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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Looking for Control in All the Wrong Places: High Achievers Beware!

Un-Game Principle:  We have more control than we think. We just need to locate and claim our source of control.

14-03-18 Looking for Control in All the Wrong PlacesWe’re a world in flux. There’s much agreement about that. We hear the word ‘chaos’ frequently; and there’s a new interest in chaos theory. Why? Because we hope to equip ourselves with tools to exert a greater measure of control over our lives at work, home, and play (Notice the placement of ‘play’. Under the stress of chaos it’s the first thing to go, isn’t it?).

So where do we look to exercise our desire to control…to have some semblance of order and security moment by moment? The knee-jerk reaction, more often than not, is to try to exercise control over that which we see, especially other people. Try to do stuff alone, and you quickly realize that this is an inter-dependent world. “No man is an island” pointed to our inter-connectedness long before the world shrank to the size of a global village.

What have you noticed about trying to control other people? Doesn’t it mostly disappoint? Influencing people, on the other hand, is most interesting, but doing so successfully asks of you to examine your relationship to control.

So what’s a right place to look for gaining control that can bring pleasure, power, and well-being to our lives? High achievers, are you noticing ‘pleasure’ and ‘well-being’?

Look no further than your brain. Happily the amount of knowledge we have about the brain has doubled in the last 20 years. We have started to understand the neural basis of states like happiness, gratitude, resilience, love, compassion, and so forth. The implications of that new understanding are that we can intentionally and skillfully stimulate the neural substrates of those states and thereby strengthen them.

That’s huge!

We could go into the neuroscience, but let’s keep it simple.  What we want to get to is the result of “exercising your brain to gain neuro plasticity,” you know, making you more resilient and flexible so that you can always get to a Plan B or even Plan C when Plan A and B don’t work out as planned?

More activation in the left prefrontal cortex is associated with more positive emotions. So as there is greater activation in the left front portion of your brain relative to the right, there is also greater well-being. You can control that activation. And you’ll want to because people who routinely experience chronic stress lose significant brain volume over time, and that affects memory, among other things.

Not good.

So I invite you to exercise some control and build up your brain. As the brain changes, the mind changes. And as the mind changes, the brain changes…literally.  Don’t take my word for it. You can see it with a brain scan.

Here’s one exercise to test this out. Commit to the following for 21 days, It’ll probably take you less than 5 minutes every evening.

Are you worth your daily time investment?

Every evening for 21 days, instead of creating tomorrow’s to do list, write down 5 things you accomplished today and how you can expand those accomplishments.

A special note to high achievers. It’s generally true that high-performing individuals rarely celebrate their successes (Did I get anyone?). It is also true that you leak energy when you don’t. You wind up not experiencing the satisfaction and joy of your achievements. So to shift this sad state of affairs, it’s important to exercise the left prefrontal cortex of your brain. Celebrate your successes. It leads to energize the creation of new successes.

That’s it. Is that too easy? For you high achievers, you might even do something pretty high-risk in a culture that probably would find what I’m about to suggest…well…weird!

Pick one accomplishment each week (during the 21 day period) for which you’d like someone in your life to acknowledge you. Let at least one of the accomplishments be at work and therefore ask someone at work to acknowledge you for the accomplishment. For the other two you can choose work, home, friends, whatever. Simply say, perhaps after some explanation (or not): “ I’d like to be acknowledged for having gotten the project completed on time and within budget despite X,Y,Z obstacles.” Or, “I’d like to be acknowledged for being really patient with your mother.” You get the picture.

The latter suggestion actually exercises control over another part of the brain, namely the amygdala. The amygdala is a small almond-shaped cluster of neurons located deep in the temporal lobe of the brain and reputed to house our emotions. Our doubts and fears live there. So if you have trouble asking for acknowledgment and you do so anyway, you are exercising your brain and telling the amygdala who’s in charge. Over time, as the brain changes, the mind changes. And as the mind changes, the brain changes. And YOU are in control. Isn’t that the best?

It’s the best, unless you sigh deeply, throw up your hands in despair, and prefer assuming that everything is out of your control in this ever-moving, changing, even chaotic world. However, I imagine that many of you would probably answer with ‘yes’ the following question: Would it be all right with you if life were easier?

Might exercising control where it belongs even have positive influence on other people? Go and find out.

