Our brains’ desire to keep us safe is our biggest challenge in leading anti-racism initiatives at work and in the world around us.
In this episode, you’re going to learn two key tactics for defeating that over-active safety mechanism: creating a vision for who you want to be and programming your brain on the fly.
I’m going to share with you some of the situations where I’ve been challenged recently and the thoughts that let me show up as the person I want to be instead of being held back by discomfort.
These are the tools we need in order to take advantage of this opportunity for massive change in our companies and communities. Let’s dive in.
IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN
- How our brain’s desire to keep us safe can distract us from driving cultural change in the world or at work
- Why setting a clear vision for who you want to be is the key to actually following through on anti-racism actions
- How to coach yourself in the moment to take action despite discomfort or uncertainty
- Identify an action you want to be taking but find yourself resisting in the moment. Notice the emotion behind the resistance and the thought creating it. Now create a new model that does lead to taking the action.
This week’s Podcast Guide is full of great resources to help you take action to be the person you want to be despite discomfort and uncertainty, including a step-by-step recipe for coaching yourself in the moment when you’re feeling pulled between taking action and remaining silent and printable quote cutouts so you can take your favorite thoughts from this week’s episode with you throughout your day.
(Want your favorite thought from today’s podcast on your computer or phone background instead? Just drop a note to email@example.com and we’ll send it right over!)
- The Emotional Leadership Podcast :: Episode 2 on why our brains create discomfort when we do new things
- The Emotional Leadership Podcast :: Episode 3 on vulnerability with yourself and awareness of your emotions
- The Emotional Leadership Podcast :: Episode 5 on the Self-Coaching Model
- How to Be an Anti-Racist by Professor Ibram X. Kendi (book), which has a great definition of what racism and racist really mean and the specific actions to take anti-racist actions instead
Exploring in the Moment
Our brains’ desire to keep us safe is our biggest challenge in leading anti-racism initiatives at work and in the world around us. In this episode you’re going to learn two key tactics for defeating that over-active safety mechanism: creating a vision for who you want to be and programming your brain on the fly. Get the full shownotes and this episode’s Podcast Guide at https://exceptional.vision/podcast/17.
GET THE FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPTDownload Transcript
Welcome to Emotional Leadership, the podcast for high achieving leaders. Because healthier emotional lives means stronger leadership, thriving teams and much bigger results.
Good morning! This episode is the second of a series of three that I’m doing around anti-racism work at work, and some of the topics that I think will help all of us be far more effective at that work. So today, I’m looking into how to coach yourself in the moment, and how to take those moments of discomfort or fear or uncertainty, and show up and take the action that you’re intending to take in that moment.
So our brains want to keep us safe. You probably remember this from Episode Two on Discomfort. But this instinct can come in to direct conflict with our goals to create social change or workplace change.
This is because our brains tend to really dislike it when we do new things. When we do new things, we violate the motivational triad in our brain. We’re doing things where we risk pain; where there’s not guaranteed pleasure. And we’re often expending extra energy because our brain doesn’t have an existing pattern for this action that’s well worn and therefore simple and fast for our brain to execute.
And in the case of work like anti-racism work, we’re not just combating our brains’ notion that a presentation we give in front of the company might not be safe because there’s lots of people looking at us. Or that having a coaching conversation or a career conversation with a direct report might not be safe because it’s a skill we haven’t used before. In this case, we’re also encountering a moment where we are not necessarily certain that other people even think the thing we’re doing is a good idea.
Our instincts are yelling at us not to talk about politics at work. That we shouldn’t use the word racism. And they’re reminding us of all the posts we’ve seen where someone was criticized for being well meaning but not executing it well. And our brains are creating scenarios where a team member tells us that they’re uncomfortable that we mentioned racism. Or that they don’t think it was an appropriate topic. Or that they don’t believe it’s an issue.
Simply put: Our brains think this is a much higher stakes conversation than the normal uncomfortable things we face at work. And it wants to shut that down.
But you’re listening to this episode because you know better. Because you know that this work is important to be doing in our organizations. It’s important to be doing in our communities. And because it lines up with who you want to be in the world.
So how do you move past your brain’s discomfort into taking that action? Well, that is exactly what we’re going to spend the rest of this episode talking about.
I’m going to give you two really actionable techniques for how to take the person you want to be and make that be the person you actually show up as. For how to notice what’s happening in your brain but not let those automatic responses be in charge of what you actually do. For how to make the choices about who you want to be and the example you want to be setting for your team and for everybody else around you and how to follow through on that.
The first approach is to be really clear about who you want to be but especially to be really clear about what that person would do. Your vision for who you are as a person, your vision for the world and workplace you are creating, and your vision for exactly what you need to be seeing and doing to make that come about. You don’t have to be right. You don’t have to figure out every little nuance but having a sense of:
“I’m the kind of person who tells my coworker that they shouldn’t use that word.”
“I’m the kind of person who tells my coworker that that joke is actually really sexist and it’s not okay.”
Or that, “I’m the kind of person who asks why and presses my coworker further when they tell a story about a place they were walking and they mentioned that someone looks like they really didn’t belong there and it made them feel uncomfortable.”
So the trick here is creating this clear vision and then noticing when you’re resisting the actions that person would take. When we have a clearer vision, it’s harder to be pulled off track by discomfort because it’s easy to evaluate. “Did I do it or not?” Or “Are we there yet or not?” This sounds really familiar, right? It’s really similar to how I tell you, you need to start every project, you need to start every goal. And there’s a reason for that. It’s because when we have a sense of where we’re going, we’re not only informing our brain that that’s the world it should be creating for us, that’s the world it should be guiding us towards. It’s also a lot easier to pause in the moment (like I’m about to show you later in this episode) and to recognize when we’re at those decision points, when our brain is screaming at us that we shouldn’t take steps towards being the new person. Towards being who we want to be. Towards taking the new actions and building the new habits. When we know what those moments look like, it’s much easier to stop and pause when we’re at them and recognize if we’re taking the path that we want to be taking, or if we’re sliding into a more comfortable, a safer feeling version, but that’s not really who we want to be.
So let’s spend a couple minutes thinking about “Who do you want to be?” and get really specific.
So just start with that one.
Who do you want to be?
And now, let’s deepen it a little bit.
How do you want to behave when someone says something that’s clearly racist during a meeting with you at work?
How is that similar to what you do right now? And how’s it different?
How do you want to behave if they say something that feels awkward, like it might be racist even if they’re not aware it might be?
What changes do you want to hold your company accountable for?
These might be changes in internal policies; they might be changes in how it thinks or talks about race. It might be holding your company accountable for having intentional clear conversations led by your leadership team about race and racism and how they affect the company. It might be goals around hiring, and increasing the diversity of the candidates that your team is speaking to.
What changes are you going to hold your company accountable for?
And let’s look at one more: How do you want to actively sponsor and grow your underrepresented colleagues?
Now, take the important step of pausing and noticing what emotion those decisions are coming from. Is it from clarity, outrage, determination, or hope? Maybe you love making your decision from that place. But if your answers to the questions we just asked were fueled from guilt or you tried to list exhaustively because you thought that was the right answer but it feels really overwhelming and impossible and you’re telling yourself that you’re not good enough yet and you need to do more and more and more, I’d encourage you to back your podcast player up and answer those questions again. Who are YOU deciding you want to be? Like everything else in life, avoid answers that are fueled by wanting to be good enough.
So once we have this vision, once we have this view of where we want to go and who we want to be and once we have this rubric for deciding if we’re showing up the way we want to be if we’re doing the work to be the anti-racist we want to be, how do we use that?
Well, as I mentioned, the first thing you do is start using this like a rubric.
You want to get in the habit of looking back over your day or even better, looking at the actions you’re about to take and comparing them to that vision and seeing, do they line up with it?
You just heard someone use a word that made you really uncomfortable. It’s on that list of words that they should probably not be saying. So what did you do in that moment? Did you get uncomfortable and then stay quiet to avoid more discomfort? Or did you use that tinge of discomfort as a signal that this was a moment that you wanted to shift your behavior in? That you wanted to say something to that coworker instead of grimacing silently in your seat like you normally would.
So let’s assume you want to make that shift. How do you do it?
