You may have heard it said or you may have read somewhere that the world around you is a reflection of yourself. Can it really be that simplistic?
Actually, I think it can. History tells us time and again that if you want to change the world, change your neighbourhood, change your job, and change your results – it all starts with changing something in yourself.
I never cease to be amazed, even though I know that makes no sense, when I find the same theme coming up with a few of my coaching clients at around the same time. I have now decided, and I know it’s long overdue, that I must start blogging regularly about these synchronistic experiences because I know that if it’s coming up for my clients, it’s coming up for many other business owners out there as well.
My studies in Neuro Linguistic Programming or Patterning (NLP) and ‘emotional intelligence’ have led me to the conclusion that when people ask me things like ‘Why do I keep doing this?’ or ‘Why can’t I seem to fix (whatever problem) when I know I should be doing this or that?’, there is something going on within them, something that is holding them back, something that in some peculiar way is serving them in continuing with their undesirable attitudes or behaviour.
Let’s consider a couple of examples…
One client described how she was about to start a new role where she would be working with a lady who was “going to be a real problem”. This alleged ‘battle-axe’ would on the same level as her but had been entrenched in the job for many years; she thought the boss was an idiot and that she actually ran the department; she knew ‘everything’ and didn’t tolerate fools. I’m sure you get the picture.
I listened as my client continued to vent her concerns and pent-up self-doubts. She described how she might be out of her depth; that she was lacking self-confidence and finally came to that awful admission of fear – “What if they find me out – that I really don’t know what I’m doing and that I’m a fraud?!”
“I know I CAN do it,” she continued, “but I’ve been so tired and feeling wishy-washy that I’m worried I just won’t be strong enough to deal with it (the job) or her (the battle-axe)”.
Wow! I let her get it all out before going through the numerous points that had come out of this emotionally-charged deluge. There were also many questions and concerns about how she should deal with her new staff team, how she should manage them and how she should lead them.
“Thank you” I said, “for sharing all that so honestly. You have given me so many points to address here.”
Firstly, my client was giving herself no credit at all for everything she had already been dealing with. She had ignored completely her achievements in successfully landing the managerial position in the first place; she had overlooked that it had been her ambition for some time because it was nearer to home and would give her more time with the family and less time stuck in stressful traffic. She had brushed aside completely the achievement of managing the household with two young schoolchildren and all of the extra-curricular activities that come with that role, whilst working full-time AND simultaneously supporting her husband by helping with administrative tasks from the home office in his expanding business. (Since we began our coaching and mentoring work together it has grown by two and a half times!) As I reminded her of these points she began to shift perceptibly as she realised the strengths she had been taking for granted.
I then raised the issues that she was already worrying about a potential adversary based on hearsay; that she had already proven that she in fact DOES know what she’s doing in the job; that she was worrying about how the staff might perceive her and creating a problem in her mind that might not even happen; that she had just returned from a refreshing family holiday; and that the reduction in commuting time would reduce her tiredness and increase her energy levels and therefore her physical, mental and emotional capability to cope with any new challenge that might occur.
Furthermore, I reminded her of the tremendous support structure that she enjoys – a supportive and loving husband; a wonderful family and of course a fantastic business and life coach!
As I explained about the impact of self-talk on the mind and the resulting stress generated in the body, she began to see that by changing a few simple ways of thinking about the situation; by looking at things from a different perspective – the whole situation began to change from a terrifying prospect to an exciting adventure. We discussed strategies for dealing with the battle-axe and some tactical approaches to leading her new team, including making allowances for cultural differences and the potential misunderstandings caused by language barriers in a multi-cultural environment.
The client’s furrowed brow became a beaming beacon once more. The ‘problems’ and the situation hadn’t changed. What HAD changed was her self-talk, her recognition of her own value and her paradigms. I had complete confidence in her, as did her husband, but now she can steadily build it in herself. Sure there will be problems and difficult situations, perhaps even some conflict to tackle, but the worst thing you can do is to worry about what may never even happen and to doubt your own competence based on some imaginary disaster. It’s about managing yourself first.
Another client asked me this week, “Why do I always procrastinate? Why do I keep my office in such a mess? Why do I put off tidying up my drawers and things even when I’ve got time?” I pointed out that in some strange way, it is serving her to keep it like that. We discussed it and realised that it’s not really strange after all – if you keep things in a mess, you have given yourself an excuse to not be as productive and effective as you could be? So why would you do that to yourself?
It really all starts with our identity, our understanding of who we are and how we fit in and make sense of the world around us. If we keep a few ‘excuses’ up our sleeves it gives us an ‘out’, an opportunity to remain in our comfort zones, to not test ourselves to the limits of our potential, just in case we should fail and embarrass ourselves. Worse yet, heaven forbid we should exceed what we believe we can achieve, because where would that leave us? We might then have to play a bigger game, become ‘that other person’ – the one who ventures outside the cosy snugness of the ‘good enough’, the one who risks something worse than failing… yes, succeeding.
It pretty much comes back to our family systems and our sense of ‘tribal self’. We put those labels on ourselves and wear them like badges of honour. Malcolm Gladwell talked about it a lot in his book ‘Outliers’, how our familial systems can forge our paths based on the expectations, the opportunities and the preparations for that ‘perceived existence’ with which your tribe arms you.
It is not an easy thing to break the chains of expectations created during your childhood, let alone those of your ancestral heritage, by stepping outside the metaphorical cave of family safety, yet it is entirely possible. Today it is possible more than ever before because we have access to a wealth of knowledge that continues to grow exponentially. Knowledge, IQ and logical processing may be one side of the equation though, emotional growth and EQ is another entirely.
Yet, by challenging our entrenched philosophies we can grow, we can exceed all previous expectations and we can live a life by design. We can imagine the kind of life we want to live, the kind of business or employment we will need to have in order to create it and we either have the tools, or have access to them, to go and make it happen. As Henry Ford famously quipped, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
It begins and ultimately ends with how we manage ourselves. Are you ready for the adventure?
If you’d like to learn more about this or discuss how you can play a bigger game, you can contact me using the website contact form or by phone on (08) 9328 2203.