Fear contaminates everything it touches. There seems to be much to fear these days with economic and global threats coming at us constantly. However, leading from a place of fear only clouds our judgment, causes us to be reactionary rather than strategic, and creates pain for us and those around us.
Fear stems from resistance. We don’t like the way things are or where we think they are headed so we resist rather than accept and confront reality. Fear seeks self-protection and always prompts us to unconscious self-protective behaviors that we learned from the past. Our desire is to make the uncomfortable feelings go away.
Dealing with fear begins with the understanding that it is our thoughts and automatic feelings that create the fear and our reactions to it, not the situation we are in. For example, in a recent coaching conversation with a young executive we talked about her tendency to avoid conflict. She has a strength for creating and keeping harmony by trying to make sure people are happy. This helps her avoid discomfort but make her ineffective in some aspects of her leadership. When she was able to see that she has a previously unconscious belief that it is not her place to challenge people at certain levels of status, she realized this thought holds her back from doing what she needs to do. Now she can stop and observe these thoughts and the fear associated with them, choose to drop them, and take appropriate action even though it will make her uncomfortable at first. Then she can use her strength of harmony to effectively confront rather than avoid the situation.
As a leader you must be aware of how fear operates in your life and how you deal with it. Observe your thoughts and feelings more closely and see how they influence your responses, not only at work but also in your family and marriage relationships. You can choose to be fearless by consciously setting it aside, focusing your attention on what needs to be done and moving forward through your fear or anxiety. Through this you can experience a new level of yourself that you used to hide from yourself and you can learn to outgrow the ideas and beliefs that are the source of your fear.
Are you taking your marriage for granted? It is very easy to do with the hectic pace of modern life and the demands of our various businesses. But neglecting your marriage is as dangerous as neglecting the health of your heart. If your heart stops beating and pumping blood they way it is designed to do you are dead. Likewise your marriage is at the heart of your overall well-being, circulating critical nourishment to other parts of your life. If your marriage stops functioning the way it is supposed to then parts of your life will also die.
Marriage is a unique and sacred relationship. It is grossly under appreciated in today’s society. Recent marriage statistics indicate divorce is still increasing and marriage satisfaction is decreasing. Because of the level of intimacy and intensity that comes with marriage, it is the relationship that brings out the best and the worst in us. We see who we really are reflected in our marriage. More clearly than any other relationship, marriage reveals to us our levels of maturity, enlightenment, and evolution. How evolved are you? Look into your marriage and you will see yourself.
The sacredness of marriage is the mysterious mingling of our emotional and spiritual selves. Within marriage we can reach our highest potential. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul said that marriage is a model of the relationship between Christ and the church. To me that means marriage is a relationship that is both human and divine, carnal and sacred. A healthy marriage embodies mutual love and sacrifice, leadership and service, seeking the best for all involved.
This is not about romanticizing marriage, rather it is a call to elevate it to it’s rightful place. Certainly marriage is not for everyone and not every marriage can or should be saved. Often the day to day realities are anything but romantic or sacred. That, however, does not minimize the potential to discover and nurture that best of ourselves and one another through this special relationship. When we stop blaming our partners and allow the relationship to help us see the truth about ourselves and what we need to change, then we are on our way to realizing this potential.
This week my wife’s grandmother died. She died on her 97th birthday. There is something poetic about going out of this life on the same date you come in, 97 years later! It seems like a perfect circle; birth, death, and birth again into the next life. Grandma had a keen sense humor and no doubt is enjoying this more than anyone.
Grandma lived a remarkable life in many ways. She was married for over 60 years and then lived independently until she was 90. She raised 6 kids, had 19 grandchildren, 47 great grand children, and 9 great-great grand children. In the process of hanging around so long Grandma touched many lives with her love for people and enthusiasm for life. She always had a smile and something pleasant to say and rarely complained. Her joy was simply having people stop by to visit. She had a long prayer list and faithfully lifted up her loved ones on a daily basis.
Grandma was one of those unassuming and charming people who made a big impact on people around her and didn’t even seem to realize it. In addition to all of her family, her legacy is one of love and laughter. We should all aspire such success and leave such a gift.
We miss you Grandma!
Two more behaviors that build trust are “right wrongs” and “get better”. Right wrongs is based on principles of integrity, making restitution, and humility. When you do something hurtful to your spouse, intentional or not, it is vital to admit what you have done and apologize quickly. In addition you need to make an effort to repair what has been damaged. This may mean doing something extra for your spouse or making changes going forward.
Getting better is about learning from your mistakes. Apologies ring hollow if you say you are sorry and then repeat the behavior. Getting better requires effort to change patterns or habits and establishing new behaviors. Sometimes this is a matter of choice. Other times you may need help understanding your behavior and how to change. Often counseling or coaching can greatly speed up this process.
Recently David Letterman provided an example of egregious behavior and attempts to right his wrongs. While most deplore his behavior, he did act quickly to accept responsibility(once it became public), admit his wrong behavior, and apologize. When this happens the public is usually pretty forgiving. His staffers and his wife are another matter. What we don’t know is how sincere his apology is, what will he do to try to make amends, and will he actually change his behavior. Time will tell.
You can ‘t control whether or not your spouse is ready to forgive you but taking action to right your wrongs will make it much easier to forgive. Ask your spouse what he or she needs from you to make it right and then follow through consistently.