One of the most stressful things that we can do is focus solely on what goes on in the world around us. When we focus on what happens around us – the physical reality, circumstances and the things that are happening TO us – we feel out of control and our stress levels rise. One of the primary tools of stress awareness and self-management is remembering to focus on the things that we CAN control – those that exist within us.
I’m talking about the things that exist in our inner world – our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs and values. When we successfully ground ourselves in these things, then navigating what’s going on in the world around us becomes a far more manageable possibility.
This is why self-management will always trump leadership. Before anyone can lead, they must manage their own mindset and discipline their actions. This is also the reason that anyone can lead from any position, purely by choosing to actively self-manage and by being a beacon to those around them.
St Francis of Assisi said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
When the world starts to look and feel stressful, and when the atmosphere, stress, circumstances or pressure seem to be closing in around us, we need to remember that at any given moment, we can still make personal choices about who we’re going to represent ourselves as and how we’re going to address the world.
It is easy to look outward and blame others for what’s going on around us, and consequently for the way we feel on any given day. It is harder, and takes courage, to look outward and then decide to self-manage first. It requires us to take hold of ourselves, remember the beliefs and values that we ground ourselves in, and act from that centre rather than allowing ourselves to RE-act to what we see around us. This is the seed of leadership – it is where every great leader must start.
It is the responsibility of each of us to look out at the world and appreciate the contrast that it reflects back to us. Without contrast, we can’t decide what it is we truly want. We can’t decide how anything needs to be different or better. Contrast allows us to tell good from bad, to tell wrong from right – and most of that is determined by how we feel about the contrast we’re seeing.
So this week, before you write off the incredible degree of contrast going on around us as something that triggers negative feelings you’d rather not be feeling, appreciate that contrast as an indicator of that which doesn’t agree with your inner thoughts, beliefs and values. Rather than closing yourself off from the outside world, step forward into it in a way that demonstrates how you’d like it to be. Before you wish that others were different, decide to demonstrate light yourself.
We are easily dragged down and our energy is sapped when we focus on the world around us. Bring your focus back to who you choose to represent yourself as this week, and step out to lead others in a better direction. Any one of us can do this from where ever we happen to be. We don’t need to be in a position of leadership – we can demonstrate light (strength, courage, happiness, care, compassion) in ways that don’t demand that others change, but show them an alternative and add to the contrast they see in their world.
When we focus on trying to change or steer others, we are once again focused on that which is outside of our control. When we focus on just being the candle in the dark, then we provide the contrast for others to notice, and choose what they prefer too. We can get on with doing things to the standard that we choose, rather than using others as our excuse to lower those standards.
Be the person who shines to lift the spirits of those around you. The easiest way to pick yourself up is to help someone else by extending your hand. Look around you and note with gratitude the little things that are right in your life. Begin to make the changes that allow you to shine from your own values, beliefs and self-leadership. Our world is what we make of it – decide which part of the contrast you’d like to be.
by Christen Killick
October 11th, 2021