Episode #30: Leadership, Reactivity, and Drifting from Consciousness
I was in eighth grade when a couple of girls who had been my best friends… My experience was they ditched me, and I got so angry. I threw my pear on the ground and I remember it, the look on the girl’s face who was at the receiving end of this, it almost missed her Birkenstock by like an inch. And she looked at me shocked, and I realized what I had done. And I still felt all the anger, but I was like, “Oh no, I just lost all my power in this situation.” And that happens, doesn’t it? At work, we sometimes react. It happens at home a lot more.
Why? What do we do when that happens to repair? Sometimes our reactivity is more drawn out and we don’t even realize we’re doing it. It’s almost as if we drifted from being conscious and we are zoned out. There’s lots of different ways that this can look, and when we do that, we don’t have access to the here and now. And we can’t actually be effective.
Today we’re going to dig into reactive behaviors and drift moves. You are allowed to be a full human being who sometimes gets reactive, and you’re allowed to learn how to shift. Let’s start the show.
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Today we are going to dig into reactive behaviors and drift moves. How is it that we react in a knee jerk immediate kind of way and don’t even catch ourselves until it’s too late, and why is it that oftentimes we will drift from really being aware and present? Probably this is happening a lot more than you currently realize because it can look a lot of different ways. And once you are aware of it, you now have an opportunity where you can become effective again and you can have a little self compassion because guess what, we’re all human beings. Human beings are completely animals. We are hardwired to recognize threats all over the place. We have our own inner wounding, we have whatever big T trauma, small T traumas. We have the dynamics we grew up with. Sometimes stuff is just going to like hit us in that raw spot and we’re going to react or we’re going to just want to drift away from really being aware of the situation. It’s so normal. It’s so human. However, it really does affect us. It affects our relationships. It affects our conversations.
As a leader of my own life, one of my biggest indicators of how well I’m doing is how few times I’ve reacted, how much am I consciously responding, how centered can I be with pressure on me? And if you haven’t learned a lot about pressure yet, I really recommend that you go back to the episode where Beth Killough, the equine horse leadership trainer that I’ve worked with in the past. She talks a lot about pressure in our environment, and I’d go back to that episode. That was episode 11, and we will link to that in the show notes at caneel.com/podcast. But pressure comes in and all these different ways and sometimes it hits us and everything is fine. Other times we react.
And you’re going to start laughing at yourself when you realize all of the different ways that you can drift and react that are working against you.
Let’s explore these reactive behaviors and drift moves. I’m not going to give you any easy solutions right off the bat. The first step in long term sustainable growth that is transformative is self-awareness. So I’m not here to fix your problems. I’m here to give you tools and empower you.
The first thing is I want all of us, I want everyone to become aware of am I reactive? That very simple question is so powerful. Am I being reactive right now or am I being conscious? Being reactive, by the way, is another way to talk about being below the line. When I’m below the line, I’m being reactive. I’m not present, I’m not conscious. I’m a non-conscious leader at that point and I’m creating probably a lot of drama and havoc in my life. If you don’t know what below the line means, you can go back and listen to episode number six where we first explored the drama triangle. caneel.com/podcast has links to all of the episodes and every episode has a tool or a freebie, and there’s some really fun ones about the drama triangle there for you. So check that out.
When I’m being reactive, it might look a bunch of different ways. In my example of the very top of this episode, I talked about how I got angry, instantly get triggered, and I exploded. I threw something. I think I also yelled. I’m pretty sure I did. Sorry, Alison. But also there’s other things that I might do if I’m being reactive. So let’s go on a little ride together.
Picture yourself, the last time that you got triggered. Something either really made you mad or terrified you or made you all of a sudden just break into pieces and start bawling, or you just were really turned off and disgusted. All of these are when you’re triggered. Picture that last time that happened. Put yourself there in that moment. Really, really feel it. What came next? What happened? What was your knee jerk reaction? You didn’t necessarily even choose to do it. The lack of choice is what makes this a non-conscious reaction, and typically we’ve got some patterns around this. We’ve got ways that we’ve learned over the years this is our below the line toolkit, our coping strategy, our way of discharging some energy or bottling up some feelings and almost always it really works against us.
