In almost every workshop I run, someone will raise their requirement for empirical evidence or “solid proof” before they will commit to applying the tools and techniques that will bring them benefit.
We often desire more evidence that something will work before we are prepared to commit resources to it. Being willing to trust something without certainty is a red flag to the brain. Specifically, your anterior cingulate cortex is struggling to find an amenable memory connection to success and raising your cortisol levels preparing your body for avoidance.
It's like being a kid in the playground
Holding onto the monkey bars for dear life. You have to be prepared to let go, in order to move forward. (Let Go and Gain Control – episode 16)
It's what you believe might, could, maybe happen that is more or less likely to be harmful or waste something you consider to be more valuable, like time or effort.
Beliefs are similar to values in that they are part of our personal guidance system
Beliefs often inform values, and values, in turn, reinforce our standing in regard to our beliefs.
Beliefs are a critical part of what makes us who we are, but there is a distinction that I find helpful. A belief is something that we have no tangible, undeniable evidence to support. It is impossible to measure beliefs. We simply believe this to be so.
Values, on the other hand, are measurable and quantifiable in some form ? this does not make them all tangible, but the very fact that we place the word ‘value' on something means that we can measure it in relation to other values.
Bear with me as we delve briefly into the world of quantum physics
Have you ever heard someone, perhaps yourself, say “I'll believe it when I see it!” Whatever this is about, from the belief in God to the belief that someone will do as they have said they will do, matters not. According to quantum physics, we have to believe it before we see it. (In fact, according to the Bible, we have to believe first, then we will see!
Much like that kid holding on tight to that monkey bar, you'll find that many times you have to allow yourself to believe first so that you can do. Do whatever you need to do and then you'll see the evidence or “proof” that it works for you.
Well, your belief in yourself and using these tools and techniques is critical to their success
Let me take an example from the game of golf. Your belief informs your unconscious mind about any particular shot in golf ? and this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. your belief in your strategy, the alignment of the resources (people, tools, money) and that the market will respond in a particular way…
It is a belief. The evidence comes AFTER the fact… never before!
You step up to the tee on your least favourite hole on the course. You prepare for the shot, you utter to yourself “I will make this drive, this time, it will be different, this time, I will strike the ball square on, the ball will soar through the air, and following a graceful arc it will land right smack in the middle of the fairway exactly where I'm aligned”. Your unconscious mind is informed by this belief and promptly provides you with a swing that will support your belief.
How do you train yourself to do this?
You spend several practice sessions building a new belief about your ‘nemesis' hole (any hole for that matter). You visualise making the stroke, sending the ball to exactly where you want it. You do this in your mind's eye, calmly, cool-ly, mindfully. Not only have you seen what you will see with your own eyes, you've heard what you will hear with your own ears, you've felt how you will feel having made the shot, you'll taste victory and smell success, exactly as if you had achieved it. I'll repeat that, exactly as if you had achieved it. Let this be true, and it will be so.
By doing this, you are stepping into the future and acting as if you had conquered the hole and provided your unconscious with new images and new neural pathways to access now and in the future.
This is altering your belief
With practice, you will indeed step up to that tee and your unconscious self-belief is of someone who has conquered that hole and will do so now.
In order for us to improve ourselves, in any field of life, we must reach beyond our senses ? those of our conscious mind ? to what we can be and do with the vast, often untapped, capabilities of our mind. I'm sure that you have seen or read the metaphor of the mind being like an iceberg. What we see above the surface, the readily experienced part of our mind is a tiny fraction of what lies beneath normal awareness. If you consider that our conscious mind makes up only about 10% of our total awareness, we all give a disproportionate power over our lives to our conscious mind ? and it is our conscious mind that prevents us from reaching our full potential.
This is why, in visualization, we go beyond simply ‘seeing' a picture of our success to the full range of senses ? building a rich, realistic, high fidelity experience as if it were real. This is stepping into the future. And you all know that it is much easier to look back into the past and see what happened to get here than it is to see the future. Hindsight is 20/20 ? and stepping into the future provides you with just that. Now that you believe in the tangible, real, success of winning that competition, striking that perfect drive, chipping that perfect lie onto the green and sinking that 50ft put ? you can look back and see how you got there ? that's your training plan!
How does this apply to my leadership?
Excellent question. Not convinced by the golfing metaphors huh?
You step on to the stage to give your “Organizational Restructuring” presentation to a potentially hostile group of employees concerned for their personal future and the worry of layoffs. You have prepared, practised and given this same presentation to the board, your senior management team and even your dog. As you approach the centre of the stage, the murmuring in the audience deafens you with its silence. You take a moment to scan the audience… you have a choice:
- Believe that the audience will pelt you with rotten fruit and vegetables, screeching for your resignation, threatening strike action, or
- Believe that you are prepared, the arguments are solid, the data supports, the proposal fair and just and that the audience will accept this because you are persuasive.
What happens if you choose to believe the first?
- Guaranteed failure of leadership.
What happens if you choose to believe the second scenario?
- Success as a leader.
Why is this important?
Our body, the muscles that control movement, everything we do take their cue from our unconscious perception. And please do remember here that your so-called ‘body language' is altered by muscular contractions and extensions.
When we simulate an activity in a full sensory experience inside our mind, not only are we preparing our mind, we are preparing our physical response as well. We are practising in our mind.
When researchers measure the brain and muscle activity of sportsmen and women engaging in such “visualisation” techniques before an event and measure the activity during the event, the muscle contractions in the “simulation” show the same pattern of contractions – albeit to a lesser intensity.
Remember that vivid dream? If it was frightening, I know that your heart raced, the adrenaline in your system flowed, if it was erotic, you were turned on (hey we're all adults here right?)
Our physiology is the result of our internal state, which is the result of how our mind has changed the external events through our own filters, taken a quick trip through our experiences, wracked our knowledge store, applied our values and belief sets, popped down for further filtration, deletion, distortion and generalisation – caused a personal internal state and triggered a physiological response. Oh, and this happens in a micro- seconds.
And your belief in the future? That directly affects how you think of the future and thus what you are practising.
Believe that those staff members are going to pelt you with rotten vegetables and your voice and body will behave in readiness for that to occur.
The more positive self-images you build through repetition, the more intensely allow yourself to experience them, the more powerful is this self-image, the more potent its affect and the greater the impact on your performance.
Some people find it difficult to choose to have that self-esteem in order to build their self-esteem though. Indeed, many people are waiting for you to believe in them first, then maybe, they can do this for themselves.
As a leader, is part of your job to lift or enhance or at least maintain levels of performance in your team? When you continually remind team members of their positive self-image this will help them do so for themselves.
Believe it first!
- Choose something at work that, as a leader, is not your greatest strength.
- Making a presentation perhaps, or
- Giving your boss negative feedback, or
- Closing that sale
- Choose to believe that you are successful in this area.
- Prepare and practice before doing the live thing
- Do it!