Welcome to 2023; it’s great to be back.
Firstly; thank-you for signing-up and tuning into these blogs. My promise to you is to share evidence-based insights, drawn from real experiences, that challenge the way you think and how you approach living and leading.
Over the summer, I took an extended break from client delivery work to be with my family, rest, re-think my practice, and re-imagine my future.
I gave myself permission to ask what I really want to do? What do I want to make the next 5, 10, 15 years about? What genuinely excites me?
I told myself that we are no longer living in a pandemic crisis, that everything I do is a choice I’m making, and that I want to live a life by design. In taking a leaf out the Thought Leaders Business School (TLBS) playbook: How can I be fully self-expressed; in service to others?
Yep. Big questions.
In the space I gave myself; I realised a great many things, but probably the most poignant observation was that I started to pay attention to the relationship I was having with myself.
What slowly dawned was just how hard I was being on myself. What I thought was an inner motivator (not good enough, work harder, do better, earn more), was actually an energy and enjoyment sapper. The reality is, being hard on myself was translating into being hard on some of the most important people in my life. But by becoming more self-aware and self-accepting; I’m able to make a change. By slowly changing the nature of my inner critic to my inner coach; I’m changing the way I think, feel, and relate.
The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship of our lives. We come into this world with ourselves. We live with ourselves every single day. We die with ourselves. No one else can join us on the experience of being inside our own minds.
The way we talk to ourselves, the nature of our relationship with ourselves, is the difference between living in a prison of self-imposed limitations, or a sanctuary of freedom and purpose.
When we think in limited ways, we come up with limited solutions to problems. The way we talk to ourselves influences the quality of our thinking and the value of your contributions.
The truth is – there are no truths. There are only helpful and unhelpful beliefs.
We’ve learned this lesson from incredible teachers in history. Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor, teaches us that “between the stimulus and the response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose a response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom”.
These hard-earned lessons are important for everyone, but they are particularly important for senior leaders of teams and organisations.
Individuals in positions of senior leadership – directors, founders, executives – are key decision makers. Their decisions effect the lives of many – their customers, colleagues, suppliers and communities. Their capacity to think, clearly and independently, as well as contribute that thinking in constructive ways – directly impacts business performance and value creation for all stakeholders.
But just like anyone – senior leaders fall into thinking traps. Traps that sap their energy, rob them confidence, and minimise their power.
In the Human Synergistics “Culture Bites” podcast on “Get Confident…But How”, Dominic Gourlay and Allison O’Shannasey call out five common thinking traps:
I definitely see myself in at least three quarters of these!
So how do we un-trap ourselves?
There are many strategies you can adopt here and I don’t wish to minimse what is certainly a personally challenging lifelong process of unlearning and re-thinking. Here are just two to get started with….
Build awareness. Catch yourself in the doom loop of your own making. Ask yourself whether this way of thinking is actually helpful or unhelpful? Where did it come from? Is this just a habit I’m caught in?
Think again. Adam Grant in his best-selling book challenges us to embrace what we don’t know and rethink our assumptions. Because after all, assumptions make an ASS out of U and ME.