Relationships? Or “Communication-ships”

Relationships? Or “Communication-ships”

Communication is EVERYTHING!

 

Of course at 4D Human Being we pretty much believe this to be true and whilst (strictly speaking) there are other things in the world aside from communication (), we truly believe that communication is core to who we are and the experience of life that we are creating for ourselves and one another. So no small thing!

And yet, why is it that so often we don’t communicate, or feel that others fail to communicate with us? This can be because literally no communication occurs. And it can also refer to communication simply not landing in the way we/others intend – and so what takes place is ‘miscommunication’. We could write a book (actually a library) on why communication is important and the skills and tools we can use to be better communicators. But this August Newsletter will not be a book. Instead, we want to offer one focus to help us step in and communicate and to be better communicators. And that is…

…that communication is relational. So join us as we release the focus from ourselves as ‘individual communicators’. And we shift the arc of focus to the relationship – to the audience (or our partner!) to create a different experience of what communication really is.

 

 

Why is Communication Important

 

Any list of ‘top required soft skills in the workplace’ will certainly have communication skills at the top or very near the top. These skills are critical to our success and the success of our organisations – never more so than at the moment – whether collaborating across organisations during the pandemic to save lives or as is the case for many of us working hard to sustain business performance across teams and customer bases when working under challenging economic conditions and doing so virtually. And aside from the professional benefits of strong communication, let’s not forget that research suggests that in our personal relationships, it is effective communication that we struggle with the most and is the #1 reason for relationships breaking down (John Gottman Institute).

We can tell ourselves that the reason to be a great communicator is to effectively transfer information from one human being to another. And whilst this is true – and has been critical to the survival and development of our species, communication serves so much more. Communication enables us to create, build and nurture relationships with other people and to create shared meaning in our lives. And when that becomes the focus of why and how we communicate, well… we are entering a whole new ball game.

 

Why it Fails

 

There are many reasons why communication either doesn’t take place at all or it fails for some reason. One way to think about why this might be the case is to consider where is your focus of attention? Think about the last time you needed to have a difficult conversation or perhaps get up to present in public or even participate in an interview. It’s likely that any preoccupation prior to the ‘communication’ would have been focused on you. Will I do well? Will I say the wrong thing? Will I forget something?

Sound familiar…?

And if this is the case then several things may be happening, such as…
We may want to be ‘right’
We may be fearful of looking stupid or being criticized or attacked
We may choose language that focuses on our own needs/opinions
We may not listen
We may end up trying to avoid having the conversation
We may (consciously or unconsciously) be preparing counter-arguments for why the other person is wrong

And so the list goes on.

As a business owner occasionally I do have to step into some difficult conversations and back in the day when I was younger, and working in the corporate world, I sometimes would prepare a lot for such ‘encounters’. However looking back now, my ‘preparation’ was undoubtedly attempting to secure me in some of the above positions. Rather than focus on a true two-way communication.

 

Communication is Relational

 

Communication is so much more than words and information. It’s relational. Communication creates, builds and transforms our relationships with everyone from our family, friends, colleagues, boss, clients and anyone from the postman to the slightly grumpy neighbour!

So with this in mind, where is our ‘arc of focus’? Think of an arc stretching from you to the other person/audience and if THAT is where the focus is, we can transform how we communicate and how we feel about communication. And transform our relationships.

The arc of focus and The Big B

(Intellectual Dimension)

 

It takes effort (in all 4 dimension – physical, emotional, intellectual and intentional) to remove the focus from ourselves and truly focus on other people. As the novelist Zadie Smith recently pointed out on a podcast interview (The Adam Buxton Podcast ep.130) – when she met Tom Hanks, she thought what a kind and generous person he was and how he is so outward facing to everyone he meets. This is a generous thing to do and can have an enormous effect on other people. But as she also pointed out, it takes practice and it can look an exhausting thing to do for any length of time, especially if that focus of attention in communication is not reciprocated.

So, accepting we are not all perfect and selfless beings. And we are not even all Tom Hanks, what can we do? How can we shift our arc of focus to the ‘other’?

One thing to consider is to craft into your communication the benefit to the other person of what you are saying/offering. It sounds obvious but so often we can forget and we can communicate just from our own perspective – with an unconscious emphasis on what WE want. Build in the Big B (benefit) upfront and not only are people more likely to listen, but the communication is also much more likely to be relationship-focused.

