On the Opportunity for Leaders

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In my last post, I referred to the three fundamental needs all human beings have: security, connection, and meaning. Security feels like the most immediate one, since the need for survival has been hardwired into our bodies through millennia of evolution. That’s why Abraham Maslow put it at the base of his hierarchy of needs.

Leaders have a special responsibility because they have the power to provide a sense of safety for those they serve.

I’ve learned that, in communications, when any of the following show up, it means that safety is missing and might indicate the presence of the following emotions:

  • Flight: If you see someone trying to avoid a situation or duck a conversation, it might mean shame is at play. Perhaps, that person doesn’t want you to find out about a mistake they made or something they did.
  • Fight: If someone gets really defensive or combative, it may indicate guilt. That person might know that they are in the wrong and using the fight to direct our attention away from that wrong.
  • Freeze: When a person is frozen or unable to take any action, it might indicate that person is uncertain about the facts of the situation or about what to do.

When any of these behaviors shows up, it means that safety is missing, and that as leaders, we have an opportunity to contribute to meeting someone’s needs by trying to create a safe space for them.

On the 3 Fundamental Needs We All Have

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There has been a lot of science lately – e.g. Rick Hanson, PhD – behind the development of the three brains that human beings have. That’s right: Not one brain but three!

The oldest and least evolved part of the brain is the reptilian brain. It is responsible for the fight/flight/freeze response and is about survival.

The second evolved brain is the mammalian brain, which is all about touch and relationship.

The last part of the brain to evolve is related to our sense of who we are in the grand scheme of things. It is about the unique contribution only we can make.

What these three brains tell us is that all people have three fundamental needs that have to be addressed:

  1. Security
  2. Connection
  3. Meaning

How are we fulfilling these needs in our own lives and the lives of those around us?

A Powerful Context for Leadership Development

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Much of the contemporary leadership development literature is framed in dichotomies: Either, you are an effective leader; or you’re not. Either, you’re skilled at something, or you’re not. … There’s very little room for gradations. As such, we relate to ourselves in very stark terms, when in fact, as human beings, our lives are anything but black and white.

It’s not that I am not the kind of leader that I aspire to be. Rather, the potential for leadership is continually unfolding and finding expression through me. I am already the leader that I wish to be, and it is a matter of degree to which where I am right now aligns with that aspiration.

What would it be like if let go of “being the way we want” or “not being the way we want” and gave ourselves permission to own where we are right now in our journey of evolution? What difference would it make for us to relax our high standards and to simply acknowledge where we are in this moment?

A Starting Point for Effectively Addressing Stress

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Stress seems to be a regular occurrence in this hyperstimulating age of instantaneous connectivity and constant (over)working. That our bodies have developed a capacity over millennia of evolution to deal effectively with stress underscores that stress has been a facet of human existence for a while.

And yet, as ubiquitous as stress might be for an organism with the capacity for conscious thinking, stress is still a matter of perception.  It is a reaction to the perception of threat to our being, regardless of whether a rabid dog is truly running us down or we think that we’re being followed down a dark stress. Either way, the heart starts to race, the breath quickens and shallows, and the neck and shoulder muscles tighten up. The extent to which stress is great or not depends on how much we are convinced of the reality of the threat.

One way to begin to address stress effectively is to check our assumptions. Are we jumping to conclusions? Are we reacting to reality, or are we reacting to our story of reality? Are we processing through what was said, or are we processing through what we think was said?

By checking our assumptions, we can begin to move from the stress of perceived threat to the peace of reality in the present moment.

On Life Loving You

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A lot of personal growth and leadership development literature focuses on the journey to a life that you love. What of the the other way around?

How does Life love you?

How does Life show you support by clearing your schedule, by communicating a piece of wisdom exactly when you need, by sending you down a detour that actually saves you time on the way home from a long day? How does love show up in a stranger’s smile, in your friend’s caring attention, in your partner’s loving touch?

Human beings are hard-wired to look for all the things that are wrong with our lives. Think of the difference it would make in our lives if we experienced Life is fully supporting and loving us all the time!

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary

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Last week, I began my reflection on the power of the holy rosary by exploring the Joyful Mysteries. This week, I want to take a look at the Sorrowful Mysteries.

On the surface, the Sorrowful Mysteries refer to the last hours of Jesus before his Crucifixion. And although this is true, this set of sacred mysteries is about much more. It teaches us about resilience and the power of faith. In his example, Jesus teaches us the power of profound acceptance, of acknowledging that there are certain things that every human being, including Christ, must experience, namely suffering and death. More importantly, he teaches us what it means to surrender, to realize that, in the face of suffering and death, the only thing over which we have control is how we greet those moments that try our humanity.

WHO are we in the face of suffering and death? How can we BE with the inevitable trials of life?

In a few weeks, I will be sharing my digital mini-course on “Tapping Into the Power of the Holy Rosary.” This digital audio and e-booklet package is intended to introduce you to the basics of the rosary and how you can begin to use it as a object for meditation. Stay tuned!

On Opening to the Wisdom Behind the Suffering

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Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound.”

I read this excerpt from Pema Chodron‘s The Places That Scare You, and I couldn’t help but appreciate how timely the wisdom was. Insecurity came up for me, and I just had to sit with the discomfort and craziness in my own head.

I read the above and thought about the own suffering I cause myself in my insecurity. Then, I realized:

When we are suffering, … when our wounds are opened wide, … we are the most open we can be to the deeper truths of the human experience trying to find their way into our hearts.