After a tough year, the 4D Energiser programme is all about getting you, your people and your organisation back to thriving.
It really feels like time to hit refresh, to turn the page on a tough year and reboot the system. Sometimes, we need to make room for new and positive changes, as well as new and positive energy in our lives.
So, if you are looking for more wellbeing, energy and motivation at the moment, it’s time to “let go, to let in.” Let go of the old, the unhelpful and the negative to let in the new, the exciting and the expansive. As the great writer and professor on human Experience, Joseph Campbell said: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
It’s over a year since the pandemic started and we are all now going into various stages of lockdown and disconnection from loved ones and colleagues. The year has brought it’s stresses, strains and sadness for a great number of us. Many of us will feel our wellbeing has been impacted and at 4D we are aware of the support many teams, leaders and organisations are looking for to help re-energise their people and take care of the well-being of their employees.
The spring is a wonderful time to think about letting go of the tired energy, emotions and baggage to give space for new narratives and possibilities to blossom and flourish. Here are a few practical tips you can think about to let go, lighten your load and increase your own, your loved ones’ and your colleagues’ well-being this spring.
1. Physically let go
Take a moment to scan your body. What muscles are you tensing and holding unnecessarily? Many of us hold our shoulders, legs, jaw, stomach – wasting and draining our energy. Holding tension is associated with anxiety. Simply releasing and letting go of unnecessary tension will kick start your parasympathetic nervous system and signal to your brain that your anxiety has reduced. Give it a go and drop that tension, to instantly increase your well-being.
2. Say “NO” to negative narratives
Whether it is a question of forgiving someone else or changing your negative internal narrative, there are so many health benefits to letting go of toxic thoughts. Telling a different, positive story will allow your brain to build new and inspiring pathways.
3. Boot out bogus beliefs
Let go of beliefs that simply aren’t true anymore, if they ever were. Sometimes, we have been holding onto beliefs because we were told them when we were young or because they are social myths that no one has questioned. Health Psychologist Kelly Mcgonigal has researched a wonderful example of this. She found that it is not stress that kills 20,000 Americans a year, it is the BELIEF that stress is bad that kills them. People who viewed stress more positively and believed they could cope, didn’t die of stress. What belief could you drop about yourself, your workplace or the world is weighing you down right now?
4. Drop the diary and move through each moment
So many of us wake up on a Monday morning holding the whole day, week or month diary in our heads. That’s a LOT to hold. Letting go of your whole diary and simply choosing to move through each hour, of each day is far better for our wellbeing. Try only holding your next meeting or event in mind. Finish it, take a deep calming breath, reset and then look at the next appointment! Let go of your mental schedule and start simply being in the conversation you are actually having.
Finally, while many of us had plans that the pandemic spoiled, we are where we are and there are new opportunities available if we clear the space to look for and create them. Someone said to me the other day in reference to the Covid crisis – “What do I do when my dreams have been ruined?” I simply said, “Let go of the past, start from where you are…and dream again.”
How we can help
The 4D team can really help you take charge of your energy and well-being in all 4 Dimensions. Focussing in turn on your: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Relational well-being. Our impactful and practical 4D Energiser Program has just the right tools, insights, care and fun to help you, your team and your organisation re-activate the well-being, creativity and energy that will make 2021 the game changing turnaround year, that you can all be proud of.
Treat your team to the 4D Energiser Program, now! Only ONE hour a week, for ONE month, to ensure a super-charged and successful launch into the year ahead.
At this time of year, we are bombarded with the word ‘happy’ from every direction. From the greetings on festive cards to the banners in shop windows, to the jolly e-mails landing in our inboxes, to the Christmas lights strung across every high street, to the smiling Santas and snowmen and scenes depicting the perfect ‘happy’ family gatherings to the happy messages telling us to have a happy Christmas, a happy holiday, a happy new year and while we’re at it…a happy life! That is an awful lot of ‘happy.’ Maybe too much. Because perhaps we can demand too much happiness of ourselves and others at this time of year. Could it be that narrowing our expectations to this one single emotion might actually not be so good for us? Could it be that other emotions might want to be part of our festive celebrations too?
So, this Christmas, at the end of this extraordinary year full of a range of experiences, difficulties and emotions…at 4D we would like to challenge the idea of it having to only be a ‘happy’ Christmas. Because while many of us might not be able to welcome actual guests into our house this holiday, we can welcome other kinds of guests…the many, many emotions that might just be knocking on our door wanting to come in and join the party.
But why would we want to let difficult emotions in? Who wants to feel sad or lonely or angry? Particularly over the holidays? Good questions. Many of us are often so conditioned to deny, avoid or push away challenging feelings, that we have lost any sense of what the benefit of allowing them in might be. But feelings and emotions aren’t simply energies to bring us pain and suffering. They are message bearers – bringing us information and insight that can guide us to a better place, a happier state, a flourishing work life, a nurturing relationship and deeper, more genuine friendships. These negative emotions are trying to help us! They need to be heard and to be understood to unlock the gems of wisdom within. As Glennon Doyle says in her wonderful book ‘Untamed’ it can be a mind-blowing revelation to realise that ‘feelings are for feeling’! Not for suppressing. Your feelings of sadness may be telling you how important something is to you that is currently missing in your life. Your feelings of grief may be reminding you how much love you had – and perhaps still have – for a loved one you have lost. Your anger will often be trying to tell you to say NO to something. That someone or something has crossed a line, that you have made too many compromises, that you are not living true to yourself, that you have abandoned yourself and what you truly want or believe in, in order to please someone else or society’s expectations.
In this very difficult year, many of us are already holding a lot of unconscious feelings around loss, change, lack of connection, financial stress and limitations to our freedom. The emotions and feelings that DO finally bubble to the surface are going to be key to let you know when your capacity bowl is just too full. And that something needs to change.
The Happy Gap
One of the big problems with not allowing ourselves to feel our negative feelings is that it can lead to a huge gap between how we feel inside and how we present ourselves to the world. Can you think of a time when you have been terrified or crying or dying inside and yet have forced yourself to show the world that you’re happy and on top of everything? In my days as an actor, I had a very memorable experience of this. I was in the West End in a colourful, happy, all-singing-all-dancing musical but, in reality, in my personal life, I was unhappy and lost. I remember one night, just before curtain-up, sobbing in the dressing room, so unhappy, so sad – and yet at the same time I forced myself to get my costume on, apply my lipstick, glue on my false eyelashes and get out on stage to open the show – to then smile, dance, sing, joke and entertain the audience. The show must go on, right? While I could of course make sure the show did go on it put a lot of pressure on my emotional well-being and my relationships at the time. Ultimately my feelings were trying to tell me something. That it was time to move on, time to make some changes, some new choices, to make some other dreams come true and create a new ‘show’ in my life that would make me genuinely happier. And thank goodness I eventually did.
In the 4D podcast episode 6 – Mind the Gap Katie and Penelope talked about this gap. How trying to show up as ‘happy’ when inside we are feeling low, sad or angry puts an enormous level of stress on our body-mind system. To the point where we can make ourselves sick. As clinical psychologist Victoria Tarratt says “Suppressing your emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, grief or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body.” A study from Harvard in 2013 showed that if we bottle up our feelings we have a 30% increased chance of dying earlier and a 70% increased chance of developing cancer. It’s not even that we benefit in the short term – Research at the University of Texas found that by not acknowledging our negative emotions “we’re actually making them stronger.”
By allowing those difficult feelings to be expressed we can start to close the gap and that is a step towards real happiness, not just a ‘put on’ performance of happiness.
‘Put on’ or fake happiness is becoming a very real problem both in our personal lives and in the workplace. It is being termed ‘Toxic Positivity’ and is an invisible force that pressures us to adopt pretend happiness. We can inflict toxic positivity on ourselves or we can find ourselves in groups or organisations that seem to demand it from us. On one level, of course, we all want to work in creative, positive and motivating environments but we also need to work in ‘real’ environments. In environments that express the people in it – real human beings who have all sorts of very real and very valid feelings. To be expected to meet a standard of a 100% happy culture is toxic in so many ways. It’s exhausting and puts far more psychological stress on individuals than if they were able to express a full range of feelings. It also makes us inauthentic and detaches us from reality.
Once you explain to people what toxic positivity is, the majority of individuals say they have experienced it recently and that they sometimes, often or very often ignore their real emotions in favour of appearing happy. But there are very real dangers to succumbing to this force of toxic positivity. By ignoring your negative feelings they can build up – until you explode- and find yourself raging at the wrong person about the wrong thing at the wrong time. You will ultimately increase your feelings of sadness. And what’s more, you risk being a ‘fair-weather friend’ – unable to support a colleague in need, as often if we cannot tolerate negative feelings in ourselves then we won’t be able to tolerate them in others. In the long-term, fake positivity will negatively impact your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Which means if you are a leader or business owner insisting on fake positivity, you will be leading your people to greater unhappiness, poorer work relationships and potentially psychological burnout. If we aren’t allowed to feel our feelings – our feelings will find a way to be heard in a different and more harmful way.
The positivity in the negative!
There is, though, an antidote to toxic positivity – and it is encapsulated in the title of positive psychology expert Dr Tim Lomas’ book ‘The Positive Power of Negative Emotions’. Dr Lomas acknowledges that most people see negative emotions as…well…negative. But through his ground-breaking research, he has shown that negative emotions are not only normal to experience but can be very good for us. They “may in fact serve as pathways to the very happiness and flourishing that we seek.” His research shows that anger, for example, can signal that “you’ve been treated unfairly and push you towards change. Guilt suggests that you have let yourself down, and drives you to be better. Envy can motivate you to improve yourself and your life. Boredom can be a gateway to creativity and self-transcendence. Loneliness allows your authentic voice to be heard, and teaches self-sufficiency.” By embracing the power and positivity of negative emotions he believes we can radically change the way we think about our feelings and our emotional life. That through having the courage to start feeling our feelings we can become empowered to understand and use our negative emotions in positive ways.
As Susan David, PhD, author of Emotional Agility, says, “Our raw feelings can be the messengers we need to teach us things about ourselves and can prompt insights into important life directions.”
