How Gen Z is transforming the workplace

How Gen Z is transforming the workplace

The corporate world has been abuzz with talk about how to train the millennial generation for a while now. However, times are changing and if we want our businesses to stay ahead of the curve, it’s time we think ahead to the next generation that is growing up and rapidly entering the workforce: Generation Z.

Generation Improviser

 

Born after the mid-’90s and raised in the 2000s, Gen Z already makes up 24% of the workforce. Radically different from millennials, Gen Z “has an entirely unique perspective on careers and how to define success in life and in the workforce” (Deloitte). They’ve grown up during a time of great economic and political instability and are driven towards finding stable and secure jobs. 

However, with the COVID curveball- that has hit us all – has come an even stronger reminder of the importance of a flexible, adaptable and systems-orientated leadership. With an uncertain future and the speed of change accelerating faster than ever before, no generation has needed these leadership qualities more.

So how might we encourage these qualities in Generation Z? And gear our training towards Gen Z and their older- millennial- siblings? We can start to look at what’s new and what’s changing. What are the similarities between Millennials and Gen Z and what are the differences that make Gen Z uniquely different? And what can we learn from these similarities and differences to maximize the talent and energy of our Gen Zers in our workplaces?

Similarities to Millennials:

 

1. Flexibility of Work

One Deloitte study found that 75% of Gen Zers were interested in inhabiting numerous roles within a company. 

At 4D we talk a lot about range- and how- as human beings- we have so much more range than we often realise. And quite often we only use a very small percentage of our range, particularly in our working lives. Whilst this ‘autopilot’ range can serve us well most of the time, it can leave us feeling disconnected in our work and boxed into a certain ‘role.’ So how might you bring a sense of breadth to your Gen Zers role and responsibilities? Encourage them to stretch. If you hear the words ‘that’s not me’ or ‘I’m not very…’ then you know there’s some limiting self-talk going on. And at 4D we believe the unique range of each human being is well…infinite. One only has to look to the world of theatre and study really good actors, to understand that they’re not simply placing a character on top of themselves but stretching into a different part of who they are. And as human beings, we can do the same. 

So, it may not even be necessary for an external role change. How can you motivate a Gen Zer on your team to step into a different internal part of self? Such as their risk-taking part, their organising part, their diligent part, their leader part or their persevering part. Or maybe it’s their inner joker, or serious player or the part of them that sees possibilities rather than problems. So, that they can stretch their sense of self within the specs of that job.

2. Positive workplaces

 

Studies have shown that a positive work environment is important to Gen Z. Up to 70% will look for workplace reviews on websites such as ‘Glassdoor’ before applying for a job. 

A study by Deloitte found that Gen Zers are ‘likely to be loyal to organizations with a positive workplace culture.’ 

Now, of course, it can be hard to stay positive when there’s a lot of pressure on at work. Even more so during 2020! However, as leaders, we must celebrate successes (however small) because of the positive impact of well…positivity! There are numerous psychological and physical benefits to positive environments and emotions like reduced anxiety and a stronger immune system. 

Relationship expert John Gottman has worked out that the golden ratio for successful relationships (this applies for both personal and professional relationships) is 5:1: 5 positive interaction to every negative interaction. A positive interaction doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it could be as simple as saying “good morning” to your colleagues. Keep filling your emotional bank account, so that you’ve balanced out any negativity for when it does inevitably arise. Because this isn’t about avoiding negativity. If you take the ratio too high- approximately 13 positives to one negative- trust erodes within the relationship. This is because negativity and truth aren’t being expressed. 

So why- given all the benefits- can it be difficult to stay positive? 

Due to the brain’s negative bias, the brain prioritises negative experiences over positive ones because negative experiences pose a chance of danger. This was useful for our ancestors on the savannah – being negatively biased quite literally kept you alive. But now this isn’t so useful. So, we need to update this old operating system, so that it can better serve us and our teams. As leaders how can we inject more positivity into a stressful day? An easy way to do this can be to shift the focus at the start of a meeting. “Which of your colleagues would you like to celebrate this week?” or “What’s one thing you’re proud of?” Simple check-in questions like this start to shift the focus of the team. And what you focus on ultimately shapes your experience of life. 

Do this at the start of your team meeting for two months and see what happens for you- and the Gen Zers- in your team. 

3. Love of Technology

Gen Z has never grown up in a world without the internet, and so technology has become inextricably intertwined with their lives. They are digital natives and have grown up with a smartphone and social media. Which- as the hair-raising Netflix documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’ suggests- has its benefits and its challenges: “Social media starts to dig deeper and deeper, deeper down into the brain stem and take over kids’ sense of self-worth and identity.” So, whether we agree with it or not, the majority of Gen Zers will- to a certain degree- recognize themselves through the lens (or reach) of an online profile. And this is probably true for any of us with some kind of online presence, whether that be Tik Tok, Twitter or Instagram. 

However, social media is not all negative – connecting and communicating virtually can also be incredibly creative. As long as we are conscious and at choice about our use. One only has to look at apps like Snapchat or features like Instagram stories to consider the breadth of communication styles on offer. All these different ways of communicating engage a much wider collection of thinking styles and can empower a wider variety of individuals to have impact without having to say a word.

So, how might you capitalise on Gen Zs fluency and ease with technology? Bring some of these tools into your team meetings and training. At 4D we’ve been taking advantage of some fantastic virtual tools to bring different learning styles and creativity options into our sessions. A 4D favourite right now is Menti– an online polling platform, that has participants voting in real-time, and watching as their votes anonymously show up on the screen. Polling tools like Menti can help you to efficiently scan the team, without having to get a verbal check-in from everyone. With a quick poll, everyone’s ‘voice’ in the room gets heard, without them having to say a word. It also gives you- as the team lead or host- a better sense of what is going on with the whole team, as opposed to just those with the loudest voices. 

 

Differences to millennials:

1. Highly Competitive

 

Gen Z is arguably more success-orientated than any other generation. They are driven and determined and also, more vulnerable to ego triggers. 

Now the ego gets a bad rap but we all have an ego. And we can talk about the ego being big or small but also in terms of being healthy or unhealthy. One of the challenges of needing to be right, sounding clever, or solving a problem can be that an unhealthy ego gets in the way. 

 

  • An UNHEALTHY Ego- is a fragile ego, that feels under attack. The ego believes others have the power to diminish it, so self-punishes or tries to diminish someone else’s ego in order to protect itself.

