More than a decade ago, I was part of a team that taught the 3 Principles to hundreds of people at a large defense and security company. We called it State of Mind (SOM) training because it made sense to people that at any given time, their SOM was either helping them or getting in the way. It followed that learning more about SOM would be beneficial. A particularly skeptical senior leader asked “Why do such intelligent and hard-working people make so many (expletive deleted) mistakes?!” Even he could see that people who were anxious, agitated, and fearful would make costly mistakes.
Although the understanding had been taught as Health Realization in the mental health community for a while, business was the new frontier. It was a significant challenge to point people towards an awareness that transcended intellect and encouraged reflection in a culture where being smart and working hard were seen as the path to success. They wanted new “tools” to add to their competency toolbox and tips and techniques to follow like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Looking back, there are certainly things we should have done differently, lessons learned that have improved our ability to teach today. However, imperfect as it may have been, many people had insights that changed their lives.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of the people we trained way back when, and I was struck by how much of a difference one extremely simple insight made in people lives. Here’s what they heard:
When I’m not in a good state of mind, I need to step back and give myself a chance to clear my head, to get some new thinking.
I know, I know, it’s far from perfect. It sounds like something to do. It’s making value judgments about thinking, maybe getting people thinking about their thinking. It made me smile when people got nervous explaining what they heard and what stayed with them through the years. They’d say, “I know this isn’t right. But this is what made sense to me.” What really made me smile was what they said after that:
– As a working Mom with a husband who traveled a lot, it helped me notice when I was being impatient with my son getting ready for school. I was able to see that it was my thinking, not what he was doing, that was frustrating me. I saw a choice between starting our day on a good note or not.
– I had faith in my resilience in the face of some pretty extreme business events, including our building being wiped out in a flood. I knew I had a choice to get focused in the moment and do what needed to be done rather than get caught up and overwhelmed.
– I gave myself permission to work on one task at a time. I stopped multi-tasking and over thinking everything. I’m productive and confident.
– It takes a lot less energy to get a better result. I was always a hard worker and got it done, but my clarity of thinking is so much better I can get those same results with a whole lot less energy.
People also admitted that they could still go down a rat hole of thinking and feeling that wasn’t helpful. But they didn’t get stuck there. Life got a little easier.
I remember taking time in the early days to set the stage for insight-based learning, asking the class to trust our different approach. We promised that if they hung in there with us, they would see something new for themselves that would stick with them. They did.