- On April 6, 2016
Too bad we don’t have a Bogey (as in Humphrey Bogart in the movie Casablanca) sitting on our shoulder, reminding us to look at ourselves.
Expanding our capacity to be the Observer of our own self is one of the first things I work on with leaders I coach.
Why is being an Observer so important?
Without it, we are just reacting automatically…with sometimes terrible consequences to our effectiveness.
We are pre-wired to react to what happens in our environment. Just about anything not part of the status quo is interpreted as a threat to our self-preservation, whether that is in fact true or not. Our Amygdala picks up that something is not right and prompts the generation of chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline to prepare us to respond—to protect ourselves–in the flash of a second.
Sometimes that’s good–running away out of the way of the car that just plowed through the intersection.
Sometimes it’s not. A colleague says something that our brain perceives as threatening our status, and the same Amygdala firing starts happening.
When we are in ‘Amygdala-ON’ mode, our energy is going into our body to prepare for flight or fight. Even though we have no intention of actually running away or fighting our co-worker.
The biggest impact this natural reaction has on us is to inhibit the functioning of the Pre-Frontal Cortex, the source of our higher level processing, memory, and learning. There is not enough energy left to ‘think’ when the self-preservation reaction is activated.
Instead of allowing our stress response trigger to run rampant, what if we could have a ‘Bogey on my shoulder’? A nano-pause to reflect on what is actually happening and bring our Pre-Frontal Cortex back on line so we are better able to choose how we intend to respond.
Easier said than done. We are wired to react. It is a difficult pattern to break.
Here is a simple way to practice being a little more ‘Bogey’.
- Draw a circle on a piece of paper.
- You are going to draw a line horizontally across the circle. Where you draw the line separating the circle is reflective of how much negative energy (below the line) and positive energy (above the line) you are experiencing at that moment.
- Negative energy is feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, anger, blaming others, denial, dispiritedness, hopelessness.
- These trigger self-preservation mode and inhibit you from seeing other alternatives to your perceived reality.
- Where’s your line? 50:50? 30:70? 60:40?
- Do this a couple of times a day; set a timer to remind you every hour or every three hours.
- Draw a small circle, add your line.
- After a few days, what do you notice?
Continue to explore this exercise–the act of pausing is in itself a huge new learning–make a note about what is going on at the time you pause for ‘circle time.’
- What is the precipitator of the negative energy? Of the positive energy?
- After a few days, what do you notice? Are any patterns showing up?
Now — What could you do differently about that, in the moment?
(The Circle Exercise is a modification of a Neuro-Transformation exercise I learned through my training with BeAbove Leadership.)
Photo Credit: JMaliszewski2015