Start now with what you have… together
As part of the Resilience First Aid project, a 6-month pilot I developed for the National Resilience Institute to build community resiliency and better prepare for mass disruptions, we recently held a trauma and resilience training with my UK colleague, Lisa Cherry.
At a Q&A session with Lisa, me and another resiliency specialist, one participant raised a brave question. Gesturing toward fellow participants, she asked, “What can we do to get more community leaders involved? I feel that you three are at a different level and can have these types of conversations. But what can we do?”
Weaved together, our answers can be summed up as this:
Start now with what you have and take action toward the impact you seek to make. Invite others to this process. You are the leader that you’ve been waiting for. Each of us who show… we are the leaders.
Leadership requires mindfulness and courage. Appropriately, Lisa had started her training by sharing this quote by Brene Brown: “I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and who has the courage to develop that potential.”
By definition, a leader pushes boundaries, stretching toward opportunities that do not yet exist to help more people bring forth more good. This dynamic process requires that leaders identify their strengths and how they can best contribute to solutions. They then reach out to others who are walking out their flavor of leadership ahead of them, asking for help in order to amplify collective contributions.
As evidenced by the participant’s question, the stretching process inherent to leadership can bring us face-to-face with what psychologists call “upward social comparisons” — comparing ourselves to others who we see as doing more, having more, or being more.
The key to moving through these is to hold a collective rather than comparative perspective.
Comparing ourselves to others is a subtle form of isolation, encouraging us to create a division between us (“the followers”) and them (“the leaders”). The reality is that humanity is a we.
So what can you do when you find yourself thinking that you will never be as impactful as someone else… or you get up the nerve to ask someone you admire for help and are rejected… or you’re pulled into the social media pit with its siren songs that you can’t possibly measure up to others?
My favorite strategy is to do what we were able to do together at the Resilience First Aid event: surround yourself with people who genuinely remind you that you just need to do your part and this begins by showing up and taking action from where you are with what you have. You are enough.
A couple other go to strategies, which are top of mind because I’ve used them this week:
Exhale fully. Don’t hold your breath. This starts with physically exhaling for longer than inhaling…and again…and again. This will help you relax and think more clearly.
This also means tuning into your leadership breath… breathing in help from others and breathing out help to others. Breathing in is essential to expanding your knowledge, networks, and resources. Yet, you need to keep exhaling fully to regulate your system. Beyond helping those you are here to help, when you are getting pulled into a funk of social comparisons, intentionally reach out your hand to an emerging leader walking the path a bit behind you. Give what you most want to receive and don’t be surprised if this somehow creates more for everyone.
Reset your perspective with a mantra. Regardless of your particular religion or lack thereof, resilient leaders have an arsenal of mantras, prayers, or positive reflections that reconnect them to the bigger picture and the inner why that drives their unique purpose and gives their life meaning.
After a couple challenges that called for a reset, the prayer I settled on this week: “Thank you for your guidance, protection, and assistance in serving love. May I serve love in all that I do.” Repeating the mantra, “Serve Love”, every time I got tempted to compare myself to others, reminded me why I do what I do – to serve love in our world. Importantly, it also reminded me that I am a worthy recipient of this lovefest, simply because I am me.
Fewer things can deflate you, discourage you, and take you off course from your own path of personal greatness more quickly than unfavorably comparing yourself to others. We leaders don’t have time for this. There’s work to do. Here’s to starting now with what we have… together.