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Choose Where to Begin

Read Nautilus Book Award Winner and Best Selling Author Janet M. Harvey's weekly blog editions that pair with her weekly live webinars that cover her new book, Invite Change Lessons from 2020 The Year of No Return.

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Dr. Agronin, a Miami psychiatrist, wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal that “during the pandemic, we have all missed a vital part of our selves that is woven into our neural wiring and cannot thrive without real social connection.” While true, did we really need a pandemic to become aware of this fact of our DNA? Perhaps we did, to wake up and accept that we have a responsibility first to ourselves and then with every other human being we choose to relate with. We also have the privilege to perceive the opportunity for a thriving life that change produces. Perceive and pursue on purpose in life. This is one right answer to choose when thinking about where to begin. If you are like most of my clients, these words make sense in your head and at the same time cause you to pause and hesitate. Emotionally and physically you stand still for some sign that all will be well, that the change you are imagining is possible, for real, and that you possess everything necessary within you to choose and to act.

Besides social connection wiring, human beings also require a lot of instructions. Of all the species in the ecosystem called Earth, humans stay the longest with parents. There isn’t an owner-operator’s manual to be a good human being. Becoming masterful in life is an internal process that starts when we notice others we admire and start to mimic, such as parents, siblings, a favorite teacher in school, a camp counselor, or a sports coach. However, we learn over time that mimicking is unsatisfying and sometimes downright impossible to sustain. You and I are different, no matter how much you might admire me or any other person. Your way of walking in the world and engaging with life is unique, with a personal timeclock that cannot be predicted. You learn best through experiences that sustain your attention and the associated feelings of either goodness and ease, or, the exact opposite, which you choose not to repeat.

What do you recall about the last time you deliberately chose to look inside yourself and ask the question, “what is the way I want to live my life and what does that ask of me to negotiate?” Many are asking this question right now, 15 months into a global pandemic. In fact, an article on Bloomberg just today is entitled, “How to Quit Your Job in the Great Post-Pandemic Resignation Boom.” As a coach now for more than 25 years, I know you can choose without suffering through a pandemic or any other tragic, unexpected event. Learning is the place to begin. Learn to surrender your acquired perspective and worldview as the only truth. There is no question that what you’ve learned so far in life is useful and developed a set of capabilities and character traits that are useful to you. Yet, that emotional feeling lingers, leaving you wondering out loud, “Is this all there is? Is this really satisfying to me?” Those two questions are examples of how to look inside, to consider your unique and essential traits at the core of who you are, and identify what is most important to nurture now.

What do you think is your part in generating satisfaction and your definition of success in life? It is everything, meaning you possess the agency and authority to meet life on your own terms. You recognize this in your past in those moments that felt effortless, without struggle, drama, or politics and generated great joy. How come you don’t sustain that feeling all the time? In a word, FEAR – false evidence appearing real. It may seem straightforward and yet, it’s a bit subtler because you are wired to resist. Early in your life you learned how to recognize threats and that initiated a process to build capacity, strengths, and coping methods. You found good people to be in your life and identify resources you can access for support. Being an adult over time, you start to notice not all threats are the same; some are false evidence appearing real and do not warrant the unconscious habit to flee, freeze, fight or deflect an experience. These are all unproductive responses when you want to be in a relationship with something new.

To invite change requires you to soften your grip of the neural filters on your conscious and unconscious actions and allow a bit of experimentation and risk-taking. Stay alert for the effect of small changes in habits to build your confidence in making more small changes that add up to big changes. You might be thinking that those moments of ease and grace are evidence you are lucky. Then the other moments of struggle, not so lucky. Yet, you are the same person in both types of moments. Use this moment as you read that last sentence to claim self-awareness and get curious. Your self-knowledge of capabilities and strengths restores courage, confidence, and commitment. Your nature is now getting nurtured and you have rediscovered that you do have a growth mindset that’s been waiting for you to pay attention. ☺

Habits, preferences, and assumptions are the three boulders laying in your path that physically stop your choice to begin the change journey. These boulders create a comfort zone in your life and came into being based upon your family of origin, your cultural ways, your epigenetics, your life story, and your legacy so far. These aspects shape an identity that you falsely believe is all of who you are rather than simply a worldview you nurtured and then stopped being deliberate about each day.

Disruption causes a bit of sacrifice and you do have a choice about what you surrender in your way of walking in the world in order to step into a new way. Disrupt your habit of attention on purpose. Be genuinely curious about the source of your worldview and that of others you engage with daily. Slow down, get quiet, listen deeply, pause, listen again, receive something unfamiliar – your “blank” (not blind) space -- and be with it, open to what could emerge that is new and fresh. Practice for five minutes a day, and get comfortable with your discomfort to broaden your worldview. In a moment you will feel and experience a bit of delight because you are discovering something that is additive to your life. Your brain develops specific boundaries in your thinking and feeling to prevent reality from being seen as it is occurring (scary, unknown). That this is true means you have the power of choice to challenge your habits and preference and construct new reality day-to-day. The power of choice is your evidence that circumstances are only painful symptoms of powerlessness that is false. To choose where to begin, look within your heart and answer the question about what you want with the word, “ME,” my essential self, every moment, every day. That’s inviting change on your teams.

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Janet M. Harvey, MCC

Experienced with individuals at the Board of Directors, “C” Chair, Executive and Senior Management levels, Janet assists executives in adopting effective habits of perception and behavior to lead and accelerate corporate strategies. Typical engagements address executive development in the following areas: articulate and inspire through clarity of vision, enable respectful challenge, debate and catalyze synergy for strategic business choices, risk/reward critical thinking about investments and shareholder value, plan leader succession and architect sustainable cultural/strategic change.
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