  • A HEALTHY EGO- is solid and intact. It isn’t dependent on other people to be whole and safe. IT might enjoy praise or win, but it’s not dependent on these things and won’t be devastated if they don’t happen. With a healthy ego, you will be strong, confident and resilient in your abilities, honest about your talents whilst being available to grow, open to constructive feedback, curious in the face of conflict and able to acknowledge mistakes with a clear mind and heart.

So thinking about an ego triggering situation that feels unfair to you. How might you react if you were operating from a…

  • Low-Unhealthy Ego state- Victim
  • High- Unhealthy Ego State- Aggression
  • Low- Healthy Ego State- Acceptance
  • High- Healthy Ego State- Curiosity

Our patterned reactions are there for a good reason. They’re our instinctive reactions and defences that we’ve adapted to keep us safe. So, this isn’t about criticising our triggers- this is about becoming conscious of our default reactions to these triggers so that we can choose to respond differently- as opposed to reacting unconsciously. The difference between the world happening to you and you happening to the world. 

Consider how you can model the healthy ego (in particular the high healthy ego state) by practicing leaning in with curiosity. Maybe you get a tricky question during a presentation or push back from a client- rather than defend yourself or the project or insist you are ‘right’ – how might you lean in with genuine curiosity, and encourage a culture of curiosity for your Gen Zers? 

 

2. Orientated towards job security and salary

 

Whilst millennials were stereotyped as chronic ‘job hoppers’ Gen Z are more interested in long-term job security and stability. Having grown up during a time of great economic and political volatility (they were only 11 when then the 2008 great recession hit) they are interested in finding steady, secure jobs.

However, within these stable and secure jobs, Gen Zers are looking for autonomy. The freedom to work when they want to work, as opposed to fitting their lives around a 9-5 schedule. In his book ‘Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us’ Daniel Pink writes: “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”  

In 2020, autonomy has- for many people- been delivered in overdrive with the global pandemic this year. Without the geography of an ‘office’ and the presence of a physical boss, autonomy is perhaps less of a concern than is accountability. So, how can we create a sense of accountability- without intruding on a person’s autonomy? We can encourage self-accountability. Team check-ins over zoom or team spaces where colleagues feedback to their team are a great way of keeping virtual teams connected whilst also fostering a sense of personal purpose and pride in the individual’s work. 

Recognising that everyone on your team is a voice of that team or ‘system’ is a powerful way of empowering people- particularly the younger members of your team or organisation. Your grads and Gen Zers will benefit greatly from feeling respected and trusted, through autonomous work and a model of positive reinforcement and self-accountability. 

3. Entrepreneurial

 

Gen Zs are entrepreneurial in spirit and are often working on a side hustle, whether that be a small craft business they run on Etsy or a part-time photography gig. The entrepreneurial and the improviser mindset have a lot in common- and both have the potential to make great leaders. So how can we release this leadership capacity within our Gen Zers? Invest in training Gen Z early, particularly those identified as having high potential. Whilst they might just be at the start of their corporate careers, they come with a unique perspective on our interdependence with technology and will be the generation to lead us into a century of development and change like no other. Help them become great communicators so they can share their unique perspectives with your wider business and customers, with a sense of gravitas and credibility.

 

This also plays into Gen Z’s desire to find workplaces with a diversity of rich learning experiences and opportunities for personal growth. Whilst salary is important to Gen Z, they are still motivated by work satisfaction. According to a Deloitte study“Gen Z, employers must be ready to adopt a speed of evolution that matches the external environment. That means developing robust training and leadership programs, with a real and tangible focus on diversity.” 

For Gen Z, actions speak louder than words, which is what we’re all about at 4D Human Being. Helping people to mind the gap between how they think they’re being and how they’re coming across so that they can consciously create the impact they choose.

Are your Gen Zers happening to the world or is the world happening to them? 

 

Our personal impact programs empower the Gen Z workforce along the path towards conscious communication and an awareness that they are always at choice. 

We’re all in this together…and ‘this’ can feel very different.

We’re all in this together…and ‘this’ can feel very different.

In this article, 4D’s Katie Churchman is discussing the diverse range of pandemic experiences. Maybe you’re sad, happy, frustrated, jealous, hopeful. And maybe that’s okay. As opposed to labelling them in a binary way- right/wrong, good/bad- can we sit with them in the grey space and see what they’re trying to say?

I love the sentiment behind ‘we’re all in this together’ and I certainly sense more appreciation for community in my own local and global networks. Tom Moore- the 100-year old war veteran who raised over £30 million for the NHS is a great symbol for this shared sentiment. His efforts- walking 100 laps of his backyard with a walking frame- captured the hearts of people all over the globe. Yet just because we are sharing similar sentiments with our global neighbours, it doesn’t necessarily mean our emotional experience of the pandemic is in any way the similar. Even if someone is having a similar external experience- regarding finances, space and social contact- their internal system might be impacted in a very different way.

 

 

Stop comparing

  

Social media has- for a long time- been a comparison trap. When we see the edited version of our friend’s #amazinglife we may find ourselves feeling a little less good about our own. During the pandemic, we may find that some of these impacts have been heightened. Even though we know, on some level, that it’s been edited and tailored to create a certain impact, it’s hard not to feel less than adequate when you learn about your co-worker’s perfect home-schooling routine, super organised house, and the fact that she ran a half-marathon last Thursday (just for #fun!). You may be thinking ‘how is she thriving while I’m struggling to [X]’ (you can fill in the blank.)

Well firstly, know that everyone in your network will be dealing with some sort of challenge. To quote Elizabeth Gilbert from her recent TED Connects talk, “I think you would have to be either a sociopath or totally enlightened not to be feeling anxiety at a moment like this.” We’ve all been challenged differently by this uncertainty and change. So whether we choose to show it or not, we are human, and we’ve all found different parts of this hard.

 

 

I know some people who are completely overwhelmed and exhausted juggling multiple roles- perhaps as a mum, manager and- as of 6-weeks ago- a home-school teacher. And yet at the other end of the spectrum, I know people who are incredibly lonely and struggling to fill their time. The breadth of experience is massive.

All of these challenges are related to Covid-19. And yet they are all vastly different. So try not to compare your response patterns to others. There’s no ‘right way’ of doing lock-down. This is unfamiliar and uncertain territory for all of us and we’re all trying to work through it in the best way we can.

 

Self-Compassionate Inquiry  

 

It’s one thing to talk about the diversity of experience in the world around us. But there’s also a real range of experiences and emotions going on within us. I know I’m not alone in feeling like I’m riding a wave of emotions: one day feeling positive and energized, then the next I’m feeling hopeless or guilty that I’m not feeling more grateful for what I’ve got.

