Leading in Uncertain Times: The Power of Perception

Leading in Uncertain Times: The Power of Perception

It is an understatement to say that we live in uncertain times. In this challenging period, characterized by worldwide conflict, sharp political divisions, and racism, you may feel uncertain about your future, the future of your family, your organization, and the planet. You may think there is little you can do in your day-to-day life and work to make a significant difference. You are a natural leader, yet in the current climate you may be wondering how you can lead with greater compassion, understanding, clarity and confidence.

What I know to be true is that HOW you perceive uncertainty has a powerful influence on your effectiveness and your ability to lead.

A number of years ago I read in Freedom to Love, Freedom to Heal[1], a phrase that stuck with me, and that I pondered for some time:

“Uncertainty is the path to freedom”

When we are in a sea of change or chaos, and much of what we know is being questioned, disassembled or is foreign, it is difficult to believe this is true. How CAN uncertainty be the path to freedom?

When I’ve worked in conflict zones and foreign countries where I didn’t speak the language, every day was uncertain. In Afghanistan on the way to work, my vehicle with its armed Afghan driver could be pulled over by police at any time, and we could be questioned at length or commanded to drive to the nearest police station for further questioning. At any moment, a suicide bomb attack could occur nearby.

To work effectively in these environments, I couldn’t be fearful and focus on the negative possibilities. To do so would result in stress hormones constantly pumping through my body, and an inability to function effectively. I had to focus on the positive difference I was making on the people and within the organizations whose capacity I was building. Many times I had to be creative about the processes and solutions I chose, and trust that they would work. One example was when I met with the Minister of the Department who I was working with to develop their first strategic plan. Within that first meeting she asked me for a report based on what I thought of the policy development and planning processes within her Ministry. She wanted this report within a month, and I had just arrived in a country that I’d never before worked in whose language I did not speak! The first thing I did was ask an Afghan colleague if he had or knew where to obtain an organizational chart in English. He said he didn’t think one existed so I asked him for one in local language. Then I pointed to the 15 highest-level “boxes” on the org chart and asked what departments they were and the names of each Director. Shortly after, I approached my colleague to take me in person and introduce me to each Director. At each introduction, I would ask for an hour or so of their time to be interviewed and stated that I would follow up with some questions prior to each interview. All those approached were happy to accommodate me. The result was, I met the top 15 key decision-makers in the Ministry within the first month. I asked them how they developed policy and did planning, what was working, what wasn’t and what suggestions they would offer to improve policy development and planning processes within their Ministry. I “rolled up” their data, teasing out the key strengths, weaknesses and their suggestions for improvement, and added my own observations and recommendations. In about a month I submitted my report to the Minister. Months later when I was in meetings with many of those I’d interviewed and they asked why a certain action had been taken, I was able to refer to those interviews and the fact that a particular action had been taken to address an issue they had raised with me months before.

Perhaps the reason I enjoy working in foreign countries and cultures is because many processes I’ve used have never before been tested in a particular culture or language, OR I am challenged to come up with creative solutions for situations I’ve never before encountered.

So how can we lead effectively in times of uncertainty?

Key Beliefs for Effective Leadership in Uncertain Times

1) It is important to believe that uncertain times provide opportunities for creativity, and new and innovative approaches versus playing it safe and doing things “like we’ve always done”. Belief and what we believe is powerful! Did you know that you CAN change your life by changing your beliefs? Bruce Lipton, an internationally recognized stem cell biologist, demonstrated in his research that “the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals that propel life.”[2] Epigenetics “… the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off”[3] further supports Lipton’s work, as it reveals that our perceptions influence our biology.

As leaders we have an incredible opportunity to influence the beliefs of those around us. What if we truly believed that uncertain times provide opportunities for creativity and new and innovative approaches? Imagine leading from a place of hope, rather than fear and uncertainty.

2) You have the power to change the world.

