I joked recently with a client that half of life is spent managing our own or other people’s anxiety. She agreed. We both laughed, and then we quickly sobered at the realization of this truth.
Every difficult conversation, decision, negotiation, request, compromise, declaration, or directive stems from a sensation that something needs to shift or be different.
Passivity or sameness in life can create a sense of anxiety as boredom can be a freedom killer. Others have anxiety at the mere idea of change, let alone living through one. Freedom can manifest unease and apprehension is born when
The problem is rarely the problem. The problem is anxiety and our response to it. When anxiety goes unaddressed or unexplored, it can fester into difficulties. Then it becomes a ‘whack-a-mole’ approach as we try to fix one problem after another versus the underlying root – our response to anxiety.
It’s like that one dandelion at the edge of the yard. It’s not hurting anyone, and it bugs you that you have a weed, but it’s only one. We think if we ignore it, perhaps it will go away. Three weeks later, it is shocking to see the yard overrun by gangly stems with heads of white fluff that seem to have spread overnight. Now that darn weed has hijacked your front yard, and you react to this new problem by harshly mowing everything down hoping unwanted wildflowers do not grow back. They do. They always do.
For twenty years, I have had at least one Peter Koestenbaum quote thumb tacked to whatever bulletin board is in my office. He is a master at redefining the role of anxiety in our lives. One of my favorites is the following:
Anxiety is the experience of growth itself. In any endeavor, how do you feel when you go from one stage to the next? The answer: You feel anxious. Anxiety that is denied makes us ill; anxiety that is fully confronted and fully lived through converts itself into joy, security, strength, centeredness, and character. The practical formula: Go where the pain is.
Koestenbaum also has a beautiful way of reminding us that we truncate our lives when we resist or run away when faced with anxiety. We must move towards it. We often have to get closer to the issue and study it; by understanding, it we learn, and then we grow. We may never be weed free, but we can create new environments that hamper the spread of weeds. We can also be intentional with what we plant.
Where are your weeds? Where is your pain? This is where you need to go.
Photos by James Peacock on Unsplash
Customer-Centric, Employee-Centric, Stakeholder-Centric, Manager-Centric, Rule-Centric, Child-Centric, Parent-Centric, Egocentric, etc. Centric behavior suggests that something or someone is at the center of all your thinking, conversations, and behaviors. We have seen so many recent examples of centric behavior that fly in the face of all common sense. United Airlines and various police departments continue to keep our social media conversations active regarding what appears to be overplayed rule-centric behavior. Just because it is legal or part of policy and procedure, hardly suggests it is the right reaction.
In general, I believe that every organization employs intelligent leaders and employees who at large, want to do the right thing. They want to be of service, follow the rules, and get their work done without causing problems. Unfortunately, some people have become unconscious to their centric behavior and tendencies. My argument is not that centric behavior is bad, it is just overemphasized when it guides all reactions.
In another life, when I worked as an HR director, I constantly battled my own centric behavior. If I sided with employees too much when they complained about their manager or the organization, I could be accused of being employee-centric and risk management’s trust. If I ruled for the managers too much, employees would not trust HR and think I was manager-centric. It is a tough balancing act that requires a conscious effort to see everyone and everything as unique while managing the policies and procedures that necessitate some type of consistency. Now that I work as an executive coach, I see first-hand how leaders struggle, as I did, trying to mitigate their centricity.
Some leaders have such a strength of empathy they have become employee-centric in their interactions and often unknowingly put their company at risk by not representing decisions as a leader or representative of their organization. Sometimes leaders are so conscious of the marginalized voices in their midst; they misrepresent the intentions of other leaders who have a different centric lean.
Then there are leaders who feel discomfort with taking a case-by-case perspective and rely heavily on what they can see, hear, and understand from a literal perspective. They rely on history and conformity and may be reluctant to consider new information that emerges, which requires a deeper level of sense-making and adaptability.
It requires a level of discernment to not become too centric. Effective leaders, who are committed to their own development, can hold multiple perspectives and see the relevance in each viewpoint without being paralyzed by the tension. Our world barely operates in simple terms anymore. We are lucky when things are just complicated as most of leadership swim in the dark waters of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).
Our VUCA world requires us not to be subject to our centric thinking and behaving but to become instead conscious of it so we can make effective decisions. Leaders need to be willing to talk amongst themselves about their centricities and work with their executive coaches to ensure they are not overly reliant on a certain type of belief system.
In what ways might you be overly centric?
Carrie Arnold, PhD, MCC, BCC
In no particular order: Author | Dog mom to Moose | Speaker| Reader Mom to human offspring Wife | Lover of Learning Leadership coach & consultant, The Willow Group | Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation