A fresh perspective: how we’ve got stuck working in our minds

‘Working in the business or on the business?’ A common phrase to shift attention out of the day-to-day. Up and out into strategy and external insight. But have you ever considered this in the context of your mind?

This week I was one of a group of parents at a meeting with the Head of my kid’s school about changes and improvements they’re making.

At one point there was the suggestion that they ask parents for help more; a wealth of knowledge and experience on their doorstep and from very differing backgrounds and industries. read more

Break the habit of busy

I’m seeing it everywhere I go.

No time to stop.  No time to think.  Just get on and do, do, do!  And make sure others are doing the same.

In this place your brain is in action mode (distinct from reflection mode).  You become more concerned about yourself than others.  You lose perspective.  It’s hard to see the bigger picture.  You don’t think with full capacity because you’re verging on threat state and some parts of your brain aren’t deemed important enough for good blood flow when you’re in that place.  More things become a competition than necessary.  Frustrations are everywhere.  And you’re more likely tip from the edge of “healthy pressure” into unhealthy stress and unhelpful reactions.  When that happens you damage relationships, often with those you’re relying on to get your “doing” done.

It’s such a waste of human potential.

Because what I also see is that when people do choose to stop and think, either in 1:1 or group sessions, they can then see clearly.  They raise their awareness.  And from that position of greater clarity they choose different, more effective, more beneficial actions – and get better results.

And we need to choose it.  We need to choose to stop.

The predominant culture in business today is “be busy” – because it makes you look/feel important and successful, because it makes you look/feel needed or wanted, because if you don’t your pay rise / bonus / job / career might be at risk….because if there’s a problem or something goes wrong fingers will be pointed at me because I didn’t look like I was doing anything.  I looked like I didn’t have everything under control.  I wasn’t dotting every i and crossing every t.

Our need for control makes us think that doing stuff and keeping doing stuff – a lot – is our route to success.

When in fact it’s our route to failure.

When we stop, in reflective mode, we feel more relaxed, our thinking broadens, we see connections, we become more empathetic and therefore able to appreciate and be considerate of others’ perspectives, we’re more flexible, adaptable and resilient to the things that inevitably change the plan along the way.

So ironically, even though we think that ploughing on and getting through the work is THE most important thing and the thing that will get us furthest.  If we only stopped for 15 minutes and walked round the block, or went to buy a sandwich outside the building, it would help our heads shift into reflective mode, help us process what we’ve just done, and have us ready for the next chunk of the day.

And beyond that there are so many other ways and times and places you can stop and reflect.  The key is for it to become a regular habit.  You choose which of these sounds right for you.  Give it a try, see if it works, and if not, try something else.

How Often and When:

Daily (tiny version) – if you feel you don’t have time to reflect at all – start small – even just reflecting on #3goodthings every day can start to shift how you feel and think.  That only takes a few minutes on your journey home.

Daily (slightly bigger version) – 15 minutes before you’re going to leave – what’s gone well today, what hasn’t, what do I want to do differently tomorrow / next time?

Weekly – Friday before you finish – what’s gone well this week, what’s been challenging, what have I learnt, what’s coming up next week?

Monthly – end of the month – what am I proud of, what’s been difficult, what am I learning from that, what do I want to do with that now?

Who With:

On your own – on paper, spoken out loud, recorded into your phone

With a colleague who’d also like to experiment with this, talk and process out loud while the other listens, then swap

Work with a coach* – protected thinking time with someone who’s entirely on your side, usually up to two hours, for in-depth reflection.  Probably focussed on a particular aspect of your life – maybe something that’s showing up as a pattern for you and which is becoming a hindrance.

Where:

Ideally outside amongst trees and greenery – nature has a positive effect on how we feel!

If not then somewhere as comfy and relaxing as possible – maybe a coffee shop or quieter work area

Or just at your desk, on the sofa…. you choose.

 

Try some options.  See what works for you.  Form a habit you feel you can stick to.  Some reflecting is better than none.

And see what impact is has on you and those around you.

 

*Different coaches are different.  Talk to a few and choose the one you think will work for you.  Coaches are used to this choosing process and good ones will have no problem with you not choosing them.

