THROW YOURSELF INTO 2021
But just before you do….
My friend, Gerry Hussey puts it well when he talks about the breaths we take and the lives we live. Some of us spend too much time breathing out and driving on and some of us spend too much time breathing in and taking on. A breath retained for too long soon becomes toxic – but between our breaths, there is a pause – the pause often creates the rhythm and the quality of our breath or of our lives.
So, what will you choose to let go and what will you choose to take on? And how will you make those choices? Mark Twain once said that the two most important days of our lives are the day you were born and the day you discover why. So maybe if we had a sense of our ‘why’ we could make better choices about how we want to live and lead in 2021.
Here are seven simple ideas I have used working with leaders across many industries and countries throughout 2020 – they might help you live and lead better in 2021.
1. Find your Direction
If I meet you on the last day of 2021, that’s where you will be – that’s the direction you are going in now. You may already be clear and happy about what direction that is, but if you are not, or are unsure, then simply declare to yourself, in writing, and in the present tense, where you are on the 31st December 2021. Consider, for example, what human needs you served for yourself, how you feel emotionally and physically, your relationships with self and others, your interests and career.
2. Practice Gratitude
Our brain develops based on how we use it – much like any muscle. Many people I meet have unconsciously become negatively wired – they see and experience the world that way, they lead their organisations that way and their life often plays out that way. As Steven Covey and others put it – we see the world not as it is, but as we are.
The good news is we can rewire our brains to be positively oriented, and the even more good news is that research has shown we are more intelligent when we set ourselves positive. That doesn’t mean we call everything positive – it means we bring ourselves positively to the circumstances we find ourselves in, no matter how challenging – not always easy unless we invest time in developing our brain’s positive capability.
Four simple actions:
- Take a note in writing of all the things you are grateful for now. If you don’t have more than 100 things, you haven’t really engaged in this exercise.
- Every day for one minute, take a note of the new things you are grateful for today.
- Find someone every day to say “thank you” to either verbally or otherwise.
- Find someone to help or assist in some small way – give them your time not your money.
This will trigger off the leadership (aka feel-good) chemicals in your system, i.e. serotonin and oxytocin, and people will more likely be drawn to and positively influenced by you and your energy.
3. Discover and trust your Humanity
We intellectually know that the best version of ourselves lies in our own humanity. Often though, it is difficult to access that humanity when we need it. It is sometimes high-jacked by fear-based emotions like anger and righteousness.
It’s an inside job. I find, in all my leadership work, the source of great and lasting leadership lies ‘below the line’, in uncovering and making sense of our story, our experiences, our biases, our real intentions and ultimately letting our humanity into play and out to play!
Find a picture of yourself as a very young child or when you felt you were at your authentic best. This is when you had everything required to live and lead a great life – love, courage, agility, vulnerability, humility, tenaciousness, resilience, boldness, adventure, imagination. On looking at your picture, reflect and take note of what that person in the picture would make of you today and what advice they would have for you for 2021 – the more you do this the more powerful it will get for you.
4. Live and Lead from Love
All emotions stem from love or fear and, in my experience, fear is in overdrive within many leaders. In much of the work I do with Organisations, Teams and Leaders I help them think and act from a place of love and humanity in what they choose to do and how they choose it. This tends to more easily release passion, courage, creativity, respect, resilience, openness and patience and hold off anxiety, frustration, worry or anger.
My good pal, Ian Kingston asked me the best question I was ever asked in my life and it happened whilst on a Below the Line Retreat in 2015 – “What would love do now? When I ask that question of others, and they are open to engage with the question, it has profound impacts in terms of accessing the best of people.
So that you don’t think love is all about rainbows and sunshine, let me give you an example. I challenged someone recently who was badmouthing and undermining a colleague and their team, to reflect on what they were doing and answer the question, “what would love do now?”. The question challenged them but routed them in the best of themselves. The result was to respectfully confront their colleague and have the conversation they needed to have and resolve their differences – nobody died in that confronting conversation and they also became aware of the fear that was driving their previous behaviour.
5. Find your Pause Button
Create some ‘pause’ or reflection time for yourself every day. Come back to your breath and build a conscious capacity to stop, to be focused, to be present, to be calm and with all your senses. I find too many people, in senior leadership roles, have unwittingly become experts in distraction and have become emotionally less capable of the challenges confronting them. They have become addicted to the very useful, but potentially distracting, devices of our time – e.g. the smart-phones, the emails, social media. Mindfulness, Yoga, Retreats and other similar interventions are becoming commonplace now and are well worth considering to get some of the personal tools to help find your pause button and stay balanced.
6. Align Intention and Attention
It’s not about me. Leadership is about creating authentic follower-ship. Followers allow leaders the benefits of leadership if they serve, protect and act in the interests of the followers – not in the interests of the leaders.
As you travel in your direction through 2020, reflect from time to time on what your intentions are and how aligned they are to what you are giving attention to. Become clear and commit to your intentions for 2021 – consider, for example:
- What are my intentions as a leader this year?
- What are my intentions as a citizen in my community this year?
- What are my intentions as a mother/father, sister/brother, son/daughter this year?
- What are my intentions as a friend this year?
This is a great way to make sure you stay on your course of direction.
7. Consciously say Yes and No
Your life is a product of what you are saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to. You always have a choice but there are always consequences, real or imagined. So when you don’t like a consequence, be careful not to disguise or rationalise that as “I have no choice”. In my work I find good people saying ‘yes’, well intentionally, to spending more time with their family or giving more one-to-one time with colleagues, but their actions are saying ‘no’- you could call that sleepwalking.
Reflect on your life now and take a note of what you are saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to in your life. Acknowledge how many of those choices you are happy with and not so happy with. Decide what things, new or existing, you will now say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to. This will likely mean there are things you will be more committed and purposeful about, for example:
- I am saying ‘no’ to watching and answering my emails and social media every waking second of the day. I am now saying ‘yes’ to looking at my emails and social media twice a day.
- I am saying ‘no’ to continually cancelling my one-to-one meetings with my team. I am saying ‘yes’ to giving monthly one-to-one time and attention to my team.
- I am saying ‘yes’ to acting on some of the ideas in this blog and living and leading brilliantly in 2021