By Laurie Cure
Amidst the chaos and the frantic pulse of our lives, we find very little time to stop and pause. I’m guilty. We all are. I wake up and too many mornings I roll over and check my email before even taking a deep breath. Despite knowing and teaching mindfulness practices, promoting the benefits of silent reflection first thing in the morning and believing with all of me that giving yourself space has tremendous results, I still fall short of doing what I know is in my best interest.
I had a frantic meeting last week. In working with a client, there was a sense of urgency around leadership “failures”. Frustration, anger, feelings of betrayal and lack of support echoed in the voices of those present. Presumably, they also permeated the sentiments of other employees throughout the organization. As I listened to the emotion and fear in their words and tone, I found myself challenging them in ways that were likely uncomfortable, but also productive.
We have a tendency to hold strong expectations of others (leaders, fellow employees, friends and family) and when people fail to live up to our self-imposed beliefs, we enter negative emotional states that drain us of energy and momentum. We feel disappointed in them, frustrated by their actions and disillusioned by the disconnect between what we thought should happen and what actually did. This, in turn, enhances our fear around current circumstances and the state of our future.
What if we could just STOP? Stop telling ourselves stories, stop creating unrealistic expectations, stop judging behavior, stop engaging in armed conflict and stop wasting time and energy on what we cannot change.
What if, instead, we OBSERVED? Observed others without anger, fear or rejection. What if we rewrote our internal dialogue and actually held compassion and hope? What if we actually allowed the behaviors of others (no matter how annoying or frustrating they can be) to inform us. . . inform our current state and inform how we respond going forward.?
We cannot hold creativity in problem solving when we are in these negative emotional states. We cannot think logically, we cannot think compassionately and we cannot generate forward movement. We must shift our perception and begin to witness in others something different.
My advice for this group was to consider their internal story. What were they telling themselves about leadership as they judged the actions of those who directed them? What else could be possible beyond this story? How did they need to respond in order to actually support what they wanted to accomplish?
Our workplaces are changing. Leaders have to engage in new methods of leadership. Sometimes, as employees, we must manage up, and that often means a significant shift in our own awareness and response to situations. This shift in all employees will alter cultures and impact our work in indescribable ways.
So I ask you. . . where are you frustrated at work? What changes in perception might you need to make in order to enhance your own leadership?
Where can you give yourself, just a moment, to observe and see a potential new reality?
Inspired by a previous work, Stop and Observe.