How is it almost the end of 2020? If this year has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected and be prepared for all levels of change. As the saying goes, the only constant is change. Now more than ever it is critical for us to tap into our resilience muscles and learn how to be the Zen monks in the eye of the storm.
As I reflected on my own career path over the years and the strategies for getting through the challenges of 2020 so far and remaining centered and calm, I retraced my steps and realized I had inadvertently created my own framework that allowed me to maintain my own mental and emotional health and continue to be productive and effective in what I do despite what was happening in the world “out there”.
What became evident for me was that we needed a new kind of “leadership” to weather these storms, in fact we needed a LeaderS.H.I.F.T™.
State of Mind:
I realized that it all starts with our state of mind. It only works one way, from the inside out. For years I had struggled with the misunderstanding that life on the outside was responsible for how I felt; however, it was only until I had this epiphany in 2013 while sitting in a lecture hall in Regent’s college in London that I truly began to see that we only ever experience life from the inside out. Our thoughts are what create our feelings. We always have access to fresh new thinking in any moment, all we need to do is realize that thinking is transient and temporary. The more we hold on to a specific thought the more we experience it in our reality. If you imagine a conveyor belt carrying different ‘flavors’ of thought on it, that’s how thinking becomes available to us. At any moment we can grab any one of those ‘flavors’ off of the conveyor belt and the belt will keep rotating and serving up different thoughts. That is the nature of thought. Once we fully understand that we realize that we’re always one thought away from a totally new experience of life. Seeing this more deeply made me realize even more how life truly is neutral and we make meaning of our experiences through the filter of thought. As part of my coaching training we were asked to rank different life circumstances from ‘best’ to ‘worst’. Things like getting married, getting divorced, getting a promotion, losing a job, having a chronic illness, breaking a leg, winning the lottery, etc. I remember my fellow coaches and I had a heated debate about it as we weren’t able to agree on a common ranking because for some getting married was the worst thing that happened to them while for others getting a divorce was the best thing. Similarly for someone getting the promotion turned out to be the worst thing while for someone else breaking their leg was the best thing for them as they ended up taking a long overdue sabbatical and creating an online business. What this showed me was that we are all experiencing life through our own set of glasses and that the “circumstances” don’t create a universal experience otherwise all 7 billion people on this planet would have the same experience.
Once I’d figured that it all started with my state of mind I began focusing more on my mental and emotional health. I became much more aware of my own self talk and a lot of the unconscious habits I was partaking in. Up until that point I really hadn’t paid much attention to my own self talk patterns. I didn’t really consciously see how I was self sabotaging my own results by the kind of words and beliefs I was repeating to myself.
Telling myself how certain things were “too hard” or I wasn’t ready or qualified enough for certain projects or roles. Behavioral patterns I wasn’t even aware of. That then broadened my focus into all the physical habits too in my life, from the way I started my day to how much water I was consuming, to the kind of food I was eating and whether I was creating mindful moments during my day to breathe and meditate and center myself. I became much more aware that while it all starts in the mind, our physical habits have a big impact on the quality of our results. In the words author, James Clear in his book ‘Atomic Habits’ “every action we take is a vote for the person we are becoming”. I started to incorporate a morning routing daily whereby I set aside time in the morning for contemplation, reflection, journaling and meditation. I would welcome the day with a cup of warm water and lemon first and then some celery juice. I became more mindful of the quality of the food I was consuming. I got interested in essential oils and alternative health practices and energy medicine and making sure I was balancing my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs on a daily basis. Much of the challenges we find ourselves in today and especially at this time of global crisis are because we’ve disconnected ourselves from ourselves. We’ve lost touch with our needs on all four levels. It’s no surprise then the impact that has not only on ourselves on a personal level but on our productivity and engagement as employees and team members, or as parents and partners.
The more I started to consciously pay attention to my own state of mind and habits I soon realized I need to put things into practice and integrate my actions on a daily basis in order to truly start to make progress. To me that meant allocating time for reflection and journaling and going back over my day to see how I showed up, how I got triggered by certain people or events, how I responded and where I could make changes and adapt my response next time. I knew that conceptually learning something wasn’t enough, I needed to commit to the daily integration of that knowledge.
What daily integration allowed me to do was to see the areas that needed fine tuning. Whether I needed to make changes to certain habits. Perhaps wake up a little earlier to incorporate some additional time for movement or stretching or adapt some of my eating patterns to add more superfoods and nutrients into my diet. It was a constant feedback mechanism whether that was my own feedback through my own self reflection or through seeking feedback from others on what I needed to improve on in terms of my behaviors and thought patterns at work and at home.
As I now look back at the start of 2020 and everything I have been through both on a personal scale and work place challenges I can truly see the transformation that has happened over the course of the last 10 months. We usually don’t tend to stop to see how far we’ve come on our own growth journey but this reflection exercise and reviewing my LeaderS.H.I.F.T™ framework allowed me to see just how far I truly have come and how much impact and change can happen in less than a year by consistent daily action.
At the end of the day the only person responsible for your results is YOU. We can have the best mentors and coaches and managers but it truly all starts with us taking responsibility for our own results. That is why I see a need for a shift from traditional leadership to a more self-driven LeaderS.H.I.F.T where each one of us focuses on up levelling ourselves to our best potential and performance. My mission is to help more people wake up to their own power and see how they can truly transform their lives by making that conscious commitment daily.