Thursday, April 26, 2012

Legendary Leaders: Legendary Sensory Acuity

We were created with five senses. Given all the world has to offer our senses, it is a tragedy that so few of us seek to utilize and expand each of these portals of perception. We numbly walk through a world blazing with glory and beauty, ignorant of the joy and wonder that is constantly available to us—if we would only turn on and tune up all of our senses.
Think of the man who eats his food as if he were making love to it; the woman lost in wonder, while gazing at a painting; the young man with eyes closed as he sinks into the music he is listening to as if it were an ocean of happiness; the young woman running her hands across the silk scarf, behaving as if she were touching the Holy Grail itself; and the old man with the rose just beneath his nose, as reverent as a priest before the Eucharist.  Now. How many of these scenes were utterly incomprehensible to you? Those just might be your dormant senses: divine gifts, wasting away.
If you are asking what in the world exercising all our physical senses has to do with Legendary Leadership, it’s simple: Whatever adds to me as a human being, adds to me as a Leader.

The Soul’s Senses
The soul also has senses, or so I believe.  There is intuition, awareness of self and others … and empathy. As this is a relatively new thought for me, there are probably others, but the one I have been thinking about the most is empathy: the ability to perceive and share the feelings of others, to have understanding of an individual’s present psychological state.
We are experiencing empathy when we genuinely weep with those who are weeping and rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Empathy “gets” that the other is frightened or angry, jealous or frustrated, confused or stuck, and treats these emotional states with appropriate regard. We are not being empathetic when we speak or behave as if our thoughts and feelings are all that matters.
How much weight are you going to give my words, if you do not perceive that I am feeling what you are feeling? How much of my communication is going to find its way into your head and heart, if you don’t believe I have sufficient understanding of where you are coming from or the emotional content behind your words and actions?
Just as we can be oblivious to one of our five senses so we can be insensitive and unmindful of the feelings and hearts of those around us. How often do we ask ourselves, “What is she feeling – right now – as I am saying/doing this?” While such empathy may not change the content of our communication, it can help us adjust our words or demeanor so that our communication can be more readily heard.
I think a mistake we all too often make here is projecting our feelings onto those around us.  “That wouldn’t bother me, so, of course, it won’t bother him.” “This is really interesting to me so it must be interesting to everyone else!” And we don’t give our words or actions another thought.
Legendary Leaders turn up all their senses. Getting inside the heads and hearts of others is critical to effective communication and powerful motivation.  Seek out those senses that you ignore and exercise them. Learn to see more clearly, listen more fully, and feel more empathetically.  Find people whose sensory acuity is superior to yours and model them, learn from them.  Your legend depends on it.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2012 All right reserved.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reconnecting With Your Self

Okay. When we last left off I said I would write something on “ways to reengage and reconnect with your true self.” But before I do this …

One of the challenges we face as we get into our teen years is differentiating ourselves from our parents. It is a necessary and healthy part of our maturation process that torments our parents because all we can scream is, “I don’t know who I am but I am not you!”

You all remember the drill:

If your parents believe in Jesus Christ, then “I am becoming a Buddhist.”

If mom loves Classical Music, “I love Country and Western.”

If dad wants me to get my MBA and go to work for a Fortune 100 Company, “I am not going to college.”

If they think I should feel love toward my siblings, “I hate my brothers and sisters!”

Of course, it is not only a case where I take the opposite stance from my parents: no, that isn’t enough to show people who I “really” am. I also hate Christianity, despise Classical Music, think college is a joke, that sports are nothing more than modern day gladiatorial games…O, and by the way: I was adopted. For adolescents, it is not enough to go my own way: I must destroy your way.
Gradually, we discover that I am not my true self merely because I am not you. Not being somebody still leaves unanswered the question, “Who then am I?”
But what about those people who really never fully get through this process? Well, they become “the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude.” Someone else is thinking his thoughts through my brain; others are directing my affections; I am a slave to the wants of others; and I am utterly dissociated from my feelings.
So how does this person become visible to others? She can’t. She can’t because she is not even visible to herself. For example, if I ask her to write down everything she wants in life, after listing around 20 items, she draws a blank. And of those 20 items, she is faintly aware that half of them are actually what she is supposed to want, not what she truly wants.
The quest to discover and develop my true self is a life-long process. Well, it is unless you are comfortable with a severe case of arrested development. It requires times of introspection and reflection, as well as times with trusted friends whose feedback encourages this process. For some people, the process is, over-all, joyful. For others, it is painfully hard work, as it takes a Herculean effort to dig down underneath all the false personas they have taken on over the years.

Writing What You Feel
I think one of the more effective ways to reconnect with our self is by keeping a journal.

What did I observe today and why did it capture my attention?

Why did I say what I did to her when I was thinking the opposite?

What did I enjoy today? If nothing, what could I have enjoyed and why didn’t I?

What am I reading (books, magazines, internet, etc.) or watching (TV, DVD, movie) and what am I finding interesting?

What is going on with my career?

For what and whom am I praying?

How do I feel about all the above? How do I feel about my life: my world, my work, and my relationships? And how do I feel about what I am feeling?

TS Eliot said, “Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.” Setting aside poetry (sorry TS), I think the discipline of seeking to Name That Feeling, rather than evading it, is critical to reconnecting to our true self.
While writing about what you feel, dig deeper into the source of those feelings and you will discover beliefs, values, fears and wounds that have been stuffed away and covered over for years and years.  Dig deeply enough and you get to the life-springs of your identity. “So this is what I actually believe, truly love, genuinely want and honestly feel.” Some of what you discover will be thrilling and some things will be painful, but all of it is useful, because you can’t work on what you don’t own.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2012