ford
This now aligns in general with recent research in neuroscience. Pessimists are people who tend to see through a lens of pessimism and optimists have a brain bias that is toward optimism. Reality is not objective in these types of situations in particular. Your reality is real – to you. Life contains both and sometimes we get what we want and sometimes we don’t. The question is what meaning or story line do you assign to the outcomes that you see?
Is it one of what can be learned? What can you change? Do you just let your emotions swing you wildly out of control? Do you focus on what is missing or “wrong” or do you look for all the other great things in your life to be thankful for that you DO have?
You see, this choice of happiness or stress and overwhelm is within our control to a huge degree. Whether pessimism was learned or genetic, you can change it. We just have not known it was possible and we are just now learning how to consciously do it with more ease and less effort. I’m glad I had the courage to get a head start on the science…I have so much more emotional self-mastery now. Trusting intuition can be a beautiful and powerful thing.
Enhanced self-awareness and more skillful self-management are the foundations of emotional intelligence and are building blocks for optimism and resiliency. They are essential for maintaining motivation and preventing burnout. Research has shown that optimism is associated with enhancing intrinsic motivation and performance. It has a tendency to inspire others instead of discourage them.
Emotional Intelligence is the mind of the heart, the right-brain in metaphoric terms. Realize that language has its limitations and speaking in terms of the English language, subtleties can be lost – such as having only one word for, ‘love’. When culture moved away from communicating with images, we also moved away from an appreciation of what the right-brain has to offer us as a human civilization. This is unfortunate as our feelings are powerful influencers over the quality of our lives.
We lost the language of the heart to a great degree. Symbolism and imagery, specialties of the right brain, allowed us to use our individual imaginations more consciously and to connect easier with our feelings. When we only live in our left-brain logic, the attempt to circumscribe words into ‘black or white’ meaning, we really lose much of the richness and depth to human relationship and life. We tend to try to live only in our heads. Just think – where would the head be without the body and its heart? They need each other.
Logic and our left-brain are only a part of the equation; we need both hemispheres to attain sustainable joy and happiness. The tendency as a culture – as a human race in general – to deny and repress our emotion and feeling is one reason why we are so emotionally UN-intelligent. It is the primarily reason why so many people still live, as Henry David Thoreau said,
…. lives of quiet desperation.
We can change this. We do not have to live life like this. There are many benefits from embracing your right-brain ‘heart’ including creating a vision for your life that is purposeful and being better able to relate to others. We have the power to ‘NeuroReInvent’ our self. Now this is innovation! It’s innovation on our outdated attitude of belittling personal growth and development as if you must have ‘something wrong with you’ if you raise your hand that you need more emotional intelligence or self-awareness. Truth is, we all do.