Being brought up in the west of Scotland in the 70’s and 80’s, religion was about one thing, were you Catholic or Protestant? It was the question that generally got asked when meeting any newcomer. For my part, it was one area my parents had no opinion on, for which I will be forever grateful. I was afforded greater freedom in my thoughts than many of my schoolmates.
As I grew up and we did ‘religious studies’ they felt largely a disappointment as they didn’t explore the wider contrast of the world’s religions. I did contemplate the broader question “why are we here?” often, and recall dad and I writing back and forth about it when I worked in Spain in my late teens. Later I took philosophy as a subject at university to help me contemplate, but that turned out to just be more of a historical view on world’s philosophers.
So I embarked instead on my own studies, fed up of those who turned up at the door trying to persuade me to their view. What I found was, at the essence of all the world’s religions, were common themes and beliefs. It led to me to a conclusion that there was no one that was ‘right’, that most seem to revere the teacher than what they were teaching, and had created many of the limiting ‘rules’ through their interpretation of the teachings and the doctrines they were contained in.
At that point I proclaimed myself an atheist, and continued to be repelled by anything that sounded remotely religious. In my thirties I started exploring more of my inner nature, the sense that deep within there is some sort of life force remote from my physical being. I was introduced to meditative practices that involved stilling the chatter in my head, the emotion attached to them, and beneath found a sense of utter peace.
Growing up I had shied away from any kind of drugs, or even large volumes of alcohol, other than the few short years leading up to when I had panic attacks in my early 20’s, a hugely rich experience that taught me firsthand the potent power of our thoughts. However, hearing others describe their experiences of these substances, the feeling in meditation is similar to the high, except it has the benefit of no ‘down’, in that state you are unhindered by the chatter of your subconscious mind.
The results of meditative practices speak to themselves, the undeniable sense of wellbeing and clarity that arises. I once heard someone very articulately refer to us as all as part of one energy, all connected, that resonated. At that point I became willing to acknowledge the deeper spiritual part of me, and became comfortable describing myself as spiritual.
That then seemed to attract all sorts of New Age type ideas and constructs, again I was repelled by any talk of Christ Consciousness or Archangels and so on. I always felt that people had created constructs as a way of understanding, from our limited capacity in the human body, something that couldn’t really be explained from the perspective of our time and space reality.
There have been a series of things in the last few years, talks I’ve heard, books I’ve read and so on that have made sense of many of the themes I’d heard previously. In August 2014 I had my ‘ah ha’ moment with a very deep sense of things falling into place. It was a turning point that some would refer to as an ‘awakening’; though it is better to say that, while still not buying into any constructs, at that point I could open myself and listen fully without being repelled by words such as ‘God’.
It is fair to say, for my part, I think we are all talking about the same thing, we are just coming to it with different thoughts, beliefs and bias. It’s not important to expound my beliefs beyond that.
Of course there is the alternative view that there is just this life and that is it. That it doesn’t have to be or mean any more than that. When you look at the miracle that is us, the literally trillions of cells that have individual consciousness that make up what you see in the mirror, the exquisite miracle of creating new life, the variety and majesty of the world around us, the stars and the universe that we are part of, the worlds that exist and the multiple universes in the cosmos, on an on, it just makes more logical sense to me to believe in something more.
Whatever that is for you, the benefits of exploring these questions for yourself, reexamining your context for life, are tremendous. I write a lot about being who you are – that person at birth who came with traits, talents and perhaps even purpose, before you were obscured by all that well meaning guidance from family and community – and about getting what you want out of life. All of it written from a context of a broader perspective.
Contemplating this broader perspective of your life is one of the richest activities you can embark on. When you have a deep sense of the ‘big picture’, one that really resonates with you rather than one that was drummed in, the day to day challenges you face seem much less dramatic, life becomes much more fun.
This article was originally posted on LinkedIn and Medium.
Can you really believe that something you desperately want in your life will happen with ease? Or do you believe it will require setting a goal and working steadily towards that, with bumps on the road that you’ll have to overcome and a ton of willpower?
In the process of life we have forgotten how to attract, without any plan or grueling effort on our part, what we truly want in life. "Nothing worth having comes easy” is ingrained in many of us. Consider the possibility, however, that things can come to you one of two ways, with effort or with ease.
Here are the two processes. One is outside in, the other is inside out.
Outside in (the habit life has taught you)
If it’s going to be it’s up to me. There’s something about your life you don’t like, it could be your relationship, your family situation, your looks, your health, your diet, your job, your career, your voice, your location, on and on, the list is endless. Most days you are aware of this lack, even if not consciously, you can feel its weight adding to the rest of the weight on your shoulders.
