Want to Grow and Develop in the Face of Fear or Suffering ? Learn from the Sages and Modern Day Research

To be a growth orientated person is a skill that can be learned. It is the basic foundation that underlies what we mean when we speak of having a high IQ or EQ. When we develop the skill of a “Growth Mindset” we actually change the physical structure of the brain. This revelation is based on one of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the last twenty years: How we focus our attention shapes the structure of the brain. Neuroscience has also definitively shown that we can grow these new connections throughout our lives, not just in childhood.

Want to learn how to change personal habits and reach your goals for change even in difficult and painful circumstances?

Everywhere man is confronted with reality of fate, with the chance of achieving something through the challenge of conquering difficult situations and his own suffering. The solution for finding this “inner strength” to overcome present pain and suffering is to focus on better times in the future. For example, when  working as a psychiatrist to the inmates of concentration camps during WWII, Victor Frankl found that the single most important factor in cultivating the kind of “inner hold” that allowed men to survive was teaching them to “hold in the mind’s grip some future goal”. He cites Nietzsche’s, who wrote that “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,” and admonishes against generalization:

“ Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, “I have nothing to expect from life any more.” What sort of answer can one give to that”?

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned and challenged by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual from moment to moment in life.”

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus, it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are also very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by action. At other times it is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation (reflection) and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes man may be required simply to accept fate, to bear his cross. Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is always only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand.

Modern Day Research Support:

One modern way to learn how to handle the situation at hand is to understand and use the future planning tool “IF…Then” thinking and planning.

Well over hundred studies on achieving goals reviewed by  Gollwitzer and Paschal Sheeran research (file:///C:/Users/mark/Downloads/HP_Sheeran&Orbell(2000).pdf demonstrate how effective and efficient “if..then” plans are in facing  life challenges and overcoming tough decisions, obstacles of fear  and improving performance to keep on keeping on in the face of difficult situations like pain and suffering.

In a meta-analysis the researchers look at studies on preventative health screening, exercise, eating healthy and dieting, to negotiating and setting other life goals. They found that a person’s positive intention to perform a behavior is the key predictor for changing actual behavior and performance”.  The key elements of success were found to be –setting in advance (intentions) using IF…Then goals for taking specific actions to reach your goal. Remarkably they discovered that the use of “IF… Then” plans and focused intention can triple your chances for successful completion of personal change goals. The aim of the study was to look at the gap between setting intentions ( concept of implementation intentions) and actual behavior of woman coming for cancer screening. For example, they stated their goal of the study was address this problem using Gollwitzer’s (1993;Gollwitzer & Brandstatter, 1997) concept of implementation intentions. In particular, we examine whether intentions to attend for cervical screening that have been supplemented by implementation intentions specifying when, where, and how the appointment will be made improves the likelihood of attendance.

Self- Coaching Challenge: Try using the IF…Then intervention when trying to change habits or reach personal goals

 

Part I. Leadership Research: # 1 skill for Becoming Extraordinary Leader

High-Resolution Leadership a research study conducted by DDI identifies that “the single most important skill of a good leader may not be what you think. Although it is important to be visionary and a strategic thinker, a new study suggests that it’s more rooted in their daily conversations and interactions with people”.

According to DDI research on leadership, the leader who’s most effective in having successful conversations is most likely to do the best in developing their team and creating a successful business. “By the end of each day, leaders likely have had multiple conversations with a range of their constituents,” DDI’s researchers write. “Each of these interactions will collectively determine their ultimate success as a leader.”

This conclusion comes from a report called High-Resolution Leadership, which is the result of synthesizing assessments taken by 15,000 participants being considered for leadership from the front lines to executive levels at 300 companies in 18 countries. DDI evaluated the data from personality and intelligence tests as well as from “day-in-the-life” simulations that allowed participants to demonstrate their skills.

 

Daily Growth Mindset and EQ Practice: Get Started Now with 5 Key Questions.

Daily Growth Mindset and EQ Practice: Get Started Now
“Emotional Intelligence is a way of recognizing and choosing how we think feel and act. It shapes our interactions with others and ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests that it is responsible for 80% of our “success” in our lives.” Jenson, Rideout, Freedman & Freedman

Learn to Connect with Your Feelings. Remember what’s truly important to you, consider others, and then move forward with positive actions. At first glance, it’s really simple, right but EQ takes practice and will not happen until you change your thinking and start practicing how to do it. Practice by taking a few seconds, three times a day, to go through these five steps. You can use these five questions to stimulate your motivation :
1. What am I feeling?
2. What is the situation? What options do I have?
3. What do I really want?
4. What is blocking me from getting the results you want?
5. When do I plan on doing something about it?