Well, you dig into your thoughts and your feelings.They’re the key to showing up through the discomfort. Notice the situations where you shy away from taking the actions you need to be the person you want to be. Identify those in the moment and coach yourself on the spot.
So we start by recognizing, “Here’s a moment where I might want to take action but it’s not feeling comfortable for me.” And we start by saying, “What is it that I’m feeling right now that’s uncomfortable?”
Sometimes that will literally be discomfort but usually it’s something more like anxiety or fear or uncertainty. What is it that I’m feeling? And then what is it that I’m thinking that’s creating that feeling?
The next step is to allow that feeling – that discomfort, that anxiety, that fear, that uncertainty. As you remember from previous episodes, allowing an emotion is where we let it exist in our body for a few seconds, for a few minutes without trying to shove it away. And when we allow an emotion, we get to step through it to the other side. And on the other side we get another opportunity to intentionally choose how we want to think about this situation. How we want to feel about it. And how that’s going to drive the actions and the results that we’re creating for ourselves.
Simply put: Allowing discomfort lets you stay in the moment so you can take your desired action.
So I want to give you an example of three places I caught my brain in action wanting to skimp on showing up as the person I want to be. These examples feel like they’re part of everyday life. Nothing profound. But they’re examples of places where I intentionally noticed my current thinking and changed it in the moment so I could start the habit of being the person I want to be. I want to inspire you to do the same. I’d love to hear your examples. Please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and share the places you’ve been having trouble showing up the way you want to recently, or the places you’re succeeding and what’s working for you.
Here are a few of my examples and along the way I’m going to include some of the thoughts that have been helping me show up as the person I want to be. I hope they help you out, too.
The first example comes from a protest I went to at the beginning of June. Now, wanting to conform to the group around us is very human. And I watched my instinct to do just that. I heard a speaker from the stage say, you know, one of those sentences where they say something and the audience is expected to yell back at them either the words they just said or some obvious response to it. And we were standing kind of over a little bit of a hill. We couldn’t really see the stage. Some of the people that I was with were chatting amongst themselves. We had a hard time hearing the speaker from where we were standing. I think it was a much bigger crowd than they anticipated, which was great. And I’d caught this bit and I watched myself intend to join the call back to that speaker. And I could literally feel what felt like the sound catching in my throat. And then I noticed around me that nobody else was starting to shout. And all that energy just just rushed back down into my chest and into my body and nothing came out of my mouth. And as I said, wanting to conform to the group around us is very human. I next immediately watched my brain, listening, listening and then listening, and double checking. Nope, no one around me said anything. I guess maybe it was good that I didn’t, I would have stood out. It would have been weird. They would have wondered what I was doing. Maybe they would have judged me.
Now notice in some ways how funny those thoughts are, right? We’ve all gone to a protest. The kind of place where speakers say things and the audience is expected to call back. If anything, I would have been doing the socially expected behavior for that situation and all these people who weren’t really listening to the speaker (nevermind that it was because it was hard for them to hear) all these people who weren’t really listening to the speaker, they were the ones doing the thing that didn’t quite match the situation. And yet, being loud in the middle of a group that was not engaged felt so threatening in that moment.
And I got really curious about this experience so I ran a model inside my head. If you’re not familiar yet with the self-coaching model, absolutely the moment you’re done with this episode, go pick up Episode Five. I’m going to teach you in that episode all about the self-coaching model. You’ll need it for the exercise that we do for this in this podcast guide. And I’ll walk you through it at the end of this episode so you don’t need it for that. But you will want to go pick that up as soon as you finish this episode.
So here was my model in that moment.
My circumstance was standing outside in the crowd. Speaker asks us all to say words. My thought, I realized, well, let’s start with how I did the model. My feeling was anxiety. I could feel this, like, wiggle in my chest. It was kind of itchy and shaky and my breathing was speeding up a little bit. And I felt hyper aware of what was around me – anxiety.
So what was the thought creating that anxiety? Well, it was, I will be heard. Yeah, that’s what happens when you shout. But for me that was really producing anxiety. And when I felt that anxiety, the action was: my body stiffened and the words didn’t come out. And I’m extra aware of the silence around me. And I’m evaluating – was anybody else speaking? How close were the closest people to me who did shout those words back to the speaker?
And what I thought was most interesting when I thought about the result for this model. It was also obvious that I was silent. It wasn’t like I was silent in a crowd of loud voices and no one would have noticed. I was silent, and because everybody else was silent you could hear my silence. This was really profound for me in that moment because in staying silent I revealed myself very publicly as someone who wasn’t taking action on the things that matter to me. Nevermind maybe that nobody next to me was paying enough attention to realize that that was a moment that it would have been appropriate to make noise. I knew in my head that I’d had a sense of what the person I wanted to be would have done in that moment and that I hadn’t done it. And I asked myself this in my head “Would I rather be known for speaking up for what I believe in, even when I’m not certain everyone will agree? Or for being silent when I see massive problems in the world around me?”
And when I think about what leaders are and what leaders do: Leaders do the first. Leaders are willing to act when they’re not certain how everyone else will respond, when no one else is doing it yet. As leaders, we’re willing to bring up the hard conversations at work. We’re willing to start our stand up conversations by going first and saying “Hey, this thing happened. You probably saw it in the news. I want to let you know how I’m thinking about it. I want to let you know how the company is thinking about it.” Or, “I don’t know yet how the company is thinking about it but I believe we should be and we should be talking about it and you can expect that I will be raising that until I hear an official response from the company.”
Because acting as a leader means being known for speaking up for what we believe in even when we don’t know if that opinion will be the accepted opinion.
Later that day, something similar happened again.
We were marching with the crowd and someone, you know – a block ahead of us, a block behind us, started a chant. One of those call and response kinds. And my section is silent. It’s a little hard for us to hear the first person who’s calling out and so no one can really tell if they’re on or off the right beat. Everybody feels like they’re just gonna be the one person shouting like, “No justice!” in the middle of a crowd. It’s otherwise silent or mumbling to each other, and it’s gonna be awkward. And so there’s just this kind of agreed on silence.
I don’t want that. Something to me feels like not showing up fully. I left work early. I walked about a mile to a place to go to this rally. And now we’re another mile, mile and a half, into a march. And the silence feels weird. It feels like not being fully present, like not doing what we’re there to do.
And so, I have an idea. I will do the call part of the call and response. Now, you might be hoping that I’d learned my lesson earlier and my brain and my body cooperate this time. They did not. I kept trying to count and make sure I was right and like somehow listened to the other person who was leading before I started, which does not put you on the right beat. And as a singer I know better. And really what I was trying to do was follow someone else’s lead. I wasn’t willing to create the lead. And yet this section couldn’t even really hear the other person. It wasn’t like even if I said something different from them then it would be a problem. So I decided I was gonna do it. I was gonna figure it out. And I counted. And it didn’t work. I felt that same sense of my chest just stiffening up on me and like the words caught in my throat, nothing came out.
But you know what did happen? Another woman walking next to me, it came out of her mouth instead. And I looked over and I felt two things: one was joy, and gladness. Because this had been important to me, and it was happening. And the second was a little bit of shame because the person standing next to me who’d managed to get the words out of her mouth when I couldn’t, was a black woman.
And one of the things that’s been so important to me over the last few weeks and really, theoretically, over a lot of the previous portions of my life, but that I feel like I haven’t embodied as well as I want to and I’m trying to do a lot better at right now, is to not make the folks who are most affected by something be the people who are having to lead the conversation about it all the time.
And here my body froze. I couldn’t overcome, in that moment, the sense of sticking out of the crowd. The worry that I was going to do it wrong somehow. And I’d put all of the effort and all of the work of leadership back on to the closest member of the black community. And that didn’t feel great. So I dug in again. My circumstance: marching with crowd, someone starts chant, my section is silent. One thought was “I should lead.” But then in the moment my thought changed.
My thought changed to “I’m going to do this wrong.” My feeling was fear. My action – I stayed silent. And then I spun in my thoughts of wimping out. Of not being the person I aspire to being. And my result was: I’m not being me. I’m not being that version of me. In fact, I’m somehow wrong at being me. If we want to do the pithy thing where the thought is, I’m going to do this wrong and the result is, somehow, I was wrong at trying to show up as me and that didn’t go right either.