The butterfly effect[4] demonstrates that powerful outcomes are extremely sensitive to initial conditions; such that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can result in a tornado over Kansas 2 years later. Another example is how the black woman, Rosa Parks, refusing to go to the back of the bus, resulted in the birth of the civil rights movement in the United States. If you believe that you have the power to change the world, the values you emanate and the courageous actions you take influence those around you.

3) The Power of Collaboration and Synergy – When I was young, I believed that I could get things done better if I did them all myself, based on my experiences working with groups in elementary and high school. You may relate. It wasn’t until I was chairing a national strategy in my 30s with representatives from a number of organizations, facilitated by a skilled facilitator, when I realized that a group of diverse individuals when focused around a common and powerful vision CAN make an incredible difference. It was then that I understood the power of synergy; the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

4) Understanding and Compassion is the way forward – One of the lessons I’ve learned from living and working in a number of diverse cultures, is that if we seek to understand why someone does or says something, rather than judge them based on our own perspective, our life and work is much more interesting and fulfilling. Rather than becoming angry, judgmental and imposing our beliefs on others, coming from a place of curiosity and compassion builds connection and enables people to do their best work. … What I’ve learned is that people always do things for a reason that makes sense to them.

Our perceptions have a powerful influence on our effectiveness as leaders in uncertain times. I welcome your comments and invite you to share your experiences below. Feel free to share this post with others.

Together we CAN change the world!

[1] A book by Dr. David Simon, neurologist, and internationally renowned expert in mind-body medicine.

[2] The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, xiv

[3] http://www.whatisepigenetics.com/what-is-epigenetics/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

 

A Digital Detox: Is it for You?

A Digital Detox: Is it for You?

Do you habitually check the news feeds on your smartphone before falling asleep?

On awakening do you check Facebook on your phone?

Are you finding it challenging to fall asleep, and do you often awaken feeling unrested?

Do you feel stressed, and have difficulty focusing?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above questions, you are not alone, AND you may benefit from a digital detox.

What exactly is a digital detox? According to Wikipedia, a digital detox refers to a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic connecting devices such as smartphones and computers.”  It is recommended that you do a digital detox for 24 hours or more.

The Evidence[1]

Did you know that:

  • 67% of cellphone owners find themselves checking their device even when it’s not ringing or vibrating
  • One out of ten Americans report depression; heavy internet users are 2.5 times more likely to be depressed
  • 95% of people use some type of electronics in the hour leading up to bed, and
    artificial light from screens increases alertness and suppresses the hormone melatonin by up to 22%  negatively affecting sleep, performance and mood
  • Unplugging for just one day can give some users mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.

The Benefits of a Digital Detox

Scientific studies and social experiments have noted the following results from digital detoxing:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved sleep/reduced fatigue
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased connection with self and others leading to improved relationships
  • Improved focus
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased energy
  • Improved memory
  • Increased clarity
  • Enhanced health

Getting Started/How to do a Digital Detox

Frances Booth[2] shares some valuable suggestions on how to do a digital detox. She and others recommend the following.

Create a Positive Mindset

Identify for yourself why you want to do the detox and the benefits it will provide. While thinking about each benefit, imagine how you will feel in your body when you have achieved it. For example, how will it feel to be more productive, more creative, more connected to family and friends, more relaxed. … .

Plan Ahead

Identify a 24-hour period when you want to try a digital detox. Ideally make it a weekend or a time when you aren’t working. Tell your family and friends your plans, and why you’re doing it.

Plan some time in nature, as being among trees reduces blood pressure, reduces your heart rate and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces.

Plan some one-on-one time with your partner, a friend or your family to truly connect with them.

Ask for Support

Tell your family and friends of your plans, and why you’re doing it.

You may wish to invite a partner or friend to do the detox with you. Support is important when changing any behavior.

Notice How You feel and Express Yourself

When you start the detox, notice how your feel. It’s not unusual to be fidgety and have some withdrawal symptoms. You may find it helpful to write down your feelings. If you feel the urge to connect, take some deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Experience the feelings rather than “pushing them down”.

