How to Overcome Beliefs that Sabotage High Performance Part III

Selfishness

There is nothing wrong with a singular focus on accomplishing a task or goal. However, if goal achievement becomes more important than integrity, then long-term problems develop. The expression “Winning isn’t the only thing, it’s everything” really typifies the extreme selfish mindset.

All sorts of problems emerge when selfishness rules. Relationships get damaged when you don’t care about others’ needs as you pursue yours. Our inner guidance system knows something isn’t right and guilt creeps in. Productivity goes down because people disengage when they sense a hidden or selfish agenda. There are plenty of examples of corporate selfishness, including Enron, World Com, and Bernie Madoff.

Integrity

The antidote to selfishness is the full expression of universal values in action, which I call integrity. Integrity is the alignment of one’s behavior with principles like honesty, love, respect, and excellence. Nelson Mandela and John Wooden, the renowned UCLA basketball coach, are great examples of people who have really demonstrated integrity throughout their lives.

Being able to say you gave your best and conducted yourself with dignity, in victory or defeat, is the marking of a true champion and great leader. Living in alignment with your values and paying attention to how you achieve your dreams and goals is the way to long-lasting fulfillment. When the pressure is on, short-term sacrifices may need to made and yet, at the end of a long day, long week, or long life, don’t you really want to be able to say that you are most proud about how you went about accomplishing your dreams and goals?

Deceptiveness

As a society, we are often surprised when a celebrity or political figure does something immoral or illegal and suddenly their unblemished image is tarnished overnight. It’s like the answer given by a character from the Hemingway novel The Sun Also Rises. When asked “How did you go bankrupt?” the character answers, “Gradually, then suddenly.” Like the other mindsets, deceptiveness begins with a way of thinking and then manifests in behavior.

Deceptiveness can be as simple as holding back important information during a tough conversation or being in denial about something you are doing in your personal life that you really know is not good for you. It can manifest as being unable or unwilling to tell someone how you really feel about how upset you are, how much you really care about them, or how well you feel they are really performing.

Authenticity

On the other hand, authenticity is the ability to be in alignment with what you feel, what you think, and what you believe through the actions you take. In order to behave authentically, you have to first be authentic with yourself. That means having the awareness and courage to be uncompromisingly honest with yourself. I have found that questions like the following are very useful in generating inner honesty: “What do I really care about?” “What really concerns me?” “What is really important to me?” “How am I really spending my time?” “What is it that I really want to have happen?”

Authenticity is being able to express yourself fully and completely, and having the courage and skill to do it with care and respect. It means being able to apologize with sincerity when you are wrong, take a stand when you feel strongly about something, and bring all of yourself to an important conversation—your thoughts, feelings, wishes, and hopes.

Now What?

What you do in life is a result of what you think and believe. Therefore, the more you understand your mindset and develop the ability to live based on the mindsets that bring out your best and the best in those around you, the more effective you can be. It’s totally up to you.

You can choose mindsets of arrogance or humility, blamefulness or responsible choice, selfishness or integrity, deceptiveness or authenticity. Your ultimate freedom is the freedom to choose your attitude, mindset, and way you behave. A skillful, conscious individual develops the ability to choose mindsets of humility, responsible choice, integrity, and authenticity and acts with openness, accountability, dignity, and truthfulness.

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How to Overcome Beliefs that Sabotage High Performance Part II

The first step is to understand the concept of mindsets. Mindsets are the lenses through which you see the world. They are created by your beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, family of origin, and life experiences. At your best, you operate from mindsets that are positive and healthy. At your worst, you can find yourself virtually imprisoned by thinking and attitudes that make your life and those around you miserable, unproductive, and unfulfilled.

These limiting mindsets can undermine you, protect a fragile sense of self, help you look good, be right, blame others, and get what you want at the expense of others. When you open the door to these limiting mindsets, you lose perspective and awareness. You are not in touch with your true nature and you lose the ability to be an effective leader.

