Archive for the ‘Mindfull Thinking’ Category
In a world where there is so much going on in peoples lives I find it interesting we now have a day to remind us to be HAPPY.
What does happiness mean for you? How do you define it for you? I believe we all define happiness differently. One thing I know for sure, it is definitely an inside job!
What are the Sources of Happiness?
Happier people are more likely to live longer and tend to be healthier, more successful, and more socially engaged than people who describe themselves as less happy. But what causes happiness? And can we change how happy we are?
Three basic sources of happiness
Researchers have explored three basic sources of happiness: genetics, including temperament and personality; life circumstances, such as wealth and health; and our own choices.
We tend to overestimate the importance of life circumstances in how happy we are.
We think if only we had more money, or a better job, or fell in love, that we would be happier. We sometimes underestimate how much control we have over our own happiness. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, analysed studies and reports that 50% of our happiness is set by our genes, 10% by life circumstances beyond our control, and 40% by our own actions.
People tend to have a “set point” or “baseline” level of happiness, but that this point can change.
Even though genetic factors like temperament and personality play a large role, there is almost an equally large role under our own control. We have the power to make choices that can raise—or lower—our set point.
Who is Happier?
- People with strong ties to families and friends are consistently happier than those without social ties.
- Some personality traits tend to go along with happiness. People who are optimistic, have high self-esteem, and are extroverted are more likely to describe themselves as happy.
- Married people are happier, though scientists aren’t sure whether this is because of the marriage or because happy people are more likely to get married. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the couples are parents or not.
- People who grew up with parents who divorced or in a home with a high level of conflict are less happy than people who grew up in homes with intact marriages.
- People who attend worship services regularly are happier than those who don’t.
- The middle-aged and seniors are happier than the young; and this does not seem to be generational, as this is consistent across time in longitudinal studies. Younger people tend to have higher levels of negative emotions such as anxiety and anger.
- People with enough money to make ends meet are happier than people who are poor, but beyond that more money doesn’t make much difference.
- While men and women report similar levels of happiness in most studies, men now are somewhat more likely to be happy than women. This is a switch in recent decades; women used to be happier than men.
When we do pursue happiness, we may be looking in the wrong places.
Chasing—and achieving—wealth, fame, and good looks may actually make us less happy. Researchers asked young adults for two years after graduation what they wanted in life and categorized the answers as intrinsic or extrinsic. They also asked the young people how much progress they had made toward their goals, and asked them to rate their well-being and happiness. The researchers found that young adults who valued intrinsic goals, such as personal growth, close relationships, and community involvement, were more satisfied with their lives than those who had extrinsic goals, such as wealth and “achieving the look I’ve been after.” Even the young people who had achieved their extrinsic goals reported more negative emotions like shame and anger, more physical ailments, and less satisfaction with life. It seems that happiness really does come from within.
So is the deck stacked against us? Not at all. Forty percent of what makes us happy is within our control. Genetics and evolution explain about half; and life circumstances only about 10%.
There isn’t much people can do to change how happy they are. Some people are just happier than others.
Researchers have found that genetics and temperament form a baseline or “set point” for happiness. However, genetics only explains about half of our happiness level, and life circumstances beyond our control are only another 10% or so. That means 40%—nearly half—of our happiness level is determined by our own choices and actions. Even people with a more melancholy temperament or difficult life circumstances can be happier with some effort.
Happiness is subjective and can’t be studied.
Happiness is subjective—each of us has our own individual experience of happiness—but it can be studied. Researchers accumulate data on happiness by asking people to report their levels of happiness. Since our memories are not always very accurate, scientists design studies to collect reports on happiness “in the moment” as well as asking people to reflect on their overall happiness levels. Studying happiness is like any other field where we have to rely on people’s own reports of their experience.
Happy people aren’t very bright.
There’s a stereotype in our culture that happy people aren’t very bright, or they’re naïve. This stereotype is not at all accurate. There’s no relationship between happiness and education or IQ. Happy people tend to be more successful at work; have a higher income; are viewed as more likable and attractive; have better relationships; get and stay married; are healthier; and live longer.
