Many stressful and debilitating situations in the workplace can be transformed by a fundamental shift in the way we look at ourselves.
Most of us are inculcated from birth with the notion that the way we feel is determined by our circumstances, our environment, our situation – and in particular, our relationships. So that when we experience adversity, we are meant to feel negatively about it. When our circumstance is positive, we are entitled to feel good. It’s a no brainer. So when someone says or does the wrong thing to us we feel bad, and when they behave nicely towards us, we feel good. Familiar?
In my work developing leaders, I see this all the time. And if I’m honest, I live it much of the time too. And I experience these slings and arrows as oscillating emotion – a perpetual movement of feeling. It’s exhausting, and when the peaks are high and the troughs are low, it’s not much fun.
Eventually the dis-ease makes you ill physically, mentally or both.
But what if the reality is actually a 180° reversal of this assumption that we live with? What if, in reality, it isn’t our circumstances that dictate our emotions, but our mental and emotional dynamics that create our entire experience?
Now let’s get one thing straight – this hypothesis is nothing new. It goes back into the mists of antiquity and pops up in nearly every bit of philosophical and metaphysical thinking that has stood the test of time. Plato, Lao Tzu, Shakespeare, Blake, Emerson and many, many more. Even Henry Ford. So I’m not suggesting anything new here.
And it is a hypothesis – it’s of no use until the individual has experienced it her/himself, subjectively. But when one does, it can be like shifting into a different world –
a world where you are the Architect, not the victim.
In the business world it enables leaders to step away from the false assumption that they are at the mercy of outrageous fortune, into a quiet certainty that managing their minds is the only priority from which all else follows…
Now the notion that reality is a projection of our conscious and subconscious thinking, compelled into being by the strength of our convictions, is a lot to swallow in one go!
Fortunately, there is a stepping stone between these 2 alternate worlds – that of victim and that of Architect. This is it:
The next time something happens that would usually trigger a familiar, negative reaction, see if you can spot the gap between the ’cause’ and the ‘effect’. Don’t try to change anything, just watch. See if you can spot yourself choosing the behaviour in spite of the discomfort that comes with it – even if nothing is externalised.
If you even get a hint of complicity in your own behaviour (by the way, it’s easy to see other people doing it, but that’s irrelevant) you immediately create the possibility of taking responsibility for everything that you think and feel – no exceptions.
With practice you can progressively disconnect your habitual reactions from the events that trigger them, and start to choose from a much wider palette of intelligent responses. You may begin to realise that the only responsibility you have – the only power you have – is which thoughts and feelings you choose to invest your attention in.
This is the basis of Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness and all effective systems of personal development.
And this is the world of the Architect.