We all want to be great people and great leaders. However, we have this thing called psychological baggage that can get in the way of being the best people we can be. Knowing, owning and reversing this baggage can be life-altering, and it will dramatically shift your impact as a leader.
Nobody can escape their own emotional baggage. We all have it, and it's part of being human. The hard part is that it determines our instinctive behavior; it's not conscious, and it's hard to know when it is triggered. The unconscious nature of this baggage can radically impact your behavior in ways that you may not consciously want. Holding onto psychological baggage affects your relationships, your mental and emotional health, and even your physical health.
In business, this can mean that you treat other people in ways you may regret, make decisions that you may want to reverse, or say things that you can never take back.
However if you want to be a great leader, you need to become more aware of your own baggage, identify it when it is triggered, and then attempt to reverse the damage. Here is a four-step process to get you started:
1. Notice it: Your baggage shows up as a heightened emotional response to a person or circumstance. This could look like anger, anxiety, frustration, sadness or a number of other emotions. The key is that it feels overwhelming to you--almost as if someone is physically pushing you into a corner. You need to recognize that it's a greater than normal reaction.
2. Label It: What caused the emotional flair? What is the deep-rooted feeling? It could be fear--that's a big one. Name yours. Once you name it, you can then think back to a time in your past where you experienced this feeling in the extreme. You might want to ask for help during this discovery process, because we are not usually conscious of these deep wounds unless we take the time to dig.
3. Consciously decide how you will behave: The extreme emotional reaction will create behavior that is instinctive, and out of your control. Review what this behavior looks like. In a heightened emotional state your ego often takes over and the only thing that feels right is stroking your ego and making someone else wrong.
Take time to think about the kind of behavioral response that would make you proud, not fuel your ego. Is that who you want to be? Decide what your goal is, and then figure out what kind of behavioral response is aligned with that goal. Now put all your energy into more conscious behavioral responses--it will be hard, but worth it in the end.
4. Work on reversing the baggage: The next step is consciously re-visiting that baggage and re-wiring your brain and emotions around it. Think about your history and your past experiences that may be contributing to your baggage.
It's not hard to train your emotional response once you can label them and realize that there is no real threat. Use positive self-talk to give yourself the kind of support that you lacked in the past when you picked up the baggage. For example if you have a fear of abandonment, tell yourself that you will never be abandoned and that you will always have yourself. While this can feel hokey, it's actually re-wiring your thoughts and providing you with a new go-to experience when this baggage is triggered. Do whatever feels right for you to help release that baggage. Self-soothing can take on many different forms but the key is to make it right for yourself.
This four-step process is simple, but extremely difficult. It gets easier with practice, and when you are disciplined with following it, the results will keep you going. You will be able to go from fear to peacefulness more quickly than you ever thought possible. This type of self-appreciation and work is fundamental to being grounded, at peace, and the kind of leader everyone wants to follow.