Young people are happier than old people, and people get less happy over their lifetimes.
Older people consistently report higher levels of happiness than young adults, and this research has held up over time, so it’s not a matter of some generations being happier than others. A big part of the difference seems to be that younger people experience more negative emotions like anger, anxiety and shame. Seniors tend to experience fewer negative emotions and with less intensity.
Money makes people happy.
Once people have enough money or income to meet their basic needs and stay out of poverty, wealth and income don’t make as much of a difference to how happy people are as you might think. People with more money are slightly happier than people at lower income levels, but it doesn’t seem to be the money so much as satisfaction in earning it and giving it away. And a windfall typically doesn’t make people more happy than they were before. People who get a big raise or win the lottery tend to settle back to their previous level of happiness before long.
“I’ll be happy when….”
It’s easy for people to think that they’ll be happy once something they want happens. This is usually not the case, however. People are not very good at predicting how happy (or sad) an event will make them or for how long. We are very good at adapting to changing circumstances, so even though we may be happier for a short time, we often revert back to our prior levels of happiness. Happier people are ones who tend to enjoy the journey, cultivating relationships and positive emotions along the way.
People who think about their own happiness are self-indulgent and selfish.
The opposite may be true. It may be that the best thing you can do for other people is to be happy yourself. Research shows that happy people boost the happiness of others in a wide network through three degrees of acquaintance. The happiest people are the most engaged with others and the least wrapped up in their own problems. Happy people are more likely to express positive emotions like gratitude, altruism, and forgiveness.
So Get Happy!!!
“Laughter is like the human body wagging its tail.” — Anne Wilson Schaef
Excerpt: This Emotional Life
Subjective Well-Being, Indian Journal of Clinical Psychology
Still Happy Campers, Pew Research
Are We Happy Yet?, Pew Research
“The New Science of Happiness,” Time
Setbacks in any career are inevitable, and yet some people manage to succeed despite the worst of setbacks. Their secret is that they know the difference between a setback and failure. The two aren’t the same. A setback has to leave scars before it starts to become a failure. There are ways to protect yourself from being scarred. Some of these can be applied in advance, the way you’d apply prevention before you get sick. Others can be applied after a setback has occurred. But in both cases, anyone can learn the skills that are needed.
1. View yourself as a success, no matter what is happening.
2. Know your personal weaknesses and deal with them
3. Address the influence of fear and anxiety
4. Stay immersed in the details of your work
5. Have a supportive family
6. Participate in a supportive team atmosphere
7. Identify with interests outside your work
8. Develop core values
9.Learn how to be centered
As you can see, this is a sizable list, which includes some critical elements that even very successful people tend to ignore. Success is not a vaccine against failure. It would make life much simpler if it were, but there will always be challenges that lead to setbacks, and surviving the last crisis, although it will give you some measure of confidence and strength, is only part of the story. The rest depends on the things I’ve listed -let’s examine them in detail.
1. View yourself as a success, no matter what is happening.
Some people grow up feeling so worthy, loved, and special that setbacks affect them much less than other people. They shrug off setbacks and move on to the next challenge. Psychologists don’t seem to know enough about what shapes such fortunate adults when they were children and teenagers. But there’s no doubt that self-esteem can be improved – this is true for anyone. Amazing success has come to individuals with ideal family backgrounds and to those with the worst family background. The more attention you pay to increasing your self-esteem, the less you will be scarred by setbacks.
We don’t have enough space here to go into this topic in detail. There are many popular books on self-esteem. Find one that speaks to you, and begin practicing the recommended steps (I’ve written a book called Spiritual Solutions that covers the topic from the viewpoint of expanding your awareness, since low self-esteem is a form of constricted awareness).
