How to Let Go of Fear & Step Into Courage

let go of fear

How to Let Go of Fear & Step Into Courage

How do we let go of fear? The first step is to acknowledge that we are afraid. This is not a bad thing, in fact, saying how we are genuinely feeling is a very good thing indeed. In systemic work we call this “acknowledging what is.” When you can look even the most awful negative things in the face and acknowledge that it simply is the way it is, you then experience freedom to make a different choice and take new steps. This is the pivot point for all changes in our lives.

Acknowledging what is, is often the first step that allows us to step into the present moment.  We stop with our inner excuses or avoidances. This is often the first time we are able to let go a little of the harmful fears of failure. We are able to create space between us and that all-consuming fear monster. Once we fully acknowledge what is, that buzzy feeling in our heads or queasy feeling in our stomachs, or perhaps even an inability to breathe easily start to subside. This is a clear indication that we are starting to let go of fear.

It is helpful to take a deep breath and do a minute or two of breathing exercises once you’ve achieved this. After all, you’ve just run an internal marathon and crossed a finish line.

New Things

The interesting thing is, when we achieve this state we are teaching our bodies to move from stress to joy and peace. In this state our hearts can open, our gut is able to relax, and our brain can begin working clearly and thinking new thoughts. The good thing about taking such a courageous step consciously is that it gives us a little bit of space away from old habits.

Now, quite frankly, the best way of opening our minds and hearts to possibility is by focusing on what we want. The more excited we can be about our goals, the more courageous we are able to become. Then we can start setting the goals to get us to the first step, and then the next step, and then the next, and so on until we arrive at the place where we can experience freedom and inner peace.

But there is something important to understand about fear. It isn’t there to terrorize us. One of the amazing things about fear is that it is a signal from our nervous system that something needs to change. So, next time you experience anxiety, rather than being triggered into a negative emotion or tailspin of fear and anxiety, notice that what you’re experiencing is simply a strong clue for a need for a change. How elegant is that?

If you experience anxiety, have panic attacks or struggle to let go of harmful fears of failure, those clues may well have their roots in your genealogy or in the events in your own life that have shaped your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The minute you say “Yes” to new things and make that change irresistibly exciting, you will find your way past all your concerns about an uncertain future along with your excuses and limitations that have kept you stuck. Let me give you a quick example of how this works.

Stretch Yourself

Let’s say that you want to go on vacation. And not just any vacation. You want to do something that’s a bit special or that seems slightly adventuresome. A vacation that inspires your sense of freedom and wonder. (Wonder, by the way, is a good thing for growth!) You’ve always wanted to fly, and you know of a nearby paragliding retreat place up in the mountains.

People tell you that you’re crazy, and you find yourself terrified to take the first step to make it happen. Friends tell you all the negative things that could possibly happen going so far beyond the social norms for someone your age. However, you keep having this strong desire to fly beyond your normal day-to-day life. It may not make a great deal of sense to you, but for once you ignore the naysayers. In a way you are on a secret journey and can sense the stretch your spirit needs.

Soaring over the mountains on your paragliding adventure, there’s an enormous feeling of accomplishment. A sense of strong confidence fills you as you move into a different dimension. It’s a good thing called expansion and it moves you beyond the norms and limitations of your daily life and into a new space. Your courageous movement embracing new ways got you here. Who knows how far you will fly from here?

Choice and Courage

Limitations are always coupled to possibilities. For a large part of our lives, our fear of change keeps us unaware of wonderful possibilities. Our natural instinct is to cling to the fears that we use to frighten ourselves … until the day we don’t.

When you hear about someone doing something extraordinary, it simply means that they chose to do something different and kept choosing it all the way to success. This takes two things. Choice, and the courage to act on that choice..

In systemic work and constellations, we dimensionalize (set up in 3D) the fear you have, so that you can see it and interact with it. By making the negative things conscious and the invisible visible, we are able to bring our fear to the surface, take a deep breath, engage with it and create breakthroughs from fear to freedom.

For example, “Joan,” a client of mine, had an inexplicable fear of success. She was quite sure if she made it to the top it would spell her downfall. She couldn’t explain why, but she knew that once the got what she wanted she was destined to lose everything.

There was no rational explanation for her fear. She was driven to succeed, and she’d put in long hours to reach a top spot in her company. Yet as soon as success arrived, she found herself in the middle of worry-filled days, harmful fears of failure, and panic attacks that made her unable to function properly at work. She was caught between what she wanted and what she thought would destroy her.

In a constellation session, Joan remembered that her grandmother had told her that her success on stage as an actress had been her downfall. That she lost her husband—the love of her life—because her fame was his breaking point. When he left, she fell apart and her career faltered, leaving her ruined.

Can you see how Joan’s genealogy and ancestral DNA is coloring her life? That emotional event is long over. But because the negative emotion from that experience was never processed by her grandmother or her mother, it had echoed down to her—an ancestral pattern asking to be seen, debriefed and released.


Power of Now by Eckert Tolle, he invites you to stay in the present moment because that is the space where amazing things can occur.

I invited Joan to pick representatives for each member of her family. (This act in itself can be a key to change. The very act of setting up your fear where you can see it creates shift and movement.) Next, I invited her to take a deep breath and really look at the family pattern in front of her. (It’s interesting to observe when and how quickly we hold our breath. It’s a natural instinct when we experience anxiety or we’re on the edge of a breakthrough.)

She found herself suddenly in tears, seeing her grandparents and understanding the event and resulting emotional-behavioral patterns that had run in her family, leading to her peculiar type of fear. She described it as a veil lifting. She could see three generations of women, all with a strong appetite for success and a deep fear that it would cost them everything as it had her grandmother. 

Finally, understanding where the fear had come from, it hit her like a ton of bricks that she had a choice to either repeat her grandmother’s fate, or turn the emotional DNA around and embrace the success her grandmother, grandfather, and even her mother, had not been able to accept. She then found herself able to step beyond her fear of failure for the very first time.

The minute we gather the courage to lean in and see what’s running the show is the moment change takes place. Not only do we move from fear to self-confidence, but we also take a giant leap forward from survival to adventure. Once we experience our deepest fear in a larger context outside of our mind, we can let go of fear and step into true freedom.

 I look forward to showing you how to release your fear DNA and unleash your fullest potential. For more information about my 2024 events click here.

How to Release Inherited Emotional Patterns with Genealogy

Emotional Patterns

How to Release Inherited Emotional Patterns with Genealogy

Genealogy has long played an important role in the lives of people around the world. We understand where we came from and how we belong, and that gives us a sense of lineage, community, and place. We understand why we look the way we do and have certain physiological predispositions for physical health and disease because of our physical DNA. But all of this tells us nothing about our emotional patterns.

There has always been a suspicion that our ancestral past has a lot more to tell us about our emotional well-being and how we act in our daily lives than we know. Yet until the present moment, there haven’t been any good reasons to believe those feelings were anything but suspicions.

However, I have made a breakthrough discovery that allows you to gain personal insights and unlock your hidden potential by linking your genealogy and genetic information to your emotional-behavioral patterns. We now have a breakthrough in genealogy. We now have a way to understand unwanted behaviors at a deep level—mental states and negative emotional patterns that influence why we succeed and fail in various areas of our lives—by using our genealogical information.

Effector patterns

Not only do you inherit your physical DNA, you also inherit patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions that were generated by decisions made by your ancestors about events that occurred in their lives. Each decision generated thoughts, feelings, and actions that resulted in outcomes that in turn affected subsequent generations—patterns I refer to as your Emotional DNA.

All it takes is for one family member to experience a significant event in their daily life—say a fire that destroyed the family home and all personal possessions— for negative patterns or positive behaviors to emerge out of that event. These emotional reactions create a cascading effect. The decisions and assumptions that were made by your ancestors and the conclusions that were drawn as a result of a traumatic event are often responsible for creating systemic patterns that operate in our family systems.

Let’s take the given situation of a house fire for example. Negative emotional patterns arising from that event can take on multiple appearances. One ancestor might develop a flight response to any sort of open flame. Two generations later you wonder why nobody in your family enjoys outdoor cooking, camping and bonfires. Another negative expressive response could be the development of a belief that “Nothing lasts” or “You can’t count on anything being there when you need it.”

Perhaps an irresponsible mental pattern of “carpe diem”—live for the day—begins to flow through the psyches of many family members.  Instead of relating to people, situations and personal possessions in a healthy way, they blow through money, houses, jobs, and relationships, letting things and people slip through their fingers. After all, “It might all be gone tomorrow.” Why try to hold on?

Positive behaviors and positive emotional patterns resulting from the same event might be the development of resilience and the ability to bounce back from anything.

Neural pathways

Our reactions to events generate neural pathways that can either limit or liberate members of our family system. The science of epigenetics shows that if emotional experiences affect us deeply enough, they can affect subsequent family members for generations. Knowing your genealogical history can thus unlock a world of insights and possibilities for the individual. It gives you a way to understand your sometimes inexplicable negative emotions, emotional responses, and even your physiological responses to life experiences. It also explains why you are drawn to certain partners, careers, experiences, cultures, and so many other aspects of your life.

For example, have you ever wondered why you need two of everything or have an obsessive need to not waste? You can likely thank your great-grandparents and the Great Depression for that one. And what about your painful emotions based in stressful situations with money? Who in your family lineage made a bold financial move and lost it all? And now you sit in fear of taking risks of any kind and struggle with the inability to see opportunity when it arrives on your doorstep.

When we feel ourselves overwhelmed by emotional-behavioral patterns it is not uncommon to find a prior family member who has experienced something similar. In other words, we are now out of the present moment and repeating the emotional experiences of someone else’s life. How wild is that! And yet I see it all the time. Studies show that we are more frequently repeating history than we are present and living our own lives.

Autonomic nervous system

In systemic work and constellations, we recognize that living our own lives begins when we are fully present, laying down the burdens that don’t belong to us, yet respecting our genealogy. Instead of going into fear-based thoughts and a state of inherited overwhelm when we get triggered, we begin to realize that there are good reasons for the emotional patterns in our lives.

The good news is that there are now increasing ways to explore unwanted behaviors in a healthy way. Rather than being embarrassed or ashamed of painful emotions, jealous reactions, or failure, it’s important to realize that often all these things are not all on you. You may well be tapping into the nervous system and emotional patterns of your family.

When you realize this—the response/emotional reaction that was once a solution to a problem that has now become a problem for you, can be set down or transformed. The next humongous evolution is that once you understand that your experiences may not be your experiences, you are able to rewire your brain. Which means you will actually able to finally have an original thought and an original experience. In fact, you may just be able to find out who you are for the first time as an individual and what you are capable of achieving.