 

 

Open-armed

(Physical dimension)

Our gestures say so much about where we are operating from and whilst gestures such as pointing fingers, folded arms, exasperated shrugs all perhaps have their place and… we can choose to use our physical gestures to engage relationally when speaking. Or even when being silent.

For example, open arms and open palms is a universal sign of ‘peace and openness’ and demonstrates empathy and a willingness to be open and that we are not hiding anything. This simple gesture can have an enormous impact on the neurochemistry of the person standing in front of us.

One of the most impactful examples of this that I find personally is when I manage to find myself in my more ‘conscious’ parenting state and respond to tantrums or anger from my kids with a simple open arm gesture. It doesn’t always work (and let’s be clear I don’t always find that it’s my first response!) but I am constantly surprised at how often it does work. It calms the situation and opens a new line of communication, where my child intuitively feels that I am open to hearing their viewpoint or underlying needs.

 

The Listening Vase

(Emotional Dimension)

 

Emotionally we can boost our empathy by listening rather than talking. Not only does this help people feel heard but as the listener you are more powerful than you perhaps think! Not only in terms of shaping the conversation and landing the communication – but with the added bonus of simultaneously focusing on and building the relationship. If you feel that communicating your message is all about you talking, think again. Think of someone else’s words as the liquid and you as the person listening is the vase. Depending on how you listen, facial expressions, body language, attitude, concentration, focus, you will be shifting the shape of the vase and how the message is finally formed. At the extreme of course – if you stop listening, the speaker will finally stop speaking!

The 2% Truth

(Intentional Dimension)

“I have one major rule: Everybody is right. More specifically, everybody — including me — has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to be honoured, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace.” ― Ken Wilber
If we enter into conversation wanting to be right or to win it’s unlikely communication will truly take place or at least not land in a way that makes it effective. We each have our own truth and whilst we may not hold ourselves out to be perfect, flawless and always right, we do fundamentally have a viewpoint and a belief that is important to us. And of course… that is true of every other person on the planet. So… Intentionally, how can we hold both our own truth and also that of others? Without entering a battle or fully conceding? The answer is to understand that we are all partially right.

One way to practice this mindset is to enter a conversation knowing that whatever the other person says there will be at least a 2% truth in what they say… This small % means that we can hold our position/opinion as our own truth AND we can also allow space for the fact that the other person’s opinion or point of view even if vastly different to our own could at the very least hold a 2% truth even for ourselves.

 

Many of us may sometimes have conversations around the current pandemic and there are many differing opinions out there. I and many other people have for example travelled abroad recently for certain reasons (e.g. me – to collect my kids from their dad’s house in Italy). Yet some of us may question why people are travelling abroad at the moment especially when quick changes in quarantine measures could arise at any moment. My mind wants to leap to many defences of MY choice to travel abroad and yet taking a breath, perhaps I don’t need to justify my reasons. Perhaps I can be true both to the many thought-through reasons surrounding my decision, careful choices I had made, and how I had managed the trip cautiously – whilst also recognising that yes there is also a truth in mass movement not being ideal at the moment. Neither of us was fully right or wrong. There is truth everywhere not just somewhere.

The information you need to share (whether in a personal or professional relationship) is important to you and potentially important to others. And yet your communication does so much more than transfer information from one human being to another. You are creating a connection (Communication-ships!) between yourself and other human beings – in every moment. And if that is our focus every time we go to communicate, what might we change and… what might we create?

5 Qualities to help us Overcome Curveballs

5 Qualities to help us Overcome Curveballs

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.

 

1. Resilience

 

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.

 

 2. Connection

 

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?

 

 3. Adaptability

 

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.

 

4. Communication

 

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.

 

5. Storytelling 

 

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.

#AlwaysAtChoice 

Taking back your personal power!

Taking back your personal power!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” 

 

– Marianne Williamson.

This article is all about helping you to take back your power by living in a more conscious, connected and creative way. By using our 4A’s method- awareness, acceptance, accountability, action- we help you to start to become aware of feelings of disempowerment; recognise language and actions that imply that you might be stepping into a victim role; take charge of your reactions; and consciously respond to situations in a way that best serves you. We don’t exaggerate when we say it can completely transform your experience of life. There are many things in life we can’t control: notably other people’s responses and behaviours. So, let’s start taking charge of what we can control: our response to the world. Take back your personal power and start playing the game of life…. your way.