#cipdmap16 – Getting under the surface of workplace behaviour

Karen Meager of Monkey Puzzle is speaking about work and leadership. In business we see ‘unhelpful behaviours; and in work we try and address them, often through instruction / process / policy, by changing behaviour. Karen helps business see what’s behind the behavioural ‘issues’ so she’ll be showing us some of these things, some of the science about why and how you can do something about that. And talking about how to know better when you’ve done enough.

Real Leaders for the Real World. Surveyed over 60 leaders who’d been nominated as being good – good on purpose to get a real world view. The profiling showed that leaders broadly mirrored the population – positive that no one personality type makes a good manager. Through interviews – what are the most difficult things in achieving what you want to achieve.

3 hardest things for these managers –

  • Arrogance – where a person believes they perform better than they actually do

Confident vs arrogance – does their performance meet their view of what they think? If it matches then it’s confidence. Subjective of course but if there’s a consensus view then good enough.

Key challenge – relational issues – we’re British. We like people to be quite reverent (watch out for seeing confidence as arrogance).

Arrogance was found to be more common in the professional services industry – where people’s identities are more attached to the subject they’ve studied and become ad exert in.

Org problems – mistakes, company reputation, people don’t follow them if they’re leaders.

  • Laziness – where people deliver below expectations and/or seem to have low motivation

Can show up as avoidant or blocking behaviour or being stubborn. We can compute about 5-9 things consciously. But we pick up loads more unconsciously. This stuff builds up in the background of people’s minds and spreads a story that they’re not pulling their weight and others follow it.

Org problems – productivity, morale, it spreads

  • Bullying – repeated, persistent, aggressive behaviour intended to dominate others

Different to one-off or short term anger. Covert stuff can be the hardest to catch and that’s as important as catching the overt.

Org problems – fear & blame culture, endemic health issues, productivity, poor decision-making because people are operating from a place of fear

Talking Brain Stuff –

brain

Reptilian brain is there to keep up alive. Fight, Flight, Freeze. Primitive and there rom when born. If someone kicks off in a boardroom then there’s a good chance their reptilian brain is in charge. No point trying to have a logical conversation with them.

Mammalian (or mid) brain is something we have some of when we’re born but thethings that happen to us very early in life develop this part of the brain and inform our relationships with people throughout our life. How to ask for help, how to have effective social relationships with others, etc. We can change this part of our brain we need motivation and we need to know the choices for how to change.

Neocortex is where we talk, think, move, create and learn from. This part forms during the first 5 years of life.

Why does this matter?

When things happen at work, you could be unintentionally triggering something in their brain. If someone’s behaving like a 2 year old, they probably are because they’ll be relying on strategies they learnt as a child. You need to first get them back into adult to work with them.

Common origins of difficult workplace behaviour –

  • Parental problems that we project onto managers and colleagues – we get triggered back to feeling like we did as a child / behaving how we would then
  • Problems with authority figures – parents, teachers, etc
  • Fear of failure and shame associated with getting things wrong – laziness can come from this because they’re paralysed by a fear of failure (which is a reptilian response – threat to ego)
  • Being a chastised or ‘special’ child makes it hard to accurately assess own performance – an essential skill as a manager or leader because you’re also then far more able to get people to perform well. ‘Special’ children were either always told they were brilliant – and they believe it. Someone who’s arrogant because they’re under confident, their arrogance is a cover for what they’re not sure of.

If something happens at work and there’s a disproportionate response then likely it’s something from childhood that’s being triggered.

Solutions for the top 3 challenges :

arrogancelaziness

 

bullying

 

Org Strategies

  1. Conflict resolution and negotiation skills are essential as life skills
  2. Don’t’ feed the animal and give bad behaviour fuel
  3. If you’re addressing behaviour effectively it may get worse before it gets better
  4. Tackle behaviour issues at a behavioural level; it’s not about their identity
  5. Who you promote and recognise gives everyone on a message

Sometimes the big fancy change interventions aren’t what make the difference.  If we all start taking one step and move in the right direction, these quiet, covert steps, are what makes the bigger difference.

This has been live blogged in good faith from CIPD Midlands Area Partnership 2016.  I’ve done my best to represent the session accurately but I’m human so there might be some bits missing or not in as full detail as shared in the room. read more

Expectations in a Box

Think of yourself at work and how it feels right now.