Renowned psychologist Dr Paul Eckman did some wonderful research into the basic emotions we all feel at some point: anger, disgust, happiness, fear and surprise. He pointed out that sometimes there are other emotions underneath one of these 5 emotions and that we need to dig a little deeper to recognise and understand them. And we can only do this by allowing ourselves to sit with and really feel our feelings. For example, when we feel anger, anger may only be the primary emotion. There may be other feelings that lay underneath the anger that are perhaps even harder for us to face such as disappointment, sadness or feelings of not being good enough. Learning to understand anger as a protector of other difficult feelings can be incredibly powerful and very healing.
Even for the most self-aware human-being, anger flashes happen and can be directed to those you love most – including yourself! But before you go for a run, meditate or do yoga to get rid of it – stay with it, sit with it and explore WHY you feel so angry. Look for key phrases you have used to your loved one or that are floating around in your head. Words said in anger like “I hate you, you make me feel so small” or “I can’t breathe” – will tell you a lot about what is underneath your anger. Like that your self-esteem has been trampled and you feel small or you feel you don’t have the space or voice to truly express your feelings so you feel like you can’t breathe. This is not about blaming yourself or another, it is about exploring and excavating the message in the negative emotion. Once you understand the message in the difficult feeling you can go from “gridlock to dialogue” as psychological researcher and relationship expert John Gottman says. Now you know what your NEED is beneath this anger. So now you can make what Gottman calls a “repair bid” – which will be either compassion to yourself or a bid for understanding and connection to the other person. Communicated not with rage but with a more self-aware, conscious attitude – allowing your heart rate to come down so you can process, share and benefit from what just happened!
Finally – there is a very real and true gift awaiting you if you dare to welcome in and explore your negative emotions. Inside that negative emotion will be your dream. A dream that at that moment has been threatened or squashed. Hence your anger. If you imagine your fists clenched with anger or frustration, now uncurl those fists as you explore your feelings. Inside the palm of your hand is the dream that wants to live and breathe and be brought to life. When you can see past the anger and rediscover the dream and hope that felt threatened – then you can communicate that dream to your partner, colleague, boss or yourself. Now you are giving yourself the gift of moving from flight or fight to flourish. Now you have moved from crisis to creativity. Because you can tear down your world by avoiding negative feelings and letting them unconsciously control you…or you can listen to the message, the gift, inside your negative emotions and from there you can start to cherish your needs, build your dreams, create the life and enjoy the relationships you truly want and deserve. For me, this is one of the most liberating and joyous discoveries ever. Imagine seeing negative emotions not as taking away your happiness, but as the gift of future happiness. The gift that keeps on giving!
The gift of emotions
So here’s to a Happy, Sad, Joyous, Angry, Contented, Frustrating and Exciting Christmas. Here’s to a Christmas where all your feelings are welcome – each one a gift under your Christmas tree. And just like our actual Christmas presents, it is not enough to simply look at the wrapping paper to decide what it contains. We have to unwrap our gifts to see what surprise is inside. It is not the wrapping paper but the treasure inside that is the true gift. The greatest gift we can give ourselves this holiday is to welcome in all our feelings. And the biggest gift that you can give to someone you love is to be with and accept their difficult feelings. That for me is one of the greatest gifts one human being can give to another. To let them know that “I will accept and love all of you. All your emotions are welcome here.”
So all of us at 4D wish you the courage to let your feelings in, to break through the fear that your feelings will destroy you and rather, to wonder whether they might actually have a very special, very surprising and maybe even life-changing festive gift to offer you. And whatever feelings you are feeling we wish you as much sparkle and spangle, glitter and glimmer, tinsel and twinkle as you can handle. Because whatever our emotions, a little shine and shimmer can do wonders – not just for the Christmas spirit but for the human spirit in us all.
For more information on 4D Wellbeing programmes, Team and Leadership Coaching and Cultural Change programmes do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, we leave you with the beautiful gift of Rumi’s poem The Guest House.
Here are some practical tools to try over the holidays to help turn your negative emotions into beautiful gifts that may well hold the real key to your happiness inside.
2. Comfort your inner critic – Your inner critic may well have been working hard all year stirring up difficult emotions in you and sending you spinning into negativity. Rather than trying to push them away, you can even welcome them in too. Imagine letting that critical voice into your house, sit them down, appreciate how very hard they’ve been working and tell them just to relax for a bit. You’ll get them a mince pie and a glass of something sparkly and then tell them that they can take some time out – you and your inner cheerleader can take it from here.
3. Manage your emotional state – and set a conscious intention by putting a word in your head. But mind the gap. If you’re feeling sad, don’t aim for ‘excited’ or ‘enthusiastic’ – try something more gentle and closer to ‘sad’ like open or curious.
4. Yes AND – Allow your negative emotions at the same time as balancing your difficult state with something more positive by using the word AND. “I’m feeling sad and I’d love to come and meet you for a coffee.” “I’m anxious AND let’s channel that into something creative or active”. “I am angry AND I still love you.”
Do you focus more on your intentions or your impact? And which one is more important…
This has been a central theme for us at 4D Human Being since we began all those years ago! Working in leadership, communications skills, coaching and development programmes means this subject is incredibly important to us. While we focus heavily on conscious intention, one of our company taglines has for a long time been “Helping Leaders, Teams and Individuals consciously create their impact every day.” So, intention or impact, which should we focus on more…?
