This lesson is about self awareness and using it wisely.
We have spoken about self-reliance and its importance in leadership and life. But there is something far more important as a leader when it comes to mastering self-awareness. This topic is non reaction.
We react to everything we are not conscious of and so, we cannot literally avoid the experience of reaction, however, whatever we react to, we cannot lead. Quite a conundrum isn’t it? it is also true that whatever we react to is running us, and that’s even worse.
Yesterday, i went flying with a friend, an ex client who has just got his solo pilot’s licence. All went smooth at takeoff but as soon as we lifted into the air we both noticed a huge storm bubble heading our way. Then radio control informed us that there were several commercial flights heading our way and then, and then…. Half a dozen different things happened in the space of minutes. Of course, I am not the pilot in this plane so there was nothing for me to worry about except in this tiny aircraft to keep my feet off the pedals and not puke from turbulence. My friend however, remained absolutely in control. No sweat on his brow, no tension in his arms or shoulders, so, I held absolute confidence in him. And that’s leadership self awareness.
Had he started to get stressed, nervous, grumpy, stiff, so would have I.
I took photos while we flew around in circles staying clear of the commercial flights and buffeted by winds stayed clear of the storm cell. Then headed back to the airport with a great trip in the bag. No reaction on his part, and total faith on mine.
A reactive leader is no leader. Reaction is unconsciousness. A person with unconsciousness might still be the CEO of a firm but they will carry before them and leave behind them, a trail of wreckage, both human and material.
A reactive leader might drive the value of the business but they will burn out, both the business and themselves.
So how do we not react?
First, there’s a time of day when you are going to do your best non reactive thinking, and best to use it not waste it.
I’m dictating this to the computer at 3am. That’s earlier than normal but I woke and when this happens I call it my sacred time.
The house is silent. I am organised. The coffee machine was just waiting for me to push the button for a nespresso, the apple cider vinegar was easy to reach in the fridge, the long glass ready to fill. Sounds boring but this is important if I am going to work and write non reactively. Usually I do all this at 5am but today an early start.
I am doing this Important work in the morning as every morning when I wake, to avoid conversations with my daily reaction guru. In these morning times I don’t speak to anyone, don’t check emails. I want to write in the period between sleep (fully in my highest consciousness) and when I need to interact with the world. In this mid zone, I can’t be dealing with a reactive guru.
Second solution to reaction: reduce unnecessary worry.
Reactive Gurus can be worry induced through poor self leadership. Things like; a sore foot, a worry about unfinished work, a deadline or even a plane to catch – all these can become unnecessary sources of reaction. From the start of the day to the finish we can have 000,000s reactive moments, or none. If you master routine and schedule you can have less. You can avoid allot of worry and unnecessary reactions, by caring for your routine. Regular routine, daily planning, taking notes, all essential stuff for reducing reactions. Just like my pilot friend.
Third, reducing reactions, think before you speak.
Anything a leader reacts to is leading the leader. If you react to a mosquito with annoyance, the mosquito has become your leader. If, for example, you were to insult someone because they are getting under your skin, they have become your leader. If you react to your kids being naughty then they are your leader.
Sometimes we give our leadership power to the most ridiculous things like an article in the news about something we can’t do anything about. Or jealousy, or envy, or anger, or fear or guilt. As soon as we feel an emotions towards something, it has become our guru. And when that is in your awareness you will become 1000% committed to evolving.
When something triggers you, whether it’s a real thing, a physical thing or just a mental thing, there is a golden gift from the universe saying, “EVOLVEYABASTARD” – my joke language for saying “grow up and put your big pants on.” Reaction is a sign from nature that you are being led by the nose by something other than your stated purpose in life, something other than your process to success, something other than the love for life and care for the people you lead.
