Imagine you are driving through the busy, jumbled streets of Mumbai.
Where do you focus your attention? How do you navigate the endlessly changing streetscape? Could you plan your way through every metre of the journey? What would happen if you turned to gesture angrily at the driver who just cut you off?
Exactly! You’d crash, and soon decide it was impossible to drive in Mumbai. You might be right. But good Mumbai drivers bring a special type of mindset - a Clear Mind.
They’re composed and alert, focused in the moment, scanning for upcoming risks and opportunities, and ready to adapt to whatever happens. It’s as if they hold control of a very small space around them.
And so it is business, in sport and in any area of life where we want to bring our best when faced with the sort of disruption and uncertainty we've been experiencing in 2020.
Before diving into how to create a clear mind (which I'll do in detail in the next blog) it is important to call out the four enemies which muddy a clear mind and derail everyone from Mumbai taxi drivers to business teams as they navigate through uncertainty.
The first enemy is letting your mind become so emotionally reactive that you lose composure and let unhelpful and uncomfortable emotions like frustration and anxiety take over. Without composure our concentration, awareness and judgement are all negatively impacted. Poorly timed conversations, unnecessary conflicts and poor decisions are rarely caused by lack of knowledge or skills, but rather by loss of composure.
SELF REFLECTION: Are you maintaining poise and composure in the moments that matter, or are uncomfortable feelings like anxiety and frustration taking over at times?
Without focus in the present when it matters and on what matters, you will miss cues from your colleagues, customers or the task in front of you. People will notice you are not present, and it will show in your engagement and empathy. All of these detract from your performance and build stress for you and for others.
It is understandable to be distracted and overwhelmed when things are changing rapidly, and old rituals and routines have been replaced by new ways of working, but that's just when you need your power of focus the most.
SELF REFLECTION: Are you staying focused in the moment, or is your mind drifting more often towards things you can't control or are speculating about?
The third enemy is making it complicated rather than keeping it simple. With the best of intentions, we overthink by trying to plan and control all that’s happening, rather than trusting our instincts and ability to adapt on the run.
When we make things too complicated, we lose trust in ourselves and our team and try too hard, rather than letting our well-practised skills and instincts take over.
Have you seen that happen in sport, such as when top tennis players seem to have the game in control and then get overly cautious and let their opponents back in the game? The same happens in business when we treat adaptive challenges as technical and get in our own way by expecting clear, step by step plans.
SELF REFLECTION: Are you keeping things simple and uncomplicated most of the time, or are you tending to overthink or get a scrambled mind when there’s a lot happening?
The fourth enemy is being slow and inflexible in adapting to change. You can’t perform successfully in the current environment without the ability to adapt to the conditions and to make shifts in your own business plans and priorities.
The challenge is to being adaptable but not letting the emotional reactivity and distraction have you jumping all over the place.
We've probably never seen a less certain business environment, so please do enrol in our free Leading Through Disruption Program which focuses strongly on developing the ability in teams to learn and adapt.
SELF REFLECTION: How quickly and effectively are you adapting to the fast changing conditions? Are you shaping and responding or just reacting to what's happening?
If any of these enemies seem familiar, that’s entirely expected because they are universal enemies to which we are all susceptible. The good news is you can learn to do something about it and that starts with awareness.
Are you frustrated, or optimistic that there’s more to your leadership effectiveness and impact? Do you want to bring your best self more consistently to the really important moments (conversations, decisions, actions)?
Things can be different. Things can be better. For this to happen consistently, you need a formula - a simple, reliable formula which clears the mind of the four enemies, embraces the challenge and helps you to master the game in even the toughest of circumstances.
That formula is a mindset based on four elements that are the opposite of the enemies.
Try this simple exercise .... and repeat it a few times during the week.
In my next blog I'll explain more about these four elements that in top level sport are the foundation of what is called a Game Mindset. Why? Because they represent the mindset of anyone who masters their game, and that begin with a Clear Mind … composed, focused in the moment, simple plans and adapting fast.
Use the next few days to be aware of when the four enemies come into your mindset and then get ready to explore ways to develop your own Game Mindset.
To learn more about how to create a clear mind for you and your team please feel free to enrol in our no obligation course Leading Through Disruption, which features the five key steps to sustaining performance and psychological wellbeing in challenging times.