When the negative emotions show up what we can do is lean in with compassionate inquiry. We can lean into the hurt, anxiety or anger and softly find out what it wants. There are many ways of stepping into this sort of internal inquiry and a practice I am enjoying at the moment is Byron’s Katie’s 4 questions.

 

Katie- known for her international bestseller ‘The Work’– has a wonderfully straight-forward approach to self-inquiry: “If I can teach you anything, it is to identify the stressful thoughts that you’re believing and to question them, to get still enough so that you can hear your own answers.  Stress is the gift that alerts you to your asleepness.  Feelings like anger or sadness exist only to alert you to the fact that you’re believing your own stories.” When you believe your stressful thoughts – or any negative thoughts for that matter– you will suffer, in one way or another, sooner or later.

Instead of ignoring or feeling overwhelmed by these negative thoughts, we can choose to get curious and interrogate them with Katie’s 4 simple questions:

 

  1. Is it true? – this is a yes or no answer. If yes, move to question 2. If no, experience it as a no for a moment and then move to question 3.
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Dig deeper.
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe your thought? How does it show up in your body? What’s the impact it has on you?
  4. Who would you be without that thought? Notice what is revealed.

 

“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”

– Byron Katie

 

Lean in with compassionate inquiry and find out what information is arising. What does that part of you need to feel safe and secure? Get curious, be kind and try not to judge what comes up. Just notice.

  

You are enough

 

Whilst I’m impressed by the creativity that has emerged from the crisis, I’m somewhat tired by the endless drive to fill this time with something worthwhile and productive. No, you don’t have to write a book, or get a 6-pack, or learn how to cook like a Michelin star chef to use this time effectively. Right now, doing the normal things, like getting up, getting dressed and making breakfast should be heralded as big wins. Small victories in a sea of change.

It makes me think of James Clear’s book ‘Atomic Habits’ and his idea that tiny habits are the ‘compound interest of personal development.’ Whist admirable, big goals focus on ‘winning the game.’ Whereas a ‘system of habits’ focuses on continuing to play the game. This is why good habits often don’t surpass their goals. For example, we train for a 5km run, we run a 5km, and then we stop running. Further still, goals don’t separate the winners from the losers. Everyone entering a competition or interviewing for a job has the same goal: to win the race or to get the job. The difference between the best of the best and everyone else is that the former has a system of habits that support the big goal.

 

A goal might set you off in the right direction. But it’s the small daily habits- or the ‘Atomic Habits’ as Clear likes to call them- that create real and meaningful change. So ask yourself: do you want to run every day during lock-down or do you want to be a runner beyond the pandemic? And do you want to write a book during quarantine or do want to become a writer? It’s a subtle shift but it’s difference between doing something in the short-term and becoming someone in the long-term. And right now, I do believe we’ve been given a rare opportunity to create new habits. But start small. Keep it simple. And stay consistent. What’s the smallest viable step that you can take towards your big goal? Maybe it’s a walk around the block. Or drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up. Whilst these small habits may seem inconsequential in the short-term, they build up over time. As Clear says: “Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it.” And here’s the math: “If you can get 1 per cent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 per cent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero.”

Writing for 10-minutes each day might not seem like that much. But times that by the number of days you’ve been in lock-down and it starts to add up…

 

One Pandemic. A Million Experiences.

 

This is true of the pandemic and life in general. Even if we had identical lock-down situations, we would still experience them very differently. Because we aren’t the same. Our external and internal worlds are so different, and the challenges vary drastically.

 

With that in mind, can we step-in and embrace this diversity of experiences, within ourselves and in other people? We’ve never walked a mile in someone else’s’ shoes. And equally, they’ve never walked a mile in ours. So, I leave you with a revision of ‘we’re all in this together’: Can we all be in this together with whatever shows up? Can we honour the diversity and hold the paradox within…?

The pandemic is so many things. There’s so much goodness showing up and there’s much to grieve. And just like life, it’s not one ‘thing.’

 

Embracing the Darkness Within

Embracing the Darkness Within


Empowerment through shadow work

In this article we’re exploring the sides of ourselves that we’re often unaware of; the parts of self that get shunned to the edges of our consciousness by ourselves and often by society too. Otherwise known as the shadow self.

This article will explain what a shadow self is. It will offer ways to help you to connect to your shadow self to help you rapidly transcend to your greatest, most whole self.

Shining a light on your inner ‘darkness’ helps to heighten self-awareness, free you from fear and enable you to see yourself as a multi-faceted, 4-dimensional human being. And you may just discover that the darkness isn’t so dark after all, but rather the key to a much more balanced, full and connected way of living. Join us as we step into our shadow selves and unlock repressed feelings in order to connect to a much more complete and centred sense of self. 


What is a shadow self?

Our shadow selves are the parts of ourselves that we believe to be unacceptable (or what we believe society considers to be unacceptable). Due to our upbringing and conditioning we have learnt that certain parts of us are not ‘acceptable’ and as a result we start to deny or hide these parts. Emotions like rage, jealousy, bitterness and lust may be repressed because they are typically dismissed as ‘bad’ emotions. This binary approach to life- good/bad, hot/cold right/wrong – is the foundation upon which the shadow self-forms. All of the sides of ourselves that we- or society- consider to be abnormal, unacceptable or wrong end up hiding in the ‘shadows.’ 

We all have a ‘dark’ side to our personality. It is what makes us human. And instead of pretending they don’t exist, we need to embrace these parts of ourselves. Then we can learn from them, we can create more choice in our lives, we can access more creativity and we can be fully ourselves. Our shadow selves have huge gifts to offer us all. So today, we’re celebrating our shadow selves, to release ourselves from the taboos that keep us trapped, defensive and fearful. 

Deepak Chopra, co-author of ‘The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the hidden power of your true self’ says: “In order to have manifestation you need to have opposing energies. All experience is the result of contrast. To have a shadow is normal. If you had only truth, goodness, and harmony on the inside, and the complete absence of the other, there would be no creative impulse. Everyone has a shadow unless they are standing in the dark.”


Origins of Shadow theory

Carl Jung first coined the term ‘shadow’ when he was trying to answer the following question: “Why do seemingly good people do obviously bad things?” The Swiss psychoanalyst used the term to describe those aspects of the personality that we choose to reject and repress. Jung believed that we were all born as a blank canvas, but due to our social and cultural conditioning, we all have parts of ourselves that we push down into our unconscious psyche. This collection of repressed emotions and aspects of our identity is what Jung referred to as our ‘shadow.’ In ‘Psychology and Religion’ Jung writes: “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

When we deny our shadow, we are denying a part of self. Embracing the shadow self can lead to a greater understanding of our whole self, as it helps us to understand, control and integrate it. Because when we shine a light on our shadow, we become conscious of the unconscious and gift ourselves with the power of conscious choice. 


