Creative Leadership – Lessons from Theatre Directors

Creative Leadership – Lessons from Theatre Directors

This is the first of two blogs to accompany the latest 4D podcast on creative leadership which you can listen to here.

 

The pace of change today is as slow as it will ever be. The world of work is changing rapidly; creativity, collaboration and communication are becoming ever more important qualities that we look for in our teams. This may mean leading and working together in different ways. How might leaders respond and what models are there for us to draw upon from other fields?

 

The business world can learn a great deal about how to lead creative teams from the work of theatre directors. Over the last 18 months I have held interviews with theatre directors Sarah Esdaile, Natasha Rickman, Liz Stevenson, Sue Dunderdaleand Giles Havergal – all superb theatre directors at different stages in their careers.

 

From these conversations and building on my own knowledge and experience of both worlds, there are 8 Principles that hold true for leading teams of actors and also have great relevance in other fields. The first four are here and the second four will follow in a blog later this month Enjoy!

 

 

1. Leading, Not Controlling

 

Sarah Esdaile: “The misconception is that you are a puppeteer. That you are a controlling choreographer, and everyone sits and nods and writes down what you say and does it! Actually, the political complexity of leading and inspiring and collaborating is not what people think it is – they think it’s about ruling with an iron fist and asserting and controlling and it’s far more nuanced than that. It’s about empowering people to do their best work, making people want to do their best work and making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.”

 

The best directors create an environment where each member of their team is working hard and able to express themselves, experiment and takes risks. This enables the director, rather than simply imposing their will, to edit from the work created in the room with the actors.

 

That requires a deep level of confidence as a leader – to ask a team to trust you to lead them even though you can’t be sure exactly where you’ll end up, or the route you’ll take!

 

Similarly in business, as Daniel Pink argues, the key drivers of motivation are Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose. If we micro-manage people, preventing them from owning the ways they will achieve their objectives, we stifle their ambition and energy. Simply telling them what to do or how WE would do it teaches them little about how they might approach a similar problem in future. It also stifles purpose – reducing what might have been a successful team endeavour into what could look like simply a way to make the boss look great.

 

However actors, like employees in other fields, often seek specific instructions from the leader on how to approach a challenge or solve a problem (in acting perhaps, how to say the line or where to move). If they are given the answer they are ‘safe’ – they have done the ‘right thing, and they don’t have to go through the challenge of exploration and experiment. Unfortunately, this approach rarely delivers anything alive and interesting, instead, we get ‘result acting’ – often tired and cliched.

 

In business too, the employee who is given all the answers is not helped to develop, and the leader is swamped with a constant need to provide answers and affirmation. To counteract this ‘result acting’ it is vital that the director does not direct on the basis of results. Instead, we keep encouraging actors to play, to push, to experiment and to continue to commit to the rehearsal process.

 

For the business leader looking to foster more creativity in their business there are a number of parallels to be drawn:

 

  • How can we foster an atmosphere of creativity where employees won’t simply reach for the simplest solution or the way things have always been done?
  • How might we reward individuals who are trying new approaches, who are looking to tackle problems in new ways?
  • How might we use technology to encourage greater collaboration?
  • How will the culture of the organisation deal empower those questioning orthodoxy?
  • How will we encourage play, curiosity and humour?

 

The challenges of the future demand more creativity and collaboration – this is at the heart of how the theatre works.

 

 

Giles Havergal: “Although one is totally in charge, I feel much more that I’m working with people rather than that they’re working for me and that is actually how I feel about running a theatre or running a business.  I think you get a better response.”

2. Motivating with Vision

 

Natasha Rickman: It’s about having a clear process the actors can then prepare for and know what’s going to happen

 

There is an idea that directing is about moving actors around the stage and telling them how to say the lines – this could not (now) be further from the truth.

 

Acting is a joyous but also scary thing to do and this can lead actors of all ages and experience levels to seek to fix a performance and to get it ‘right’. However, this approach to acting rarely delivers anything truly alive and interesting – it too often leads to cliché and, in the worst cases, over-acting, where the actor strives for an emotional pitch, but with little grounding in truth. In business that might mean the same old solutions to problems – turning out an unimaginative marketing campaign, sales incentives or partner kick-offs – because everyone is too busy, lethargic, or simply uninspired, to try anything new.

 

To counteract this ‘result acting’ it is vital that the director does not direct on the basis of results. Rather they keep encouraging actors to play and to explore, keeping the performance alive by continuing to commit to the rehearsal process. And it is vital through all of this work that the director assumes ‘best endeavours’ – the premise that everyone is doing their best to improve and achieve excellence.

 

 

For the business leader, there are a number of lessons to be learned. Most obviously, how can we foster an atmosphere of creativity and freedom where employees won’t simply reach for the simplest solution or the way things have always been done? How can we set a clear process that will get us to the goals we seek; so that individuals have a degree of autonomy over their performance and can focus on what is in their control.

 

Sue Dunderdale: They have to have confidence in you. You have to be both an equal and the leader or focal point. We are doing equally important tasks just different, but if you don’t fulfill your task of having a structure to work from, having a focus in the room of creating an atmosphere that releases them and relaxes them they’re not going to get anywhere.

 

3. Creating Trust

 

Sarah Esdaile: I think a lot of directing is about trust. It’s about showing, not telling. I’m deliberately emotionally open which makes people feel safe and that’s partly my personality and that’s partly practical. I think that makes people trust me and I have an emotional vulnerability, as well as toughness. What I aspire to is being able to say, “Oh god don’t do that you look like a ****” and that’s absolutely brilliant for both of us.

 

The director creates a place of trust where actors can be freed from self-limiting beliefs and self-consciousness to play, stretch themselves and learn from failure.

 

The rehearsal process demands that actors take risks – sometimes emotionally, but most often trying ideas where they make look or feel daft. They have to play with what is possible to get beyond obvious and cliché. The director rewards this commitment to play and risk to encourage yet more fearlessness from that actor and their colleagues – they reinforce the behaviour with praise and by building on the actors’ ideas.

