The “Guilt-Free” Diet
Okay, so I found the diet of all diets! Obviously, by the title you can imagine that it has something to do with being guilt-free while engaging in any number of diets. Are you wanting to lose weight, stop spending, exercise more, quit smoking, spend more time with your sweetie, more time away from electronic companions? I get it! A guilt-free diet may be the way to go!
Throughout my whole life, my body image has been really important to me – the ‘image’ part is one thing but also the health that comes as a consequence of eating well and exercising daily. I’m far less successful than I want to be, yet I’ve been able to maintain my weight within a five pound band-width for about twenty years. Not bad, eh?
Being sixty years old, there’s nothing that will stop my body from doing all those things bodies do as they age: the sagging, creeping and wrinkling – well there’s nothing to be done but to appreciate and value the degree of health and vitality that I have today, as well as continuing to eat well and exercise daily. I’m so grateful to have the stamina and strength that I do have.
However, I keep pushing to lose weight – it’s a constant conversation in my head. And, I realized the other day that for the majority of my sixty years I’ve laid an incessant barrage of guilt and shame upon myself. Guilting myself has been the primary strategy responsible for staying thin and fit. But I realize the price I’ve paid using this strategy over others.
I decided, as an experiment, that I would stop working toward a particular weight goal, which only served over time to solidify how inadequate I am in fulfilling commitments. I would also stop the barrage of “Shoulds and Shouldn’ts” regarding everything to do with food. And, I had an “OMG” (Oh, My God!) moment. A list of attack thoughts spewed out a mile long regarding the “I’m not enoughs” that I’ve been living with forever!
I listed a minimum of 10 statements of guilt and shame that were so automatic I didn’t even know they are there. “You’ll look like an old person; you’ll get plump; you won’t be beautiful anymore; your clothes won’t fit; you’ll be out of integrity with who you say you are, on and on and on. That’s when I decided I’d go on a Guilt-Free Diet!
I heard the wee voice in my head say “What will keep me from gaining tons of weight or being a lazy good-for-nothing if I give up guilting myself? I then asked myself if the harmful side-effects of the guilt may be worse than the extra pounds I might carry. Just another one of those darn dilemmas.
Guilting oneself is not uncommon. For many of us, we don’t know any other way to manage and control ourselves but through guilt. Once I realized how I use guilt regarding food and beverage consumption, I also saw how I use it regarding work, productivity, and my financial where-with-all. I use guilt to make things happen and not happen in every aspect of my life.
Is it possible to live a guilt-free life?
So, while on this guilt-free diet, my practice is to notice the thoughts that are embedded with guilt – notice for instance, when at lunch time, the voice in my head says: “You should have a salad.” That “You Should” is most likely laced with guilt. When I’m about to do something based on that guilt-filled thought, my practice is to say STOP! Then re-calibrate my choice based on what I really want. This requires me to think like a mature and wise adult, instead of that more adolescent part of me that constantly wants what I want when I want it.
Does guilt have to be the only source of motivation?
I’m now more aware of making choices based on integrity and accountability. My intention is to enjoy life and I certainly enjoy it more feeling good and looking good. It’s a fascinating process revealing those thoughts that control and manage my behavior but are harmful and actually create dis-ease, self-hatred and other behaviors to compensate for the guilt and shame. Brow-beating ourselves usually creates the desire to anesthetize that voice – so we choose to eat, drink, do retail therapy, sex, TV, Internet surfing – you get the idea. SHEEESH!
Is There Another Way?
I want to be in alignment with my highest truth and my highest good. I know that spewing guilt thoughts at myself, and at others, for that matter, isn’t in alignment with my highest truth or good. I want health and well-being, and I also want to enjoy freedom and flexibility, which may be in direct conflict to well-being.
It’s interesting just to notice what happens when I take guilt out of the equation – not try to replace it with something else, not try to fix or heal the source of the guilt; just stop the guilt. I consider being a parent to myself and speaking without guilt – only loving thoughts – not manipulative, candy –sweet, but just love and care. It’s just an investigation, an experiment. I’m not trying to loose weight or fix my behavior in any way – I’m just exploring what IS without guilt.