During the detox and after, notice what you notice and write down those feelings.

Make Digital Detoxing a Habit

The more digital detoxing you do, the easier it becomes. Try unplugging for at least 90 minutes before you go to bed each night. Go offline for 24 hours each weekend.

Parting Words

I love the tagline of http://digitaldetox.org/   “Disconnect to Reconnect”. Unplugging is relatively easy, yet the results are profound.

An Invitation

I invite you to try a digital detox. If you’ve already tried one, please share your experiences and comments below. Share this post with people you care about who could benefit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://digitaldetox.org/manifesto/

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbooth/2014/06/13/how-to-do-a-digital-detox/3/#7461fa00253e

New Beginnings: What will You Do Differently This Year?

New Beginnings: What will You Do Differently This Year?

The beginning of a new year is a great time to think about what you will do differently in the coming year. I love the image of a butterfly as it makes me realize I CAN reinvent myself in some ways, and the start of a new year is an optimal time to do this. 2017 is a particularly special year, as according to numerology, it is the first year of a 9-year cycle. This means that what do you in 2017 sets the path for the following 8 years. I am excited and rejuvenated thinking about what I am going to do differently this year! What will support me to awaken each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart?

Here’s what I plan to do differently this year (in my life and in my work).

  • More “being” – open to possibilities, and to listening to the messages I receive
  • More “receiving” – self-nurturing; taking time for myself doing things I enjoy
  • More adventure – sleeping on a sailboat and taking a trip to Europe or Asia with my Sweetie
  • More time in nature
  • More cycling
  • More video
  • More speaking “gigs”
  • New/Updated website
  • More leverage in my business
  • More writing – perhaps start my memoir?

What would you like to do differently this year?

Take a few moments to ground yourself and get present. Write down the question above, and the responses that come to you. Try to stay in your body and write from your “heart” instead of your head. When you finish writing, go through each statement, say it aloud, and notice how your body responds to it. I suggest only including things that excite you, and will support you to awaken each day with a smile on your face, and a song in your heart.

I’d love to hear what exciting plans you have for 2017! Feel free to share them and your comments below. I appreciate you sharing the post with others.

 

What Would You Do if You Had No Fear?

What Would You Do if You Had No Fear?

I invite you to ask yourself the question, What would I do if I had no fear? Notice what comes up. You may get a message “Leave my job.” “Leave my marriage.” “Start that business I’ve been wanting to for awhile.” If you get a message, then notice how your body feels when you receive it. Do you feel tension, or excitement about new possibilities? You may then ask yourself, What’s the worst thing that could happen if … I leave my job, leave my marriage, start that new business? Notice again what messages and feelings come up for you.

The Importance of Listening to Your Body’s Wisdom

What I know to be true from my own journey and work with clients around the world is that our body always knows the truth. When we stay in a job or relationship that no longer serves us, it takes a lot of energy. We are living out of alignment with what Buddha calls our “true self” wants; what we intuitively know is the best choice for us. I’ve made a number of “pros” and “cons” lists over the years based on my rational left-brain. However, the decisions I’ve made solely from using my logical left-brain, have not always been the right ones for me. The ones I’ve made by going inside and listening to my body have always been the “right” ones.

What happens when We Don’t Listen

One of the keys to Creative Living[1] in my book Learning to Dance with Life is “Listen to and Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom”. There is increasing evidence of the negative impacts on our body of NOT listening to the messages it sends us. Dr. Gabor Mate, in his book When the Body Says No, provides case studies and research evidence linking stress with cancer and auto-immune disorders. Ruth Buczynski, licensed psychologist and President of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), wrote that the high stress of our complicated lives “can wreak havoc on our brain’s ability to control emotions, maintain focus and perform tasks”- http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/the-brain-under-stress-using-mindfulness-to-regain-focus/). When we stay in jobs or relationships that are stressing us out, over time this leads to negative impacts on our health and also negatively affects our performance at work.