This question is not only relevant in terms of organisational leadership and communication. It is relevant to whatever work you do. It is relevant in your personal life. And it is definitely relevant in every single one of your relationships. From the intimate to the every day to the people you may only meet once in your life. And today this topic is hugely relevant when it comes to how we explore and communicate social injustice, systemic racism and any number of inequalities in our communities and in wider society. Whether we are trying to engage our teams with motivational sales targets, whether we are presenting a keynote at a global conference, whether we are trying to keep children interested in online schooling, whether we are navigating our personal relationships through and out of lockdown, or whether we are tackling urgent social justice issues – have we checked in with and set our underlying intention? And even if we have, what is our ultimate impact..?
This article is all about exploring the every day and the very human idea of intention vs impact. Join us as we look at different ways we can help to bring our intentions and our impact into alignment.
Intention vs Impact
How many times, when challenged, have you heard or yourself used the response … “but that wasn’t my intention” or “That wasn’t what I meant.”
I’m going to guess we’ve all heard that excuse and used it ourselves more times than any of us could count. Of course we have. Because so often it will have been true. When there is a breakdown in communication, when wires get crossed, when we accidentally upset someone, when we haven’t been fully conscious of what we were saying… the resulting impact certainly wasn’t our intention. So then surely we’re not to blame?
About twenty years ago a friend of mine told me about an incident in a key cutting shop. She had walked into the shop and inadvertently knocked over a stand with hundreds of ready-to-cut keys on it. The key stand and the keys fell onto an elderly lady. The shop owner and another customer started reprimanding my friend who defended herself by saying it was an accident. She didn’t mean to topple the stand. As she recounted the story to me, still smarting from the reaction from her fellow shoppers, she said “I mean if I had walked into that shop with the sole intention of knocking a key stand onto an old lady – then fair enough, have a go at me. But that was clearly not my intention.”
At the time I fully accepted her position. However, after many years of working in corporate communication skills, I started to see things multi-dimensionally. Because intention and impact need to be taken together. They cannot be isolated. We need to focus on both. Whether we are talking about a disappointing presentation from your boss or an argument with your partner – whether the intention was good or not, the impact is what it is, and we need to take responsibility for both. That’s where learning can come in. That’s when we can take on new information and new skills so that we can begin to take charge of our impact. Not just our intention.
In the case of my well-intended friend, the elderly lady in the shop still had to deal with the shock of a fountain of keys suddenly being showered all over her. If we play with the idea of taking responsibility for the impact of accidentally hurling keys over an innocent customer, then maybe we would then be open to thinking more consciously about how we enter small unfamiliar stores with more caution, care and awareness. That learning could be really useful to us and to other people in the future.
Mind the Gap
As we always say at 4D Human Being, there is pretty much always a gap between our intention and our impact. But by taking responsibility for our impact then we can start to close that gap. And when we close the gap between intention and impact, we really put ourselves in the driver’s seat of our lives. We take a massive step towards living more consciously and with more awareness.
After all we are not the story we keep locked in our heads. We are the story we tell and communicate to the world. Whether that is through words, tone, actions, body language or facial expressions. When we become aware of our impact physically, emotionally and intellectually then we can start to manage how we show up in the world and we can bring our intention and impact closer and closer together.
The problem with solely focusing on intention is that we spend a lot of time operating on autopilot or what Daniel Kahneman calls ‘System 1’. According to Kahneman, System 1, sometimes known as intuitive thinking, “operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and sense of voluntary control.” Whereas System 2 “allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.” Switching on system 2 is what bridges the gap between intention and impact. However, operating with this much more conscious intentionality is tiring and time consuming. Autopilot is efficient and easy and will more often than not take over, which is why our intention and our impact are so often out of alignment. This is why awareness is only the first step.
With autopilot comes unconscious bias, where our ‘unconscious intention’ will be dictated by unconscious beliefs. Not because we are a bad person. But because we have been conditioned and socialised in certain ways. We’ve just always done our presentations like that. That’s how our first boss did them when we started in our first job, so that’s how we learnt to do them and even though they are mediocre at best, we simply don’t know any other way. Similarly, unconscious bias – when it comes to gender or race or any other area- will be dictated by what we have absorbed up until that moment. From society, education, family, parents, peers, communities and our own continued self-reflection. Some of which may need some serious updating because it too may lead to some behaviours and impact that just isn’t good enough anymore.
Feedback on our impact is vital if we really do want to close the gap between intention and impact and if we really do want to become the person, we know we can become and communicate at a whole new conscious level. (And this is also true for those of us who find positive feedback difficult to accept or believe!)
Being ashamed of receiving feedback on our impact is the very thing that will hold us back from becoming better. Whether that’s becoming a far better communicator or becoming far more conscious about daily micro-aggressions and learning how to simply stop doing them.
Feedback on our impact is precious. As writer, Robin di Angelo talks about in her book ‘White Fragility’ – feedback is hard to give and so we need to cherish it and thank the person giving us the feedback – for the courage they showed in giving it to us. When people stop giving you feedback on your impact, you should be worried. It means they are either frightened of your response or they have given up on caring about your human potential and development. Get feedback and get fabulous. You already are…you just might need to close the gap a little!
Awareness is our superpower. It enables us to be curious and stay open to the idea that we may not be perfect. From here we can start to close the gap between our intention – how we think we’re being – and our impact – how others experience us.