 

The director has to foster a team dynamic quickly. Unlike in business where the leader is often working with a team for years, in the theatre, the director brings together a group of actors, often with vastly different life and acting experiences, and has to rapidly form them into a functioning team.

 

This can’t be achieved with a few trust games or an away day building rafts (although that might be fun!) Instead, the director has to quickly help the team to collectively agree on goals. In the theatre, this means most obviously having the production ready for ‘opening night’ but can incorporate much more than that. The measures of success may be far wider than full houses – perhaps what we learn as a group about acting and ourselves, what new understanding we achieve about the play or our world.

 

In the same way, in business, there’s a revenue, market share or profit number to be hit, but we can also create richer and deeper goals to increase the sense of team purpose and achievement. The work of Simon Sinek here is especially instructive.

 

We might create a Team Charter or a Team Alliance to align on what behaviours and attitudes will get us to our stated goals.

 

In the theatre, once we have a clear sense of the team’s goals and purpose the director can focus the team on building towards those goals. They will take care to ensure the room is a ‘safe’ environment where people are free from humiliation, encouraged to try new things and to take ownership of their own performance. There is little more damaging to fostering a strong sense of trust than fear. A culture of fear can result in team members vying for position, when their ego becomes more important than the collective endeavour, whilst others may simply disconnect from the process and stop contributing.

 

However, a safe environment should not mean no disagreements – indeed, healthy conflict is vital to driving the team on to create their best work. Once we are all clear on the goal and have a sense of trust robust discussion can be channelled in service of getting the best result for the team.

 

As a leader what space do you give to new ideas? How do you celebrate when people try new things (even if they aren’t always successful)? How might we reward individuals who are trying new approaches, who are looking to tackle problems in new ways? Can your team have challenging discussions without damaging their relationships?

 

Liz Stevenson: Admitting errors reassures actors. It also creates an environment where people can fail and I think it shows an element of confidence in your leadership, that you can criticise yourself; that you can say I don’t know, but it’s ok and we don’t need to panic – we will find a solution.

 

4. Intentional Energy

Sarah Esdaile: I think part of the leadership is for you not to be the hero, for them not to know all the work that you’re doing. It’s like being a duck swimming along not knowing all the shit you’re dealing with. It’s not my job to overload them with all the crap that I’m dealing with – it’s my job to liberate them.

 

The good director, like the good leader in sporting, military or business fields, needs emotional control and patience. These are vital in the projection of authority. The director’s energy is the most crucial in the room, she understands that her energy provides an example to the team and so cultivates the ability to excite with enthusiasm and engender calm in a crisis.

 

A positive, engaged and calm presence is vital to settle the team and help them to understand that you are in control and able to cope with any of the challenges thrown at you. The actor can then relax and concentrate on their performance. It is a simple and effective way of communicating to the cast what energy is expected of them and of the atmosphere that one wishes to work in. It is the classic show, not tell.

In business too, uncontrolled swings in mood and energy can have an unsettling effect. When times are tough the team will look to the leader to assess the situation and react calmly and confidently. We cannot think clearly when in a state of very high emotion and a team cannot function effectively if they worry their leader will panic.

 

By cultivating a sense of emotional control and patience the leader can engender confidence in their team and help ensure they are in the right state of mind to give their best creative work.

 

Whilst some people are more naturally ‘calm’ than others, a heightened awareness of our physical and emotional impact is crucial for the leader and is at the centre of the work we do at 4D. Whether it is your breath, voice, posture or gestures you have far more power to control the energy you project into the world than you may believe.

 

Liz Stevenson: It is important because your energy, your mood filters through to everybody in the room so if you’re really stressed and unhappy and frustrated they will pick up on that and you can’t always help the way you feel. You’re a human being, but you should make a conscious effort to stay calm. If you blow up and say what you’re thinking sometimes it can have a really damaging effect that means they won’t trust you so I think you’ve got a responsibility to stay calm.

The team at 4D have over 50 years of theatre experience, coupled with strong business backgrounds; we have a passion and expertise for Psychology and a practice grounded in Integral Theory.

Through our work on Communication, Wellbeing and Team Performance we bring simple and clear tools combining our experience to businesses across the world. If you’d like to explore how the 4D tools can help bring these principles to life for your team, please contact Matt Beresford on matt@4dhumanbeing.com

Creative Leadership – Directing Principles

Creative Leadership – Directing Principles

The business world can learn a great deal about how to lead creative teams from the work of theatre directors. Over the last 18 months I hheld interviews with a series of terrifc theatre directors.

From these conversations and building on my own knowledge and experience of both worlds, there are 8 Principles that hold true for leading teams of actors that also have great relevance in other fields.

This is the second of two blogs on Creative Leadership (you can read the first of those blogs here) and look out for our new 4D Leader Masterclass podcasts where Matt will be speaking to theatre directors about their leadership philosophy and process.

 

5. Being Adaptive and Empathic

Sarah Esdaile: “There’s an aspect to being a director that is finding where the Venn diagram is between how they like to work and how you would like to work. Sometimes you can end up with what feels like quite different processes in one play and sometimes you’re almost not the same director with different people.”

The theatre director, like a leader in any field, must be adaptable to the situation she is working in and the people she leads. She is empathic, sensitive to the different personalities in the rehearsal room and will apply different techniques to differentiate in the rehearsal room to bring the best out of her team.

The director develops these ‘tools’ in the same way as any leader – through formal training, through the plays she has seen, the experience she has had and the feedback she receives. Unlike in business the director is rarely lucky enough to have the opportunity to get feedback about her work in the rehearsal room – we normally have to wait until the audience lets us know how successful we have or haven’t been!

How do you develop your own toolbox? How aware are you of the way you approach the different personalities in your team? How naturally does this come and are there areas you can work on to improve your range as a leader?

Liz Stevenson: “Someone said to me once it’s all instinct that’s all that’s all it is you can read 1000 books you can watch 1000 plays and all about parts but ultimately your instinct is you… I think developing a toolkit and experience massively helps of course, but it made me go ‘alright I’ve made choices before and they’ve worked so there’s something about my instinct that’s there and that works.”