If you imagine you’re in a box at work, what would that box be like?

Are you in a roomy box with space to spread yourself out and change position?

Are you cramped in a box that you feel you could burst out of any minute?

Do you remember once feeling like you could burst out and now you feel like you’ve shrunk to fit inside?

What about your team?  What are their boxes like?

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

man-stuck-in-box-no-control

Our brains are constantly scanning for danger, these days danger isn’t usually an animal that wants to eat us, it’s a threat to our self esteem, or our ego.  We’re raised in a world where being ‘right’ and ‘good’ are the things we’re meant to strive for*.  That’s what gets us praise, good school grades, a good job, a pay rise……stuff that boosts our self esteem and positively strokes our ego.  Interactions that make us feel like this are helpful to calm our fearful brain down which improves our thinking, helps us feel more abundant and generous towards ourselves and others, helps us become more creative by connecting dots.  This then leads to a growth in confidence and the desire to try more things, to push the boundaries, to come up with new ideas.  To coin the lyricist R Kelly, we believe we can fly! read more

Some Guest Bloggage – including that mis-posted one!

I’ve been really enjoying having some space to blog recently and I’ve written for a couple of people I guest blog for.

This one for The HR Director magazine which is about how we can get stuck in our emotions and thoughts, and how we can move out of that place.

And this one (the one I mis-posted a draft of the other week!) for Bray and Bray Solicitors about the challenging world of workplace relationships, and shifting those from the playground to an adult world.

I hope you or someone you know finds them useful.

This is me……….www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

WFS Tree

Ignore Poor Performance at your Peril!

How often have you seen or heard this?

They’re just no good at their job, I keep having to pick up the slack?  I haven’t got time to do my own work because they’re incapable of doing their’s.  If only they could sort it out we’d all be better off.  I don’t even know why they’re still here – they don’t contribute anything.

Back in April and May it was #FeedbackCarnival time where the culmination of many brains showed just how challenging giving honest feedback can be and some ideas for how we can start to change that.  Ian Pettigrew built on this with a great model for where helpful feedback sits – the top right of this 3-by-2 – where what you’re saying to the person is true, and it’s said with a positive intent to help the individual, as well as and the team or organisation around them.

Trouble is, that’s not generally what’s happening.  What I see is people pointing the finger at ‘those people over there’ – They’re the problem. If it wasn’t for them we’d all be ok.

head-in-hand -kg

This feels to us like the best (easiest) option because it avoids us having to look at ourselves as a potential contributor to the problem – and therefore a potential solution.  Looking at ourselves can be uncomfortable.  And, if we don’t feel safe and supported to do that, we’ll just avoid it.

But not only are we pointing to those people over there and saying they’re the problem,  we’re even giving them financial rewards (or positive feedback) that they’re doing the job we need them to do.  You can read about it in here, a piece shared by a fellow colleague who also cares about great leadership, Kay Buckby.  My reaction to it was (a very eloquent) “Bonkers!”.

So when people aren’t performing in their jobs.

We point the finger of blame at them for all the ills of the world.

And we reward them for it, to make sure we draw an even thicker veil over the whole unsightly problem.

If doing the same things and expecting different results is a sign of madness then I’m not quite sure how to articulate this as anything other than Bonkers!!

Not surprisingly, underlying all of this, a seam of frustration bubbles away within the team, within the manager – and most importantly – within the customers on the receiving end of the poor service.  The customers just won’t stick around.  They’ll vote with their feet.  The manager and team might eventually take evasive action from this person (if the person doesn’t leave first) but, to begin with, their stress responses will be triggered.

This stress response narrows their perspective on the situation and drops their cognitive abilities, reducing the possible solutions they can see for solving it.  It reduces their feelings of emotional generosity towards ‘that person’.  It causes them to look for evidence to back up their belief that they’re useless.  And, given that our thoughts and feelings show up in how we behave, their stress and frustration will leak out through their body language, their words and their actions.

One paradoxical result of this is that, despite their poor performance, the manager doesn’t feel they can do without this person – better the devil you know, what if we get someone else and they’re worse, how would we cope with a vacancy if we can’t find a replacement?

