A Crisis and an Opportunity for True Transformation – Here’s How…

(Please note that message to our community was originally dated Sunday 22 March 2020 as Australia underwent a partial lockdown for COVID-19. However, the message applies equally importantly to any time of uncertainty, especially now, and I hope it serves you well.)

Firstly, I hope this note finds you well and healthy.

If there’s anything going on where you don’t feel so good, then I hope you can reach out to someone and get assistance soon. If you can’t do that for whatever reason, just hit reply and I’ll come back to you to find a way to connect you with the appropriate person, people or service. Or if it happens to be something that’s within my ability to help with, then I will.

The situation we are now dealing with feels relentless to many, with a lot of uncertainty, worry and fear now taking hold.
The level of concern that people have right now around their health, jobs and businesses is collectively more serious than anything I’ve ever seen (especially so because of the added health concern).

Previous recessions that I’ve seen (which is what this situation will likely evolve into), created massive fear and concern around financial and job security for most people, so when you add to that, the worry for our own personal health and that of our families and friends, then it gets even more serious.

So why this email, when I’m obviously not a doctor or medic?

The simple answer is that if this helps even just one person, then it’s been worthwhile.

I want to talk to a few points in this email, but before I do, keep a look out for some calls and webinars that I am running for our clients and community
There should be no opt-in or registration required – just look out for a link and as long as I’m not having a tech melt-down (which did happen once … okay maybe twice), it should be as easy as a click or two to join.

The entire focus of the call / webinar will be on how to grow, and even thrive during uncertainty. This is not hypey, and it’s not necessarily all about money (though it might mean that for some on the call) – it’s about finding a way to create some level certainty for the next say 6 months, no matter what your situation, and then focusing on coming out the other side possibly even better than you are now, but at least being focused on something where you progress and grow.

It’s about leadership and self-leadership as it applies to leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners, and anyone aspiring to the above. So it could be someone in employment looking to self-lead, which is what will be required of us all in the coming months.
I’ll come back to it more in a bit, but what I really want to talk about in this note is this:

For anyone in a helping profession you’ll know that people need help when they have a problem, or a challenge, or when they are stuck somehow (usually in some negatively-patterned thought process).

So, since we’re now in a crisis, isn’t this then the exact time to step up and help folks out?

And if you’re a coach or consultant for example and reading this then I would suggest the same to you. It’s my mission help with transformation where it is needed. Transformation to me means out with the old and a rebirth into the new, whether it’s a new or next-level business, relationship or environment.

Right now, with what’s happening with health and economic concerns, it’s about our environment, and possibly businesses and relationships and jobs too, and possibly all of the above for the same person.

But what precedes transformation? Discomfort. Fear. Pain quite often.

But what’s at the other side of it?

Well think back to any real transformation you ever accomplished… and I don’t mean change, where you changed school or job. I mean transformation where you reached the end of one area or even era (relationship, career, environment), and where it was so terrifying to you that you thought your world was going to end, and yet here you are today reading this.

I appreciate though that this current crisis and the associated transformation is considerably bigger than most transformations we are called upon to make happen. However, you yourself are also much more likely to be considerably more resourceful and wise that the younger ‘you’ was back then. In other words, there is a very high likelihood that you have all the abilities and resources that you need to make your next transformation happen, just as you did with your old ones. The transformation-requirement of you back then (just as now) would have been in proportion to your abilities.

The one thing that happens in transformation for everyone though is we experience some type of fear.

Therefore, dealing with that fear is the key.

I’m not saying that you look at a bunch of weeds and pretend that they are flowers, or that you go AWOL to the beach and hope for the best while you’re there.

I’m talking about being intentional as much as you can and reminding yourself what a transformation actually is. I used to laugh at how change management suddenly became organizational transformation, when they’re really not even the same sport!

Transforming from an employee to a business owner; or
transforming from a person who just lost their job to become a wiser soul with certainty, who sees a light at the end of the tunnel before others even believe it’s possible; or
transforming form a business owner to a game changer, or
transforming from a manger to a leader, takes a whole other level of courage, resourcefulness and trust, when compared to making a simple everyday change.

Right now many people are being confronted with the need for a real transformation, and the best way to deal with that is to actually step in to it. Before or even while doing that, I think it can often help to remember how our old pattern-matching machine works… i.e. our brain.

Since I’m a simple guy, I like the 3-parts-to-the-brain model….

The oldest part is the amygdala and is located at the base of the skull and top of the spine.

The fore-brain, as the name suggests is located towards the front of the skull, and also contains the prefrontal cortex which is the newest part of the brain.

In between both is the mid-brain, where a lot of logic-type work is carried out.

So Fear then… what happens…?

The Fear-centre is located in the old brain – the amygdala, and what it wants more than anything is a big signal for: Go/No-go; Yes/No; Good/Not good, before you can access the rest of your brain.
It’s like the mass media – it wants a big headline and if there’s fear or anger, then that will do nicely – the amygdala will light up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve when your amygdala is in fear / anger reaction mode.

Think about medicine: if you respond to medicine that’s a good thing right? If you react though, it’s a scary event. Same with our brain – we are aiming for response mode here not react mode.

If you are in fight-flight mode, for example fearful about the future (flight) or angry towards someone or something, real or imagined (fight), then you stay in that old emotional part of your brain and the signal is blocked from travelling towards the newest part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex.
As you might expect the prefrontal cortex being more evolved (recent) is more concerned with things like mission, ideas, vision, purpose and so forth. It’s the CEO of you.

