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!

Love, Marriage and Mergers…

Love, Marriage and Mergers…


Feel the love at work this Valentine’s Day!

 

Business relationships are very much like our personal relationships. They can be both fulfilling and frustrating and need a lot of tender love and care. Yes love- a word we rarely associate with work because it’s usually reserved exclusively for our personal lives. In this article we’re going to discuss how an attitude of love might help you in the workplace. This isn’t about sending Valentines’ cards to everyone in the office: it’s about bringing your authentic, honest self to the boardroom, so that you can create rewarding relationships built on the basic principles of trust and respect. So much of our working lives revolve around consuming that we’ve forgotten the fundamental art that underpins it all: connection.

In order to investigate this topic fully and fairly we are co-creating this article with our brilliant business partner Biba Binotti, whom I’m sure many of you know. Biba is founder and CEO of Global Warriors, a leadership development company not so dissimilar to 4D Human Being. In order to honour the theme of love we’ve decided to push through with a mix of narrative voices. Maybe it’s a bit messy? But so is love. Life isn’t a neat, linear Linked-in article. It involves lots of people, perspectives and contrasting points of view. So, in a sense this article not only discusses- but demonstrates- the power of love-bound business partnerships.

From meet-up to match made in heaven, how did it happen?

4D Human Being and Global Warriors are competing in similar markets. Yet instead of becoming competitors, we have evolved into collaborators. Ours is a story full of love and creativity and is testament to the power of love at work… in work! But how did it happen? How did we ‘fall’ for each other? How could we be sure that the other wasn’t ‘leading us on’? And how might you find and create love in the workplace?


We stayed open

We first met at an improvisation workshop. It was the last place either of us expected to meet a potential business partner and it would have been all too easy to play the games, say goodbye and never be friends. This is why openness is key because relationships aren’t just born in the boardroom. Some of the most amazing partnerships have arisen out of ‘chance’ meetings. Take for example actress Charlize Theron. She was at a bank on Hollywood Boulevard trying to cash a check from her Mum to help pay for her rent. However, the assistant refused to cash the check and so Theron proceeded to go crazy at the poor guy. Standing in line was a talent agent who handed her his card after witnessing the fit… and as they say, the rest is history: Charlize is now one of the most highly paid actresses on the planet! Yet this life-changing moment could have easily been missed had she- or the talent agent- not been open to unexpected opportunity.

Our relationship was born in an improv workshop, followed by a coffee shop and has blossomed into a partnership bigger and better than either of us could have hoped for! But if one of us had cancelled on that coffee date then the story would have stopped right there. So, stay present and connected with the world around you. Could your next big career break be standing next to you in the supermarket queue? Or at a friend’s engagement party? Don’t think of this as networking, especially if the word has negative connotations for you. Think of it as connecting with the world around you and seeing what it has to offer.

We were also both open to becoming business partners and friends. We can be our whole selves with each other without having to compartmentalise our relationship into distinctive work/life categories because when there is love, the usual boundaries separating work relationships and friendships blend seamlessly together. This mix of roles in our relationship has been hugely beneficial to both of our businesses because it has brought a deeper sense of trust, truth and connection to our work.

“The meaning of love is simply what it means to you. It’s your truth- expressed.”

 

– Biba Binotti


We created our own love

Luck, chance or conscious creation? You could put our chance encounter down to fate but we believe that there was a huge amount of conscious creation involved. In his book ‘The Luck factor’, Robert Wiseman compared 400 self-proclaimed “lucky” or “unlucky” people. What he discovered was that the “lucky” people tended to share similar attitudes and behaviours: they maximise chance opportunities, listen to their intuition and expect to be lucky. In order to demonstrate the power of perception in “luck”, Wiseman set-up a cafe with actors and left a £5 note on the floor outside. Then he sent in an unknowing “lucky” person who discovered the £5 note and then started up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to him with whom he eventually exchanged contact details. The “unlucky” person not only missed the £5 note but also missed the opportunity to connect and communicate with the people around him.

