In an unpredictable and complex environment, leaders and organisations find themselves facing greater and greater danger from hitting a wall, in the form of external threats and internal challenges. While human brains are not well wired to deal with huge roadblocks, the key to navigating such leadership challenges is, counter-intuitively, to deliberately focus your attention away from them.
Recently Tony Robbins shared what he learnt when driving a race car
While I wish the story was set on a bicycle and in nature, I’ve decided to share it with you because the story is a powerful metaphor: How do you respond when you and your business are racing down a straightaway at over 300 km/h, and the wall at the turn starts to loom larger and larger in front of you? Substitute changing economic, regulatory and environmental conditions plus changing social norms and mores, for the wall you are racing towards.
Here’s what Tony Robbins experienced:
Before his first race car lesson, his trainer would take him on a ride. At a speed of 370 km/h the wall would come at them so fast that Tony was sure they’d crash into it. His response when his trainer said to him that he would be able to drive without crashing into the wall by the end of the week? Laughter.
Luckily those driving lessons started in a simulator! The trainer gave him the following instruction: “When the wall comes at you fast, focus on where you want to drive your car. Don’t focus on the wall.”
Unsurprisingly, Tony would focus on nothing but the wall, and kept crashing into it, for days in a row. It took willpower and repetition to learn to focus his attention on where he wanted to go. But when he mastered his focus, he stopped crashing into the wall.
If we take this metaphor and apply it to modern life and leadership, then the lesson is this:
Do not focus on what you’re afraid of!
Why? Well, wherever you focus, that’s where you steer.
And yes, that’s easier said than done. When the proverbial s#@% hits the fan, you’re typically unprepared and naturally have a knee jerk reaction. Which means that you tend to focus 100% on what you are trying to avoid. It’s hard to break that pattern, because that’s our human default. It’s how we’re wired in the brain:
“Wall! Look! Aarrgh!”
You must overcome the reflex of staring at the wall.
Learn to master your reaction
If you cannot master your reaction, you can’t steer your people towards the desired destination.
So, when you have this knee jerk reaction, and you will, then pause. Yes, do nothing. Slowing down will allow you to make a conscious move, rather than a headless one. What you need to do now is to calm yourself. Our favourite SOS technique for that is EFT tapping. It takes a minute. And it works without fail. Once calm, put your attention on what you want to create.
It sets you up for playing to win. So don’t play not to lose.
The second challenge is that when you do “the right thing”, i.e. when you make decisions that will get you closer to your desired outcome, you cannot count on an immediate reward. On the contrary, it’s a lot like not eating a biscuit: You won’t immediately lose weight and feel healthy. Those benefits are in the future, weeks, possibly months from now. What you experience NOW is the crappy feeling of craving food. To take your attention off that biscuit and overcome that craving, you need to strongly connect to your desired future body and mind.
It’s the same when you are in danger of hitting a wall:
- Focus on moving towards that you wish to create, not on that which you seek to avoid.
- Be prepared for a time lag.
- Trust yourself and trust the process.
You’re applying the tried and tested principle:
Energy follows attention
Mobilise your resources by focusing on your destination, connecting deeply to the future you want to create for yourself, your team, your organisation, and the planet. While there is no guarantee that you will reach your desired destination, you’re guaranteed to hit the wall you focus on.