“Anxiety is unfocused fear.”-Dr. Arthur Brooks

Many report to having anxiety. They report trouble sleeping. Feeling exhausted physically and mentally. The number of people that are on anti-anxiety medication is mind blowing. Anxiety can take over our minds and bodies leaving us depleted and incapacitated.

Yet have we ever tried to identify the real source of our anxiety? When we feel anxiety, it’s often very ambiguous. We know we’re afraid, but it is difficult to identify the real reason. The brain craves certainty above all else. So when the future and the outcome are unknown, the brain goes into panic mode.
“The brain mistakes ambiguity for danger.”- Dr. Bill Anton

When feeling anxious, a powerful tactic is first to “Focus Your Fear”.
-Identify the fear.
-Name the fear.
-What is the real fear that is causing me to feel this way?

Strategic Tip: Put your fears into words through writing or speaking. Specifically writing stimulates a part of the brain that is associated with rational thought.

I feel anxious. Why?
Because cashflow is tight in the business and I don’t know what is going to happen. (source of fear)

If cashflow is tight in the business, what are some real possible scenarios? (and then what?)
Example 1: Our Rational brain: We have some sources of liquidity we can use to get us through this tough time. We could use X, Y,Z… If none of those are good, we could do strategy A, B, C….

Example 2: Our Emotional brain: The bank is going to close on us. We’ll have to layoff all our employees. We’re going to lose our house. My wife and kids will end up homeless. I’ll ruin my kids lives. They’ll hate me. We’ll lose everything. I’ll end up divorced. I will be a big disappointment to my parents and my kids. My life will be one big, wasted failure.

As crazy as Example 2 (emotional brain) sounds, this lives inside all of us. The unknown drives our brains crazy. It turns one unknown situation into an Armageddon that is going to completely destroy our lives RIGHT NOW! Guess what? The entire future is unknown, so the brain will continue to freak out forever, if we let it.

Focusing our fear brings clarity to what is real and unreal. It will quiet our mind. We’ll see that while we cannot know the outcome with certainty, it is very unlikely that the many terrible things in our minds will not come to pass. And if the bad things do happen, it will most likely not be nearly as bad as we imagine.

Practical Takeaway: When you’re feeling anxious, focus your fear. Identify it clearly by putting it into words, verbalizing or writing. This will automatically lead to rational, strategic thought.

Business leadership recapitulates the structure and function of early family life, where power is held in the hands of the adults. Because of this, it recreates an “at-home feeling” in those who feel disempowered and at the same time offers them a context that makes change possible. Business leaders who are committed to developing the highest and best potentials in their workers enjoy optimal performance and commitment in return. They can influence the “at home feeling” from disempowered to committed.

What better gift could the business world offer society than to be the vehicle for creating a context that once again enlivens us to create? This is a “win, win, win” situation—how could it remain invisible for so long and be actively avoided in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways? One can only conclude that the freedom to create stimulates the fear of the unknown and taps into a part of us that would rather settle for the known than stimulate the terror created by the part of our brain that interprets ambiguity as danger.

People are more likely to fully invest in what they themselves create. This is because our early experiences result in mental models which organize reality in a particular way. It is possible to value something created by someone else and commit to learning and supporting it. We can even master structures created by others but skin in the creation game is what engages us at the level of mastery, energy and engagement. What we create, we know and what we know influences our ability to create. That is the basis of commitment. There is a parallel process in relationships. Simply put, commitment to a relationship or organization is a function of the possibility of growth. Full engagement is reciprocal.

A limiting factor experienced by business is that only a small number of business leaders make the decision to “know themselves as they truly are.” Most of these leaders may have institutional power, but they cannot accomplish what they cannot “see.” They cannot offer others what they do not give themselves, nor can they create a culture that can know and liberate their own creative energy, especially if their relationship with themselves limits their capacity for empathy.

Without a “sea change” in themselves, what motivated their past achievements will determine the extent of their future accomplishments. This sea change is, and has always been, the sine qua non. We need a clearer picture of who we really are before we can reach our greater potential.

Here are a few leadership outcomes that may indicate that your level of self-knowledge is growing:
a. You notice people are seeking you out more and wanting your guidance.

b. You see other people as separate objects, not as narcissistic extensions of yourself.

c. You can offer others who seek your wisdom clarity without depleting your own energy.

d. Assuming you get adequate sleep, you can “be on your game” (i.e., maintain your “flow”) for lengthy periods of time and remain energized and rested throughout the process.

e. You notice that you have replaced “frantic energy” with calm energy and are more effective and efficient than you have ever been in the past.

f. Your emotional sense of well-being leans toward “mildly positive” throughout the day, and your hard-wired brain circuitry no longer has undue influence on your thinking.

One of the ways that we often avoid the call to uncover our greater self is through “busyness.” Busyness is different from accomplishment. Busyness can easily bring about a false feeling of engagement or self-importance.

Accomplishment that exceeds expectations is often the product of calm energy emanating from having greater access to our potential, also known as flow. The calm energy associated with flow is born in the pauses of our life—not in the filled spaces.

Optimal performance generally occurs at intermediate levels of motivation. In this state the brain is receptive to internal and external signals and adaptability and performance are close to optimal. It is important take pauses which are not wasted time but time that is filled with possibility. It is in the pauses of life that great ideas are born.

As I continue to read countless business and leadership books, I am struck by a couple of limiting beliefs that I believe to that remain unchallenged:

a. It is possible and even important to change people who work in organizations without changing their leaders.

b. Information and training alone will change mental models.

c. Once people know what is needed, they will do it.

d. If you treat people with kindness, love, and respect (as defined by the leader), their lives at work and home will automatically improve and you will have given them and the world something of immense value.