2. Know your personal weaknesses and deal with them.
Most adults are keenly aware of the areas where they are weak, but in a culture where success is too often seen in terms of toughness, admitting a weakness, even to yourself, is considered the sign of a loser. This is far from true in real life, where knowing yourself is an enormous advantage on the road to success. It’s not possible to be all things to all people. No one is a superman or superwoman. If you look in the mirror and honestly assess what you’re good at and what your weak points are, whether it’s a hot temper, perfectionism, procrastination, or any other personal trait, the act of being honest is the first step in getting better. Hiding your weaknesses rarely works, since the people who work and live with us generally know already what our liabilities are.
3. Address the influence of fear and anxiety.
Modern life is anxious and stressful. Medical statistics tell us that prescriptions for antidepressants and tranquilizers keep soaring, but no one knows why something like 80% of these medications go to women. Perhaps they are better than men at admitting how they feel inside and taking steps to get better. The whole area of how to treat psychological problems is controversial and perpetually in flux. Popping a pill may or may not alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, but for certain it doesn’t offer a cure. You need to realize that anxiety is a natural reaction to stress. Reducing the pressure at work makes a good beginning, along with meditation, exercise, and learning to relax outside work. Listen to your body. If you are tired, have trouble sleeping, experience muscle tension or other discomforts, these signals should be heeded before you reach the stage of feeling anxious or depressed. It’s significant that a recent study found that getting enough sleep turned out to be a major preventive in depression.
4. Stay immersed in the details of your work.
Setbacks feel worse when they come as a surprise or shock. This can be ameliorated by knowing in advance as much as you can about any situation. After the economic downturn of 2007, each new crisis caused people to ask, “Didn’t they know how bad things actually were?” Quite often the answer was no. Managers and executives either turned a blind eye, refused to see the looming dangers, or otherwise ignored risks that seem obvious in hindsight. So take heed and practice foresight. Don’t trust in luck; don’t assume you are immune to risks. Don’t delegate detail work to others without keeping track of what’s going on.
5. Have a supportive family.
Fifty years ago it was typical for a husband not to tell his wife about what was happening at work. Today husband and wife are likely to both be working, and there’s no reason for either of them to go it alone. Call upon the support of your spouse, and when you are in the supporting position, lend your full attention to what is going on in your partner’s work life. All of us thrive with encouragement and wilt with discouragement. So having an encouraging partner who believes in you is an essential kind of support. If you currently don’t communicate on this level with your partner, take steps to begin to.
6. Participate in a supportive team atmosphere.
Some people are destined to work alone, writers and artists being the classic examples. Everyone else works as part of a team, and teams build their own culture and atmosphere. The ingredients that go into a good team are well known, so it’s important for you to trust that you are participating in one. If you are part of a good team, everyone is respected and listened to. Each member is given an assignment that fits their skills and interests. The ongoing success of the whole team is constantly valued. No one is an outsider, a scapegoat or bully. There’s a sense of moving forward and growing. Being part of such a team provides a major buffer against setbacks when they loom.
7. Identify with interests outside your work.
Everyone needs both down time and play time, not just on the weekends but every day. If you only live for your work, setbacks can be devastating – witness the alarming rise of depression and suicides among middle-aged men who became unemployed after the recent downturn. The value of down time and play time is that your brain, and in fact your whole body, need this change of pace in order to remain in balance. One study showed that the simple act of getting up from your desk and moving around was enough to normalize blood pressure and heartbeat. This is just one clue to the benefits of varying what your brain does throughout the day. The ability of mind and body to restore balance is miraculous – don’t turn your back on it.
8. Develop core values.
I strongly believe that building a self is one of life’s most important goals. It’s a process that proceeds consciously. The self you were born with is full of potential, and all these years you have been developing those potentials. This has been a central activity even though you might not have used the same words for it. Some potentials are skills and talents – learning to play the piano or drive a car. But by far the most valuable potential lies inside consciousness itself. Deep inside you is where core values become established. Their names are familiar: love, trust, honesty, compassion, self-reliance, devotion, reverence, loyalty, and courage. But have you consciously been working to turn these words into your own personal reality? Such core values, when firmly established, prevent you from being scarred by setbacks – a setback won’t turn into a sense of failure when you possess values that endure external crisis.
