There’s an interesting stage of human development what I call – the desire to fit in.
This is the point where we attempt to convince other people to pay us a half decent salary and to do this, we follow the expectations of others, sacrifice our dreams, and do our best to avoid rocking the boat.
Unfortunately, this is where we pick up some nasty habits.
At this point in my career, I achieved my professional goals of landing a management position and was making just over six-figures.
However, to get there, I developed my fair share of reactive habits.
Reactive Habit #1 – Unable to say ‘no.’
My first reactive habit was my inability to say ‘no.’ Everything that was asked of me I did. While this strategy worked for a while, eventually I started to drop the ball.
Commitments that I was making “on the fly,” never happened. This damaged my credibility. In addition, I was working longer and longer hours trying to get everything done. My attempt to keep everyone happy was making me miserable.
I had a really tough time saying ‘no’ because I was worried about what other people would think. I had the best of intentions because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, and I was afraid that I would receive a poor performance rating.
The funny thing is that by not following through on my commitments, I was burning myself out, AND I was still disappointing people.
Reactive Habit #2 – Unaware of my hot buttons.
Let’s face it; I thought I was hot shit.
I had worked my way up to a management position within one of the big five banks in Canada. I achieved my goal of making a six-figure income and had built my own team from the ground up.
The problem, I was unable to manage my hot buttons.
We all have a big red button right in the middle of our chests, and when pressed, sends us down a path of anger, self-doubt, and anxiety.
That trigger might be a comment, an email, or just a glance.
Once triggered, our reactive fight-of-flight response sends us into an emotional hijack that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
Just a few of my hot buttons include …
- Being in the spotlight.
- An interruption to my regular routine.
- Someone cuts me off on the highway.
- Anytime my authority was challenged.
- Anytime someone in authority challenged me.
Noticing and learning to deal with emotional hijacks is an essential mindful leadership skill.
Reactive Habit #3 – Holding on.
I think a common challenge for a lot of people is that as soon as you achieve some level of success, you shift from growing to protecting.
And I was no different.
I had achieved my five years goals, and just like I did when I finished school, I plateaued.
The difference between now and then was that I now had something to lose.
I was afraid to take my career to the next level because I was comfortable where I was.
The problem was that I was also miserable.
We are at our best when we are growing.
There’s a part of our brain that thrives on achieving goals and overcoming challenges.
When this part is active, we feel the excitement and are energized by our achievements.
And when we neglect this part of our brain and let our fears control us, we turn into corporate zombies, going through the motions, protecting our tuff, instead of looking for opportunities to grow.
The bottom line – Always have a goal.
Top 3 Lessons
This phase of my mindful leaders’ journey was all about noticing and overcoming my reactive leadership style, here are my top three lessons …
Lesson #1 – Widen the gap.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor E. Frankl
The number one skill that you need to develop as a mindful leader is to widen the gap.
The ability to widen the gap between stimulus and response will start you on the path of self-awareness, lay the foundation for the other mindful leadership skills, and is essential if you want to move beyond your reactive behaviour.
Self-awareness will enable you to …
- To stay calm under pressure – you need to widen the gap between your fight and flight response and your desired outcome.
- To shift from a fixed to a growth mindset – you need to widen the gap between your negative judgments and staying open and curious.
- To become a mindful leader – you need to widen the gap between your automatic reactions and your positive behaviours.
Lesson #2 – Choose to play at the highest level.
Regardless of your chosen profession, your goal is to become the best at what you do.
Very few people choose to walk the path of mastery.
The majority prefer to live the life of a reactive zombie, avoiding doing the work, and settling for mediocrity.
Just by choosing to play at the highest level, you will get a leg up over the majority of people in your field.
Raise your standards and choose to become the best you that you can be.
Identify your natural talents and turn them into your strengths.
Become obsessed with learning and growing, being of service, and delivering value.
This will be your secret weapon.
Lesson #3 – Build positive habits.
Now that you’ve decided to become the best in your field, you need to build the habits and routines that will take you there.
Discover what the top 10% are doing and follow their lead.
Stop doing the things that are keeping you stuck and start building the positive habits that will take you to the next level.
Start with one habit, and then another, and repeat.
Before long, you will have established your own powerful habit stack of empowering routines.
To move beyond reactive leader is quite simple …
Step 1 – Practice self-awareness – the essential skill of every mindful leader.
Step 2 – Choose to walk the path of mastery and play at the highest level.
Step 3 – Build your positive habit stack of empowering rituals and routines.
Do you have a reactive habit that you are trying to overcome? Post it in the comments below.
How Great Leaders Become Great Leaders
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