Little by little, so far in this experiment, I’m realizing a greater degree of peace and relaxation – something I’ve not experienced for a very long time. I realize too, the degree to which the incessant pressure to be productive, effective, appropriate, worthy, attractive and desirable, never, never stops. It doesn’t take a vacation, and neither do I.
An invaluable resource that grows with aging is wisdom. Inevitably, we come to discover that who and what we think we are isn’t actually who and what we are at all! What matters to me more than anything else now, is that I compassionately reveal and dismantle self-loathing thoughts that impede my capacity to be the fullest expression of my essential self. How can I be anything but fit and attractive if I follow this advice?
I enjoy the adventure that comes with being curious about myself – how I’ve come to this reality I live within, in this current moment. I have no idea what will unfold from this exploration and practice. I do know that my experience thus far is that it’s contributing to a greater degree of well-being that’s guilt -free!
Yoda says “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” Wow! Think about what that would look like in the business world: Letting go of winning, power, promotions and bonuses; letting go of being right and other people being wrong; letting go of complaining, blaming and shaming; letting go of stress and worry and all of the underlying reasons for the stress and worry. What would you have left?
Christopher is a Senior Director for a corporation in Atlanta. He’s been with the company just over two years and is extremely loyal and committed to the company’s mission, to the degree that he had a physical and emotional breakdown after giving his all to the project that will inevitably make or break the company. Now, a couple of months later, he currently faces a similar dilemma – this time consciously, and this time he realizes it’s not just his body that’s on the line; it’s his soul that could be taken.
“What options do you have, Christopher?” I asked him after his complaining how things are exactly as they were those many months ago. Matter of factly, Christopher responds with “There are no options!” “Really?” I ask. “There are no options?” “Yes, there are no options,” He said: “except to revert to the old me that yelled and hollered to get people to do what they are supposed to do. That means setting myself up for another emotional and physical breakdown, and that’s not an option!”
“There are other options,” I countered. “Let’s look at them.” What I was attempting was to get Christopher to see that one of his options is to leave the company and go somewhere that may be more in line with maybe a more workable situation for him. He didn’t see leaving as an option, nor did he see letting go of everything he feared to lose as an option, either. Christopher’s perspective offered no option. He’s in a stalemate.
Yoda also said: “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” What does that mean in Christopher’s situation? By having the deepest commitment and the most serious mind, it’s easier to fully align with that which you are truly committed to. In Christopher’s case, is it the success of the company orhis own personal success and the maintaining of his reputation (He fears that if he leaves the company his reputation will be tarnished.) that’s at stake? One other thing he is committed to is keeping himself healthy – it’s not an option to sell himself to the devil again. Yet, through my eyes, it looks very much like this is happening. When someone as brilliant as Christopher has no options, he’s a dead duck. He’s given his soul away if he gives himself no options.
We’ve been trained to see the world a certain way, and it’s essential to our survival in many families, communities and business environment, so we think, to maintain that perspective, no matter what. Our minds can’t make sense of our reality if it no longer looks the way it’s supposed to. Much like Christopher, we are then faced with no options and no way to move forward, except to do what we’ve done in the past and we know that’s not going to work.
If we don’t want to lose what we are afraid of losing, our egoic self will bend and twist reality in such a way that we experience stuckness. We can feel lost in the midst of bright lights and lots of people. It’s not uncommon for people to experience mental and emotional exhaustion and breakdowns, inevitably losing more than they were bargaining for. Aren’t we a curious species?
The dilemma Christopher faces is because he has a great deal at stake. On the one hand he has his position, his credibility and all that he’s invested in this company. On the other hand his physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is deteriorating. Attempting to hang on to what he’s got will most likely mean he’ll lose everything.
Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose
Where Christopher sees no option, I see he has no options too, but from a different perspective. Unless he opens himself up to the possibilities he currently doesn’t want to see, he will lose everything. My job as his coach is to gently guide him towards what now appears to be too frightening to accept. Inevitably, he will have to choose to shift his paradigm and experience a reality that he doesn’t yet believe exists.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose
For some this process is a walk in the park; yet for others it can be experienced as a shattering. There’s nothing wrong with a shattering. A shattering is the same as a paradigm shift, it’s just way more painful in every way, you, I’m sure, have imagined. And, generally, it takes a great deal more time to recover from.
