Lockdown Behaviour Change Learnings #1…

So here I am with the first of three musings about the awesome behaviour change learnings I’ve been having during this pandemic. Especially the lockdowns!

The Notion of ‘Restrictions’

I remember hearing a lot in the media and from leaders I spoke to about the struggle, difficulty with restrictions. Totally understandable of course, a massive shift in context can generate much resistance to change. I wonder though if this resistance was a big fat ‘NO’ to being woken up to all the things that we may have been avoiding or got attached to in our leadership and lives. Whether this was being stuck indoors, not going to events, too busy, relationships that weren’t working, physical distance, working at home, furlough, not travelling…the list goes on… For myself I resisted what I saw as the lack of freedom to be out and about. I resisted the lack of human/physical connection, the mundanity…and in a way the push from life to be with myself and at home, A LOT…

What Constitutes Freedom?

Interestingly I’ve recently completed a silent Buddhist retreat as part of my CPD and was reminded of the enlightening difference in their take on the notion of ‘attachments’ – or clinging as they call it. This is where we cling to things we have developed an attachment to, including habits and behaviours. What struck me is the difference in perspective of what constitutes freedom. In lockdown(s) the perception seemed to be that freedom was severely restricted or pressured, yet in Buddhism they teach that when we are attached we (or more so our hearts) are not free. And is it largely our attachments to things outside of ourselves that create ‘dukkha’… suffering. Maybe what was really restricted was avoidance and the escape routes that we’d constructed…    

What Is Really Being ‘Locked Down’?

I notice in my own leadership resistance that what I was really avoiding was how I feeling. Essentially my resistance is to uncomfortable feelings that ranged from agitation, frustration, loneliness, fear, unease to boredom. I set about delving into my feelings, reactions and here’s some of what I uncovered:

  • Fears – FOMO…the fear of missing out, fear of scarcity, fear of loneliness, fear of being online too much. Fear that if I wasn’t ‘doing’ I wasn’t enough in some way or wasting time…
  • Beliefs – the belief that I was trapped, isolated, that the grass was greener in some future situation (especially where I could have what I wanted!)
  • Demands – that things should be different, that I had to know what the future was going to be, that I shouldn’t be feeling how I was feeling… 

For me the beautiful, life giving thing about lockdown was the awareness that all these things were already present in me and my mindset. Lockdown didn’t create these, it just shone a bright effing light on what was already present.  A massive magnification of ways I was already locking myself down in my leadership roles and life. 

I am oh so grateful for this ♥

Is the Grass Greener?

The other piece that’s really struck me, especially in relation to behaviour change and attitude is ‘the grass is greener’. I can really get into this myself…this notion that ‘there’ is better than ‘here’. Wanting to be in some future reality where we get a result we want, get to do something we want, get to become something we’re not at the moment. In Buddhism they call this an attachment to the desire of ‘becoming…’.  It really hit me that I can get into this internal demand – which then creates agitation – all because I am in some way attempting to insist reality is different. 

I’m also pondering an additional piece about habits, behaviours we get attached to in leadership. Even simple things in our daily routine or automatic reactive behaviour(s). This was highlighted on my retreat too and got me thinking about unconscious habits. When do we question the purpose of ‘how’ we do things, how we behave, how we lead? For me on retreat this was an insightful reflection on how we (I) can become a slave to an unconscious habit. A habit that may have originally been put in place to support me or my team, but now has become something else. Is the habit actually serving me/us now or have we moved into a state of obligation? There is no freedom – agility or innovation – in obligation.

Mastering Behaviour Change…

I work all the time with clients in the arena of shifting leadership behaviours, especially those behaviours that are limiting, creating negative emotional reactivity or unwanted results. The process of self awareness and delving into what is driving behaviours is essential to mastering them. The driver(s), in my experience, are never about the actual behaviours themselves but the beliefs through which we constructed them (usually from previous experiences). This process is vital for behaviour change to:

  1. Notice, Become Aware – bring the thoughts/feelings/beliefs that are in play up to conscious level
  2. Tell the Truth – have the courage to go beyond fearful feelings and tell the truth about the beliefs and the grip they have on us as leaders
  3. Willingness – to commit to practising awareness and consciously choosing something different. Choosing a different response which serves ourselves, our teams, our communities and greater reflects our deepest leadership values.

What You Can Ask Yourself

So here’s some reflective questions for you…

  • Habits/behaviours – what habits or ways of behaving are you holding onto as a leader that are no longer serving you? What would it take for you to be open to something different…
  • The Grass is Greener – what ‘there’ is perceptively better than your current ‘here’. Is there a future scenario that your mind has as its ‘salvation’ or ‘perfection’. What could you appreciate in the here and now… 
  • Resistance to Reality – what are you demanding, right now, that should be different to how it is? This could be a result, how your team or colleagues are or how a situation is. What is your payoff for holding this resistance? Payoffs can be things like being attached to being ‘right’, being superior, avoiding being honest, avoiding vulnerability, avoiding facing reality…    

And…I have the ongoing opportunity for you to have a look at your own lockdown reflections.  Here’s an invitation for you to complete a FREE lockdown learnings reflection exercise for yourself Lockdown Self-Reflections.  You have the option to submit your responses and have some feedback from me if you would like to…

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