 

 

Let’s imagine you just broke the record for highest sales targets in a year. Not only that, you’ve made more money in a month than the entire team made last year. Your boss calls you into his office. You presume it’s got something to do with a promotion or pay rise so you smile to yourself as you enter the room. As you sit down, your boss briefly congratulates you on your incredible sales results. He then segues on to your pay package going forward. Your base rate will stay the same and your commission will be cut by half. “What? … I made more money in a month than our sector made in a year?” “Yes” your boss replies, “and you’re also taking home more money than anyone else on the team. The commission structure is simply not serving the needs of the company.” You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. In spite of all of your hard work and success you’re going to be the one that loses out. And you feel completely powerless in the situation. Or are you…?

This is a true example that comes from a long-term coaching client, who we’ll call ‘Sally’ for the purposes of this article. Upon leaving the office Sally felt completely powerless to change her situation. As we like to say at 4D, it felt like the world was “happening” to her.

Think of a situation in your own life, work or personal, in which you feel like you are a victim of someone or something. Join us as we walk through the 4A’s for taking back your personal power, so that you can “happen” to the world, in whatever situation the world throws at you.

 

1. Awareness

 

“I also came to realise that if people could make me angry they could control me. Why should I give someone else such power over my life?”

 

– Ben Carson.

For the first few days Sally spiralled through many emotions varying from anger to grief, ruminating over unhelpful thoughts that caused her distress. This emotional rollercoaster and feeling of “stuckness” left her feeing exhausted and sick. Becoming curious about your responses during challenging situations can help you to reduce suffering, sickness and stress. In Buddhism this is called the ‘second arrow’. The first arrow that hits you is the situation outside of yourself and is something that often you can’t control. The second arrow that follows is the turmoil you create for yourself, and is a direct result of your response to the situation. Take Sally’s situation for example: the first arrow comes when she realises her hard work is being rewarded with a pay cut. The second arrow- the suffering- comes when she tortures herself by asking “why me?” and staying stuck in a loop of “it’s not fair.” It’s so tempting and human to respond like this, however it also prevents us from moving forward.

 

We’d encourage you to give yourself time to feel and be with the pain and disappointment of the first arrow as grieving and feeling the feels is part of the process. At the same time, stay curious to the second arrow ‘stories’ of suffering that you might be adding on top of the situation.

Think back to the situation you picked for yourself. What stories are you telling yourself about what happened, how you were treated and what it says about you? These automatic thoughts give us insight into our default modes of operating. If we become more conscious of these default responses, by getting curious about our own experience, we can start to see how these patterns show up in our lives. Becoming aware of these deeply ingrained patterns gives us the power to shift away from second arrow behaviour, and enables us to re-shape them into a different, more constructive response.

Here are 2 ways of becoming more aware of unconscious stories and thought patterns:

 

 

1. Journaling

Journal what’s going on in the mind. Journaling is an excellent outlet for processing emotions and helps to increase self-awareness. University of Texas psychologist James Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, acting as a stress management tool, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health. His research also suggests that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. If journaling doesn’t appeal why not dictate into your phone when on a walk or do a mind map on a flip-chart. There are loads of ways of doing this, so get creative! One way could be to divide a piece of paper into six sections… Life, love, money, work, family and hobbies or passions and journal or draw in each box.

 

2. Automatic Writing

Access your unconscious thoughts by allowing your pen to lead the way. The rules are as follows: pick a topic, set a timer for one minute and then keep your pen moving across the page (or your hands typing) until the time runs out. Try to write as quickly as possible! To quote Deborah Frances-White, author of The Guilty Feminist: “This method is a great way to establish your fears and low self-esteem points […] The scary thing about using this approach is that it may uncover your secret fears and insecurities. But while they stay hidden, you can never really confront them.” This exercise will make you aware of the automatic thoughts that are controlling you, and only then will you be able to take conscious control and focus on shifting them.

 

2. Acceptance

 

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; It means understanding something is what it is, and that there’s got to be a way through it.”

