What if with a simple shift of your body, you could have 100% confidence in your leadership ability and decision making? Leadership is an inherent quality in all living things. In the language of archetypes, that inherent quality is Sovereign. All living things have the inherent ability to stand in their sovereignty. You can access your sovereignty by the way you stand and hold yourself. By bringing attention to the alignment, sensations and feelings in the body, you can embrace your Sovereign leadership.
How can the archetypes support you in your leadership? There is self-leadership and leadership of others, as well as collaboration- leadership with others. Archetypes can inspire you to great leadership in all these areas as an individual, and as a parent, partner and work colleague.
There is an old samurai saying, “Adversity makes the man”. Challenging times build resilience. It is all too easy to get lost in fear and despair. So, it is good to know what signs to look for if you stray that way. And to have a North Star by which to orient yourself so that you can move towards greater confidence, resilience and leadership. Archetypes provide such a template.
The point of this blog is to highlight some of the aspects of four archetypes so you might navigate your way through lockdown. And be able to look back and say I did well in lockdown and contributed in a positive way towards my own well-being and that of my family, friends, community and beyond.
**I’ll put in bold the aspects of each archetype**
All life events are an opportunity to live within your values and remain focused on your chosen purpose and direction in life. Covid-19 is no exception. A plethora of opportunities are opening to follow and expand your purpose as a values-focused warrior. Warrior will keep you on focus and make sure you stay on purpose. But Warrior will hold you entrenched in particular thinking and action because “it is the right thing to do” when actually it would benefit you, family and business to pivot and do something different.
As long as it does not compromise your values and purpose, your creativity (Magician) will take you to new and fascinating places. And because you remain aligned to your purpose and values, it still feels heart-felt, passionate and inspiring to take this new path. For example, the fruit and veg wholesaler who overnight had no restaurants to buy his stock. So, he delivered free food parcels to local homeowners so that the food would not go to waste. Now he is inundated with orders for fruit and veg boxes during lockdown. He is making more profit as a result than he ever made dealing with restaurants.
Adapt or Flounder
As Nietzsche said, “if you know the why, you can live any how”. In other words, stay true to your driving force and principles and you can live with integrity in any life situation. Look at all leaders. They have had to pivot and have done so successfully by staying true to who they are. Steve Jobs for example, co-founded Apple on one of his visions of using computers for creativity. When the Apple Board kicked him out, he founded Pixar soon after, which creates computer-animated films.
Personally, during the 2008 financial crash, I lost two thirds of my clients overnight. I did not adapt fast enough to make ends meet, had a painful time of it financially and floundered in the subsequent years. This time, I am more adaptable, and have used the opportunity to go online more and promote myself and my brand by offering free support and training. The connections I make now may lead to new opportunities post-Covid. We will see. But I am staying aligned to my values and purpose at every pivot I take. Therefore, it matters less whether it leads to business in the future. And more about whether I maintain integrity and true to myself. It’s much more fun that way!
I think people appreciate the loyalty and steadfastness of Warrior. People trust the person who is reliable, true, honest, consistent, principled and unshaking in a cause or purpose. Are you feeling the strength and confidence of Warrior during lockdown?
How are your relationships doing with social distancing and self-isolation? Are you finding it hard to say “yes” to things that are supportive and “no” to things that undermine your well-being, safety and confidence, so that you maintain your boundaries? Are you using this as a time for self-care or are you caring for others?
As your life takes on new rhythms during lockdown, how are you managing your relationships? Are you able to get the time and space alone you want? And how are you using that time? Some time alone is important for your well-being. To take time to connect inward, be that meditation, writing, walking or exercising alone, contemplation or reflection, reaffirms your relationship with yourself. And that always you to keep centre when you are in relationships with others. Lover can be prone to giving to others without thought for oneself…… which ultimately can lead to resentment, burnout and fatigue. Or to be self-centric and give no thought to others. How are you managing that balance?
Which really comes down to boundaries. How is lockdown impacting your capacity to say “yes” to the things that support your well-being and relationships? Are you able to ask for the time alone you feel you want? Can you ask for help when things are overwhelming? Or even better, before they become overwhelming, so that you can avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety. And how are you doing with saying “no” to things that do not serve you? Can you push back on the demands made by others for your own well-being?
Travelling to work on public transport may pose a threat to your health. If this worries you, can you ask to work from home or take furlough? If there are social events, can you attend and maintain social distancing? We recently celebrated Victory in Europe (VE) day in the UK marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. There were street parties and celebrations. In our street, we made a point of keep two metres distance from each other and still enjoy the festivities.
