Fully Engaged


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Own all of you. Value relationships. Explore. Learn how fully engaging all parts of you pays off in power, leadership, and energy.

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Fully Engaged

  2. 2. 
 HIDDEN,NUMB,DUMB Imagine yourself on a chair in a waiting room. You might be at the office of a dentist or a doctor or an accountant. The chair is comfortable, but not too comfortable. It is designed so that you can sit and flip through your phone or a magazine or glance at a television screen. Whatever you are waiting for, it’s probably not going to be fun. This is not where you live by choice. Until you’re scared. You might be scared of making a mistake, scared of getting hurt, scared that nothing makes sense, scared that there’s a catastrophe just around the corner. Fear plants us in a waiting room, where we try very hard not to think about what comes next. After a while, there is no next, and there is no past. There’s only a waiting room where you ward off thoughts that might lead to pain or danger. Used by Creative Commons License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/frances1972
  3. 3. 
 Maybe you hide from your thoughts. You distract yourself with inconsequential details as you flip through a magazine or surf social media. You keep yourself busy in the details of your job so you won’t look up and out at the bigger picture. You worry about what’s for dinner instead of what’s working (or not) in your relationship. Your mind is busy, but you’re not engaging. You’re hiding. Or maybe you keep your thoughts locked in your head, racing round and round your brain without ever connecting with your voice or your body. Thinking like this is safe because it never generates action. It’s hard to keep your thoughts out of your body. You probably have to do a lot of work to keep your body numb and unresponsive. Maybe you have a drink (or two or more) to settle your nerves so that you can unwind the connections between mind and body. Maybe you work out so hard that your body is too exhausted to process your thoughts. There are many different strategies for numbing the body so that what you notice cannot generate action. The other option is to think thoughts so fuzzy that they cannot get any traction in your heart, your voice, your actions. Have you ever noticed what happens in your voice and your body when you dumb down a thought to make it safer? Dumbing leads to numbing: as the thought gets safer it disconnects your thinking from your willingness to act. This is also true when you dumb down your thinking so that you can avoid the implications of your behaviour or your situation. We say we fear paralysis by analysis. It would be more accurate to say that fear closes off our perceptions so that all we can see is more of the same. We lose the differences that drive the thinking that leads to action and change. Of course, dumb has another meaning: we respond to fear by losing our voices. Our thoughts cannot be stabilized in sound or writing because we are afraid of what they mean. Without voices, we become dumb (not smart) because we can’t identify distinctions or boundaries. Our thoughts run in circles, unable to find release. We are safe, but we are not sound.
  4. 4. 
 There isn’t a lot of evidence that human beings can be safe and sound for any length of time. There are too many variables in ourselves, our relationships and our environment. Our physiology is subject to injury and illness and malfunctions. We love one another knowing that others are unpredictable and unreliable and vulnerable. Our world offers nurture and distortion and destruction. The human mind/brain/body system functions to seek safety and well-being. It sets us up for disappointment and fear because what we are seeking is possible only in the moment or in the very big picture. In between, our well being varies wildly from day to day. Because we seek safety, we are subject to fear. Because we fear, we use our brains, but we don’t let them connect with our hearts and hands. The only way out of the paradox is to embrace it - to make your thinking big enough to include both fear and safety, to let thinking happen in so many parts of you that the whole is satisfied even when parts are hurting. The only way to find all the best parts of yourself is to pay attention to all parts (even the ones you are sure are not the best). The only way to find something better than safety is to think through your fear and out into a world worth engaging. Living fully engaged means allowing the whole of you to participate in thought: your body, your mind, your brain and neurology, your imagination. As you are open to more of the world, choice becomes both necessary and possible. You cannot determine all of what happens. But you choose your own direction, your own responses, your own focus. Thinking enables choice and choice enables you to use all of your mind and brain and body to shape a more satisfying life. It begins with understanding thought as the activation of all of your potential in interaction with the world around you. It begins with knowing that thought isn’t trapped in your head: it’s the relationship between what fires in your brain, activates in your body and is reflected in the mind that tells you who you are. THINKINGISNOTOPTIONAL
  5. 5. EMBODIEDTHOUGHT Here’s what changes when you begin to pay attention to how thinking is happening in every part of you. You begin to know yourself as whole and engaged. You can calm your fear and make choices about how to connect with people and situations. You experience the difference between waiting for life to happen and turning on all your faculties to notice and direct your experience. Begin by getting out of the waiting room. This means connecting your thoughts to language and action. It’s not good enough to let thoughts cycle through your mind. You need to recognize that your actions, perceptions and choices are your thoughts. The thoughts that turn up in your movement and decisions are strong indicators of the priorities and possibilities that engage you. As you take your own behaviour seriously as a message about your intentions and internal state, you begin to turn on more of your processing power. You become more engaged in knowing yourself and shaping your impact.