From there we as individuals can then impact the wider system as we model a more conscious way of being and help others begin to do the same.
If you choose to be interested in growing, learning and welcoming of those who care enough about you and who trust you enough to offer up feedback, your intentions and impact will start to fall into alignment. From here, life will start to feel a little bit less like an uphill climb and more like a dance in the moment. It’s a day-to-day practice and a journey that will help you to become someone who can consciously create the impact you choose – every day!
As many of us experience the restrictions of lock-down opening up, 4D’s CEO Philippa Waller asks how can we step back into our busy lives at a different pace?
It’s week eleven of lockdown and I find myself calling roofers, builders and carpenters to get the home improvement projects going that I had to put on hold since moving house at the start of the year. It’s definitely time to get cracking, get going and get creating. Time for businesses to accept the ‘new normal’ – whatever ‘normal’ even means – and to stop waiting for this time to pass, but rather build from here. Innovate with new projects, hire the right staff, and from our perspective at 4D human being, get going with training and developing executives and teams to be resilient, adaptable and super impactful when leading and communicating online. In times of ‘uncertainty’ we have a choice how we respond. We can wait, stagnate or we can create. And as researcher and educator Joe Dispenza says, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
And as the wonderful Carla Harris says it’s no good hunkering down in the trenches for too long. Far better to get your head above the parapet, get a look at the terrain, see what’s going on and make some good, creative and strategic decisions about how you’re going to respond to the situation. How you’re going to make the best of your current circumstances. Or even how you’re going to innovate your way into a new situation. Go Go Go. Let’s do it. Which for me means stacking up the appointments with every craftsperson going and blitzing the home improvement plans as quickly as possible.
Or does it have to…?
Sound of screeching brakes.
What about all I have learned through lockdown about not rushing around and not getting any more speeding tickets! The one thing I’m hearing from so many friends, clients and colleagues – is a desire to hold onto some of the lockdown habits they’ve created. To not let the elastic ping back when lockdown eases – and plummet back to the manic rushing around, packed out diaries, squeezed weekends and exhausted Monday mornings.
And while many of us have been busy during lockdown I’m sure we have all had a little more space or at least moments of a gentler pace due to no travel or socialising. As the old adage goes there is only space and things and things in space, and we need a balance of them both. We need space to be able to see and appreciate the ‘things’
So, let’s take a look at how we can take control of our choices and dreams without constantly feeling like we have to compromise our health or time with loved ones. How can we be smart and focused about building our lives and creating new experiences without feeling stressed or not good enough? Let’s explore ways in which we can live the lives we want to live, create relationships that will bring us happiness, work in a way that will bring us joy and build successful businesses with conscious cultures… without working 20 hour days and never getting a chance to truly enjoy the fruits of our labour.
The 80/20 Rule
So how do we create and build our lives in a new way? How do we move ahead with projects, with business, with life plans, business strategies and all our hopes and dreams? All in a more efficient yet still inspiring and joyous way? We can turn to Pareto’s law to start. 20% for 80% of the result. The law is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who, in 1906, found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. What is important about this law is that this distribution- 80/20- occurs extremely frequently. For example, 80% of your profits will typically come from 20% of your customers.
In an article for Forbes, entrepreneur Dave Lavinsky writes that: “The Pareto Principle, or “80/20 Rule” as it is frequently called today, is an incredible tool for growing your business. For instance, if you can figure out which 20% of your time produces 80% of your business’ results, you can spend more time on those activities and less time on others. Likewise, by identifying the characteristics of the top 20% of your customers (who represent 80% of your sales), you can find more customers like them and dramatically grow your sales and profits.”
In his book, 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More, Perry Marshall write that: “80/20 applies to almost everything in business that you can count. Almost every frustration you have in sales has something to do with ignoring 80/20.” Pareto’s law applies equally to our home and personal life. Start noticing it everywhere. What is the 20% of your wardrobe that you wear 80% of the time? What are the 20% of your possessions that you get far more joy from than the other 80%? Who are the 20% of people in your life that make you the happiest? What are the 20% of conversations with your partner or friends that create the most connection and meaning? What are the 20% of behaviours that cause the most problems in your relationship, your team or your organization? And, to reverse it…what are you doing with 80% of your time that is neither bringing you fulfillment OR moving your life in the direction you want it to go?
If you find yourself feeling ‘stuck’ and taking one-step forward two-steps back, take a look at how Pareto’s principle might be impacting the situation. Could you be focusing the majority of your time, energy and resources on the wrong clients? Or the wrong hobbies or activities? As Timothy Ferriss who wrote The 4-Hour Workweek says about Pareto’s Law “Doing less is not being lazy. Don’t give in to a culture that values personal sacrifice over personal productivity.” So, take some time to evaluate your ‘output’ and ask yourself if it’s yielding the results you’d expect. If not, start to think about what creates the 80% of the success and enjoyment in your work and your personal life and start focusing more of your time and attention there.
In his book ‘Atomic Habits’, James Clear talks about focusing on 1% increments. Clear calls these tiny changes ‘atomic habits’ and believes they are “the compound interest of personal development.” Over time these tiny improvements build up and create long-lasting sustainable change. Ultimately, as Clear says, “you get what you repeat.”