And I have noticed that people are using this time to connect to new communities online. I met someone on an online embodiment event who was saying that he has always felt an outsider in the communities he usually connects with. Lockdown has given him the opportunity to find new communities in which he feels a part and included. He will come out of lockdown with a new collection of friends that more deeply appreciate him, his gifts and contribution.
There is always the option of living from fear through the Covid-19 situation. More often than not, the News promotes the negative view. And many people seem to focus on bad news. But there are many positives coming from lockdown at a personal level, for community and the planet.
Our inter-dependence, the fact that we all impact each other, is coming to the fore perhaps more than ever before. Our fates rely on everyone doing their part to be responsible for self-isolating for the benefit of the common good. There is a larger cause here that we are daily being asked to consider when we take any action. And that larger cause means we are being kinder to each other. It means we are driving and flying less which is allowing the environment to recover and heal. We are seeing tremendous acts of bravery, be it frontline healthcare professionals or war veterans walking to raise money for charitable causes.
Healing and Peace
For the first time in human history, humanity is united against a common enemy. What healing can be done from this place of peace, unification and kindness? The world could become a very different place once lockdown has passed. Things could go back to where they were before. But when Magician responds to this pandemic, there is a look towards doing things differently and finding solutions that will heal many of the challenges we faced before Coronavirus hit.
There is an opportunity to rewrite how we work, care for the sick and elderly, look after those closest to us and our neighbours, support our communities, manage stress and mental health, govern with compassion, take our responsibility as custodians of the planet, invest financially, cultivate relationships and much more.
It’s easy to go back to the old ways. But, many of those old ways are not working right now. Perhaps we are paving the way for a new way of being? There is no precedent for this. We are going to have to work it out as we go. Turn inward towards our intuition and gut instinct and feel which is the best way to go.
In the old traditions, Magicians were wise men of counsel, like Merlin. They saw the bigger picture and advised the sovereign so that he may rule with wisdom and compassion. And perhaps Magician’s greatest counsel was not to be swayed by the fearful minds of lesser men. But rather to be guided by your personal inner strength so that you may live with gratitude, wisdom, respect, compassion and above all, love.
What order are you creating through lockdown? Or perhaps you feel like things are in disorder? Quick and radical changes have thrown many of us into disarray and it is taking time to reestablish order. So that we feel safe and able to flourish. And as things continue to change, so we are being asked to shift our structure, organisation and order to accommodate shifting sands.
Order and Freedom
Order offers freedom. Structure and organisation give a framework around which freedom, adaptability and versatility can thrive. This could be an opportunity to take action on your own initiative and authority. There is the opportunity to do something new.
By your own direction, you can determine your routines, the order in your house, the care you take of yourself. And your capacity and willingness to support others and empower them to tap into their own sovereignty. Self-sovereignty is about having dominion over your own body, mind, emotions and spirituality. I have spoken before how self-awareness empowers choice which leads to freedom. And freedom is a hallmark of self-sovereignty. Freedom allows self-authorship. In other words, the power to write your life the way you would like it to be.
Sovereign as Leader
It takes Sovereign to mark out the routines, order, structure, plan, strategy and tactics to make that happen. And Sovereign recruits the other archetypes to make that possible. Sovereign calls on Lover for boundaries and relationship building with self and others. Warrior to move forward and stay on purpose in a values-driven way. And Magician to balance the heart and the head and live in service of something bigger than personal success.
Knowledge and Learning
I’m also hearing a lot of people are taking the time to learn new things. Knowledge increases your capacity to adapt, lead and be more compassionate. Covid-19 has opened the internet to so many free learning opportunities and expand your sphere of influence.
How are you using your sovereignty and self-authority during lockdown? Are you using it to create order so that you and others can flourish? Or are you abusing your position and using your freedom to limit the freedom of others? Are you using it to lead with a sense of vision of how lockdown can be better for us as individuals, a society and the planet? What can you do so for your family and community at large?
Over to You
How are you doing? What areas of your archetypes do you feel you are doing well in? Which archetypes do you think you’d like to work on? What archetypes do you want more of? And which ones are dominant or over-bearing? Which archetypes do you want less of? And which archetypes would it be beneficial to step up to? What areas of your life would you apply the archetypes? What of the archetypes could you do more of and take into your life beyond lockdown and Covid-19?
Pass it on
Phew!!!! That was a long one!!!! If you found this blog useful, please pass it on.
