Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Awareness and Timing

Hindsight:  Awareness after Action

The meeting room door slammed shut and Rachael marched down the corridor with her hands rolled into tight fists, her jaw clenched, her eyes reduced to narrow slits and her breathing locked.  Adrenaline surged through her arms and boiled in her veins.  Rachael had just screamed at her manager in front of the team and finished with, "I resign!"

The feelings of righteous triumph mixed with the adrenaline, so powerful it could melt through granite.

By the end of the corridor Rachael's legs began to feel weak and a mild nausea turned in her stomach.
Almost as though walking through a curtain into another room, her awareness immediately changed.  She felt dizzy and her body began to tremble as she realised what she had just done.

"I've just lost my job...

She was just giving me constructive feedback..."

"I've blown it! The mortgage!  What will I do now?  References?  My career!
Oh, what a terrible day!"

Self Awareness:  
Awareness in Action  

Rachael is sipping her coffee and listening in with her colleagues as the Sales Manager discusses the monthly sales figures.  On this particular morning Rachael had missed breakfast and while driving in to the office she had squeezed her steering-wheel in frustration at other drivers;  who seemed at the time to be driving more slowly than usual. Half-daydreaming and still sleepy from watching a late movie, Rachael notices the beginnings of a headache and thinks, "It's going to be a long day."

At that moment the Sales Manager turns to Rachael and asks, "Rachael I don't think I have received your monthly report yet?  How did your department go this month?"

Rachael's eyes zoom back into focus, almost squirting her coffee as she sits upright, with her heart pounding. Flustered, with rising panic Rachael urgently wants to escape from the room.

She can't remember if she sent the report or not and now a mental block is making sure that she can't remember the sales figures.

Then Rachael pauses and takes a breath; suddenly aware that she feels threatened because she is unprepared.  In that small pocket of time Rachael is able to regain control and transcend the chaotic emotions.  She calmly apologises for the late report and offers to go and get the sales figures from her desk.  The sales manager replies sincerely, "Thanks Rachael that would be great."  

On the way to her desk Rachael remembers the sales figures and brings back a hard copy of the monthly report for good measure. By the time she returns to the meeting room she is calm and prepared for possible feedback from the sales manager.

Disaster averted, though still bumpy.

Forethought:  Awareness before Action  

During the commercial break of the late movie, Rachael glances at the clock.  It's almost midnight and the movie is just starting.  She thinks for a moment about tomorrow:  

"It would be better to miss the movie and get a good night's sleep and be sharp for the Monthly Sales Meeting.  Nothing worse than being unprepared at those meetings!"

As Rachael cleans her teeth she runs a checklist through her mind.

  • Monthly Report  - yes.
  • Meeting notes ready - yes
  • Clothes ready - yes.
  • Alarm set early - yes

Rachael wakes early, does her morning walk, returns home feeling great and has breakfast. On the drive in to the office she notices some drivers looking very agitated as they speed around her.

She thinks to herself, "It's going to be a good day."

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Why "Grow Forward?"

A few weeks ago the bare twigs of the peach tree in our backyard swayed bleakly in the cold air.

They appeared dead from the outside, but upon closer examination you could see that little buds had formed which would soon begin popping blossoms. The tree itself functions with total confidence that the apparent desolate situation is only a precursor to a more favourable time.

This type of optimism is found everywhere in nature and it is hardwired into plants and animals across the globe.  Things grow forward with a certain confidence.
Well, most things... 

Many people on the other hand, lack the confidence to embrace change; kicking and screaming instead, or deadening their minds in a thousand and one different vices and distractions.  No matter that we survived the ice ages, created awe inspiring art, architecture and technologies ...and have even been to the moon, supposedly!
(Being born on the day that they blasted off in July '69 I have a vested interest in believing!)

The source of the problem is also the answer:
These big brains we have!
Both a blessing and a curse, depending on how they are used...

It is possible to think so much that we never do anything.
Or to react so quickly we cause large scale destruction over something minuscule.
I'm sure that you can think of examples:

- The "Will I or Won't I?  Oh, too late... missed my chance!"
- The sledgehammer reply to a colleague or loved one when silence and further listening might have been in order.

Unless we use a modicom of emotional intelligence it is possible to become deeply confused about our own feelings, tangled in webs of thought and apathy, while trampling other people's feelings and being a total social ogre.

Without engaging our capacities of self-awareness, self-management, self-motivation, empathy, and social competence we stand to lose all to the whims of our most primitive (and usually least appropriate) reactions.

Emotional intelligence helps people to respond thoughtfully, rather than react thoughtlessly.
The old "hindbrain" needs to be heard - while kept on a leash!

So back to budding blossoms and change-phobic humans...  it is easier to grow forward confidently if we know ourselves - just enough, to manage the emotions that inevitably rise and that can potentially destabilise our best efforts and most important relationships. Those same emotions can also provide us with vital guiding information if listened to, and responded to thoughtfully.

So much easier with peach blossoms ...but less impressive!