6. Stimulating Creativity

Sue Dunderdale: “Very few actors do not want to be pushed. If they don’t want to be pushed at all then you’ve made a mistake in casting. If you can’t produce the bad ideas and the stuff that doesn’t work, you’re not going to get to the stuff that does.”

Creativity is, paradoxically, best released when it is ‘bound’ in some way. Structure is vital and within that the confident, creative leader understands that people need both stimulus and space to play, explore and discover.

If all I have at the end of a rehearsal period is the version of the play I saw in my head before we began, I have failed. I have failed to use the experience and intelligence of all the people I am collaborating with, I have failed to inspire them, and I have failed to create an environment where the actors and designers are able to produce their best work.

The director provides stimulus by asking questions, framing ‘constraints’ (“What if…”) and posing scenarios. The same can be true in business. What if we doubled our pricing – what would be the impact? What types of new customers would we gain, what reputation would our product gain/lose? What if we stopped all press advertising? What if we combined our leading product with x?

It takes great confidence to allow your team to self-discover rather than fixing an early ‘result’ to calm your own fears or satisfy a nervous cast. There’s little point hiring creative people and then telling them what to do, or, even worse, doing it yourself.

How much time do you spend asking provocative questions about the basic assumptions of your business? The answers may not immediately suggest a ground-breaking new initiative, but encouraging your team to think imaginatively and creatively, can provide an environment where boldness of thought is positively embraced and is more likely to generate the exciting new ideas of the future.

Liz Stevenson: “It’s play. Keep Playing. Keep trying. Keep exploring. Keep Discovering. It’s never finished. it should never be a finished product. You want to get to a place where you can repeat it in some way, but in the rehearsal room it should never feel fixed. You want them to know there’s a shape, but it should always have a sense of, ‘we’re still learning, still developing, still progress

 

7. Providing Constructive Feedback

 

Natasha Rickman: “I think I’ve been really struck by watching other directors in terms of how much psychology there is involved. When I was an actor, I assumed you get the note [from the director] when they think of it, but there are times when it’s not the right time to give the note, or that actually you don’t need to give that note because you know that performer will get to that stage later..”

The director is careful with their language and the balance of challenge, critique and praise, whilst assuming that all are seeking to achieve excellence – an assumption of positive intent.

So he gives feedback that is specific and constructive to help the actors adjust, using a mixture of intellectual, emotional and physical stimulus and in so doing they provide both specific feedback and praise commitment to the ‘process’, what is in the actor’s control, as much as the final ‘result’.

To produce excellent work actors must stretch themselves by approaching scenes, lines, moments in many different ways. If they’re good the results will always be fruitful. If, however, the actor feels that genuine attempts to try something bold will be met by dismissal or, even worse humiliation, they will sink back into a shell of safe, often clichéd performances.

A calm attitude and nurturing environment provide safety and confidence. In theatre rehearsals, ‘offer and feedback’ is constant – not held back for 1-1’s or appraisals. Feeding back positively is vital. Repeating back to an actor what they did ‘wrong’ is largely pointless and likely to dishearten or irritate. Instead we positively encourage the actor to move on with a new suggestion or idea.

We must also be careful of delivering praise as this can also have unintended consequences.

I directed a play several years ago where a particular moment called for the actor to reach an emotionally heightened state – plenty of tears… In one rehearsal he nailed it and I (enthusiastic and generous director that I was) praised him to the skies. Whilst on the surface this seemed like fine leadership – reinforce and publicly celebrate the success – what it resulted in was the actor trying too hard in future rehearsals and performances to recapture the RESULT rather than simply be alive to what was happening with the characters and himself in the moment each time the scene was done.

Unfortunately, his acting then became over-done and untruthful the more desperate he became to deliver what I had praised so highly. Instead of praising the result I should have praised his commitment and not made him feel that delivering the tears was the only marker of his success.

Is there an opportunity for you, likewise, to celebrate the process that your staff are committing to, rather than the result? In business the result can often be out of our control, but the process we are following each day (the sales calls, the marketing communications, the relationships we build) is not. We might end up praising a lazy salesperson who hits target based on a ‘bluebird’ and criticising another who is building a disciplined sales process that will eventually pay off with sustainable results.

Are you finding time to give constructive feedback, with the right balance of coaching rather than ‘telling’, to help your team grow and ultimately become more confident and self-sufficient?

Sarah Esdaile: It’s a kind of exciting discourse between us that I’m saying, “You’re really skilled and you’re already doing great work and here is something that might make that even better”, it’s about that collaboration – it’s not about point scoring or one upmanship.”

 

8. Having Humility and Humour

Natasha Rickman: “You will just have a better time and do better work if you have some humility. You need to take it seriously but not yourself and I’m still early in career as a director. There is no point pretending that I’m perfect and I know everything. You have to have some confidence in yourself (otherwise why you taking this room full of people on a journey?) but that is different to letting your ego get out of control.” 

The good director, like the good leader in sporting, military or business fields, needs emotional control and patience. These are vital in the projection of authority. The director’s energy is the most crucial in the room, she understands that her energy provides an example to the team and so cultivates the ability to excite with enthusiasm and engender calm in a crisis.

Laughter is a vital part of the creative process. There are countless studies demonstrating the importance of fun in enhancing creativity, especially when it is focused in some way. So, good directors approach work with humour but also with the self-confidence and humility to admit errors. By doing so, and therefore demonstrating vulnerability, leaders can suggest to their teams that the errors they also make, when in the pursuit of excellence, will not be met with criticism, but with feedback and coaching. This makes them more likely to embrace creativity and take calculated risks in the future – and without needing to seek continual permission from the leader.

Many leaders bemoan the fact that their teams seem unwilling to take initiative. What are you doing to create an atmosphere where this seems possible – how are you creating permission and responsibility?

And the serious business of business doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun. Indeed recent studies have shown that a happy work environment boosts productivity meaning fewer sick days, smarter working and reduced waste.

How conscious are we of creating fun in the workplace? That doesn’t mean throwing a few bean bags around the office. Are their opportunities to remove the grind which drains morale from people’s work.

Are you able to bring your team together for activities that are not always work related, can you inject moments of fun into each day and each meeting – perhaps simple icebreakers (challenges and problem solving games) as well improvisation exercises (which will also aid collaboration and creativity).

Sarah Esdaile:  I think humour is really important. When I was younger I think I thought I had to fix everything. You’re not saying it’s all me and you’re not saying it’s all them – you’re saying, ‘we’ve made this together’, and it’s very strange being a director because it’s a bit like parenting, but ultimately all of your work is in other people’s hands. Which is frustrating too!

The team at 4D have over 50 years of theatre experience, coupled with strong business backgrounds; we have a passion and expertise for psychology and a practice grounded in Integral Theory. 

Through our work on Communication, Wellbeing and Team Performance we bring simple and clear tools combining our experience to businesses across the world. If you’d like to explore how the 4D tools can help bring these principles to life for your team, please contact Matt Beresford on matt@4dhumanbeing.com

How Gen Z is transforming the workplace

How Gen Z is transforming the workplace

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

Generation Improviser

 

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

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

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

Similarities to Millennials:

 

1. Flexibility of Work

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

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

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

2. Positive workplaces

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Love of Technology

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

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

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

 

Differences to millennials:

1. Highly Competitive

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Orientated towards job security and salary

 

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

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

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

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

3. Entrepreneurial

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Time to get moving

Time to get moving

As many of us experience the restrictions of lock-down opening up, 4D’s CEO Philippa Waller asks how can we step back into our busy lives at a different pace?

 

It’s week eleven of lockdown and I find myself calling roofers, builders and carpenters to get the home improvement projects going that I had to put on hold since moving house at the start of the year. It’s definitely time to get cracking, get going and get creating. Time for businesses to accept the ‘new normal’ – whatever ‘normal’ even means – and to stop waiting for this time to pass, but rather build from here. Innovate with new projects, hire the right staff, and from our perspective at 4D human being, get going with training and developing executives and teams to be resilient, adaptable and super impactful when leading and communicating online. In times of ‘uncertainty’ we have a choice how we respond. We can wait, stagnate or we can create. And as researcher and educator Joe Dispenza says, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

 

 

And as the wonderful Carla Harris says it’s no good hunkering down in the trenches for too long. Far better to get your head above the parapet, get a look at the terrain, see what’s going on and make some good, creative and strategic decisions about how you’re going to respond to the situation. How you’re going to make the best of your current circumstances. Or even how you’re going to innovate your way into a new situation. Go Go Go. Let’s do it. Which for me means stacking up the appointments with every craftsperson going and blitzing the home improvement plans as quickly as possible.

 

Or does it have to…?

 

Sound of screeching brakes.

 

Hold on.

 

Stop.

 

 

What about all I have learned through lockdown about not rushing around and not getting any more speeding tickets! The one thing I’m hearing from so many friends, clients and colleagues – is a desire to hold onto some of the lockdown habits they’ve created. To not let the elastic ping back when lockdown eases – and plummet back to the manic rushing around, packed out diaries, squeezed weekends and exhausted Monday mornings.

And while many of us have been busy during lockdown I’m sure we have all had a little more space or at least moments of a gentler pace due to no travel or socialising. As the old adage goes there is only space and things and things in space, and we need a balance of them both. We need space to be able to see and appreciate the ‘things’

So, let’s take a look at how we can take control of our choices and dreams without constantly feeling like we have to compromise our health or time with loved ones. How can we be smart and focused about building our lives and creating new experiences without feeling stressed or not good enough? Let’s explore ways in which we can live the lives we want to live, create relationships that will bring us happiness, work in a way that will bring us joy and build successful businesses with conscious cultures… without working 20 hour days and never getting a chance to truly enjoy the fruits of our labour.

 

 

The 80/20 Rule

 

So how do we create and build our lives in a new way? How do we move ahead with projects, with business, with life plans, business strategies and all our hopes and dreams? All in a more efficient yet still inspiring and joyous way? We can turn to Pareto’s law to start. 20% for 80% of the result. The law is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who, in 1906, found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. What is important about this law is that this distribution- 80/20- occurs extremely frequently. For example, 80% of your profits will typically come from 20% of your customers.

In an article for Forbes, entrepreneur Dave Lavinsky writes that: “The Pareto Principle, or “80/20 Rule” as it is frequently called today, is an incredible tool for growing your business. For instance, if you can figure out which 20% of your time produces 80% of your business’ results, you can spend more time on those activities and less time on others. Likewise, by identifying the characteristics of the top 20% of your customers (who represent 80% of your sales), you can find more customers like them and dramatically grow your sales and profits.”

 

In his book, 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More, Perry Marshall write that: “80/20 applies to almost everything in business that you can count.  Almost every frustration you have in sales has something to do with ignoring 80/20.” Pareto’s law applies equally to our home and personal life. Start noticing it everywhere. What is the 20% of your wardrobe that you wear 80% of the time? What are the 20% of your possessions that you get far more joy from than the other 80%? Who are the 20% of people in your life that make you the happiest? What are the 20% of conversations with your partner or friends that create the most connection and meaning? What are the 20% of behaviours that cause the most problems in your relationship, your team or your organization? And, to reverse it…what are you doing with 80% of your time that is neither bringing you fulfillment OR moving your life in the direction you want it to go?

If you find yourself feeling ‘stuck’ and taking one-step forward two-steps back, take a look at how Pareto’s principle might be impacting the situation. Could you be focusing the majority of your time, energy and resources on the wrong clients? Or the wrong hobbies or activities? As Timothy Ferriss who wrote The 4-Hour Workweek says about Pareto’s Law “Doing less is not being lazy. Don’t give in to a culture that values personal sacrifice over personal productivity.” So, take some time to evaluate your ‘output’ and ask yourself if it’s yielding the results you’d expect. If not, start to think about what creates the 80% of the success and enjoyment in your work and your personal life and start focusing more of your time and attention there.