My idea of active relaxation comes from the fitness industry’s concept of active rest. When you are trying to achieve your fitness goals, your body needs recovery time. Intense exercise tears muscle fibres which require time to heal so that muscles continue to work optimally, healthily and injury free. Without that rest, increased fitness and strength cannot occur. Active rest is best because it keeps the body moving without the intensity of heavy weights, endurance or prolonged impact. The body likes to move, so some light exercise as active rest is far better than no exercise at all. Walking the dog, a gentle cycle ride or swim, relaxing yoga or stretching session would all be examples of active rest. Active rest will aid recovery and make you stronger, faster and fitter as part of your fitness goals.
The Relaxation Response and Active Relaxation
Active relaxation works in the same way. You have goals and deadlines: prospecting calls, book-keeping, meetings, proposals, blog posts, social media, networking, your own well-being and that of your clients etc. as a solopreneur. And as a parent you have goals: kids to get ready for school, after school clubs, help with homework, sleepless nights, early mornings, your own well-being and that of your family etc. These things may give you great pleasure and they can also feel frustrating and stressful as well as drain you of vitality, enthusiasm and calm.
When you choose active relaxation, you are choosing activities that bring your body into the relaxation response so that your body can rest, digest and restore itself. Active relaxation benefits the body, mind and emotions at the same time. In the relaxation response, your body can heal and repair itself, your muscles can relax and release tension, your mind can become calm and creative and emotionally you are more receptive to play, humour, building relationships and a solution-focused, positive outlook on life. Can you see that achieving those goals and deadlines is much easier to do if your body is in the relaxation (rest, digest and restore) response and consistently achieving a state of relaxation?
Some Stress is Good, too Much makes you Cranky
Your body spends a lot of time every day in the stress response. From getting the kids to school on time to the work commute, or meeting deadlines for work and managing conflict over the TV remote control at home. It can all send adrenaline into your system for the majority of the day. And for the most part, that is great. It makes you productive, creative and effective in your personal and professional lives. It is designed to make you active, to step out into the world, be seen, take action and take ownership of your life.
But too much of that makes you cranky. Unrelenting stress without a break, drains your system and resilience. Have you noticed that when you are stressed you are less kind to yourself and others? That negative self-talk and lack of patience with others doesn’t feel good, does it? Its also difficult to find creative solutions to situations when you are stressed too much. And you are simply not operating at your best. When you notice these things happening, it is time for active relaxation.
So, what is active relaxation? In short, it is anything that brings you out of the stress response and into the relaxation response. In other words, rather than activities that promote prolonged release of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) you actively and consciously choose activities that shut down the release of these stress hormones. Consequently, you feel calmer, more energised, ready to take on whatever the next challenge is with more resilience, centred, balanced, grounded and in more control. These might include:
• Going for a walk (with or without the dog)
• Reading a book for pleasure
• Cooking with care and eating wholesome food
• Watching one episode of your favourite programme or a great movie
• Activities with friends (a meal, weekend break, spa day, walk, pub/ wine bar/ coffee shop)
• Writing- journaling, reflective, creative, poetic, narrative,
• Painting, drawing etc.
• Yoga class or similar (Pilates, Awareness through Movement, Rolfing Movement Integration)
• Dance- partner classes, nightclub, conscious dance like Five Rhythms
• Comedy- a live show or something at home
What would YOU choose to Actively Relax?
Only choose the ones that are actively relaxing for you. If the idea of a dance class stresses you out, it may not have the desired affect of calming you and feeling more resourced. However, to try some new things might have some surprising and beneficial effects. Some on this list are more dynamic than others. The active bit of active relaxation is more about being engaged with the activity you are doing, rather than how physically active you are.
It also speaks to your conscious choice and awareness throughout the activity. This is why long hours in front of the TV does not appear on the list- after a night on the sofa with the TV or on-line, you can feel more drained and less resourced. So, be careful and honest with the impact these activities have on your vitality, resourcefulness and resilience. Active relaxation, like active rest, is meant to give you more enthusiasm, strength, passion and endurance for your chosen life activities, be it parenting, running your own company, being CEO of a large organisation, writing books, running marathons or walking the dog.
The Cycles of Life
You are not a machine. Humans have rhythms and cycles that have us being more, or less, active, depending on the stage in the cycle we are in. Like years have seasons, humans have seasons too. We are perhaps more active and productive in our youth, having more energy, vitality and vigour. Later, that energy can change to be more reflective, calmer and peaceful. You may be very awake and raring to go first thing in the morning but at night want to turn in early. Or you might be the opposite way around? Alternatively, you might be most productive first thing and late at night and prefer a snooze in the middle of the day. What are your natural rhythms?
You go through rhythms and cycles in which you are preparing for an activity (Spring), which leads into being involved and engaged in it (Summer), and then to wind down as it approaches the end (Autumn). Active relaxation appears in the Winter phase- when the activity is done, you have stopped and you are in the midst of reflection, celebration, commiseration, learning and integration.