So I thought through it a little further and this is what I want to show you how to do. I said, “Okay, well, if I don’t want to be the person who freezes up, if I don’t want to be the person who thinks I might do this wrong and so doesn’t act, who do I want to be? What does that person believe? How does that person act?” And the answer was: That person yells out the call portion of the call and response.
In that moment, it was just saying the three words, “Say her name,” really loudly. Right. I mean, I’m a pretty loud person. I can say things loudly. I can pride myself on yelling over a crowd and getting everyone’s attention. That part wasn’t uncomfortable for me.
The words, the words felt a little bit like they didn’t belong to me. Like they belonged to someone else. Well, that was interesting because that really related in to the conversation I was having with myself moments before. About not wanting the black community to have to be the only people carrying this work and being the loudest voices in it. About trying to show up and do some portion of that – me.
And so I decided that the person who believed that needed to believe that these were my words and it was okay for me to say them. And this wasn’t appropriation. This wasn’t some other version of taking somebody else’s culture. Something that someone else’s words. These were the words that I was supposed to show up and share. That was why I was there, was that sense of solidarity. That sense of, “This matters to me.” Could I follow through and use “This matters to me?”
So I tried on a couple of different thoughts. I tried on, “It’s my job to carry some of this load.” I tried on, “This is how I show I care.” I had a really fun moment when I tried, “I believe these words.” Fun because I noticed all the ways that my brain wanted to pick it apart and ask, “Do I really? Do I understand the cultural connotations of this? Am I saying the right thing? Is there nuance here I’m missing?” All of the chatter that keeps me in inaction, right? All of the questioning of myself. So that was fun to have a front row conscious seat to.
I got to, “I want to be a person who does this.” Well, I want to be. It doesn’t lead to a lot of action. So I tried a different phrasing: I am a person who does this. That worked really well for me. When I thought, “I am a person who does this” or when I thought, “It’s my job to carry some of this load,” both of those thoughts lead to feelings of confidence. Confidence could work for me. Confidence led to me thinking thoughts like, “It’s okay if I don’t do it right the first time” or, “It’s okay if I say something different than what the call and response leader, two blocks back, is saying that we can barely hear.”, “It’s okay if my section of the group is on a totally different channel than the group’s on either side of us. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
And once I started thinking that way, exactly what happened was there was a silence. I could watch the woman next to me, who’d picked up that leadership in the moment when my body froze and I couldn’t. And I watched her need a drink, need an extra breath, whatever it was. I could hear something catching her voice and she didn’t quite pick it up the next time. And I jumped in. And I will tell you there was this feeling of elation in my body. This, “I did it! I did the hard thing. I stood out and everything is fine!” And also this moment of being me in such a clear and powerful way of feeling like I was living into the person that I wanted to be far more fully than I had been moments before.
I want you to feel that.
I want you to understand the grip of how amazing that feels and to be constantly seeking it out. To be deciding consciously who you want to be and to be intentionally trying and trying and tweaking and iterating on your thoughts until you’re showing up as that person. And then doing it in the next moment, and then doing it in the next moment.
Now, you might have noticed one of those thoughts was, “I am a person who does this.” We talked a lot about specificity. This, not so very specific. I am a big proponent of the power of words to make things less scary or less dramatic. But in this case I had such a clear picture, almost in my body, of what it was like. I could imagine the feeling of the air coming up my chest. I could imagine the feeling of my mouth mouthing these words. I didn’t really need those words. I didn’t need to overthink it. The work I was doing was actually in my body. It was allowing the feeling of discomfort and then it was allowing my body to fill back up with a different feeling instead. And I knew what it was going to do. I just needed to let my foot off the brake pedal. I needed to let the discomfort flow through me so that that brake pedal wasn’t pressed quite as hard. So that the gas pedal could get through because I already had my foot on the gas, I just needed to take my foot off the brake.
The second example I want to share with you is a micro moment. It comes up all the time. I have a hard time using the terms racism or anti-racist or especially the phrase “self-educate” or “educate myself.” I’ll say, like, “I need to go learn more.” Because I have had for years what feels like an allergy, just a compulsive aversion, to anything other people are saying too much or doing too much. Yeah, hashtags? Not great. I feel so awkward with them. Shoes that I knew would be super comfortable that I would love? I waited like five or six years after other people started wearing them until they were no longer cool because I didn’t want to be doing what everybody else was doing. There’s a portion of my brain that wants acceptance. That wants to be just like everybody else that wants to be part of the group. But there’s also in my brain, a big part of me, that doesn’t like the feeling of just following along and automatically brainlessly doing what other people do.
