We do not have a shortage of frameworks, processes and technology options that describe alternate ways of thinking and acting. I am always talking about human Centred design as a powerful way of working to solve challenges facing humanity. What we tend to overlook is the change that needs to occur at the individual level to participate in the new interactions with technology, frameworks of thought or processes of action.
With each new framework, process and technology comes an expectation, though often not explicit, that people will adapt to the change that comes with each of them. The new technology means new interactions, the new process means new ways of working, the new framework means new methods of thought. But what also needs to occur for this change to truly have impact and for it to stick is also the explicit acknowledgement and support for new ways of being.
I am often asked what I look for before I agree to work with an executive and my answer is always the same, self awareness. Our ability to change our being relies heavily on our ability to observe how we behave. If we can observe ourselves, we then have the feedback mechanism in place to make some changes. Establishing a reflective practice is the feedback mechanism we need to observe what we are doing and make changes deliberately. This is conscious living.
I’ve put some thought into what attributes are required to cultivate self awareness, as I am asked this question often when I speak.
In most of the sessions I run, at some point we get to a stage where participants will need to reflect on themselves. This is usually the most uncomfortable aspect of the session. In current times, we are not used to sitting in contemplation and having a questioning dialogue with ourselves.
These types of questions cultivates the ability of observing yourself in action. It fosters acute situational awareness that enables you to be an adaptive leader and practitioner. Practicing self observation also provides you with the feedback loop you need to assess whether what you’re changing about how you’re being is better or worse. With this you can continue to change and adapt as you feel necessary.
We are living in a world where change is happening all around us and at different paces. Technology is moving at break neck speed, while core human values are on the go-slow and everything else in between. When we are in an environment that is in constant state of flux, we need to cultivate the ability to adapt. A part of adapting is also about being able to reimagine who you want to be, or what you want to do, or how you want to behave. This gives your growth directionality. To have a view on this, to be able to envision an alternate ‘you’, you need to have the will to change, the belief that you are never really done cooking and the curiosity to see what else is possible.
Thinking and being different is not enough. We need to act differently too. Thankfully our actions are directly influence by how we think and be, but sometimes we fall short of taking action because this is when we must commit to change. It is through our actions we manifest a different reality. Our actions are visible, in the form of conversations we have, decisions we take, creations we release into the world, and the fear of the implications of these actions usually stops us. This is why having courage keeps appearing in many aspects of my work. We cannot be courageous if we are not first vulnerable. And we tend to do anything and everything we can to avoid the possibility, for fear of getting hurt—or failing.
By taking action we bed down the new thought process and the new habit of being. Without repeatedly acting in this new way, all our new thinking and attempts at being will remain just a thought exercise. Taking action helps your brain lay down new pathways, new connection between neurons, and the more we repeat those actions the stronger these pathways become until finally, after enough repetition, they become integrated as habit.
Being self aware, and having a reflective practice is the only mechanism available to us to keep ourselves supple and adaptive, so it is an essential aspect of any change that we embark on.
We need to pay attention to aspects such as these when we are thinking about building capability within people. It is not just about how smoothly a process is followed, or how robust our thinking is. If we don’t also change the way we ‘be’, we will continue to recreate the same reality, just using a different set of tools.
Humans are ultimately the source of our transformation. If we are to see whole scale transformation of our world, we need to do so at the individual level. To do this, we need to pay attention and be deliberate about how we are equipping people to make the leap to the ways of doing, thinking and being that our planet is requiring of us now.