Tools to Enhance Body Awareness

In my work with clients I teach a number of tools and techniques to assist them to listen to and trust in their body’s wisdom. It takes some time and practice, however the benefits are amazing! Imagine being able to ask yourself about a decision you are challenged to make, and being able to go inside your body and “know” the truth/the best choice for you? Imagine being able to trust that the decision you are making will bring positive results to you, instead of deliberating for days and a number of sleepless nights over what to do?

A good place to start is with Body Scanning, a mindfulness technique from Eastern psychology. This practice cultivates the ability within you to live “in the present moment”. When you do a body scan, you take the time to notice and feel your body’s sensations. A good time to do this is in the morning on awakening. Rather than leaping out of bed and “hitting the ground running” make a conscious effort to quiet your mind and scan your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice any tension or discomfort; breathe into these areas and consciously release and let of the tension. – See more at: http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-you-can-find-peace-amidst-the-chaos-of-daily-life-work/

Another tool that I’ve found really helpful to “get out of my head” and “into my body” is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. When you do a mindfulness walking meditation outdoors, you feel the ground beneath your feet, the breeze against your face, and the cool air flowing through your nostrils down into your lungs. You smell the salt sea air or the aroma of lilacs, and you observe the scenery around you. Rather than spending your time constantly thinking about and processing all the things you have to do, you stay present and experience all of nature’s beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.

My challenge to you

I encourage you to try one or both of the tools above. Begin with one and start incorporating it into your life on a daily basis. Notice how you feel in the moment and over time. I’d love to hear your experiences below with trying these tools. I invite you to share your own tools and techniques for listening to and trusting in your body’s wisdom and the results you’ve achieved from doing so. Feel free to share this post with others.

[1] http://creativelivingcommunity.com/what-is-creative-living/

 

Are You Making Conscious Choices?

Are You Making Conscious Choices?

What is conscious choice?

Sen defines it as when you are making choices with the full understanding of reality, from a place of inner freedom, rather than making choices from a place of delusion/ignorance or fear-based motivations.”[1]

Brady views conscious choice as (making) “choices that are conscious, free from knee-jerk reactivity, and (being) mindful of the impact they have on (y)our own well-being, as well as the impact they have on others and the larger environment. “ [2]

What do our lives look and feel like when we don’t make conscious choices?

We make choices based on what we think someone in our position should make, or based on wanting to belong to a particular group, and thinking there is a particular way we need to speak and act to be accepted by that group.

We study and become; for example, a physician, because that’s what our parents want us to be; instead of following our heart and studying something we are passionate about.

We get into relationships based on the type of partner we’ve been socialized to choose, or to satisfy a need we have. For example, believing that we need to marry someone who will provide us with financial security above all else, or becoming a rescuer and getting involved with needy people to help them, rather than choosing a true partner who will support us to learn and grow in positive ways, and us them.

We respond to family members, friends or colleagues reactively based on previous conditioning or fears that we have. We jump to conclusions, become angry and lose control saying and doing things we later regret. This distances us from people and makes us feel alone and misunderstood.

Making unconscious choices can cause a lot of unhappiness, conflict, stress, disengagement, lack of fulfillment, and negatively impacts our relationships, careers and our health. When we don’t make conscious choices, we aren’t being true to ourselves.

So how can we learn to make more conscious choices? It’s a process and a journey that requires commitment and a desire to learn and grow. The first step is learning to become more self-aware.