9. Learn how to be centered.
Being centered means that you can rest within yourself no matter how stormy your circumstances may be. You reside in your own existence. You don’t identify with external markers of value like money, rank, and possessions. Being whole within yourself is the prize that comes after you’ve remained centered for years, because being centered isn’t a passive state. It’s the place from which you learn, grow, observe, decide, and appreciate. People who find that they don’t change with time, who bring the same reactions to new situations, who have little appreciation for life – they are not centered enough to build a self. Instead, their existence is passed reacting to daily events. They are up on good days and down on bad days. Then truly horrible days can be devastating, and after they pass, inner scars remain. So if you decide to work on only one thing that helps prevent failure, this is where to begin.
Toxic work cultures breed hostile, pessimistic team members, drive away top talent and prevent organisations from reaching their full potential. While toxic work cultures are the end result of many factors, it’s generally a combination of poor leadership and individuals who perpetuate the culture.
Experts say that despite the daunting task of turning around the culture of an entire organisation, leadership can truly have a positive impact.
Toxic work environments can only exist where a lack of trust and respect are present, and this only occurs in the absence of sound leadership. The fuel for toxic work environments is conflict, ego, gossip, and corporate ladder climbing. Leadership Coach Mike Myatt states that the very first step is focusing on the leadership team and getting senior management to see change is necessary. In toxic work environments, senior leaders have made decisions (or failed to make decisions) that has supported behaviours that do not fit with the desired culture and this is where coaching may come into play.
Myatt says,” Great leaders simply won’t tolerate a toxic team member – the risks are too great. Real leaders will quickly coach toxic team members to a healthy place, or show them the door – there is no third option.”
The following steps can be a starting point for turning around a toxic work culture.
1. Identify the major problems by gathering information
This is easier said than done, as perpetuators of toxic environments are less than forthcoming with feedback. This makes it very difficult for managers to discover the root causes of problems and also to deliver solutions to improve the workplace, yet an anonymous employee survey can go a long way to uncovering what people really think about the workplace.
Above all else, employees want to be heard and valued, so in giving staff an opportunity to provide feedback to specific questions may yield surprisingly candid results, with solid suggestions on how to improve the workplace.
Also, in gathering information from the workforce through anonymous employee opinion surveys or focus groups with smaller teams, is a sure way to begin to pinpoint what (or who) is causing the employees the most issues, and also to identify what’s working well so that you can leave those factors alone.
However, it’s also really important for the leadership team to identify an ideal culture and values for their business, so that they can use that shared vision as their compass to guide them towards a more positive culture. Asking the question “What does an ideal day look like?” and getting very specific about capturing that ideal culture will be really useful to the leadership team in the coming months (and years) as the organisation begins to change its direction.
2. Develop a plan and follow through
Once you have an understanding of the major issues you are facing, you can develop the action plan. It may not be possible to deal with each issue unaided, at least in part due to perceived conflicts of interest. Sometimes the assistance of an experienced outsourcer can best guide objectively the leadership team to move beyond the thinking that caused the problems in the first place.
Ultimately, guiding an organisation through cultural change is a long-term strategy, and it takes a “do what it takes” mentality from all stakeholders to really turn a corner. If the strategy is communicated positively, honestly and continuously reinforced many of the team will jump on board.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person. The positive psychology definition is: The quality of feeling and understanding another person’s situation in the present moment — their perspectives, emotions, actions (reactions) — and communicating this to the person. So you know what they are feeling, or at least you suspect you know what they are experiencing, and you communicate that to elicit further discussion or clarification.
Empathy is an Emotional Intelligence (EI) competency. In the field of Emotional Intelligence, there are four clusters of competencies and eighteen competencies. The four clusters are:
Empathy falls under Social Awareness. This skill reflects a person’s ability to connect with others and to relate to them which is an essential skill in building and managing healthy relationships. Without the ability to understand what another is going through, our relationships remain superficial and without the depth and richness that occurs when we share an emotional connection. Opportunity is lost.