Change doesn’t have to be stressful for it to be successful. We don’t have to desperately sprint towards our goals. It can be very different. It can be intentional and emerging, all at the same time. It can be a daily sowing of seeds, a daily becoming. A daily enjoyment of the next atomic step towards…well towards the next atomic step of your journey!
In life and in business we can often be incredibly ‘goal’ orientated. Businesses set annual or quarterly targets and personally we can have goals of our ultimate weight or dream house or chunky bank balance. And sure, goals are great to have. But they only take us so far. They are in a sense, a push in the right direction. But, the path to get you there, is built out of a system of daily habits that will support you towards your goal… and beyond. And this involves focusing on the process – the how – as opposed to the end result. To quote Clear: “It is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”
When we are focused on the process, or the system, we are working with the HOW. HOW are you building your journey rather than just getting to the end of it? As Clear write: “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than your current results.” Instead of living our lives like one massive tick list, we can pay attention to the space in-between. The journey TO results. From this systemic perspective we can start to shape the process that gets us there, make it more efficient, and perhaps even discover that we enjoy the journey along the way. As Clear writes: “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” For me this means enjoying the conversations and collaborations with the builders, carpenters and plumbers about to work on my home improvements. Relishing the creativity, the possibilities and the new ideas they bring each time we speak. It also means enjoying the PROCESS of building a home, of creating my dream environment full of warmth and welcome, love and laughter.
As I write this article and reflect on our choices of HOW to live in each moment, I’m reminded of professor Morrie Schwartz. As 78-year-old Morrie came to terms with his slow, debilitating and paralysing death from a motor neurone disease called ALS, he became even more aware of what was really important in life. What really counted. When asked what he would do if he only had 24 hours left to live, Morrie replied that he would do what he might do on any ordinary day. He would eat lunch with some good friends and go for an evening walk. His point being that there is perfection in ordinary joy, in the atomic gifts life can bring. And at the same time, in his final months of life, through gentle, unhurried conversations with his old student Mitch Albom, Morrie was sowing the seeds of the international best seller and inspirational book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie.’ A book that to date had sold 14 million copies and been translated into 45 languages. What an incredible ‘goal’ to achieve, but in fact it never started with a goal. It started with WHO Morrie and Mitch were and HOW they chose to be together, to talk together and to create together. Moment by moment, in only 20% of the time left to Morrie, 1% by 1%, atomic moment by atomic moment, enjoying the process of life and appreciating the journey that remained. Morrie gave us some wonderful life lessons and he certainly believed in living life to the full.
So yes, let’s get going, let’s create, let’s not wait. But let’s not rush unaware to a larger house, a bigger business or a leaner body. Let’s get going with living our lives fully every day. Let’s create Moment by Moment. Atom by atom. Breath by breath. Choice by choice.
Because Morrie, through the soft, meaningful and slow sowing of seeds, the daily 1%, the ability to be fully present and be who he wanted to be and live how he wanted to live in each moment, showed us all that we can create an extraordinary, beautiful, inspiring and generous life through small, daily choices and gentle, even atomic seed sowing…starting right now.
All of us at 4D are thinking of everyone in these critical and very tough times and it feels important to say…
As we put together this month’s 4D newsletter we are desperately aware of the context we are writing in, with the social injustice protests in America. It brings to mind countless similar events and incidents. Too many to name and just too many full stop. We can’t sign off this article without touching on the pain and anger that so many of us are feeling throughout the world. And what comes to mind in line with this article is the deep sense of confusion and helplessness that so many of us are feeling. What can we do? What action can we take? How can we get to the goal of social equality? Yes, we can donate, we can black out our social media feeds, we can write letters, we can protest. But nothing ever feels enough. And it is here I come back to this article. As feelings of overwhelm risk plunging us into inertia and helplessness, let us ask, what can I do each day to build towards justice for all. What act of kindness, what words of support, what choice to include, what act of solidarity, what courage to call out injustice wherever it may be, what bravery to step up and use our voice or help others use theirs.
What 1%, what daily choice, what 20% that will make the difference, what atomic habit can we build that feels possible and do-able. The goal is clear but it is the PROCESS each day is what will get us there. The daily choices to be proactive in our support, compassion and love for each other. And finally, to be part of this process, to join in the daily journey, we don’t have to identify as a protester or a demonstrator or as an activist. We simply have to identify as a human being.
We are all together in this Coronavirus curveball. So, what should we do? How should we be?
If you’ve never experienced a curveball in your life – then you are one of the lucky ones. Most of us, certainly after a certain age, have had to cope with sudden loss, illness, incidents, redundancies, relationships ending unexpectedly, betrayals, shocks and disappointments. And throughout all of that many of us cling to the things we can still find certainty in – our work, our passions, a nice meal in the pub, a dance class, a football match and seeing friends and family. But all of us today are experiencing those familiar rugs being pulled from under our feet.
I think a lot about curveballs and how we cope emotionally, psychologically and socially when they happen. Personally because of things that have happened in my life and professionally, because I and my 4D colleagues help organisations, leaders and teams navigate change and uncertainty – through keynote speaking and face to face or online workshops and coaching. When facing massive change in your personal life you might find certainty and solace in your workplace, and when struck by uncertainty at work we might find comfort in the familiar routine of home. But now, both personally and professionally, our worlds have been rocked.
