Clean Up Your Own Act

Several months ago I heard a business coach talk about leadership – not your ordinary leadership program talking about how to enhance your organization through your leadership qualities. Rather, his focus was on how to lead yourself. He started by challenging us to define our individual culture by asking: “Who are you—your core values, your behaviors, how you interact with others, your level of social awareness and social intelligence.” Then he challenged us to clean up our own acts to become a better leader in our organizations and communities, pointing out that anyone can be a leader regardless of title – you can lead from any seat!

Several things about his session caught my attention right away. No PowerPoint – handout or slides on a screen. Rather, he facilitated a discussion and only provided a two-page handout that prompted a discussion among the participants. I was immediately drawn to the handout because the first group of words listed had the caption “Possible Intentions – Desired Changes That Stick.”

Just then, he asked us to review the words, identify two or three intentions and discuss them in the group. Here’s a sampling of the words and phrases: successful in business, more family time, learn French, make a big difference, growth of knowledge, rest more, creative endeavors, new relationships, mental challenges.

Now that you’ve identified your intended state, how do you get there? That’s the challenge we explored next. It takes commitment, awareness and deliberate intention to accomplish your desired intention. Why is this a challenge? Well there are systems already present in you that have conditioned you over time to be who your are. The unconscious part of our brain dominates what we do, our actions and reactions, and that is what we must overcome in order to change. This gets in the way of being who we want to be.

Yoga Nidra I thought. Okay, what’s Yoga Nidra? Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep, a state of conscious deep sleep for extreme relaxation and subtler spiritual exploration. I practice yoga and my instructor often leads the class through Yoga Nidra, and as part of this practice we are asked to state our intention – desired state (to ourselves), and to state it in the present and not the future, as in I am versus I want to be. For example, “I am physically fit” rather than “I am going to exercise regularly.”

The next exercise was inevitable. Look at the next group of words containing identifiers of the raw material of your human system – your personal default “culture” – the way you act or habits you have to overcome to get to that desired state. Here’s a sampling of those words and phrases: Emotional energy, limiting beliefs, distractibility, perseverance, fears, intuition, pessimism, optimism, proactive, reactive, blind spots. Our brain wants to do what’s familiar, what keeps us safe. Our brain is afraid of threats. We act without noticing what we are doing. We don’t witness nor are we aware. What you do comes from who you are—the unconscious part of our brain.

Imagine my surprise when he guided us through a Yoga-Nidra type of exercise – not a state of sleep but a state of relaxed consciousness. The intent was to experience being mindful, to be present to what is and what is happening around us, to be curious and interested without judgment, to exercise a beginners mind, a zen-like mind. It’s all part of the evolution of ourselves. If we force ourselves and others in our organizations to evolve in a mindful way, think of how much our organizations will evolve.

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