More gratitude, less regret
More gratitude, less regret
A few observations to start with;
- I am using the terms – more (of ). . . less (of) and not all (of) . . . none (of). I fully realise that we live in a world that is not perfect, never will be perfect, and to strive for absolute perfection is usually an exercise in stress and frustration. So we are suggesting that folk look at behaviour change that looks to embrace MORE of what we believe is the healthy option, and in doing so, find themselves acting in a LESS unhelpful or destructive way. No-one expects you to suddenly (or even gradually) become ALL gratitude and NO regret, but to move to a way of living where gratitude outweighs (and in this way conquers) too much regret.
- This module is one of two that deal with what has happened in the PAST – few books or courses on leadership ever address the past. We are looking here at our attitude (and consequent behaviour) towards things that have already happened in the recent or even the distant past. The ability to live with your past is critical, as you cannot erase it – as much as you may want to try. Yes, there are dramatic therapies that can help to wipe out certain harmful memories, but that is rather scary to most of us and we won’t be going that way. And some of us, as we get older, do forget certain things from our past and that is both good and bad. Isn’t it awful when we find ourselves remembering the things we don’t want to remember, and forgetting the things we wish we could remember? Such is life.
The problem is that the past can easily become like a prison. We can easily get so imprisoned and entangled by our past – especially the failures and the disappointments – that we never really give the present and the future the attention they deserve. In this way the past ceases to be a platform for learning and growth and it becomes instead a cell of detention, keeping us limited and enchained by past experiences. Of course we must learn from what has happened, that in fact is how our subconscious minds are constructed to help and protect us, BUT the past is still the past, and we should never allow it to unduly impact the exciting opportunities of the immediate present and enticing future.
More gratitude, less regret;
That said, let’s look now at the statement in front of us – more gratitude, less regret. Now on the Personal Leadership Programme you will remember talking about “Appreciation”, you will have been encouraged to show appreciation for one another and you will have even been given an evening “homework assignment” to phone someone and express some appreciation. Do you remember that? I certainly do! Now I am using the word “gratitude” as opposed to “appreciation” simply because it has for me, in this context, a wider, more general sense of psychological and emotional state of mind. We tend to appreciate a specific act or attitude in someone else, but we feel a more general sense of gratitude towards a wider range of phenomena. So please keep on showing appreciation wherever and whenever you can – it is incredibly powerful. But let me now explain why I believe a general attitude of gratitude towards what has happened in our lives is, firstly, possible to develop and secondly, really useful to practise.
- Gratitude (and attitudes such as optimism and pessimism) are simply ways of interpreting “reality”
- Gratitude is to the past, what optimism is to the present and future.
Let’s take statement 1;
Let me explain it via a practical example, without too much of the supporting “theory” – we deal with this in a lot more exciting detail on the “Power of 10” workshop, so don’t miss it!
- It starts with Adversity
- It moves from there to your Belief system
- This has Consequences
- These need Disputing
(Simple as ABCD, right?)
- It starts with Adversity – In your role as leader, you made a really bad decision several weeks ago and you have not been able to forget it, because it has set the business back a few months. You promoted George over the advice of all your team, and they were right, you were wrong. He let you down by being dishonest and even committing fraud.
- It moves from there to your Belief system – You think: (that is, you interpret this event based on your belief about the reality of the situation – you attach a certain meaning to it)
“I made a terrible mistake here, it is all my fault, I was not thinking at the time, I was stubborn and now I have to live with the fact that is was my fault that cost our business all that pain. I have proved to myself that I am not a good leader after all. No-one is ever going to trust my decisions in the future. My career as a successful leader is over!”
- This has Consequences
- Physiological consequences – I am sleeping badly now, can stop thinking about it – I am suddenly feeling more fatigued and more stressed at the end of each day. I am smoking too much all of a sudden.
- Emotional consequences – I feel guilty, even ashamed at times. I have lost a lot of confidence. I constantly wonder if folk have lost their confidence in me and that worries me. I feel a lot more pressure now to do the right thing every time.
- Behavioural consequences – I have withdrawn myself from much of the banter and socialising with my team. I am saying a lot less in meetings, and just allowing folk to do what they want, even when I don’t agree. I am avoiding any kind of decision- making and I think it is driving folk crazy!
- These beliefs/this interpretation needs Disputing – because unless you dispute your thinking and change it, the dysfunctional feelings and behaviour will continue. You could dispute your interpretation as follows:
- Yes, it was a mistake and I should have listened to others but this is the very first time in a long career that I have made such a mistake and it shouldn’t tarnish my whole career
- I WAS thinking at the time; that is what I, as a leader, am meant to do. I have every right to have my own thoughts and there will still be times when I have to go with my ideas, even when others don’t agree with me.
- There WAS an immediate cost to our business, but it was nowhere as near as bad as it could have been.
- I may have messed up, but so did George. I cannot hold myself responsible for George’s poor behaviour.
- There is no reason to believe that my team won’t trust me in the future. I have owned up to my error and they have said to me that they have drawn a line over it and we move on.
- Most importantly, I am actually grateful that this has happened because it has been a huge learning experience for me. I will definitely think twice before making such decisions in the future.
So can you see how this new interpretation of the adversity could lead to a much better physiological and emotional response and how the behaviour would be so different?
Let’s go back then to my statements above;
- Gratitude (and optimism and pessimism) are simply ways of interpreting “reality” – can you see how viewing this event with gratitude can impact so much of the way you feel and behave going forward? This is not simply the “power of positive thinking” (you are not re-writing the event – it was a mistake to promote George) but you are viewing it through a better lens, a more positive, in fact, more realistic, lens.
- Gratitude is to the past, what optimism is to the present and future. As we move through the “Power of 10” workshop you will see how you can apply this same process to looking at present and future opportunities. Remember what we said on the Personal Leadership Programme? Expectations create your Reality and that’s why it is always to look optimistically at the world around you.
On the workshop we will explore this further and in much more depth and look at the myriad of benefits that can come from being grateful for what has happened to you, and not be constantly eaten up by regret.
Written by Rob Gee | Senior Partner of The Living Leader | Power of 10