3 Tips for Putting Down Your Armour

It seems a natural response to being hurt, facing challenges or experiencing unexpected tragedy is to respond with fear and anger and armour up. Armouring up can be anything from “From now on I copy everyone in on my emails to cover my butt.” to “I will not share anything authentic with you again.” to “I’m going to isolate myself from others.”

But research is clear about the role of optimism in resilience. While these armouring up responses are normal, it’s when they become a long term habit that our overall wellness, effectiveness and satisfaction with life can be affected.

While some people seem to be more naturally optimistic, there are times when all of us need to be intentional about it. Here are three practices I use to put down my armour:

  1. Lighten up. Lightening up means that we don’t take ourselves seriously and we put things into perspective, hopefully finding humour in situations. While that may not always be possible in extremely distressing situations, it can also mean giving yourself permission to “park the issue” even if it’s for a short time. This gives your brain a chance to get out of fight or flight. To lighten up, practice the “pause.” When you find yourself overly stressed, anxious, serious, in a rush, etc, take a deep breath, pause for 4 seconds, name what you are experiencing and then ask yourself a question to shift into more optimism. Some of my favorites are “Will this be important a year from now?” “Can I do anything about this?” “Can I invest my energy into something more important or positive?”
  2. Reframe. Reframing means that we interpret and make meaning of our experiences in a way that is optimistic. Resilience researchers followed children raised in neglect or abuse over a long period of time to see how they fared as adults. Those who did well (lived productive happy lives) did not attach the same meaning to their earlier experiences as those who continued in a cycle of neglect and abuse. The “stories” we tell ourselves about what happens to us can be even more important and crucial in determining how we do than what actually happened to us in the moment. Those children who were able to reframe their early childhood as learning experiences that helped them develop their strength and confidence did better than those who told a story of how their early childhood damaged them. Reframing also relates to how we think about things that didn’t go right for us, or failures. Resilient people are able to reframe mistakes or failures as opportunities to learn or create something different in their lives.
  3. Develop a daily ritual that facilitates connection to yourself, others, nature. Some of the things I do are to write down 3 things I appreciate or am grateful for, go for walks, review my file of thank yous from others, watch uplifting videos or read something uplifting, and send a text or email of appreciation to someone. I find that doing this helps me to lean more towards optimism than pessimism, put down my armour and connect to others in a meaningful way.

What are the strategies you use to put down your armour and develop your optimism?

This blog is the A in our PAUSE model of resilience – Active Optimism. Watch for the U in a future blog!!

Go Where You’re Loved

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I remember listening to an author once (sorry I can’t recall who it was!) who was asked about how she dealt with critics of her work. She replied, “I go where I am loved.” Most of us already have really well developed inner critics and so we don’t need to seek them out. Going where we are loved to find an audience for our work and our style (whatever work that might be!), leaves more energy to continue developing ourselves. Continually going down a path with people who don’t appreciate who we are leaves us demotivated, uninspired and worn out. Find those who love you and nurture them!

There’s Always Downward Dog

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I’ve done several 30 day challenges related to blogging and drawing over the past few years and on January 1, I decided to go in a different direction with yoga.

I chose yoga for 2 reasons, to increase my flexibility and become more mindful, as my past forays into meditation weren’t all that successful! Today, day 24, I came to the following insights:

  1. Yoga slows me down for at least a few minutes every day.
  2. I’m getting out of my head (a big relief trust me!) and into my body.
  3. I do feel more calm, more centered and more optimistic after I’ve done it.
  4. I feel I’ve made progress on something every day which might not be what true yoga practitioners would say is the point of yoga. I have so many big abstract projects, however, that accomplishing this one little thing a day is comforting.

It seems to me these are all great leadership practices as well. Yoga doesn’t have to be your thing but what do you do to slow down, get out of your head, become more centered and make progress everyday?

Antidote to Cynicism

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We had just spent two days with a very diverse group of participants facilitating a Future Search process and had asked for closing comments. I was struck by two of them:

“I am excited by what we have created and feel hope for our future.”

“If you all follow through on the projects we identified, things might change.”  

The second comment struck me as somewhat cynical and it got me thinking about what distinguishes hope from cynicism. As I reflected on how these two people had participated in the two days and thought about other situations, four themes emerged:

Own your part – Hopeful people own their role in situations, both the good and the bad, and don’t look to others to “fix things.” Cynical people only own the good, are oblivious to the bad, and expect others to “fix things” for them.

Assume good intent – Hopeful people trust that others are doing the best they can, while cynical people assume others are out to make their lives miserable.

Accept reality – Hopeful people don’t sugarcoat or assume doom and gloom, they accept current circumstances and don’t wish they were different. Cynical people are always searching for some perfect condition that is different from the current one.

Give - Hopeful people give their time, energy and resources to others without condition. Cynical people wait for others to give to them.

As we approach the holiday season, are you hopeful or cynical? Which of these four areas might hold insight for you?

What Leaders Should Do More Often

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Today (Friday, October 23, 2015) is Global Champagne Day so there’s no better day to pause, reflect, and celebrate. Here’s to whatever you and your team have created, accomplished, figured out or contributed to this past week. 
Cheers!