All of these are fear-driven responses (and stress is triggered again).

So, what’s the alternative?…….

…….A world of high emotional intelligence*.

I believe in a world where people are treated and behave like adults.  Adults who can make informed choices and who can take responsibility for their own situation.

I also believe we all want to do a great job, but sometimes things get in the way of that which means our performance can dip.  And if those things have been in the way for a long time it can be hard for us to remember what it was like to come to work and feel good about it.  This means that, as adults, we still need support, guidance and feedback from others to keep us on-track.  And we still appreciate a reward (verbal acknowledgement is often enough) for when things are going well.

In this world when a leader has someone in their team who’s under-performing, the first thing they do is ask what’s going on, then they listen and they ask questions. Partly to inform themselves of the situation, and also to let the person vent about what’s going on. They aren’t afraid of this venting. They know that emotions are the things that motivate us to make changes in life, and when they’re swirling inside us they can’t take us in any productive direction. The simple act of verbalising what’s going on straightens these emotions out and gives us a clearer sense of which way to go.

From this listening and asking, the result is often that the individual will spot a way forward for themselves. If not, the leader will have learnt enough about the situation to offer advice, guidance or training that will actually be helpful and relevant. Or they may be able to offer relevant feedback based on what they’re seeing of this person and in the wider team context.

All of these things help the person become unstuck and their performance improves.

And even if it doesn’t improve, the leader can look themselves in the mirror with the belief that they did what they could to help, and that perhaps this just isn’t the right job, or right business for them. Which means a parting of company on good terms, with dignity and respect – and without the need to pay out bonuses to hide a problem!  All of which maintains great relationships with the rest of the team, and their trust in you – which means they’ll also feel safe to share what’s going on for them.  Creating a virtuous circle!

And I know what you’re thinking.

When could I ever get the time to have these conversations?

Well, they don’t actually take that long. If we’re given the space to think and speak with someone who really cares and who really listens, our brain can be pretty effective at getting to the crux of what’s going on.

And remember, in having these conversations – maybe weekly – we get into good habits of processing what’s going on for us, and they mean the team’s performance will never get to the place of you compensating for the stuff they let drop, which automatically gives you back a load of time.

And if you really believe that your team are the key to your collective success then you’ll prioritise these conversations over anything else.

*You can find out more about the difference emotional intelligence makes to a business here.

Photo credit – http://redsarmy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/kg-head-in-hand.jpg

This is me…………… www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

Executive Coaching and Leadership Development

WFS Tree

Thinking Leaks

A few weeks back I was feeling frustrated. I’m an independent person with a high achievement drive and these characteristics, which can be strengths, were holding me back – “I wish I could go to that event – but I can’t because I’ve been away quite alot recently and the kids need me here”….”I wish I could get half an hour to catch up on SoMe in the morning – but I can’t because I need to do breakfast and get the kids ready”…..”I wish I could exercise more – but I can’t because by the time I’ve got the kids to bed, had some tea, done some work or housework, there’s no time….” and so on.

And then I caught myself.  I realised how unhelpful my thinking had become. I noticed it leaking into my conversations. Just a little edge of bitterness, resentment and envy.  Our thinking – both the helpful and the unhelpful – leaks out of us through what we say and what we do.  We just can’t help it.

Leaks

When I had my realisation I made a decision – that’s not who I want to be.

Who I want to be, and who I know I can be, is a positive person who can always see there’s a choice. Who is grateful for what I have rather than mithering over what I don’t. And who knows that all these things start with our thinking – which we can choose – they’re just thoughts.

So I examined my thinking and came up with some more helpful stuff to think instead, which I’ve been practicing for the last couple of weeks.

I hope that by sharing these I can enable others who might have the same or a similar challenge to find some more helpful thoughts for themselves too…. Here are my new thoughts –

My kids mean I laugh. Everyday.

I get to sing Frozen songs in the car as loud as I like (yes, whether they’re with me or not).

I chose to be a mum and I chose to have my business – I love them both and if I want to keep them both I need to enjoy them for what they are and how they are right now.

I am very lucky to have two amazing, healthy, gorgeous children.