Don’t think of a pink elephant!!
 

For the next 30-seconds think about anything you want. You can think about your work, what you’re having for dinner, your plans for the weekend. But whatever you do… DON’T think about a pink elephant.

So…did you manage it? My guess is that most of you didn’t even last 5-seconds without thinking about a pink elephant.

This exercise is often used by psychologists to show how trying not to think about something, actually makes you more likely to think about it. This is due to “ironic process theory,” whereby deliberate attempts to suppress certain thoughts make them more likely to arise. Social psychologist Daniel Wegner, a psychology professor at Harvard University and the founding father of thought suppression research, discovered that telling someone to simply ‘stop thinking’ about an intrusive thought, encourages further obsession and worry about the thought in question. His research has suggested that ignoring and repressing disturbing thoughts only increases their potency and persistence. The way to move past these psychological blocks is to move through them, by replacing an attitude of resistance with one of acceptance. 

It is the same with parts of ourselves we deny or don’t like. If we try to fight them, resist them or deny them they will pop up from our unconscious and play out in relationships and situations. And even then, we will still find a way to deny their reality! Even when they’re right in front of us. We might blame someone else, defend ourselves or justify our actions as reasonable because of the someone else’s wrongness, badness or irresponsibility. But if we own those parts of ourselves we find tricky – suddenly we have nothing to defend against, nothing to fear and nothing to fight about. We can’t be hurt by those parts because we have taken ownership over them. 

So, unfortunately, we find ourselves in a paradox: to be free of our shadow, we have to step into it and normalise the repressed emotions and rejected identities that make up this darker side of self. This is why shadow work requires a huge amount of courage, self-compassion and conscious intentionality. However, hard work reaps great rewards…


Celebrate your shadow

“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” 

 

– Carl Jung

Stepping into your shadow can help you to tap into your creative and innovative potential and increase your physical and mental health. This is because working with your shadow involves balance: you accept all of your so-called ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parts and embrace your whole self.

Steve Wolf, co-author of ‘Romancing the Shadow’ writes that: “Beneath the social mask we wear every day, we have a hidden shadow side: an impulsive, wounded, sad, or isolated part that we generally try to ignore. The Shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality and acknowledging it can be a pathway to healing and an authentic life.” To change our auto-pilot programming we have to go beyond our surface-level beliefs and start working with our unconscious desires. What are these repressed feelings trying to tell you? What do they need? Want? Take, for example, the part of you that is angry. Maybe it needs to be heard. Or perhaps it needs you to set some boundaries for it so that it doesn’t feel put upon and undervalued by others. Every shadow part is trying to tell you something. Something that, if you listen, will make your life much fuller and happier.

Opening up an internal dialogue with these rejected parts of self will enable you to better understand them. To quote 20th-century philosopher Charles Francis Haanel: “The real secret of power is consciousness of power.” How might you work with your shadow to step into new ways of being?


Getting to know your shadow

There are three key ways that we try to hide our shadow. Three behaviours that most of us do every day. These behaviours are rationalisation, rejection and projection. 

  • Rationalisation: With rationalisation, we justify actions in order to make the parts of our self that we don’t like, appear completely reasonable.
  • Rejection: With rejection, we completely deny these parts of our self. We limit opportunities because we have decided that we are not that person. With rejection, we reject, judge and dismiss these qualities in other people. 
  • Projection: With projection, we project onto other people the behaviours and qualities we cannot tolerate in ourselves. Even if that person has not even demonstrated these qualities. 


Making the Unconscious Conscious…

We can start to integrate and own our own shadow by heightening our awareness to these 3-shadow hiding behaviours. 

1. Rationalisation: Catch yourself justifying certain behaviours. For example, “I only slept with him because I was drunk.” This justification reveals a lot about a part of yourself that you are repressing. To quote Carl Jung: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

2. Rejection: Notice the traits you reject in other people. This is usually a sign you are rejecting this trait in yourself. If you catch yourself thinking about your boss “she is so controlling”, then this may suggest that “controlling” is something you reject in yourself. Or something that you do but deny you do. What do you reject in others that you might be rejecting in yourself? To quote the German poet Herman Hesse: “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.” 

3. Projection: It’s not easy or comfortable seeing the darker sides in our selves. To quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” It’s much easier to project these qualities onto other people as opposed to recognising them in ourselves. In fact, the entire celebrity gossip industry is built on this fundamental human tendency. It loves to build people up with incredible qualities and talents that we mere mortals could not possibly ever own. And then it loves to tear them down with all the terrible qualities that we would never demonstrate ourselves.

Because when it comes to shadow, we don’t just project the ‘bad’ stuff we also project out the wonderful qualities that we don’t have the courage to own in ourselves. And by projecting out amazing qualities we set ourselves constricting yet ‘safe’ limitations. “I could never be as amazing as that because I’m just ordinary. I could never do what they do, I don’t have those qualities.” But you do. You’ve just projected them onto someone else. So, losing the insights, gifts, and expansion they could bring you. We lose out in every way when we project qualities out onto others. 


Own your shadow

So – own your shadow. Create a list of the worst adjectives to describe a human being. Now pick five that you would hate somebody to attribute to you. Let’s say your five are: greedy, selfish, thoughtless, angry and stupid. Now own own of these adjectives by saying it out loud: “I am greedy. I am greedy. I am greedy.” Keep saying it till it doesn’t hurt. Once it no longer stings you can balance it with: “I am greedy, yes and I’m also very generous. I am both.” Then continue to work with the other adjectives you have chosen. Because both parts of you are true. And that generous part of you needs some balance. A little bit of greed- perhaps in the form of self-care- does not take away from your generosity. Embrace the paradox of being both.

The second exercise involves owning the amazing parts of you that you typically disown. So, this time write a list of amazing, wonderful, incredible adjectives that you think are the best ways to describe a human being. Now pick five that in your heart you feel “I’m not that.” For example: special, successful, funny, radiant, beautiful. Now keep repeating to yourself over and over: “I am special, I am special, I am special.” I know it seems a bit silly but stick with it! This really does work.

You can even involve a partner or friend to help you with this. Every time you say for example: “I am special” they say to you: “yes, you are special.” And you keep on and on and on until it no longer embarrasses you and you no longer reject the words. Until they simply feel a part of you. Because they are. 