Part I : Ferguson Disaster–How the Brain can Hijack Reasonable Action in time of Threat

Daily Quote: “In the timeless classic of conflict and power, Le Morte d’Arthur, the young King Arthur is talking to Merlin about conflict. Arthur inquires, who is the aggressor, the one who strikes the first blow?  Merlin says: in conflict, opponents circle one another posturing and preparing to fight: Then one steps into the circle of combat, and in declaring his intention to fight, he is the attacker”.

Confused about Ferguson shooting? Take a look at what our brain does in conflict situation for potential answers. Ferguson Dilemma—Key questions: Who was the aggressor or instigator in this conflict?  What are the facts or evidence for what happened? What would a reasonable man do in the same situation as Officer Wilson?

Forget all the possible scenarios of what happened between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson during the shooting. The key question was What was Officer Wilson’s ability or in ability to determine in an instant what his reaction needed to be. I believe if we look at neuroscience research the answer is right in front of us. Wilson’s brain and decision-making was high jacked by the brain’s threat response—fight, flight or freeze. There’s a primal longing to conquer others and survive if the “fight” response kicks in when a person is involved in a conflict situation where they fear for the life.

In our own heads and hearts, we make ourselves righteous, and we make the other person bad and wrong. Michael Brown after the initial encounter by the car became the enemy of Officer Wilson.  Here’s why Officer Wilson made Michael Brown into the enemy — a primitive emotional trigger of the primitive brain, the fight response overwhelmed the brains executive functioning and reasoning of the pre-frontal lobe cortex of the brain. See more at 6 Seconds a blog on Emotional Intelligence http://www.6seconds.org/2014/08/19/the-myth-winning/

 Learn about how the brain gets hijacked in personal threat situations

According to world-renowned emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman, most of us are still acting out of the primitive fight-freeze -flight response, and that upgrade is long-overdue. Emotions make us pay attention right now– this is urgent – and give us an immediate action plan without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early: Do I kill, or does it kill me – you don’t sit around and Google it.” and that emotional response of the amygdala  “can take over the rest of the brain in a millisecond if threatened.

According to Goleman, the brain’s circuitry for emotional impulse outstrips the development of the “executive centers” where good sense, patience, and maturity reside. Most critically, the strip of circuits that can stop, think through consequences, and “just say no” to impulse are still immature. Maybe this the development level for both Michael Brown and Officer Wilson.

 

Today the threat is not a saber tooth tiger but a symbolic or physical conflict (Possible thinking of combats: Michael Brown–‘he’s not treating me fair or Officer Wilson’s thinking he is trying to get my gun and punch me.)’ but we respond with the same biological response.”Goleman calls this eruption an “amygdala hijack.” The amygdala is the center of the brain that controls this primitive “fight- freeze or flight”  response, and also controls empathy for the other person; when a person feels threatened, the brain can trigger an irrational and destructive behavior. For example, when Luis Suarez bites another player (amygdala hijack) in the World Cup game and gets 4 month suspension from soccer competition.

Zooming into the brain, our amygdala in the mid-part of the brain area called the limbic system which is shown  to play a key role in the processsing of emotions. In humans and other animals, this brain structure is linked to both fear responses and activated in conflict situations. These small almond-shaped organelles are the center of threat reaction system (TRS) of the “Fight, Freeze and Flight” syndrome.

During a perceived threat, the amygdala  begins pumping our neurohormones calling our brains and bodies to battle.  Our heart rate increases and our adrenal system activates and takes over any rational or reasonable thinking .We’re gearing up for a battle of survival. In this state, our brains our actively seeking out threat signals (the attacker is running away but he stops and starts yelling at the officer who interrupts this behavior as more threats)

Someone’s words are heard as threatening and this = danger. Mr. Browns makes a subtle move forward which is seen as a threat = danger. Officer Wilson was probably distorting reality by selecting information that reinforced his righteous position and perspective called the confirmation bias. If feels better to be right.  Literally​:  The brain gives itself a dopamine rush and reward for being certain that Mr. Brown’s behavior and actions are seen as life threats in our battle for survival and winning.