If time spent [insert anything I feel I “can’t” do] is important enough I will make it happen.

If it wasn’t for the kids I could be a workaholic, creating no space for fun, reflection or creativity – which I know invite our best thinking.

Having so much to squeeze into life makes me great at prioritising, and focusing on the most important things.

Having kids mean I get to spend more time outside, in grassy tree-filled places than I probably would otherwise.

I might not get to do ‘traditional’ exercise as much as I’d like but I do get to lift heavy weights (tired kids), exercise my core (acting like a horse for them to take a ride), work my thighs and glutes (going up and down stairs a lot).

Their school holidays mean I take more holidays than I normally would, so I get good breaks that usually involve lots of fresh air and activity.

They’re honest and tell it like it is which helps to keep me in check – ‘but mummy you’re always busy doing something’.

They challenge me to manage my emotions, to choose how I respond and get the best out of them – the most extreme emotional intelligence development you could hope for.

They remind me of the simple needs we all have – hugs, time to have fun together, good sleep, a reason why to help us take action, exercise, (mostly) healthy food, more hugs, the chance to be given responsibility, having someone to listen to us and how we’re feeling, and a few more hugs for good measure!

What do you struggle with?  What could you think instead that would be more helpful?

[Photo credit – http://shootingparrots.co.uk/2011/12/05/theres-a-hole-in-my-bucket]

This is me…….Wild Fig Solutions Ltd

WFS Tree

#FeedbackCarnival – The Curation!

Wow! What an amazing month April’s been for fabulous feelings and philosophies on feedback! 33 posts all together! Impressive stuff and a great wealth of insight has been created on a topic which is clearly an area of work that continues to need some attention so that we can improve.

Thank you to everyone who’s contributed. It’s only because of you that this curation is possible and able to benefit others with this same challenge.

It all started with a post I began to write  after a Pilates class…..

“Every week in my Pilates class there’s at least one of us that needs help to perfect a move.

> Sit right back, put all the weight into your heels so you can lift your toes. > Keep your hips facing forward and twist at the waist. > Lift your chest keeping your back in neutral.

And we adjust what we’re doing and then go “Oh! That’s how it’s meant to feel”.

And sometimes words aren’t enough and our instructor needs to come and show us one-to-one. Perhaps just visibly. Perhaps physically adjusting our bodies for us so we can really feel the difference.

We think we’re copying her when she stands at the front of the class. And yet sometimes we’re just not. Sometimes we’re really completely oblivious to how our own bodies are actually moving.

Timothy Gallwey talks about this in The Inner Game of Tennis. How he has to get players to stand somewhere that they can see their reflection so they can watch their swing. And then they see “Oh! I really am finishing too high”.

Because we really can be oblivious to what we’re actually doing compared to what we’re supposed to be doing – we all have Blind Spots.”

From those origins, the Feedback Carnival was born with this invitation for people to add their thoughts and observations; “Feedback would happen all the time if……”

carnival

So this post is my curation of all that insight to bring you some of the thinking that’s out there into one place.

A key point made by David Goddin in his post is that feedback benefits from being observations, not judgements, and so with this post my intention is to share the insights from all the contributions without judgement of whether they are right or wrong, good or bad. They are what they are and you will be able to read; debate with whoever will be helpful for you in that; and choose what is right for you – because some parts will be more helpful in some contexts than others. So while you read, I invite you to have your context and your purpose with feedback in your mind, and maybe start with a question.

What might help you?

What might help those around you?

What might help your organisation?

So, why should we care about feedback? What’s the purpose?

I think without exception, all the writers have believed that feedback is a helpful thing. Helpful for our personal development, and therefore helpful for those around us – and beyond – because it raises our awareness and so enables us to develop and improve what we do and how we do it, which improves ours and others performance, and therefore improves overall organisational results.

Peter Cook wrote a great example of how embracing feedback and doing something about it, coupled with persistence, got him the result he wanted for his career.

Heather Kinzie wrote about our fundamental human need of being wanted – or of receiving attention. This need for attention, which is very obvious in children, remains with us as we grow older, and feedback is one way in which we can meet this need in others. If someone’s given us feedback, they’ve seen us, they’ve noticed us, and they’ve cared enough to say something about it, and that has us feel OK – something Gemma Reucroft experienced when offering feedback to a colleague.