 

1% Better

 

In his book ‘Atomic Habits’, James Clear talks about focusing on 1% increments. Clear calls these tiny changes ‘atomic habits’ and believes they are “the compound interest of personal development.” Over time these tiny improvements build up and create long-lasting sustainable change. Ultimately, as Clear says, “you get what you repeat.”

Change doesn’t have to be stressful for it to be successful. We don’t have to desperately sprint towards our goals. It can be very different. It can be intentional and emerging, all at the same time. It can be a daily sowing of seeds, a daily becoming. A daily enjoyment of the next atomic step towards…well towards the next atomic step of your journey!

 

Process Focused

 

In life and in business we can often be incredibly ‘goal’ orientated. Businesses set annual or quarterly targets and personally we can have goals of our ultimate weight or dream house or chunky bank balance. And sure, goals are great to have. But they only take us so far. They are in a sense, a push in the right direction. But, the path to get you there, is built out of a system of daily habits that will support you towards your goal… and beyond. And this involves focusing on the process – the how – as opposed to the end result. To quote Clear: “It is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”

When we are focused on the process, or the system, we are working with the HOW. HOW are you building your journey rather than just getting to the end of it? As Clear write: “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than your current results.” Instead of living our lives like one massive tick list, we can pay attention to the space in-between. The journey TO results. From this systemic perspective we can start to shape the process that gets us there, make it more efficient, and perhaps even discover that we enjoy the journey along the way. As Clear writes: “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” For me this means enjoying the conversations and collaborations with the builders, carpenters and plumbers about to work on my home improvements. Relishing the creativity, the possibilities and the new ideas they bring each time we speak. It also means enjoying the PROCESS of building a home, of creating my dream environment full of warmth and welcome, love and laughter.

 

Ordinary Joy

 

As I write this article and reflect on our choices of HOW to live in each moment, I’m reminded of professor Morrie Schwartz. As 78-year-old Morrie came to terms with his slow, debilitating and paralysing death from a motor neurone disease called ALS, he became even more aware of what was really important in life. What really counted. When asked what he would do if he only had 24 hours left to live, Morrie replied that he would do what he might do on any ordinary day. He would eat lunch with some good friends and go for an evening walk. His point being that there is perfection in ordinary joy, in the atomic gifts life can bring. And at the same time, in his final months of life, through gentle, unhurried conversations with his old student Mitch Albom, Morrie was sowing the seeds of the international best seller and inspirational book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie.’ A book that to date had sold 14 million copies and been translated into 45 languages. What an incredible ‘goal’ to achieve, but in fact it never started with a goal. It started with WHO Morrie and Mitch were and HOW they chose to be together, to talk together and to create together. Moment by moment, in only 20% of the time left to Morrie, 1% by 1%, atomic moment by atomic moment, enjoying the process of life and appreciating the journey that remained. Morrie gave us some wonderful life lessons and he certainly believed in living life to the full.

 

 

So yes, let’s get going, let’s create, let’s not wait. But let’s not rush unaware to a larger house, a bigger business or a leaner body. Let’s get going with living our lives fully every day. Let’s create Moment by Moment. Atom by atom. Breath by breath. Choice by choice.

Because Morrie, through the soft, meaningful and slow sowing of seeds, the daily 1%, the ability to be fully present and be who he wanted to be and live how he wanted to live in each moment, showed us all that we can create an extraordinary, beautiful, inspiring and generous life through small, daily choices and gentle, even atomic seed sowing…starting right now.

 

Final Thoughts…

 

All of us at 4D are thinking of everyone in these critical and very tough times and it feels important to say…

As we put together this month’s 4D newsletter we are desperately aware of the context we are writing in, with the social injustice protests in America. It brings to mind countless similar events and incidents. Too many to name and just too many full stop. We can’t sign off this article without touching on the pain and anger that so many of us are feeling throughout the world. And what comes to mind in line with this article is the deep sense of confusion and helplessness that so many of us are feeling. What can we do? What action can we take? How can we get to the goal of social equality? Yes, we can donate, we can black out our social media feeds, we can write letters, we can protest. But nothing ever feels enough. And it is here I come back to this article. As feelings of overwhelm risk plunging us into inertia and helplessness, let us ask, what can I do each day to build towards justice for all. What act of kindness, what words of support, what choice to include, what act of solidarity, what courage to call out injustice wherever it may be, what bravery to step up and use our voice or help others use theirs.

What 1%, what daily choice, what 20% that will make the difference, what atomic habit can we build that feels possible and do-able. The goal is clear but it is the PROCESS each day is what will get us there. The daily choices to be proactive in our support, compassion and love for each other. And finally, to be part of this process, to join in the daily journey, we don’t have to identify as a protester or a demonstrator or as an activist. We simply have to identify as a human being.

4-Dimensional Dreaming

4-Dimensional Dreaming

Never stop dreaming. 

 

Dreams are not a childish waste of time. It’s in our dreams that we plant the seeds of our future. Today, we’re matching the power of dreaming with the energy of intention, so that we can catch our dreams and turn our wildest fantasies into our reality.

 

In this article, we’re looking at how we might live from our dreams in lots of different ways. We may have some disappointed dreams. Perhaps your job, hobbies, house or social life might not look exactly like you dreamt at 10-years old (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!) But are there parts of the dream or attitudes of the dreaming that you can bring into your adult life? In 2007 Randy Pausch delivered his “Last Lecture.” A month before giving the lecture Randy had received the prognosis that his pancreatic cancer was terminal. So Randy used his ‘last lecture’ as an opportunity to impart his final wisdom on the world. And what did the professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University choose to present on? “Achieving your childhood dreams.” In this surprisingly upbeat and light-hearted lecture, Randy talks about how you can still accomplish your childhood dreams and truly live your life to the fullest. 

Join us as we look at ways we can reinvent our childhood dreams and bring an attitude of dreaming into our everyday interactions. To quote the American poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau: “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”

So…let’s get dreaming!

 

 

Distill your Dreams

 

You can still live from your childhood dreams. Because your dreams don’t have to look exactly as they did when you were growing up. Not if we deconstruct the dreams and capture the essence of the dreaming.

In ‘The Last Lecture’ Randy Pausch talks about his childhood dream of wanting to be an astronaut. However, as he got older he realised that it wasn’t blasting thousands of miles up into orbit that was the aspiration. Rather – the fun and fascination of floating in zero gravity was really at the very heart of his dream. What this distilling process left him with was the dream in its purest, simplest form. And this was a much more reachable dream that he could realise in many different ways. 

So, how did Randy do it? Well as it turns out NASA has something called a vomit comet they use to train astronauts, which offers the experience of weightlessness for about 25 seconds. NASA offered a programme where college students could submit proposals to win a flight on the vomit comet. So, Randy got a team of his students together and they won. But unfortunately, Randy missed the T&Cs which stated that under no circumstances were faculty members allowed to fly with their students. Luckily there was another bit of small print stating that students were allowed to bring a local journalist with them…and just like that Randy retracted his application as a college professor and applied again as a web journalist accompanying the students and as a result accomplished his childhood dream of experiencing weightlessness!

Could you put some of your long-shot childhood fantasies through this distilling process and live from these dreams in different and perhaps more tangible ways? Distilling or deconstructing your childhood dreams can help you to uncover the essence of the dream and will give you clarity around what you really want. As Randy Pausch realised, he didn’t really want to live the life of an astronaut and spend months away from family and friends. What he wanted was to experience weightlessness. And that was a dream he managed to accomplish. 

Let’s follow in Randy’s powerful footsteps and take a moment to deconstruct one of your childhood dreams. Perhaps you wanted to be a ballet dancer. What was it about that dream that you were specifically attracted to? Maybe it was the physical expression, the performance, the storytelling through movement. From here you can dig further still. What was it about the physical movement that made your heart sing? Maybe it was the flow, the symmetry or the precision. Keep going until you believe you’ve captured the essence of the dream. An essence that you can live from in lots of different ways. You may discover you can find a similar sense of flow or symmetry on the yoga mat. Or maybe you- like me- make your dream an important part of your personal life… 

 

Build your hobbies into your dreams

 

Hands up, I have a fantasy of being on Strictly Come Dancing! 3 years ago, I started taking ballroom dancing lessons. And I immediately fell in love with the grace and flow of ballroom and the patterns and precision of the different dances. Yet the dream- to dance on Strictly- still sang in the background. And if we don’t chase our dreams, we will never catch them.

But what was it about the Strictly Dream that I longed for? The glamour, the dresses, the competition, the grace, the show. The whole thing. And all of those elements are things I can chase in my personal practice- without having to become a professional dancer. How? By entering an amateur ballroom competition. These kinds of competitions are totally accessible and represent a truly tangible way I can turn my hobby, something I love to do in my free time, into my dream. It doesn’t have to be our profession or a full-time job for it to be achievable. Not if we deconstruct the dreaming and look at other ways we can accomplish our dreams through our hobbies.

Put your goal out there and then rub out the fixed path because there are many routes to accomplishing a dream. Setting a goal doesn’t often give you a clear set of directions. What it gives you is much more powerful: it gives your internal compass a bearing and sets you off in the right direction. But there are still are many other paths along the way. Stay open and you might be surprised by which one leads you to your dream. 

They say don’t judge a book by its cover. Well, the same applies to dreaming: don’t judge a dream by its title, as you’ll be undermining its depth and limiting opportunities to live from it in lots of different ways. 

 

Dream Blockers

 

“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.” 

 

– Albert Einstein

Can we dare to dream in spite of the potential set backs? Some of the past century’s most inspirational leaders were people who were told no, experienced  great set-backs but dared to dream on anywhere. Martin Luther King is a perfect of example of someone who experienced dream blocks, yet continued to keep the dream alive by looking for ways around the dream block and towards the same end goal. 

Many things can block our dreams. We don’t operate within a vacuum. We are always dealing with the 2 Contexts as we call them at 4D: our environment and shared culture. Our environment is all the tangibles, like the weather, and the country you live in. Our shared culture is other people. A lot of these things are out of our control. And they can have a big impact on our dreams. Maybe our families had different dreams for us? Or perhaps society’s version of success has impacted the career we chose? 

So how do we push back out into the world when the world around us is blocking our dreams?

By waking up the 4th dimension: the intentional dimension. This is your best friend when it comes to dream enhancement. If you reach a road block to your dream, how might you find another way through, in order to reach the same end goal?

 

Activated Dreaming

“Dreams don’t work unless you do.” 

 

– John C Maxwell, ‘The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader’

Bringing your intentional dimension online is vital for achieving your dreams. However, living with intentionality isn’t simply about setting an intention and then sitting back and enjoying the show. Intentionality is something that impacts all of your other dimensions. It’s not simply something you say or do; it’s something that affects your whole being.

 

So, how can we activate our intentions in order to live with intentionality? We can start to match intention with action. Say for example you have a big dream to one day run a marathon. That’s the intention you’ve set yourself.  To activate this dream, of course you’re going to have to start training! And as sports psychologists know, it is our intentional self that is going to make the difference as to whether our training is successful. Because, if the training feels physically hard, we may emotionally feel despondent, intellectually you may be telling yourself a story about being useless at running, and so perhaps you don’t push yourself as hard, so you feel disheartened and so the cycle continues. This will lead to an undermining of progress. And this unhelpful circle of feeling/thought/behaviour can appear in all areas of our lives and is why it is so important to keep our intentional dimension activated and online. Because of course when we’re tired, busy, despondent or stressed it’s all too easy to fall into our default ways of operating. And it’s our intentional dimension that keeps us motivated and our dreams on track.

Living with intentionality is the best way to fast-track your way to your dreams and help to keep you moving forward step by step in the direction of you dream. There is perhaps no better example of this than Walt Disney. He matched the magic of his dreams with the energy of intention and quite literally built his dreams into being- a reality I’m sure you’ve had the joy of exploring, whether that be via wandering the magic kingdom or watching a film. To quote the man himself: “First, think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare.”