Questions to ask to release inherited emotional patterns

  • Where did your negative emotions come from?
  • Which ones cause you the most pain and perhaps even cause physiological responses?
  • Does another family member exhibit similar negative patterns?
  • When you focus on these patterns and negative emotions what (and who?) has no room to grow in your daily life?
  • What would you like to love?
  • How would you like to be?

The last two questions often take people by surprise and bring them into the present moment. They have to think about their current emotional state and then choose what they might like to experience instead. By doing this I am linking them to their genealogy in order to identify where the flow of joy and success may have stopped and how they might restore it.

The next step is: Think about your own genealogy. What objective experiences (events) have your ancestors experienced that have created subjective experiences and decisions for you? Let me give you an example: Let’s say you have an inexplicable fear of traveling. Anything outside of your local environment causes you distress. There’s a part of you that would love to see the world but for you that brings up terror which makes no sense for you. 

Asking “What would you like to love? And how would you like to be?” triggers the answers: “I would love to see new and even strange places. I would like to feel free to explore!”

The genealogy chart of the person above reveals that their great-grandparents on their mother’s side were forced out of their home in Russia in a pogrom. They were beaten and almost died. They traveled to three different countries before they found a place to settle, each worse than the last. They had no friends for a long time and formed a very tight, safe, family unit.

Immediately you can see where the fear comes from. You can see how back in the day, safety was important. But now it has outgrown its usefulness. Body and mind yearn for more freedom. The past event is past. It has lived in the bodies and minds of three generations and now it is time for something else.     


1) Write down a pattern that lives in you that runs in your genealogy—a pattern/habit that you would like to change.

2) Looking at that pattern ask yourself:

  • What triggered this genealogical pattern in me?
  • Who else in my family was or is like this?
  • What is the common factor?
  • How do I feel connected to them? Does this pattern give me a sense of belonging/comfort/shared unhappiness?
  • What was/is the payoff for staying that way?
  • What would happen if I chose something different?

3) Now ask:

  • When I am this way what do I not have space for in my heart?
  • What is the antidote for this?

4) Take two pieces of paper. On one write: Family + family pattern. On the other write: The antidote. Place both pieces of paper far apart on the floor.

  • Face your family + family pattern and tell them how you feel. (In the above example the feel was safety + limitations + )
  • Really feel your emotional reactions. Really feel the pull of your pattern and its basic emotions.
  • Thank it for coming to you to change it and ask for its support.
  • Turn around so you can feel it at your back and feel that support
  • Face the antidote and name it. (In the above example the antidote was )
  • See how close you can move to that piece of paper as you name it and see if you can say a full “yes” to it.

You want to make sure that you feel what you are saying. This is very important. Emotions drive motion and keep you engaged. You are now consciously wiring new neural pathways into your thinking brain and that plays an important role in establishing positive changes and changing that genealogical pattern. You are also changing basic emotions.

The more you embrace the new direction with new thoughts that feel good and cause positive changes the more affect yourself and others in a healthy way.  Positive thoughts create positive behaviors. Essentially you are creating new emotional DNA and that is very good news. You are becoming the change agent you were born to be.  

A final thing to remember as you disentangle from a genealogical pattern is this: The pattern came to you to inspire growth and emotional intelligence. It is not a burden. It is a gift and always part of your purpose.  

 I look forward to showing you how to release your fear DNA and unleash your fullest potential. For more information about my 2024 events click here.

How to Release Fear & Fear DNA – Simple Steps

how to release fear

How to Release Fear & Fear DNA - Simple Steps

As humans, most of us are not particularly inclined to watch horror movies. (Although almost 64 percent of US adults aged 30 to 44 say they like or even love the horror movie genre!) Even so, most of us have fear-based thoughts all the time, telling ourselves worst-case scenario horror stories all day long about ourselves, our lives, and our prospects.

“You’re going to run out of money and wind up on the streets.” Or “You’re too stupid to get that promotion.” Or “The person you love the most is going to meet a tragic ending as soon as they set foot out of the apartment.” Or “Everybody hates you and you are going to be all alone, forever.”

These are just a few of the anxious thoughts we indulge in on a daily basis—inner monsters triggering stress hormones that can run the show and frighten us witless. Driven by an over-arching fear of the unknown, the language and tone of our inner thoughts tend to be exaggerated, inflated, and over dramatic. We wouldn’t say such things out loud. But we keep thinking them. And the emotional response they produce and the actions we take around them feel very important and real.

Fear DNA

Fear-based thoughts tend to shift with the generations, and what sounds silly to one generation makes perfect sense if we zoom out and take a look at the whole family system and its events, decisions and consequences. Every generation faces different challenges and has different ways of looking at life events and different coping mechanisms.

Our inner language, including our fear-based thoughts, often reflects multigenerational language around issues not resolved in prior generations, language that contains clues to the places where we are stuck as well as the clues to the next level of expression. For example, you may come from a wealthy family and yet experience fear around money, thinking things like “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Or “Money can’t buy everything.” Or “More money, more problems.”

We call this inner language your systemic language, and no one is immune. Not the smallest among us nor even the titans of industries. We all have fearful thoughts that drive or plague us, until we recognize them for what they really are—clues from the past showing how our ancestors thought about things; clues we can use that show us where we are stuck and how we can shape futures we desire.

Emotional Experience

We often feel deeply that fearful thoughts and feelings belong to us and are inescapable, but systemic work, constellations and epigenetics indicate otherwise. When we look at family history, we often find that the inner monsters—our habit of focusing on the worst-case scenario or our fear of failure—began with a limiting decision an ancestor made about an event.  

For example, a wealthy great-grandfather takes a chance on a good prospect and loses most of his money. He vows not to ever take a gamble of any sort ever again. He tells himself that he was stupid and reckless and becomes filled with excessive worry about money. He feels ashamed and embarrassed and develops a fear of rejection. He tells his children not to ever gamble or take a chance. He tells them if they do they will lose everything. 

Three generations later, a great-grandson is offered the opportunity and investment of a lifetime. It is a no brainer, and yet he cannot bring himself to participate. He finds himself in survival mode with skyrocketing stress levels, believing he will lose it all just like his great-grandfather did. The investment takes off and he realizes that this extreme risk aversion that was once a solution for his ancestor is the very thing that is now hurting his family. What was once a solution is now a problem and it’s time to get help.  

This is a good example of how fearful thoughts, fearful feelings, common fears, and survival response are passed on. The original ideas are designed to keep us safe, but the message keeps traveling through the generations until it turns into a problem.  Once we recognize the thought patterns and their source, however, we can change the fearful thoughts anytime we want to. We can do a 180.  

Attaining Emotional Freedom

One of the main ways we can experience a turnaround of fearful thoughts, stressful situations, and all the painful emotions accompanying these things is by realizing that the negative patterns of thoughts that have been running the show do not belong to us. They are ancestral patterns that we have inherited.

Using the above example, I would ask the client to verbalize his fear around investing and ask him about his grandfather’s and father’s language about money and investing. (Or about other ancestors and their language around money.) As soon as the client sees where the originating event happened and gets that the fearful thoughts, negative difficult emotions and unwanted behaviours do not belong to him, I would invite him to recognize where that fear belongs, and then literally hand the negative emotional patterns back to the person they originally belonged to.

The next step involves the client imagining what he would really like to do, how he would like to be instead of acting out the old negative emotional patterns. He might recognize that where his great-grandfather had no access to information, he now does. He can do due diligence where his great-grandfather could not. He can hire wise financial advisors. Finally, the client voices the new options and choices that he has decided upon.

The Pivot Points

There are two pivot points that occur when shifting anxiety disorders and common fears. The first occurs when the person acknowledges that this pattern is damaging and does not belong to him or her. We call this “acknowledging what is.” The second pivot happens when s/he recognizes that s/he can do things differently and that, indeed, the family system will be better off if s/he does something different. Sometimes permission is needed from the ancestors for the client to move forward into a happier life. There is often a sigh of relief or a smile or perhaps tears when this is done. There may be insight and compassion for those who came before the client or a movement in the direction of a new opportunity.

Dealing with Common Fears

Unfortunately, excluding excessive worry, fearful thoughts, and anxiety symptoms from your life is not an option. In all systems and situations, what we exclude creates a pattern that expands and repeats. In other words, what we resist persists and grows. I often ask participants at my events to actually thank the monsters in their lives (and in their heads). Even fearful thoughts have purpose. They are often treasures in disguise—pain points that push us to pay attention to what isn’t working and then grow.

When you can acknowledge the purpose of even your deepest fear and thank it, then you can use fear as motivation to do better than those who came before you. Once the monsters have been seen, acknowledged and included, they can quiet down. The pattern has been seen and their purpose pivots from acting as a signal into becoming a portal of possibility—the opportunity to do something different.

Systemic Questioning Exercise

  • Think about a time when you have wanted to do something new or exciting and identify the fearful thoughts that have stopped you from trying.
  • Write down your deepest fear(s), any fear response and the uncomfortable feelings, and physical symptoms they produced.

 Now ask yourself the following questions:

  • When did these feelings first begin for you?
  • What was happening in your life at the time?
  • What did you make these fearful thoughts mean about you?
  • What did you make them mean about others?
  • Does anyone in your family have a similar pattern?
  • Did their anxiety symptoms begin for them at roughly the same age as they did for you?
  • Was there a triggering event?
  • Have you always felt this way?
  • Do these fearful thoughts belong to you, or did they begin with someone else?
  • What actions have you taken around these fearful thoughts?

Create a Constellation Around Your Deepest Fear

Constellations are a three-dimensional process that enables you to take your thoughts, issues, feelings, etc. and literally set them all out in front of you in such a way that you get to see, hear, touch, feel and walk through what goes on inside your system and inside your head.

You can do the following exercise at home using index cards, paper, Post-it Notes, whatever takes your fancy.

Issue Constellation

  • Write your deepest fear (for example “fear of failure”) on an index card or piece of paper.
  • Create a separate card/paper for every family member
  • Write your own name on a card/paper

Place the cards on the floor in an open area—or on a table top if you don’t have room—in any sort of arrangement that feels right to you and just notice the way the cards are placed.

  • Who is close to you and who is further away?
  • Who is closest to your fear? You? Other family members?
  • What does it feel like to see your “issue” out in front of you like this?
  • Stand on your own card and look around. What do you notice? What do you feel? Are any emotions coming up around your fear? Any insights?
  • Really take the time to listen to your thoughts and feel your feelings. 