  6. 6. 
 This is obvious when you think about managing someone else’s performance. Imagine running an organization where you only allowed some of the business units to function at any one time. Obviously, you want more. You want every possible resource applied to maximize productivity. When you think about managing an individual, you want them to use their best instincts, their best analysis, their best soft skills and their best energy and you want all of that at once. Now think about your own performance - personal, professional, social. How can you put large parts of you on hold if you are to get the best from yourself? It’s obvious that someone else would want your full engagement. That means more than thinking rationally: it means using every possible resource to interact with the situation and change elements of it to produce a desirable result. Put simply: your emotions, your actions and your words are as important as your analysis in driving your results. To live fully engaged is to check out what your body, senses, intuition and imagination can bring to the table to solve problems, adapt to change, and produce results. Embodied thought takes shape in your voice, your physiology and your behaviours. Practice it now. Think of a situation that has you stuck or concerned, a situation that makes you numb or dumb. Now, instead of thinking “about” the situation, notice how you are thinking about it. Begin with your body. Scan through your physical well- being and notice what is different when you are thinking about this situation. Where does tension appear or disappear? Where is there energy to move or energy pulling you into hiding? What does your body feel like doing as you think (fidget, run away, curl into a little ball)? Instead of dismissing pain, tension or movement as “just” your body, accept these messages as part of the way your fully engaged self signals what you are perceiving in you and around you. Now play with your thinking. If this situation were a movie, what kind of movie would it be (and which famous and gorgeous actor would play you)? What kind of stories or places or animals come to mind when you think of this situation? We all think in metaphors (we compare situations to tangible, known objects, creatures or places).
  7. 7. 
 When we notice the metaphors instead of dismissing them, we get more information about our peripheral awareness. Some part of your mind/brain/body system has noticed elements or patterns in the situation that your conscious thinking has missed. Your metaphors are efforts to pay attention to what you already know about where you are and where you need to go. Finally, get out and move through your thinking. Thinking on a long walk is much different than thinking in a waiting room. You won’t know how it is different (not really) until you do it. You know what situation has you preoccupied. Now walk, run, dance or exercise through it. This will not make sense to your rational mind. It’s been trained that sitting still is the only way to think well. But the human body is much older than the rational mind (anthropologically this is true, but it’s also true in every individual. You’ve always had a body but your rational brain isn’t mature until you’re almost 30). Don’t let the know-it-all little brother or sister run your show. Go for a walk and see how movement changes your thinking. There’s more you could explore - your sensory representation of a situation, your sense of timing, the emotions that might bubble to the surface as you begin to wonder what they add to your ability to shape a response. And of course, this is not a linear process. As you explore the neglected elements in your thinking, your rational analysis will also surface and adapt. Embodied thinking owns all of it as part of a whole response to a complex situation. Embodied thinking is the thinking of full engagement, the thinking that occupies all of you in moving to a more satisfying experience.
