As humans living in extraordinary times that are difficult for so many people, it is normal for us to be triggered and upset and to react in self-protection. As the world contracts, it is normal to want to do the same. But, what if we consciously lean in to make the deliberate choice to be open and kind instead? What if we all practiced the generosity of leadership? Being able to recognize your own self-protective behaviors in the face of adversity and to consciously choose your impact is key to showing up in Self-Leadership.
I recently had an experience while running errands that demonstrated the importance of being aware of my own self-protection and consciously being able to choose my impact. I decided to drop by the local nursery where I’d placed an online order a few days earlier to see if it was ready to pick up. They hadn’t called to let me know whether I could pick it up or not, but since I was already in the area, I decided to drop by and check. It’d save me some time if it were ready by not having to go back later in the week when I knew I’d be too busy.
When I arrived, I noticed that there was only one person working inside of the store and another person out in the back—the line was long and I could feel myself getting impatient, but still I consciously chose to remain in line, recognizing that there was nothing I could do but wait patiently or leave and come back another time. It was clear that they were understaffed and still doing the best they possibly could under the circumstances. Recognizing this truth helped me to stay present and calm while I waited instead of giving in to any self-protective, reactive behaviors.
Then there was a person who walked in, took a look at the line and saw that he wasn’t going to get immediate attention, impatiently bypassed the line and decided to wait outside for the woman who was helping another customer with a tractor. But, I was next in line. I recognized my frustration and my reaction wanting to jump ahead and explain that I was there first, but I still chose to remain calm and remind myself that they were doing the best they could given their resources. Fortunately, the woman outside recognized that I was there first and helped me first before the impatient man who bypassed the line.
What I found interesting is that the woman was still upbeat and choosing to show up in a positive way even though it was busy and they were understaffed. She was happily doing her work and very clearly showing up in Self-Leadership. Under the circumstances, if she had been in self-protection, she could have reacted in a way that would have been felt by everyone there—she could have been apathetic or snippy or anything in between but still she chose to show up and do the best she could under difficult circumstances. That’s Self-Leadership.
And I like to think of choosing to show up in Self-Leadership even when there’s good reason to be upset and reactive as “The Generosity of Leadership”. When you are able to choose to show up in Self-Leadership under difficult circumstances, it demonstrates the value of choosing consciously to be aware of your impact on others. It is easy to react in self-protection when things are difficult—it’s automatic and normal. But when you are able to pause and lean into the opposite choice of being open and expansive, you are able to consciously choose the positive impact you desire. The more that you (and all of us) consciously choose to be generous and compassionate in the face of challenge, the better it goes for everyone. Choosing your impact and choosing to show up in Self-Leadership is an act of kindness and generosity—it creates a powerful ripple effect that can be felt all around.
So how can you consciously choose your impact and show up in Self-Leadership even when things are tough?
Here are a few ways to help you choose…
- If you find yourself reacting to a circumstance in self-protection, pause and ask yourself, “If I let this play out without considering my part, is this the impact I want to have?”
- If you feel triggered in the moment, pause to notice and focus on your breath. This simple redirect can help slow down any self-protective reaction you may be having, allowing the space to choose differently.
- Remind yourself that you never know what one person is experiencing in any given moment and that you have the power to show up with kindness and compassion.
- Remember to forgive yourself for any reactions you may have. This helps you to let go of any judgments you are having towards yourself and others and allows the space to choose your impact.
You have the power to consciously choose your impact no matter what is happening around you. And it’s even more important as we all experience and move through difficult circumstances, here and around the globe, to take the time to pause and consider our impact. We always have a choice. You can react from self-protection or you can consciously choose to show up in Self-Leadership. Which will you choose?