It is quite amazing the kind of information that can be gleaned from being able to literally see and walk through the energetic relationships involved around a specific issue. Once you can experience your deepest feelings of fear in a larger context outside of your head, it stops being so personal and stops beings such a painful experience. If you can trace your issue to its source, it no longer belongs to you and you can let it go and be free.

 I look forward to showing you how to release your fear DNA and unleash your fullest potential. For more information about my 2024 events click here.

Four Principles Behind Emotional Triggers in Relationships

Triggers in Relationships

Four Principles Behind Emotional Triggers in Relationships

Systemically, if we look at emotional triggers in relationships and the accompanying emotional reactions we have, we find ourselves back at the principles that govern all systems: belonging, order, and balance of give and receive. But how do we create a healthy relationship with someone and generate positive emotional responses that support us?

Raw Spots Around Belonging

The first step is to understand our need for belonging. If we look at belonging, we often find ourselves triggered by specific events into various negative reactions and coping mechanisms when we don’t understand how to belong or figure out if we even do belong.

Fear around not belonging—often based on childhood experiences and past events—is a big emotional trigger. This major trigger takes on various shapes and forms, such as I’m not good enough, smart enough, big enough, small enough, rich enough, humble enough, etc., to belong.  

We tell ourselves stories about all the above and interpret peoples’ actions and reactions through the lens of an old traumatic event. 

For example, a classic is when we send an email or a text and receive a quick, bare-bones reply. Immediately, our subconscious mind comes into play, and our brain associates the terse reply with traumatic memories, stirring up our own triggers and defensive behaviors. We start thinking things like, “Oh, my goodness, I’m in trouble.” Or “I knew they would think that was a stupid idea. Will I get fired over this? Maybe I should just resign.” 

Only to find out 10 minutes later that the person on the other end of the email was flying out the door to the dentist and simply wanted to be sure they responded. That critical inner voice beat us up for nothing creating an intense emotional reaction, as the trauma triggers shot our cortisol levels and maybe even our blood pressure through the roof.

Good Idea

Of course, there is an antidote for this situation. But we are woefully bad at applying this good idea, which is: 

1) Quit making assumptions and assuming ill intent and 

2) Actually have the courage just to ask “Hey, what’s going on?” Don’t you know we could save ourselves a bunch of unnecessarily negative reactions and painful feelings doing that!

However, that kind of open communication in itself is a trigger with its own set of traumatic event trust issues based on past experiences. If you’ve never experienced open communication in a supportive environment before, a whole new set of fears and painful feelings show up at the very thought. “They’ll get mad if I question them!” Or “Who am I to question?” Or “They’re going to think I’m pushy. I definitely think I should leave. I just can’t handle the conflict.” 

Making a Huge Deal out of Nothing

The next step is to notice how we often think of what could be a healthy emotional discussion as “conflict” and how this kind of association (the root cause of which is often based in childhood experiences) can trigger an immediate flight response? 

Surprisingly, once we learn to have such discussions in a safe space, get beyond our trust issues, and discover we don’t die engaging in open communication, we actually begin to get closer to the people around us. We find out more about them and let them get to know us and thus build healthy relationships and support groups around us wherever we go. We begin to feel that we belong. 

Building strong and healthier relationships through open communication is especially healthy for adoptees who sometimes find themselves permanently triggered by their need to belong, thus subconsciously setting up similar situations over and over again that prove to them (in their own mind) that they’re right—that they don’t truly belong. What a setup!

Adoptees who do well know how to hold the space for and acknowledge their biological parents, even though they don’t know them. They can also turn their fear, based in their childhood experiences, into a superpower. Being so sensitive to the negative emotions around belonging, and the root cause of those negative emotions, they often turn out to be social connectors, making sure there is a place for everyone around them. They become known for their ability to give everyone a place.


If we look at the principle of order, it tells us exactly where we belong in our family system. It’s literally a matter of which family members were born first, then second, then third and so on. Being born first isn’t “better” than being fourth or tenth in line. It’s simply the natural order in which people in your family “showed up” on planet Earth.

When it comes to the principle of order, our exact place in the lineup is where we are the most capable and innately feel the most comfortable. Which means if we find ourselves “out of order,” we can become emotionally triggered by the situation and other similar situations when we are asked to be too big or need to step up in a difficult situation.

For example, say your parents have serious alcohol or drug problems and you’re required to act as the adult in the family—basically taking care of them. Or perhaps both your older siblings have gone off the rails and as child number three, you feel the need to step up and act like the eldest “responsible one,” making your parents proud. In both cases, you are definitely “out of order” and may have to carry a bigger load than you should.  

Mental health professionals see children becoming overly responsible all the time, picking up a crucial role in the family that requires them to be too big. This kind of effective coping strategy can trigger feelings of being burdened or having to take care of everybody—a strategy that can easily become a habit and extend itself into similar situations in the workplace. If the trigger of always having to step up into roles larger than you is severe enough, you can easily end up collapsing when the burden(s) are removed because they have become your identity and whole purpose in life. 

The complex world of emotional triggers is…well, complex. For example, the exact same kind of dynamic can occur if you’re required to be too small. Perhaps a sibling needed a lot of attention growing up and you stepped back to take up less space. Other family members supported this action and you ended up subconsciously believing that being small and invisible was the best way to handle similar situations.

Or perhaps a teacher tells you “Nobody likes bossy people.” Or maybe a friend accuses you of being an unlikeable “know it all.”  Humiliated, you may not recover from this kind of traumatic event. And even though you know how to lead (perhaps you were born the oldest of your siblings), your nervous system may require you to stay small for safety, melting into the shadows, not wishing to be labeled unlikeable or bossy ever again. 

NOTE: In both cases the emotional triggers around order often still revert into whether we feel like we belong or not. We are so tightly wired as human beings to belong that any lack in that area can make us feel like we’re dying.

Balance of Give & Receive

In our personal relationships, the one who gives too much gets too big, and this often destroys relationships. The other person can never measure up and is emotionally triggered. Feeling small, they feel compelled by a flight response to remove themselves. On the flip side, the person who takes too much (including taking up too much energetic space) can end up feeling entitled, and end up being perceived as arrogant and selfish, triggering emotions of resentment in other people.

Relationships work best when the balance of give and receive is consistently achieved with healthy boundaries. A good balance of give and receive with a clear intent to build a relationship tends to trigger emotional health, continual growth and positive change. The relationship becomes a dynamic adventure where bumps and hiccups are worked out in a safe space due to the abundant currency of goodwill. 

Balance in the Workplace

In our jobs, most often the dynamic is “We give our work and we receive pay.” There is a balance of give and receive that is implicitly understood. Yet even here there can be echoes from previous relationships that were out of balance that can cause emotional triggers in a current situation. 

When the balance of give and receive is off at work, you commonly hear things like, “I’m overworked and under appreciated.” Or “My whole life belongs to this company.” You can see and feel the resentment. Rather than address the imbalance, people tend to revert to past avoidance behavior and arrive late and leave early and call in sick a lot. 

Many of the emotional triggers we have, either at work or at home, are also meta-patterns or multi-generational patterns. They are the result of unaddressed intentions and assumptions or unresolved events and patterns in the past that we inherit—in other words, emotional DNA. 

A Healthy Way to Achieve Personal Growth

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to explore your emotional triggers and understand where they came from. They are gold. For every emotional trigger there is an antidote and a path waiting to take you to a higher level of expression. 

The adventure is to spot them and create opportunities for new patterns. Every emotional trigger is a clue asking you to decode and recode them. Once you understand what to do with them, you can use one new thought, one new feeling, and one new action every day to rewire your brain and change the patterns of the system. Here’s how:

  • Pick an emotional trigger.
  • Write down your thoughts, feelings, and actions around it.
  • Which of the principles is does this trigger belong to?
  • When did it first begin for you?
  • What was happening in your life at that time?
  • What assumptions did you make? 
  • Did you ever check those assumptions out?
  • Do you still operate under those assumptions? (A client of mine had to rethink his entire life once he discovered an assumption he’d made was completely incorrect.)
  • What would happen if you checked those assumptions out?
  • What would happen if they weren’t true anymore?
  • If they are true, how can you think, feel, and act differently around them?
  • How can you change that emotional trigger to an emotion that serves you better?
  • Now, take action and follow through on those changes!

The most important thing about emotional triggers is to understand that you are the master, not the triggers. You are not at their mercy. You can choose to have them serve you as you finally understand their source, take charge and choose positive change. When we are mindful, we can turn triggers into transformers and create deep emotional support for ourselves!

To find out more about how to grow your emotional DNA, attend one of our events this year! For more information about my 2024 events click here.

How to Manage Emotional Triggers in Relationships

How to Manage Emotional Triggers in Relationships

Emotional triggers in relationships and the negative reactions that result often stem from multi-generational patterns around events or events about which we have made decisions in our own lives. They are strong, hypnotic, frequently irrational, and can seem almost nonsensical until we look at them systemically, and then everything swings into focus.

To the one whose raw spots are triggered, they may make complete sense. On the other hand, their painful feelings and emotional reactions may leave them bewildered and confused, wondering why on earth they reacted to something that often seems fairly innocuous.

With intimate relationships, we quite often bond in the wounds of personal histories, past trauma and childhood experiences. In other words, we expect a spouse or current partner to make up for what we did or didn’t get growing up.

We suffer together in what should be a healthy, supportive environment, and it seems to work until one of the couples matures past the coping mechanisms, and then everything changes. Suffering is no longer attractive, and they have to move away.

Good News

The wound is a very powerful source of negative emotions and limiting patterns. But we don’t have to keep being run by these painful feelings and raw spots from our past.

Negative reactions, trust issues, and painful feelings are indicators that the negative emotional patterns are trying to stop and become the pivot point for healthy patterns trying to start.

By diving into and exploring these patterns in a healthy way, we can see where they limit our ability to connect and bond.

We can see where our lack of healthy boundaries came from, the root cause, and then what relationships could become if we use the trauma triggers to transform rather than to suffer. In other words, this is an area where you can thrive and grow if you just know how to look at the situation.

Complexities of Our Emotional Triggers

So what, really, is an emotional trigger? Why do they happen, and what can we do about them?

The origins of common emotional triggers are often a response to a decision we make about an event. It’s not the event itself. We stand up to speak at school and the teacher tells us we did a terrible job and we make that a huge deal and turn it into a traumatic event that creates a negative truth about our public speaking ability.

