Perpetual self-actualisation is the progressive realisation of our full potential. It is both a destination and a journey. As we achieve this, we discover that we are more than what we have become, and we have a glimpse of our next level of accomplishment.
“May you live in interesting times” is not an ancient Chinese proverb; it was first coined by Joseph Chamberlain in 1893. This was later quoted by his son Neville Chamberlain in 1936, Billy Kennedy in Cape Town in 1966, and various others such as Hillary Clinton in the early 2000s.
In each instance, the speakers were in times that presented the most significant degrees of change, challenge and opportunity. We too certainly live in a most interesting time. The pandemic took what was already an exponential world and accelerated it greatly. We all found ourselves in uncharted territory with imposed transformation.
Interesting times indeed
We were assaulted by a tsunami of content – most of which was negative and a large part of which was untrue. In the isolation of the lockdown, many people were overwhelmed by it. We cannot control or influence that content. What we can do is focus on the context: the inner place that receives the content and manages it. Importantly, we must choose other content.
Despite all the chaos, there was wonderful collateral beauty. Many people realised that the imperatives of life are health, family, love and friendship – not chasing a buck or the bling. If you asked, “How much did Covid impact you neurologically, psychologically, emotionally and physiologically?” few of us who would be able to answer with any degree of exactness. Furthermore to “What extent were you overcome by fear and anxiety?”
Dealing with stress
The record books show that anxiety and mental disorders increased to unprecedented levels, as did suicide rates and divorces. Social neuroscience has modelled a framework called SCARF (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness) which shows that disrupting one or more of these creates significant stress.
When our lives are threatened, self-preservation kicks in and high levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline flow into our system to protect us. Remarkably, research has shown that the announcement of a company’s retrenchment program creates the same neurological response.
The difference is, when the threat of life or death is removed, our system returns to normal. Conversely, in a world full of upheaval and change, elevated stress remains.
After a period, this results in our brains interpreting our lack of ease as being disease (even though we are not diseased) and consequently our brain introduces Pro Inflammatory Cytokines (PICs) into our system. This creates inflammation which over time becomes the precursor to early-stage osteoporosis, diabetes 2, clinical depression, carcinomas, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
Cycan uses neurological and self-actualisation diagnostics that provide an insightful view into an individual’s current and potential future states. Recently we have witnessed unprecedented levels of burnout, anxiety and hostility. What has been remarkable and encouraging is that participants, collectively and individually, have been able to work through this with great willingness to embrace a new set of perspectives and changed behaviours, plus a solid commitment to find greater meaning and purpose in who they are and what they do.
Cycan has had the privilege of facilitating accelerated change programs for executives and business leaders across industries, demographics, continents and portfolios, with consistent success.
The new way of working
As the world moves beyond Covid, hybrid work has arrived with people being called back to work. For some, this is a breath of fresh air, whilst others are resistant.
The thought of traffic and time commuting to work, where their newly found autonomy is at risk, is uninspiring for many.
Hybrid work gives us the opportunity to enter a new realm of engagement wherein we can learn to prioritise more effectively, bringing about a greater work-life balance. This brings great opportunity for growth and learning, and a new realm of leadership.
2021 saw The Great Resignation emerge. This started in the USA where more than four million people per month resigned from their jobs to pursue a greater quality of life.
South Africa had its own Great Resignation, with a big move out of the big cities to the coast and Western Cape.
Leaders called to task
Covid-19 called for a new type of leader to remotely manage teams as well as inculcate culture and best practice. This proved to be more than challenging. As we move into hybrid work models, we must find innovative ways to bring about the human-to-human connection, the transfer of skills, cultural consistency, and the enablement of individuals to take greater degrees of accountability and self-determination.
This necessitates heightened self-awareness and authentic leadership. We must ask ourselves: “Am I a leader of self before being a leader of others and organisations?” and “What are the required shifts in behaviour?”
If we keep doing the same things, we cannot expect the results to be any different.
To make these shifts, being a good idea is insufficient. Information on its own does not change behaviour. We must learn to listen with empathy and be a leader of impact by how we show up, how we behave, and who we are.
Priority is fundamental to achieving sustained levels of increased engagement, accomplishment, and well-being. Ironically, as we pursue priority, balance naturally follows consequently.
Procrastination is put to the sword by just simply starting to start those things that we know we should do but do not want to do. We have the power to take control of our thoughts and feelings.
We are what we think and say, and our words truly define us.
There is the great example of Tom Sullivan who rowed in the Henley Regatta, wrestled in the Olympics, is a qualified clinical psychologist, has a wife and two children, saved his two-year-old daughter from drowning, has written an autobiography, produced music for top names like Linda Ronstadt and Aretha Franklin, completed 37 skydives, ridden horses, played basketball and played golf to a 12 handicap.
He has been totally blind since birth and people would ask him, “How do you do these things being handicapped?”
His response was, “I’m not handicapped. I’m inconvenienced.”
The road ahead
How do we choose our words? Ideas can change the way we think, revelational moments transform the way we live! These come through deep reflection. The question of significance is not “What do I want from the world?” but rather, “What does the world want from me?”
To live this brave new life, courage must become our companion. In the absence of fear, courage cannot exist! Our fear is a catalyst to doing extraordinary things.
Risk is simply described as danger, hazard, peril or potential loss. Remarkably, every single accomplishment in the history of mankind was previously deemed impossible, and it was only through the embracing of risk and taking leaps of faith that these great accomplishments came about.
We must pursue meaning and purpose for our lives and do things that contribute value. What do we want to be remembered for? What is that legacy we want to leave and what is that distinguishing factor of excellence that you want to have permeate everything that you do?
It starts with a heart to serve. Because if we truly have a heart to serve, then we will listen and not simply wait to speak. It talks about operating from an inner place of conviction, authenticity and empathy.
We have to transform how we lead ourselves and how we move forward, and that starts with that heart to serve. People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. And as we go into each day with insatiable curiosity, we will develop a phenomenal level of expectancy, which will result in our lives and those around us being enriched.
Let us awaken our inner child. Are we happy with what we have achieved and who we have become? How many of our dreams and aspirations are yet unrealised?
If we project forward 30 years, what world will we have left for our grandchildren? We can all be merchants of hope. Hope is more than a feel-good emotion – it is a cognitive motivational system that can be developed and leveraged. The author Samuel Smiles said: “Hope is the companion of power and the mother of success. They who hope strongly have within them the gift of miracles.”
Life is an occasion – let’s rise to it! Each day is a precious gift and let us place love at the heart of everything we do.
We should remember that we are always more than what we have become, and that our best is yet to come.
So, as we sow a thought, we reap an action. As we sow an action, we reap a habit. As we sow a habit, we reap a character. As we sow character, we reap a destiny!
May our journey through this time called life produce a rich and colourful destiny.