In the world of leadership meaning is everything. One of the questions I often ask clients is: ‘What are you making it mean?’ ‘It’ being anything from something someone says, their tone of voice, the way they are looking at us to news of a set back or even news of a success.
I first came across this question many years ago when I was studying Tai Chi in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery – this could sound grand – it was, in fact, at a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery behind the library in a town in the UK. The teacher asked us to meditate on the form we had just performed and to consider ‘that nothing in this world has any meaning at all – except the one we choose to give it. Be mindful of the meaning you are giving to things.’ I was 25 years old and it was a little deep – nevertheless this practice has stayed with me. I have come to understand that many of the meanings we give to events in our lives are completely made up and are often based on our own fears and prejudices. I have also learnt that we can choose the meaning that we give to events, based on reality rather than fantasy.
So how does this help us as leaders? I believe that we spend much of our days attributing meaning to things that go on around us and that this affects our behaviour and ultimately our impact on others. When we become aware of the meaning that we are unconsciously giving to things we can then powerfully choose the way we want to ‘show up’ in the world. Without this conscious choice we can often make what goes on around us mean negative things, either about ourselves or others to the detriment of our leadership.
Spend some time today noticing the meaning you are attributing to things by pausing to ask yourself:-
- What am I making this mean?
- What evidence am I basing this on?
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