Here is what I have found to be the real limiting mindsets:

  • Arrogance: “I know the right way to do this. Anything different is wrong and I will not listen to what you have to say.”
  • Blamefulness: “It’s all their fault; there is nothing I can do, so I am going to tune you out.”
  • Selfishness: “I’m going to do this and I don’t care what you want or need.”
  • Deceptiveness: “I’m certainly not going to tell you how I really feel or what I am really doing.”

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these and the corresponding mindsets that form the foundation of Conscious Leadership.

Arrogance

Arrogance is an attitude that says: “The way that I see the world is the way the world is.” The objective of the arrogance mindset is for a person to look good and be right, which blocks open communication, invites conflict, and refuses to acknowledge that someone else’s experience and point of view is valid.

The arrogant mindset is unable to distinguish from reality. In that world, the thinking is “My opinions are the only valid point of view; others are wrong, or are irrelevant.”  The real problem with the arrogant mindset is that it is blind and doesn’t even know it. The ability to learn is marginalized, and the ability to see another view point or admit a mistake is negated. Instead of skillful problem resolution or gaining a more comprehensive understanding of a troubling situation, the arrogant mindset is defensive, argues more vehemently, and creates larger barriers to overcome.

Humility

On the other hand, humility embraces the attitude “The way that I see the world is simply the way that I see it.” It respects that others may see the world very differently. Humility is not synonymous with weakness, but is rooted in intrinsic self-worth and strength. It comes from the Latin word “humilitas” and means low or from the earth. Humility enables a leader to live with a sense of curiosity and openness that fuels a deep commitment to learning and a thirst to be present and aware.

The mindset of humility has opinions and expresses them fully. However, instead of presenting them as facts, or the only way reality can be seen, the humility mindset fully owns its opinions and expresses them. “My perspective on the situation is this…What do you think?” This approach is confident and direct and invites dialogue and learning.

Blamefulness

Multiple factors exist in creating any situation. For example, if I’m late for a meeting I can focus on external factors such as: “The resource team always schedules me in back-to-back meetings with not enough time in between” or I can focus on the part I played, “I didn’t pay attention to the timing when I accepted all these meetings.” One perspective focuses on what someone else did that I cannot directly control. The other focuses on what I did, my lack of attention, over which I do have control.

The mindset of blamefulness only acknowledges the contributing external factors. It leads to disempowerment, resentment, and resignation. “There is nothing I could have done. It’s not my fault! It’s their problem! They didn’t give me the report on time” are all expressions that typify the blamefulness attitude.

Responsible Choice

The mindset of responsible choice is based upon the principle that as human beings you have the ability to choose how you behave in any situation. There is a moment between stimulus and response that enables free choice. When explaining why I was late, I don’t deny that the meetings were scheduled back-to-back. I do acknowledge that I wasn’t paying attention and I own the fact that I contributed to that situation and that enables me to do something to improve it or change things in the future.

Rather than just blame someone else and do nothing, responsible choice opens up the door to resolving an issue or problem through actually doing something practical. The mindset of responsible choice leads to accountability, empowerment, and action. It invites us into the present moment where you can make choices that increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.

In Part III I will talk about the two remaining limiting mindsets and their positive counterparts.

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The Way to Do is to Be

I like it when other people change.  Every day I make demands and issue small orders to this end. I’m sure I drive my wife crazy.  When I really get carried away she gets in my face and gives me some straight feedback about it.  Sometimes I snap out of it and realize I’m just taking the easy out.  As painful as it is I start to think about the Gandhi quote that I use in my workshops: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”   It’s so easy to want other people to change.  All I have to do is ask, hint, or badger.  It doesn’t always work but it sure seems like a great place to start.  I know deep down inside I’m just avoiding the inevitable, which is facing up to the fact that there is always something I can do to make a difference. I could change!  I could make some effort!

It’s easy to externalize things and focus on things outside of our control.  It takes more courage, determination and will power to look inside and confront the real truth.  The facts are that if I want to see something different around me there is probably something I can do differently.

There is where the thinking of Lao Tzu comes in.  Lao Tzu was a 6th century BC Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism.  When he was eighty years old he recorded his teachings, authoring the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power).