  8. 8. 
 How do you define power? For most people, the answer includes a combination of enough energy and strength to make things happen. For human beings, power is rarely about physical strength or physical energy. It’s more likely about being able to pull together physical, emotional, intellectual and social strength through a guiding purpose. When you put all of yourself at the service of making a particular change in the world, you are at your most powerful. The first effect of fully engaging all of your thinking is that you become more present to your situation. You reflect more on what is happening in you and around you. You begin to notice that changes in you create changes in the situation. You begin to count the costs, to you and to others, of making those changes. As you heighten your awareness, you change the way time flows for you. Each moment is dense with perception and perspective and possibility. To hold it in your thinking self (your brain and body and mind) you become alert; you become energized. The energy comes from that fully alert brain that is firing in so many different parts at once. The energy comes from the connection you feel to your relationships. The energy comes because waking all the way up is exciting. It is, perhaps, a paradox that when we take a risk we feel vulnerable and others see us as courageous and powerful. I cannot imagine that courage ever feels good. It only rises when there is something more important than fear, and that means that every person who is brave is also someone who is scared. Every person who is brave is risking pain or failure in the service of something important to them. From the outside, we see someone who has the power to stand up to threat, to risk, to loss. From inside, we have to focus on just one thing because we are so close to giving up or giving in. The one thing we give our attention is the thing that is more important to us than fear. Power comes from knowing that we value something more than we fear pain or loss or embarrassment. What’s the thing that would make you brave? GROWYOURPOWER
  9. 9. 
 What’s the thing you value so highly that you could give it your attention even in very bumpy seas, even hanging by a very thin thread, even when you know you will pay a high price? That’s what purpose is: it’s the thing that makes it worth getting out of the waiting room and doing what has to be done to move forward. Will is the power that stands in the world and finds the voice and the imagination to choose purpose whether or not it seems possible. Will is a force like mind: we know we have it but we’re not entirely sure how it begins. We grow will by practicing. We act to make change in ourselves or the world and when change happens, our will grows a little. When we start, we are all will, but there is not much of us. Babies are born with a voice and not much more. Sometimes they can make change happen, and often they cannot. It takes what will they have to persist until they can grow more of themselves and more will. To know that will is power, you only have to say the words. Say to yourself, “I hope good things will happen this year.” Say to yourself, “I want good things to happen this year.” Say to yourself, “I will make good things happen this year.” Notice what changes in your voice, your body, your perceptions as you say the words. The will is so strong that even if you use it against yourself, it will be effective (but don’t will failure or hurt on yourself). What you will is not always what happens, but it always makes a difference; will always makes change happen. It’s a virtuous cycle (not a vicious one). Fully engaged thinking grows presence and purpose and will power. Presence and purpose and will power engage all of your senses, your imagination, your analysis, your physical being. You might not always get stronger (life happens) but once the cycle is set, you will be determined, connected,and engaged.
  10. 10. LEADERSHIPHAPPENS You might like to practice thinking with mind and body and brain. You might want to know yourself better and make choices about the responses you make, the relationships you build, and the results you create. For most people, the benefits of living a fully engaged life compel them to get out of the waiting room and take chances. Once they have power, the power that comes with living with presence and purpose and will, something else begins to happen. They find that the people around them, the people who connect with them, are influenced. They find that whether or not it was part of their conscious intention, they have become leaders. Human beings are socially wired: our ability to track the states and behaviours of the people around us is a function as automatic as breathing. We do not choose to connect: we connect because we are human. Most of this connection happens while our thoughts are occupied with other things.
  11. 11. 
