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Getting Back on the Leadership Saddle

Getting Back on the Leadership Saddle

Have you ever had the experience of needing to divert your attention away from the thing you’re passionate about, only to find that, upon your return, you face it with some — dare I say it — trepidation?

Taking a break from an essential part of your life, whether it’s a hobby, your career or your family, is at times a good thing. It enables you to take a step back, focus your attentions elsewhere, and develop new sides to yourself. We all need a bit of that at times, right?

However, it can be anxiety-provoking to get back on the saddle and ride like you did before. Perhaps you’re unsure if you still have the desire that you once had for it. Maybe the doubting thoughts, in rearing their ugly little voices, prevent you from even entering the stable, never mind putting your foot near the stirrup. It’s possible that your perspective changed radically during your hiatus, meaning you want to take your passion in a new direction.

These thoughts and feelings are perfectly normal and understandable. But, at the same time, they can be debilitating if left to run the show.

[Related: Conscious Confidence: Shifting from Anxiety to Calm Power]

So, how do you get back in the saddle of a particular aspect of your life after an absence? You do that by getting to the root of the anxiety. How do you get to the root of anxiety? The clue is in the phrase, “ride like you did before.”  

Let’s look at the word anxiety. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines anxiety as, “an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness or worry about something that is happening or might happen in the future."  

Anxiety is unease in the mind, caused by the inability to control what is occurring or will occur. In an attempt to gain some feelings of control, the mind creates scenarios that it rehearses over and over again. The objective of this is to prepare you for impending or possible danger, thereby minimizing the impact it has on you. This has the effect of triggering the sympathetic nervous system that controls the fight-flight-or-freeze response, moving you into a hyper-alert state of being. 

In situations where the danger is real, this is an extremely useful function of our biology. The truth is, though, that most of us are rarely ever in that sort of danger. Anxiety is, on the whole, a counter-productive waste of mental energy.

A common way you may attempt to manage anxiety is to examine how you handled things before and attempt to replicate it. I find this happens a lot with people who intend to return to work after having taken an extended career break. While some degree of anxiety is natural and can seem like a sensible safety mechanism, there are three critical flaws in anxiety-based logic that render it less-than-helpful.

Number One: You may influence but you have no control over what happens in the future.

Number Two: Things will be different than they were before because you are different to who you were before.

Number Three: Reaching back into the past to attempt to control the future prevents you from appreciating the present.

[Related: Give Yourself 2 Minutes - Meditate Your Way to Calm]

In fearing change and its impact, the mind attempts to dominate situations by preserving them, creating a false sense of safety. The one thing you can be certain of in this life, however, is change. You are undergoing a continuous process of change. The Universe changes from moment to moment. Sometimes change is dramatic. Mostly, though, it’s so subtle we hardly notice it. Nevertheless, you are in a constant state of change whether you recognize it or not.

So, rather than trying to stem the tide of change, imagine what life would be like if you connected with the benefits of change and embraced it, took delight in it even. What would be possible for you then?

Allow me to paint a possible picture for you.

Number One: You see your future as a realm of possibility and excitement, and rather than attempting to restrict it, you experience it as an adventure in expanding your horizons.

Number Two: You evaluate the past as a means of absorbing the lessons needed to support the adventure.

Number Three: You focus your attention so that you may respond to what’s happening now, fully appreciating what has happened before and being open to what may or may not happen in future.

[Related: Mindfulness = Purpose + Productivity]

Anxiety is really a subtle but highly limiting attempt to exert domination over your future. In doing so, you squeeze the life force out of your future by trying to force things to go a certain way, preventing yourself from discovering how things could be in the process.

When you give up the need to dominate, you become receptive to entering into a collaborative relationship with the world around you. You utilize the history of the past and the possibilities of the future to create your present reality. You are better able to respond because you are fully present to what's actually occurring, not what has occurred or may occur. In opening up your mind to other realities, you are better placed to enter into partnership with other people and your environment.

In embracing change, you free up a significant amount of mental energy which you can devote to other, more productive uses like offering your gifts in service to a greater purpose. You learn, grow, and evolve quickly. You are better able to deal with things as they arise. In short, you respond to life with greater agility and confidence.

Coming full circle, imagine the process as being like horse-whispering, only the creature you’re seeking to connect with is you. Understanding the source of your anxiety is really a journey in understanding your thinking -- a powerful route to understanding, empathising and collaborating with yourself. Collaborative approaches diffuse domination-driven anxiety, creating greater space for peace of mind. Peace of mind leads to clear decision-making, a fundamental quality of brilliant leadership!

Would you like to continue indulging in an anxiety-provoking master-servant relationship with change, or would you like to channel that energy into being a changemaker?

Start by embracing change as the opportunity it is. You'll be back in the leadership saddle before you know it!


Lori West is the founder and managing director of The Brilliance Trailblazer, a leadership development consulting, coaching and mentoring company. Her mission is to cultivate agile, inclusive, purpose-driven organizational leaders who are ready for 21st century. To find out how you can become a Brilliance™ Trailblazer, click hereTo download a free copy of Lori's eBook, Poised for Progress, click here.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.