One of the quotes attributed to him reflects the belief that the way to live an enriched life is to examine one’s inner self or being: “The way to do is to be.” Another way to put this in the context of growth, learning and accomplishing one’s goals is to realize that the way we are (our being) drives what we do and what we do impacts what we have (our goals).  This is the principle known as Be Do Have.  Here is a visual example of how it looks:

http://integriagroup.com/BeDoHave.html

Our values, attitudes and beliefs contribute to our being: our outlook on life, the way we feel, our aspirations, our intentions-our overall mindset.  For example if I am upset and angry because a co worker did not keep a important commitment they made and I confront this person to give them “feedback”, what kind of conversation is likely to occur?  If my belief is they are incompetent and my anger has consumed me, I am quite likely to have an angry and confrontational conversation.  However, if my mindset and intention is to first understand what happened and then be very honest and direct about the impact of the failed commitment it is more likely that a productive conversation will happen.

So the leverage to create more outcomes, better relationships and to be proud about the way we behave comes from not just changing what we do, but the real power lies in understanding how our being, our mindset influences what we do, and subsequently what we get or have.  This is why Lao Tzu’s words are filled with deep wisdom.

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Failed Conversation on the Deepwater Oil Rig

I was watching 60 minutes on CBS a few weeks ago and they interviewed one of survivors from the Deepwater Oil Rig in the Gulf.  It was a fascinating story from several perspectives.  He was in the computer control room during the initial explosion.  As the gas from one mile below the surface surged uncontrollably upward the diesel engines became turbo charged and generated so much electricity that his computer exploded in front of him and he was literally blown across the room.  Dazed and wounded he found that most of the 100 workers on the rig had already left on life boats and he remained with only a few other individuals.  He jumped 90 feet into the ocean that was aflame with fuel and debris, surfacing and wondering if he was dead or alive. He was soon rescued and pulled into a small boat. Not everyone was as lucky as he.  Over a dozen rig workers were killed.

Then he described what caused the explosion: a relief valve intended to keep up the upward flow of oil was faulty and failed, allowing gas under tremendous pressure to explode uncontrollably. On site BP managers were apparently under pressure to drill faster because a previous drilling effort yielded no oil.  This failure over six weeks time cost BP about 25 million dollars.   There was a real sense of urgency cited by the survivor that was not uncommon in most drilling situations. If drilling had remained at a normal pace catastrophe may have been avoided. However, BP wanted the drill to become operational faster and when the drill speed was increased, the valve failed leading to the explosion.

As much as there were technical and equipment there were also human errors, errors stemming from breakdowns in a conversation between a British Petroleum manager and Transocean, the company that was hired by BP to build the oil well. It was this part of the interview that I found the most fascinating, and the most disturbing.  Apparently Transocean was recommending that drill speed not be increased.  BP wanted to increase drill speed and gave the order to do so.

So from what I can gather from this interview an ineffective conversation occurred, reminiscent of the failed conversation between NASA managers and Morton Thiokol, makers of the O rings for the Challenger space craft that exploded after liftoff many years ago.  It was this conversation between BP and Transocean where a BP manager overrode the recommendation of an equally qualified expert and made a decision that resulted in a catastrophic natural disaster.  It was a decision that was driven by short term values, corporate greed and misguided assumptions and errors.

I’m sure more details will emerge about what caused this continue as Congressional hearings continue.  In the meantime I can’t imagine the suffering being experienced by the people living in the gulf region as they watch their coast line and wild life destroyed.

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How to Overcome Beliefs that Sabotage High Performance Part I

We make choices every moment of our lives.  Each day we wake with the ability to choose how we approach the day.  We can choose inspiration, frustration, excitement, boredom, anything at all. These attitudes and their corresponding beliefs drive our behavior and performance. Poor attitudes generally create poor performance. High performance is typically grounded in a very strong, positive inner mental framework. So, how can you consistently live from positive beliefs and attitudes?