Winter is a little used phase. As a society, we are used to moving from activity to activity without the rest time in between. Valuable insights are lost if we miss out Winter. The gathering of experience, vitality and energy as well as assessing what the next direction will be, the intention, desired goals and resolve are all essential if we are to enter the next phase with any chance of success and enjoying the journey in the process.
Energy and Inspiration
Active relaxation gives you the recharge to have more energy for whatever you love to do in life. It is easy to keep going because that is what it seems everyone else is doing. But, eventually, you will burnout. You will have less energy for what you love. Perhaps you may stop loving the thing you once loved doing. Not because you are bored of it, or out-grown it, but simply because you are not listening to your body. Your body needs recharging and care. You want to give it time to do that. Otherwise, it gets tired, low in energy, unwell, negative, depressed, uninspired, blah.
Life isn’t meant to feel that way. Sure, there might be brief periods you experience that flatness- because sometimes life is shit and challenging and you have nothing in the tank to push against it. But often, that is avoidable, by consciously choosing active relaxation as part of your day. You cannot carry on regardless. Recharging through active relaxation gives you all the energy you need for an active, vital and passion-filled life.
Over to You
I was inspired to write this blog because I have many clients who struggle with active relaxation. I have struggled with it for years myself and sometimes get the balance wrong. This drive to do more, be more, faster, harder and longer can ruin your enjoyment and passion for your work and life and can damage the relationships with your loved ones……… and even the relationship with yourself. It’s relatively easy to turn around. Explore that list of active relaxation opportunities and find out the ones that work best for you. That will depend on your natural rhythms and cycles as well as your commitments. Let me know how you get on and if you would like some assistance, get in touch.
Pass it on
If you found the content of this blog useful, why not pass it on to a friend or colleague who might benefit from it too?
Are you fed up with being “strong”? Are you tired of the pressure you are under to perform without showing signs of losing composure? Or having an emotional outburst?
Do you feel that it is your role to have the answers all the time? If that expectation is hard to meet, is that difficult to admit to?
How are you at having to be right? Is it a matter of great face and honour or are you OK with making mistakes?
Do you feel the need to be “happy” all the time and find it hard to admit that you might be below par or even struggling to cope?
Do you really thrive under stress, or are you struggling to manage, but afraid to share the truth for fear of what people might say- the boss, your partner, friends?
A meaning of “Strong”
This out-dated notion of being “strong” needs a modern update. Too many people are crumbling under the weight of carrying on regardless, pushing through at all costs, meeting ever-increasing expectations and ever-closer deadlines. And all for the sake of being or appearing “strong”. It is a relentless drive, that is driving many of us into poor physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. “Strong” seems to mean something close to perfection.
So, rather than “strong” meaning perfection can we change that definition? I get the need for an external persona that makes it look like you have the answers, you’ve got it sorted and you can cope. And I hope that is the case for you a lot of the time. But is it reality? And when it isn’t reality, do you have people to turn to so that you can talk it through, bounce ideas off, admit mistakes to, ask advice from and share your emotional pain when you are struggling?
This need to be “strong”, I believe, is stopping people feeling comfortable speaking to others about their struggles. “It makes me look weak.” “How will anyone respect me?” “What will people think of me?” “Will I be able to hold on to my job?” In silence, they battle on, often getting ground down by the weight of fear, doubt and worry.
Get Wise Counsel
My experience as a coach, and a Samaritans volunteer, is that speaking to someone about these very normal emotions is not only good for your health. It also gets you to an answer much faster. And to a much better answer than you might come up with otherwise. You do not need to carry the burden alone. But who can you talk to?
All great leaders have a team of people around them who they can talk to and lean into for support. (you can find out more about this in this Brian Tracy article). Can we not learn from the cream of our business leaders? We are all leaders. If only leaders of our own lives. And many of us will also lead families, children, work colleagues, groups, teams, businesses and countries. Honest and open leadership starts with these personal qualities in our own day to day living. Having people around you with whom you can confide makes you healthier physically, mentally and emotionally and allows you to be more effective in anything you do.
So, choose your team carefully. Perhaps it is good friends you can talk to? May be its your hairdresser or tennis coach or physio? You could have a formal relationship with a mentor or coach or therapist. Or may be you have people you work with you can confide in? Whoever is in the team, you need to be able to trust them. The more people, the more resources you have for advice, listening, support and guidance. And with that comes more resilience and well-being that means you can bounce back faster when you experience setbacks, disappointment and failure.