Why is Empathy Important?
Without empathy, people tend to go about life without considering how other people feel or what they may be thinking. Each of us has differing perspectives. We all experience moods, pain and hurt, joy and sadness.
We are so limited when we only see our own perspective. Without taking a moment to assess another, it is easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. This often leads to misunderstandings, bad feelings, conflict, poor morale and even divorce. People do not feel heard or understood.
A radio program surveyed its listeners on how they knew they were loved and they responded that they knew they were loved when they felt heard.
In surveys with employees on what makes a good manager, people want to feel like their manager listens to them. This is a huge issue. When leaders and parents and teachers listen, really listen, using empathy to understand what the person is thinking or feeling without trying to change them or fix them or solve their problem, the person feels valued as a human being.
When people feel valued, they feel safe. They feel that they matter and are valued; which means they are free to be themselves and to perform their work and that means productivity.
The Power of Empathy
When you use empathy to understand why someone is angry or when a child is acting out, for instance, you might learn that something happened at home that is upsetting them for instance, their mother is ill, or the child has no food at home to eat and is hungry. Instead of reacting to the emotions of another or becoming defensive, you can ask questions about their behaviour or emotional state. There still may need to be discipline or consequences to their behaviour, but by using empathy first, the person feels valued and heard and therefore, will more easily accept responsibility for their actions.
Empathy is the missing link in families, in our schools, and in our workplaces. As we grow up, kids can often be mean to each other. If we start teaching empathy in grade school and middle school, then perhaps we would grow up being more loving and tolerant and understanding of each other.
Empathy and Compassion
Compassion means to care. It is the desire “to alleviate one’s suffering.” In order to be empathetic, we need to care or the person will not share their feelings. They will not feel safe to open up to us. Without compassion, we would not spend the time listening to another. We would not bother to ask them about their experience. We wouldn’t care what they are thinking or feeling. Compassion is a necessary component for empathy.
Challenges to Empathy
What does it take to be more empathetic? Why don’t we do it more often?
1. For one thing, it requires we pay attention. Too often we are in our own heads; we have our own agenda. We are busy. So we don’t pay attention to what others are thinking or feeling. In order to improve, we need to be more self-aware and more aware of others. For example, the next time you ask someone how they are doing, listen to their response. Do you believe them? Are they really okay? Ask yourself if you care to learn more. If so, then ask them a question or share your observation.
2. It takes time. In our fast paced world, people just keep moving. Empathy requires that we stop and take the time to care. “What is going on for you; you look like you have something on your mind?”
3. Your self-esteem gets in the way. When your mind is so busy with negative thoughts about you, then you don’t have the space to really be present for another person. Often people think they are empathetic but when you consider what are you thinking about when you are listening to the person, you may find that you are busy thinking about you – how the person thinks about you, if they like you, that you should be doing something else, or you’re not going to be able to help them…blah, blah, blah.
4. There is history between you that you carry as baggage. The longer you know a person, the more history you have with them, the harder it is to put that aside and simply be with them. You have developed a preconditioned response which you will need to be aware of and stop in order to truly open the connection with this person. Look at them with new eyes. Leave your baggage at the door. Tell a new story about your relationship. This one is not easy.
5. You are a professional problem-solver. You believe that if someone shares something that you automatically need to fix it for them. This is not empathy. This is about you, not them, and your need to impress or be right. It removes the responsibility for solving their problem and places it in your lap. It diminishes the person and makes them feel devalued.
Empathy is a choice. We have to choose to improve, to care, to get out of our own way, and to bridge the gaps between us – generations, cultures, religions, socio-economics, etc.
Empathy allows us to be fully human and gives others permission to do the same.
People aren’t taught to be happy. Parents raise you to be responsible, to get a job, and to take care of yourself, but does that include happiness? Who role models happiness for us?
People do the best they can. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to know whether people are truly happy or putting on a good show. You cannot look at someone’s exterior and know what’s going on inside. Are they living true to themselves, or are they living a lie of some sort? Have you ever heard of someone going bankrupt, being laid off, or getting divorced or even arrested and you were totally surprised? You thought everything was fine. The fact is that you never know what is truly going on.
