We saw many feelings of being overwhelmd, anger and hair-trigger responses during the 2016 presidential election. It seems that we are losing the ability to participate in civil discourse, and we have become slaves to our unproductive habits.
The ability to focus is almost a thing of the past. People text while driving, and multi-task while having lunch. There's always a sparkling object to get your attention. The brain is on overload, and chemicals like cortisol rush through the body producing a fight or flight response.
As a result, people are overwhelmed. Reports are late, tempers flare and decisions are weak. Most of us struggle to lead ourselves let alone lead others. We can blame it on the speed at which we operate, the seduction of social media and easy access to our own personal broadcast system, or we can become thought leaders.
We can continue in unconsciousness, becoming slaves to our environment, to technology and to our emotions of the moment, or we can lead change by modeling responsibility. Lashing out in anger takes seconds, while self-management requires discipline. To become a better leader (either of yourself or for others), you must learn how to live from an empowered state. Here’s how.
1. Identify the unwanted habit
Habits are either your best friend or your worst enemy. Habits either work for you or against you. To change a habit, you must first become aware of the habit and how it is detrimental to your role as a leader. Whether it’s unbridled emotion that erupts into drama, overstimulation due to social media, or disorganization, you can break the “addiction” to become more productive and more empowered. The first step is to determine what habit you want to change.
2. Create space
Once you determine what habit you want to change, you have to create a space between the stimulus and response. When you get triggered and fall into the old habit, take a deep breath. Count to three. Feel the urge that tries to take you over. The urge might be to lash out, use sarcasm, post an angry statement on social media, or eat something fattening.
Create space. Do not take action yet. Prove to yourself that you are not governed by your unproductive desires, and unhealthy triggers. The space you create may feel like a lifetime. Remind yourself that this is how addiction feels when you give up the “drug.”
3. Recognize the choice
Complaining, blaming, and angry outbursts signify a loss of self-control. Once you have reclaimed your power by creating space start observing your unproductive habits and decide which ones need to change. Consciously make a new choice.
For example, anytime you find yourself complaining, blaming or acting like a victim of circumstances, pause for a moment and ask the question, “What are my choices?” You can use the same question if you are a leader listening to an employee complain by asking, “What are your choices?”
Listen for the response. If the response is “I don’t have any choices,” keep pressing. There are always choices, but when we fail to recognize them, we remain stuck. When you find your choice, you are back in your power.
Conclusion: You are not a slave to your habits. You are the master controller of your life. Your brain has plasticity, and you can change the wiring if you identify the unwanted habit, create space between stimulus and response and recognize your choices.
Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of "Stop Workplace Drama" (Wiley 2011) and "No-Drama Leadership" (Bibliomotion 2015). Visit her at MarleneChism.com and StopWorkplaceDrama.com. Connect on Linked In, Facebook and Twitter.
If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader.