Today we ask – are we willing to let go, in order to let in? As the Professor of Literature – 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 “
Letting go of outdated plans and narratives can give space for new thoughts and new experiences. Find out more about 4D Human Being online at 4Dhumanbeing.com. We hope you enjoy the show. Like and Subscribe!
As my dear friend and 4D colleague Katie Churchman once reminded me – write from where you’re at. I think right now a lot of us are at a tired, depleted place. 2021 feels like it has got off to a sluggish start but instead of slamming our foot down hard on the accelerator in an attempt to push through, I am going to make the case for why this might just be the time to take your foot off the gas and how that could be a very good thing. Dare I say it – a positive thing!
It somehow feels like we are in suspended animation at the beginning of this year. Of course, this won’t be the same for everyone – the incredible NHS workers, and individuals I work with through Frontline19, certainly won’t feel like things are slow to get going this year.
A friend of mine said – this year so far feels like wading through treacle but maybe that’s okay. Maybe this is a chance to step off the hamster wheel, reassess the busy trap and listen to physical exhaustion as a message to do things differently.
Here are a few things to think about as we wade through treacle in the attempt to gear up and energise into 2021…
How much energy you have at any one time is key to understanding whether you can go into super productive mode or whether you need to be efficient with your energy usage. When you are depleted, you might need to be more ‘energy smart’ about where you choose to invest the power available to you.
2. Effort vs Value
As Researchers from the University of London and ESCP Europe Business School found – over-working doesn’t necessarily pay off and can lead to dissatisfaction, less promotions and low recognition due to burn out and quality of work suffering. How can we work with less effort but with more valuable, noticeable and impressive results? Rather than slogging through a 60 hour week – stop and reflect on where is your energy placement going to be most valuable? Where and for whom can you create the most value?
3. Smart and Lazy
Bill Gates was supposedly quoted as saying “I always choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” In business these individuals would be your super stars – your progressives, your innovators and your real strategic thinkers. When you take a look at your growing To Do list…rather than ploughing through it, how can you place yourself in the superstar category of lazy/intelligent and find smart, innovative solutions that surprise and impress? How can you create high visible value rather than high invisible workload?
Another way to think about this is Pareto’s 80/20 rule. In brief – Pareto studied a wide range of phenomena and discovered that most often 80% of output comes from only 20% of input. If you look at your input, what 20% of effort is actually producing 80% of your productivity and success? What 80% of your effort that is only producing the other 20% of your output – could you ditch?
5. The 4 hour week
By being more efficient with your energy, you have more time to really live in and enjoy the present moment. I make reference here to Tim Ferris’s book and philosophy – The 4-Hour Work Week. Tim is a strong advocate of ‘live now.’ He tells his readers not to be ‘deferrers’ and sacrifice their lives to the idea of retirement when they’re older. So – what if you were paid a super high hourly rate and a company only got four hours of your time? As you are being so well paid for that 4 hours…how would you give the business the maximum value of your talents and energy? How could you apply that to your normal working week?
6. Go with the flow
To go back to the treacle analogy – like in water – when we try to run through treacle, we get pushed back, feel blocked, and get stuck. However, when we take our time and glide through the liquid, it can feel effortless, in sync with our environment. Therefore, if the world is offering you a different energy field right now, maybe don’t fight it, rather work with it. Perhaps it’s time to stop identifying with the amount of ‘effort’ you make. That somehow prolonged effort and a 60-hour week is a badge of honour and makes you a worthwhile human being. Perhaps it’s time to take off that false badge of honour and start identifying as efficient, smart, creative, discerning, lazy and intelligent. Not the person who gets lost in three days of a grinding powerpoint build, but someone who is so creatively efficient they suddenly have a lot more hours in the day for themselves.
So, maybe it’s time to take your foot off the gas, enjoy the view and think about…what you are going to do with all that time …
4D 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 and fitness – 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 you can all be proud of.
Treat your team to the 4D Energiser Program. Only ONE hour a week for ONE month – to ensure a super-charged and successful launch into the year ahead. Email us at email@example.com to book your program now.
Welcome to the 4D Human Being Podcast. Don’t worry! In this episode Philippa and Penelope are talking about worry. And Philippa has gone bullet point crazy with all the topics we would love to cover on this very important subject. Enjoy the show!
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!