 

– Michael J Fox

An important step in taking back your power is accepting what you can’t change. An expression that really resonates for us is “Resistance to what is, is the cause of all of our suffering.” Initially, Sally felt powerless to change her situation. She couldn’t force her boss to change his decision (legally or otherwise) because of several factors including the fact that it was his company and she’d been hired as an independent contractor. If she could go back in time she’d be sure to get the proper paperwork in place, as opposed to relying on word-of-mouth agreements and good old-fashioned ‘trust.’ But she couldn’t go back in time and she couldn’t move forward if she didn’t accept what is. Railing against the unfairness of the decision, keeps Sally stuck in her role of victim.

In your situation, is there some reality that you are pushing against that it’s time to accept? Consider the concept of radical acceptance, defined as “completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and with your mind.” This idea of accepting an unchangeable reality, brings to mind the Serenity prayer: “God grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” What can you accept in your situation that helps move you forward in your journey from victim to creator?

 

3. Accountability

 

Accountability adds momentum and drive to stages 1 and 2. This third step keeps us moving forward and enables us to keep learning and developing as human beings. We do this through curiosity and inquiry, in order to challenge limiting beliefs and unhelpful stories. A key question to ask yourself when you reach this stage is: What is my responsibility in bringing this situation to life? Stay self-reflective and curious about your own experience. What can you take from this experience that may help you in the future?

When Sally took ownership of her own mistakes, she was able let go, learn from and build on the situation. After reflecting on the situation, she was able to recognise the value in being upfront and clear around issues involving money.  As opposed to continually blaming herself about the issue, she accepted ‘what is’, held herself accountable and built on the situation by creating new behaviours. The key difference between self-blame and accountability is that the former keeps you fixed, and the latter invites forward movement.

Next time you catch yourself in what Mark Manson, author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***”, describes as a ‘thought tornado” try to notice when you use words like “ever” “always” “never”. In Sally’s case this might look like “I never get what I deserve” or “No matter what I do, I always end up the loser.” These words are often signs that we are in a cycle of self-blame. Once you become aware of this negative self-talk, you can start to challenge these thoughts. One way of doing this is by using Byron Katie’s 4 questions: 1. Is it true? 2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 3. What happens when you believe that thought? 4. (And our favourite!) Who would you be without that thought? Katie encourages students to view this work as “a meditation practice. It’s like diving into yourself. Contemplate the questions, one at a time. Drop down into the depths of yourself, listen, and wait. The answer will meet your question.”

Victim status can be seductive and keeps us from taking responsibility for our own blocks. Often a victim story garners support and care-taking from others. Taking accountability for your part in bringing the situation to life, moves you away from victim status. “This unfairly happened to me, caused me a lot of pain and I’m powerless over it” becomes “what can I learn from this, how can I grow from this, and what can I do going forward to create a situation that better meets my needs.”

 

4. Action

 

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

 

– George Bernard Shaw

What are you going to do? What are your action steps and when are you going to do them by? It doesn’t matter if these are tiny changes or big transformations: this step is about becoming the creator of your own life. However big or small the step forward, letting go of your focus on someone else and focusing on yourself and your own path forward promotes a sense of well-being.

Sally now describes the event as “the making of her” and considers it an unexpected silver lining. By using the 4A’s Sally was able to create a better situation for herself at work by taking responsibility for her part and convincing her boss going forward to put her compensation plan in writing. Interestingly, over time, Sally took even more control of her life and ultimately left that position to start her own business. We are pleased to say she is thriving!

Often when things don’t go our way, it can be an opportunity to make important changes in our lives. We’ve all had that experience in which we realise we never would have become the person we are if the event that seemed so painful at the time hadn’t happened. In your situation, what action steps can you take now that will start you on the path of becoming the creator of your life? 

