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Your Head is a Nice Place to Visit But Please Don’t Live There

One of the secrets about dealing with change and uncertainty seemed counter-intuitive when I first discovered it…

Thinking can be dangerous.

As someone who likes to be thoughtful and smart about the actions I take (heck, my company name is “ThoughtAction”), my first inclination in dealing with today’s unprecedented world situation is to try to ‘figure it out.”

That works a lot of the time, just not right now.

As a professional executive coach, my studies have explored the prevailing neuroscience research into how our brains operate and deal with change.

The big learning:  the way our brains usually function to make our lives work doesn’t help so much in times of change.

To deal with the onslaught of information, your brain (and mine) uses what it already knows from past experience to address any situation. It makes sense right? It’s expedient and efficient. And, it works a lot of the time.

But, when we encounter something different, our brains apply the same old rules and the same old patterns automatically. That’s great for efficiency, but not so effective since the “same old” doesn’t work with something entirely new. Like the world situation right now.

Here are five tips for “running your brain” in a way that helps you and the members your team (or your family) navigate the unpredictable challenges.

Be Aware of Assumptions

Assumptions are connections or associations that we make between two ideas, concepts, situations, relationships or physical items. They are like rules in our heads that say “If this…. then that.” Or, its reverse, “If this… then that can never be.” We believe that two of these things must always go together or can never go together.

For example, have you ever found yourself saying something like, “The only way we can get this done is to get it started before next week,” or, “If we don’t decide this today, it will never get completed on time.” Often spoken with great surety, these assumptions aren’t actually helping in “getting it done” because they close out all other possibilities.

Watch Your Expectations

Expectations are predictions about the future based on our past experience. We may have expectations of ourselves, of others or of situations. However, they are only guesses and they shape our perceptions, perhaps in a way that doesn’t give enough flexibility. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I’ve seen this movie before. The same thing happened last time. I know how this ends.” But, do you? If you do, I’d like some stock picks!

Trust Your Head… To a Point

Confidence is a much appreciated, much sought-after commodity. Over-confidence, however, can get in the way of our results. And, over-confidence in our own thoughts and opinions is how we “get in our own way.”

We all have blind spots in our thinking and behavior. It’s part of the human condition. So, knowing that, it is good to step back from the rush and look at our perceptions, beliefs, habits, expectations and assumptions from the bigger picture. Yes, your head may tell you that your conclusion or your plan of action are best. However, remember that it may not be the whole story.

Embrace the Reality Check

Given that our heads may be harboring a skewed perspective, it’s a good idea to get some feedback and a reality check on our ideas, thoughts and game plans. We all need a trusted colleague, friend, coach, therapist or spouse to challenge our thinking and help us find the best approach. Who is that person for you? If you don’t have one, find one.

Be their Coach

Leaders…. Your people need you to the sounding board, the “reality checker” and the thought partner. This boils down to you being their coach. Listen carefully to what they say (and what they don’t say). Point out where their thinking or logic might be making assumptions or having unrealistic expectations. Show them where their confidence is well placed and where it needs re-assessment. Be the confidant.  Be that for your team and you will help them thrive.

More: Resilience is an Inside Job

#leadership #executivecoaching #newnormal