We eventually develop a huge emotional trigger about public speaking in general, never speak up ourselves, and wonder why we are not called upon to be leaders. Thus, we create our own jail cell. The teacher casts the spell with their critical words, and we swallow it whole, making it mean something awful, and then live our lives around the awfulness.

Emotional triggers happen because we have created a certain mindset around something. Then, when that something shows up in our lives, just like AI, we automatically start to spew out our already-cemented-in-place beliefs, judging it good, bad, scary, evil, exciting, horrific—emotionally reacting according to this fabricated truth in our minds. Only it’s not the truth, it’s just a concept we have created and labeled the truth.

Family Trauma Triggers

In families, we see this all the time. We swallow bits and pieces of sayings, beliefs, feelings, actions, events, and conclusions passed down to us that hold strong emotional responses to a particular situation—whether it’s about sex and marriage, what kind of work we should do, or religious beliefs, etc. We hold onto traumatic memories. And then think these triggering sayings, beliefs, feelings, actions, events, and conclusions are ours.

We do this unconsciously in order to belong. But here’s the thing: You can change! You, believe it or not, can play a crucial role as the antidote to these triggers. They are in your hands, waiting for you to evolve yourself—and humanity—beyond them in a healthy way. (Haven’t you wanted to help change the world for the better?)

Personal Growth: First Step

When you’re in emotional reactions to past experiences and patterns, if you can look at what’s happening and learn to be consciously aware of what you’re feeling instead of staying in the intense emotional reaction, you can make a choice about how you process emotional triggers. Instead of being at their mercy, you can use them to grow and thrive. It’s all about being conscious, aware and at choice.

I can see you shaking your head, but it’s true. How often have you heard someone say after some difficult illness or other traumatic event, “That was the best thing that ever happened to me! I learned so much! It jolted me out of my complacency and forced me to grow up!”

What’s happening is they’re doing something they were born to do—expanding and creating positive change while breaking negative cycles! And when they have done that once, they know they are no longer at the mercy of emotional triggers and that if they continue to choose wisely, they will evolve and grow.

Passing the Buck

Patterns (including emotional triggers) have a relentless way of resurfacing until you see what they are trying to show you, and do what has to be done to stop a pattern that needs to stop and start a new healthy pattern of your own that serves you and the world around you.

If we don’t step up, then we pass the buck to future generations and force our children and grandchildren to have to deal with them. Sometimes this takes generations because, as humans, we have been programmed to believe that playing and being small is sacred and wonderful. That we are helpless victims of circumstance. And we are not!

A Story of Positive Change

Emotional triggers in relationships are keys to an incredible life. Learn to use them and you will be investing in developing deep, rich and healthier relationships. You will be investing in your own life adventure. So, let’s take a look at one example together.

“Lena” attended one of my events and asked to do a constellation. As we sat together the first words out of her mouth were: “I’m about to get a divorce from my idiot of a husband.” (Her husband was in the room with her and I remember thinking, “Wow this is going to be interesting.” I even had visions of physically wrestling them apart!)

Now, early on in my career that might have thrown me or perhaps I would have rushed to make peace and restore order, but as I have evolved within my practice, I remained curious and silent, letting her proceed.

“This is the third idiot I’ve had to divorce,” she continued. Really? Now that piqued my curiosity. “We are not good at selecting good husbands,” she sighed.

“Who are ‘we’?I asked.

“My mother and grandmother had the same problem,” She said. “I don’t know why I thought I would be any different.”

“How about your great-grandmother?” I asked curiously.

“Oh, she had three idiots too.” Lena responded.

“Tell me about them,” I asked.

“Well!” she huffed. “The original idiot was the one who took great-grandmother’s fortune and lost it all on a business venture. It was risky even back then and great-grandma had to divorce him. But she learned her lesson.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well, with the other two as soon as there was even a whiff of financial stupidity, she divorced them. She didn’t marry again after the third one and wound up becoming a successful business woman in her own right. Something unheard of back then.”

I asked her if we could place representatives for each of the men and women involved in her family lineage and so began her constellation. As we placed family representatives all over the room she turned to me and asked “So, is there a pattern here or something?”

The participants in the room began to laugh while she looked plainly confused. Then we added a representative for money, and when I asked the money representative to find its place, it tested several spaces before standing right next to the representative for her great-grandmother’s first husband. Then the representative moved across to her great-grandmother before finally moving to stand between Lena and her current husband’s representatives.

“Were there any sayings about men and money in your family?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” she replied. “A man who risks money is an idiot. Divorce him before he loses it all. Also never trust a man with your money.”

“And how does that affect you?” I asked.

“I take care of my own money,” she said. “And if I see a man putting his pwn money at risk, then it’s time to divorce him.” She looked pointedly at her husband who just shook his head.

“So, all the women in this system learned to become financially responsible?” I queried.

“We’ve all made sure our money is in the bank and not at risk,” she agreed proudly. Then she went on to share that she was so risk averse she wouldn’t even put her money in high yield savings accounts. Her money didn’t grow. But it was safe.

“So, aside from being an idiot, what’s your husband like?” I asked.

“Well, he’s kind, intelligent, funny and warm. All the things I could want in a partner. But the whole money thing outweighs all that.”

When I pointed out that these thoughts and feelings didn’t come from her and didn’t belong to her—that they had begun and belonged with her great-grandmother, she looked confused. I pointed out those words and situations from the past had triggered a flight response in her.

It took awhile, because the major trigger was so ingrained, but eventually she saw that those triggers and sayings were costing her healthy relationships and her emotional health —not to mention the possiblity of financial growth.

Suddenly, she started to laugh and looked at her husband and then at me with better understanding. “My husband is actually a very wealthy man,” she said, thoughtfully. “He knows where to invest and how. He’s offered to teach me, but I didn’t trust him not to crash it all and send me away with nothing. I had no idea my thoughts and specific actions were defensive behaviors and that a pattern was triggering them, running the show. I thought it was all real and true!”

As is so often the case, what was once a solution for the great-grandmother had become a problem for the great-grandaughter. Once solutions outlive their usefulness they often become problems or limitations that keep us stuck, going nowhere.

Personal growth exercise

Take a moment to sit down and write about a relationship or a situation where something really upsets, annoys, irritates, frustrates, frightens, or angers you. It could be a personal or professional relationship or a specific event that consistently triggers strong emotions.

Write down all your thoughts, feelings, and actions about that relationship or situation that triggers you.

Ask yourself, “Where did this reaction start or come from? Did something happen to me? Or did something happen to my family members that set this reaction in motion?

Then ask yourself what might happen if you consciously changed your reactions to those triggers.

Ask yourself what you could do differently. (This doesn’t mean you suddenly have to love what you have hated or feared. I am simply asking “What could you think, feel or do differently?)

Take steps to put those different responses into action.

It's Not About You

Seriously, I’ve had to teach myself as well as clients that “Ninety-nine percent of the time, whatever is triggering you is not about you.”

For myself, a big trigger used to be if someone gave me the cold shoulder. Even if someone didn’t respond to my emails I could quickly get sad, frustrated, nervous and put some intense negative energy into the situation. Then, over and over, I would discover they were busy or simply hadn’t received my message in the first place!

When I did the above exercise and tracked the emotional trigger back in time, I remembered a teacher who told me as a kid that I was annoying and that she didn’t like me because I smiled too much. You should have seen how fast that smile disappeared! Afterwards I became nervous about my smile and my right even to be happy for a long time.

Doing this exercise helped me have a deeper understanding and realize what had really happened. That teacher probably had had a rough day and I represented someone she really wanted to yell at!

After I reframed the situation, now, instead of thinking I’ve automatically done something wrong and am in trouble when somebody doesn’t respond or acts cold to me or is outright angry,

I remind myself that it’s most likely NOT about me. I can exhale and give them grace. That allows me to remain open and receptive, giving me emotional support and the difference is remarkable. I don’t get emotionally triggered and usually the situation is resolved in a matter of hours.

Previous relationships and future relationships are our teachers. In the next blog I will share some relationship dynamics that shape your emotional DNA and tell you how to use them wisely.

To find out more about how to deal with emotional triggers and how to grow your emotional intelligence, attend one of our events this year! For more information about my 2024 events click here.

Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace

Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Think about the business world and your workplace for a moment. Is it hierarchical? Flat? Structured? Family oriented? Entrepreneurial? Self-driven? Or something else? Now let’s bring in the concept of emotional intelligence by thinking about two things: What is your workplace like during a crisis? And what is it like in terms of opportunities?

In many companies, difficult situations and crises bring out the worst in leaders and associates. Without emotional intelligence, the politics come out to play, and it can be a dog-eat-dog or blame-game situation. Constructive criticism is taken the wrong way, emotional responses can get heated, overall performance suffers and conflict management is ineffectual.

The modern workplace

I see so many companies constantly operating in crisis mode where stress management, conflict management and effective communication between team members are almost nonexistent. Where workplace politics tend to be the rule rather than the exception. And these companies always tend to produce lower level/ insecure leaders as well as limited business performance and less than average customer service.

Then there are companies that thrive and shine. Associates can’t wait to get there in the morning and be a part of whatever is happening. Job satisfaction and overall performance are high. Workplace conflict is at a minimum. And we wonder what makes these companies so special.

Importance of emotional intelligence

One enormous answer to that question is emotional intelligence where leadership positions are filled with people who have cultivated emotional intelligence skills—soft skills like sincere listening and projecting a genuine interest in co-workers;, people who can relate on an emotional level as well as an intellectual level; who can pick up on nonverbal cues, body language, and emotions of others; who can relate in a positive way and provide constructive feedback while supporting strong relationships between co-workers.

This kind of high emotional intelligence takes care of the unnecessary politics and puts the sparkle in the company. People actually care about the work they are doing. They care about each other. Even more astounding—they genuinely care about the company they work for.

A powerful investment

Companies increasingly realize that professional success means attracting intelligent people and retaining top talent. Savvy leaders also realize the importance of investing in training employees in soft skills and talent development. They know this is a crucial first step to improving the company’s bottom line, because they understand that technical skills only go so far. They know an important secret: That appreciation, inspiration, and validation are as important to people as a paycheck. They know that when people know they matter at an emotional level, you unlock their discretionary energy—their passion. And passionate employees make good companies great.

People need to know they matter and the younger generations absolutely demand it. Companies with good emotional intelligence tend to have good professional development plans in place. They know that goals and achievements are important to intelligent people and necessary to keep their emotional state high while igniting great performance. A certain amount of autonomy is also required, and powerful business leaders encourage people to play their own game within the company’s game. In other words, they address “what’s in it” for their associates.  

Emotional intelligence in the workplace has a number of benefits. People learn how to grow their interpersonal skills and:

  • They learn how to give and receive constructive feedback
  • Conversations and positive emotions are encouraged. Gossip is discouraged,
  • Instead of being risk averse, staff members and team members are taught to embrace risk
  • People respect rank, but don’t pull rank
  • Everybody feels seen heard and valued
  • Discussions and contributions are welcomed
  • A healthy sense of accomplishment is prevalent

Now, let’s look at some of the benefits I just listed in more detail:

Learn how to give and receive constructive feedback

Many companies pride themselves on being “open.” They feel that people giving feedback, sometimes spontaneously in the moment rather than waiting for the “right time,” is appropriate. Unfortunately, woefully few in leadership positions and in human resources know how to do this properly. All too often these become impromptu “dump sessions” with hurt feelings exposed in a raw manner. People are blamed and accused rather than conversed with, or they are minimized rather than encouraged.

There are two types of feedback, constructive and destructive. Obviously. coming across with an attitude and words that convey the sense of “Hey, stupid! You screwed up. You should have done it THIS way,” is not constructive and only causes shutdown, defensiveness and resentment. (You’d be shocked by how often I see this. All unknowingly, CEOs, team leaders and people in management positions end up playing out unhealthy family patterns in the workplace. Without training in the importance of emotional intelligence, they fail to see what would seem to be obvious, but is not: That negative feedback and harsh criticism are how they were taught. This is the kind of feedback they received. And they’re simply passing on the negative pattern.

On the other hand, “feed forward” is a method of relaying constructive feedback in a way that equips the receiver with insights and a potential new skill. From the outset, the intention is to elevate the recipient, validating their potential and encouraging change. Feed forward establishes belonging, while harsh feedback can isolate and exclude. Feed forward takes the recipient into account in a healthy with no shaming or blaming.

Gossip is discouraged, mindful conversations are encouraged

In companies with low emotional intelligence, stressful situations are epidemic and so is gossip. In companies where good relationships haven’t been built and stress management is unheard of, gossip gives people a sense of weight, importance, and credibility. Of course, it also creates discord and a deep sense of mistrust between team members, staff members and upper management and on and on.

For example, I recently worked with a client whose line manager actively encouraged all members of the team to come to him with any complaints or concerns, rather than addressing them directly with the person(s) involved. This created a nest of nastiness, as people quickly learned to literally tattle-tale on each other in order to gain weight in the eyes of their leader. 

By contrast, I have worked with leaders in professional settings who actively encourage crucial conversations within their teams. They invite team members to explore new ideas and resolve issues without it becoming personal. I show them how to use invitational language and curiosity to invite participation and create a safe, solution-focused climate.

Issues are discussed, not people. If there are problems with business performance or issues between associates, intentions and assumptions are identified as well as wants and desires. Resolution tends to come pretty quickly. Such teams learn to know each other well and have each other’s backs. Work becomes a safe space.

Everybody feels seen, heard, and valued

One of the best ways to develop positive outlook and ensure high engagement scores and buy-in from team members and associates is to let them know they are seen, heard, and valued. A great way to achieve this is to close loops. Closing loops also grows emotional intelligence.

So, what do I mean by that? Systems like to know who belongs where and people like to know that they belong. When an associate brings an idea to the table, a very quick way to validate them is to let them know that they have been heard and then eventually circle back and tell them the outcome that results from their input. That way they know they have been heard and this encourages them to give the best of themselves.

Good leaders in the modern workplace don’t just takes notes and move on, leaving the associate wondering if their suggestion landed, was heard, or will be implemented or ignored. They make sure that the input is acknowledged—which makes the team member feel seen as valuable. But then they also follow through and relate how that input might change a given situation. And then they follow that up with a report on the actual outcome.

Failure to close loops can look dismissive or send a message that management is not interested. In companies where ideas and input do not get follow-up, associates become disengaged, negative emotions are generated and a great chance to create validation and buy-in is often missed this way. Additionally, this can create a sense of frustration with management. You will often hear statements in the workplace like, “Management doesn’t care,” or “I don’t know why we attend these meetings because nothing ever happens,” or “Nobody cares anyway. You tell them what is going on and they just ignore it.” What stressful situations that kind of lack of social awareness creates! What a terrible work environment to be caught in.

Quick affirmations

A quick and easy way to let people know they are seen and heard is to respond to the idea by quickly examining the possibilities and potential applications. Even if it is just a couple of well thought out sentences, the associate knows that they have been heard and that their ideas matter.   You can also specify a certain amount of time—establish a timeframe—within which you will definitely circle back to the idea and examine it more closely. And then follow up on that and let your associate know what the final outcome/result is.

Pro Tip: If you are sending a response to a suggestion via email, (not the best approach but unavoidable sometimes) smiley emojis often signal positive intent and recognition. People will read your email and whatever emotional state they’re in—maybe they just received some bad news— if you add that smiley face, there is less of a chance that your message will be misinterpreted and more of a chance that it will land well

People respect rank but don’t pull rank

I work with leaders all the time who get things done in a way that commands respect and admiration. They come across with a combination of charisma and inspiration that makes people admire them. They effectively get things done—but they do it in such an emotionally intelligent way that they bring people together and get them invested in their work. They don’t pull rank or make others feel small. Instead, they empower. They have a great sense of the emotions of others, and have the vital skills necessary to be able to read body language and pick up on nonverbal cues.

They have a deep awareness of others, and are present with everyone they encounter. It doesn’t matter whether they’re dealing with another CEO or a junior sales representative. They listen to even the least senior voice and find value.  Yet, at the same time, they have absolute respect for structure and order and get that feeling across. Systemically, you would say that they know their place, respect it, and respect the place of others. They also have a good sense of the balance of giving and receiving and they create belonging. Not surprisingly, you often hear people say about them, “I want to be like that when I’m head of a company one day!”

Discussions and contributions are welcomed

Experiencing a sense of belonging is one of the most sought-after emotional experiences of any human being. When we have the sense that we are where we belong and safe where we belong, we quickly develop the desire to contribute to our environment and to shine in the eyes of those around us.

It’s fun to be recognized and achieve. It’s a bit like a big game. Good leaders understand this and open up the floor for contributions and robust discussions, encouraging a closer look at new ideas. They are not afraid to not know things, and they are willing to let others shine by stepping up and educating them on some aspect of business performance. Talk about building good relationships and a positive work environment!

Some of the best leaders I know have the emotional intelligence to know that learning never stops and that great ideas can come from any and all sources. If they’re really savvy in their interpersonal skills, they can teach others around them to be open-minded and receptive like this as well. And don’t you know that is the kind of work environment where career success and the bottom line can positively explode!

Pro tip: Over and over again I have watched business associates light up when a leader responds positively to an idea and acknowledgment is given. In fact. I teach clients to take notes of what is said during a meeting and by whom. When it comes time to close out the meeting, they take a moment to directly address each person who has contributed regarding their idea. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference.

Unfortunately, on the flip side I have also seen the opposite where slide decks are prepared, presentations are made, constructive feedback and knowledge are shared … and then the not-so-emotionally intelligent leader takes all the information and runs with it as though it were theirs. They do not acknowledge their contributors. Sometimes they don’t even allow them to present their own work.

Such behavior steps all over the emotions of others, shuts down discussion and destroys intrinsic motivation and inspiration. Often you will see those leaders say they don’t have the time to acknowledge and include others. “Time is money!” they say as they rush out the door. Just as bad for building positive outcomes, they will pull rank and posture when they feel threatened.

Obviously, in business situations such as these, there is not a sense of belonging. Instead, people feel used and abused and devalued. As well, there is no sense of a balance of give and receive. Politics gain momentum and even the most capable associates do not feel safe. The leaders make themselves big, taking the new ideas and constructive feedback of others, making their associates feel small, resulting in withdrawal and resentment and other negative emotions, which quickly lead to difficult situations, high turnover rates, poor customer service and a drastic reduction in a business’s overall performance.

The bottom line

With emotional intelligence in the workplace comes a sense of wellbeing and excitement. Associates don’t feel like they have to fight for recognition or guard their ideas. Everyone receives liberal helpings of acknowledgement and that creates a sense of collaboration. 

If you are part of a winning company, a healthy sense of accomplishment is prevalent. You walk into the office every day with an advantage – a good sense of accomplishment already created. And don’t you know that opens the door for even more accomplishment!

As part of a positive winning culture and modern workplace, you will likely find yourself doing more and being more because this is expected and appreciated. And what an amazing gift that is!

When a company understands its goal and purpose and fulfills it consistently with high levels of emotional intelligence, this positive organizational DNA seeps into the bones of its associates. They in turn know what their purpose is and desire to fulfill it positively and well.

The power of purpose

Clear purpose inherently creates appetite for life and career, and with that comes the realization that we need to grow our understanding of ourselves and others. We recognize that emotional intelligence is as important, if not more important, than straight smarts.

In this kind of positive environment, relationships move from transactional to deeply relational and our personal connections and our network truly becomes our net worth. We belong, we give others the space to belong, We pay attention to the balance of give and receive and we take our full place while acknowledging the place of others.

To bring it all into perspective, emotional intelligence in the workplace is the foundational difference between having a job and enjoying a fulfilling career.

To find out more about how to grow your emotional intelligence, attend one of our events this year! For more information about my 2024 events click here.

Can You Be Addicted to Emotional Pain

addicted to emotional pain

Can You Be Addicted to Emotional Pain?

Is it possible that you can experience emotional addiction? Absolutely. Just like physical pain and physical symptoms can take us over, so can emotional addictive behaviors. As much as we dislike emotional distress, it’s such a familiar state stemming from traumatic experiences, including childhood trauma, that for many of us, it can act as a default drive and deeply impact a person’s life. Let me explain.

Many people suffer from cherophobia, which means the inability to be fully happy. Even when they’re surrounded by good news, they’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. The brain chemicals from all their negative experiences keep circulating, plagueing much of their lives, blunting full enjoyment. Because their negative view and the particular emotions associated with that viewpoint are so familiar, the minute something good happens, they instantly start looking for something bad to follow.

Emotional Pain Addiction or Emotional DNA?

We call patterns of thoughts, feelings, actions, and decisions your emotional DNA. And in this case, we’re talking about your negative emotional DNA. But here’s where an interesting question comes up. Are we addicted to emotional pain like other addictive substances? Is our emotional response a conditioned inherited pattern? Or can it be both?