Here we are – day by day watching the statistics and graphs curving up to one of the biggest curveballs any of us have ever faced.
Once this has passed, we will look back at how we responded. At what legacy we created about ourselves. And right now is the time to start consciously responding and behaving in a way we will be proud of.
I and my partners at 4D Human Being believe there are five key skills and qualities that we all need to tap into when curveballs strike: Resilience, Connection, Adaptability, Communication and Storytelling.
On July 19th 2016 I was staying with my sister in Sussex, when I received a phone call from the police at 6 a.m. I was soon struck with the horrifying news that around midnight the night before, my partner Tom had taken a piece of rope and driven himself to a motorway bridge in North London, where he had taken his own life. The curveball had hit. I don’t need to tell you of the anguish and pain that followed. And… amidst the shock and the horror and the grief and the fear, I was a single woman with a business that supported both me and my sister and her three children. As well as our other wonderful 4D team members. On some level, I simply had to dig deep, tap into my resilience and carry on. Five weeks later I was standing on stage in Las Vegas delivering a high energy Impact seminar to over 2000 people. It wasn’t that I didn’t still feel all the pain and hurt, it was that there was another part of me that I could access, a part that could connect to a wider purpose and be of service to others. Because in a curveball, in spite of our fear, we often need to find the strength and resilience within us that can create some scaffolding for us to see a crisis through. I needed, and wanted, to keep working, to keep sharing a message of courage and positivity that not only helped my audience but supported me as well. So, what is it you know about yourself? What quality can you dig deep into and tap into right now? What helps you feel resilient? Is it gathering information? Staying physically strong? Self-compassion? Or is it, like me, through tapping into your personal energy and wider purpose? How can you identify your key strengths and qualities and so dig into your own inner resilience and resources? And how can you help others to do the same? It might not take away the fear and anxiety, but it may well help you to turn a corner through these tough times.
Eleanor and I were actors together back in the day and worked together in a number of plays at the magical Watermill Theatre in Newbury. In between rehearsal and performances, she and I became firm friends, spending our time howling with laughter, writing comedy songs on the guitar and drinking far too much cheap white wine. With very few cares in the world, neither of us could have imagined the curveballs that lay waiting for us in our futures. For my dear friend Eleanor, hers came on a cold January morning in 2008. Early that day, she had woken up in her house and went to stir her two children out of bed. As she moved towards her toddler Miranda’s cot, she felt the horrifying chill that something was wrong. Something was more than wrong. Miranda had died suddenly during the night. At the time her death was recorded as sudden infant death syndrome but is now understood to have been sudden unexplained death in childhood which can affect children between the ages of 1 and 19. My friend faced one of the worst things that can happen to a fellow human being. So began a desperately difficult journey of working through her loss and grief. I saw Eleanor frequently over the following months and marveled at the honesty, openness and incredible strength she showed as she dealt with her pain. One quality stood out to me and helped me through my own curveball some years later. Eleanor very carefully and very consciously drew in the friends and support network that would help see her through. She understood at a fundamental level how vital human connection was going to be to support her healing. She decided very clearly who she needed to be around at that time and what each friend, relative and acquaintance could offer her and help her with. She also understood something else important to her healing – who she did not need to be around. With friends and family who, for whatever reason, she found it difficult to be around – because they were pregnant or had little girls of their own – she gently asked them to love her through this as she pressed a careful pause on connections that were hard or complicated. Increasing the connections that could support her in the way she needed. Eleanor continues to use connection today to help others heal through her wonderful work as a horticultural therapist.
When curveballs come, connection and the support of our network is vital. When our world has been turned upside down, we need the solidity and support of those who care about us. The human brain is wired for connection. We human beings did not survive and adapt alone. We did it together. And that’s how we will do it now. I am reminded of the postcards people are creating to check in with elderly people who are self-isolating. Who can you reach out to, or who can you ask for help during this time? Personally, professionally, or at an organisational level? Who could simply do with a card through their door or a text message or a facetime call to know you are thinking about them?
On July 7, 2007, four bombs went off in quick succession in the city of London. Three on the tube network and one on a number 30 bus in Tavistock Place. A young woman named Martine Wright, was on her way to work when one of the bombs detonated in the train-carriage she was in. She was the last survivor to be rescued and had lost nearly three-quarters of her blood by the time the fire brigade cut her free. The doctors at Royal London Hospital managed to save her life but both of her legs had to be amputated. She woke up from the disaster to a very different reality. But in spite of the hardships and enduring pain and grief, she managed to make the most amazing adaptation and pivot on her life. Five years later in July 2012 she was picked to represent Great Britain’s women’s sitting volleyball team in the 2012 Summer Paralympics. She demonstrated huge adaptability, responding to her new reality and what was available to her. Not just by compromising or making do, but by adapting creatively and personally flourishing in order to find a whole new way of being.