With both of these exercises, you are creating new neural pathways and shifting both your mental and physiological responses to these parts of yourself. In the first exercise, you keep going until you no longer feel triggered and shamed by the words. And in the second exercise, you keep going until you no longer feel embarrassed, modest and rejecting. Until you can own the words, shrug your shoulders and say: yes they are a part of me. The next time somebody calls you one of these words or you imagine that somebody might think you are one of these words… You will simply shrug your shoulders and be fine with it. Other people’s judgement and criticism will no longer have any power over you. Because you have owned your shadow. You have owned your power.


Shine a light on your shadow

Working with your shadow will help you to stop living reactively and unconsciously and will help you to consciously respond to whatever life throws your way. Shadow work isn’t about ridding yourself of the shadow. Nor is about becoming perfect. It’s about integrating the shadow self into your conscious experience so that you can step into a more integrated and whole way of being in the world. Normalising intrusive thoughts and repressed feelings will enable you to sit back in the driver’s seat of your life. So that you- the whole, integrated you- can make conscious choices that will drive your life in the direction you want it to go.

Whole Body Health

Whole Body Health

 

Shifting the focus from body weight to a positive state.

 

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week UK is body image. How we think and feel about our bodies- on both an individual and social level- is having a big impact on our mental wellbeing. Shocking new statistics from the The Mental Health Foundation found that 1 in 8 adults has considered taking their own life because of concerns relating to body image. The cultural and social importance placed on body image is having a devastating impact on our sense of self-worth and is warping our understanding of health. Because ’being healthy’ is about so much more than weight, shape and exercise. It’s about the mind, the body and with that all of the internal phenomena that goes on beneath the surface.

 

 

In this article we’re looking at health through a holistic lens, in order to shift the focus from body weight to a positive state. The aesthetic focus that dominates our understanding of health is undermining many other important factors, like our mental wellbeing. So, in support of mental health awareness week we’re looking at health in 4-dimensions and offering simple ways to accept, include and potentially upgrade each of these dimensions into your attitude and action plan for healthy living.  By stepping back and looking through a system lens, we’re transforming a 1-dimensional definition of health into a 4-dimensional, all-inclusive celebration of holistic health. Let’s turn it up to 4D….

 

Physical Health: Slow down

 

In 2014 I ran the London Marathon. I’m still incredibly proud of this achievement because it seemed like a physically impossible challenge. When I signed up for a charity place 8-months prior to event I could barely run 3km without stopping. Fast forward half a year and I was running half-marathons every other weekend and starting to believe that I might just make it through the 26.2 miles. I was- by the standard definition- really healthy and fit. Yet, I was missing the signs and signals that were starting to show up below the surface of my strong runner’s body- like the niggles and locks I was getting in my knees. Instead, I strapped on two bulky knee supports and managed to make it through one of the hottest London Marathon’s to date. Sadly, that was one of the last times I’ve been able to run long-distance, as since that event I’ve had 4 major knee operations, including 2 stem cell transplants. Now, this isn’t to say that this wouldn’t have happened at some point, as I do have a predisposition for knee injuries. However, not listening to my body and placing a heavy focus on aesthetic health, probably didn’t help.

Whilst the ‘physical’ dominates the conversation around health, it’s often limited to aesthetic signs and symptoms that are collectively to blame for our unhealthy, obsessive relationship with body image. However, it all starts at a much deeper dimension physically, which is then affecting what we think, feel and believe. We’re all releasing chemicals into our brain all the time. Simply standing in a different way can affect the neurochemicals that are released into our brains. So, I’m going to offer a surprising- yet quite possibly life-changing- way of stepping into a more all-encompassing understanding of physical health: slowing down.

 

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand that the mind works faster than the body. For example, the body takes almost 20 minutes to sense hunger in which time the brain has decided it wants a second helping, dessert and another glass of wine. And then the “Oh God I’m full” sensation kicks in. Whilst the body’s systems often operate in a slow and steady fashion they should not be considered as simple or inferior to the brain. Via an incredibly sophisticated network of nerves, neurones and hormones the body sends signs and signals to the brain to help it make sense of the world. That is- if it’s listening. If your mind is too focused on the awkward conversation you had with your boss at lunch, then it probably won’t have the capacity to properly consider hunger, tiredness and the fact that your knees are aching again. It sounds simple, but listening to the body in a culture characterised by fast food and contactless credit cards takes a lot of conscientious effort.

Knee surgery was my way in to a slower way of living. A life-changing silver lining that has completely transformed the way I listen to my body and think about my life. However, you’ll be thankful to know that there are other avenues to slowing down, that aren’t so drastic or debilitating. Simple, shortcuts that put the body back in the driving seat. For me, this involves meditating every morning, taking walks without my phone, not saying ‘yes’ to every invitation, and prioritising self-care.  To quote the wise word of Pico Iyer, author of The Art of Stillness:In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” He suggests slowing down can be as simple as “taking a few minutes out of every day to sit quietly and do nothing, letting what moves one rise to the surface.”

 

Emotional Health: Celebrate Sleep

 

I used to regularly start my day rushing from my flat to yoga studio- pushing past everyone on the elevator – just so that I could make it to my mat on time. I remember on one particular occasion, dashing across London to make it to a 6am class. I arrived at 5:55am, only to be told that I was late and that they’d given away my place. “I’m 5-minutes early” I told the receptionist. “Yes, but you need to be here 10 minutes before class. So technically, you’re 5-minutes late.” Resisting the urge to scream at the yoga receptionist I turned away feeling broken, bitter and wishing I’d stayed in bed for an extra hour.

Hindsight can be quite hilarious. As I write this I am recalling so much stress: running red lights, power walking along yellow lines on station platforms and knocking over tourists… all in search of relaxation and release. It seems so silly because my bull-dog pursuit of wellness has often added pressure and strain to an already overwhelmed day. Rushing to relax is surely counterintuitive, so why then is stress around wellbeing so prevalent? In part because the consumerist life-model is often dressed up in a wellness cloak. It guises itself as selfless and well-meaning but it is sometimes no better than the unashamed consumer. So, my remedy for emotional health is simple: celebrate sleep.

Sleep is one of our fundamental needs and is arguably more important that food: whilst we can last 30-40 days without food the longest recorded time without sleep is approximately 264 hours, or just over 11 consecutive days. So, whilst we’re not telling you to skip your morning gym sessions, we are asking you to reevaluate your relationship with sleep. Because the physical and mental ‘gains’ you’re hoping to get from going to the gym after 4 hours of sleep might be completely counteracted by your exhausted and overwhelmed body. Those of you who are parents will have experienced children saying they are hungry when they are in fact, tired. Well studies show that we do this as adults too. “For adults, over-tiredness or exhaustion can leave you irritable, lethargic, a little slow in the head, and craving high-fat, high-carbohydrate snacks, as your body looks for a quick fix for its depleted energy stores.” As well as being linked to fat gain, and muscle loss, sleep deprivation has also been shown to significantly compromise the immune system. One study showed that “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.” To quote the words of Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of ‘Rest: why you get more done when you work less’: “If you want rest, you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it. History.”