What’s right in front of Christopher is right in front of each and every one of us: the opportunity to discover what’s worth losing and what’s not. It all goes away, sooner or later. In this moment, though, it’s just a matter of choosing to choose to choose to be accountable and responsible for the consequence of the choices we make. I hate that part as much as most people do. I want it all good and all easy. When it’s not, I don’t want to look at options I don’t want to take. I’ve learned though that my life isn’t worth living if fear is the only conductor on this train. I’m listening to Yoda and other spiritual teachers in order to create a life worth living. Christopher will make a similar choice, I have no doubt.
Not losing is a no-win game.
Saying Yes When You Mean No
I met with a team of engineers yesterday. Up until now I’ve been meeting with them individually as each was facing dilemma’s that affected their personal and professional life. Over the past couple of months all of them have gained greater degrees of emotional intelligence and greater degrees of clarity of intention and accountability for what’s showing up in their work lives. They all realize that how they are being impacts on them personally and professionally – they can no longer assume they can act on behalf of their own personal desires without negatively influencing the team, the organization as a whole and on their professional aspirations.
An exercise I do with teams is a context exercise, where we explore a specific context, such as team, to reveal beliefs, assumptions, expectations and judgments – essential what is true – in this case about teams, which has members act the way they do in relation to each other, to the team and a whole and to the organization. In this particular group, we included sport teams and teams in business, seeing the parallels and differences, and then we put together a list of what’s impossible given what’s true about teams. The process unfolded a couple more levels by exploring what needed to shift in order for the impossible to become possible and what needed to be practiced to consistently bring that into the workplace on a day to day basis.
We had consensus regarding trust, collaboration and effectiveness, being three aspects of team work that needs developing. This was all very positive. There was a high degree of exposure as each one spoke, as I hoped would happen. No one deferred, held back or was withdrawn from the conversation. This tells me that there was a degree of trust in the room that brought us to this level of disclosure and sharing.
Pride go-ith before the fall.
Their desire to elevate their own personal standing within the company is still a primary intention. Though, we talked about healthy teamwork they haven’t yet truly bought into the actualization of committing to being a good team player. Most wait until the other proves themselves trustworthy.
Meeting together as a team, with me as their coach meant they stepped into a greater degree of visibility, accountability and hopefully credibility; saying what they mean and meaning what they say. It all sounded good and I was heartened by what I heard from them, as they described the values and practices essential to being the team they see themselves being. It was a good start!
My last comment to the group before ending the session was that they will each witness the others not walking their talk. “You can get mad, disappointed; you can yell at them and blame and shame them for not showing up as they said they would; however, the practice is not how to get the other guy to do what he said he’d do; It’s focusing on you being accountable for walking your talk; looking at your response or reaction to the other’s behavior and communication in the highest good of everyone. That’s the only practice that matters – live into your own highest truth in service to your own highest good and the good of the team.”
I met with each member separately after the team meeting. It was interesting to hear feedback from each member reflecting how so-and-so said this, but doesn’t walk his or her talk – they don’t act in alignment with what they are saying. I had no doubt this was going to be part of the process. Though trust was at the top of the list of priorities for this team to be most effective, little trust has truly been earned by any one member.
Communicating from an objective point of view
Each of us face the dilemma of wanting to look good and say the right thing, yet, at the same time we are invested in having things go the way we want them to. We hope to look like we are in integrity but the fact is, people who know us and know when we are not walking our talk have no business trusting us. They are fools to believe us when they’ve most likely experienced degrees of inconsistencies consistently. How do we break the stalemate for ourselves, and how do we do that for others too.
We can’t change what we can’t acknowledge. Having a thinking partner or coach to empower you to cultivate awareness is almost essential to seeing how you operate and getting clear that the way you operate is either working in your favor to advance your career or it’s not. Pretending to be who you say you are never worked and will never work, so you might has well give it up as a way of growing yourself or your business. You’ve got to be that person you want to work with. It’s no longer possible to hope people will trust you with greater degrees of responsibility and power if you aren’t reliable with the power you have. You will inevitably find that saying yes when you mean no is a pretty unsatisfying way of doing business. You don’t like it in others – why keep believing that they don’t mind it in you?