This is a key skill that we are being called upon to tap into right now. We have to tap into our adaptability. As Charles Darwin suggested – it is not the survival of the fittest but the most adaptable. In challenging times, we need to increase our personal adaptability. And we need to adapt our organisational processes and products. Asking ourselves…what might be possible? If I waved a magic wand…? What is it that people need right now that I might be able to offer? How can I use the fact that everything seems turned upside down to be creative and to offer something completely different? This is the time to tap into your creativity and to increase your improvisational skills. This is the time for right-brain, right hemisphere thinking – recognizing that we can no longer rely on the old way of doing things; we cannot fix our current problems with the same old thinking that got us here. We have to create something new. New processes, products and new ways of being together.
What would you do if you suffered 63% burns to your body? And were given a 5% chance of surviving? In 2007 a handsome, vibrant young man named Jamie Hull was faced with precisely this curveball. He had decided to fulfil his life-long dream of becoming a pilot. Near the end of his intensive flying course in Florida and having completed a number of solo flights, Jamie was within sight of his private pilot’s license. Then on another routine flight in a Liberty XL2 two-seater, to clock up his flying hours, Jamie, 1000 feet up, with no parachute and wearing only light summer clothes, suddenly realized his engine was on fire. Within seconds he was no longer flying a plane, but a fireball. Jamie did some incredible quick-thinking – levelling the aircraft 15ft above the ground, slowing to 30 knots, before opening the door, climbing onto the left wing of the plane and leaping out. Alive but horrifically burned, Jamie began a long, painful recovery process. And every day as he pressed on, Jamie found himself questioning his motivation to go on living.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of watching Jamie address an audience in the Painted Hall at the Royal Navy College in London. He had the courage to step out on stage and communicate his story in support of the charity that had supported him – Help for Heroes. Jamie has managed to turn some of his darkest moments into insights of wisdom for communication, impact and creating a difference. By reaching out and telling his story, he has inspired others to believe that they too can navigate their way through difficult times. Communication is so key during difficult times. We as a human race are not the stories and the messages we keep locked in our heads. We are the stories and messages we share in the world. I firmly believe you cannot over-communicate with your employees and your colleagues at times like this. Stay in touch, keep people motivated and let them know you are with them and there for them. These simple, yet-heart felt moments of communication and motivation, can be a powerful way to counterbalancing the impact of curveballs.
On Saturday 13th September 2014 at 3.31pm I received an email from my friend Anna. She wrote to me from a well-known children’s hospital in London to say her four-year-old little girl, Claudia, had been diagnosed with Leukaemia. Nine years earlier, Anna and I had met walking our dogs in a London park. Her mother had met me first and said you must meet my daughter, you and she are going to become the best of friends. And we did. From wild nights out to deep existential conversations, we delighted in finding each other and the universe bringing us together.
Now, 9 years later, Anna was facing a devastating curveball. Her daughter’s Leukaemia treatment would start with an intensive five-month process and ultimately would take two and a half years in total. While Anna of course acknowledged that what she and her partner were going through was shocking and surreal, what stood out to me right from this initial moment was how conscious she was of the story and narrative she chose to create. Yes, Anna’s storytelling accepted the reality of the curveball they had been thrown, and…it also focused heavily on the positive. In that very first email she wrote that for children in Claudia’s age bracket the “cure rates are very high, over 90%,” that her daughter would, in time, “return to her childhood and go to school and play with her friends.” A little later Anna spoke to me about the clear choice she was making around the language and story she would be using to herself, to others and most importantly to Claudia. She didn’t use the words ‘disease’ or ‘illness’, instead she spoke of ‘treatment’ and ‘getting well.’ For her daughter, the weeks of hospital and procedures were simply part of a journey to wellness so she could get back to school and once again be the healthy, fun-loving little girl she was.
Throughout those critical years, Claudia never had a sense of something being wrong with her, only of things moving towards being even better. I am so happy to say that Claudia is now in wonderful health – a smart, bright, creative and gorgeous 9-year-old living, learning, loving and laughing to the full.
In these coming weeks and months it is more important than ever that we are conscious both about the stories – and media – we allow ourselves to listen to and the stories we choose to tell.
Storytelling is vital for successfully navigating our way through a curveball. Whether it’s your personal story or the story of your organisation, you can choose which stories define and shape you. SO how can you become more conscious of the words you use and the stories you tell? How can you shape your stories to be true and at the same time helpful and hopeful, woven through with positivity and possibility?
We are always at choice…
One of my former partner Tom’s favourite phrases was ‘Are you happening to the world, or is the world simply happening to you?’ In my work as director, speaker and coach at 4D Human Being and as a psychotherapist, I and my 4D colleagues come back to this phrase again and again as a vital touchstone to our belief that we always have a choice. Whatever happens, even in the worst of circumstances, we always have a choice how to respond. So, as we all deal with the curveball of Coronavirus, we can choose to let events happen to us or we can make choices to deal with events in a conscious way – so we can be “always at choice.”
These five skills and qualities of Resilience, Connection, Adaptability, Communication and Storytelling can serve as touchstones for us all to help remind us we all have what it takes to see us through even the most difficult of times. We can, and must, all stay connected and together in our efforts to deal with the crisis and be kind and thoughtful to our fellow humans. We can keep communicating and motivating others to do the best they can. We can adapt quickly and find new routines and make new meaning. We can choose whether we are the victim or the hero of our own story. And we can choose to consciously create a narrative and meaning that gives us and others hope, positivity and purpose in the coming weeks.