Emotional DNA is formed by human beings over many, many generations. We think we have free will, but not so much. Until we know what lives in our family system—things such as past traumas, emotional abuse, suicidal ideation, substance use disorder, and other negative thoughts and emotions experienced by ancestral family members—until we get a handle on the psychological pain of our ancestors as well as the results of the effects of emotional trauma experienced in our own lives, we are at the mercy of multigenerational patterns.

In other words, we are not really living our own lives. Often, we are repeating the patterns of those who came before us or the pain patterns we have unconsciously developed ourselves. Until we become aware of these patterns, we’re not fully present and have little control. Thus we create a predictable future. A future that is likely to be similar to the lives of those who preceded us.

Built over generations, these patterns and inherited painful emotions are often stronger than our desire to overcome them. A sure way to identify such a pattern is to look at where you do things that may not be good for you but you find yourself slipping into doing them anyway because they’re just so familiar. You know, like always getting into abusive relationships, or indulging in alcohol or drug abuse, overeating etc. This is known as being in a systemic trance, which looks very similar to an addiction. Escape from it requires a goal that is strong enough to ignite you to move past the family pattern and your current state into patterns of your own choice and making.

Traumatic Events

I once had a client named “Anne” who explained, in detail, what her emotional addiction and her life looked like. And it was basically a repeated series of traumatic events that created a cascade of feelings around those traumas that she actually enjoyed. Situations that had her heart racing, events forcing quick decisions, and dramas where she got to be the voice of reason all made her feel alive, vibrant and useful.

But when the trauma ended, she wasn’t sure what to do with herself or how to deal with the effects of trauma. Normal day-to-day life felt awkward and dull, lifeless and depressing. For her, traumatic experiences had created a new emotional habit and cluster of negative emotions. The emotional distress was actually acting as a reward system and was preferable to normal everyday life.

So, back to the question of emotional addiction or emotional DNA? At first, it looked like Anne was simply addicted to traumatic events and the emotional high they gave her. But investigating her family system, it turns out she was the only living child out of six. She often commented that life itself, let alone having a good time, didn’t necessarily feel that important. In fact, she found herself drawn more to those who were dead than she was to the living

It wasn’t until she had a serious car accident that she realized the only time she felt fully alive and awake was when she was fully engaged in trauma—moments in which she could choose life. Only in those moments, she was free of negative feelings brought on by the entanglement with her dead siblings and the survivor’s guilt she was experiencing.

Hard Work, Exciting Work

Understanding that she needed to choose life took time. It was a lot of hard work to find purpose outside of trauma. Her loyalty to those feelings (and her siblings) had been built over decades of daily life, and now she needed something more enticing, yet peaceful and non-life-threatening in order to rewire current patterns in her brain and nervous system. She needed to lay down new conscious neural pathways through awareness and commitment to creating and experiencing one new thought, one new feeling, and one new healthy action at a time.

Her first step was to start discovering things that excited her in a positive way—that stimulated thoughts, feelings and actions that created the desire and determination to have something or do something new and life oriented, no matter what. She had to learn how to tell herself a different story and create positive goals to focus on.

Once she achieved one goal, she needed to identify the next goal, and then the next, building forward momentum that would keep her from getting sucked back into the systemic trance of painful emotions and traumatic experiences. You might even say she had to become positively addicted to a new set of patterns that would start to create new emotional DNA.

Identifying & Flipping Your Script

There are several different strategies that you can use to help you flip your script. Here’s how you can identify if you’re experiencing emotional addiction and multigenerational entanglement.

1) The first step is to identify if:

– You always hit the same or similar batch of thoughts, feelings, and actions that keep you stuck.

– Others in your family have similar patterns of painful emotions and addictive behaviors. (meta patterns)

– You would like to do something different, but negative thoughts tell you this is just the way it is and you give up.

2) Next step:

Determine what you’re getting out of these patterns. What are they giving you? My client felt alive during trauma. What emotions do you feel when your patterns come calling? Do you like those emotions? Even if the emotional reaction is negative, are you still getting something out of it? Sympathy? Perhaps an excuse not to shine? Permission to give up? Permission to act out? Permission to freeze? Something else? In what ways are these “rewards” unhelpful/unhealthy?

Ask yourself what staying in your current emotional addiction/addictive behaviors/emotional entanglement is costing you and ask yourself what creating a different set of patterns will give you. Your answers may surprise you. You were built to be a champion, not an addict!

3) Tie your positive goal or outcome to a higher emotion.

Flip the script. Take a deep breath and have patience and grace with yourself as you go from lower to higher emotions. Ask yourself:

– What higher emotion (gratitude, joy, kindness, appreciation, excitement, appetite for life, ambition) is your ‘go to’ emotion when you want to accomplish something?

– Is it stronger than the patterns of thoughts, feelings, actions, and situations that pull you down?

– What will excite you off the sofa and into activity?

Can you identify a goal or idea or dream that excites you enough to stimulate at least one of those higher emotions?

Hint: This may well involve doing something completely different than what you are used to doing. And that’s great! You are reaching past old patterns and consciously wiring in new ones. Keep going! Neuroscientists understand it takes an average of 66 days to wire in a new set of patterns. That’s less than three months!

Be aware of what you tell yourself once you start to rewire patterns.

Change the story, change the language. Instead of bullying yourself, you are championing yourself. You are building resilience and a pathway that keeps you present and focused on the goal in mind.

Be aware of how you feel and act differently as you change your thoughts from low to high.

Back to my client Anne. No, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for her and her life didn’t change overnight. She calls herself a “constant work in progress,” with a strong emphasis on the word progress. She’s quite clear that life is important and does everything she can to think and act that way. She’s also realized that appreciating and enjoying her life is the best way to honor her deceased siblings.

As a result, predictably, her life is a lot more fun and she inspires others around her. When the systemic trance/addiction/entanglement comes calling (and it does), she is not dismayed. She acknowledges the feeling and the familiarity, and then returns her attention to accomplishing her next goal, honoring even the most subtle changes and positive steps as she continues to build new, positive emotional DNA.

To find out more about how to grow your own positive Emotional DNA, attend one of our events this year!  For more information about my 2024 events click here.

What is Organizational DNA? Building Organizational Success

Organizational DNA

What is Organizational DNA? Building Organizational Success

By now you understand that you have emotional DNA and family DNA and multi-generational DNA. But I wonder if you’ve considered the fact that there is also something called organizational DNA? So, what is organizational DNA? It’s all of those common goals, core values, and unwritten rules that you stumble into at work. Like if you’re not the first one in and the last one out, forget the promotion. That is part of an organization’s DNA.

Just like your emotional DNA is a result of the pattern of your thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions, organizational DNA is not too different. An event happens, or an idea pops in, or a need comes up, and an organization is created around the thoughts, feelings, and actions around the event, idea or need. Simon Sinek, author and inspirational speaker on business leadership, refers to this as the big “why.” What created this company and the organization’s culture? What was the spark behind it?

Competitive edge

To operate effectively and happily within the idiosyncratic characteristics of a company (never mind coming to hold a competitive advantage), you’ve got to understand what drives the company and the important implications thereof. And it may not be the same as what created the company. For example, you may have a service-oriented company that was created because there were not X services for customers. Okay, that was the first step—the spark. But what drives the company forward and takes it to success? It’s not just that you’re meeting customer needs. Perhaps the strategic factor is that you’re ethical. You are honorable. You deliver great service. You know, all those “mottos” and taglines that you hear people use when they talk about a company? What are those driving factors?

It helps to know the faces behind those driving “mottos.” Who is responsible for their creation? Did the company “motto” originate with the CEO? The boards of directors? Were they created as part of the vision and mission statement? Or did they evolve out of the workplace itself? And if they did, what does this mean? Well, if the mottos and drivers evolve out of the workplace itself, for one thing, it indicates that the company is fluid and dynamic and quite possibly a stimulating work environment to be engaged in. And a challenging one.

There are so many different company organizational structures to consider, it’s kind of hard to think about it. You might be looking at a company that is package driven, customer service driven, or education driven. Once you identify the structure, then the next step is to determine the organization’s purpose. In education, it would be something like “creating a better world by creating smarter, happier kids.” In consumer packaging, it would be things like, “What best practices can meet customer needs and make our products appeal to consumers so that they buy them.” Or “What workforce development will demonstrate a family business’s sophistication? All that is your organizational DNA.

Strategic moves

Obviously, anybody walking into a company really wants to do a bit of a study of the organizational DNA model they’re getting involved with. And by the way, when I work with companies, I often find that a company’s motto or mission statement—even a single word or a phrase can throw you off the mark when it comes to grasping the most authentic organizational pieces. Interestingly enough, Tesla Motors is actually a great example of what I’m talking about here. At Tesla, the stated company mission is “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.”

If I’m an engineer, or a production floor manager, or an automotive designer just coming into the company, looking at the mission statement I’d immediately assume that high-performance teams geared towards creating efficiency and fast product design were the primary elements behind Tesla’s organizational DNA. And I’d be totally wrong making that logical assumption! I’m not saying that high-performance teams driving rapid product design are not a part of Tesla’s organizational DNA. They are. But to understand the other equally important drivers in the organizational DNA of the whole company, you have to investigate the mindset and values of the man behind Tesla Motors itself—CEO Elon Musk.

Alongside mass market accessibility, what actually makes Tesla … well, Tesla, is CEO Elon Musk’s vision to create beauty—form and function—as well as to offer an exceptionally high-quality driving experience that just happens to be housed in a sustainable, electric vehicle. Which means if I come in the door and hit the ground running making operational decisions around trying to slam a product together to get a mass market electric car to market as soon as possible, I’m in deep trouble.

Understanding the words and the motivation behind them are so important when investigating a company’s organizational DNA. Here’s another confusing example. Quite often a company will maintain that “We are a heart-centered organization.” While what this may well be referring to is a relationally-oriented company (more on this shortly), in many people’s minds those words have important implications, often translating as a “not for profit company.” At the very least, saying you are a “heart-centered organization” bears the misleading cachet of being a workplace where nobody really does very well. And that kind of negative organizational language can have potential investors, C-suite executives, and other talented people backing away without looking into the organization any further.

Strategic thinking

Perhaps it was exactly these kinds of erroneous, knee-jerk associations senior managers at Tesla were trying to avoid when they created the “mass market electric car” mission statement. Perhaps their years of experience creating coherent business strategy told them few people would easily believe a high-quality, high-performance, mass-market electric car would be possible? So, the decision makers created an overtly practical mission that would match customer needs and expectations, figuring as a resilient organization with resilient team players, current staff and new employees would manage to navigate the idiosyncratic characteristics of a company like Tesla headed by such an idiosyncratic leader as Musk and be able to just go with the flow and get the impossible job done!

