I know this from experience.....
Just because you are composed right now doesn't mean you'll be composed an hour from now.
Just because you were composed in that conversation with that one person doesn't mean you will stay composed next time you're in a conversation with that person.
Composed, as we learned about last week, is static. It's this moment.
Vocabulary.com says composure, on the other hand, is a noun, so you can lose, keep, regain, or maintain your composure — your ability to stay calm. If you lose your composure, you're freaking out.
And I dare say all of us have lost our composure at some point.
Two questions you may be asking
The simple answer to both is to become more self-aware.
The longer answer is to commit to developing your self-awareness.
Why self-awareness matters
Being self-aware means you notice what's happening both inside you and around you. That awareness starts with tuning into your body sensations.
Our bodies speak volumes to us. They tell us what's going on and even what we need to do. But most of us never listen.
The messages your body is sending to you that you might be ignoring
THE SIGNS: When you feel a sense of agitation in your body, it may be telling you that you've been ignoring a problem.
Perhaps the headache and tension in your neck are signs that you've been ignoring it, hoping it will go away.
THE MESSAGE: However, this agitation and tension tell you that you need to focus on the problem. Perhaps something is going against your beliefs, values or ethics that you need to address.
MORE SIGNS: Left unaddressed, the tension in your body starts to heat up, and you feel your heart beating rapidly. Maybe you have sweaty palms and pits. Left unchecked, you'll feel like your blood is boiling.
THE LOUDER MESSAGE: Your body is now telling you that perhaps you're feeling furious, angry, or outraged. It's warning you that you need to deal with this before exploding with rage. These body sensations are telling you that something is going on that is very serious, perhaps even dangerous, that needs your composed attention!
AN EXAMPLE OF SIGNS AND MESSAGES IGNORED
Consider how you may start being irritated with one of your employees, Becca, who is late a couple of times for her shift. And then you notice that she's late more frequently. But you think it was just that her child was sick, so you let it go.
▶ You hope it will go away
Then you find out it's still happening. So now you feel your annoyance building. But again, you hope it will go away and that Becca will get back to being on time. Because unfortunately, you've got a lot of other things to deal with and don't have time for this.
▶ You don't have time to deal with it
Then one day, you hear from the team lead, Charlie, that the other team members complain about Becca. You're aware that there's a risk of Becca's behaviour compromising the team dynamics. Now you feel the tension in the back of your head build as you wonder how to deal with it. Therefore you tell Charlie to keep an eye on it because let's be honest, you're too busy to deal with it today. So you forget about it once again.
▶ Oh boy!
The next time you hear about the issue with Becca being late is when you get the incident report. Apparently, the staff on shift, Anjali, had to stay late because Becca had yet to show up. Unfortunately, Anjali, tired and eager to go, lost her patience with the client and overreacted to the client's behaviours. So suddenly, you have an incident to deal with.
▶ You lose it!
When you show up on-site to discuss the issue with Becca, you are furious instead of being calm and collected. In a raised voice, you criticize her, grill her about her whereabouts. Then, you put the majority of the blame for the incident solely on her.
▶ You regret it
Driving home later, you start to feel sick about how you dealt with it. You are well aware of how often you overlooked Becca's tardiness without addressing it. You remind yourself that there is also a high-risk client involved and Anjali. There are many factors in this incident, not just Becca being late.
SELF REFLECTIVE PRACTICE
If you are a very self-aware leader, you'll take some time to reflect and sort through what happened. Perhaps you'll pull out your one-page journal worksheet from your course in The Training Library.
✽ After taking a few deep breaths, you'll note your
✽ Then you'll pick a couple of journal prompts from the list of 30 and begin to answer them.
✽ 5 minutes later, after answering these questions:
▶ You recognize that honesty and kindness, your top strengths, can help you immensely moving forward.
▶ You also realize that you had overlooked your value of a strong work ethic. You know how important it is to you and the team's effectiveness.
▶ You become aware that being too busy, not prioritizing tasks and failing to tune into your inner guidance, aka your intuition, you'd pushed aside an issue far too long.
✽ You practice self-compassion!
As you recognize how you missed several opportunities to address the issue, you'll remind yourself to have self-compassion. Leadership is tough. Being short-staffed, juggling a massive to-do list and tending to your mom's failing health does take a toll on you.
✽ With a fresh perspective, you make a plan for moving forward:
✽ You'll tune in again
If you tune into your body now, you'll notice the tension has melted away, and your muscles feel more relaxed. You may feel a bit energized as you now have a plan to help you address the challenge. Your regained sense of resolve builds your confidence, and you notice you feel optimistic that you'll be composed when you talk to Becca tomorrow.
Remember, you are composed when you are calm and free from agitation. So until you deal with the agitation, you'll struggle to stay composed. Composure is a self-controlled state of mind. You need to create time to gain control of your mind when it threatens to jump off the deep end. It helps to have a system when you do that.
Working through the Inner Guidance Cycle will help you stay composed or regain your composure when you lose it! The steps of the Inner Guidance Cycle are below.
The INNER GUIDANCE CYCLE
A 4-step process to regain your composure
when you feel like your losing it!
STEP # 1 - PAUSE
Step back from what's happening
→ Learn more about PAUSING here
STEP # 2 - PONDER
Tune into your thoughts, feelings and body sensations.
— What's going on in your body?
— What are you thinking?
— What emotions do those thoughts evoke?
So much of this has been unconscious. Bringing awareness to it may provide new insights.
ASK: Are these thoughts and feelings going to get me where I want to go?
→ Learn more about PONDERING here
STEP # 3 - PIVOT
If you aren't heading in the direction you desire, consider what thoughts, feelings, and body sensations will help you achieve your desired outcome.
ASK: What are other ways of looking at this problem, project or person?
→ Learn more about PIVOTING here
STEP # 4 - PROCEED
Choose to move forward with intention.
Sometimes we need to circle back, try again, apologize or set more precise limits. Of course, that's not always the easiest thing to do! But now that we are back in control of our emotions, we can do this we composure.
→ Learn more about PROCEEDING here
Keep accessing your inner wisdom to stay composed
When you learn to use the Inner Guidance Cycle, you'll be accessing your inner wisdom. That will help you regain your composer when you lose it and help prevent you from losing it in the first place!
p.s. If you want to grab the worksheet with over 30 questions to prompt your self-reflective process, join The Training Library and gain access to this course: Quick Journaling for Effective Leadership
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.