So I love this as a self-coaching in the moment example, and exploring in the moment example, because it would be so easy to explore that path. To dig in and explore why, what is this aversion about? But in the moment when I’m at a stand up and I’m talking with my team, when I’m on a podcast recording for you, I don’t need to do the deep work of why is the term self educate so hard for me to get out of my mouth? I actually just need to realize that it’s going to be uncomfortable for me. I need to decide that I want to do it anyway. And then I need to realize that I can allow that discomfort to happen in my body. I can take a big breath and I can keep going with what I’m saying without all the chatter in my head about how I’m ridiculous and sound ridiculous. And I find this so interesting, right? In opposition to that previous example. This is a place I find myself not wanting to do something because everyone else is doing it. And now I just want to highlight for you again what I said a moment ago. It is absolutely amazing to spend deep time with your coach, with your journal, with a friend, or a therapist. Really understanding what makes you tick. What are your deep beliefs? What’s easy for you? What’s hard for you and why? But in the moment, we do not always need to do that depth of work. In the moment, sometimes, we just need to look at the most immediate model, the proximal model. We don’t need to know the deep workings of our psyche. We just need to say, when I got like little bit of your brain that here’s what you say before you’re about to say it, when I hear my brain forming the words, “Educate myself.” I hear this voice that says “You’re ridiculous. Don’t say that. It’s so weird. It’s overplayed. Don’t! You just sound like you’re trying to glom on to what everybody else is doing and it’s awful, Emily.” When I hear that voice, I’m going to feel judgment. And you just realize I can let that judgment be there for three seconds. That you won’t even notice a three second pause, right? Let’s see. Do you notice the three second pause? Yeah, okay. But it’s not so bad, right? And if we’re speaking in the moment to our team, that’s a totally normal length of a way to pause and catch our breath to take a sip of water. If we’re coaching a team member, that’s a short pause. And so it’s okay for me to let that feeling of judgment, that feeling of ridiculous, pass through my body and just show up and do the thing I was planning on doing anyway. And you know, the more I do it, and the more I say it, the easier it becomes.
And while the work that I do and the style of coaching that I teach you focuses on your thoughts, and how our thoughts and how we make sense of the world, they’re what create our feelings in our experience of it. It’s never the world around us. How our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings prompt our actions, our actions drive our results. And I want you to dig in and get to those interesting beliefs and find out who you are and how you think and what drives you and what causes you to do what you do. Because that is fascinating stuff. Oh, so fascinating. I also want you to be okay with getting what you want in the moment by doing that little thought swap, right? What’s the emotion that I need to feel in order to take the action that I want to right now? What’s the quick fix thought that lets me do this thing in this instant? And to learn in the moment to just seek for it. And this is how I like to play that out.
It’s a really simple two step process. You just alternate back and forth between these two steps until you find the information that you need in order to keep going forward.
The first step is to imagine what it is I want to be doing. I don’t want to focus on what I did do. I don’t want to focus on what it felt like when my body froze up and the words didn’t come out. I want to imagine vividly in the moment, saying the thing or doing the thing. Sometimes this means actually figuring out what the words would be, right? And I imagined myself doing it. And then I get curious. And I notice how my brain responds to that idea. And I say, “Why? I feel fear.” I ask, “Why? Where’s the fear coming from? I feel anxiety. I feel discomfort. I feel uncertainty. I feel ridiculous.” I ask, “Why?” And then I just listened to what my brain says. And then I tell it something back. And then we do it again. And I imagine taking that sentence I told back to my brain. And I repeat it, and I feel it, and I believe it as hard as I can and then I imagine doing the action again and I see how it feels that time. Are we closer? Great. What were the objections now? You’ll get really fast at doing this. You can go through it and maybe 5, 10, 20 seconds in your head, sometimes even faster once you get reflexive at it. And it’s absolutely worth that practice.