At 4D we’re passionate about firing up the intentional dimension, what we call the 4th  dimension. In our 4D model, which is the underpinning of all of our work at 4D, we talk about human beings as often operating in 3 dimensions, our physical dimension, emotional dimension and intellectual dimension. When the 4th  dimension comes online, we start to ask “is this actually my intention,” “Is this the impact I want to have” “what do I really want to do?” You start to make choices that drive your 3 dimensions as opposed to your 3 dimensions driving you. After the meeting with her boss, Sally’s three-dimensional autopilot reaction was feeling physically anxious, emotionally angry and disappointed, and thinking that she was a victim who had been treated unfairly and had no power to change it. The 4A’s process we’ve offered you, brings your 4th dimension, that intentional dimension, online so that you can take control back around how you respond to life events. It’s the difference between the world happening to you and you happening to the world. We often use a quote attributed to Viktor Frankl, a Psychiatrist who lived through the Holocaust: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

 

The Freedom to Choose

 

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

 

– Buddha

Next time you feel powerless, stop for a moment and take yourself through the 4A’s of taking back personal power: 1. Become aware of the stories playing out. 2. Ask yourself, is there a reality here I must accept in order to integrate and transcend? 3. Hold yourself accountable for your part in bringing the situation to life. Be conscious of the stories and language you’ve been using so that you can move from victim to creator. 4. Finally, ask what’s possible? What can I do to help the situation? Create an action point for taking back your personal power in any situation. What is in your control? And how can you change it? The choice is yours.

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!

Make friends with fear

Make friends with fear

Have you ever watched a horror movie or ridden a rollercoaster in order to recreate the experience of fear?

 

Well believe it or not, but we are doing this all the time. On a daily basis we are often unknowingly creating and living with the experience of fear, particularly in our professional lives. So, this month we shine a light on fear and face up to those unspoken and unconscious worries that might be holding us back. The great news is that fear isn’t fixed: we can change our response to fear by becoming conscious of the mechanisms behind the fear response. Join us as we cross edges, step in and create exciting new possibilities by making friends with fear. To use the wonderful words of Maslow: “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” What would your life look like if you stepped into fear? Well, there’s only one way to find out…

Your fears are my fears

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear”
 

– Nelson Mandela

We may believe that our fears are unique to us, yet in reality your fears are much more commonplace than you might think. Among the top workplace fears are the fear of losing your job, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of being yelled at, the fear of stepping on toes and the fear of being a know-it-all. But topping them all is: the fear of speaking up. Sound familiar? Many of us will recognise some of these workplace fears whilst others might not believe that they are particularly bothered by any of the above. But sometimes our behaviours give away the fact that we are unknowingly being driven by a deep fear. These behaviours are what we like to call the 9 faces of fear and they indicate that our fear has been triggered. You may recognise some of them. They are:

 

1. Not giving 100%

2. Procrastination

3. Anger

4. Crying

5. Rationalising

6. Avoidance

7. Indecision

8. Withdrawal

9. Lack of completion

In isolation these manifestations of fear may be harmless and possibly useful in certain situations. Issues only arise when these states of fear become our day-to-day default modes of operating and perhaps even our only modes of operating. When we are living in a constant state of fear we contribute to a culture of fear, which limits potential for growth, creates unacceptable behaviour, reduces productivity and creativity, demotivates and discourages individuals and teams, leads to poor communication and drives stress.

 

 

So, how can we stop fear from running our lives and negatively affecting our families, teams and wider communities? By understanding what is being triggered. When we become aware of our fear-based behaviours and thought patterns, we awaken the power of conscious choice.

At 4D we use a model called the pyramid of fear to separate the different layers of fear and to illustrate how fear shows up in our body, brain and beliefs. At the very base of that pyramid- the foundation underneath the various levels of fear- lies four simple words “I can’t handle it.” Susan Jeffers, psychologist and author of ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ argues that maybe we can handle quite a lot more than we believe. And what’s the best way of strengthening this belief? By handling things that you didn’t believe you could handle. When you “‘handle it’ self-esteem is raised considerably. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably.” (Susan Jeffers)

Body

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will”
 

– W. Clement Stone

At the very top of our fear pyramid is the body. The tip of the iceberg so to speak as this segment focuses on the surface level signs of fear that show up physically. Can we really change the way our body responds to fear? Yes, and believe it or not – no special equipment or training is required. All you need is your breath.

Fear kicks off our flight or fight response, an automatic and involuntary reaction activated by a deep and ancient part of the brain. When activated, our heart rate goes up, blood pressure increases and the body floods with adrenaline. All of which are incredibly useful if we’re walking alone in the dark and hear footsteps behind us or historically, if we’re being chased by a tiger, as it stops us from thinking and simply gets us ready to defend ourselves or to run away. However, this isn’t so useful if it’s triggered by a stressful meeting at work.