Unfortunately, in this context of reaction, in this neural war, to “win” means to beat or conquer the perceived threat of others.  To be “right” means winning by getting control and subduing others no matter what it takes. We make them wrong so we can be right​. The more stress we feel, the more likely we are to evaluate all signals coming as dangers.  The more stress we feel, the more quickly and powerfully we’ll jump into battle mode.  Unfortunately our brains love to be right –so we often distort reality and reasonableness to enhance or feelings of wanting to win and be right in this conflict situation. From the outside looking-in on this situation we say to ourselves –what is this person thinking and doing? Answer is that the officer is not thinking but has been flooded with emotions and feeling of righteousness and winning.  The only way to get back on track is to at the moment of attack pull back and try to defuse the situation. In this situation Officer Wilson needed to STOP after the first shot and regroup by saying to himself no matter what Mr. Brown does at 25 feet and wounded he is no longer a threat. He could have reinforced this by yelling STOP and adding I will get you help just lie down. This might have given everyone a second on two to pause and take less aggressive stances and maybe prevented the “kill” shots deliver by the shooter Officer Wilson. He could have challenged his confirmation bias that this another black youth looking for trouble and I need to straighten him out.

 

Self-Coaching Challenge: Significant Emotional Experience (SEE) and Personal Development

We all have a story to tell..What is your story? Below find your Self-Coaching challenge for the month: Exploring your personal story and the concept of seeing how a “significant emotional experience” (SEE) effects your present thinking and action will be a challenging assignment. A SEE may come at any point in your life. It could result from a positive or negative experience or a missed opportunity at any age. But as much as we all want positive experiences, transformations for many people result only from going through them and then facing the repercussions of the SEE event. SEE is an experience that shapes your personality and outlook on the world and impacts people’s thinking and character development. This type of experience can be triggered by events such as confronting a difficult boss or authority problems at work, receiving critical and devastating feedback, or losing your job. Or it may result from a painful personal experience, such as abuse, divorce, illness, physical or mental health issues or the death of a loved one.

Your SEE tests you to the core of your being. It forces you to look at your beliefs and values, examine your character and your behavior in a new light, and come to grips with who you are. Examined in retrospect, your SEE may become the defining experience in your life, even if you do not recognize it when you are in the middle of the experience.

Passing through the Cycle of SEE–or reframing it later with the benefit of hindsight–you will see the world differently, and thus you will behave differently as well. It is during such a passage that you recognize that your life not primarily about your own success or about getting others to do what you want them to do. Rather, you understand that the essence of being an independent and constructive person is supporting yourself to find more self-belief through self-awareness.

An example, of SEE in the work place, we hear a great deal about downsizing in modern-day organizations or about unengaged and poorly motivated employee or the midlife crisis of an executive. I believe that except for downsizing which is a euphemism for out sourcing jobs overseas, these events show that many people are bored at work. Also, they have loss their passion for what they are doing. Or are trapped in a dead-end or boring job. Dr.Peter Drucker, the management guru of the 20th Century, in the March-April 1999 issue of the Harvard Business Review, an article entitled “Managing Oneself” (reprinted in January 2005 as Classic in Management literature weigh in on this issue when he said: “At 45-50 most executives have reached the peak of their business careers, and they know it. After 20 years of doing very much the same kind of work, they are very good at their jobs. But they are not learning or contributing or deriving challenge and satisfaction from the job… That is why managing oneself increasingly leads one to begin a second career; typically by moving from one kind of organization to another; by developing a parallel career, often in a nonprofit; or by starting a new venture…”

It is a given and known fact that no one can expects to live very long without experiencing a serious setback or some kind of SEE experience in their life or work… At such times, a second major interest–not just a hobby–may make all the difference…In a knowledge society…we expect everybody to be a success. this is clearly an impossibility. For a great many people, there is at best an absence of failure. Wherever there is success, there has to be failure. And then it is vitally important for the individual, and equally for the individual’s family, to have a “plan B” in place which will support them in these times of crisis.  That means finding a second area–whether in a second career, a parallel career, or a social venture–that offers an opportunity for being a more constructive person who is respected for who and what they do in life.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Try the following exercise to examine how you have dealt with “significant emotional experiences” in your life. This exercise is straight forward but will provide information which is powerful:

Pair and Share Exercise: Stop and reflect on an SEE in your life. Write your story-up and share it with a friend or colleague to get feedback on your decision-making and behavior in this critical moment in your life. Ask them to give you feedback on how this event stacks up with your present behavior. What are your strengths in this situation? How does this event display characteristics of your present outlook when interacting with others, your attitude toward authority, need for fairness or status in life?