 

Dream Team

 

To use the wonderful words of John Lennon: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” We all have dreams, however big or small. So how might the people around us help us with our dreams? And how might we help other people to achieve their dreams? Let’s use the power of dreaming and our ‘4D Dream Team Guide’ to help our team achieve even greater things…

 

Become who you want to become

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 

 

– George Bernard Shaw

Dream dreams that are bigger than the things you could do. Dream about who you could be and step into a new way of being and experiencing the world. As Dan Pallotta says in his TED talk ‘The dream we haven’t dared to dream: “It’s time for us to dream in multiple dimensions simultaneously, and somewhere that transcends all of the wondrous things we can and will and must do lies the domain of all the unbelievable things we could be.”

Who do you want to be? For both yourself and also the people around you….

We used to think that the brain was fixed from around the age of 30. Over the past two decades, research into neuroplasticity has proven that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, our brain’s change at a slower rate at 7-years old compared to when we are 77-years old. But our brains are still building and changing right into later life. And that’s exciting because the science tells us that as human beings, we’re not fixed but constantly evolving. So, the question we should all be asking ourselves is: what kind of human being do we dream of being?

What would be your dream story about you? Maybe it’s around being funny. So, what behaviours would help you to build a new belief system around comedy? Perhaps it’s as simple as learning a joke a day and sharing your favourite one in your bi-weekly team meeting. Or maybe you sign-up for an improvised comedy course and try out some spontaneous comedy. Step in to the dream of who you are and your beliefs about yourself will follow. Be the thing you want to be, with regards to your actions, words and thoughts, and step into a version of you that you’ve always dreamt of.

 

 

Dare to Dream 

 

Our modern world stems from dreams – dreams turned into reality. So if we want to help shape the experience of ours and others lives, we have to value the dreaming stage in any project, decision or relationship.  Never stop dreaming, because living with an attitude of activated dreaming can completely transform yours and others experience of life and inspire your teams, friends and family to think outside of the box and push through boundaries.

Of course, dreaming comes more easily to some of us than others. So if you’re someone who struggles with dreaming, try asking yourself these 4 questions in order to fire up your dream muscles, and you might notice how much richer your life becomes and how much bolder and braver you can be! You may find yourself surprised by the dreams that arise…

 

1. What do you want your days to consist of?

Take a moment to think about the things you love to do, the places you like to go and the people you enjoy being around.

2. Imagine your 8-year old self…What did they dream of?

And how might you bring elements of these childhood fantasies into your adult life?

3. Now imagine your 80-year old self…What did they dream would happen?

How much of their dream could you make come true? Now plan it!

4. And finally, if your life were a movie what character would you be?

What appeals to you about the character or story plot? And how might you bring parts of that character into your everyday life?

 

Your reality starts from the essence of your dreams and the dreams of those close to you, so start living from your dreams today – with your whole being- and watch as your fantasies turn into your reality. Remember “You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, How you gonna have a dream come true?” (South Pacific, “Happy Talk”).

 

New Year, New Intention

New Year, New Intention

Eat better, exercise more, spend less money. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that these were the three most popular resolutions for 2018, (closely followed by sleep better, read more books and get a new job!) January 1st shows up and suddenly there’s a desperate desire to sweep last year under the rug and wipe the slate clean. Over night, New Year’s celebrations evolve into ‘New Year New Me’ shame, inspiring impulsive urges to change and challenge ourselves. In this chaotic clean up we cling to commitments that WE WILL stick to this year because this is the year where everything changes.

Unfortunately, by the first week of February your resolutions- along with 90% of the population’s- have failed. So how can we take a fresh look at New Year’s Resolutions in order to avoid the 90% failure figure? By ditching resolutions all together. Instead of making- and inevitably breaking- a New Year’s resolution, why not give yourself the gift of a New Year, New Intention.

Why Intention?

The word ‘resolution’ might itself, be the source of many-failed resolutions because it suggests that something needs to be fixed, that something needs to resolve. Consequently, we start from a place of “I’m not good enough” which serves to encourage negative self-talk, low self-belief and a sense of lacking. This is why resolutions don’t often inspire ‘New Year, same old, wonderful me’ thinking because the very concept insinuates that you- as you are- are broken and need to be fixed. They set you off full of self-doubt and dissatisfaction, tying the start of the year to a sense of never enough.

The word also evokes a sense of completion and closure. In a story, the resolution appears at the end and is where everything is wrapped up in a conclusion (which is quite often neat, tidy and full of ‘happy ever after’). However in life there is no resolution. It is an ongoing process, constantly changing and challenging us until we eventually reach resolution and conclusion at the end of our journey. When of course, New Year’s resolutions become completely irrelevant.

So at 4D we much prefer the word intention because it helps to invigorate and inspire us through life. Not simply because of the linguistic limitations mentioned above but because they encourage curious, honest and liberated living. Unlike resolutions, intentions aren’t something you do or don’t do: they are something you connect to. And when you connect to intention you are connecting to a force and an energy field that is so much bigger than yourself. This is why we find intention so exciting because it invites you to live a life without limits and opens up a world of opportunities!

 

 

You only have to consider Roger Bannister- the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes- to appreciate the power of intention in action. Bannister was an ex-pupil of my secondary school and I remember at the age of 13 listening to him speak about how he connected to intention, visualising his goal for many months before finally making it his reality. History speaks for itself because the very next year, 4 other runners joined him in the sub-4 minute ranks. And the year after that, 57 had managed to meet the grade! Now this isn’t because they all suddenly got better at running. It’s because Roger Bannister made the impossible possible and showed them that it could be done. To use the words of Wayne Dyer, “Intentions shape your reality.”The question is: what intention do you want to take into 2018?

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

 

-Albert Einstein

What do you want to be?

Working out who you want to be is often much harder than working out what you want. But it will give you much more momentum and meaning than any material gain or goal. Between having a new puppy, living in the countryside and eating my body weight in Christmas pudding I was somewhat sluggish by the beginning of January. So I decided to start a yoga class. The alarm went off at 7:30 AM and I lay in bed mulling over whether or not I wanted to go. Maybe I’ll start yoga tomorrow. Then suddenly a thought popped into my head: I want to go to yoga because I want to be energised, balanced and calm. I was motivated out of bed and onto my mat not by the thought of doing: but by the thought of being.