Many people appear to have money. They have the right clothes, drive the right car, have all of the right stuff but in reality they have no money. They are broke and in debt. They may make a great living but they live way beyond their means and have not learned to be financially independent. Everything they do is for appearances, they appear to be rich when in fact, they live in a spiraling hole.
You don’t know what happiness is.
It seems to be elusive. Whenever you think, “if I only had X, then I’d be happy” and you finally get it, the happiness you feel is fleeting if it comes at all. And joy, what’s that? Life is supposed to be hard and you’re so busy that there’s no room for joy.
Somehow you have accepted your place last on the list of importance in you life.
You seem to matter less than everyone else. You spend your time attempting to make everyone else happy and have never considered your own happiness.
You cannot say “no” to any request.
You don’t know how to stand up for yourself and you hate the idea of confrontation. You cannot stand to not be liked so you go out of your way for people to like you. You are a good girl or boy and do as you are told. This isn’t always happy, you don’t feel like people really respect you, but it’s a huge boost for your self-esteem when you can do something for someone else, even if you don’t have the time and would rather be doing something else.
You avoid things that need to be said or done.
Either you deny the unhappiness in your life or you know it’s there but refuse to address it. There is an elephant in the living room and you just keep walking around it hoping no one notices. If you think it’s easier to live blind to what is, know that there is a great cost to you. You pay a high price for living in denial with lost sleep, high stress, and unhappiness, as well as lost opportunities where you could be spending time doing things that bring you joy. The time of your life is slipping by and it takes so much effort to ignore the elephant. It’s draining your life force.
Someone else is to blame for your unhappiness.
It’s not your fault. It was your parents, or the economy, or your boss, partner. You refuse to accept responsibility for your life and, in so doing, you give your power to some entity outside yourself to control how you feel inside. Being a victim keeps you powerless.
You’re too busy to stop and consider if you are enjoying yourself.
If you stay busy, you don’t need to think about how unhappy you are or how quickly the time of your life is passing you by. You enjoy the rat race and so, you just keep running.
You are fearful:
Afraid of success, afraid of what others think, afraid of your own greatness, afraid of the power you have to create your own happiness, afraid to feel that good! You are afraid of the unknown. You know how to manage the chaos and struggle; it is so familiar to you after all. Happiness, abundance, and effortlessness are new to you and that’s scary.
If you are not comfortable with feeling good, then you will avoid it. Unless you are consciously seeking a new experience, as a creature of habit, you will automatically do things the way you’ve always done them and you will want to feel the way that is most familiar and known to you, even if it doesn’t feel good.
Give yourself permission to be happy and to feel good, to be successful or wealthy. That is the first step to change. Give yourself permission to go after what feels good for you.
Take a life inventory and assess where you are right now and where, perhaps you are not so happy. Be rigorously honest with yourself because awareness is the power you need to make a difference. Happiness is created by eliminating the things that get in the way, as much as doing what you love. Often what needs to be eliminated is the mind junk that goes on in our heads.
Happiness is really an inside job. Happiness comes with an untroubled inner world. Learn to align your mind and success will come easier and will be sustainable.
Authentic leadership does not come from title, social stature, or the size of one’s paycheck but rather from how you live and the impact you make around you.
Harvard Business School professor, former Medtronic CEO, and author Bill George popularized the concept of “authentic leadership” in his 2003 best-selling book Authentic Leadership, which was developed further in his later book True North. “First you will have to understand yourself, because the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself. Second, to be an effective leader, you must take responsibility for your own development,” writes George.
The word “authenticity” comes from the Greek root authentikos, meaning “original, genuine, principal.” Genuine leaders are not just the usual suspects we conjure up–the business chieftains, historic figures, and mega technology innovators. They are all around us, I believe. Each one of us is born to make an authentic contribution. Truly authentic leaders lead with their soul. Along with fearless passion and courage, they possess relentless mental discipline.
