Let’s Make this Personal: 5 Steps to Disrupt Business—and Life—as Usual
How we all can contribute to a sustainable development by evolving our consciousness
With the world literally standing in flames, our global crisis has reached yet another peak. But there are encouraging signs that shed some light on the dark: Citizens around the world are getting ready for a massive global climate strike beginning September 20th, and some 181 US CEOs have banded together — waking up to the realities of the 21st century, and publicly committed to a paradigm shift that intends to, finally, put priority on purpose instead of on profit. Our current business, educational, and institutional systems are starting to show substantial cracks, from the bottom to the top. Disruption is everywhere, causing quite some discomfort, and — here’s the good news — opening up space for something new to emerge.
Climate Crisis as our Collective Wake-Up Call
A crisis always causes turbulence and distress. Yet it is also a gift. You may know this from your own experience, having gone through a personal crisis, emerging stronger than ever on the other side. The ecological collapse that is underway urges all of us to rethink ourselves. Life and business as usual are no longer on option. And it is this urgency that fuels us to take ownership of the personal role we play in this world and that gives us the much-needed push to outgrow our old selves. Dismantling outdated sets of beliefs that have misguided us. Waking up to the impact of our actions — and our lack thereof — has the potential to pave the way to higher levels of consciousness.
“No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.”
The Consciousness Gap
The issue is not that, once aware of what needs to be done, we wouldn’t be capable of coming up with a sound battle plan. Our left cerebral hemisphere loves to analyze, plan and control. So, even though we have a plan, it’s almost as if there was a missing link, a gap between plan and action. And this phenomenon applies as much to our most simple New Year’s resolutions (“I’m gonna hit the gym”) as it does to collective and far more complex aspirations such as the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. There is something invisible that is holding us back from doing what we know needs to be done — and can be done. I call this the consciousness gap: an abyss or chasm that we have to leap over to get to where we want to be.
Making it Personal: Driving Change from the Inside Out
Just as on a global level, we as individuals also have our own, personal chasms — inner mechanisms that sabotage our best intentions. Fear of what other people might think and the “disease to please” were on my list for far too long. Whatever you have on your list, once you can pinpoint it and turn your awareness to it, something starts to shift. And this is where self-disruption comes in: The moment we become aware of our limiting thoughts and beliefs, we can start to actively interrupt this pattern — and begin to free ourselves from past conditionings.
How to Leap the Gap: Disrupt and Rewire Yourself with These 5 Steps
Step #1: Watch Life from an Astronaut’s Perspective
Take a moment and just sit. Close your eyes and ask yourself: What really matters in your life? How do you envision your life in the future? What is it that you really want to see and experience in this lifetime, and the lifetime of your kids and grandchildren? What positive impact on the world do you want to have through your work? Whenever we play with our imagination, we stimulate our right brain hemisphere with its unique set of strengths: this hemisphere interprets data not by dividing it into smaller chunks, but by perceiving wholeness and connectedness, and by adding pieces of information to a much bigger picture. By getting a sense of our personal purpose that inspires and excites us, we can tap into a higher frequency state of mind, realign our life and work with our core values, and activate hidden resources within us.
#2 Realign Your Actions with Your Purpose and Vision
Take stock of the different areas of your professional and personal life, and now compare these with what you sense is your purpose — as a leader and as an individual, and the vision that originates from that. Are you in sync? Where is your life inconsistent with the values and convictions that are most important to you? Search for a sparring partner or friend who can help you reflect on where you stand — and what steps are needed to get to where you want to be.
Step #3: Activate all Three Parts of Your GPS
Did you know that you have three brains? This came as a surprise to me, too, back in my university years as a psychology major: The head, the heart, and the gut all have their own dedicated nervous systems. But most of us are dead-set on our logical, thinking brain, and not so much on our feeling and sensing capacities. What if, instead, we learned to operate from all three brains, using this as a powerful GPS that we can trust? Ask yourself: What brain are you listening to? What about the brain in your heart and your gut? For example, Theory U provides a powerful social technology framework to integrate and invigorate our empathic and sensing capacities — allowing us to “listen to the future as it emerges” (Otto Scharmer, MIT). Do you have access to this inner GPS and do you dedicate the time that is needed to tune in and listen to it? If not yet, step #4 will help!
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Step #4: Quiet the Monkey Mind
How we experience the world has something to do with what is going on in the space between our left and right ear. Most of us — except the enlightened few — have a voice inside us that is constantly chattering. We tend to believe that this is “us.” Meandering, judging, and incessantly commenting — is actually our mind on autopilot. It’s doing what the mind is supposed to do: analyzing, judging, and drawing conclusions. As long as we have not mastered our mind with our consciousness, it’s literally making up stories with which we, by default, identify ourselves. So how can we get back into the driver’s seat and use our minds for our own good — and for the good of the world? We can get back behind the wheel by tuning into a different channel: stillness. We can slowly fade out the chatter and reconnect with our higher consciousness. And there are many ways to enter this state. Meditation is one. For many, spending time in nature is the key to truly calming down and entering a state of just being. A simple habit, no matter where you are, is to consciously choose to enter a state where you feel true gratitude, joy, and love. Another powerful habit you could establish is to connect with yourself through journaling in the stillness of the morning, before looking at our smartphone for the first time. Quieting the monkey mind and taking time to consciously connect with yourself is a lot like training a muscle — the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Step #5: Make a Difference — by Doing Things Differently
Once we start taming our monkey mind, we become more aware of what we are telling ourselves about who we are. Who we believe we are is at the core of our identity — and it drives our actions. While we couldn’t choose our parents, or the culture and religion we grew up in, we can deliberately decide to grow and become more aware of who we truly are — letting go of parts of our identity that no longer are in line with our convictions. Doing things differently means disrupting the way you do things, disrupting old patterns. Start with little things, begin at home: Say “yes” to your partner concerning things where you typically would snap back a “no.” Surprise yourself, and others. Straighten your posture and take a few deep breaths whenever you feel tense. Prototype an idea and test it — although it is still far from perfection. Ask others for feedback about how you’re doing — and calibrate it with your own experience. And, allow others to experiment, too, and try to see them with fresh eyes, suspending your inner voice of judgement.
In order to master the tectonic shifts of our time, we can start making profound changes from the inside out — one person at a time. If we want to transform the patterns that perpetuate the status quo — and that dwell in the consciousness gap — we need disruption on a personal level. By following her deepest convictions, Greta Thunberg, spearheading the #FridaysForFuture movement, radically embodies this kind of transformational leadership: leaping right over the system that keeps the same system running, and consistently acting upon what she deeply feels needs to be done. Whatever the behaviors that you want to see more of in this world — choose today to display more of these. This is how we all can become agents of change for the world we want — through our personal lives and leadership.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”