While these tactics might work for a subset of people in organizations, their strategic focus fails to take advantage of some of the most powerful variables in neuroscience and psychology.

Psychological literature suggests that information alone does little to create behavioral change. Yet thousands of people read books, go to workshops, and take personal development courses that offer information and exercises that stimulate us for only a moment and generate energy that often wanes quickly. But the experience and information gained cannot be put to long-term use because the receiver (in this case, the leader) is blind to themselves in ways that block or reduce any transformational value the information might otherwise offer. If the leader remains unchanged by the experience, it will have little impact on the heads and hearts of their followers. Only when leader is ready to “see” the emotional connection between their mental models and the experience of their followers (empathy) can the signal they intend to send can be received.

It’s understood that spaciousness is more conducive to creativity. But it is not realistic for people to simply raise their ceilings or build expensive additions to increase their home or work area’s space. However, the brain will respond the same to strategies that give the feeling of spaciousness.

1. Optical Illusions For Space
It’s possible to make a small room feel more spacious by using cosmetic designs such as vertical stripes on walls or other decorative means.

2. Reconfigure Your Workspace
Rearranging your desk to face into the room rather than up against a wall, can create a sense of expansiveness and open-minded thinking.

3. Expanding Your Perception of Space
Try incorporating decoration such as landscapes into your workspace. This is shown to create an relaxed, expansive feeling in the brain which leads to more creativity.

4. Emotional Connectivity to Your Space
It’s shown the having a positive emotional connection to your space will lead to more creativity. Do you enjoy being in that work area? If not, you’re less likely to produce creative work. It’s usually worth investing some energy into making your space a place you enjoy being in.

I spoke with a priest, Father Alex Steinmiller, recently and we talked about human behavior. Most harmful behaviors, we already know are harmful. Yet why do we do them? Lack of information?

People know they should exercise…. But they don’t, even if they want to.
People know they should eat healthy… but they don’t, even if they have good intentions.

We have unlimited information on most subjects, so it’s not that. Are we just not disciplined enough to change our own behavior? My mom always says that most “people would rather die than change”…. Even when they want to.

Father Alex told me, that if we want to change our behavior we need to analyze and eliminate the lead-up actions that trigger the undesired behavior. What situation, people, events, or patterns trigger this undesired behavior? Eliminate the lead-up actions that trigger the undesired behavior.

Analogy: If you don’t want to eat junk food, don’t have it in the house.

This makes sense, as Dr. Robert Cooper says, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Relying on our own discipline to change our behavior is nearly impossible if we keep following the same routines and patterns. This might mean altering where we spend time and who we spend our time with, ect. But it gives us a significantly better chance of making the behavior change we desire.

When I graduated from college, I decided to go graduate school to get my MBA. I made this decision primarily because my friends from business school were doing this, so I thought this was the path I supposed to take as well.

After getting my MBA, the expectations of “What I Was Supposed to Do” continued. Because I had an MBA, I believed I should go into fields like banking, investment services, investment banking, even accounting roles. So guess what, I did all of them. I bounced from job to job, field to field, never staying very long. I learned a lot of skills but the path I was following was very narrow. I never really considered many of my options outside of “What I was supposed to do”.

Eventually I became the CFO of a publicly traded food company before purchasing my first company at 37 years old and becoming an entrepreneur. I’ve been that ever since.
Reflecting back, I never even considered being an entrepreneur. I believe that a big part of that was the pre-conceived beliefs about what I was “supposed to do”. My MBA and my college degree were great tools, but I believed that they limited my choices. Of course, the actual degree did not do this, but I limited my own choices and my own beliefs because of these things. My mindset about what was possible and what other options might exist.

I think many people go through life this way. As they get tools or have experiences, they limited their mindset about what is possible. They start in one career path and somehow their identity is tied to it. They don’t consider anything else. “I have a MBA, therefore I must work in this field forever.”

We should work to strip away these pre-set beliefs and stay open to possibilities, instead of doing “What You’re Supposed to Do.”

“The Disease of Me” is a term I first heard basketball player, coach, owner, and general manager, Pat Riley use.

Just like basketball, Life is a team sport. Families, work teams, friendships, and society are all made up of a collective group of individuals that function and work together. In a perfect world, everyone contributes and as the team does better, the individual does better as well.

“The Disease of Me” describes when a person becomes focused on their own success or difficulties. Their wants and their needs take precedent over the rest of their team. Selfishness, bad body language, assessing blame, making excuses, and overall negativity are symptoms generally associated with “the disease of me”.

Coach Tom Desotell used to say that in every environment there are “Energy givers or energy takers. Lifters or leaners.” Energy givers leave everyone around them better. They bring authentic excitement and care to their team. They lift up those around them and help make others the best versions of themselves. This is who we need to strive to be and who we want to surround ourselves with.

Energy takers are the complainers and negative nellies of the world. Their attitude sucks the excitement and enthusiasm out, like an energy vampire. We all know people like this. It can be exhausting to be around them.

The very best leaders that I’ve observed spend a lot of time with their teams and their families talking about these sort of concepts. Avoiding “The Disease of Me”, being an energy giver not an energy taker, focusing on great communication and body language, as well as creating an environment where we lift each other up. It would be a wise practice to ask ourselves these questions regularly:
1. Am I being a lifter or a leaner?
2. Am I being an energy giver or taker?
3. Am I avoiding the Disease of Me or have I become too focused on my own wants and needs?

No matter how brilliant or talented someone may be, if they are suffering from the “Disease of Me” they need to be cured or removed because they will hurt your team.

*This article was written by Brad Binversie from the Exclusivia team, using the insights and teachings of Thomas Desotell.