It begins with self awareness. There is a very clear connection between awareness and how you behave. The way you are on the inside influences what you say and do. Simply put, your behavior is a combination of your inner hard wiring, your personality, and the choices you make.

Self-awareness comes from cultivating the ability to pay attention to what is happening internally and externally and being “fully present in the moment.” The more aware you are of your inner world, the likelier you are to make choices in alignment with your highest personal values and aspirations.

It’s very similar to the importance of physical balance for athletes. Balance creates a strong foundation and enables flexibility, focus, and the generation of incredible power. In the same way, developing the skill of paying attention to one’s inner and outer worlds actually elicits inner balance, focus, and increased self-awareness. This heightened self-awareness is the foundation of what I call Conscious Living.

Conscious Living is an approach to life that helps you maximize your ability to accomplish business goals, build strong, trusting relationships, and increase your personal and job fulfillment. It does this through methodology that enables you to examine your own attitudes, values, and beliefs and develops your ability to choose highly effective approaches to communicating with integrity, building accountability, and solving difficult issues with creativity and consensus.

Part II of this article is about the driving force behind our behavior: our mindset.  A mindset is the lense through which we view the world, comprised of our values, attitudes and beliefs.

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Building the Reputation You Want to Have in the World (Part II)

The reputation you create has three dimensions:

Achievement: What impact are you having at work, home and other parts of your life?  Are you accomplishing what you want to?

Relationships: To what degree are you building and maintain strong, trusting relationships and a creating a sense of community as you interact with the people in your life and in your job?

Self Development: How engaged and fulfilled are you?

Take a moment as you are reading this and answer these questions. Try rating yourself on a 1-10 scale.  If you come up with less than a 10 on any of the questions, ask yourself why?  What would you like to see happen that isn’t happening?  The answers to these questions can be the beginning of a development plan to build the reputation you really want.

The next step is to consider the three possible choices you have in how to more consciously manage your reputation.

1. If you are really satisfied in any or all of the three dimensions, what can you keep doing that is working?  For example, if you know that you are a good networker and networking is contributing to the growth of your business, then continuing to do this, or even adding a few new, creative ways to increase your networking strategies would be relatively easy for you to keep doing.

2. What behaviors or habits would you like to change that would improve your reputation?  This can have a huge impact and takes the most energy. It also requires understanding why habits are hard to break and what the most common barriers are.  (I will cover these in a future blog.)

3.  What new habits would you like to develop?  Creating a new habit is additive and while it takes real motivation, a clear goal and significant energy, it takes less energy than breaking an old habit. (I will cover this in future blog also.)

Building upon strengths

It takes less energy to do something you are already good at doing. For example, I would give myself a 7 in the Achievement dimension with respect to my coaching and facilitation accomplishments. They are both strengths for me, I’m good at them and I know I can get better, with more practice. Teaching workshops and coaching executives makes me stretch, but doesn’t push me into a panic zone where it becomes counterproductive.  So, I want to build on those skills and keep doing them because they are contributing significantly to my personal and professional growth.

To be continued…

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Building the Reputation You Want to Have in the World

We all have a reputation in the world.  It’s built over time through who we are and what we do.  Some people are pleased with the reputation they have built.  Some are not.   And some don’t really know how others see them.  I have an idea of who I think I am: generally a nice guy, slightly perfectionistic, somewhat extroverted, kind most of the time, can get brusque under stress and so on.

What is my reputation in the world?  How do other people experience me?  There probably is some consistency among people who know we well and there is probably less amongst people who don’t know me.  What about the person that I cut in front of on the road yesterday, how do they see me?  Or the waitress in the restaurant last night after I complained about the shortage of shrimp in my shrimp tacos?

So my reputation varies and people formulate their ideas about me based on the nature of my interactions with them.  They see me in the future through their lense of how I have shown up to them in the past.  The next time I walk into the restaurant and order shrimp tacos from the same waitress what will she think?  “Here comes that guy again that complained about the shrimp tacos.”  Perhaps in her eyes I have created a reputation as a “complainer.”

Suppose I want to change my reputation. Can I do that?  What do I have to do?

