Studies in neuroscience show that there are actual activities and routines we can perform to seize a bit more control over how we think and react to external stimuli and events. Whether it has been in our personal or professional lives, we all have those moments we want to redo. When the right thing to say comes to us moments after we respond. When we realize our words, actions or body language may not have been ideal. What if we could minimize the frequency of those moments?
Its common knowledge these days that humans only tap into a very small portion of our cognitive ability. Some of us may even fantasize about what it would be like if we could harness even five percent more of our brain power. Would we be better leaders? Better negotiators? More successful? Better athletes? Who knows?
I'm no scientist, but I do know that if we take decisive action in better controlling our thoughts, feelings, emotions and how we communicate with others we have a more significant ability to achieve better results. This applies especially to leaders and emerging leaders within business organizations.
While I was in the Navy SEAL Teams, we learned quickly that critical thinking, communication and decision-making were paramount to overcoming the obstacles that inevitably present themselves in highly chaotic environments. That every split-second decision could have a positive or disastrous outcome.
I believe wholeheartedly that leaders should spend considerable time in developing their soft skills in emotional intelligence and communication. Emotional competencies such as self-awareness, empathy and humility are not innate talents but rather learned capabilities that must be developed continuously.
But what if there were a few simple routines we could practice each day that would aid us in breaking away from our brain's traditional "wiring" and improve our outlook on life? There are! I refer to these simple activities as purposeful positivity, reactionary control, opportunistic reflection and designing potential.
I remember during the early stages of SEAL training called BUD/s, my alarm would go off at 4 am every morning. During those first couple minutes, a wave of dread would come over me in anticipation of the fun that was about to ensue. I would stare at the ceiling feeling sorry for myself forgetting for a moment that I was being given the opportunity few experience. I was living out my dream.
How we think and act during the first few minutes of every day can determine our perception of the events that will unfold. Most days are filled with both positive and seemingly negative moments. Little successes and failures. Dozens of different types of interactions with family and colleagues.
Do we have control over these unforeseen moments? Maybe not. But we do have control over how we react to this stimuli. Business leaders always need to remember that their every word and action is being scrutinized, discussed behind closed doors and analyzed by peers. So it behooves us to proactively control our behavior as much as we can.
Each morning, remind yourself that the day will be full of different experiences and that you can determine how you embrace those moments. Discipline and having a positive mental attitude is the only path to true freedom. Positively focus on the things you can control and ignore the things you can't. Leading by example in this regard will ensure that those you lead embrace a positive attitude as well. At work and at home.
Most of our personal and professional lives are full of events and interactions that cause us stress sprinkled with brief commercial breaks of blissful excitement and happiness. Think about those difficult conversations with colleagues you'd rather avoid having or that email that pops into your inbox you know you don't want to read. You think to yourself, "Do I ruin my day now, or wait until later?" We think these things while also knowing that avoiding conflict resolution doesn't work.
If we can control our reactions we have a better chance of shaping the outcome of these situations. When did a knee-jerk response ever truly lead to the best possible outcome? Sure, we have to take decisive action and make quick decisions sometimes, but what if we could take just a split-second to think before we react? To pause briefly before responding to someone. To check ourselves and make sure we think about how our responses will impact others and the outcome of different situations. Doing so helps minimize those moments we want to take back and allows us to put a little thought into our words and actions.
Remember, an organizational culture can be defined as how people on the team think and act. Leaders set the tone of the culture whether they realize it or not. So be careful. You have a bigger impact than you think!
Leaders who exhibit a positive mental attitude are often able to find the silver lining in every situation. Lose a big client? Now you have resources to focus on retaining other great clients. One of your key team members leaves for another opportunity? Now others will have the ability to step up and shine.
In the SEAL Teams, we would always perform an after action review, or AAR, after every training scenario or real world mission. It is part of our learning culture. When leaders take time to reflect on how bad situations or mistakes can either be learned from or turned into new opportunities, the organization remains strong and moving forward towards new horizons.
Successful people tend to find new and different ways to unlock their true potential. This usually involves taking on elements of risk, managing fear and channeling that energy into strength. We also have the cognitive ability to mold the outcome of our journey in reaching specific goals. Taking time to envision what winning looks like provides us a place to start. A place from which we can work backwards in designing the beliefs that need to be held and actions that need to be taken in order to meet or exceed those goals.
We need to take a step back sometimes and literally analyze the results we are currently getting in our careers and lives and compare those to the results we wish to have. Great leaders and successful people are rarely satisfied with their performance.
Envisioning the various "wins" we wish to achieve aids us in understanding the mindset, tools, knowledge and beliefs we need to equip ourselves with.
Practice these four things each day and watch the results unfold before you. Others will take notice and that's when the magic starts to happen.
Strength and positivity in leadership are just as contagious as negativity and panic. Which would you prefer?