Facing the Hurricanes of leadering and life

Hurricanes is a track by Dido – one of my favourite artists as I was in my early adult years in the UK and Europe. Her album Life for Rent released in 2003 was the soundtrack to my life as I moved from a Business Studies degree in the South of England to my first job in Corporate and Financial PR in the City of London, and from there to my earliest leadership roles managing teams and operations across Europe for UK tour operator Mark Warner.

Her voice is clear and pure, the melodies haunting, and these words from her track Hurricanes made me reflect… ‘Even once we know ‘what good looks like’, why don’t we do it?’

Let me not turn away
From happiness or pain
Just not to run away
In my heart and in my head
Let me face

The uncomfortable truth is we turn away from ‘good’ when it becomes too hard… too much … or perhaps too wonderful.

And in turning away, we make and keep ourselves fragile… we limit potential, progress and performance… and we place a ceiling on possibility and joy.

None of which makes sense.

So why does it happen?

When it becomes too hard…

Many of the habits, systems, processes, and mindsets in society contribute to making us fragile.  We are so obsessed with being ‘right’, being ‘successful’, and being ‘perfect’ that we try to remove any and all stressors from our lives.

The problem is, without challenges and volatility, we become weaker. And when the inevitable failures, falls, and obstacles do happen, we don’t have the skills or resources, we overreact and can’t cope. Every time we avoid the stress and challenge of discomfort, we make ourselves weaker and more fragile.

We make ourselves fragile when we always overprotect and avoid stress and challenge.

When it becomes too much…

Have you ever learned something valuable from getting it wrong?

When you look back at your most important lessons in life, have some – perhaps most –  come from times when you were challenged? When you were really pushed to your limits?

Yup, me too.

There’s little doubt – and lots of evidence – that we learn more from our mistakes and failures than from our successes. Personal disruption leads to growth. And that’s because complex systems – like human beings – need challenge and stress to thrive.

When we avoid small mistakes, it makes the impact and fallout of the big ones more severe.

When it becomes just a bit too wonderful…

What happens when things go a little too well in your world?

Do you embrace and enjoy? Or is the voice in your head saying, ‘well this won’t last… you’ll stuff it up… you know you don’t deserve this right…?  you can’t trust these people – they’ll let you down…’

And what about experiencing, expressing, and intentionally encouraging joy-filled moments? Is that part of your ‘best ever’ life and leadering development plan?

Well, maybe it should be.

Experiences that create joy, awe and love impact outcomes at every level of our lives: physical outcomes, such as immune function; work outcomes, such as productivity and absenteeism; social outcomes, such as quality of social interactions and relationships; personal outcomes, such as creativity and energy; and a range of psychological outcomes, such as resilience, self-confidence, and self-regulation.

It may come as no surprise that positive experiences help you to thrive. But it’s not just about the overall volume of emotions; it’s also about the frequency – like having six small meals rather than one big dinner.

We need to intentionally seek, notice and prioritise opportunities for ‘jolts of joy’ every day.

Until next time… 

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