 

You may have noticed from the list above, that New Year’s resolutions typically involve doing something. Or having something. Or giving something up. For example: I’m going to do more exercise. I want a new job. I want to stop smoking. They focus on the results or the doing. But we are not human-doings, we are human beings. Connecting to intention enables you to operate from this being state. Rather than resolving to do something, you stay present with who you are in the moment, moving with the ebbs and flows of life.

 

 

Instead of starting with what you want to HAVE or what you want to DO, flip the formula and start with what you want to BE. Suddenly you have the flexibility and freedom to be what you want to be, even when life gets in the way. For example, say you set yourself the goal of running a marathon this year (HAVE), so you resolve to run everyday (DO), in order to feel healthy (BE). What happens when a knee injury prevents you from training for several months? The whole formula falls apart and the idea of ‘being healthy’ feels hopeless. However, if we start with what we want to BE, we start to see many other ways we can serve this intention. So maybe I can’t run but I could definitely do some gentle yoga. And I could use the extra time to make home cooked meals. And the physio mentioned I should be able to cycle in 2 months. So maybe I’ll sign up for a cycling challenge instead… Intention not only offers you flexibility and freedom but it also opens you up to other opportunities that you may have never considered. Perhaps I’ll cycle in the 100-miler across London this summer…? Who knows where your intention will take you!

I was motivated out of bed and onto my mat not by the thought of doing: but by the thought of being.

What is your WHY?

On many occasions I’ve worked out what I want to BE but I still haven’t managed to connect to intention. The so-called power of intention definitely isn’t driving me out of bed this morning. Why? Because we can’t live from intentions that are impersonal, generalised and not connected to our core: they need to come from within. So in this section we move away from broad-brush stroke intentions and consider ways in which we can make meaning for ourselves. I’m sure everyone on planet wants to BE happy. Yet I’m certain everyone has a different reason, a different WHY that motivates this intention.

 

 

If you know the work of Simon Sinek you will be familiar with his ‘What, How, Why’ model. Lots of organisations are focused on WHAT they’re doing and perhaps even HOW they’re doing it. But really successful organisations start with WHY: why do we do what we do? Yet this model doesn’t just apply to organisations: it also applies to individuals and is a great way of connecting to intention. As we just mentioned, intention doesn’t exist in the realm of ‘doing’ and therefore isn’t concerned with the WHAT and the HOW. With intention, we are connecting to our WHY. So rather than focusing on the WHAT: “I want to buy a flat.” Or the HOW, “so I’m going to apply for a mortgage.” Bring it back to the WHY: “Because I want to create a life with my fiancé.” This is a real example that comes from a friend who is struggling to get a mortgage. She found herself increasingly stressed and arguing with her partner. Yet, when she brought it back to the why her anger softened because she suddenly remembered why she was doing what she was doing. Whilst there are still difficulties around the mortgage, she no longer feels like she is struggling in vain because she is connected to her intention. As she said: “ it’s not about buying a house: it’s about the home I want to create.”

 

Therefore, it’s important to take the time to really connect to your WHY. Don’t just settle with the first WHY that comes to mind, as your core values can easily become confused with cultural ideals. So quiz your WHY. Become that annoying, questioning child in the backseat of the car that won’t stop asking “but, why?” ‘5 Whys’ is an iterative interrogative exercise that cultivates this same curiosity. You start with a problem, a situation or in our case, an intention and question it with ‘why?’ 5 times. Every answer forms the basis of the next question and therefore encourages deep digging. So question yourself. Really look in the mirror and ask yourself WHY in order to work out what really lies at the heart of you intention. Make sure you’re connecting to your core intention, not a cultural ideal.

Trusting Intention

 

 

Finally, in order to connect to intention we have to allow ourselves to trust. Even though intention may not take us down the road we planned, we must try not to judge or label events as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because who knows where they will lead us. So many seemingly ‘bad’ or ‘unfortunate’ events in my life have brought me so much unexpected joy and surprise opportunity. So whilst intention offers expansiveness and opportunity, you too have to remain open and curious to it. This is by far the hardest piece of the puzzle but perhaps the most rewarding because it releases you from the fear and doubt that judgment brings. It’s not good or bad- it just is.

There is a wonderful notion in Buddhism about the two arrows. The first arrow is referring to an action or event. The second arrow is alluding to our attitude or opinion towards it. Sometimes we can’t do anything about the first arrow but we can do something about the second. So whilst we can’t stop ourselves feeling pain we can limit our suffering by consciously choosing our response. When you set an intention, set it lightly and try not to have an opinion about what the first arrow does because the power of intention comes into play when the second arrow strikes. This is why there is no such thing as failure in the world of intentions, only playful curiosity, exciting potential and an unshakeable sense of purpose.

 

As many of you know, Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust, staying in several different concentration camps including Auschwitz. He is an astonishing example of someone who harnessed the power of intention and chose to live with gratitude and purpose in spite of his dire circumstances. Intention gave him a freedom that the concentration camps could never take away from him. 

Living from intention each and everyday…

At 4D we often use an assertiveness tool called “can do.” The tool retrains the brain to focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. Often when it comes to tasks and intentions the brain and body will default to the negative and to what’s not possible. For example, let’s say your intention is to ‘help others’ but you recently missed out on your dream job in the charity sector. How else might you live from your intention whilst you are applying for similar roles? It needn’t be a huge act of kindness. In fact I’d encourage you to think tiny because it needs to be compatible with the everyday. Perhaps its holding the door open for a stranger, or saying a few kind words to the exhausted waitress. Maybe you silently offer a homeless person a kind thought as you walk on by. Think of small, simple and powerful ways to live with intention, each and every day.

“By banishing doubt and trusting your intuitive feelings, you clear a space for the power of intention to flow through.”

 

-Wayne Dyer

When you live your life with intention, you give yourself the gift of meaning regardless of your external circumstances. Your life is in your hands, so make 2018 a year defined by endless possibility, potential and purpose.