I’m going to blow your mind right now. I’m going to tell you some of the drift moves. Some of the ways we drift from consciousness or we get reactive, and you might recognize that these are things that you do every single day because guess what, here’s some things on the list. One of them is emailing. Do you do this? I just had a really uncomfortable conversation. I don’t want to deal with those feelings. I don’t want to deal with that person. I’m going to just open my phone and just see if there’s any emails there for me, like that’s so important. I’m going to leave the present moment and go into some message that was written in the past and write some message that’ll be sent in the future and check this thing and just… It’s reactive. I didn’t choose to pick up my phone. It happened. It happened to me. Reactive means I feel like life is happening to me.
Other ways that we might drift or get reactive and see which ones of these are your favorites. Arguing is an obvious one. We often interrupt and we argue, or we try to prove the other person wrong, blaming, body aches, getting sick. So our body is the most powerful tool that we have as leaders. I really, really believe that it’s our access point that connects our consciousness. Our God energy, our access to Source, however you’d like to think about it. It connects our consciousness to here and now reality. Our body, it’s a tool. So if you’re repeatedly getting a lot of body aches like I used to, I really encourage you to ask yourself, when does that come up? When does it flare? When does it flare?
I’ve told stories on previous episodes about my back pain, and I remember the time where I realized the pattern for me and how my back pain, which was crippling. I mean, I couldn’t even walk for a month, was actually me stuffing my feelings down into my back. I wasn’t willing to deal with either the feelings or the trigger of the feelings. I wasn’t willing to say no. I wasn’t willing to draw boundaries. I wasn’t willing to stand up for myself in certain ways. And so when I would feel angry or sad or scared about that, I would just stuff those feelings right into my back. And that was the source of the body aches, and they were major. And it took that for me to wake up and be willing to become the leader of my own life. And that was the beginning of a whole lot of changes led me to where I am today. So it’s a tool. It’s not wrong. I just want to point that out. It’s not wrong. It’s wisdom. Just tune into it.
Other ways that you might be reactive or triggered or drift are compulsive working, comparing yourself to others, cleaning, organizing, drinking, drugging, eating, doing it right, interpreting, interrupting, justifying, looking really interested in something, getting confused, being distracted, being enlightened and above it all. Getting self righteous, getting really, really serious about stuff, being silly. I’ve seen it like that. That happens sometimes when I’m doing executive team off sites.
And picture this, we’ve got seven or eight C-level leaders. Sometimes there’s four or five. And these are people who are really dependent on each other for their company to succeed. Sometimes they get in each other’s way or they’re misaligned. And so there’s often really meaty conversations that need to be had, but people haven’t been able to have them. And it really helpful to bring in a facilitator. So that’s where I come in and, and sometimes there’s just this big elephant in the room. And everyone feels it and I can usually feel it, but we have to figure out what it is together. And then it comes out and people get reactive. And there’s definitely a certain personality archetype I’ve seen where one person’s response to how uncomfortable it just got with naming and seeing that elephant is they get really silly. They start making some jokes. This might’ve been a class clown. This is the person who really doesn’t like to be scared. Often on the Enneagram, it’s a type Seven, if you know the Enneagram personality model. And that’s a super interesting tool actually that really often can predict which of these drift moves you do.
So we can link to more information about the Enneagram in the show notes at caneel.com/podcast, but here are some more of the ways.