Yes, a reputation can be changed, but not overnight, particularly if there is a lot of history built up.  Most of us know those things about ourselves that rub people the wrong way. Changing them consistently would probably have a significant impact on how we are perceived by our co workers or family members.  So our reputation would in fact, change.  The challenge we have is that our behavior is driven by our habits and our habits lie under the waterline of our everyday awareness.  And as Mick Jagger sings in the movie Alfie soundtrack, “Old Habits Die Hard.”

Look for my next blog to talk about how we can change our habits and develop the reputation we really want to have.

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Improving Your Leadership Skills: It’s All About Integration

I’ve been doing some research lately on how people think and the principle of integrating seemingly opposite concepts caught my attention.

Let’s take freedom and discipline for instance. Right now I am coaching a senior level marketing manager. This person leads a talented young work force that is asking for significant freedom in how they carry out their work.  They also need a certain amount of discipline to ensure compliance to deadlines and project specifications.

The manager, let’s call him Tom, either gives his team so much freedom that deadlines and deliverables are missed, or at the slightest sign of a problem, he takes back the work and simply does it himself, leaving his team feeling frustrated and disempowered.

He believes that encouraging creativity and freedom of expression to his team members is important.  Given the nature of the team’s work I would agree.  He says that project expectations have been clearly understood by the team and that the team has the skill to do the work.

So, the issue is how he conducts himself when problems arise with the work product put out by the team.  The missing ingredient that ties the two seemingly disparate concepts of freedom and discipline together is respect.  If Tom was able to provide feedback to the team directly, honestly and respectfully regarding how they were performing: what they were doing well and what wasn’t going so well, wouldn’t that help?  Just using the principle of discipline and removing the principle of freedom only serves to alienate the team.

Integrating freedom and discipline with the principle of respect is the key to not only producing strong work output but also to developing trusting relationships and team members that are highly engaged.  So the next time Tom sees a problem with his team’s performance, I would like him to not simply take back the work, but first have a honest conversation with his team, respectfully seeking to understand the problem they are having and jointly coming up with a mutually agreeable solution.

If it turns out that he has to step in and complete the project, I am ok with that, as long as the team is treated respectfully and really understands why that has to happen.

Don Johnson is the founder of The Integria Group, a corporate coaching and leadership practice.  He has worked with executives at Google, Yahoo! Microsoft, and other organizations. Earlier in his career, he was the President of Élan Vital, and a Raj Yoga Master Instructor. For more information contact him at: http://www.integriagroup.com

© Copyright 2010 by Don Johnson

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Turning Failure into Success

Several weeks ago I was officiating an NCAA college tennis tournament in Princeton New Jersey. My daughter, a senior and captain of her team, was also playing in the tournament.  The first day of the tournament I was working some of the matches being played on the other twenty plus courts and couldn’t be on her court as an official.  My heart was torn but I knew she would play another match the next day, win or lose and I could watch because I wasn’t going to be officiating that day.

The matches I was in charge of ended quickly and I grabbed my lunch, covered up my official’s uniform with a jacket and walked to her court.  On the way I asked someone I knew how she was doing and they said “not well.”   When I got to her court I could see that she lost the first set and appeared to be fighting hard in the second set, but was making some costly mistakes and was turning to the back fence and talking to herself, something I have seen her do when she is trying to regain her composure.

A few minutes later she broke her opponents serve and then set up a crucial point on her serve with an aggressive shot deep in one corner.  She began to come to the net, and then hesitated just enough to lose control of the point and hit an easy volley in the net.  This was something we had talked about just a few weeks earlier in another match.  Her coaches were not on the court and as she walked back to the baseline I yelled to her, “Come on, commit to coming in!!”  The tone of my voice carried the real message:  Come on you can do better than that!  We talked about this!  You know what to do in that situation!  You have to be aggressive now! This is no time to be hesitant!

