Using Awareness to Lead With Your Best Self


My wife and I tend to display the yin and yang of life. With her State of the State address tomorrow, she is completely focused on big picture problems and opportunities. Meanwhile, I have found myself at the other extreme, involved in multiple conversations about the microcosm of leadership, not about leading large groups, but about leading your very own self. Let me share one of those conversations.

I was talking to a woman who was frustrated by the number of people – professional and personal – putting demands on her. As a result, she was dropping balls, being short with people, and feeling increasingly unhappy in her work. I asked her about one of these troublesome commitments which didn’t seem like it should be so important. “Why not get out of that?” I asked. “I can’t. I made a commitment,” came the answer. “I appreciate that,” I offered, “but they may well understand and you can help them figure out who might fill in for you.” She said, “No. I just can’t do that.”

We talked for a little while longer, and she saw the trap she was making for herself. She didn’t want to let anybody down, but the result was she wasn’t keeping up, and all the pressures were getting her down. She realized that she was afraid others wouldn’t like her, and it was crippling her ability to succeed. I offered her a suggestion that I thought might help her lead with her best self.

Her fear was about not being liked, but we all have our own fear thoughts, largely unconscious, repetitive messages that play in our heads and keep us from doing our best. Sometimes it goes like this: “I really don’t deserve to succeed,” or it’s: “Things always fall apart for me, so they probably will this time, too.” I’ll bet you’ve got such fear-thoughts, too.

Well, here’s the coaching I offered this young woman. See if you can just become aware when that thought is in play and just notice it. It may have a lot of frustration or resentment behind it, or it might not. You may act on it – trying not to let somebody else down – or not. But just simply notice the thought. Don’t judge yourself for having it. Don’t try to change the thought. Don’t dissect it. Just notice it.

Here’s the wonderful thing that can happen with this practice over time. You start to realize, “hmmmm, if I am noticing this little mechanism, this tape playing, this reflex reaction, then that thought is not ME, but is a rut or pattern that my mind follows.” And so, a different you starts to stand apart from that mechanistic thinking; at first that “you” just observes. But increasingly that “you” that is observing will start to have a choice to think differently and to act. For instance, this woman could begin to say to herself: “Well, I could respond to that voice that says,’so and so will be really mad at me if I say no,’ but her new observing self could continue, “it’s also possible that person will not be mad, or that I can manage their frustration; and either way I can choose how I will respond.” Over time, noticing starts to free you to choose what you really want.

Why not click on my blog site and share your thoughts about the mental tapes that may undermine you, and how to use awareness to . . .

Lead with your best self!