 

 

And perhaps unsurprisingly, insomnia often goes hand-in-hand with depression. “Until recently, insomnia was typically seen as a symptom of depression,” says Michael L. Perlis, director of the Behavioural Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania. “Treat the underlying depression, the thinking went, and sleep problems would go away.” But new research shows that insomnia is not just a symptom of depression: it can actually be a causal factor. So, if you find yourself feeling stressed out, maybe take a look at your sleep. To quote Matthew Walker, best-selling author of ‘Why we sleep’: ““The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

 

Intellectual Health: Read Daily

 

I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that I place far too much importance in the number on the scales. After two knee surgeries last year I lost quite a bit of weight- mostly due to the muscle I lost from my legs. And I’m ashamed to say that I secretly celebrated this lower number. Fast forward a year and I was so happy to have two strong and supportive knees. Yet, in spite of this health success I found myself frustrated by an increase in the numbers. My legs had built muscle that was helping me to hike, teach yoga and learn handstands, and yet, my healthy body somehow felt like a failure- all because of a number on the scales. On so many levels I knew this made no sense, as I was so much healthier and happier than I had been after surgery. Yet I found it impossible to break this hardwired blueprint. So, my husband helped me do the next best thing: he hid the scales! And I’m surprised to say that this small and simple change has had such a positive impact on my day-to-day wellbeing. Because now when I wake up in the morning, instead of reading a number on a scale, I start my day by reading a book. I’ve swapped criticising my body, for building my brain.

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” It can also help you to feel significantly happier. One 2009 study showed that reading can reduce stress by as much as 68 percentCognitive Neuropsychologist Dr Lewis, says“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. This is particularly poignant in uncertain economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism. It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.” Making reading a part of morning ritual has reduced my stress levels and has helped me to develop a healthier relationship with my body. You’re just one click away from an infinite number of books and articles, that will take you on adventures, teach you new things and perhaps even inspire body positive thinking. I’ve taken this one step further by painting the words ‘I am enough’ on my living room wall. The hope is that on some subconscious level, reading these words on a daily basis wills be reprogramming my core beliefs about myself.

Furthermore, reading is a hobby and a habit shared by some of the world’s most people including Warren Buffett who believes it to be the key to success: “Read 500 pages […] every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” In addition, the very activity of reading itself activates and engages both the right and left sides of the brain, thus giving you access to your creative and logical thinking styles. According research, reading, unlike watching or listening to media, gives the brain more time to stop, think, process, and imagine the narrative in from of us.

As a society we spend so much time, energy and money focusing on our weight and far less on building brain boosting habits, like reading. So let’s rebalance our attention by putting ‘brain training’ on our ‘exercise’ schedules. One study showed that activities that create mental stimulation, like reading, can protect memory and thinking skills, particularly as we age. The study also suggested that reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline. So indirectly we can assume that reading, can actually help us to live longer.

Here are some stats to get you started…

 

Intentional Health: Redraft the story

 

On a daily basis we are bombarded with images of ‘perfection.’ Images that are causing us to internalise ‘shoulds’ that impact what we think, feel and believe about our bodies.

Now every time you have a new thought about what you ‘should’ look like, you create a new neural pathway in the brain. And when that thought repeats it suggests to the brain that it’s a really important thought. So the brain does it’s best to preserve and strengthen the neural path by wrapping it in a protein called myelin. The more the thought repeats the more you protect the neural pathway. Over time you build up a superhighway around a thought. Which is useful if it’s a positive thought and in line with the story you want to tell. But the brain doesn’t discern between good and bad, useful and unhelpful. The thoughts that occur most often in your mind will be the ones that the brain believes are most important to you.

So, if you keep telling yourself that you hate yourself over and over again, your brain will build a super strong pathway and it will become a belief for you. However, what you may not realise is that you have built this belief because you have built this neural pathway. This is why the story we tell ourselves is so important because it can completely change the way we see ourselves in the world.

 

Now obviously some beliefs are much more difficult to rewire than others. Beliefs that have repeated over and over from a young age will have become ingrained in your neurobiology. These beliefs may have created unconscious behavioural patterns and habits that play out in relationships- with yourself and others. And you may not even be aware of the beliefs that are behind these behaviours because of how imbedded they have become in your psyche. So be patient, these beliefs will take longer to break. But they can be changed. We know this because of science. And I know this from personal experience.

Think of something small and simple you’d like to change. Decide what you want to rewire, and we’ll work together to rewrite the story…

 

1. Look for evidence that contradicts the belief

 

This can help you to gain some perspective on the belief by narrowing its catastrophising effect. By reframing the belief, you can start to take charge and apply some order to this exaggerated assumption. Context and clarity are key because they enable us to break down the limiting belief and build it up into something new: into something we can do. We’re not rewiring with a lie, we are re-storying with your true potential.

 

2.  Listen out for words like ‘always’ and ‘never’

 

“I never have the confidence to meet new people.” “I’m always eating.” ‘Always’ and ‘never’ are clear signals that you have built a pathway and a belief about yourself self that simply can’t always be true. When you next notice one of these definitives, use it as an opportunity to rewire a pathway.

 

3. Catch other people’s stories

 

Become vigilant to the stories and beliefs about yourself that are in fact, coming from other people. Some of these internalise without us being aware, so try to become conscious to the story that is being created for you. Whilst this may be someone else’s’ story about you but it can so easily become your story about you.

 

4. Stay curious

 

Don’t be surprised if you uncover many unhelpful neural pathways. This is a daily practice and it’s a never-ending journey, so don’t dismay if you can’t rewire everything in a day. Think of it as a research project instead of a personality transplant because you’re not trying to fight who you are: you’re trying to find out more. Read behind the lines and rewire the best bits of you so that they come shining through. To use the wonderful words of William Blake: “Do what you will, this world’s a fiction and is made up of contradiction.” Our contradictions are what make us human and if we can celebrate, rather than condone, this ability to create, compartmentalise and contrast, then we give ourselves the freedom to play in the ‘fiction’. It’s your life and it’s your story, so you can write it how you darn well like.

Self-sabotaging beliefs are not in charge. You are in charge because you are the one who built the pathway and you can choose to build a different one. You can choose to change it for a belief system that will serve you and your life.

 

Be an advocate for whole body health

 

Health is about so much more than our bodies. So when you’re next talking about ‘health’ with a friend, colleague or family member, see if you can open up the discussion. Start looking at health from a 4-dimensional perspective in order to help yourself and others build a balanced attitude and action plan for healthy living. Share and celebrate the joys of slowing down, sleeping, reading and consciously creating the life that you want lead.

But don’t worry if you do feel negative about your body from time-to-time. Because even when you don’t love your body: your body will always unconditionally love you.

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019.

For more information and helpful resources click here.

An Easter Ego…

An Easter Ego…

Learning to live, lead and love with a healthy ego

 

Ego gets a bad rap. We are told to transcend the ego, release from ego, fight the ego. And it has been singled out as one of the biggest hurdles in the discovery of the ‘true self.’  Yet, the majority of us don’t live on a mountain in the middle of the Himalayas where it might seem feasible to ‘starve the ego and feed the soul.’ We live in a world that incessantly provokes the ego. An ego that can protect and motivate us. As well as enrage and hijack us.

Developing and nurturing a robust and healthy ego is key to personal development and professional growth as it helps you to: lead from a place of vulnerability and courage; create a culture of openness and honesty; learn from mistakes; embrace failure; accept praise; become a systems thinker. We’re not interested in the size of your ego: this is about the state of your ego and how it can help you to live, lead and love with intentionality.

Ego triggers and traps

I’m in the midst of an ego-fuelled email exchange, and every line- no every punctuation mark- is pushing my buttons. I feel like I’m being baited to fight back, with provoking and petty messages reminiscent of a primary school playground. I’m trying my utmost to ‘consciously communicate my impact’ and yet I can’t seem to get through to this other human being. I’ve tried using all of my 4D tools and tricks to somehow connect and collaborate but every reply I receive back is like a concrete brick wall. Now a few years ago, I would have probably joined in with the same spiteful email exchange, adding even more fuel to the fire. However, thanks to a recent ego ‘health-kick’, I’ve been able to stop myself from ‘cutting off my nose to spite my face’. But what even is a healthy ego? And how can you get one too?

The Healthy Ego

 

Your EGO can be a wonderful thing. It is our developed sense of self in the world. And yes, an unhealthy defensive or fragile ego can be troublesome. It can lead to victim mode, contempt, scorn, defensiveness, undermining others, passive aggression, or straight up aggression. It is often coming from a place of fear. The ego believes others have the power to diminish it so either crumbles, self-punishes before someone else does or try to diminish someone else’s state to protect itself. The goal, however, is to use your intentionality to develop your HEALTHY EGO. A healthy ego isn’t dependent on other people to be whole and safe. It might enjoy praise or winning but it will not be devastated if these things don’t always happen. With a healthy ego you will be strong, resilient, confident in your abilities and honest about your amazing talents – as well as available to growth, happy to receive constructive feedback, curious in the face of conflict and able to acknowledge mistakes with a clear mind and open heart.


Here are 5 ways of developing and nurturing a healthy ego:

 
1. Co-create Conversation

 

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Siegel describes the brain as a ‘relationship organ.’ He’s spent over twenty years researching the profound influence of those around us, or what he calls “the neurobiology of ‘we’” and has discovered that emotions are what fire and wire neural interaction patterns in the brain and enable us to learn. Therefore the core drivers for human beings throughout life are relational and thus inseparably emotional in nature.

But what does this have to do with the ego?

What Siegel’s research shows us is that in order to nurture healthy, happy egos we need to make sure that our ego drives are linked to relationship goals. One simple way of doing this is by actively listening. Take the time to listen to others by being present as opposed to predicting what they are going to say. It’s simple yes, but not easy, particularly when we consider the fast paced, distraction-heavy, instant gratification culture that pervades our lives. Even if we’re not speaking over another person we may find ourselves thinking over them, by planning what we’re going to say next or thinking about how their story relates to us.

Someone with a healthy ego gives others the space to speak. And they don’t need to say what’s already been said. Instead, they build on ideas and co-create conversations as opposed to dictating and directing them. To quote Carlo Rovelli, author of ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ (which is as scientific as it is philosophical and political): “To better understand the world, I think, we shouldn’t reduce it to things. We should reduce it to happenings; and the happenings are always between different systems, always relations, or always like a kiss, which is something that happens between two persons.”

A great place to co-create conversations is during Q&As. In fact, I tend to love this part of a workshop as long as I lean in, stay curious and really listen to what is being said. This simple shift takes away the pressure to know all the answers and transforms questions and answers into collaborative conversations.


2. Accept praise

 

When I was around 12 years old I really struggled with my self-esteem. I’d recently started secondary school and anything that sounded remotely like a compliment had me turning bright red and feeling a deep sense of shame.  During this time, I remember my grandma telling me: “it’s rude to reject a compliment. Accept it properly, let it reach you and then say thank you.” Wise and wonderful advice that continues to help me develop a greater sense of self-worth to this day.

I’m sure many of you have had some experience with the embarrassment that so often surrounds praise. One of the more obvious ways we express this embarrassment is by batting away compliments. Perhaps a colleague praises you on your presentation and you find yourself saying: “oh it was nothing really. I had loads of help!” This is example of what I like to call a ‘compliment cringe’: you’re refusing to take in the praise (and are also unintentionally telling the person they are wrong!) Christopher Littlefield, recognition expert and founder of international consulting firm Acknowledgment Works, has uncovered a scientific explanation to why we find receiving compliments so hard. His research revealed that 88 percent of people associate recognition with a feeling of being valued, yet 70 percent also associate it with embarrassment. As he says in his Ted Talk: “We love recognition, but we suck at it.”

One study showed that people with low self-esteem “have difficulty accepting and capitalising on compliments.” This was primarily due to the fact that they doubted the compliments’ sincerity and believed that they were- on some level- being patronised. Interestingly, when the people were not thinking about a compliment in relation to their relatively negative self-theories or stories of themselves, they were able to accept and capitalise on compliments. In addition, there is now scientific validity showing that people perform better after receiving a compliment.

Learning to accept compliments helps to boost your performance and also helps to build healthy relationships, as it opens up the ground conditions upon which relationships can develop and grow. Lean in, stay curious and see what you can learn from another person’s compliment. Maybe you find it hard to comprehend why someone would like your crazy curls, or your energised hand gestures! But your story of yourself is just one story in 7 billion. One perspective. So why not use the next compliment you receive as an opportunity to explore the other positive narratives of You that are out there.


