Becoming Discouragement Proof (#810)

In the most recent video on the Living from the Inside Out program, I shared the story of a conversation I had with an executive who’s company’s fortunes were transformed through a deeper understanding of the inside out nature of the human experience.

I was surprised that I was surprised by this, as I have been privileged to witness the same kind of transformation in small businesses and with entrepreneurs I have coached and worked with around the world. But his was a company with thousands of employees and, by the time he retired, billions of dollars in annual revenue.

When I asked him what he thought the key to their success was, he told me that through this understanding, they had become “discouragement proof”, which allowed them to thrive through the last recession and a series of global and political challenges which threatened at times to overwhelm them and even shut them down completely.

What was it that they learned?

A deep respect for the psychological well-being of their work force and a deep understanding of the psycho-spiritual nature of life.

Initially, he told me, when a consultant suggested that the reason a division of the company was failing was to do with the state of mind of its employees, he resisted the idea with a passion. He wasn’t in a position to give people raises or more time off in the hope that it would make them happier or work harder. The company was already stretched for resources and everyone was working full out just to keep treading water.

But when the consultant explained that psychological well being exists as an independent and internally regulated variable, the conversation began to shift. And as performance and sales began to climb, the executive quickly went from skeptic to sponsor.

Here were the three big changes that led to the “discouragement-proofing” and subsequent revival of the company:

1. The abandonment of “victim scripts”

In an outside-in world, where your state of mind is at the mercy of events, it’s natural to blame things on outside forces, ranging from the economy to management to the incompetence and dishonesty of your own colleagues. But when you see that the only thing that can take you up or down is your own thinking, it’s difficult to maintain the story that anything outside of you is “doing it to you”.

Simply understanding that thought is the source of experience takes the pressure off. So when the people in the company began to see that their feelings fluctuated in direct response to their thoughts, not their conditions, they realized they didn’t need to wait for those conditions to change in order to feel better. And when people feel better, they immediately begin to perform better.

2. Using creativity to get over hurdles

Creativity is sometimes seen as a mysterious thing, but at its essence, it’s simply a way of describing our infinite capacity for new thought. When we recognize that capacity is ever present, we also see that the possibility to solve any problem is never more than one thought away.

As the team relaxed into their natural ability to generate new thinking, seemingly mountainous problems shrunk back into manageable molehills. Problems became possibilities and challenges became opportunities to unleash the amazing intelligence behind the human mind.

3. The ability to bounce back quickly

When Elizabeth Kubler-Ross formulated her famous model of the five stages of grief, she never intended it to become a prescription or definitive pathway to healing. It was simply a description of the stages through which people cope and deal with loss and a foundation for greater compassion and understanding.

Yet anyone who’s ever suffered a major (or even minor) setback at work will recognize some version of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance at play in their own experience.

As we begin to notice that our feelings come from our thoughts, not our experience, the five “stages” become easy to see as five distinct thoughts:

Denial – “This isn’t really happening.”
Anger – “This is happening, but it shouldn’t be and it’s ______’s fault.”
Bargaining – “This is happening, but maybe it won’t if I _____”
Depression – “This is happening, and it’s awful, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Acceptance – “This is happening, and it’s OK.  Life goes on.  What’s next?”

One of the great thing about thoughts is that they change just as soon as we let them. So rather than get stuck in any one thought about what’s happening, the natural resilience of the human mind means we can go through those five thoughts in moments instead of years.

This isn’t to say in any way that grief is a process that should or must be rushed. Quite the contrary. But when that “grief” is over the loss of a sale or a client, it’s useful to know that there’s no need to drop down into lasting depression before coming out the other side.

So how did those three changes add up to becoming discouragement proof?

  • Dropping the victim scripts meant less time spent assigning fault and blame and more time looking for solutions. People began feeling better in themselves and getting on better with their colleagues.
  • Recognizing our incredible capacity for new thought in any moment meant challenges could be faced head on instead of ducked, avoided, or feared. Problems became opportunities for creativity and innovation instead of nails in the coffin of possibility.
  • The ability to bounce back quickly meant that people were willing to try and try and try and try again without losing hope.  And persistence, creativity, and a good feeling between co-workers is a breeding ground for success.

What really struck me throughout my conversation with the executive was that all three of these core changes were the effect of a new understanding, not causal elements in and of themselves. In other words, people didn’t set out to “drop their victim scripts”, or “get more creative”, or “get over it quicker”.

They simply recognized two psycho-spiritual truths about the human condition:

1. We are living in the feeling of our thinking.
2. New thought is available to us in any moment.

And as we recognize these truths for ourselves, we too will become more and more “discouragement proof”, regardless of the challenges we are facing in our lives.

all my love

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