The good news is that our response to fear isn’t fixed: we can train our body to respond to fear differently. One of the easiest ways of reprogramming your internal operating system is by tuning into the breath. You’ve probably heard- and perhaps even said- the following phrase during a stressful situation: take a deep breath. Now this is helpful as long as that deep inhalation is followed by a long and slow exhalation (we want to avoid inhaling and holding the breath because this can lead to overbreathing!) So, counting the breath is a much more useful tool (and mantra) to use during stressful situations as it creates a slow and deep breathing cycle, which sends a signal to our brain that we are safe. As a result, the body returns to a more balanced state. Through working with the breath, we can regulate ourselves and get ourselves back to our optimal zone of functioning – what Psychiatry professor Dr Daniel J. Siegel and trauma therapist Pat Ogden Phd call our ‘Window of Tolerance.’ So, the next time you find yourself in a stressful meeting, “breath in for 4 and out for 4“…and open up your Window of Tolerance. You’ll find it much easier to solve the situation with a clear, calm head.

Brain

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears”

 

– Rudyard Kipling

The second layer of our fear pyramid uncovers the stories we tell ourselves about our fears. When we are in a state of fear the stories running through our minds can hugely distort and exaggerate the threat in front of us. I’m sure many of you have experienced the effect of a ‘runaway thought train’ (credit to our fab clients Ginny and El for this term!) It’s when one small- and seemingly innocent- thought builds into a full-blown disaster narrative. The catastrophizing train of thoughts creates a whole reality in our heads about something that hasn’t happened and probably never will. However, your brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined experiences. This is why you may find yourself jumping when watching a horror film, because your brain doesn’t register the difference between your reality (sitting in your living room) and the imagined reality in front of you (a full-blown zombie apocalypse!)

 

Neuroscientist and meditation expert, Dr. Joe Dispenza, believes that these negative thought cycles are stopping us from reaching our full potential and are ultimately making us sick. Whilst all animals can cope with a degree of fear and stress (for example, a deer running away from a fox will experience stress and fear as it tries to escape but once it’s safe, the response will be turned off and the deer will return to a balanced state), no animal can survive in a long-term, constant state of stress and fear. When our fear response is turned on and never turned off we are heading for disease. “So, our thoughts make us sick. But that means our thoughts can make us well” (Joe Dispenza).

If you think about a future event- your body doesn’t know the difference between the conjured idea and reality. So, most people are constantly reaffirming their fears and emotional states from past events in their life.

However, the same is true for future events. If you close your eyes, cultivate present awareness and mentally rehearse an action, your brain won’t know the difference between the imagined future and reality. For example, if you are one of the many people who are fearful of public speaking, you might imagine a different reality for an upcoming presentation, one in which you are feeling confident and self-assured. By doing this you are in a sense installing “new neurological hardware into your brain”, to look like the event has already occurred. Suddenly the brain is no longer just “a record of the past” but “a map to the future” (Joe Dispenza). So, the question is: what do you want your future to look like? What fears are you finally willing to let go of and leave behind?

Beliefs

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change”
 

– Jim Rohn

And so we come to the 3rd layer of fear: our beliefs. This is where we find our deepest and darkest fears. Fundamentally, this is what we believe about ourselves. Therapist and author Marisa Peer, believes that the fear of not being “enough” is “the biggest disease affecting humanity.” If we open this up we find the 4 main fears that sit at the core of our identities:

 

1.             Am I competent?

2.             Am I a good person?

3.             Will I be the best?

4.             Will I be liked?

 

Which one of these is often playing out in your life? The thought of not being liked? Or not being considered a good and worthy person? You may associate with one in particular (mine is usually around being the best!)

If any of these fears are triggered it can feel very frightening and threatening because our sense of self – who we are and what we believe about ourselves- can feel under attack. Guilt, anger and humiliation are signals of this and they can be deeply uncomfortable. Think back to the 9 faces of fear and the behaviours we tend to display. These are simply manifestations of these deep-set fears and they are ways we try to keep ourselves in our comfort zone.