Occasionally, maybe on a great night out, or weekend away, usually on a relaxing break of some kind, the desire for change comes into sharp focus, so you now have a goal. Perhaps you start thinking about how the goal can be achieved and who needs to do what and suddenly it all seems hopeless because you realise you can’t control who does what.
Let’s say you’ve got as far as a plan though, it might be a great plan, a very sound plan. But you know it’s going to take willpower. Either the battery for your willpower soon depletes and it becomes a “maybe someday” thing or you are disciplined and eventually, after a lot of hard work and many ups and downs, you finally achieve your goal.
While there is great satisfaction achieving a goal hard won, there is statistically only a very small chance you will sustain the changes. The energy required to do so eventually gives way to other desires.
So what’s the alternative?
Inside out (your default programme at birth)
You might have all sorts of hopes and aspirations about your looks or your weight, health, relationships or career. All of these things are great, but they have one thing in common, your desire to be feel good.
We think it’s achieving these things that will make us happy, and they might for a while before we either give up on the effort or start looking at the next thing. It’s back to front, if you can aspire to these things from a point of feeling good about where you are now, there will be no need for a map to find those things, instead you will draw them to you.
Think about some of the most fulfilling and satisfying aspects in your own life, how did they come to you? I met my partner just days after I finally felt good about living on my own, he literally showed up on the doorstep. After years of trying, I discovered I was pregnant with my first daughter exactly one month after finally letting go of the idea about how that was going to happen. After months of determined effort proactively soliciting companies I’d researched on a database, I followed a hunch to call about a readvertised job that I had previously ruled out, landing a pivotal role. The list is long.
While ease is your inherent nature, from the minute you are born the world starts wrapping you in layers of well meaning padding to ‘protect you from yourself’. Before you even knew who you were consciously, the authentic you had slipped into obscurity along with all the inherent tools and intentions you came with.
Paradoxically learning to receive with ease will require some effort invested – in the form of focus and practice. To listen to your inner voice you have to be still. You might think that makes sense, but how often do you do it?
Being still means you must be able to hear your own inner thoughts, uninterrupted. This is called contemplation. Once you have become aware of your thoughts, rather than lost in them, you can begin the process of stilling the mind so that you let your thoughts go. They will keep drifting in and out, but it’s the conscious awareness and letting go that we call meditation.
Some people like to simply sit in the lotus position and do this without moving, completely alone and in silence. It’s unlikely that will work for you straight away because you’re too used to being active most of the time. Start with activities that allow you to focus, preferably in nature (the great soother), like walking, cycling or swimming. You will soon discover many activities that allow you to tune in and focus inwards, from standing in line at the checkout, to chopping veges for dinner.
What does that achieve? Stillness. Peace. Clarity. It helps you to unwind from whatever vortex of negative, burdensome experiences you’ve had that day. It helps you to connect to the real you. Practice this daily if you can, in as many situations as you can. It brings you to the same place those all too infrequent holidays and breaks bring you to in the course of the year.
Once you’ve practiced being consciously aware of your thoughts, feelings and experiences, you get a different view on life. You start to notice what you truly do like and don’t like. You will notice, for example, how your body is responding to the foods you feed it, the environment you live and work in and so on.
You can start to set intentions about aspects of your life you want to change, envisioning what life would be like if you made those changes, then let it go and be grateful for all you have in the here and now. Be unattached about the way changes transpire, you will soon start to notice things you hadn’t before, an article or a store, or a conversation that inspires you.
Therein lies the key, following what feels right rather than doing what you think is right. It sounds subtly different, but it’s a fundamentally different approach to life. Rather than rationalizing everything out in your head, following all the well meaning inner programming you acquired in the process of growing up, it’s about tuning into the real you, following your own guidance, which means following only those things that feel right for you.
Inspiration and happenstance will start to show up in your life with increasing frequency. Now that doesn’t mean you will live a life without challenge, it means you will be looking at those challenges from a new perspective, one that will serve the highest good in your life. Life is like a river; go with the flow, your inner knowing. Let how you feel light the way to your best life, with ease.
This article was originally posted on LinkedIn
If you are getting really frustrated with yourself because, despite all the insights into personality traits and great communication techniques, and the awesome self improvement stuff you’ve learned that made eminent sense, when push comes to shove you default to old behaviours. Reading this could make all the difference…
We are all familiar with situations that snowball, where we go from feeling good to bad or bad to worse. Often these, we perceive, are caused by others. Others bringing an energy to the situation that sets you off in a downward spiral.