To be authentic one must be “awake,” meaning you have the ability to understand who you are, what you want to be, and how you want to fit in the world. From Aristotle to Buddha, Rumi to Steve Jobs, Kahlil Gibran to Paulo Coelho, many revered thinkers and talents have said that the path to an authentic journey is to know thyself, guided by an inner voice.
But creating our thoughts, making the journey, ignoring the skeptics, and dusting ourselves off every time we fall requires disciplining our inner energy and drive. Often that energy solely comes from within.
Here are a few suggestions to foster inner energy:
Intend your destiny: Destiny results from “intention”–our spiritual will; something that drives us to do what seems impossible. It nurtures us with hope in our darkest moments, enables us to dream of better days, and resides in a place where we are destined to find our fulfillment. We need to intend to “go somewhere” and make a difference.
Be in the moment: In college, at my janitorial graveyard shift, I had a supervisor who used to remind me every night to “be kind to the floor, buff her carefully–and then see how well she shines.” At those particular moments, nothing else mattered–only the shine on the buffed floor. It taught me to lose myself completely in an utterly mundane task. Being in the moment allows us to escape from adversity and conserve our inner energy.
Develop rituals: Mastering an authentic craft comes from uncompromising daily practice. Developing the discipline to practice the same thing over and over again requires ritualistic hard work. Observe a musician, athlete, or better yet a Japanese Zen monk who recreates his sand garden every morning. Rituals teach us to be disciplined, deliberate, and meditative. Create rituals for daily life that provide a path to practice mastery with positive energy.
Authentic leaders of any kind drive change. Change often involves traveling uncharted territories, challenging conventional paths, and ignoring the traditional need for safety and comfort. This inherently invokes pain, suffering, and disappointments. Accepting and growing through our pain is part of our personal growth. This is anything but easy. Like any other skill, learning to suffer well requires conscious practice and learning.
Here are some fundamentals to consider:
Keep an eye on the bigger picture: A new day always comes. A new door always opens. It is important to recognize that the future is full of promise. Meeting our goals requires constantly imagining and crafting our journey despite the present situation. It is okay not to have all answers right away. They will come. We can’t control everything, however, we can control ourselves: how we choose to respond, our own attitudes, how we let go, and our outlook–moving forward by keeping our eyes on the bigger picture.
Learn from bad times: In bad times it’s easy to think that fate is unkind and unfair in its approach to teaching us harsh lessons. It hurts, but sadly it is often only through hardship that we discover our inner strengths and capabilities. Despite our darkest moments, it is our duty to stay connected to our core intention. We can leverage newfound strengths and capabilities to proceed with complete commitment, believing in our own intuition and ourselves.
Spend time with people who are uplifting: The people we surround ourselves with make the difference between failure and success. It’s not only whom we surround ourselves with that matters, but also how we interact with them that make the difference. It’s important to be reminded of the people who believe in and support us and to cultivate those relationships. Spending time with people who make you stronger requires intentional effort, and is a key component in being able to move forward.
Equally important is to avoid people who bring us down, waste our time, take us backward, and have no interest in our suffering. A close friend constantly reminds me to “get rid of toxic people from your daily life.” While we cannot always avoid them, at a minimum we can choose to not allow them to weaken us.
Authentic leaders reach their highest potential by taking risks that are consistent with their ethos and values. They lead by constantly standing on an uncomfortable ledge.
Leading from the ledge requires:
Excellence, not perfection: We live in a diverse and imperfect world. Every single one of us is a work in progress. In many ways, perfection implies something has come to its end. Authentic leaders commit themselves to excellence in everything they do. They are constantly pushing the envelope and raising their standards. And they have the wisdom to know the difference between excellence and perfection.
Flexibility: Lao Tzu said, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: What is soft is strong.”
Our ability to effectively survive, thrive, and lead comes from flexibly riding out our ups and downs. An authentic journey does not always come from blasting through rocks and impediments, rather from having the faith, resilience, and adaptability to cope with the harsh realities of life.