Facebooking, social media, Instagram, procrastinating, protecting, protecting yourself, protecting others, protecting an idea, protecting a thing, proving, rehearsing, rising above it all. Seeking approval, sexual activity, masturbation, porn, shopping, sleeping, smiling, spacing out, trying too hard, venting, watching TV. And this one’s my favorite, I want to point it out, worrying. Did you know that when you’re worried about something, you are actually trying to avoid something else or maybe even that very thing. When you’re worrying, it is not helping you to get anything done and worry has become such a part of our culture. It’s constantly reinforced by the media, which is presenting fears in our face often first thing in the morning with your cup of Joe, which is why I do not check the news in the morning. And it triggers that like, “Oh my gosh, there’s all these big problems in the world,” which truly is very, very important for us to face. And I don’t want us to ignore that. Remember ignoring is a drift move.
But if I’m simply worrying about it and I’m not doing anything about it, I’m not being effective. I’m not owning my power because there is a lot I can do. There’s a lot I can do. And when I’m worrying, I’m also eroding my energy. I am damaging my nervous system. I am making myself more prone to being more reactive about more things. And I am not present. Worrying by definition means I’m worrying about something that might be happening in the not here, not now. I’m worrying about something that might happen or that will happen. I’m worried about something that maybe did happen before. I’m worrying about what somebody else thinks or what’s happening somewhere that’s not here right now. That’s worry. It’s different from, there’s something here right now that I’m aware of and that I want to be different.
And we talk about being worried and being busy falls into this same category of drift moves. We talk about these things like, “Oh, I’m really worried. I’m really busy.” We talk about them like, “Yeah, this is just the state of things, and this is just how it should be.” And that normalizes it. And while it is quite normal, I think this one in particular, we have a big addiction to in our culture and we don’t address it as the corrosive force that it is. So if you are a worrier, and I certainly have been one, I love you. I love you. It’s okay. You don’t need to worry about being a worrier. Don’t be a meadow worrier. Don’t go into drama about drama. But note, I’m not present. Wow, okay, so you may not be recognizing that you’re doing a lot more drifting from presence than you thought.
Even the things that you might’ve thought were fixing things like the compulsive worry, a compulsive working, or even the worrying or the cleaning, even those things that you thought, “Oh, this is actually going to make it better.” If you zoom back, you realize usually it’s not creating long term sustainable, transformative change. It’s not creating big change that sticks. It’s a way that we perpetuate drama happening. We perpetuate the circumstances we don’t want and make them keep recreating themselves.
You may be asking yourself, as I initially did when I learned about this, emailing, does that mean every time I’m emailing, I’m being reactive or every time I’m cleaning…? Am I always drifting from presence? Absolutely not. Cleaning can be a great way to return to presence actually. Emailing is something you can choose to do quite consciously and getting conscious about email is one of the things that helps email not destroy your life. It’s a big and important thing. If you want an episode on that, boy that’d be interesting. I’d also love your tips there. Leave a review in iTunes and let me know. That’d be kind of a cool episode.
So I want to address this question because it’s a really, really good question. It’s very common. Can’t I do these behaviors in a conscious way? Yes, you can. How do you know if you’re doing it consciously or unconsciously? One way is check in with your body. Are you in a state of ease and flow? Do you feel alive, fully alive? Are you present to all of your feelings? All of this would indicate that you are present. The opposite of this which would indicate that you are most likely below the line and not present and you are being reactive is there’s some tension there. There’s some place in your body where there’s some tension, and typically that means you are trying to avoid a specific feeling or even a nonspecific feeling often. You don’t even know what the feeling is, or you’re trying to avoid facing something or thinking about something or doing something. So there’s something that you’re not facing typically when there’s tension. Are you thinking about what’s in the here and now and what you can do about it, or are you ruminating or worrying? That would indicate you’re not in the present and that means you’re not doing these behaviors consciously.
Another question you can ask yourself is, did I choose to do this? Think back, when did you start doing it? Do you remember actually making a conscious choice and perhaps considering other options or making a choice about how long you would like to be doing this for or why you are doing it. What’s your objective? Often we dive into getting stuff done without even clarity of what’s our vision, where are we trying to go. And remember above the line, we’re very aware of what we want. We are very aware of our vision. That’s one of the key skills of being a creator of our own life. So all of those would be indicators that you’re either doing something from presence or from below the line from reactivity.