So the exercise that I want to teach you today, we’re going to look at it both ways. The goal is for you to be able to get to that place where you’re coaching yourself in the moment in line as things are happening in your head. But the best way to get good at that is to take that process and slow it down and actually be able to walk through it with space and time so that you feel all the little pieces of it. You build into your head the script and the questions you ask yourself. And then you can speed it up and speed it up and speed it up. Now, this is not like learning to play a piece of music on the piano where you’ll actually screw something up if you try to go fast before you have it totally nailed slow. In this case, I suggest you do both. I suggest you use that rubric for who you want to be in the world. You consistently ask yourself, “Is this thing I just did? Is this thing I’m about to do in line with that? What would be in line with who I want to be?” And then you notice if your brain thinks it’s easy to do that, or hard. If it’s hard, you ask why. And then you do it anyway, right? You notice what happens when you ask yourself why. You notice the thought, you allow the feeling, and then you show up and take action anyway.
That’ll work out of the gate for some small but meaningful number of things. And then the more you practice this intentionally, kind of offline, right? The more you practice this, and you work your brain through this routine of noticing what you’re thinking and switching to something else and allowing the emotion in between, the faster and the more nuanced you’ll be in the moment. And the easier it will be to apply this to bigger and bigger and more challenging and more challenging things. And I promise you, the more you apply it, the more you’ll get that little rush of dopamine from, “I did the thing I wanted to do! I changed! I changed my habits, I started being more me!” And the dopamine that will release, it will make you want to do it more and more. And it will cement in your brain a willingness to ask those questions, to notice the results, and to take those little risks of following through on the actions.
So I want to give you one other small example and then I’m going to walk you question by question through that exercise.
The last example, I want to give you talks about proactive action versus inaction.
So I remember a conversation with co workers about how do we be the white folks who talked to our parents about racism. Like anti-racism. Going out and being proactive and us being proactive about talking to them about being proactive. How do we not just wait for a family member to see something problematic and pointed out to them, but instead invite them to join us in the intentional work of anti-racism? Well, this analogy popped into my head. And it helped me shift out of the mode of feeling like this was too uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to start. I didn’t know what to do. I remembered that in February and March I was willing, more than, willing to have conversations with my parents about my worries for their health and wanting them to stay home and be careful. And it was uncomfortable in the moment. It was hard to broach those conversations. I was a little bit worried that they would be Cavalier and they wouldn’t see the problem and I get really anxious about my parent’s health. So this was an important topic for me. But I had those conversations. And they weren’t that difficult to start once I decided that it was really important to me. So I asked myself: If I was able to have that conversation even though it initially felt uncomfortable, why was I having more trouble talking with them about anti-racism? And what I realized was in February in March when I was talking about Coronavirus and staying home and shelter in place even before your state tells you to and always wearing a mask and social distancing, it was because I was worried about their health. I had a very salient fear that meant a lot to me. This was critically important to me. So I realized I could use that here: If I knew that inaction on anti-racism work equated to more needless deaths of black and brown folks all across the country and all across the world, could I have that same care for those lives and be equally willing to have conversations that felt awkward to me and then I wasn’t sure how my parents would receive? And when I talk about deciding the kind of person you want to be and consistently testing everything in a rubric against that, I love this example. I knew it was challenging but possible and doable pretty quickly for me to take action when I was worried about my parents’ lives. Could I value other people’s lives just as highly? And if I was the person who did, how would I show up?
So, let’s dive into some specifics. How exactly do we coach ourselves? I’m going to walk you through right now that longer version, the one I think is amazing to do with a journal, a piece of paper. But this is exactly the same flow you’re gonna do in your head. It’s just all of the steps. Each one of them is going to be one or two sentences long instead of half a page.
So: What’s an action or word you’re finding challenging right now? And now we’re going to use the core self-coaching flow to help you shift and be able to take action through discomfort on that.
So we start by doing a thought download. A thought download is basically where we stop and we become aware of our thinking about this topic. So what are all the reasons your brain can come up with for why doing this thing is a problem? Whatever action – doing it. Whatever word – saying it. Whatever you chose, what are all the reasons your brain can come up with for why doing it is a problem for you?
This awareness is super useful but now we’re gonna narrow it down: What’s the one reason that stopped you in your tracks or almost stopped you in your tracks the last time this situation happened? And now you’re going to do a model on that thought.
