By Michael Bianco-Splann
We’ve become a tribal nation polarized by competing belief systems, where every day seems to take our fragile sense of reality to the next level of dysfunction. How does one quell the fires raging in our communities, country, and global world order? How do we find a level playing ground?
As a conscious leader, my experiences have aptly shown that in order to find any degree of peace, I must look within my own psyche to quell the fires that burn. Let’s face it: blaming external entities is much easier than looking in the mirror and exercising self-reflection. It’s not pleasant work to examine the angry and resentful underpinnings of our belief systems or our self-righteous, better-than-thou thoughts, actions, and attitudes. Honest self-awareness seems in short supply among the collective, and certainly in much of today’s leadership.
In my lifetime, never has there been a greater need for effective leadership than now. We, as a humanity, are at the precipice of either taking control of the malaise that exists or falling off into a vortex of hate, fear, and separateness. But we, as conscious leaders, have the power to navigate this minefield effectively—as peacebuilders.
Here are six steps to becoming the peacebuilder that’s required to confront this reality:
1. Start a mindful practice. Before you start your busy day, take 10 to 15 minutes to find a quiet, comfortable place to practice mindful meditation. Sitting on a cushion or pillow—legs crossed, back straight, hands open and resting comfortably on your knees—focus your attention on your breath. Take full, deep inhalations to a count of five. Hold your breath, counting to five, and then exhale with the same cadence.
This breathing technique quiets your body and allows your heart rate to slow, bringing an easeful and relaxed state of being. As you breathe in, image a white light infusing your nostrils, then your throat, lungs, and other organs. As you exhale, visualize the dark energies of fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, and other negative emotions exiting your body. If your thoughts wander, simply bring your attention back to your breath. Let your mind relax.
This daily practice opens the space for a peaceful start to your day and equips you with the positive fuel that’s needed to take on challenges, conflicts, and the onslaught of unexpected events that can pull us out of our zen.
2. Become conscious. When you are aware of being aware, you step into consciousness. The truth is that you and I live our lives only in this moment, not in what happened yesterday or what we are fearful of tomorrow. Practice becoming aware. When a colleague comes up to you during a busy day asking for your guidance, stop what you are doing and shift your focus to be present with this person. Give your full attention. Open your heart to hear beyond the words.
3. Turn off your autopilot. Yes, we’ve become what I refer to as “auto-matrons,” unconsciously going through our lives in the same normalized fashion, oblivious to anything outside of our regular way of behaving in the world. We do the same things when we awake; we drive the same route to work, eat at the same restaurants, pick the same dish, and do the same things we always do—all subconsciously.
In reality, however, we make thousands of choices each day, most of which are decided automatically or from unconscious competence. When you turn off this incessant delivery system, you then have an opportunity to be conscious to those around you, to the circumstances in front of you, and to the opportunities that may exist to change, evolve, and transform.
4. Reflect on your early childhood. Take the time to reflect, remember, and identify those early childhood pain points, disappointments, and harsh experiences that caused upset, hurt, and misunderstanding. How do you feel about those events today? Do you carry the feelings associated with these painful memories with you? Who was involved in creating the hurt and emotional pain? Do you still carry resentment, anger, or toxic thoughts as a result of your early experiences? Say goodbye to the painful memories, for they do not serve you today.
5. Assess your current level of joy, love, and fulfillment. After reviewing your early childhood memories, ask yourself how you feel about your life as it is currently. Do you live with a strong sense of joy and positivity? Does the professional work you do make you feel alive and contributing to a greater good? Are you surrounded by diverse, loving friends and family? If not, why? What would it take to transform your life experiences? Do it now.
6. Lead with love, compassion, and understanding. Stop living your life as a “reactor.” You have the ability to choose differently in your life. Your beliefs, while indelibly imbued by a host of contributors, can be modified, enhanced, or even eliminated. Be proactive in living your life and choosing love over fear, understanding over prejudice, and acceptance over rejection. When you are conscious, you open yourself up to making different choices. Just because you’ve always acted a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. You will never go wrong having intentions of love, compassion, and seeking to understand.
About the author: Michael Bianco-Splann is a conscious leadership expert, inspirational speaker, and master certified corporate trainer with over 30 years of frontline executive experience. He offers a transformative approach to leadership—within Fortune 100 companies to small boutique enterprises—for those seeking a life that’s true to one’s passion and purpose. He is the author of Conscious Leadership: 7 Principles That Will Change Your Business and Change Your Life and Dying to Live: A Tapestry of Reinvention. Learn more at illuminateambitions.com.