NOTE: Old accepted wisdom was that we need to practice for 21 days in order to establish a new habit. This has recently been brought into question. Now it’s suggested we practice for 6 months to anchor a new habit. But change occurs one small, sweet step at a time. Try the 21 days first and see what you get. Notice what it’s like to be the wind rather than the feather in the winds of your circumstances.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine

When Does the Golden Rule Turn to Lead?

Un-Game Principle: Clarity leads to focus. Focus leads to inspired action.

14-03-04 When Does the Golden Rule Turn to LeadWho could find something wrong with the bedrock of the world’s religions, the golden rule “Treat others as you would yourself.”? Well, there’s nothing wrong. It may just be misunderstood and incomplete. Let’s begin with a story to illustrate a common misunderstanding.

A four year old boy’s adored mother has a birthday. The little boy is flush with excitement. His heart is open with great love. He looks around his world and a little red truck, long one of his favorites, catches his attention. He rushes toward it, grabs it, and hunts some wrapping paper he knows his mother has. He wraps the gift four year old style. Happy Birthday, Mom, he cries as he proudly hands her his creation. Mom hugs the little boy, her eyes wet with tears. She is overcome with gratitude for this sweet little soul. She feels loved beyond measure.

The little boy clearly applied the golden rule. He treated his mother with great love, exactly how he wants to be treated.   The gift clearly was not the truck. The mom understands that, but the little boy doesn’t. He thinks the truck will make his mother happy because it makes him happy. He gave his mom the truck because he would love to receive a truck. She was wise and saw beyond the awkwardly wrapped package to the real gift.

Fast forward to the little boy grown up. If he doesn’t learn that it wasn’t the truck that made his mother happy, he could be more like the manager in the next example.

An introvert manager solves problems via e-mail. When someone tries to come to him with a concern  he says “Put it in writing.” When he has a problem, he communicates via email or hopes it will work itself out. It doesn’t occur to this manager that this is not everyone’s preferred modus operandi. He’s treating others as he wants to be treated.  Isn’t it the golden rule applied?

In this case, the golden rule…well, isn’t. It lands like a lead balloon.  So it might be more accurate for you to say this: “Treat others as they would like to be treated.” Very different, because it now puts you in the position of getting some distance from your default reaction which, by definition, you don’t think about at all. Your default reaction is…well… reactive and outside the scope of a creator mindset. The creator is self-aware, aware of the other, compassionate, and engaged.  By asking this question, creators as opposed to reactors put themselves in the shoes of the other. They will use data they have about the other to determine what is appropriate for that person in that moment. Sometimes they might even ask the other how they’d like to be treated.

Clearly, if you focus from this perspective, you will achieve a better result by not treating others as you would yourself.  The other will feel cared about. Unlike the mom of the four-year old, the receiver will not need to translate or transform the offer to match your real intent.

And yet, we could go even deeper. The “Treat others as they would like to be treated” still has something missing. It depends on your observation and assessment of the other. Those, after all, exist outside of your emotional experience.

So let’s now look at the golden rule from yet another perspective. Perhaps this perspective will make our understanding deeper and more complete.

What if we said: “Do not treat others as you would not like to be treated yourself.” Now that’s a whole different experience, isn’t it? Look at that. Check in with your inner knowing. How is it different from “Treat others as you would yourself.”  And “Treat others as they would like to be treated.”?

Did you notice? You have to check into your inner self, not at a cognitive level but in the field of your emotions. You make yourself vulnerable contemplating that. And most of us go to great pains to avoid our vulnerability and our suffering. How well we know how to distract ourselves. Would that we were so masterful in other areas of life!

By checking in with ourselves we can’t help but be in touch with our compassion. We experience our shared humanity with the other. The distance between ourselves and the other shrinks or even disappears in our emotional experience. The actions we take will reflect this. It is a natural consequence—the natural progression from thoughts to feelings to behaviors. If we don’t check in with ourselves, we will miss out on this profound experience.

Be it in families, in the workplace, or in the world, what is the role of true compassion? Don’t we need to start thinking about creating a world that doesn’t just work for a few? Can you envision a world that works for everyone?  Not an either/or but a both/and world? Start where you have undeniable influence. Start at home and at work. Can you envision the brilliance of the golden rule thus applied?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.