Kandy Woodfield acknowledges the purpose of feedback as providing a sense of belonging, a purpose, aspirational goals and trust in each other.

So the purpose of feedback isn’t just about that external results and performance stuff out there, it’s about the stuff that goes on inside each and every one of us every day. Perhaps if we took care of the internal stuff, the external would be more likely to take care of itself?

So what does that ‘helpful’ feedback place look like?

Many people acknowledge that feedback already happens all around us all the time, if we stop to notice it. However most of the content has focused on improving the ‘traditional’ work-based feedback situation. The place of ‘this is how you’re doing in your job’ or ‘this was the impact on me when you did that’.

As 70:20:10 learning strategies continue to be the focus for improved sustainability of learning, effective feedback will have to be central to that, given that it sits in the 70% of on-the-job learning, and in the 20% of coaching and mentoring, as well as in the 10% of classroom learning which  Rachel Burnham picked up on with some practical examples of making feedback part of a learning environment.

Jo Stephenson has a dream for how her future place of feedback will look “I’m dreaming of time when it’s common practice that feedback talk happens as standard, within the 1:1s I’m part of. It’s expected, it’s what we do here. We value it.”

Meg Peppin, Julie Drybrough and Gemma Reucroft all wrote about a place where feedback isn’t a separate ‘thing’ you ‘do’ it’s just part of the conversation between two or more people.

David Goddin read more

In a crisis

In a crisis we come together.

While standing on the train station this morning, waiting for the fast train to London with all the regular commuters, the silence was deafening. Everybody was so separate. So isolated. So absorbed in their own world.

It felt desperately alien to me and I wanted to talk to someone – anyone – to create some human connection.

Our train was delayed, only by 5 minutes, but as the tannoy announced its arrival I thought about those instances when trains are REALLY delayed. Where people start to talk to each other; first about the state of the train service but then moving on to work and personal conversations. Sometimes discovering they have some kind of connection in common. And in those instances when the train finally arrives, people cheer together – connected through the adversity.

We see it over and over again. Give us a crisis and we come together. I remember in my last job when one of our shops was very sadly burnt to the ground. The team effort which ensued was incredible, there was pace, there was communication and collaboration across boundaries, deadlines were left for dust, people went over and above. And it resulted in a new store being built in record time. A store which then went on to outperform its previous sales results as it became a beacon of pride for the local team and community.

I remember at the time it was used as an example to say “we can achieve amazing things when we come together like that. If we can do that more of the time, we’ll be flying”.

So what stops us? What is it that means we only connect in a crisis? That means we only behave as our most awesome versions of human beings when the chips are down.

SOS

I saw this TED Talk of Simon Sinek recently and I think there might be an answer in here.

Our primitive brain still plays a significant part in how we operate today.

Simon describes in this talk about our primitive heritage when we had to connect and be social for our survival. We had to be able to collaborate to ensure someone was on night-duty and watching over the rest of the tribe while they slept. We had to work together to catch food so everyone could eat.

And in the days of our primitive heritage, a state of crisis was more the norm than the exception. Our stress response was a necessary physiological response to ensure we survived to see another day and ensure procreation would continue.

Bringing this to today, the stress response is still alive and well, it’s just that the sabre toothed tigers have turned into bosses, competitors, shop fires and delayed trains.

And so it’s in these circumstances of threat that we pull together, connect and collaborate just as we would have done all those years ago.

So this is perhaps an explanation for our innate ability to pull together in a crisis but how do we make it happen more of the time? And how do we make it happen without the need for the stress response to kick in? Because as much as our ancestors lived more on stress than not, pulling together more often than not, I would guess their life expectancy was a fair bit shorter than we have today. We know that prolonged periods of stress make us ill – physically and mentally – so the answer isn’t to create stressful situations more of the time.

So what is the answer?

Maybe it’s the opposite.

Positive Psychology is about making more of the good stuff. Finding strengths and doing more of those things that let us use them. Focussing on what’s gone well. Seeing what’s gone not so well as an opportunity to learn and adjust. Being appreciative of what we have. Being believed in.

