In Part 1 of this article, we explored how self-observation is a powerful tool for rewiring yourself for better leadership and a healthier life. Now the question is:
How do you become a better observer of yourself?
Start with the amazing domains of you
You are a living laboratory for learning! As a human being, you exist and experience life in (at least) three domains—language, emotions, and a physical body—excellent sources of nonstop feedback for your growth. More than fifteen years ago, one of my teachers, Newfield Network president Julio Olalla, drove this concept home in my approaches as an ontological coach, and his wisdom still sticks with me today.
- Language: This cognitive domain includes the private and public stories you tell about yourself, others, situations, and the world around you. It encompasses your values, morals, thought processes, interpretations, anticipations, biases—the worldviews and narratives you hold about your past, present, and future. Human beings always inhabit some sort of perspective; it is in this domain of language where we strive to make sense of our lives.
- Emotion: This domain of feelings spans the gamut—grief to joy, hope to gloom. The emotion you’re in predisposes you to behave in certain ways while it cuts off other possibilities. Just consider: when you feel appreciative, extending positive feedback to a teammate or life partner is a natural act, yet one that’s practically unavailable when you’re angry.
- Body: Flesh and bones, physiological processes, physical posture, biorhythms, and everything else that makes you a physical being. Pinch yourself—you’ve touched the domain of the body. I often prefer the word soma for this category because it implies the body holds a deeper wisdom. What shows up in the body—whether pains, physical sensations, pulses, or patterns—is quite often a direct window into areas where we are unconscious. We are often so defined by our language and emotions, when our body talks we fail to listen.
These three domains aren’t disconnected in reality—each of us exists as a whole person. But they offer valuable distinctions when it comes to keenly observing ourselves.
When we pay better attention to ourselves, we can achieve better results
You bring your whole self—all three domains—to every moment in life. You cannot NOT do so. Yet most of us are blind to our ways of experiencing the world, unaware of how our language, our emotions, and our body shape what and how we perceive the moment we’re in, and the resulting actions we choose.
If you want different results in life and work, however, this blindness becomes an opportunity. Maybe you desire more energy in how you lead, or a stronger relationship with your children. Perhaps you want to relate to your aging parents with greater compassion, or get better at building a thriving work-team. The gap between what you most want and what you experience today is your path for growth. Olalla suggests walking down that path starts first with your ability to see:
“When you are able to see differently, you are able to intervene differently.”
The skill of self-observation invites you, then, to take notice of yourself in a new light—and when you do you become a fertile ground for bringing forth healthier, more productive frames of reality from which to live, relate, and lead.
Ready? Give it a try!
For a moment, turn your attention inward. Become present to the state of your language, body, and emotions using these reflective questions:
- Language: What do you notice about your internal thinking and outer speaking? What percentage of your language is positive? Negative? Inviting or closed? How open are your beliefs to questioning? Where does your thinking predominantly focus—on the past, present or future?
- Body: What do you notice about your body? As you scan your physical presence from the crown of your head down to your toes, where are areas of tension, stress, or numbness, if any? What do you notice about your posture? The quality of your breathing? Your energy overall?
- Emotion: Emotional intelligence expert Harvey Deutschendorf rightly claims being aware of your emotional state is one of the top strategies for fostering better conversations with others. It’s also a vital strategy for enhancing your relationship with yourself. What do you notice about your emotions? Are they generally expansive, contractive, or somewhere in between? Do you flow through a range of emotions, or do you feel predominantly stuck in one?
Make a few notes about how each domain is influencing your current experience in life and work, including your perceptions, actions, and the results you achieve.
The ultimate key for making this consciousness-building practice work well for you? Bring a compassionate, nonjudgmental attitude to it. Like every one of us, you’re continuously evolving!
Your charge as a mindful and conscientious leader
Self-observation can lead to self-change. As you become more grounded in this mindfulness skill as a leadership practice, you’ll see what a generative field you’ve sowed for positive, life-enhancing activity. A natural next step in your charge as a leader is to bring this capability forward by cultivating observation skills in others.
One of your leadership tasks is to generate a workforce fueled by open-minded thinking and constructive conversations, high energy and physical health, and emotional trust, connection, and wellbeing. This means fostering strength and vitality in all three domains to make thriving an authentic part of your organization’s culture. Perhaps Aetna’s Chief Mindfulness Officer Andy Lee and Director of Mindfulness Cheryl Jones said it best in my recent interview with them:
“We believe when you’re fully present with what you’re doing—when you are mindful—it resonates throughout the organization. Yes, it affects a person’s physical and emotional wellness, but it also strengthens the sense of compassion and connection between people, leads to more ethical behavior, and improves organizational performance.”
When, through your leadership, people get better at sensing what’s happening in real-life, real-time, and they become more capable of choosing inspired, life-sustaining, and productive responses, you are radically serving your organization and humankind.
If you’d like to learn more about our approaches to build thriving leaders and organizations, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rewiring Yourself For Better Leadership And A Healthier Life (Part 1)
- Companies Are Going Net Positive. Are You?
- Shifting From Reactivity To Wellbeing
- What Do Rebellion, Transformation, And Wellbeing Have In Common?
- The Existential Fuel Of Leadership? A Meaningful Purpose
- The Lonely Leader: Longing For Belonging
- The Path Of The Evolving Leader: Leadership As Practice
- Is The Planet Ready For A Different Way Of Leading?
- Ready To Boost Leader Effectiveness And Wisdom? Try Mindfulness!
- Leading From Authenticity: Boosting Your Energy, Impact, and Wellbeing
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