Who makes you “strong”?
It is not rocket science, but it is startling how few people we actually talk to. In our fast-paced society, we race from moment to moment and barely touch the surface of our own lives. Let alone the lives of others. We take less and less time to connect to people and so lack the depth of relationship we once enjoyed. But it is this depth of relationship that allows us to feel safe enough to reveal our pain to others and be vulnerable. As Brene Brown says, it takes courage to be vulnerable. I think this is the real “strong”. And to do that we want to build relationships over time that make it easier to be vulnerable when it serves us and others to be so. All of that takes great courage.
Throughout my divorce process, I had people to whom I could talk about the conflicting emotions I was experiencing. Some of those ears were professional (a counsellor), but others were family, friends, colleagues and even our beloved dog, Tigger. In the pain I felt more resilient. Amongst the confusion, I had people to tell me it was OK and normal to feel this way. And when it got too much, I had people who would simply be with me.
I witness great courage in my coaching clients, who are vulnerable about their emotions and experiences. Great insight, bonding and emotional healing come from this intimacy. It is the human power of connection that helps to keep us whole when we are most in danger of being swallowed up by our pain, fear and loss. It is not “strong” to suffer. To remain in silence and isolation prolongs your suffering.
And others suffer as a consequence. People notice. And want to help. Make no mistake. So be brave. Be “strong”. And reach out to someone who cares enough about you to listen as you express your pain. It is the greatest expression of their love. A worthy gift to match your strength and vulnerability.
Over to You
What does “strong” mean to you? How are you “strong”? I’d love to know and get this discussion moving towards helping more people manage the stresses and pressures they face in daily life. Our health and well-being demand it. And if we can role-model this transparency to our children and grandchildren, to those we mentor, lead and guide, the bonds of human connection will be deeper and stronger. And we will never need to be “strong” again in isolation and loneliness. We will be vulnerable and courageous, share our wisdom and pain and show our strength in unity and camaraderie.
Pass it on
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Do you notice that you have patterns or habits of behaviour that show up again and again? And not just in the same situations, but across many areas of your life? For example, do you take control of situations at work, with your partner, kids, friends, parents without thinking about it? Or do you allow others to lead you, taking a passive role in decision making and taking action in family situations, friendships and with work colleagues?
Have you noticed for example how your organisation in book-keeping and completing your tax return shows up in your wardrobe, your kitchen and in the garden? How does your gardening influence your patience and care for things or allowing time for growth and development of colleagues, clients, ideas, even yourself and loved ones? Perhaps your yoga practice leads to calmer driving or more enquiry about your health and listening to your body? Or maybe you notice that your creativity and impulsivity used to such good affect in writing, art and sky-high and out of the box thinking, make it hard for you to settle into doing paperwork and keeping the house in order?
Apply lessons from any task or hobby and see how those qualities show up in your life in other ways. Having recently taken up Tango, I am beginning to see how I do Tango mirrors how I do other areas of my life. And how qualities that Tango asks of me are familiar or unfamiliar. And how I might apply them more broadly to enhance the quality of my life.
Leading and Following
For example, in any partner dance, there is a leader and follower. Someone has to create the opportunity for movement and direction while the other adapts to that and flows with it. There is a misconception that the man leads and the woman follows only. In reality, they co-create a magical dance. At one moment, the man leads and the woman follows. In the next, the roles are reversed.
This is definitely true of Tango in my experience. The man may guide and invite his partner to a certain position or movement, but how she goes there and performs the technique is open to her feeling, mood and emotion in that moment. How you lead influences how she follows. Once your invitation is taken, you both find yourselves in a new place and the man leads again.
Strong leadership gives her freedom to express herself. While ambiguous leading leaves her unable to own her moves fully. Nor does over-bearing leadership allow the woman her freedom either. You can only co-create a beautiful dance if one takes ownership of the leadership and the other to own the following role. The follower must take responsibility for her role, as well as the leader being responsible for leading through intention, passion and direction with his body in movement, intention and energy. And then the roles reverse again, and the cycle endlessly continues.
Where does this show up in your life?
The ease with which you lead and follow shows where your patterns and habits lie. Are you a follower or a leader? Of course, it is context dependent. But what feels most familiar to you? I feel more comfortable following and taking ownership of that. That can be a huge asset as a life coach as I follow my client’s agenda both within the session and throughout the arc of the coaching relationship. However, I have to be able to lead in coaching as well, setting boundaries, coaching fiercely and courageously as I champion my client’s strengths, ambitions and visions for a fulfilling and purpose-driven life.