What I didn’t know was that she was already very upset at the way she was playing. She had been making errors after errors before I arrived, she felt her coaches were ignoring her and giving more attention to the younger players on the team, she wanted to go out as a senior winning this match for her team and was taking a huge burden of responsibility on her shoulders.  My comment pushed her over the emotional edge that she was teetering on before I opened my mouth.  Tears came to her eyes and I watched her have a living meltdown on the court, while continuing to play.  I instantly knew the damage was done and left the court area, devastated at what I had contributed to.  I went back to my officiating duties in a daze, barely able to concentrate. I felt terrible, just horrible about the whole thing. She went on to lose the match and wouldn’t talk to me afterwards for several hours.  I knew she was blaming me for what happened.

Later that evening we began a conversation that eventually finished the next day. I apologized from the bottom of my heart to her that was received with indifference.  I realized that she wasn’t going to budge from her position which was that I shouldn’t have said anything to her during the match, particularly something critical. I am sure she had flash backs to the time she was in high school playing tournaments hearing my unskilled coaching and critical comments from the sidelines.

The next day her team was playing a consolation match and I sent her a text message that morning saying, “Just go out and enjoy the game, do your best and have fun.” She responded by saying yes and that too was her focus.  The match began and I saw a completely different player on the court from the day before.  She was confident, aggressive and played the best tennis match I have ever seen her play.  She masterfully beat her opponent playing virtually a perfect match.  I cried silent tears of joy.  I was so happy for her and I was so happy to see her playing at her full potential.  I was watching mastery in action and someone who was in the zone, in a big way. We spoke at length after the match about what happened the day before.  As I listened more to her story about what was going on before I came to her court her tone softened. My apology began to go deeper inside me and she began to own the fact that she let her emotions get out of control.  The healing had now begun. We hugged, and hugged and then we even hugged some more!  I asked her if she was at peace and she said yes and I too felt at peace.

We talked about how much she had accomplished in four years and how she dreamed her dream and then put the hard work to make it happened.  We talked about what her team mates said about her at the senior ceremony the night before: Glowing comments about Chelsea’s work ethic, leadership, inspiration, and character.  I said to her, look what you can draw on as you get older.  You were a student athlete, the leader of your team, an inspiration to the younger girls.  You set the standard for excellence and dedication. This is the foundation and the legacy you have built.  This is what you have really accomplished, in addition to all the tennis you have played.

After the tournament was over I traveled home and had dinner with my wife. We talked about the weekend and I told her what had happened.  She asked me what I could learn from this and the question really penetrated deeply.  I thought about it and as we discussed it I realized that I could have delivered the exact same message with the spirit of compassion instead of with the spirit of admonishment.

I also realized as a parent that I live through my children. When they suffer, I suffer. When they excel, I enjoy that delight too.  So, yes, I too wanted her to win that first match.  I’ve watched her too many times struggle to play her best under pressure. I want her to have a great experience.  All of that factors into my mental state when I watch her play.  Perhaps I lost my own emotional balance as I watched her lose hers.  I responded instinctively without considering the context before me. And I responded aggressively, perhaps mirroring the tone of the battle that I was seeing play out before me.

So I asked myself why would I use a tone of admonishment and not compassion. Wouldn’t compassion get better results?  If I had just encouraged my daughter at that point in the match I’m sure it would have been more effective. It may not have changed the outcome, but it would have added some inspiration in a tough situation.

So I am left thinking about two things:

First, how I can be more compassionate, even under times of stress. I know I can choose my response in any given situation. In the heat of battle, when the deck is stacked high with the complexities of interpersonal relationships, male-female differences, and desires to win, it’s even more difficult not get hijacked by our emotions.  And yet, I believe it is quite possible to do this.  It just takes practice and a commitment to do so.

And second, when something happens like this how can I take a learning approach, be compassionate with myself, and realize that I am a human being simply trying to do my best. If I can learn from my mistakes and deepen the relationship with my daughter by opening up a meaningful, healing conversation, then my personal shortcomings and errors become the fertilizer that fuels my own growth as a human being.

