As published in Forbes.
Living through a global pandemic has changed us. As we begin to re-enter, re-open and re-create a new normal, it’s a good time to ask yourself: How has it been “inside”?
Oh, I don’t mean inside your house.
Only months ago, most of us spent our lives in busyness and distraction: If we weren’t working, we were eating, drinking, in need of travel, entertainment, relationships, sex or drugs of various kinds (pain relief, sleep aids, mental health, recreational), all in an effort to feel okay or even a little bit better than we do. We just never seemed to be at home inside of ourselves for very long.
For most people, being left alone with only their own mind is extremely uncomfortable, if not downright torturous. If we want to severely punish another human being, we put them in solitary confinement.
What is it inside of ourselves that we just can’t endure?
Your mind may be full of fearful, anxious and disturbing thoughts that repeat endlessly. Perhaps, over the last several months, you’ve even wondered how long you can stand it “inside.” Has your mind been driving you crazy? If so, isn’t this interesting, that it was driving you crazy?
• You attend an important meeting and are so concerned with how you are coming across, what others think of you and how to get what you need, that you fail to notice what is happening for others or to really pay attention to what they want and need.
• A friend loses a parent. You feel bad and awkward, so you share condolences but otherwise avoid the topic.
• A colleague announces a success that threatens your self-worth, so you say nothing and begin avoiding them.
• You crave validation, recognition and visibility from superiors but never stop to recognize their need for the same.
Sadly, for most of us, personal concerns and fears consume much of our lives. I can’t see you because I am so consumed in looking for and trying to find myself, and then looking to see if you see me. I falsely believe these thoughts and fears are mine when in fact they are universal and, therefore, impersonal.
The opportunity for each of us is to observe our noisy, bothering mind. And, instead of running from it or trying to change and control our thoughts (and the bad feelings they so often create), we begin to see them as Eckhart Tolle teaches — as “the antics of a small child.”
Watch your busy, noisy mind.
What if, as you notice them now, you are able to think of them only as the antics of a small child and know there is nothing particular for you to do about any of them? Might that change your entire experience of life? Might that allow you to finally be free to do what is needed to best advance those you lead and the business(es) you serve?
If your experience is anything like mine, each day my thoughts seem to have less of a hold on me. Thinking positive thoughts over negative ones can be helpful. However, there is enormous peace when I actually don’t give my thoughts all that much attention. I simply notice them as I might (bad) background music — a little bothersome, but something I can easily tune out.
There are even days when I fully experience how my thoughts have nothing to do with me, as most of them were handed to me by society and those who raised me; I can see they are not mine at all. Better still, I can see most of them are embarrassingly self-absorbed, silly and downright ridiculous.
Previously, I so often took my thoughts as reality and then focused myself on what I needed to do to fix how I felt. Now, I simply disengage from the thought and realize I don’t need to do anything about it because nothing actually needs fixing. I then have the presence to deal with what is actually occurring: respond to my child, seek clarity in a business negotiation or notice how another is hurting.
I realize now that I am happiest when I don’t act on my thoughts but rather out of inspiration. I can tell the difference because my thoughts tell me I should or need to do something, usually out of fear of what will occur if I don’t, whereas actions from inspiration always feel exciting and spontaneous. They arise out of the present and are based in love and a desire to serve and expect and need nothing in return.
I also experience the greatest creative freedom and corresponding business success on the days I no longer take the content of my mind all that seriously. I cannot do this every day or for very long. However, I am encouraged by my own progress. What used to upset or consume my attention only a couple of years ago, I now barely register.
Being at home with one’s self just might be the only true definition of success. And how wonderful that it is available right now to each and every one of us.
Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.
For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.
Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our world has changed, rapidly and in unexpected ways. As the crisis hit, I offered and held pro bono sessions with leaders from around the world. And I want to continue to do what I can to help. As a result, I now offer hourly sessions to ensure leaders everywhere can quickly get the perspective, clarity and focus they need to lead themselves, and therefore others, well during these challenging and uncertain times.