When I say I have come to the computer here this morning to write and been prepared to not meet my gurus, I don’t mean I shun them when they suddenly appear and the day begins. One of the two sleeping children just woke and came to the desk to get a morning hug. Dishevelled and still mostly asleep, I don’t feel distracted or reactive that my writing time is disturbed and therefore, I still have no guru today. But if I was annoyed and defensive and reacted by sending her away, she would have become my leader, my guru. Anything we react to leads us.
Yesterday after coaching finished at 6.30pm I became aware of a tension in my body. I became aware that I needed to pack my gravel bike for the flight to Tasmania this morning and that can be complex for the first time. (new bike and new bag). Instead of letting that feeling of tension fester, I went for a good hard walk, smelt the rain and sea, came back and packed it. I could have slept on it and done it today but then, this morning, my mind would be on that tension building before the flight.
When I did pack the bike it was a huge challenge and for a while, my thoughts were to leave the bike at home. The bike and packing became my guru. I slowed my heart rate, found a solution to the fact the bike doesn’t fit the bag and by 9pm was ready for dinner. I stayed on top of it cool calm and collected.
At work, your boss can be your bike packing. At home a partner can become your bike packing. Those can become things that don’t go to plan and you have to find a way to stay cool, calm and collected when it’s not what you want and this is how you evolve. You learn a process.
Fourth way not to react; have a target mindset.
When a person explores their deeper leadership consciousness they begin to experience a feeling of “I”- ness, which is a part of a larger world than simply, ‘me.’
What you think are like the clothes you put on each day. These clothes are your personality, your ego. You can take off the those identity clothes and can be non reactive anytime. But if you don’t know what the clothes are it is impossible to take them off. If you do not know how your reactions are hidden in them; you do not know how to take them off, to be truthful. Sometimes we have been indulging ourselves, reacting to people, judgements and feelings for so long, for years of our lives, we have forgotten that we are in clothes, that our reactions are not really us. It is so easy to become so identified with the reactions, our clothes, that we don’t even recognize them as clothes. You think these clothes are you. And that is the main barrier.
So, we have what can only be described as a work suit. Balanced, centred, calm, three important non reactive filters to think through that guarantee non reaction, good leadership.
Fifth principle of non reaction; Learning to be alone
If I want to understand something, I must observe, I must not criticize, I must not condemn, I must not pursue it as pleasure or avoid it as non-pleasure. Non reaction means; There must merely be the silent observation of a fact. There is no end in view but awareness of everything as it arises. That observation and the understanding of that observation cease when there is reaction.
Aloneness is not loneliness. They are one in the same however, one is beneficial and the other an infliction. In city life we must be alone, alone from all influences, from all compulsions, from all demands, longings, hopes, so that the mind is no longer in the action of frustration.
Aloneness is essential, it is a leadership thing. But the mind cannot come to it with a city built understanding of it. The whole problem of aloneness is that it is not seen for it’s worth. All people are, at times lonely, but for those whose city life does not embrace it, they spend so much of their life trying to escape it, and in that life, all activities are the activities of countering frustration. However, a non reactive person is not afraid of aloneness, it is for them an opportunity to strip off, get naked, feel things, know things without compulsion to act or react.
Great composers, artists and inventor’s have always had the capacity to be alone for extended periods of time. The greater their achievements, the more alone they were. Edison, lived, ate and slept in his workshop laboratory for weeks at a time. Interruptions would bring his mind back to the surface layers, so he would immerse himself in the inspiration of silence for days at a time.
To be alone, to allow the mind to pass from its workday layers down to the universal sea, is the secret.
Non reaction requires a comfort with hesitancy. This comfort can be so essential to discovery, to further understanding; but how can there be hesitancy when we know so much, when our minds are so full, when the self- protective armor is so highly polished and all the cracks are sealed from within? What perspective are we left with when life is measured in steps, kilojoules, payments and schedules? What connection to the trillions of stars is possible from within the threatening dimension of streets, cars, noise and competition for resources. This city dweller will smoke and drink and pray and meditate and read in order to survive, a self serving strategy of coping, and all this causes reaction based lifestyles.