So we start always with the circumstance line.
What specifically was going on around you in that moment?
Now that reason, it’s your thought. So when you were in that circumstance, that situation, and that reason that thought popped into your brain, how did you feel?
What’s the emotion word that describes it?
And how did that emotion feel in your body?
How did you act when you were feeling that way?
And finally, what was the result of that action for you?
Remember, our result always matches our thought. It either creates more evidence, it talks about how we’re doing the same thing the other person is doing that we’re judging them for, or it shows up often with kind of pithy language similarities. I know sometimes that feels a little forced but I often find that the pithiest ones are some of the most profound for me.
So, what’s the next step?
We take that same circumstance. But instead, we put the action we wanted to take in the action line. And we finished that model to find the thought that you can practice.
So make sure you grab the podcast guide. It walks you through with a printout or one you can use on your computer step by step through everything I just did including through creating that second model and it also is going to give you the quick flow that I’m about to walk you through for doing this in your head in the moment. Now, I really, really suggest doing enough self-coaching models out on paper. That you start to reach the point where you can see a thought and you can almost guess as a result. That’s one of those places where that kind of pithy matching result becomes really useful, right? And things like when we think, “Ugh. She’s so judgmental”, we can kind of see the matching like, “Oh, I’m so judgmental of her”, right? Doing self-coaching models out on paper until you can start to have that instinct is absolutely valuable. But what I’m going to show you right now is kind of a kickstart quickstart version of that where you don’t necessarily go all the way through the model. Be careful with this. Don’t let it make you think you don’t have to do full models. But in terms of coaching yourself in the moment, it’s a really great flow.
So we’ll start with the same question.
What’s an action or word you’re finding challenging right now?
Now, why is it a problem for you?
Bring the thought of taking this action. Bring the moment where you start to form this word with your mouth. Play it all out in your head and notice how your brain responds.
What’s that feeling?
What’s the thought that’s creating that feeling?
This thought is the thought that’s in your way right now. What you need to be able to do is recognize that feeling that you just named, what it feels like in your body, and be willing to let that exist in your body. Stop fighting it. Because when you’re fighting it, it takes all your attention and when it’s taking all your attention, it’s really hard to be thinking about showing up the way that you want to, or really doing anything other than default behavior. Because all of your conscious attention is taken by resisting this emotion. So let the emotion exist in your body. Stop trying to fight it. And then picture again, taking this action and ask yourself, why does this matter to me?
And just use that as your new thought. And if it doesn’t work that time, ask yourself again. And just go through the exercise.
Why is it a problem?
When you imagine doing this, what’s the next excuse your brain comes up?
And then, why does it matter to me?
What is it that you want to believe about you and who you are in the world that means you must take this action in this moment?
Now, I know there was a lot in this episode. I really want you to jump in, open up the show notes, click the link in the bottom of the show notes, and then download the Podcast Guide.
There’s two ways you can find it on the page. I need to make it a little bit more visible. But if you scroll down to the Take Action section, there’s a link to the Podcast Guide there. Or if you just wait, maybe 15 or 30 seconds, a little modal will pop up on the page.
Grab that PDF. It’ll walk you through all three of the exercises we did during this episode. And it’ll give you some of my favorite thoughts that have been helping me show up and do the anti-racism work that I want to be doing in my world, with my family, at work, that I want you to be able to just borrow and bootstrap off of. Right. These are the kinds of things that we can just share that make us all better and more effective. So I want you to go grab that and then have an amazing week.
Create a clear vision for you. Who are you when you’re doing anti-racist work? Who are you showing up as when you’re at your best? When you’re the person you want to be in this world? Notice when the action you just took or the action you’re about to take doesn’t line up with that and ask yourself “Why?” Why is the action I want to take hard for me in this moment? And then ask yourself “Why?” again. Why is the action I want to take important for me in this moment? And then go ahead and do it. I will see you next week!
If you loved this episode and want to dive deeper into improving your own emotional health so you can feel better and have bigger results at work, you have to join me for a one-on-one call. We’ll talk about where you are, where you want to be, and create a solid plan to get from here to there. Just visit go.exceptional.vision/call. See you there!