 If someone’s brain is in the waiting room, cycling through thoughts that never reach the voice or generate actions, then they have lots of brain/body function left for noticing and interacting with other people. Most of what they pick up is other people’s anxiety and incongruence. But sometimes, they attune to someone and find power and presence and purpose. The first act of leadership is to model power so that the people around you can become attuned to the possibly of engaging their own resourcefulness and mindfulness. As you become more fully engaged, others pick up that engagement and begin to respond to it, often before they are aware of what they have noticed. “Something is different,” they think. And then their minds turn to what they value, what they want, what might be possible. They might never know that you have changed what is possible for them by changing what is possible for you. Unless leading others is part of your conscious intention, you might not even notice that they are changing in response to you. You might only be aware that change is happening around you and that it is aligned with your purpose for your situation. Our conscious minds are limited: we do not always see the patterns of influence in which we move. But those same patterns would be clearly defined to the eye of an observer. The second act of leadership is to attune to what is powerful in the people around you. Many people try to lead by connecting with the fear in the people they want to influence. The problem with this is that what we give our attention is amplified. When we connect with fear, we feel more fear and so does the person with whom we connect. When we give attention to the moments when people are present and purposeful and powerful, we mirror back their best. When you fully engage with the best in people, you make it easier for them to stay focused on the purpose that brings out their best.
  12. 12. 
 The third act of leadership is to share stories. Stories engage all of you: your reason, your emotions,your perceptions, your physical presence whether you are listening or reading or telling. When you listen to a story, your imagination and interpretation completes and directs the story’s meaning. When you tell a story, you set others up to shape some of the story’s content and meaning. A story is never complete until it takes root in a new mind and begins to grow there. Does this sound impractical? What sounds impractical to me is language so specific and technical that it lands in only a few parts of a receiver’s brain. So much of what we have been taught about language is simply wrong. Language is never a complete representation of anything. It’s a suggestion that two or more people engage with the same situation at the same time so that they can make change happen. Good language wakes up engagement in your mind and brain and body so that two or more fully engaged people can create something together they could not create locked into their own heads. I love the paradox of that hypnotic word: suggest. On the one hand, it holds power. When a hypnotist makes a suggestion, it is with the firm expectation that the suggestion will be accepted and will generate action. And yet, suggestion is not just a more comfortable word for command. A suggestion engages. It leads someone to a possibility and encourages connection and creation. When I make a suggestion, I hope that you will do more than take it. You will add your own input to shape something better out of my thought. Stories are the strongest, most flexible, most effective suggestions. They hold four layers of meaning at once: the teller’s knowledge of the story; the listener’s imagining of what is heard; the words of the story itself; and the situation in which the story is told. It would be impossible to track all those layers consciously as a story is told. To track them all requires many parts of your mind/brain/ body system working simul- taneously and in connection. LANGUAGEENGAGES
  13. 13. All you can track consciously is your own part of the story as teller or listener or observer. The most fully engaged person in a story leads. If the listener is more engaged than the teller, the teller will respond to non-verbal suggestions, editing the story as it unfolds to match the engagement of the listener. If an observer is more engaged in the situation than in the story itself, then the teller and listener will be distracted and become aware of relationships and interactions as the story is being told. And if the teller is most fully engaged, then all three will be drawn into a vivid experience of an alternative to reality. That such an experience is possible, that multiple people can share a vivid experience of something that is not happening, suggests that the world is open to more change than can be analyzed or rationalized. When you are fully engaged, you will tell stories out of that engagement. Whatever you are saying will be full of sensory perception, of emotion, of facts and reason, of movement. That is what it means to be fully engaged. Language that corresponds to a fully engaged human experience will create a fully engaged human experience. Stories are the form of language that engages to suggest that movement is necessary and purpose matters.
  14. 14. CHOOSETOENGAGE Own all of you. It’s not a competition. You are one system. Selling out one part to serve another is like pulling the battery out of your car to make more room for gas. Explore. When you love something outside yourself, you are curious. When you are curious you are motivated and resilient and active. Value relationships. Human beings are wired for connection. We only reach full potential when we are emotionally, practically, and mentally interacting with other people.
  15. 15. 