When these things are present we’re awesome versions of human beings and even better because, in contrast to the stress response which narrows our thinking, being in an environment of positivity and safety broadens our thinking. Broader thinking means more opportunities are spotted and more great things are created.

This broader thinking is what enabled us to progress ourselves and our world from those primitive days. Although back then the predominant feature was threats, there were times when we did feel safe and it was in these moments that we invented stuff and created new solutions to help our subsequent generations find shelter, food and stay safe more easily.

So by now, you’d think we’d have invented so much of this great stuff that we’d feel super-safe and be at our best, most positive selves all the time.

And yet that’s not true. As Rick Hanson writes in Hardwiring Happiness, our mind is still like Teflon for the good and like Velcro for the bad. Another hangover from our primitive days to ensure we stayed alive.

So this positive stuff, we have to work on it. We have to re-train our brains to help us be our awesome+1 selves more of the time.

But imagine that: awesome teamwork, communication, delivery of results, going above and beyond – and all without the need to be in a crisis!

This is me – www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

WFS Tree

No man is an island

“Mummy am I Muslim or Hindu?”
“Neither darling, you don’t really have a religion.”
“So can I choose what I am?”
“Yes you can!”
“Oh good! That means I can marry Shey and be a Muslim. My teacher said that if one person doesn’t have a religion they can marry anyone and be the same as them.”

This was a recent conversation with my 5 year old daughter.  I loved the simplicity of it.  Her thoughts reminded me of an item I heard on the radio last week where a Christian lady was being interviewed about her 40 year marriage to a Jewish man.

The point of the item was to highlight the challenges of living a tandem life like this. She talked about the difficulty their parents had accepting that they would marry. How they worried that she’d feel excluded from his Jewish celebrations because she wouldn’t be allowed to join in. How they wouldn’t be part of either community and therefore how they’d have none.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”  ― John Donne, No Man Is An Island - Meditation XVII

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
― John Donne, No Man Is An Island – Meditation XVII

Being part of a tribe or community is really important to our primitive brain.  We like to spend time with people like us because it helps us feel safe and, as far as our primitive brain’s concerned, safe = good.  The minds of this couple’s parents would definitely have been seeing this marriage as a serious threat to their safety and security.  And especially in those days.  40 years ago when they married – about 1975 – there were three TV channels, no mobiles, no internet, definitely no social media.  This meant two things:

………The world was much smaller and awareness of wacky things like inter-religion marriages was incredibly low.

………And, being part of a religion at that time was a significant source of having our basic human need of ‘community’ met.  If you didn’t have support there, where could you get it?

Today we have so many ways to be part of a community – whether virtual or in real life – yes religion, and also communities based in work, sports, music, shopping, theatre, food, friends and family …and more, and then there are all the social media community options…..

They provide us with support and a sense of belonging.  A sense of shared purpose with others.  Community is one of our basic human needs that, if not met, leaves us with a sense of dissatisfaction with life, and a lack of balance. Or worse.

If you stop now and think…..  What communities are you part of.  Why not list them out.  How important are each of them to you?  Where would you like to spend more time?  What would that give you?  And what would that mean for your other priorities?

But what about communities you’d like to be part of but never ventured into?  Communities that might challenge your thinking, your attitudes, your experience – and ultimately help you grow and develop in some way.

That little voice of our primitive brain is still there sometimes, telling us whether it’ll be safe or not.  Just like the parents of that couple 40 years ago.  And yet there they are, still happily married with a richer life because of it.  From the joining of their two religions, they’ve had a great breadth and depth of conversation about how to live their lives together, how to raise their children.  And apparently their kids were the most enthusiastic with the most mature perspectives in RE class, because of their broader and more varied experience.  And they’ve benefitted from the support of two communities rather than one.

So what communities do you want to join that could broaden your horizons and give you a new perspective or a new challenge?  And what’s stopping you?

I believe in people being the key to success and that success is unlocked by great bosses. And being a boss is a tough job.  

If you believe in this stuff too, get in touch for a chat and let’s see what we could do together – 07718 316 616 or helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk or take a look at my website to find out more.

Executive Coaching and Development for SME leaders –

creating success for you, for your team, for your business.

[Photo credit – world-visits.blogspot.com]