Don Johnson is the founder of The Integria Group, a corporate coaching and leadership practice. He has worked with executives at Google, Yahoo! Microsoft, and other organizations. Earlier in his career, he was the President of Élan Vital, and a Raj Yoga Master Instructor. For more information contact him at: http://www.integriagroup.com

© Copyright 2010 by Don Johnson

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Living Consciously: The Power of Responsible Choice

“…everything can be taken from us but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance—to choose one’s own way.” Victor Frankl

Living a healthy life begins with healthy thinking. One of the most powerful thought patterns or mindsets that enables a healthy approach to life is something I call “responsible choice.” As Victor Frankl points out in his seminal work, Man’s Search for Meaning, our most fundamental freedom is our ability to choose our attitude and how we respond in any given situation. How can we use this principle of responsible choice to live a more fulfilled, engaged and conscious life?

Importance of Self-Awareness

Responsible choice begins with self-awareness. Self-awareness comes from cultivating the ability to pay attention to what is happening internally and externally and being “fully present in the moment.” The more aware you are of your inner world, the likelier you are to make choices in alignment with your highest personal values and aspirations.

It’s very similar to the importance of physical balance for athletes. Balance creates a strong foundation and enables flexibility, focus, and the generation of incredible power. In the same way, developing the skill of paying attention to one’s inner and outer worlds actually elicits inner balance, focus, and increased self-awareness. The more aware you are, the more you can observe your own thoughtsand not just be consumed by or lost in them. This heightened self-awareness is the foundation of responsible choice.

Blamefulness – Responsible Choice – Self-Importance

Responsible choice is the integration and application of two key principles:

Knowing that we always have the opportunity to choose a response, in any situation
Focusing on what we can control or influence versus what we can’t enables personal growth
The mindset of responsible choice promotes optimism, humility, develops accountability and the ability to make positive change. Blamefulness and self-importance are shadow mindsets that disempower, create a lack of self-esteem and unconscious behavior. Let’s look at each mindset.

Blamefulness

The mindset of blamefulness only acknowledges factors outside of your control when you are faced with a problem. It leads to disempowerment, resentment, and resignation. “There is nothing I could have done. It’s not my fault! It’s their problem! They didn’t give me the report on time” are all expressions that typify the blamefulness attitude.

Self -Importance

Taking all the responsibility and believing you are the sole cause of anything that happens is blamefulness directed at oneself. It is equally destructive and leads to guilt and shame. “It’s all my fault. I should have realized that. I’m so stupid!” are examples that reflect self-importance.

Responsible Choice

Multiple factors exist in creating any situation. For example, if I’m late for a meeting, I can focus on external factors:”My assistant always schedules me back-to-back meetings with not enough transit time” or I can focus on the part I played: “I didn’t consider the different locations of these meetings when I asked her to set them up.” One perspective focuses on what someone else did that I cannot directly control. The other focuses on what I did, my lack of attention, over which I do have control.

The mindset of responsible choice is based upon your freedom to choose how you want to behave in any situation. There is a moment between stimulus and response that enables free choice. When explaining why I was late, I don’t deny that the meetings were scheduled back-to-back. I also acknowledge that I wasn’t paying attention to the transit times required. By owning up to my contribution to the situation, I am able to learn and see what I can do to produce a better result in the future.

The mindset of responsible choice leads to accountability, empowerment, and action. It invites you into the present moment where you can make choices that increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. It enables you to realize that in any situation, no matter how frustrating or difficult, there is always something you can do to make a difference.

The Ultimate Freedom

The ultimate freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude, mindset, and way we behave. A skillful, conscious individual develops the ability to consistently choose mindsets that align action with personal values. During these challenging times, we need to cultivate our inner being and awareness as well as express ourselves with good will that inspires others. One thing that will really help: responsible choice.

Don Johnson is the founder of The Integria Group, a corporate coaching and leadership practice. He has worked with executives at Google, Yahoo! Microsoft, and other organizations. Earlier in his career, he was the President of Élan Vital, and a Raj Yoga Master Instructor. For more information contact him at: http://www.integriagroup.com

© Copyright 2010 by Don Johnson

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