And that is the one of the greatest challenges for us as human beings. We are driven to keep our identity safe and our fears hidden. To stay with what’s known and familiar. But of course, by keeping ourselves safe, we also keep ourselves stuck and this makes it very difficult to step in and start creating new patterns in our lives…

 

I can handle it…

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”
 

– Jack Cornfield

Which brings us to the very base of our fear pyramid: “I can’t handle it!” When we work down through the layers of the fear pyramid, we can flip our response to fear and transform an ‘I can’t’ into ‘I can.’

Remember, even the fear of ‘I can’t handle it’ is simply a narrative you have created. You have no proof that you can’t handle it unless you step in. Whether it’s speaking up at work, asking for a promotion or even one of the big, frightening curveballs that life can throw us – you can handle it. It might not be easy but we can all handle a lot more than we believe.

So, what limiting beliefs are stopping you from stepping in, pushing boundaries and realising your unbounded potential? Can you lean in with a curiosity instead of running away with regret? Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Big Magic’, believes that this is the key for “creative living” because a creative life is “any life that is driven more strongly by creativity that it is by fear.” So, let’s stop fear from ruling our lives by stepping in with curiosity, conscious intentionality and with the knowledge that we can, in fact, handle a lot more than we might think! Who knows what’s possible if we “travel in the direction of our fear” (John Berryman).

Micro Experiences, Macro Effects

Micro Experiences, Macro Effects

A few weeks ago, I was flying to Dubai to talk at a leader’s conference and I managed to sleep through the food service. When I woke up and asked if there was any food, the hostess responded with an abrupt and unhelpful “no.” Now there’s a truth to this: I had missed the ‘official’ meal time. However, in this brief moment the air hostess was creating a micro experience for me. A micro experience that left me hungry and wishing I’d flown with another airline…

Why are micro experiences important?

In this article we’re magnifying our interactions, in order to understand how micro experiences- the small, simple moments you might miss- can have macro effects. All of our interactions, good and bad, are made up of multiple micro-moments. Even one sales call involves numerous micro-moments, and the sum of those experiences will shape the customer’s experience of the company. So, this month we’re asking the following: are you conscious of the micro experiences you are creating in the everyday? And can you appreciate the micro experiences that other people are creating for you? Don’t underestimate their power. These seemingly small and simple moments create a ripple effect that can impact the dynamic of a whole relationship. To echo Google’s micro-moments advertisement campaign, “Life isn’t lived in years, or days, or even hours. It’s lived in moments.” And I believe this is true for all of our experiences, whether they be personal or professional, intimate or global.

 

 

How can we use micro experiences?

Personally and professional we want positive experiences, not just transactional relationships. In a recent key note, Adobe executive Brad Rencher said that: “As consumers, we’ve become quite demanding. And the theme that ties this all together isn’t the things we want, it’s the experiences we demand – the sum total of all of a customer’s interactions with a brand, from awareness to purchase to consumption, are now critical… so at each touch point, consumers feel uniquely understood and important.” For the customer, positive micro experiences are the moments that “delight me at every turn” (Adobe, Experience Index.) They are the bite-sized moments that make customer service and everyday interactions feel present and personal.

Micro sizing customer service

Micro experiences are what differentiate you personally and they are what differentiate organisations commercially. Aside from offering the lowest prices one of the best ways a company can differentiate from their competitors is by providing superior customer service. According to Adobe’s Experience Index, 78% of people agreed with the following statement: “whether in store or online, businesses should provide a personal service.” Which involves putting people before products. Flipping the formula so that it’s not simply a service or a transactional relationship: we want customer service and every day interactions to be personal. WeWork (a shared office space company who started out in 2010) demonstrates the power of putting people before products, as this year, the company became the largest corporate office occupier in central London. Miguel McKelvey co-founder of WeWork stated that: “As a company we really don’t care about numbers, what we care about is delivering an experience. When we have meetings, we don’t discuss square foot objectives. Instead, we ask ‘How can we make sure that the experience is awesome today?’” It’s interesting that McKelvey lands on ‘today’ because great customer service is about meeting customers where they at, in the present moment. People- at both a cellular and consumerist level- are constantly changing. So, consistent customer service is about striking a dynamic balance: a type of balance found in motion and built out of many, many micro experiences.

