OUR WORLD’S INTERCONNECTEDNESS DEMANDS NEW LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP AND WELLNESS
Never before have we been more aware of how interconnected we all are.
New abilities are needed to interconnect in a world where volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity are not only the norm but are increasing on a daily basis.
In normal healthy environments, our nervous systems regulate themselves.
However, the pandemic has created conditions of trauma for our nervous systems as we experience ongoing threats. We have two primary drivers as humans: to connect and to survive. The pandemic disrupted both of these drivers.
Under constant threat, our systems become dysregulated. We have to create new baselines for ourselves to be able to stay present and resilient and add those abilities to our resumes. How you do what you do at your edge is what sets you apart as a leader and a human being.
LEADERS ARE HUMAN TOO
Well-being is no longer a nicety to dabble in with your spare time. It’s a decisive strategy to meet and navigate the emerging world. As we become ever more aware of the truth and consequences of our interconnectedness, our abilities as leaders have to evolve to new levels. Leadership was always a demanding role. The bar for great leadership just reached Olympic levels. Great leadership must now include being a great human as a non-negotiable. Leaders must be and remain, strong, resilient and ready. Our very tough jobs not only include the empathy and ability to support and lead others, but we must be able to understand and manage the mental health risks that prolonged stress has on our teams and then determine what to do about it.
THE BUCK STARTS WITH US
You cannot lead others where you have not been before.
Self-care takes mental fitness. It takes mental fitness to help you focus on the present moment. When we focus on the present moment, we can connect better and make better decisions. Developing this ability is no different than developing physical abilities. It takes effort, training, and practice. You can start your mental fitness training by thinking about thinking.
THE BENEFITS TO THINKING ABOUT THINKING
If you want to know just how much time you spend in the present moment, take a pause and do this:
- Set a timer where you can see it.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on the present moment.
When you find yourself thinking about something in the past or the future, open your eyes and look at the timer.
How much time did you spend in the present moment? If you are not in the present moment, what is the quality of that moment? Who is leading that present moment if you are not? Interconnecting with others in a fully present way starts with providing and practicing that experience for yourself.
Here are three beneficial reasons to develop your mental fitness: Less stress, better thinking, more memory. Which one would be most beneficial to you right now? Would you be willing to spend a minute and a half a day for that benefit? If so, read on.
Stress affects how our cells organize and regulate themselves. In order to take charge and move from a state of stress to a state of well-being, it’s important to know how the brain learns best.
“Little and often” supports brain change. It takes 10-20 seconds of experiencing a pleasant sensation to ‘turn off ‘ the amygdala—the part of our brain that drives our fear responses. 10-20 seconds a day can make a difference to our nervous systems, helping them move from a stress state to a calm state. If you are consistent with this over time, the state can develop into a trait. Imagine being known for calmness as a leader as one of your character traits.
To kick start this state change and develop your mental fitness, make a shortlist of pleasant sensations you can experience for 10 seconds. Have fun with this. Take the time to make a list with your friends, peers, or family members.
The following are some examples to get you jump-started:
- As you take a sip of whatever you are drinking, really savor it. Spend time focused just on taking that sip. Notice how you feel as you do.
- Take a long deep inhale and exhale, focusing just on filling your lungs up, inhaling through your nose, and then exhaling gently through your nose.
- Rub your hands together and then gently cup them over your eyes. Keep them there as long as you like.
Just be with the pleasant sensation for ten seconds. Repeat this throughout your day. Tapping into pleasant sensations ten times a day helps you develop calmness as a state of being.
OH YES YOU CAN
Oftentimes, people are stuck in the “I can’t” of wanting to change and not being able to shift away from this for themselves. Research is now showing that the more resilient state of “I can” can be reached with practice.
Our clients reach for our science-based methodology to equip themselves to think about their thinking and develop their mental fitness. This is what using small and often looks like in action:
3 weeks in, spending just 3 minutes a day doing ‘small and often’. That’s just under an hour and a half total over the three weeks:
“I can think more clearly and more easily with less stress when things are chaotic. Plus I’ve managed to work out every day despite crazy work hours.”
Six weeks and 1.4 more hours later:
“It’s been an exceptionally high-pressure week for a lot of reasons, but I’ve felt a new sense of calm that I’ve never felt before. I can literally feel my muscles relaxing, can think more clearly, and more easily calm the chaos with others. I’m less stressed, still finding time to work out, showing up better, and being more effective at my work. My boss gave me really positive feedback this week and said they’ve seen a leadership change over the last six weeks. So I feel it and they see it.”
And even three weeks after they finished the 9-week sprint the new approach sustained:
“Work has been insane. I catch myself faster if I’m spiraling and am able to get myself back on track more quickly. I showed up well during the restructure which was high stress for everyone and have had so many leaders tell me what a great job I did leading the team through an exceptionally difficult body of work. AND I’m in my fourth straight month of doing some form of exercise every day!”
Being limited to what we can do, as we are in the pandemic, creates conditions of trauma for our nervous system. Our nervous system is experiencing a paradox with competing impulses. We have a biological imperative to connect but are also registering fear of others. This is a paradox that actually confuses our biology—the impulse to connect and the impulse to avoid—and creates more stress.
To connect to each other differently, to lead differently which our world is demanding, we need to be well. We need to think about our thinking. And how our thinking affects our behaviors which affect our results. Leadership starts with leading ourselves—from a state of stress to a state of well-being. We can affect this state change through awareness and developing our mental fitness. We start with tiny, consistent practices. To build a world where well-being for all is the purpose of leading, we must start with a tiny, consistent practice for ourselves.