Want to Improve Team Effectiveness: Learn about Team Emotional Intelligence

Daily Quote: “Emotional Intelligence has had a real impact on individual growth and performance but the only problem is that so far emotional intelligence has not focused its research on team competency or effectiveness. The reality is that most work in organizations is done by teams. And if managers have one pressing need today, it’s to find ways to make teams work better”. Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff

“EXCELLENT” Meetings. Meetings are what bosses “do.” Meetings are de facto Leadership Opportunity #1. Act accordingly.  Dr. Tom Peters

How to make meetings more satisfying, productive and work more effectively? “Begin with the end in mind” or the vision thing. By setting a vision of what the team wants to accomplish and what a successful meeting looks like the changes of increasing engagement and having more satisfying outcomes increase dramatically .

We generally ignore priority setting or vision thinking in most meetings. For some reason there is pressure to get down to work quickly. This thinking goes like this “we can’t waste time on all this petty stuff we have important things to do”. So what happens is that most team leaders and members avoid or ignore answering these important questions: What is the most important thing to work on and accomplish while we are together this morning? Why are we doing this? What are we trying to achieve? Where are we trying to get to?’ What does success look like? How do we handle side issues that might come up? How do we get everyone involved, engaged and committed to what’s important to discuss and decide on today? What the leader and team fail to understand is how important it is to answer these questions not just to motivate thinking and members engagement but to guide how to use our valuable time together. Both “structure and processes” are key elements for increasing energy and productivity in meetings.  So my advice to those who are bored or frustrated by meetings is to –STOP, CLARIFY and GET AGREEMENT on what is important to focus on today.

Another important idea is presented by Druskat and Wolff in their Harvard Business Review’s article that the real source of a great team’s success lies in the fundamental understanding of group emotional intelligence. This understanding allows effective task processes to emerge like setting decision-making and communication norms and that cause members to commit to the shared established by the team. Their research says there are three conditions are essential to a group’s effectiveness: trust among members, a sense of group identity, and a sense of group efficacy.”

Planning and detail thinking are both about “how” to implement your vision, with planning being more at the 30,000 level and big picture thinking, and detail discussions are more ground level dealing with specific actions and commitments.   “This kind of ‘how’ to execute or work together is very difficult if you don’t have a  clear why these activities are a priority and important to the individuals, team and organizational imperatives.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Learning how to conduct effective meetings can’t be learned over night. To break the habits of poor meetings will take experimentation and practice. In the beginning instituting new group maintenance procedures or processes will feel unnatural or uncomfortable. So as a team leader it is important from a learning and mental stand point to stick with changes long enough to see if they can make a difference in your team’s productivity. Remember that ” A team can have everything going for it the brightest and most qualified people, access to resources–a clear mission and still fail because it lacks group emotional intelligence and understanding of group dynamics”.

So over the next month your challenge as team leader is to explore ways to improve your meetings through feedback and speaking-up. Start first by reaching out to team members on two questions:

1. How do they feel about the effectiveness of our present meetings.

2. Ask for suggestions on what needs to change in order to make them more productive?

 

Are Leaders Born or Made? Focus on Emotional Intelligence

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Some evidence to help shape and challenge your thinking

In a award winning 1998 HBR article by Goleman, the Father of Emotional Intelligence, laid out many of the answers for the often asked question –Are Leader’s born or made?  

In his research and study of many large, complex and global companies, he found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership—such as intelligence, inspiration, toughness, determination, and vision—are required for success, they are insufficient to describe the total picture of what makes a great leader. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

These qualities may sound “soft” and not “hard” business analytics”, but Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results. While emotional intelligence’s relevance to business has continued to spark debate over the past 15 years, Goleman’s article remains the definitive reference on the subject, with a description of each component of emotional intelligence and a detailed discussion of how to recognize it in potential leaders, how and why it connects to performance, and how it can be learned. It also remains top of my mind because when I understand that emotions and feelings enrich our lives it motivates me to learn as much as I can about myself and interactions with others. EI provides me with the opportunity to see life as an opportunity to grow and develop. I am motivated to risk and be curious about what I don’t know about the human condition.  As a result I become stronger in the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical spheres of my life because I am inspired to put “continuous” learning at the center of my life rather than living in the past or fearful of the future.

I truly believe what Bertrand Russel, a great American philosopher said. To paraphrase his thoughts and idea: Most people would rather go through life “sleep walking” and not thinking about the important work of thinking deeply, problem solving and taking constructive action about the things they value most in life. Remember there are many things we can influence and control in life and there are also things we can’t; knowing the difference and choosing to do something about creating a life on purpose and with meaning is in our hands.