Last thing I want to say about this is there also can be some patterned behavior here, some big raw bots where you’re going to get reactive more often, and it can be really hard to shift out of those spaces. I know for myself there are some, like the fight I mentioned at the beginning of this episode. That fight with those girlfriends actually was a pretty big scarring event in my life, and I allowed it to shape my confidence going into high school. And so it stayed with me for quite a while and my husband will laugh as I say that because he knows that. And when stuff kind of reminds me of that non-consciously, I am much more likely to get created, to get reactive, not creative, opposite of creative. And so when that happens, I’m now aware that it’s connecting a little bit to that story, that memory, that past thing that happened not in the here and now. And so I can consciously choose to say, is that really what’s happening right now? And give myself a big hug and say, “It’s okay baby. We all get hurt sometimes. This reminds me of that. It’s not really happening now. This is not that fight.”
I hope that this is helpful. Let’s talk about how to shift. When we get reactive, how do we shift out of that? So when we notice that we have drifted, we have options. This is always what it returns to. We have choice. How do we solve it? Well we shift. I’ve drifted. Now I’m going to shift. Shift is a key concept in conscious leadership, and the only way that we can access the shift is if we are self-aware first, which is why I want you to download the drift checklist, which is going to be at caneel.com/podcast. So you can really tune into your favorite ways to drift.
With that self awareness, you can choose to shift. Master the skill. There are two big categories of shift moves and within each there are hundreds of possibilities. And I’ll just cover a few right here, and we’ll probably go even deeper into some of this in future episodes.
So big categories are: one, changing your blood and body chemistry and your nervous system. So it’s that internal change of the body. Number two category is changing your consciousness. What I love about this dichotomy, and probably it’s not quite as black and white as all of that, but there’s the body piece and then there’s the mind piece. And either one can be an access point to change the other. So I can certainly change my breathing intentionally. There’s different ways I can structure my breath, like extending my exhale, making it longer than my inhale for instance. That will change my nervous system’s response to anything and including my own thoughts. So as I experienced myself thinking, I will respond differently to those thoughts and that will lead to my thinking being different. So if I think of a problem, for instance, instead of ruminating on the problem or rushing to try to solve it, I might zoom back and say, what is there for me to learn here? Is this really a problem? What would the ideal outcome look like? And I can do that just by changing my breathing.
Another thing I can do to access that body entry point is to change my posture. So I’m a big posture person. I’m a huge believer in good posture in part because my back pain really woke me up to how critical that is for me. And in part because the Joyce family is famous for straight up and down great posture, and thank you to my late great-grandmother Irene. And she would poke us with her fingernail in the middle of our spine anytime we were slouching. And so it was this like behavioral conditioning, like a punishment. Like when you buzz the rat in the race in the maze and he suddenly learns, I’m not going to go over there anymore. So I would just feel that fingernail coming even if she wasn’t around and I would just straighten my posture up right away. You’ll see that if you see others in my family. People are always like, “Wow, you have really good posture.” Yeah, that is helpful. That’s helpful. So if you’re thinking that’s just about how you look or it’s just about being polite or it’s just about care of your spine, but you’ve gotten a back problem, so no big deal. It still matters, honey. It still matters.
Your posture being centered and aligned literally centers and aligns you literally. All of these words that seem to be metaphorical in the way that we describe our bodies actually almost all of the time seem to translate in my experience to the other meaning of that word. So we talk about like I’m aligned or my team is aligned or my company is aligned. When I finally learned to really align my posture, I found that I couldn’t help but notice where my life was out of alignment, and I could move from center to address it. So I didn’t lose my balance in an emotional sense, and I didn’t get as reactive as I was getting creative and really revising how my life was operating. So these were some body oriented shifts that you can do.
You can also do stuff like wiggling around. State shifting. So changing from dry to wet, jumping in some water. I recommend that a lot to people or going from hot to cold, extreme cold. Go that Wim Hof method and the Ice Man. I’m like get in a really cold shower. That’s going to change your thinking pretty quickly. There’s so much you can do to change your body and just shaking things up a little bit can be helpful. So long as your goal is returning to presence. You’ll notice when you do that, your thinking changes. But sometimes we may not have access or we may not be able to find a body shift move that’s working for us. So always begin with the breath and the posture because it’s just so fast and easy and it’s good for you. But then I would move on to the second big category of change your consciousness, the second category of shift moves.
Here’s some examples of how you can change your consciousness, what we call your context in conscious leadership. So if I notice I’m being reactive, it feels like everything’s happening to me. I’m drifting from presence. I’m not here and now. I can bring myself right back to the present by getting, keyword here, unarguable. By getting unarguable meaning grounding myself in factual reality. What the heck do I mean by that? What I mean is notice with your senses what your outer world is. Connect to the reality of your outer world. Notice, okay, here in my studio, there’s a big white fluffy blanket hanging off a curtain rod to cover up my mirror so that it’s nice, good quality sound for you. So that’s the thing I noticed. I noticed there’s a white blanket over there. I noticed the desk and I noticed the temperature is really moderate. Because I’m actually searching for things that are in the here and now, I’m now very much in the present.
I also can notice things internally and this would include my emotions, my body sensations, and for the advanced mindful among us, the quality and nature of my thoughts. And I can notice those thoughts because I realize that I can zoom back behind and observe that there is a thinker in there, but that I am not the thinker. Lots of references to point two there. It’s way too big of a topic to dive into today, but I’ll link to some of my favorite books on this subject of mindfulness in the show notes.
So the unarguable is again to repeat, our body sensations, emotions and thoughts. If I can just note, what are those? Let me get present. I’ve drifted from presence. I am noticed that my head is racing. I feel pressure in my forehead. I’m looking down right now and I’m noticing my hands are gripped. By the way, I’m making this all up. This is not actually how I’m feeling. And I’m noticing that my feet are cold, and I’m noticing that my back is tense and especially my shoulders. My emotion that I notice, this is the second part of the unarguable self check-in. The emotion I notice is anger. And if I dig down underneath that, there’s a little bit of fear and that would explain probably why I’m triggered. Because most of us when we experienced those authentic emotions, we begin making up a bunch of stories about the emotions, and we make a mean a lot. We try to move away from them and not feel them, which is the whole entire point of getting reactive and drifting from presence as we don’t want to feel them. So this is another reason why it’s so helpful to just say, well there’s a feeling here. There’s always a feeling here. What is that feeling I have?
Last thing you can do to change your consciousness is to intentionally shift into appreciation and wonder. What can you appreciate about this moment? What can you appreciate about what you’re learning? What can you just be in awe of and wonder about and notice just the bizarre and incredible nature of life and how often it’s chaotic and how it presents us with these challenges that we can learn from. There’s so much that we can have wonder about.
So for now this is a good cover of the basics. I want you to circle your top five favorite drift moves and then go into our podcast community group on Facebook, which we will also link to at caneel.com/podcast and let us know what are your favorite drift moves. Once you have identified them, you can notice and you can choose to shift. And we gave you some good tools for doing that right here.
Another fun thing you could do is share this list with somebody who knows you well. So in my year-long leadership development program and in the Forward Fearless Program, I have my clients share this drift list with a coworker or a cofounder or a friend, and sometimes they’re their spouse. And then they have them say, “How do I drift? How do you see me drift from presence?” And sometimes what comes back is stuff you didn’t even realize you were doing. It’s really interesting. It’s a really interesting conversation and then you can do it for them too. It’s a favor.
That’s it for this week. I am so grateful that you have chosen to spend your time with me today. I really look forward to hearing about your favorite drift moves in our Facebook group. Again, the link to our Facebook community group is available at caneel.com/podcast. Go there right now, don’t forget, and I can’t wait to see you here next week.