 

David Eldeman (global co-leader of Digital McKinsey) gives a great example of how companies can harness the power of micro experiences: “a moment when you’re travelling is wanting to get into your hotel room and not have to queue to check-in. With the Starwood app, you can check-in right on the app. As soon as you enter the property, beacons recognise that you’re there. You verify your identity with a fingerprint (if you’re on an iPhone), the app provides your room number and then you simply hold your phone up to the entranceway to the room and in you go. That’s an amazing way for a brand to help you in a moment.” Both of these companies are no longer interested in selling office space or hotel rooms: they are interested in selling their customer’s an experience. And this model of customer service can be applied to almost any organisation: make it about the people, not the products by creating positive interactions through micro experiences. Starting as soon as they pick up the phone…

 

The Power of Personal

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts”


 – Winnie the Pooh.

On a personal level how do we create micro experiences every day? According to Wikipedia personal experience is the “moment-to moment experience and sensory awareness of internal and external events or a sum of experiences forming an empirical unity such as a period of life.” So, personal service is made up of multiple, positive micro experiences. A great example comes from my colleague Katie who recently got married. The lady hosting the wedding reception created so many micro experiences in the build-up to the wedding- simple, small gestures like a free drink and a meal whenever they dropped by- that nothing on the big day could have possibly shaken her experience of the host. Even the misdelivered crab for the starters was dismissed with a laugh because ultimately the many, many micro experiences meant so much more than this one potential ‘disaster’.

 

Equally, we can take the shine out of positive experiences if we don’t manage the micro experiences. Another example from Katie involves a property management company who are going to be looking after her flat while she’s living in America. They’ve taken the most amazing photos of her flat and have created a fantastic Airbnb profile. But these great experiences have been undermined by a lack of contact and clarity. The micro-moments, the moments that might not seemingly matter (like taking 5 days to reply to an email) have hugely impacted her relationship with the company. And micro experiences have macro effects because as we all know: every happy customer is a walking, talking endorsement for the company.

 

Make the most of the moment you’re in

“Wealth stays with us a little moment if at all: only our characters are steadfast, not our gold.”


-Euripides

How can you become an expert at creating memorable and impactful micro experiences? As my partner Tom used to say, rather than thinking, “I wonder what will happen today?”ask yourself this: “I wonder what I will create today?” Suddenly, you’ve switched the script: you’ve chosen to consciously create your impact, in each and every (micro) moment.

Whilst the air hostess I mentioned at the start might have not been able to offer me a meal, she missed an opportunity to shape my experience. I wonder whether instead of a “no”, she could have offered me some snacks, fruit or even just a tea. And perhaps my experience would have been very different had I been flying first class simply. However, I believe positive micro experiences aren’t to do with cost because ultimately what makes them magical isn’t the stuff: it’s the present and personal interaction with the person in front of you. It’s a smile, a heartfelt thank you or a “this is what I can do” because it’s just as easy (and free) for someone in economy class to offer us as smile as it is for someone in first to not. So, with this is mind, can we challenge ourselves to give away micro experiences for free? Because if we allow micro experiences to transcend class and cost we can give them away to everybody.

 

Thankfully, there are always opportunities to practice this skill. Even when you’re waiting in line for your coffee. How do you want to interact with the person working on the till? Your interaction might last less than 30 seconds but in those few seconds you are creating an impact whether you choose to take charge of those seconds or not. So, it’s up to you whether you decide to shape the experience…for yourself and for all the other people in the coffee shop. How are they going to feel after you leave the shop…?

“Yet what each one does is by no means of little moment. The grass has to put forth all its energy to draw sustenance from the uttermost tips of its rootlets simply to grow where it is as grass; it does no vainly strive to become a banyan tree; and so the earth gain a lovely carpet of green.”


-Rabindranath Tagore

Of course, consciously creating micro experiences all the time would be exhausting and incredibly difficult. We are human: we have brains, bodies and buzzes in our pockets that are constantly taking us away from the moment. Therefore, we have to choose when we want to show up. We have to decide which moments matter most. This might be as simple as stopping yourself briefly before putting your key in your front door this evening. A short pause that brings your back to the present moment and connects you to the people around you. From here you can ask yourself: what micro experiences do I want to create today? And what positive micro experiences are going to be created for me?

Remember: it’s the simple things in life.