3. Make friends with failure

 

I’m so thankful for many of my so-called ‘failures’. Like not getting into drama school (three times!) At the time this felt like the biggest failure imaginable, personally, professionally and socially. Personally, because I wanted to prove to myself that I was good enough. Professionally because I was working in the industry and believed training was a right of pass; and socially because so many of my friends, family members and worst of all- fellow actors- knew I was auditioning. However, with hindsight I can see that this ‘failure’ wasn’t an end point, but a wonderful new beginning. It fired up another, totally unexpected adventure. To use the words of monk and author Robin Sharma: “the most successful people on the planet have failed more than the ordinary ones.” So, if you want to be successful you might as well start making friends with failure!

Failure is a big threat to the unhealthy ego. It undermines self-worth and can produce feelings of fear and powerlessness. Research has shown that we are more likely to blame failure on external factors like luck or the difficulty of the task. Yet, someone with a healthy ego sees failure as an inevitable part of life and as a unique opportunity to learn and grow. In his book ‘Black Box Thinking’ Matthew Syed states that: When failure is most threatening to our ego is when we need to learn most of all!” Someone with a healthy ego seizes these moments and sees them not as failure in the traditional sense, but as fuel for a greater fire because “a progressive attitude to failure turns out to be a cornerstone of success for any institution.”

In an interview for the Wall Street Journal, cartoonist Scott Adam’s, shared his wonderfully playful approach to failure: “If I find a cow turd on my front steps, I’m not satisfied knowing that I’ll be mentally prepared to find some future cow turd. I want to shovel that turd onto my garden and hope the cow returns every week so I never have to buy fertiliser again. Failure is a resource that can be managed.” Teacher and writer Jessica Lahey goes further, seeing failure as a gift. In her aptly titled parenting book, ‘The gift of failure’ she writes: “Out of love, and desire to protect our children’s self-esteem, we have bulldozed every uncomfortable bump and obstacle out of their way, clearing the manicured path we hoped would lead to success and happiness. Unfortunately, in doing so we have deprived our children of the important lessons of childhood. The setbacks, the mistakes, miscalculations, and failures we have shoves out of our children’s way are the very experiences that teach them how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative, and resilient citizens of this world.”

For the healthy ego, failure is a gift, for themselves and others. So, join us in reimagining ‘F.A.I.L.’ as an acronym for: Forever. Acquiring Important Lessons.

 

 4. Embrace vulnerability

 

Stand-up comedy has taught me a lot about the power of vulnerability. On one occasion I tried my hand at musical comedy, attempting to sing, play guitar and be funny… all at the same time! A triple threat that had me feeling much more nervous than usual. So, I decided to own my nerves, by singing all about the things that were wrong with my performance (like the fact that my guitar playing is pretty sub-par in spite of 10 years of lessons!) And I’m proud to say that my openness and honesty- presented in musical form- had the audience in stitches!

The unhealthy ego often self-identifies as a perfectionist. To use the words of Brené Brown Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: if I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimise the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.” Perfectionism acts as a great big wall that stops you from being seen and is in many ways the antithesis of vulnerability. The healthy ego encourages vulnerability and sees it as a strength and a powerful tool for connecting people. Because as some wise person once said: ‘love is giving someone the power to destroy you but trusting them not to.’ In order to create a culture of trust within our families, teams and organisations we must embrace the power of vulnerability.

Research by Paula Niedenthal, which tested the authenticity of a person’s smile, revealed how deeply we resonate with each other. This is why we are able to tell when someone is ‘putting on a show’ because we are able to register their surface level inauthenticity at a much deeper level. This is particularly true for leaders, as research has revealed that we are sensitive to trustworthiness and authenticity in our leaders.

Furthermore, vulnerability also positively affects how we see ourselves. Studies revealed that a state of authenticity “centres on contentment and social ease; or, in the case of inauthenticity, a lack thereof plus anxiety.” Tara Brach talks to this ‘social ease’ that comes with vulnerability in her latest podcast- ‘Releasing Ourselves and Others from Aversive Blame’: “We know that a lot of the humour in our society actually focuses on people’s mistakes because it relieves us when other people make mistakes.” So, reject perfection in favour of connection by embracing your human side- warts and all! It will help you develop a healthier ego, build deep bonds of trust and – as I discovered- might even provide you with some funny material for a stand-up set!


5. Look through a systems lens

 

A system is a group of interdependent entities aligned around a common purpose or identity (CRR Global). And systems are everywhere. There are more obvious systems like families, teams, a cast of actors. And less obvious systems in places such as:

  • The cinema: here we find lots of individual systems until the movie starts. Suddenly everyone stops talking and switches off their phone. It’s an unspoken code of conduct.
  • Up in the air: everyone on a plane is going in the same direction. This is their common purpose. But they are also all interdependent. Everyone has an individual purpose and also a shared

As the 4D model shows, we don’t exist in a vacuum: we are always being affected by cultural and environmental contexts. Another way to put this would be to say that we are always operating within systems. We are simultaneously interdependent and co-dependent. The unhealthy ego celebrates individualism, often at the expense of community and co-dependence. Take for example the air travel example above. As soon as the plane lands, everyone jumps out their seats, pushes to get into the aisle so that they can get their bag and claim their place in the queue to disembark the plane. However, everyone is wanting to disembark the plane. Everyone is heading in the same direction. But unfortunately, the passengers’ heavy focus on their individual goals quite often slows down the system and undermines its shared purpose. 

Someone with a healthy ego thinks about our relationships like a 3-legged stool.  

  • 1st Leg- I, Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • 2nd Leg- YOU, Social Intelligence (SI)
  • 3rd Leg- WE, Relationship Systems Intelligence (RSI)

The stool will lose its stability if one of its legs is wobbly. Or it will become unbalanced if one leg is longer than another. We need to nurture all 3 legs: our relationship with our self, our relationship with others and our relationships with our wider communities. The healthy ego recognises that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and sees themselves as a part of whole network of systems. This is what is known as systems thinking, as it offers us a wider lens and a helicopter view of the ‘systems’ within which we exist. 


Have a healthy happy ego!

 

Ego health is the difference between the world happening to you and you happening to the world.  When we have a healthy ego, we are driving the show. And whilst there are many things out of our control- like other people’s responses on email- we can control our response, if we develop a robust and healthy ego. I can promise you that if you keep stepping in and ‘living in the arena’ (as Brené Brown likes to call it), your ego will be threatened time and time again. However, if you’ve developed a healthy ego, it will withstand these triggers and traps. If you don’t like the game that someone else is playing with your ego then you can change the game. Which is exactly what I did with my angry e-mail exchange. I ‘killed them with kindness’ so to speak, responding with relatively pleasant and proactive emails. And eventually, they started to do the same.

Be a game changer by developing a healthy ego for a happier world. Let’s make a positive impact, by changing the planet…one ego at a time!