In the office I’ve dealt with my fair share of both aggressive and passive aggressive behaviour. At home, my partner and I have battled it out with the best of them. As a parent, the kids constantly throws me curve balls. Siblings not getting on, especially when one is distressed and the other is feeding off that energy, creates a whopping great negative vortex that has a really strong pull.
Learning to cope with children's unfiltered communications has much to teach us about our other experiences. In the midst of all the screaming “mummy mummy”, I’m often scrambling to remember all the brilliant advice I have read, written down and even practiced in saner moments. There comes a point though when the only release seems to be to yell and scream in response. This of course feeds the vortex further and down we all spiral.
Understanding the science behind why this happens helps. We now know thoughts emit energy, and that the greater part of your thoughts are recurring patterns that are running in your subconscious, the vast majority planted there early in your childhood and reinforced over and over again in scenarios throughout your life.
Once you are aware of this, particularly when you understand that early childhood experiences are imprinted mainly from body language, you begin to understand your default programming. The wiring that occurs from those early well intentioned lessons and discipline you received, often translated as you not being up to scratch in some aspect of your being.
This is not because of the words being used, or even the emotion behind them, which is likely intentioned from a point of love; some version of "it's for your own good". Young children, however, interpret body language above all else, which is usually rooted in a fear of the consequences for the child. This translates as bad energy, the impression they get is of being judged, they are not good enough, or are intentionally naughty.
Over and over again these early imprints get reinforced through experiences at school and all the other scenarios where, as a young child growing up, adults are in control of what you do and don't do.
As a result, as an adult you will often instinctively feel attacked and defend in some way if someone presents with bad energy. Your brain, sensing danger, goes into flight or fight mode and you are no longer able to access your conscious mind where all the wonderful new information about having a better interaction is stored, the old programming has kicked in.
So how do we evolve past the old programming into the new? Well, it is a process, one that you have to keep coming back to with your awareness time and again. It’s a process of unraveling all that early wiring that has been reinforced over and over in your experiences. While unraveling it, continue to focus on the new path you want to take.
How can you do this amid your brain kicking into flight or fight? My ‘ah ha’ moment came to me when my oldest daughter was losing the plot because she’d been told she wasn’t having another ice cream. In an attempt to bring her out of her spiral my partner was playing back to her the ludicrous noise she was making, like a braying donkey. Unfortunately it was making things worse.
“Don’t feed the energy”
Suddenly it struck me, don’t feed the energy. Simple. When my brain is starting to rapidly descend into flight or fight mode, that simple phrase is something I can hang onto. I hear it as clear as day. Now I have to admit that I can then feel a bit like a stunned mullet, wondering “what next”. Here is the beauty, nothing.
When we stopped feeding my daughter’s energy over that ice cream, the braying noise quickly stopped, the protests dwindled, we moved on.
What I’m not saying is ‘ignore’, this isn’t about moving from aggressive to passive behaviour, you can acknowledge through your body language, that most primeval part of us, that you hear what is being said, you just don’t have to respond to it, to get sucked in. Instead, let it be. When the energy lessens, move on.
Saying “don’t feed the energy” to myself snaps me out of it, gets me grounded. Sometimes I think I should distract the kids with other things, change the subject. Changing the subject too early though just sends a message that you don’t care what the other person is feeling, or a judgment that they shouldn’t feel that way. Instead, first let the current energy diminish like ever decreasing waves crashing on the shore.
In any environment that will feel uncomfortable at first, a bit like the ‘silences’ encouraged in coaching, sales calls, performance conversations and so on. Perhaps practicing in the office is best tried after practicing at home a few times. However, the principle works. Whatever you can do to bring yourself into observing the present moment – as opposed to being swept away with it – will be a triumph for your wellbeing, your day, and for the authentic you.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/136199332@N03/23891629443">Max Caulfield</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
One of the most powerful things I’ve learned from years spent in corporate roles is the role of humility in problem solving. Sure, it’s true that most spend too little time in the definition of the problem also, but it is the lack of humility and involvement in the process that holds at bay some of the most obvious and effective solutions.
Many have an aversion to negative words, drummed in over years of personal development, and ‘problem’ sounds like one. When you have a boss, or a boss’s boss, that thinks you have a problem, it sends a red alert straight to your brain and, generally, throws the best of us into our flight and fight response. Not the optimal starting point.