As you can see, with organizational DNA there are so many different underlying factors in play. It’s knowing the words and phrases and the driving ideas that form the DNA that keeps everybody coming to either buy from you or work for you. But it’s also such things as, does this company understand money and its place? What is its strategic planning, economically speaking? Is it a data-driven company or a family-driven company, which tends to be much more relational in its day-to-day operations? (We will get into this shortly.) What creates the structure of this company? What are the building blocks? What’s the competitive advantage? Scarce resources? Major changes in the market? How does it maintain its competitive edge? How does it function economically? These are all components of organizational DNA that you need to understand in order to maximize your time and your efficiency in that company.

Data-driven vs relationship-driven companies

Systems are very elegant creatures. What we don’t work out in our family systems, we will often look to work out in our organizational systems, or what we can’t work out in the organization we then take it back home. Very often if you look at the leader of a company, you can pretty much tell what’s going on in their family by what’s going on in the organization and vice versa. So, they are always in service of each other.

Which finally brings me to data-driven versus relationship-driven companies. Data-driven and relationship-driven companies are two very, very different animals. The former is transactional—it’s about product, details, the Deal, business units, high-performance teams, and organizational performance. The latter is about relationships and HOW you get to the end result every bit as much as the result itself. It’s the kind of company whose organizational DNA is built upon the transformative power of strong leadership, which includes things like mindfulness training that can help individuals with stress management and performance management, building cross-functional team work, all of which adds up to a resilient organization with a lot of good people in it—engaged employees who enjoy being there!

Not surprisingly, if you have somebody who’s coming from the one environment to the other, they struggle for a while to acculturate. It’s a little bit like moving from one country to another—it’s a whole different culture.

In a data-driven system or company everything is, obviously, based on the data. Quite often in this kind of environment, the “heart” of a company and the people in it seem lost. People are considered and promoted strictly on functional merit, productivity, and maintaining a competitive edge. Their communication skills, their ability to work well with others, their ability to organize and motivate people are not important. There is not as much time or thought given to the person per se. It’s what you know, what you can do, and how you’re able to do it effectively.

Relationship-driven companies are all about who you know, how you relate, and common goals.  And while this is certainly a warmer working environment, this orientation has its ups and downs as well. In relationship-driven organizational DNA, you may be the smartest, most efficient person in the room, but if you do not build good relationships and play well with others, you’re going to find yourself floundering.

Which means, if you’re a people person, a relationship-driven company that cares very much about the person and their personal development and professional development is going to feel like a good fit for you. If you are data driven, or accustomed to that kind of environment, not so much. Another way of describing the difference between the two business approaches is one is focused on what is known as hard skills and the other on soft skills.

A data driven company is more focused on your hard skills—your accomplishments, on your education, your organizational effectiveness and your quick, accurate decision making. It’s all about what you can produce for the company. The personal doesn’t enter into things at all. These are very clever and smart people in a fast-moving company situation where you are promoted or moved along based on your ability to do or to go to the next level in a hard skill. 

On the other end, with a relationship-driven company, things like character leadership development and the individual goals of employees are important. It’s about fostering engaged employees, this doesn’t mean relationship-driven companies are not effective and profitable. They are super effective and can be quite profitable. They just focus more on people and what can you do for them in order to get success to happen. Can you take people along for the story? Can you engage and inspire people? This is more of your relationship-driven company. You learn very much to go from transactional relationships to deeper relationships.

Smart people know it’s never a bad idea to deliberately set about working in both environments to acquire a full understanding of these two kinds of companies with their two highly different types of organizational DNA, so they can know what personally suits them better. In the past, this wasn’t really possible, because most business organizations up until a few years ago were pretty much focused exclusively on hard skills.

Today, however, there is a growing recognition of the triple bottom line that considers equally the importance of People, Planet and Profit. In this model, it is understood that the transformative power of good leadership can make all the difference—the kind of inspiring leadership that can take a company, as well as the people in it, on a growth journey. As well, there is a very strong trend towards developing both hard and soft skills in individuals. If you don’t have soft relational skills, how are you going to effectively lead people? Plus, the upcoming generation wants to know things about companies and their leaders, like “What is your purpose? How are you contributing to society? And why should we follow you?”

As you can see, hard and soft skills are both highly relevant today. Having a combination of both is going to give you both breadth and depth, which makes you not just a specialist, but a generalist specialist. And those are highly effective people. As well, there are now hybrid organizations blending both approaches, looking for people who can operate in both organizational worlds. So, don’t be afraid to get both kinds of skills under your belt.

Good luck with your adventure!

To find out more about how to grow your leadership, attend one of our events this year! For more information about my 2024 events click here.

What is Conscious Leadership? Leading with Purpose!

What is Conscious Leadership? Leading with Purpose!

Conscious leaders recognize the importance of having a purpose in both their personal life and professional lives. Any good leader coming into a new company culture focuses very quickly—not just on hard work and profit margin, but on determining “What is the purpose of this company?” In fact, they should know that purpose long before they even come through the front door because they’re going to have to come in and hit the ground running.

Why is knowing a company’s purpose important? Well, once you know what the purpose is, you know how to prioritize. You understand what kinds of goals to set. You grasp the conscious culture that needs to be supported and the decision-making process to get there. And once a leader knows these things it means they can begin to see who is a good fit for which roles and how to play to the strengths of team members and employees.

Beyond the status quo

When nobody knows where they’re going or what they’re doing or how they’re doing it, it’s a little bit like the Headless Horseman charging around creating confusion, constantly reacting to external factors. But once you have a clear purpose and understand an organization’s structure, you can lead in a way that creates enough weight to start pulling people out of lethargy and confusion and onto a defined path. You can inspire people to develop greater emotional intelligence and get them excited about personal growth within the company culture. And don’t you know people love nothing more than clarity and a good game to play with others!

So, a really good leader creates a good game around purpose, finds out what’s in it for every single member of their team, and points out a new and different way beyond the status quo of “business as usual.” This is good systemic leading or leadership 101.

Creation not reaction

Those who assume a leadership position are expected to be more responsible, more insightful, cleverer, and more inspirational than most people. Ideally, they are a self-aware leader with a high level of emotional intelligence and a sense of social responsibility beyond traditional leadership models.

Unfortunately, without knowing about the need for purpose and how purpose drives the organization of an organization, many new leaders quite often end up floundering at the starting point. And this is often an unconscious extension of how they were raised as young people in their own homes and educational settings.

Most people navigate life pretty unconsciously in their personal lives, reacting to people and situations, playing out self-limiting beliefs rather than coming from their true self and a more grounded, purposeful, creative position. This habit of unconscious reaction versus creation has far-reaching consequences, bleeding over into many areas of their lives including their professional lives.

A good leader doesn’t just “happen.” Conscious leadership arises when we begin to mindfully consider every aspect and element of our lives on a day-to-day basis. It happens when we’re ready to take radical responsibility for personal growth and start acting out of our true self.

At that point, our grounded creative, purposeful way of interacting with others and making choices naturally draws us into opportunities where our leadership qualities can shine and our hard work and good example help build a better world for all.

Start your mindful leadership adventure

Conscious leadership is a deliberate decision. It is a commitment to developing ourselves at work and in our personal relationships in our daily lives. In the business world, it is a commitment to developing a money-follows-value mindset, thereby inspiring those around us.

It asks a lot of us—nothing less than a full awareness of the self—which includes being present, engaging a conscious decision-making process, validating the positions and thoughts of others while inspiring greater emotional intelligence, movement and growth.

Mindful leadership happens when we deliberately turn to the highest form of who we are—our true self. And it doesn’t always have to take the form of actively promoting effective leadership approaches focused on things like leadership development and social responsibility in one’s team members. It can be something as simple as a kind act, an invitation, a smile, or a helping hand.

The far-reaching consequences of kindness and compassion—especially if you bear an important professional title—cannot be overstated. Sometimes giving a genuine smile is the single most beneficial thing you can do for someone. It’s a powerful tool. Which means you don’t have to hire a leadership coach to develop potent leadership skills. It’s actually the little things that form the core elements of conscious leadership. And those things—the encouraging nod, the casual offer of assistance, the genuine compliment—you can practice and build upon, day by day on your own.

This conscious awareness and attention to sometimes the smallest things can be developed in anybody—which is why you’ll often hear me say, “Everybody is a leader, whether they know it or not.” In those moments when we reach out in compassion and empathy, we take a position of mindful leadership. When we come from our hearts and from our highest level of intent—to put it bluntly, we are purposefully making powerful magic. Coming from the space of genuine concern and consideration for others, our thoughts, feelings, words and actions have an incredibly positive impact and go a long way towards helping develop the better world we all long to live in.

Starting point

Leaders become leaders when they arrive at the starting point, which is: An awareness that there is more to life than just whatever is there in front of them. When they gain that awareness and make the conscious decision to explore that “something more,” they begin to move out of the status quo of reactionary thinking and unconscious action. As their level of self-awareness increases, they develop the belief that they can do and become even more.  Thus encouraged, they then set out to make personal growth happen. When they make that conscious choice, self-limiting beliefs begin to drop away.

At that point, growth momentum and awareness of the self increases and just keeps on increasing. They may not have consciously set out to become a leader, let alone a mindful one, but they end up embodying all the natural traits of a more conscious leader all the same. Then their good example begins to attract leadership opportunities. And as they step into those opportunities, life experiences reveal to them their expanded capacities for mindful leadership and their personal growth expands even more. It’s really a fluid, self-fulfilling, highly-rewarding upward cycle once the starting point is reached!

So, remember: When you decide to stop sitting there wondering when the right opportunity is going to magically arrive on your doorstep and change life your life for the better, and you start taking personal responsibility for creating and directing your own adventure, you’re going to find there is more to life than whatever is currently in front of you. When that happens and your level of self-awareness begins to increase, you will find your purpose. At the very least you will find the starting point for your purpose.

That’s when magic actually does happen! The self-leadership light will spark and ignite your passion. And that’s the beginning of the awakening leader in you. Where self-leadership will take you doesn’t matter. It might take you into completely different circumstances. You may find yourself at the helm of a thriving business. You may find your personal life becoming more fulfilling. Perhaps the single most beneficial thing that happens is you become a happier, healthier human being. You may find yourself speaking at conscious leadership conferences.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is the true you is showing up and leading the show at last!