Tango is a great opportunity to learn the art of leadership. To lead and be sensitive to my partner’s balance, poise and direction. To be clear with my intention so that she is in no doubt where we are going, she can trust my direction and willingly follow without fear. Leadership requires safety. And all this transmitted through the body without words. Tango first and foremost is about the body in motion. The embodiment of leadership- trust, vision, inclusion, fierce courage, communication and listening. This I bring more and more into my coaching as I learn to lead and follow as required in the coaching conversation. When coach and client get this right, something magical happens. Suddenly, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts and the partnership is taken on a journey they both feed, and feed from. This synergy is the probably the pinnacle of co-active coaching, where true transformation occurs for both coach and client.
And this is what happens in Tango as well. Partners get lost in the moment of flow, balance and music. For a moment, if you are lucky as a beginner. I have been lucky enough to experience this moment a number of times. And then, there is the prolonged moment, which I have only seen other couples enjoy, in which they are lost in the magic and beauty of the dance.
And what of the art of followship? In Tango, the skill is to be open to the moment as it unfolds. To feel the next opportunity present itself and move into that void as the leader invites you into it. Notice the receptivity in your body and willingness to move with it- this is the follower taking ownership of their part of the dance. This is taking responsibility for the follower’s role and allowing the leader to lead with confidence, trust and acceptance. In coaching, my experience is that there is an identical mirroring. I feel what my client feels in their body and that can be a powerful message that directs the coaching into new and unexplored territory. There is fruitful learning here. And, I may notice something in my body that the client has missed in theirs, possibly raising awareness of what is happening for them and offering new insight into their process.
How do you lead and follow?
So, what is your pattern of behaviour? If you find yourself falling habitually into leading or following, it may mean you are taking on these roles unconsciously. Maybe leading or following feels safe to you? But you may not do so consciously, intentionally, purposefully and with choice. Being at choice is the beauty of the dance and it is the magic of coaching. Freedom and choice are two of the joys of life.
How would life be different if you were more conscious in your leading and following? What impact would it have on your personal and professional relationships? How would it enrich your career, parenting, business, intimacy, teamwork and relationships?
For a limited period, I am offering FREE embodiment coaching both on-line and face to face. As part of The Embodied Facilitator’s Course which I am attending in 2019, I am required to log practice hours in coaching on leader- follower, 4 elements and centring. The coaching could lead to:
- greater awareness of your unconscious patterns that may be holding you back and limiting your potential
- tools that would allow you to manage stressful situations more skilfully and therefore achieve more fruitful and effective outcomes
- better understanding where your strengths and shortcomings lie for better leadership and management of yourself and others
If you’d like to know more about FREE coaching using the body, please e-mail me at email@example.com. Thank you.
The four elements model
In business, do you sometimes wish you could capitalise on your strengths more? Would you and your business or career benefit from cultivating those strengths? Are you unsure how to take advantage of your skills and talents more effectively? Do you notice where your short-comings may lie and how they might impact you personally and professionally? Would you like to be able to identify those areas you might develop so that you can take your self-employed business or career to the next level?
Would it be useful to have a model that allowed you to identify all these aspects of yourself, and others, and improve your business as a result? The four elements model is such a framework, bringing ancient wisdom into modern relevance, benefiting people’s personal and professional lives.
The beauty of the model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others. This empowers you to know where your strengths lie as well as the strengths of those around you. It also shows your short-comings. We even use the elements in our everyday language, as a hint to it’s intuitive descriptive qualities: “they have a fiery temper”, “what an air head”, “he is the salt-of-the-earth” and “she moves like water”.
All this to bring awareness to your short-term states and long-term dispositions and, consequently, develop your range and choice about how you respond to situations and circumstances. Therefore, you also have the tools to build a team or community around you that is mutually supportive and nurturing. As well as grow yourself and your impact in the world and on those you share your life with.
What I love about ancient wisdom is that it has stood the test of time and remains relevant, sometimes thousands of years after its origin. For millennia, people have found ancient wisdom like the four elements useful, because it enhances their lives through the observation of human nature. And it gives practical answers to everyday challenges, goals and questions.
