#ShowingUp with Anese Cavanaugh

Long Live the "Soft Stuff": Skipping "Business as Usual" to Ignite Purpose and Optimize Mindset in Today's Economy

We are in the midst of an exciting, nerve racking and pivotal time right now. I see this in the economy, in business, in leadership, in politics, in families, and in peoples' senses of purpose and personal values. There's a lot happening. On one hand I notice a lot of complaining, blaming, making excuses, and fear. And on the other hand, I see a lot of positive and productive percolation, reflection, and action. I notice a lot of dismissing "hype" and inauthenticity, and instead, see people really looking at what matters, what's real and what's the bigger purpose - in business and in life. And I feel the buzz. Can you feel it?

I see it as a real opportunity right now. 2010 has been referred to as the year of "making it or breaking it" - meaning it's the year to DECIDE what will happen for each of us. Do we "give in" and succumb to "more challenging times," do we get sucked in to "story", do we blend in, go "beige"? OR do we get into action, ask different questions, work our mindsets and create a new way of "being" in business, a new way of engaging with people, and a new level of energy and success? It's a decision point year. How and what are you deciding?

Using 3 very different and specific examples of people choosing how to move through their lives and businesses right now, I've written an article sharing 3 things to help you explore these questions and your own situation in order to help move your mindset and your organization in the right direction.

A while back, on a flight between New York and Chicago, I sat next to a gentleman who had worked for a major financial firm on Wall Street, and was now unemployed and exploring options. While talking to this gentleman, I was moved by his attitude. He saw this "horrible" situation, which was stressful and would likely have a significant impact on his family (including a possible relocation), as an opportunity to stop, breathe, reassess, and reinvigorate. He said, "I was so caught up in all of this for so many years, in many ways I lost view of what was most important and what I really wanted. I got sucked into the machine. Although I'm scared, I'm secretly excited by what lies ahead. I feel I have a new beginning." That's quite a mindset.

Another one of my clients, a senior leader in her organization, recently shared that this is one of the most stressful periods her company has ever known; business is slower, revenues are lower, stress is high. But in many ways, it has also been one of the most rewarding and bonding times, despite layoffs and cuts in spending. How is this possible?

First, she is keenly aware of her mindset and her impact on her team, and does her best to use it all in supportive and productive ways. She and her team proactively seek ways to learn and connect as well as to be more efficient, competitive, and just better. Finally, they've made use of their extra time by nurturing customer relationships and taking more personal time for themselves (that they can't get as easily when they're really busy.) The result? A more focused and bonded team, a higher and more "awake" level of creativity, recharged employees, advanced solutions for customers, and a higher level of hunger, satisfaction, joy, and appreciation for closing deals and connecting with customers. Once again, a matter of mindset.

Oddly, as I write this article, and prepare to share more examples from clients' stories, sitting in the car dealership waiting for my brakes to be fixed, I meet Adam, a gentleman back from his second tour in Iraq. Talking to him for over an hour, I discover that what has gotten him through one of the most challenging, horrible, and, unimaginable to many, things a person could ever endure, seems to be, mindset and purpose. Our conversation goes without agenda and by the time his car is ready, I've learned new things about his mindset, the mindset of people who meet him (myself included) and what they make up about his experience, as well as what makes him and his fellow troopers feel good and appreciated. Learning a lot about his experience, and more than I'd ever want to know about Camel Spiders (although I couldn't stop myself from asking or pulling up a picture - which I've opted NOT to include here), I get in touch with an even deeper level of awareness for myself that puts me back in touch with the importance of purpose, gratitude, and mindset. (And, of course quickly have to restrain myself from tripling the size of this article.)

These first two scenarios, and the unexpected third, are real examples of people dealing with the stress of business, life, war, the economy, and all things human. How are they doing it? Shared themes are: mindset, gratitude, forward thinking, connection, purpose, and "hunger." And it's inspiring, moving, and provocative all at the same time. What a gift.

What I notice with all of these is that it's the "softer" stuff, the less tangible stuff, that is making better results possible and getting people through their challenges. Gratitude, connection, purpose, mindset, attitude, positive energy, and a "hunger" to be a part of, and make an impact, on something that is even bigger than us...It works, and it offers us an even more powerful and new way of thinking about business and leadership. (I'm waving my "soft stuff" flag over here - can you feel it?) Yes, of course you need the action and the strategic plans and the numbers to work, AND, you need the soft stuff too...now...I'd argue...more than ever.

What are you (and your team, family, children, partners, etc.) doing right now to "work your mindset" and create opportunity in our current economic, political, and business environment? How are you contributing to "helping things go better?" Is your mindset supporting progress, or slowing it down? The opportunities truly are limitless here and do not just come in the form of increasing revenues or productivity, but rather in other meaningful ways such as bonding with and strengthening teams and relationships, igniting higher purpose, connecting with customers, spending more time with family, taking a physical and mental pause to truly check in with yourself, and acknowledging the gifts in all of it.

What's the first step to doing all this? Decide. Decide to make it work for you. Decide that you want it to be different (of course, only if you do). Get your mindset in order. Tap into your sense of purpose. Connect with your gratitude. Get hungry and go. Next month I'll share some tangible, and not so tangible ways, of making this work for you even more. Stay tuned.