Our relationship may have started with a chance encounter but we were both positive and proactive in making things happen. We exchanged numbers, Biba called to arrange a coffee date and we both turned up with an attitude of “Luck.” To use the words of Wayne Dyer, “If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.” What ‘luck’ and ‘chance’ are you allowing or creating in your business, team and client relationships? What opportunities might already be there if you step into them with love, care and humanity?


We listened to our intuition

One of the “Lucky” characteristics Wiseman uncovered was intuitive intelligence. We both believe our intuition played a significant role in our relationship. When describing the essence of our initial meet up we both said something along the lines of, “I just knew.”What did we know? We knew nothing about each other and yet we both sensed a strong impulse to interact. What we’re talking about is that gut feeling you get that guides you towards a certain decision or path. We quite often refer to these instances as “beyond words” because they exist in the body and not the brain. Unfortunately, once the brain catches up it quite often overrides our intuition because of conditioning and/or past experience. Now we may think that bringing the brain into the equation is helpful because we can then ‘weigh up all the options.’ And this is to a certain extent true for smaller life decisions. But when it comes to the big decisions- for example, love- the mind isn’t capable of weighing up all the possible options because there are simply too many to comprehend. So, in many cases your intuitive intelligence is far more reliable as it’s tuning into the intelligence of your whole body. It takes you away from your internal narration and brings you back to your authentic self.

We’re sure many of you have experienced instances in your life when you’ve had a gut instinct, perhaps about a dodgy salesman, but you end up buying off him anyway because the brain convinces you that you’re being silly. However, after buying you realise you have, in fact, been conned and the body was right all along. The same applies to the positive pulls. Listen to this innate intelligence and trust that you know what is right for you. Stop thinking and start feeling your way into relationships.

We embraced our differences

We were also both open and willing to look beyond the boundaries of our own businesses and our beliefs about what our ‘work’ should look like. Our duo grew out of our differences and so in many ways the cliché rings true for us: opposites do attract. However, quite often in life opposites don’t attract. In her latest book, ‘Braving the Wilderness’, Brené Browndiscusses how we are now, more than ever, being divided by our differences, differences that only distinguish one small part of who we are. “Clearly, selecting like-minded friends and neighbours and separating ourselves as much as possible from people whom we think of as different from us has not delivered that deep sense of belonging that we are hardwired to crave.”  Not only does this limit our personal growth but it also boxes off our thinking. How could another perspective, or a different approach help your business? What individual, team or competitor who currently seems opposed to your view could in fact, offer you new perspectives and opportunities? Flexible thinking led us to an unexpected partnership, which we both believe, is greater than the sum of its parts.

We stayed present

One thing that eats away at relationships is rigid expectations: the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘shouldn’ts’ of the ‘love contract.’ Having fixed expectations about a colleague or business partner and how they should behave will often lead to disappointment and dead-ends. When we met we didn’t know what we were going to do together or where we would end up. There was no end goal or outcome in either of our minds. We simply enjoyed the process of building our relationship. So for us, present awareness is a key skill in developing healthy, happy partnerships. When you stay present with the other person you give them the space to grow and evolve. You stop pre-empting how they are going to react and respond and start seeing them where they are, in that very moment. We are all constantly developing as individuals and the same applies for relationships. If you go in with rigid ideas and pre-empted story lines you will inevitably restrict the relationship and the love that could grow.

“If you allow love, you allow change. If you allow change…anything is possible…”

 

-Philippa Waller


We stayed curious

Compromise in relationships can often be viewed as a negative necessity: “it wasn’t the ideal but it’s what had to happen.” Yet what we’ve realised, from both our personal and professional relationships, is that this isn’t often the case. We know that compromise doesn’t always offer ‘the best of both worlds’ because it’s not always strategically or economically possible. However, when both parties feel heard, compromise can educate both parties, lead to greater growth and strengthen the relationship as a whole, even if it isn’t a 50/50 split. So, we’d like to reframe compromise as surprise! It doesn’t have to be viewed as losing out to someone but rather, gaining something new. By simply shifting your perspective you’ll not only gain more from the compromise itself but you’ll also stay much more open to offers and opportunities down the line. Can you find surprise in your next collaboration? And what could you gain from a collaborative compromise?

