Self-management will always trump leadership as a productive focus that creates forward movement and growth. Leaders who don’t self-manage well don’t lead well, whereas those who self-manage effectively can lead others from any position without the requirement of a title. If we’re to lead ourselves effectively first, then managing our own mindsets and disciplining our actions are far more worthy focuses than the inadequacies of others.
When we focus on the external world and other people, we view only things that we can’t control, leaving us feeling, well…out of control. When we choose to focus on our internal grounding first – the things that exist within us and those which we do control – we start to recentre ourselves. From there, we can look outward with renewed strength and resolution, measuring what happens around us with a clearer perspective and assigning it the respect and priority it deserves.
The world around us can get busy and loud, not to mention that its constant changes divert our attention quite effectively. It’s a necessary part of self-leadership to call our focus back to our internal selves on a regular basis to regain that grounding that the external world threatens. When we spend all our time looking outward and taking in what others are doing and how they’re doing it, we’re eventually left feeling depleted and lacklustre. We feel unfocused on what it is we’re trying to achieve ourselves (funny that!), and generally lack any form of peace, feeling of achievement or purpose.
Acceptance & Adaptability
Have you ever come away from your day feeling like you fought your way through it? Or come away from a conversation or meeting with the distinct suspicion that you were not heard, and achieved nothing? How about that nagging fear that someone knows more about things than you do and you’re about to be shown up, or that you’re just never going to catch up with the changing environment?
All of the above happens when we focus on things we feel we can’t control, and look at things and people as if they should be different, if we could just figure out how to make that happen. All of this is a smokescreen that has us chasing our tail and everyone else’s, trying to change things that cannot be changed from an ungrounded “less than” position.
Acceptance of ourselves, of others, of the environment and circumstances around us is a first step towards centring our focus in a grounded and effectual way. This is neither a stance of resignation, nor is it an easy thing to do. But accepting ourselves, others, the environment and circumstances around us is the first step towards becoming an adaptable, agile change maker. Acceptance means recognition of how much of what we spend our time focusing on isn’t actually within our control, and choosing to change our focus to what we CAN control or influence instead.
To the degree that we look outwards and expect others and the circumstances to change, we give up control of what we ourselves bring to the table. When we focus on what we think others should be doing differently, we forget the virtues we’ve been placed in our current position to embody.
There’s a reason there’s only one of you.
If you were the same as the person standing next to you, one of you wouldn’t be necessary. You are a unique blend of qualifications, characteristics, values, beliefs, life experiences, strengths, and virtues – and NOBODY else thinks or sees the world quite like you do.
When we don’t focus on acceptance of the incredible gift that this is, and instead focus on everyone else – all we see are people who see the world differently from the way we do. This can be frustrating, depreciating and even hurtful if we allow it to be.
I’d go so far as to say it can be frustrating, depreciating, and hurtful if we NEED it to be.
It’s a funny, twisted thing we humans do – looking outward at others, noting how we are different (and somehow better) by taking offence at the way they choose to do life compared to the choices we’d make. We need to be right in the face of others’ perceived wrongness, without realising that focusing on what we bring to the table is perhaps the inspiration that others need to balance their own perspective. And when we deliver it in a grounded and gentle manner that is focused on adding value rather than proving someone else deficient, it is something that others can appreciate too. It’s a subtle difference in focus, but it’s a powerful one.
When we stay hooked up to our outward view, fixated on the way others conduct themselves rather than what it is we bring to the table, we diminish our own power and productivity. Our energy is expended on fighting our way through our day, rather than declaring how we’re going to own our space and add the value we bring instead.
When we start each day (and each situation we walk into, if we’re mindful enough to do so) by accepting ourselves for everything we bring to the table, accepting that every other person is a uniquely different blend of perspectives on their own separate journey and that the world around you today is a challenge you’re built to adapt to – THEN we can focus on our own powerful space and what to do with it. We can adapt ourselves in ways that we CAN control and choose, rather than adaptation feeling like something that is forced upon us.
You can regain focus and become more productively adaptable by:
Reassessing your character virtues
You didn’t get where you are today the easy way. We all have a degree (if not a wealth) of life experience. Some of it has been positive, and some not so much, but all of it has been “character building”. Think for a moment of three of the most positive life experiences you’ve had, and three of the most challenging. Write down one virtue that you’ve incorporated into your arsenal from each of those life experiences.
Kindness? Patience? Discernment? Diligence? Generosity? Discipline? What is it you hold dear?
If you’re not too sure how to tell, ask yourself what really irritates you in other people, and then flip that thing over. Sometimes we’re better at identifying what we don’t like rather than what we value. The things we value (and therefore stand for and portray) often come from what we’ve lacked in various life experiences.
These character virtues form part of what you bring to the table. They are part of your unique signature. Do the same virtues show up in other people’s arsenals too? You bet. But you are a completely unique blend.
Exercise an open mind
When we stop focusing on others and remind ourselves of the unique core we’re operating from; when we give up our need to compare ourselves with others and dwell on our need to be frustrated, hurt or offended by them, we venture towards acceptance that each individual out there is on their own separate journey. They, too, have a unique blend to offer the world and to bring to your table. When we focus on pointing out how they’re doing things differently with the assumption that different equals bad, everyone ends up in a state of defence from which nothing new or powerful flows.
When we go outward with an open mind that assumes that each unique individual is bringing something of value to the table too, we leave space for them (and us) to explore that value. None of us gets everything perfectly lined up all the time. Often, it takes numerous attempts and some shifting around to find the right combination of strengths – but our differences mean that we can cover each other’s blind spots and weaknesses – when we view ourselves, others and the environment and circumstances with an open mind.
Often, it takes being open-minded enough to tweak our perspective just a little to suddenly see the light of where someone else is coming from. Not everyone is practising self-management in the same way you are. Not everyone is reconsidering their focus. You may have the advantage here – so use your power for good and help to draw out the value they bring with the patience that acceptance and open-mindedness allow.
Practising acceptance (of self, of others, of your environment and circumstances) re-grounds you in your own unique gifts and strengths. From that position of clarity, we can figure out how to adapt to what surrounds us in a way that allows us to add value to the table we’re at. Adding our own unique value and appreciating what others bring to the table leaves us feeling more “in control” and self-managed than depleted.
Focus inward first. Self-manage before you lead. And if it helps, share that perspective with others.
By Christen Killick
July 11th, 2023