Before you respond, relax. Seriously, do whatever it takes to relax first, it will open you up to new ideas. Remember, the problem is just pointing to a space to create a solution, likely to lead to something better. It’s not in anyone’s best interests for you to simply spew out a solution then and there; in fact it’s not in anyone’s best interests for you alone to even define the problem.
For those who have been on any self respecting management development, project or process improvement training, you will know the steps in a good problem solving process. It’s fairly simple: first you identify all the facts and assumptions, then you define the problem (making sure you’re defining the real problem and not just part of the problem or symptoms of the problem), from there you flip to the positive and define the objective, before generating alternative solutions, evaluating them, deciding which to go with implementing, followed lastly by evaluation and follow up.
Where we run into trouble is this, ego. The secret to great solutions is humility. Why?
Think about it, most organizations are constructed as a hierarchy. In that hierarchy you are given certain powers. The further up the hierarchy the more humility is required, yet it is a rare quality witnessed. More often the status quo is that the decision makers are far removed from the problem but either worry that they should know the answer or think that they already do.
This is true from the perspective that they have a more strategic view. But that is only because those further down the chain don’t have the delegated authority to access the information and communications that would give them the strategic view.
For many years I spent my career climbing the corporate ladder, but when I hit the level of head of the function I was interested in, that was the limit of my ambition. While I am wired strategically and found it relatively easy to look at companywide issues from broader perspective, sitting endlessly in decision making forums discussing subjects of very little interest just didn’t float my boat.
When one of the team asked what it was that had motivated me to the level I was at, it made me realise it was control. Pure and simple, I wanted enough control to make a difference. As it turned out, that was based on the flawed premise that positions hold power.
Organisational construct is always evolving, although this idea of hierarchies has been around a long time in human history but it’s no longer serving us. Sure, everyone has a role to play, and not everyone can do everything, but allowing people the bandwidth to contribute and create around the thing they do well is where most companies are missing the boat.
Last year I wrote a few articles about this in more detail, questioning the need for managers in today’s world and pointing towards a more self managing construct that some companies have adopted, where profit, purpose and personal fulfillment can thrive together.
At the crux of all of it lies humility, the recognition that others have skills, ways of looking at issues, ideas about solutions that we don’t have.
Even in the traditional hierarchy, rarely do companies train their managers, hone job descriptions and performance management matrix’s to be explicit about what each level of management needs to focus on and let go of, as you climb a hierarchy. Consequently many are doing the jobs of many of their teams, and too few are really focused strategically enough in their roles.
It is common to see a chain reaction from above based on an innocent comment from the chief executive or one of the directors. In essence, people all throughout the hierarchy scrambling to save someone higher up’s ego, someone who thinks they should have known the answer to that question straight off the bat.
Huge swathes of activity get focused on what was deemed urgent rather than important. Executives everywhere are often horrified if they get visibility of the useless activity spurred by an innoxious comment or question. In fact, the bigger the company, the more of this kind of activity is often seen.
At home each member of the team is a fully functioning, powerful, free individual. They look after their own finances, make investment decisions, run households, bring up children, deal with crisis, sickness and death, many are even leaders in their communities or in clubs, sports or other activities. In other words they are both free and whole.
Yet in the workplace, the job description, the hierarchy, treats individuals as far less than whole. It is a rare thing to see those involved in downstream delivery involved in upstream design; it is a rare thing for those closest to the problems to be involved in the definition or creation of a solution to the problem. It is a rare thing for all employees to be entrusted with all the information that is relevant to the allow them to perform to their highest potential in their role.
Instead, feeling a lack of power, our human instinct is to take it back. In organisations activity based on this instinct is rife, activity that serves only to undermine the vision and goals of the company, knowingly or not. Whether it’s unproductive conversations or out and out sabotage, much of the power in the organisation really lies there, because it can either support or diminish what those who hold the positional power are trying to achieve.
At our heart we are creators, let your people create. Great problem solving involves getting the biggest perspective you can on an issue; from that perspective you can get real clarity on what your real problem is. You will often not only be amazed at the real problem, but also the solutions that come forth in answer to it. Even better, given the wider involvement in the issue, the more commitment you have to its solution, and the process of change become seamless. Be humble and you will shine.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/17423713@N03/17426879444">Problem Solving</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
By signing up you will only receive emails from shonakeachie.com and you can unsubscribe at any time. This is a two-step process, you will have to verify your subscription by clicking the link in the email you should receive after clicking this 'Subscribe' button. If you do not receive the email please check your Junk mail, thank you.
Please note if you are using the Google Chrome browser and want to subscribe to the RSS Feed you will first need to get an RSS plugin from the Chrome Store.