 When was the last time you felt an adrenaline rush? Was it prompted by a physical activity, a situation, a relationship that was forming or breaking? There are moments in our lives that are so intense time seems to slow down to hold all of the emotion and thoughts and perceptions that are flooding our systems. Adrenaline creates this intensity so that you will be ready to move - quickly! It’s a short term response to a short term problem. Longer term living cannot rely on adrenaline to boost engagement. There’s too high a price to pay for that intensity, and too many purposes that cannot be supported by it. Life is not a sprint. It’s not a marathon. It’s a very long walk. Sometimes you will have to move quickly through a situation, but mostly you will have to manage your energy and attention so that it supports you for the long haul. You wouldn’t want to shuffle through a journey on foot, eyes down, body numb to challenge. You don’t want to shuffle through life as if it were a waiting room. In the short term, the waiting room is an option. In the big picture, it is a stopping place, not a place to move, not a place to live. There are three things you will need to love to fully engage in your life. The first is yourself. You will need to love that you are complex and surprising and unknowable and powerful. You do not need to understand this to love it. Understanding it is beyond the ability of the small part of our system that analyzes and understands. You can understand that all of you is more capable and more powerful and more effective than any part of you working in isolation. You can study complex models and analyze the conditions that drive their best performance. You can encourage your analytical, rational, knowable self to dance with the parts of you that are emotional, intuitive and perceptive. Or you can just relax into loving the experience when you allow yourself to be wide awake and fully engaged. FULLYENGAGEDLIVING
  16. 16. 
 The second thing you will need to love to live fully engaged is other people. You don’t have to love all other people all of the time. You do need to know that your fully engaged system will seek out social inputs. Human beings are wired for connection. We only reach full potential when we are emotionally, practically, mentally interacting with other people. You get to choose how many people are required for your full engagement and you get to choose which people engage the most of your attention and energy and potential. You get to choose whether you are activated by inspiration or fear or competition. But you don’t get to choose whether or not to let other people be part of how you fully engage. That’s how the equipment works. The third thing you need to love is having something to explore. You might think of this as a physical environment, a field of study, a business or a metaphysical reality. You need to love that you will never know enough, that the world will always exist just beyond your grasp and just beyond your control. The reward for this love will be joy that you could not predict and power beyond what you think is possible (not infinite power, just more than you think you have). When you love something outside yourself, you are curious and when you are curious you are motivated and resilient and active. I use the word love carefully. Most of our songs about love are sad or angry. Love hurts. Love changes. Love is a risk. Full engagement will often feel worse than being numb or dumb or hidden. You can’t trust any one part of your whole self to be right more often than any other part. That means that the part of you that feels good or powerful or hurt or helpless is no more reliable a judge of what is real than the part of you that analyzes or the part of you that builds walls to keep you safe. They are all incomplete on their own. Inevitably, they all fail on their own.
  17. 17. 
What you can trust is that your best results, your best experiences, and your best influence will come from accepting that you need all of you: social, emotional, analytical, physical. This is not a competition between different needs: you are an integrated system that requires that every element be fit for optimal performance. You own all of yourself. Your attention is shaped by what you explore and what you love. Shutting off a part of this makes no more sense than disconnecting the battery to focus on putting gas in the tank. Take this moment. Feel the blood in your veins, the beat of your heart, the balance of your weight. Focus on the way your skin wraps around you and contains you. Then imagine that you can see yourself as you sit reading this. Notice yourself in a picture that is bigger than you. Zoom back until you see your building, your city, your country and know that all of it is wrapped around the skin that wraps around you. Now think of something you want, something you value. It could be as simple as a cup of coffee, or as complicated as a hug from someone you love. Focus. Then walk away and make something happen. Living Your Purpose by Linda Ferguson. Available in hardcover, paperback and e-book at Amazon and Indigo.
  18. 18. LEARNMORE @NLPCANADATRAINING,2016 www.nlpcanada.com