Every Choice-point Grows Leadership
Leaders aren’t made by titles, position, and prestige; they are made by the choices they make at points in their career, which in the moment seem to have nothing to do with becoming a leader. It has only to do with current situations throwing curve balls in their direction, requiring them to make choices that are in the highest good of the company and in their own highest good as well.
Let’s say that the company you work for is challenged on many fronts. They are not fulfilling agreements made, which initially enticed you to join the organization. You still believe in the product and service, but no longer trust the competence of the leaders to generate what’s required for success to be yours. Given the current state of the situation, you feel powerless to make a difference for yourself or the company.
You saw yourself rising in the ranks to a level of leadership where you’d make a difference in how this company functions and fulfills its mission. You looked forward to the responsibility that came with the title and position. You want to make a difference but in this moment you are asking yourself why work for a company that seems chaotic, disorganized and off course.
Though you’ve seen yourself on this trajectory towards leadership, currently you feel stuck, with no clue how to choose what’s next for you. You feel as though your future may have been stolen from you and now you are at the mercy of this company to make choices that will hopefully impact in only positive ways. Should you go or should you stay? What to do … what to do.
Too often we look at the situations we find ourselves in and feel disempowered, disappointed and perhaps depressed. We’ve put trust in the company we work for to make good choices, which will inevitably bring rewards to us personally and professionally. But what happens when they don’t seem to be making good choices – choices that lead to healthy development of the organization itself, its bottom line and its employees – you in particular?
Leadership development takes place in the present moment – now! The challenges you currently face are the very elements that are required for leadership capacities to be cultivated. And, the choices you are making now, regardless of your current level of power, have a huge influence on the company. It’s rather funny how we miss this point.
We think that the trajectory to leadership is one thing and when we arrive we will have what it takes to lead well. However, it doesn’t occur to us that we actually have to develop muscles of leadership somewhere along the way. Learning theories in trainings, books and MBA’s isn’t the same as having to actualize those theories in real business situations. Every good leader learns to walks their talk through countless moments of uncertainty. They’ve learned which muscles were required for each specific situation. They strengthened and stretched those muscles – and others they were yet conscious of, in order to be the leader they’ve become. Leadership is an evolutionary process. Every confronting situation builds a repertoire of skills. Over time, those skills look natural and intuitive, as those that individual always had what it takes.
Choice-making is the essential element of leadership. How you choose to be, given the circumstances of this current moment, are very telling. Being present to the dilemmas that face the company and face you – personally and professionally, is the point where great leaders are born. They are born, not by their companies or their promotions; they actually birth themselves through every choice-point they meet.
Every one of these choice points have to be met with a level of presence to one’s personal and professional investment in the organization with the company’s needs and requirements. These dilemmas can be very weighing. Great leaders intentionally cultivate their capacity to lead in situation they meet; distinguishing all the variables at play and discerning what’s in the best interest of the company at large, which includes themselves.
In the previous article The Personal is the Professional, we explored how every choice made by every employee is personal and professional. Some choices we face are good for us but not for the company. Sometimes the choices we make are good for the company and not for us. Some are not good for either the company or for us, and what good leaders are able to discern is how to choose so that the highest good for all is attained.
Every situation provides opportunities to grow leadership capacities. Attempting to bypass challenging or confronting relationships and situations means you are missing opportunities to cultivate the very skills required to be the leader you see yourself to be.
You might be expressing frustration right now because you think you don’t know how to cultivate what’s required to be in your current situation in anyway other than frustrated, powerless and incapable of change. I encourage you – and your organization to bring in a thinking partner – a coach or mentor to empower all of you to look at your situation differently; allowing you to see the choice-point you are currently engaged in and what’s required to choose most effectively as a leader for your own development and for your company as well.
Choices made from integrity and accountability will always be in the highest good of all involved. Every moment will provide opportunities to cultivate your leadership capacities. Be curious about yourself and notice opportunities to experiment with different ways of being. Today is the day to step into the leader you see yourself to be. Enjoy the exploration!