Why 80% of people and teams do not realize their full potential

Humans think nonstop, which is the cause of most of our problems. On average, we have 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day, and 75-80% of these thoughts are negative. Most of our thinking is done in the primal brain, which is heavily biased toward the negative for survival. This type of thinking, especially in our younger, formative years, creates limiting beliefs that are imbedded in our programming. This subconscious narrative becomes our world, our reality, which confines us to what I call our own ‘mind prison.’

We need the primal brain, especially when we are in life-threatening situations. But we default to this primal brain when stressed or anxious, too, reacting to ego-threatening situations as if they are life threatening.

The cost for living in our primal brain

Most of us are unaware of the high cost we pay for this type of mindset and, in fact, it causes 80% of people and teams to miss reaching their full potential. Depending on where you are in life, this way of thinking could impact you in one or more of these four key areas:

  1. Peace and wellness — you endure high stress and anxiety, low energy levels or sleeplessness.
  2. Productivity — you lack clarity and focus, have feelings of self-doubt, and find yourself wasting emotional energy.
  3. Relationships — trust and collaboration suffer, you experience increased tension and unfulfilled expectations.
  4. Freedom — you suffer a loss of personal power.

Part of the issue is that we believe we are our thoughts. We get used to judging ourselves, others and situations with a strong need to control and predict. A significant amount of emotional energy is spent every day creating negative thoughts or fighting external forces that are out of our control. Ironically, and conversely, we have little control over our OWN mind and actions — areas we CAN actually control.

Now, amidst the current COVID-19 crisis, our new norm is adding more fuel to this fire. More than ever we need to reset and master our mindset and make sure it serves us rather than hinders us. We need to calm our mind to get out of ‘mind prison’ and access what I call our ‘thrive brain’ to be able to have clarity and focus and access creativity.

As an executive coach and mental fitness educator, I help people recognize and free themselves of the mental constructs that are holding them back. I help shed light on their blindspots and champion them to redesign their mind for self-command and access to the inner resources we all possess.

Today, many of the leaders I work with are feeling stressed, anxious and foggy-headed, and for good reason:

  • The pandemic has caused widespread uncertainty that takes most leaders outside of their comfort zone, wondering if they should protect or pivot the business.
  • Businesses are unable to accurately forecast even three or six months into the future, making it very hard to prudently manage financial metrics.
  • The need for virtual communication with customers and employees has disrupted all internal and external affairs such as selling and servicing customers or engaging and connecting with employees.

The recipe for feeling overwhelmed is clear. It’s no surprise that even the best CEOs are off their game!

Start with your inner chatter

The question is, how can you learn to surf better as a leader? A redesign of the mind begins by examining and upgrading your inner chatter – shifting from a negative to a more positive inner dialogue. If you don’t have the luxury to work with a coach, here are some simple steps to get you started.

  1. Take two-minute pauses a few times in your day to breathe and become good at “NON-DOING.” Warning: this is very tough for most CEOs who are overachievers and who tend to associate self-worth with producing results and winning. Look at this time as a top priority or precursor to achieving results.
  2. Recognize you are not your thoughts. Observe them but don’t become them. This creates a healthy space to go from a fixed way of being to a much more adaptable mindset that is key for building resilience. I like the Sukuma proverb, “The wind does not break a tree that bends.”
  3. Next time you experience a negative feeling of anger, disappointment, stress, frustration, etc., know that it signifies there is an issue. That feeling is valid, like the pain you feel when you put your hand on a hot stove. The same way we move our hand immediately from the stove so we don’t burn to the bone, there is no point staying in the negative feelings and “emotionally burning” Instead, name how you are feeling and then switch to curiosity, focusing on how you can address the issue with calm positivity.

Most CEOs have been successful in the game of business, but now it’s time to win the inner game. The bottom line is that your quality of leadership and life comes down to the quality of your inner chatter!