Proven Strategies to Increase Self-Awareness:

  • Spend time on your own walking in nature, swimming, kayaking… and notice what you notice. Is your mind constantly active? What do you think about? Notice how you feel while in nature and while being physically active. Journal about your thoughts and feelings.
  • Become aware of your emotions. Start noticing how you react to certain people and situations, and get curious around why that is. Is it due to past experiences? Does that person remind you of someone in your past who treated you badly? Does that person’s behavior make you feel unsafe?
  • Clarify your values (refer to http://creativelivingcommunity.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/), and live your life in alignment with them
  • Work with a coach
  • Participate in personal growth workshops and/or group coaching programs
  • Study and practice mindfulness. A good place to start is doing mindfulness walking meditations. [3]

What happens when you become self-aware and get in touch with your core values, passions, and who you really are? You are able to make conscious choices; ones that are aligned with your values, needs and passions, and that lead to connection, good health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner calm; instead of conflict, disengagement, stress, compromised health, unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. Which would you rather have in your life?

I invite you to try some of the strategies listed above and notice how they impact your life and your decision-making. I’d love to hear your strategies for becoming more self-aware and how you make conscious decisions. Share your comments below and feel free to share this post with others.

[1] Sen, Conscious Choice – http://www.calmdownmind.com/conscious-choice/ – posted on November 12, 2012

[2] Brady, Reaction Management: How to Make Conscious Choices –  http://www.chopra.com/articles/reaction-management-how-to-make-conscious-choices

[3] A tool from Easter psychology that I have found extremely useful for getting “out of my head” and into my body is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. Mindfulness practices focus on the senses and feeling sensations and emotions in our bodies. When we do a mindfulness walking meditation, we feel the ground beneath our feet, we feel the breeze against our face, we feel the cool air going from our nostrils down into our lungs. We smell the scent of salt or the aroma of lavender in the air and observe the scenery in front of us. We try to stay out of our minds and experience our senses. Rather than spend a walk in nature constantly thinking and processing all the things we have to do, instead we stay present and experience nature and all of its beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.

You Can Become an Entrepreneur at Any Age!

You Can Become an Entrepreneur at Any Age!

I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit for almost as long as I can remember. I recall catching minnows and selling them to local fisherman at about age 8, making bracelets out of seashells and selling them at the roadside with a girlfriend at about the same age. Having a greeting card and small gifts business from age 9 to 14. Perhaps you relate. However, once I graduated from university I got into the mindset that I had to have a “real” job and work for someone else in order to have security and benefits. When our kids were growing up, my husband was an international consulting engineer who travelled about 6 months of the year, so even though I yearned to be an international consultant I felt I needed to have a “real” job with benefits, and be the stable one in the family. Throughout my career I held a number of well-paying positions that were stimulating and allowed me much independence.

When I attended a course on Project Management in a Government Environment my life began to change. The course instructor was a partner in a management consulting company. He spotted my facilitation skills and before long we met and he offered me to be a contractor with his consulting group. About 6 months following the course, I left my “secure” and well-paying government position to become a contractor/independent consultant on a handshake. I worked with the consulting group for about 6 months learning a lot of processes and gaining experience designing and facilitating everything from town hall meetings, to national consultation processes, to strategic plans, to multi-stakeholder partnership-building activities. After 6 months, the partner who had brought me in had a philosophical split with the other two, and invited me to join him in his new company. I thought about it, and decided I didn’t want to “take sides” so then I began working in my own process/management consulting business. Before long my business took off and within two years I was thoroughly enjoying working for myself and was making 6 figures. I haven’t look back since having launched two successful management consulting businesses and a life and business coaching company.

Recently I was connected with an amazing woman, Pat Duckworth, through the Evolutionary Business Council/Institute of which I am a member. She invited me to be part of a book she was writing on “midlife women entrepreneurs”. It was an extremely positive experience, and I’m happy to announce that today Pat is launching Hot Women Rock, a book that chronicles the journeys and wisdom of Pat herself and 21 other midlife women entrepreneurs including myself. You may obtain your complimentary copy on launch day October 4 at https://www.amazon.com/Hot-Women-Rock-discover-entrepreneurial-ebook/dp/B01JEV9T6Q

I’d love to hear from you about your entrepreneurial journey and lessons, and welcome your comments below. Please share with others who you think might find this of interest.