The human condition has not changed much in all that time. We may get caught up in the language and stories of the time and find them hard to understand: Ancient philosophers like Rumi, Lao Tzu or Plato; playwrights like William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw and Andrew Lloyd Webber; American Indian Chiefs like Black Elk or Sitting Bull; the European Pagan stories popularised by The Brothers Grimm and; the Bible or Koran. They may all seem impenetrable without deep study. In fact, they simply share wisdom about human nature and our place in the world. What’s great about the four elements model is that it is an intuitive description of human behaviour that you can test and play with from day one. And, you can explore each element through your own embodiment, giving you real time feedback about what:
- it feels like
- seems familiar
- you’d like more or less of
- you could do differently
- you would wish to leave behind
- is no longer serving you
- you long for
The four elements explained
Throughout history, humanity has sought out answers to questions about the human condition. Therefore, each culture in every age, has found a way to explain the human condition and help improve how we respond to life’s challenges. For some it is a model with animals. Others may use archetypes, spirits or gods. An enduring model uses 4 elements (some use 5 or more like the Chinese) which are relatively organic and intuitive to interpret and are, to a degree, relatively subjective. This is a model I have learned while studying The Embodied Facilitator Course (EFC- find out more here) and makes as much if not more sense than many of the models I have studied in the past.
So, let’s take each element in turn and see what you notice in your behaviour. Which one or two elements are most familiar? Do certain elements show up in particular situations/ contexts in life? Did any feel unfamiliar to you? Is there an element you long for? Or one that you are sick of? Pay attention to where the elements show up in significant relationships with others in your life: parents, partners, friends, colleagues, bosses etc. How do these impact your relationships? Are there patterns and preferences? What are the strengths of your preferences? What are the risks?
Earthy people like structure. They like stability, reliability, control, things to be correct and organised. Therefore, they like planning, management, budgeting and making lists. You want your accountant or lawyer to be an earthy type. However, too much Earth and things can get stuck and uninspiring. Earthy people will maintain standards and hold to tradition. When things get chaotic, the Earth quality will bring fairness, stability, reliability and self-control.
If you want to engage with an Earthy person, show them the facts. Go slow and be structured and methodical. In turn, they communicate in a factual and practical manner and will offer a supportive and reliable role. If you find yourself lacking this element, slow down and get into the garden. Literally, work with the Earth. Take a walk in nature and breathe deep into the belly. In excess of Earth? Use qualities of the other elements, especially Water to create more movement, action and challenge some of that physical, mental and emotional rigidity. Air can also bring a lightness, playfulness and creativity to counter Earthy heaviness and conformity.
This element’s primary focus is relationship and acceptance. Watery people love to listen, accommodate and care for others and support people. They want loyalty and harmony in relationship. Dislikes are rejection, conflict and loss. They are great in feedback, networking, staff-care and HR roles. You want your HR manager, coach and therapist to be a Watery person. Too much Water and someone is a push over with weak boundaries and prone to collusion. Empathy, connection, intimacy and relationship building are all Water qualities.
If you want to engage with a Watery person, take your time to listen and build the relationship. Be sincere with your thoughts and feelings and show that you care. Water’s communication style is empathic and relational. In need of more Water? Get to the sea or a river or failing that create comfort and soft lighting in the home. Too much Water can be balanced with all the other elements, especially Earth to give structure and Fire to create and maintain boundaries.
What needs to be done? When you need to take action, get results, prioritise and make tough choices, Fire is what you want to embody. It will come as no surprise to hear that Fire is about directness, assertiveness, energising and doing more, being stronger and getting it done faster. You want your boss or manager to have Fire. If you are self-employed, you benefit from Fire too as you are the one who has to get the job done. At their best, Fiery people will be challenging, name what needs to be said, be sincere and cut to the chase. Too much Fire and you will rush and get pushy (perhaps to the point of brutality).
If you want buy-in from Fiery people, tell them what the results will be and the benefits. Motivate to action through challenge, creating competition, setting goals, having a fast pace and being competent at what you do. They will likely talk to you in a challenging and direct way. Too much Fire can be balanced with Water for more relational integrity and with Earth for the rushing and potential burnout. If you have too little Fire, get to the bright lights of big cities like London or New York or indulge in fiery activity like martial arts or tango.
What is possible? Sky-high, big picture thinking without a box is how Air people envision and strategise. Leadership, innovation, brainstorming and creativity come from Air energy. The light side of Air also leads to humour, flexibility, inspiration, and spontaneity. Air types love freedom, creativity and perfection and fear boredom, imperfection and being controlled. Use Air to over-come challenges, get clarity and come at things with lightness and fresh ideas.
Want to engage Air people? Inspire, explore, study and learn with them, be original, use humour and pace. Get them curious and fuel their joy of whatever you are trying to enrol them in. Too much Air and people are vague, chaotic and silly. Use the other elements to balance the excess Air, especially Fire for directness and Earth to bring order and calm. Too little Air can be balanced with open space, bright lights, colour and chaos. Head for the hills and mountains. All this will inspire creativity, joy and excitement.
