We’ll meet Steve in a moment. Just wanted to say that October and November have been wonderful months so far for me for fresh insights – especially around some keys for helping groups achieve clarity of mind from the role of facilitator.
This is the state of mind that everybody wants – you feel alive, yet settled down, with a sense of peace, and feeling completely comfortable in your own skin.
And it turns out this is also the space where we are most likely to have fresh new insights about whatever is going on.
What I’m sharing with my business clients is so much simpler these days. It’s for them to realise for themselves these two key truths about the human experience:
- that the human mind only works one way (inside-out)
- that we all have a built-in design for success and thriving
The more deeply we realise these two ‘facts’, the more we thrive, both personally and professionally.
We know from neuroscience , that people only have so much bandwidth available at any moment. David Rock, the eminent neuroscientist, and author of “Your Brain at Work” talks about the things ‘on the stage’ – the things that we are paying attention to at any one time – and most people are limited to a very small number of these.
“The stage is what you focus on at any one time. A stage is a small podium in a theater where actors play a part. The stage needs a lot of light (energy) to function. This explains why you are easily distracted when hungry or tired. The power to light the stage is a like a battery that needs recharging – it’s a very hungry process” (David Rock)
Other things, that our thinking in the moment suggests are less vital, are moved into the wings or backstage. We stop shining the light of our conscious attention on these things – they are literally not on our radar.
Imagine the scenario of a busy senior executive, Steve.
Steve understands that his priorities should be:
- Serving his customers
- Creating trusted relationships with his colleagues and helping them to improve their performance
- The big things he has agreed to deliver this quarter in terms of results or projects
And he’s really committed to making a difference in these areas.
I often talk about this formula:
p = P – I
Performance equals potential minus Interference
But Steve’s bandwidth today is taken up with thinking about other things, like:
- He’s hearing rumours that there’s a big restructure coming up which may effect his position and career. He’s feeling insecure about the future.
- His teenage daughter is ‘acting up’ and seems to be going off the rails, and this is having a knock-on effect on his marriage too. There are lots of arguments, tantrums and conflict at home right now.
- His boss made a seemingly ‘throw-away’ comment about his performance in a meeting yesterday that has been playing on his mind a lot
- He hasn’t been sleeping well, and is feeling tired and low-energy.
- One of his peers seems to be playing politics even more than usual, and he feels he’s having to watch his back the whole time. He’s starting to feel a bit paranoid, and is seeing intrigue everywhere – even where it doesn’t exist.
- He is feeling a lack of trust in the company, his boss, his peers, his wife – and probably also in himself to cope with it all.
Now, how much bandwidth has Steve got left for:
- Serving his customers
- Creating trusted relationships with his colleagues
- The big things he has agreed to deliver this quarter in terms of results or projects?
Not much, right?
And despite his calendar looking like he’s doing the right things, attending the right meetings, spending time with his team and so on… he’s not really present to much of it.
There is massive interference going on.
Now, he’s aware of all this, so he tries to ‘manage’ and control his thinking better. This often makes the situation even worse, by adding more layers of interference, self-criticism and ‘what if….?’ thinking.
Contrast this with:
He understands the nature of thought, and that he will inevitably experience his thinking, moment to moment.
He knows that he is always fundamentally OK, and the natural self-correcting mechanism of his mind will just happen automatically, provided he sees his thinking for what it is – thinking. When this happens, he knows he will come back to clarity of mind.
He knows he has an inbuilt design for success and thriving, and he knows that new, fresh thinking will always appear – provided he doesn’t get in the way excessively.
He knows he can have new insights from his own innate wisdom and resourcefulness, and these make it crystal clear what action to take, if any.
Let’s take each piece of the ‘interference thoughts’ that were previously centre-stage for Steve:
- He’s hearing rumours that there’s a big restructure coming up which may effect his position. He knows there’s no action needed on this – the next right move for him will be available when needed. Although he’s good at planning where necessary, he doesn’t spend much time worrying about the future because he doesn’t feel insecure – preferring to be fully present in the moment.
- His teenage daughter is ‘acting up’ and seems to be going off the rails – well, no, not really. Looking calmly at the facts, all that’s happened is that she’s made a couple of poor decisions recently, and he decides to spent some quality time this weekend really listening to his daughter about what’s going on for her. He knows the relationship is essentially strong and close, and that his daughter is and will be fundamentally fine.
- There are no knock-on effects on his marriage from this. It’s a different relationship, and he can be loving and supportive, as he and his wife decide together how to support their daughter through this bumpy phase. It doesn’t make sense to blame his wife or anybody else – he knows that his experience is not coming from outside anyway. He knows that they will make high quality decisions from a place of clarity, love and wisdom.
- His boss made a seemingly ‘throw-away’ comment about his performance in a meeting yesterday… so he sat down with his boss and asked him about it. He feels compassion for his boss, and really listens to him. Turns out the comment was nothing to do with him anyway – and the relationship is now even stronger than before. His boss remarked that he always feels better after chatting to him.
- He hasn’t been sleeping well, and is feeling tired and low-energy… not true. He doesn’t have much on his mind, so he’s sleeping really well, and waking up energized about the day ahead. He’s also noticed that he seems to have much more TIME to focus on the important things, because the Interference has largely dissolved. He knows that feeling overwhelmed is created by his thinking, and has nothing to do with his actual to-do list. He just takes the necessary actions, with clarity of mind and a peaceful, calm sense of progress towards his most important goals.
- One of his peers seems to be playing politics even more than usual. Full stop. He feels compassion for his peer, but doesn’t worry about it, and he won’t enter into playing these games.
- He trusts himself, his wisdom, his inherent OK-ness. He is inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt, realizing that people sometimes get up in their head about things, and have their own interference – and then don’t see things very clearly. But he knows that thought is constantly fluid, moving, transient.
- As he was on his early morning walk this morning, a fantastic idea about how to improve the customer experience popped into his head, seemingly out of the blue. He’s excited about it, and sets up a meeting to share the idea with his team.
Want to dissolve your interference? Why not join me at the next He’Art of Thriving workshop on 2 – 4 March 2015? Find out more in the forthcoming events column to the right.
“Kim is a stunning coach and facilitator, and has a transformational presence that seems to create a space of clarity in groups. I’ve never been more comfortable in my own skin – absolutely independent of what’s going on around me. This clarity of mind is transforming how I work with myself and others, and has deepened my relationships with my loved ones.” Andy Couch, Manager, Oil Spill Response