The power question that will help you to overcome a challenge

This week I’m at BluCamp in beautiful Missouri, USA – a retreat for leaders wishing to build freedom-centred, democratic workplaces. I’m here partly to help out but mostly to learn, and already it’s been mind-blowing.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt today is that the first step towards building a freedom-centred workplace is to adopt a freedom-centred mindset. Sounds obvious, but it’s very easy to dive into adopting crazy new working practices or trying to change the culture before working on yourself first.

At WorldBlu, when we talk about ‘freedom’, we mean freedom from fear, since it’s fear that narrows our thinking, causes us to try to control rather than develop opportunity and at a most basic level, it’s a whole lot more fun feeling a sense of freedom than fear. Unfortunately most workplaces are dominated by fear and control which makes us unhappy and leads to poor performance. It’s not about being fearless. It’s natural to feel fear. The important thing is to recognise and free yourself from fear by taking action.

So how do you begin to go about adopting a mindset of freedom? Here’s a very simple exercise that we did today which really opened my mind.

1. Write down up to three challenges that you are facing in either your personal or work life which give rise to any kind of fear. This could be a direct, adrenaline-fuelled fear; more subtle, long-term or unconscious fear; or even well-intentioned fear. Write down how the fear manifests itself as well as the specifics of the challenge.

2. Now ask yourself the question: ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?‘ and write down the solution for each challenge.

3. Reflect on how you feel about the challenges. Do you feel different?

It’s as simple, yet powerful as that. When I answered this question for three meaty challenges I’m facing, I was amazed how easily the answers flowed onto the paper. And not only that, it genuinely did change my mind-set from one of fear to one of opportunity, confidence and even excitement. This is the power of freedom.

Please give it a try it now and let me know in the comments if it worked for you.

6 thoughts on “The power question that will help you to overcome a challenge

  1. Hi Tom,
    It’s a great exercise. I’ve done it twice this year. What you find is that almost immediately you make progress on one of the big immovable blobs of fear in your life. It’s also a good exercise with board members, or spouses, or maybe even employees.

    • Great stuff Phil – you’re ahead of me. I really found that too. Would love to have a skype some time to hear about your experiences and how you’re building a freedom-centered workplace.

      • Hi Tom,
        I don’t think I’m building a freedom-centered workplace. At least that has not been the motivation. We value employee freedom, but that’s not exactly the same thing. Your blog opens up the possibility.

  2. Tom,

    To what degree do you recognise that you are – like me – a member of the Privilaged Society, i.e a member of that group of individuals who are, relatively, immune to the effects of economic disadvantage. Someone will have to go a long way – do something really serious – to put me (or you) in a position where I am going to have to think about where I’m going to get my next fine meal from or where I am next going to rest my head comfortably and, relatively, safely.

    If you are really exposed to the risks of economic disadvantage – i.e. you and yours can be economically disadvantaged by the actions of Third Parties who are not considering you when they are making decisions which can economically disadvantage you and yours – then you can really understand the concept of fear (i.e. whatever I do and however hard I try to contribute I cannot directly effect the impact that decisions by others not thinking about me and mine will have upon me and mine).

    Control and challenge are the essential motivators, i.e. if you don’t have control or significant impact upon the environment in which you operate then you will perceive fear and if you are being challenged by circumstances driven by Third Parties who are not being motivated by a desire to enhance the situation in which you and yours are leading their lives you will, similarly, perceive fear.

    It’s an ugly thought but a thought which has some support in reality for the majority of people.

    Where are you coming from within the context of the inequalities within nations / societies?

    These disparities – between the upper decile and the lower decile/quintile – are escalating at an enormous rate throughout the World (in the Rich World, the Emerging World, the Developing World and the World which has been at the bottom of the pile for ages and, currently, remains there).

    Do you think that highly desireable ‘democratic’ / ‘cooperative’ capitalism can fix this disparity which, if not fixed, will ultimately result in chaos?

  3. Absolutely agree that inequality is a huge problem, not just within societies in rich countries, but the gap between rich and poor countries is widening too. I have spent a fair bit of time travelling through and living in communities in developing countries – particularly Malaysia (Borneo), Bolivia and Papua New Guinea so I do have a real sense of how lucky we are in the UK. I didn’t get the impression that fear was the dominant emotion in the developing countries I have visited. In many cases the people are very capable of improving things for themselves with a relatively small amount of help from the outside. This doesn’t even have to be in the form of charity – for example, look at the many coops on who can build self-sustaining businesses to create jobs and serve their communities using small loans from ordinary people around the world. Of course there are places where there are severe problem of repression that desperately need international help to establish rule of law and stable government without which it’s virtually impossible to build any sort of developed economy.

    It’s no silver bullet, but yes, the coop model can go a long way towards more equal societies because ownership is in the hands of the many – the societies and the workers involved – and not the few. Ownership governs behaviour, and coops act in the best interests of their members. Coops are already very popular in many developing countries – notably Africa, where for example 63% of Kenyans derive their livelihoods from coops.

    In the same way that Africa often ‘leapfrogs’ technology advances (for example, going from no phones at all, straight to 3G mobile) I hope that they and other developing nations are able to leapfrog the west and develop more of a cooperative economy rather than one based on unsustainable growth, consumption and ownership in the hands of the few. It’s a challenge of mind-boggling proportions though.

  4. Pingback: My first year back in the UK. Here’s what happened. | Tom Nixon

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