Four elements embodied
As you may have noticed in the descriptions, there are embodied qualities to each element. You can evoke each one by moving, standing and sitting differently and even by subtly changing your posture. This empowers you to bring more of what you think you might need to a situation or dial down what you might need less of. We will be exploring the embodiment of the four elements in the next Be the Best Boss event in Cambridge on September 19th, 2019.
You will learn your particular mix of elements and be able to work out the mix of others. This will allow you to better communicate with other people, teams and organisations. You will learn how to work with the elements through embodiment, to get better results in business situations as well as personal ones. The elements will give you more adaptability and versatility in work situations and work better with different people, groups and cultures, thus developing your leadership skills. You can find further details here.
Over to you
What are your element preferences? How do they impact on what you’re good at? How do they limit you? What elements would you wish to cultivate? What impact could that have on your business, career and relationships?
Pass it on
If you found this blog interesting, please forward it to people you think might be interested too. And if you know people in your network that might be interested in attending the Be the Best Boss workshop on leadership and embodiment, please send them the link (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-the-best-boss-you-ever-had-a-workshop-on-leadership-and-embodiment-tickets-67255712647).
The Little Signs of Greatness
Do you find that people have some really complementary things to say about you that you just don’t see?
When you compare your self- appraisal at work to others’ appraisals of you, do you find there is a gap? Are there positive comments about your great results, innate skills and natural talents that aren’t in your self- appraisal?
Do you find that people suggest you’d be brilliant at such and such, yet you cannot see how you’d be any good at it at all? Would people volunteer you for things you’ve never contemplated because they know you’d be great at it?
Do you find that people see qualities in you that you do not see in your self?
I see this time and again as a teacher, leader, mentor and coach. People are oozing their innate skills all over the place. Very often they are totally unaware of the impact they are having. Nor do they realise how they are using their skills to create productive meetings, meaningful connections at work and at home, inspired leadership in all areas of their lives and safe space for others to share, explore and learn.
In my experience, people do not recognise the true power of their innate skills and talents because they undervalue them. May be they have been told that these skills have no purpose or use or that they are inappropriate. Perhaps they exhibit skills and the outcome met with ridicule or punishment.
Maybe all that is needed is the chance to practise in a supportive and encouraging environment?
All skills have value, purpose and worth. Just because the value, worth and purpose of a skill is not seen instantly does not mean it is not there- it takes a wise teacher, mentor, leader or coach to take the time to find the true power of any person’s innate skills. Very often that requires you to take command at some point along your journey and take active steps to use those skills for a meaningful and compelling purpose.
From a personal perspective as a school boy, any attempts at creativity were laughed at to the point I believed I had no creative side in me at all. I busied my self with science and sport which I got better results at, thinking my creative days would never appear.
Yet, unnoticed by me, my creativity came out in play, inventiveness, problem solving and sparks of inspired conversation during self development training and workshop events. All this went unnoticed by me for decades, even though people would tell me otherwise.
Until one weekend workshop I was given the opportunity to write poetry. To my astonishment I really enjoyed the process. I was encouraged to continue enjoying the process without attachment to how good my poetry was. That starting point has blossomed into published book writing, blogs and endless poems and stories I share with students, clients, family and friends over the subsequent twenty years. That creativity has opened up other avenues in art, music, dance as well as continued exploration in martial arts.
So, before you dismiss these little signs of greatness, please consider these steps:
1). Listen to what other people say they see in you, especially the words of wise people whom you trust, respect and admire. If many people are saying the same things and you don’t see it, may be they’re onto something and you’re missing it.
2). Explore these possible talents without attachment to the outcomes. For an entire year I burned every poem I wrote without reading it- I’ve kept every one since over the last two decades.
3). Enjoy the process most importantly. It is the enjoyment that brings it to life and to light. The fun brings inquisitiveness, curiosity and exploration, encouraging you to delve deeper, learn and experiment.
4). Go with your instinct. This talent may blossom into other areas that feel even more fulfilling. In true self- exploration, the journey never stops as you uncover more and more talent buried deep within.
5). You do not need to publish, share, put on You Tube, do public demonstrations and speeches to own your skill. Yet I encourage you to own it by continuing to explore and develop your skill. Go public if you wish and remember it is the enjoyment and exploration that fuels the passion. It is your passion. Celebrate it in whatever way for feel inspired to do so.
Over to you
What skills are people telling you that you have? How are you cultivating the skills you do possess? What processes have you been through to develop your skills and talents? Can you think of roles mentors, teachers, leaders of coaches have played in uncovering your talents. I’d love to hear your story and provide an on- line resource for people to find inspiration, support and guidance to uncover their potential and be all they can be.
Spread the word
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