In many ways, being an effective leader involves being able to dance with change. This is difficult when the predominant stereotype of the strong leader is one who is a bulwark against change: A strong and effective leader is one who controls such that changes are minimized, if not eliminated.
The problem is that that is not reality. Change is reality. Change is what happens, regardless of what a leader chooses to do. The best that s/he can do it to adapt to change in every moment, to roll with the proverbial punches.
Thus, a crucial and necessary stepping stone in the leadership development journey is to transform our relationship to change. We must embrace that change cannot be managed out but rather can be the access to transformation.
A mantra, or set of aspirational statements, which I’ve been practicing the past few weeks is below:
The three most vicious lies we tell ourselves are “could’ve,” “should’ve” and “would’ve.” These three lies presuppose that there is a time – other than now – which is better than the one we’re experiencing.
Lately, this has been showing up in how I keep telling myself that “when I get done with such and such…” or “when I get through this and that…” then things will be better. … Then, I will be able to relax.
Another version of this is “when I get past this and that…” then I will be a better version of myself.
The thing is that, nine times out of ten, once I get through this and that, there’s almost guaranteed to be something else.
How often we do expend time and energy waiting for “the right time”?
There is no perfect time other than the present moment. No perfect time other than the one we are experiencing. No perfect time other than now to experience the fullness of joy and happiness in our lives.
One of the most deplorable byproducts of the an industrial-turned-capital driven economy is scarcity: The economic system as it is currently structured creates an inequality, one in which both the “haves” and “have nots” buy into the misbelief that there is not enough to go around.
And yet, in an abundant, whole (i.e. intact) Universe, “I don’t have enough” is just not real. It is a matter of expanding our mindset to be able to see that reality. It’s like technology giving us the ability to see infrared and ultraviolet waves. It is about going from the story of scarcity to “Life provides just enough of what I need.”
Developing an abundance mindset begins with putting our faith in an efficient, self-organizing and efficient Universe. Our Universe is not wasteful and provides exactly what is required for our evolution and full self-expression.
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.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of exploration of archetypes as a psychospiritual framework for exploring mindfulness and mindful leadership. Archetypes are powerful, because they are a symbolic language that taps into deeper parts of ourselves, parts that go unexpressed and yet still affect how we are being in the world.
I’ve been doing more work with Dr. Angeles Arrien’s Four-Fold Way. This classic explores four major archetypes that she has found among the indigenous cultures she has studied. The four archetypes are the Warrior (in the North), the Visionary (of the East), the Healer (in the South), and the Teacher (of the West).
As I’ve worked from this framework, I have begun to reflect on four questions that correspond to each of these archetypes and that are a great access to getting grounded in the present moment:
Warrior: Where am I standing right now?
Visionary: How might I speak my truth today?
Healer: How might I bring more love into my life today?
Teacher: How might I stay engaged in the process of my life today (rather than the outcome)?
These are great questions to journal around at the beginning of each day.
I was recently talking with the teens I mentor at the Children’s Creativity Museum. They were expressing concern about how they were going to stay focused on studies, friendships, family, etc., with all of the different things they expected to compete for their time and attention in college. I reassured them that getting clear about priorities was something they would always confront.
Some leadership experts, like Bill George, speak about a values compass, being clear about the intangible yet important beliefs that shape how we look at the world. For example, if one is committed to Compassion, how are you helping to relieve the suffering of another?
This was a bit too abstract for my teens. So I shared with them the “Priorities Triangle.” The triangle is considered a “power symbol,” because it is based on the number 3. A tripod is solid when its legs are spread out as a triangle. I asked my teens to consider the following question:
What are your top 3 priorities in life?
What would you say are the non-negotiables of your life? What are the things that you, for sure, would not ever let drop? Family? Best friends? God? Volunteerism?
By assessing how we invest our time and energy against these top 3 priorities, we get a better sense of whether or not we are making choices that prioritize what matters most to us.
We live in a world of appearances. As much as we might hate to admit it, it is all too easy to put up facades in order avoid shame and hide where we feel we are insufficient and lacking. We’re not young / rich / smart /popular / thin enough, etc. We fall short of our own high expectations and/or that of those whose love we crave.
As I work to create for myself my own brand of authentic leadership, one of the facades I am working to tear down is the fear of saying “I don’t know.” Admitting that I don’t know touches a sense of insecurity and self-doubt that I would rather not explore.
Yet, “I don’t know…” is the preamble to a more courageous declaration:
“I don’t know right now, and I am open and available to Life’s Wisdom.”
This is an act of humility that invites a greater Wisdom to come forth. It is not a commentary on a perpetual state of ignorance, but rather acknowledgment of the changing nature of Life and that Wisdom is available to us once we makes ourselves available to it.