The mid-brain in between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex does all your analysis, but the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that lights up under an MRI when you are in flow, or when in a heightened state of awareness, for example deep meditation.
I’m not writing this to get you to meditate (though it’s not a bad idea, in fact it’s a great idea); I’m doing it to hopefully help you move towards a way of operating which of itself will activate your prefrontal cortex and so give you the ideas and resources you need (or at the very least will move you out of your amygdala and therefore into more resourceful modes).

From there you will feel more visionary and see opportunities and possibilities. From your amygdala you experience pain and fear and if you insist on feeding it, you will want more pain and more fear to consume until it’s addictive.

So how to get out of the amygdala then, and especially so from some random email?!

It begins with something compelling or inspiring to focus on.
Something you care about. And it does not matter one bit whether your neighbour calls you crazy for it, but it matters a whole lot to you to have a reason to move forward – especially now. It matters a lot that you have meaning in what you do next so you may now see the possibility or opportunity in whatever is happening in the environment (circumstances). All our worries at this time will be unique – sure they may be grouped under similar headings such as health, jobs etc., but the specific detail, context and fabric of each problem or concern will be different for everyone.

The first step therefore is to create some kind of certainty. Any kind even.

In this case I recommend creating a certainty for yourself that you will make it to say 6 months from right now in a certain state with certain accomplishments. Pick 6 months, or 9, or whatever works for you and tell yourself that it will be like this: [ fill in the blank yourself ] .

Whatever you pick, make it something you want to go through.

Do not make it a nightmare.

But do pick something.

It can be a nightmare if you want it to be, but since you are creating it now, why bother making it a nightmare.

Even if you are a CEO and 1,000 people are about to be stood down or you have to let go of some people, you can choose it to be something other than a nightmare. You could explore that with your people and your company. How can you make something compelling?

Again, I must stress that I am not about calling weeds flowers. I am about helping with transformation.
There are plenty of people who are feeling pain already and many who will feel it soon, so it’s not about ignoring that pain! At the same time though, neither is it about giving in to it. Every energy has a transformation-twin and pain is no different.

So how can we use this opportunity to create something valuable for people? Yes there will be pain, but how do we come out the other end at a higher level.

I’ll go deeper into this on the call because it’s easier to present these ideas visually and explain them that way too. My goal is for you to have heightened awareness around what’s possible and available for you and also to create a real feeling and practical ideas as to how to make it happen.

Everyday examples from recent conversations I’ve been having include:

a bar owner who goes to people’s homes to teach them how to mix cocktails; or a manufacturing company who pivots into consulting services and helps their clients figure out how to create something even more robust and bespoke once orders come back online. Or a leader who realises that to truly lead they need an environment within which to step up and into, before they can really raise their game (the environment made her the leader). Or a pilates trainer who comes to you. Or a live venue that goes virtual. Or a musician who plays online (and actually makes more money). Or a hotelier who takes up some new training in a brand new field. Or a manager who learns to overcome her fear of speaking and so picks that as her project for the next few months. Or a retrenched person who has a 6 month mortgage break who uses that time and perhaps some of the money to activate an old dream or build a long-desired skill. Or an employee who secretly harboured the desire to set up their own business but never had the courage to do it and is now in a position to really make that happen, and so now is the perfect time to strategise for that. Or the CEO who felt fear before realising that this crisis was her opportunity to make her organisation walk their talk on a values level and dazzle clients even more.

The world will be different on the other side of this. That’s a certainty.

And there are things everyone can do to grow and thrive in the meantime, as well as when we come out the other end.

But what are these?

It will only be the minority who will even entertain the idea to think this way, and very few will actually go and have a go at something, but the ones who do will do exceptionally well. I’m hoping you can muster yourself to be one of those.

What I’m advocating here is to hold the idea in your mind that there may be something promising for you now or in the next 6 months or a year from now, that is even better than what you think you are giving up. Just hold it as a possibility.

Forget change. Now is not the time for that.

I’m taking about transformation. Who you are about to become.

So think about what certainty you can have in the next 6 months.

It might be reconnecting with people again, or learning something new, or resting more, or thinking more strategically, or creating a new business…

For now though, just give yourself certainty and clarity and focus. Think about what’s in your heart. It might even be something you’re afraid to say out loud in case it sounded silly to others. Doesn’t matter – this can be your time if you let it.

You may remember that in the past, when you were about to buy a certain thing like a car or maybe a holiday, and once you decided on it, you suddenly started to see it everywhere? We all know about this right… you are going to buy a type of car and everywhere you now look you see it (even though it was always there, but it’s only now that you really notice it!).

Well what if you decided to order yourself some certainty, or a certain life 6 months from now, or a certain business in the future?

Don’t worry if you don’t yet know how to bring it to fruition. In the same way that the world reveals cars and holidays that you are about to have, it will reveal connections to whatever you instruct your mind to focus on. I’m not saying it will make it happen without effort. Of course not – that takes action. But it will reveal the ingredients to you.

Oh and the best bit (in the short term)?

Your mind is now occupied with something interesting, inspiring even, so that your pesky amygdala doesn’t get a look in and that debilitating flight / flight regression of fear and anger is forgotten about.

Keep that possibility-focus front and centre as things unfold this week, and hopefully see you on our call / webinar:

Look out for the link as it may well be in the post that brought you here today…

We will cover things like:
1. Certainty
2. Thoughts
3. Behaviours
4. Strategy
5. Options available right now
6. Meaningful action towards a compelling future

Please look after yourself and hope to see you soon.

All best wishes,

Ronan

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