When I train leaders at the SMART Power Academy we get into some very deep stuff. One of the major sources of leadership power is confidence. Many leaders mistake arrogance for confidence. This is not good. Once an arrogant leader makes a mistake he or she loses support.
You can only get away with arrogance if you’re a mistake free genius, and I haven’t met any yet. So if arrogance isn’t the answer what is?
The foundation of leadership power is intrinsic confidence. This is a feeling of capability and resilience that comes from our deepest selves. It’s intrinsic to us.
Intrinsic confidence is something we build through achievement and service. Once you’re on the path to building intrinsic confidence you will feel fulfilled. And feeling fulfilled is a deep human longing.
We all want to feel fulfilled. This isn’t the desire of our modern age. It is found in the earliest writings of Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Romans and Chinese. Just about every civilization has philosophers that have ideas on the well-lived life…a fulfilling life.
In our age Abraham Maslow gave us the term ‘self-actualization,’ which roughly translates into an abiding, inner feeling that you are fulfilling your true potential.
That seems like a very high bar. It seems like a feeling of contentment that is difficult to maintain. But it’s really not. Both brain science and cognitive psychology now reveal that neuro-transmitters and hormones give us the actual feelings of satisfied contentment and self-respect that triggers the inner piece of feeling fulfilled.
Here is how it works: Being fulfilled arises from feeling capable and feeling connected to others. And it’s not only being capable and connected, it’s feeling those things that are the juice of fulfillment.
#1: We get a sense of our capability by achieving self-selected goals or solving challenging problems. Goal achievement and problem-solving are the prime ways our intellect and emotions confirm that we can have an impact on our world. The goals and problems we solve do not have to be world changing. They just have to be important to you. When you achieve someone else’s goal the primary emotion you’re most likely to feel is relief rather than fulfillment.So it’s vital to be pursuing goals are important to you.
#2: The second source of fulfillment comes through meaningful connection with other human beings. It’s most powerful when those connections are in person. Having 1 million followers on the Internet will not have as powerful a positive psychological impact as helping a close friend get through a tough time. (If you question that she might want to check out the new book called The Village Effect. The research is clear that human fulfillment is directly tied to the quality of personal relationships that you enjoy. The two things that improve relationships the most are mutual help and giving and receiving recognition.
Now here’s what I want you to pay attention to. Many people struggle to feel fulfilled by living a life of great purpose. Often this is true with the people I coach and train. But science says they are overshooting the mark and missing the point. In fact, it may be that our ego is what’s driving our need to be of great purpose. If it is, were likely to miss the many daily opportunities to feel fulfilled.
Consider this. What if you are already fulfilled but you just don’t feel it?
Every time you achieve a personal goal such as finishing a project or even solving a problem as trivial as finding a movie your family might enjoy watching together it is an opportunity to feel fulfilled. Every time you say a kind word or help a customer or a colleague at work it is an opportunity to feel fulfilled. Have you ever wondered how someone might work as a waiter or waitress in a coffee shop year after year and not go crazy with the tedium? Well, I have a woman neighbor who has been a server in a local Chart House restaurant for 40 years. She was among the first people hired when the restaurant opened. She just retired from work and is moving to Maui. When I asked how she stayed in the same job so long without going crazy she said just the opposite of what I expected. She told me she loved her job, because every day was different. She met many new people and always did something to make the experience special for them. She said that just paying attention to what makes people happy and trying to provide it for them was completely fulfilling. She was so great at her job that she had the opportunity to train many people over the years to look at the job of being a waitress in a completely elevated way.
#3: What my neighbor was expressing was the third element of feeling fulfilled; grateful awareness. Research indicates that most of us live our lives in a state of partial attention. We are like deaf people attending a great concert. We are missing the most important part of a well-lived life which is feeling the actual experience of life’s genuine joys.This evidence-based understanding of the causes of personal fulfillment and intrinsic confidence are so important that I have added a final moment of mindfulness to the daily schedule of Work Like a Genius that I teach at the SMART Power Academy.
I call it Grateful Awareness. It is so simple. I just ask people to take a few moments before they turn out the lights to go to sleep to write down a few sentences about the moments you experienced today in which you felt the feeling of the power of your capability. I want you to feel the difference you made today through your effort. I also ask people to recall and write down those moments where they helped another, maybe just with a small gesture of kindness or a smile. I asked them to recall any compliment they may have received or recognition they have offered to others. This can all happen in three minutes of mindfulness. When you do it you will feel the feelings of fulfillment. These are the feelings that can stay with you day in and day out and are the source of inner peace and intrinsic self-confidence.
Please try it for yourself…you deserve to feel fulfilled.