Several years ago I was asked to distill our work down to its simplest form. The result of that process was four questions. It’s a simple way to grow in self awareness and take responsibility for being the creator of the experiences you’re having in life.
1. Where am I?
The conscious leadership inquiry begins with locating yourself in this now moment. Are you above the line or below the line? Other ways of answering the simple question include: are you in presence or the drama triangle, are you in a threatened state or in trust, are you in fear or love. Any of these, and many more, are simply ways to help us identify if we are in a reactive place in this moment.
I have found that conscious leaders become masterful at accurately locating themselves. Most people can tell when they are way below the line— clearly reactive and defensive—but discerning leaders can tell when they are moderately or even mildly reactive. They can not only see it in what they’re saying to themselves and others, how they’re behaving and what they’re believing, but they can feel it in their bodies. Self awareness is often the first step in waking up as a leader; one essential dimension of self awareness is noticing our present state of consciousness.
When people begin this journey we recommend that they use an app like Mind Jogger (iOS) or Randomly Remind Me (Android) to prompt themselves to check and see where they are. When the alert pops up asking, “Where are you?” simply pause, breathe, and check to see if you’re above or below the line.
2. Can I accept myself for being where I am?
Many of the great wisdom traditions teach that awareness and acceptance are the twin pillars of consciousness. Awareness is noticing, and acceptance is greeting what you notice with compassion. One form of meditation is to simply notice what’s here; a wandering mind, an itchy toe, and then accept what is here. If we notice that we’re below the line, in a triggered reactive defensive state, wanting to prove we’re right, often the egoic mind’s next move is to judge us for being this way. Adding self criticism to an already defensive consciousness simply drives us further below the line.
The practice here is very simple. After locating ourselves as below the line, can we pause and give ourselves one breath of acceptance? Breathing is essential. Remember that when we’re triggered we’re not really breathing in a way that supports our aliveness. Choosing to soften the belly and take a slow steady breath deep into our core while giving ourselves a moment of acceptance is key. Acceptance comes from realizing that we’re simply in survival mode. We are experiencing something or someone as a threat. We’re scared. The antidote to fear is acceptance.
3. Am I willing to shift?
Once I’ve located and accepted myself, the next step is to check if I’m willing to shift. You can’t shift what you don’t accept, so step three has to follow step two. Notice as well that the question isn’t, “Do I want to shift?” Most everyone wants to shift. If you’re in drama with yourself or another there is usually enough pain that people want to shift. Wanting is not willing. Most people want to weigh less than they do; very few people are willing to do what it takes to truly and permanently change their weight.
In our experience about 80% of the time the answer to the third question will be “NO, I’m not willing to shift.” This act of honest awareness and owning our “no” is transformational on its own. When we own our no, we step into responsibility. We are making a choice, a conscious choice. You’ll get as much out of owning your no as you will out of saying yes.
We created a set of willingness questions to support our clients—and you—to investigate the particular form of unwillingness that is showing up..
4. How will I shift?
The final question is how? If you are fully willing, then one of many shift moves will work?
We suggest you begin with breathing and moving, dramatically changing your posture. Then you can use any of the following:
There you go, conscious leadership in four questions. Let us know what you discover as you integrate these questions into your life.