Our Conscious Human Being program is a wonderful example of the power of curiosity in collaboration. Together we created a 16-week online development program that is a true co-creation. By weaving together our work we developed a brand-new experience to share with our clients, co-owned, co-created and co-facilitated by a collection of both of our teams and brilliant facilitators. Even the Conscious Human Being logo is a co-creation of both of our logos. Some might call this compromise but for us, it was a truly wonderful surprise!

We had the courage to trust

Whether it be a marriage, partnership or merger, all are bounded by a solid sense of trust. The question is: do you need a ring to know that you can truly trust them? Ultimately wedding rings, contracts and handshakes are all symbols: they symbolise the trust but they are not the trust themselves. A true sense of trust starts with self-trust: can you be your true-self in your relationship? And can you accept them as their true self- for better or for worse?

Above everything we base our relationship on trust. In every moment – from the stunning to the sticky – we can come back to trust. We can trust that the intention is good. Which is vital in relationships because we are all different people with different ways of working, leading and being in the world. But if we can trust that the other’s intention is good, then we can work with passion without worry. Alice Walker, American novelist and activist sums this up beautifully: “Love is big; love can hold anger, love can even hold hatred. It’s about the intention of what you want to do.” Love can hold any amount of push back. It is the silent victor. And as long as the intention is pure then the real essence of love can hold it all.

 

You may be surprised to hear that we don’t have any kind of legal contract in place for our co-created programme, Conscious Human Being. Usually when something commercial is brought to the table, contracts are immediately put in place to ensure that both parties are formally attached to the project. However, we have never considered signing on the dotted line because we both believe our trust is far greater than any legally binding T&Cs. We know that this is quite unique and perhaps edgy for some but it’s an interesting example of the strength of love in work. Many companies who do have these contracts in place still end up disagreeing and perhaps even end up in court. The same applies for marriages, which so often end in long and messy legal battles.

To use the words of Julianne Moore, “Love is giving someone the power to break you…but trusting them not to.” We have no legalities in place and yet in spite of our vulnerability, feel incredibly safe. This is what Brené Brown calls the ‘power of vulnerability’: the courage to show up and let yourself be seen. We feel secure enough to be insecure with the other, comfortable voicing any issues or concerns that arise. After all, we are human and we also have pangs of paranoia, worry and doubt, but because of our trust we can talk about problems and deal with them together.

Ultimately, our love isn’t about the projects: it’s about the people. And we both know that if our relationship were to end we’d both be more heart broken about the loss of the friendship than the finances.

We allowed ourselves to be loved

“To love and be loved in return.” The love lyric made famous by ‘Moulin Rouge.’ We want to expand this further so that it reads: “to love yourself, so that you can love others and be loved in return.” Our revision probably won’t fit the song but it does offer an insight into a love we so often overlook: love for the self. This is perhaps the most important piece of all because if you don’t love you, then how can anyone else’s love touch you? And how can you love another if you don’t know how to love yourself?

When you believe you are worthy of love you will start to see all the love that life is offering you. It might be a colleague who always makes you a morning coffee; a boss who shows concern over a sick loved one; or simply a client asking you how your weekend went. You will find that there is love is in lots of little places, right throughout your day and when you allow this love in, then you will have a lot more to give out. This is why self-love isn’t selfish because when you truly connect with yourself, you can create deeper connections with the people in your life.


…And we continue to work on our love to this very day!

To use the words of Barbara De Angelis, “Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.” Remember that your partnership is an ‘ongoing marriage.’ You never ‘arrive.’ So, our final piece of advice is to never allow yourself to settle. This way you’ll always keep working at the relationship, stay open to learning and will see each other’s development and change.

Wishing you all lots of love this Valentine’s Day…personally and professionally!

For more information about Global Warriors and our co-created programme, Conscious Human Being, please visit: http://www.globalwarriors.co.uk/