Be the leader you were born to be

If you want a better world, you are where it begins. And if the idea of stepping into a leadership role in your life scares you, stop and think: Who else in your family is (or was) a conscious leader? Or are you the first? Did your family members struggle with asserting themselves? Were they suppressed? Were your parents unavailable (emotionally and/or physically.) Were they reactive rather than creative in tough situations? Please know that when we are not available it is often because we are in fear and then we become emotionally triggered and reactive. Perhaps they were too fearful to be conscious leaders.

Can you break that cycle? It takes just one person to choose to do it differently. Here are some things you can do to begin building your conscious leadership:

  • Who did you inspire today, including yourself? Keep written track daily!
  • When last did you congratulate yourself for doing something good?
  • Did you take a moment today to notice all the good things that happened? Did you give others and yourself credit?
  • Notice when you are unnerved or unsettled how best you can self-sooth and remain calm.
  • Note each time you do something kind for yourself.
  • Write down the number of times in a day you make someone smile. (Other than yourself!)

These are all things that those big inspirational leaders do—making a difference just by making a little magic. Keep doing these things and watch the compounding effect as the inspirational leader becomes you.

To find out more about how to grow your leadership, attend one of our events this year! For more information about my 2024 events click here.

How Do You Describe Your Leadership Style? 11 Examples

how do you describe your leadership style

How Do You Describe Your Leadership Style? 11 Examples

Leadership is an important piece of who we are, and yet many of us don’t even know we have it. We deny, ignore or flat out don’t know that part of ourselves. We all display our leadership one way or another in different situations. So, how do you describe your leadership style and what different leadership styles are there?

Perhaps your leadership qualities show up as a mother or father, as a sibling, mentor, teacher, friend, or elder. If you lead in the business arena perhaps you help create a positive work environment as a line manager or as a C suite executive or motivated associate leading team members.

Surprisingly, the shape of your leadership has its roots in your family system, but its wings rely upon your inner spark and your core values. Leadership is often coupled to your purpose in life. It’s about the positive impact that naturally tends to show up in various ways, flowing from the space beyond limiting family cycles and the small thoughts you have about yourself.

The shape of your leadership doesn’t have to be big, fancy, dramatic or over the top—you don’t have to run for president or anything. But stepping up expands your full potential and affects others by opening them up to the bigger picture as well as common goals and shared vision. This realisation creates true leaders.

Plenty of ways

Leadership lives with one foot in the world of possibility. In other words, your personal leadership position is part of the chapter that only you can write.

Just like any other aspect of your life, the shape and expression of your leadership or lack of it begins at home. The starting point begins with where and how you show up in your family system. For example, some of us had to take on a leadership role early in life if a parent was missing or struggling, or if dire circumstances led to us having to step in and step up.

Some of us learned the exact opposite—to melt into the shadows in various ways when situations caused us fear or maybe even hide to survive. Perhaps a sibling needed more attention, and we became the good kid and stepped back so that they could get what they needed and so we became invisible. And yet that “stepping up” spark is still there, waiting to be seen and chosen. Waiting for us to overcome our fears and reluctance and step forward rather than vanish.

Your decisions about what happens to you in your life, your thoughts feelings and actions, or inactions all shape your leadership qualities and leadership strengths—your leadership DNA. They shape the leader you choose to be. As well, they shape the leader you abandon at your and others’ cost.

Good example

There is a coach in the NFL who came from dire circumstances. By all rights, this man should have become a violent gangster and yet he chose to rise at every point and build strong relationships and create a positive impact instead. He didn’t fault the parents who raised him.

He reasoned that they had done the best that they could, and it was his job to take the next step to rise to his fullest potential. He also used his upbringing to connect to kids from troubled areas and teach them problem-solving skills. He taught them that they were not victims and that they had a choice to break limiting cycles and rise up within their own communities.

First step

At some point in our lives we have to ask ourselves if we are going to bury the leader within or let it shine through whatever leadership roles seem natural. And when we decide to let it shine, that’s where we start to take charge of our own lives.

When you awaken the leader within, you begin to focus more on what’s possible and having a shared vision. You find you have more of an appetite for life embracing a bigger picture.

What’s actually happening is that you are finally creating an adventure that’s bigger than where you may be stuck.

If you aren’t sure what your style of leadership is or what kind of leader you could be, contemplate your heart’s desire. That is the inner leader waiting to be unleashed by you and what makes a great leader. And remember, you don’t have to lead the world or a basketball team either. Leading, for you, may be setting an example to others by taking a step in the direction of actualizing your dreams, thus motivating others to do the same. This is how to discover your best leadership style.

Help with the decision-making process

If you find yourself lost, stuck, or struggling. If you really can’t see the leader within, or see the type of leadership style that resonates with you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Do I know that I have this inner leadership?”
  • “When did I make a decision that I was/was not a leader?”
  • “What thoughts, feelings and actions do I take to make that true?”
  • “What does that decision cost/give me?”
  • “Where would I like to shine?”
  • “Where am I too afraid to shine?”
  • “What am I really good at?” Pro tip – kindness, generosity and inspiration are strong leadership qualities.

Deep inside, everybody is a leader but many of us suppress that desire to get out there and be the biggest version of ourselves possible. We watch movies and then we wish we were the superhero, all the while ignoring the inner prompt to be exactly that in our own lives.

How good does it feel when you accomplish a task or a dream? Once you start doing and it becomes a habit, your leadership comes out to play. Your “can do” kicks in and so does your life adventure.

Some of us may feel that we have never had the leadership skills, or that the term “good leader” doesn’t even vaguely apply to us. And yet in those quiet moments when we wish we could be a good leader … or do something bigger with our lives … the leader is sitting right there along with all the necessary resources waiting for you to take the first step forward.

Just one new thought “I can.” Or “I am going to do _____” begins the shift. One new feeling locks it in, and one new action begins the journey.

Real-life examples

The question really isn’t if you are a leader, it’s what kind of a leader are you? Are you a hidden leader? A reluctant leader, an absent leader? A dramatic leader, a fearful leader? Do you have an autocratic leadership style or an authoritative leadership style? Or is transformational leadership or coaching leadership style more your thing?

How do you describe your leadership style? Below are several of the most common styles of leadership to help you get started. Look and see which one most closely fits you.

Atlas leader – Carries the load for everybody. (Thought: How many mothers or fathers out there would qualify for this?) Do you carry too much for those around you? Are you aware that in doing so you limit the discovery of the potential of those whom you carry?

Team leader – Shares the load and empowers others to find their own way in the world. Shares the ups and the downs and everybody grows.

Crisis leader – Really good during emergencies. (Thought: Are you the person who is super good during a crisis, or do you inadvertently create them?) Is there constant drama in your life? Are you always rescuing or needing to be rescued or pointing out flaws or inflating situations? Do you realize that this may create neediness or unnecessary drama and stress?

Centered leader – Also really good during emergencies. Relaxes or becomes focused and centered. Brings a state of peace and capability to the situation. Always creates a positive work environment and helps others develop problem-solving skills.

Whirlwind leader – Goes in several directions at once but doesn’t complete a project. (Thought: Such leaders often want to be perceived as saviors but instead create chaos and exhaustion.) Are you someone who starts well but doesn’t finish well? Are you aware that nobody gets a win this way? Not even you?

Calm leader – The opposite of a crisis or whirlwind leader, these leaders can project a sense of calm no matter what. (Thought: Calm leaders don’t shoot from the hip. They consider all aspects thoughtfully and make a deliberate decision.) Are you or have you been in the presence of a calm leader? How did it affect you/others?

Driving leader – Pushes associates constantly for more, better, different. (Thought: These leaders expect a lot of their associates but often lose them to burnout.) Are you someone who pushes others to their limits “for their own good?” How do you know what their own good is?

Invitational leader – The opposite of a driving leader, these leaders invite others to step up into their fullest potential. (Thought: Such leaders encourage creativity and failing up. They tend to be glass-half-full leaders.) Have you ever noticed how invitation offers those around you a chance to open up and step up?

Hands-on leader – This leader is very involved with day-to-day operations. They feel that they should roll up their sleeves like anyone else, but sometimes too much. (Thought: Such a leader is often “in the weeds” concerned that the sky may fall if they’re not there.) Are you aware that a hands-on leader may stunt the growth of others if they take over too much? 

Delegating leader – They are hands on but only when needed. Knows when to step in and when to step out and empowers others to find their own solutions.

Hands-off leader – This leader believes that everyone is their own boss and leaves them to get on with things. (Thought: These leaders tend to issue a blanket project and assume everyone knows how to tackle it. Then they are confused when everybody seems to flounder.) Have you ever wondered why those around you are confused, do the wrong things, or feel they are unable to ask for clarification? This may be why.

Available-as-needed leader – This leadership approach is not in the weeds but is available to consult or even go there as needed. They inspire confidence in others and foster a sense of pride.

Parent leader – The big papa or mama bear leader. (Thought: In companies where everyone is treated like a family member, it is very clear who the parent is and who the children are.) Did you have to step up at an early age and take over for one or both parents? Have you never stepped down? Are you aware that you are treating those around you like children—which means they can never grow up? Are you absolutely exhausted by the weight you carry yet unable to set it all down for fear something bad might happen?

Empowering leader – These leaders acknowledge the strengths of others and do not need to be the mother or father figure. They don’t make others small, encouraging them instead to rise to the occasion in different situations and grow their own wings.

Inspirational and visionary leader – This leader does a lot of their own self-development resulting in heightened creativity and followership. (Thought: These leaders are determined, purpose driven, goal oriented, and inclusive. They build strong relationships. They don’t want to do the whole adventure themselves but are inspiring enough for others to take the journey with them.)

What will it take for you to invest in yourself as a leader who inspires and motivates? What difference could that make?

There are many levels of leadership which we will discuss in more depth at another time.  Looking through this list you may find that more than one applies to your leadership style. Each has its pros and cons, and each has the potential for growth.

How you lead matters – not just to those around you but to you. You might ask yourself where your leadership style originated and how you can evolve it. This is the best approach to helping your discover your leadership style and thrive.

At the crux of it all is this. You have the leader within. You have always had it. If you haven’t activated it yet, now is a good time to start. Sometimes when we won’t self-activate it may take a crisis to press the on button which is a whole lot less fun.

Take the time to listen to the part inside you that longs to be…and then start moving in that direction. Not only for yourself but for those around you and those who come after you. Leadership is a door to the life you dream about…open the door!

I look forward to showing you how to unleash your fullest potential and discover your leadership abilities.  For more information about my 2024 events click here.