Conscious Communications | Book Review
The choices that you make will shape your life forever (p.85).
Mary Shores' introspective personal journey mirrors the adult learning model, particularly self-evaluation, reflection, observation, and identifying what she learned to do differently utilizing an action plan. On pages 197-199, an action plan exercise form allows summary capture of all the numerous exercises thoughtfully inserted throughout the work.
Like an awakened participant in an Academy Leadership Excellence Course, Shores has learned the power of journaling: "I truly believe the intimacy of writing to yourself is the best way to examine your own thoughts and actions" (p. 2).
Derived from her experience as a young company president, Conscious Communications is a simple yet powerful process that consists of eliminating negative language, using words that work, and focusing on what you really want (p. 4). Or put another way, Conscious Communications a model application of Shores' Personal Leadership Philosophy. The significance of this practice is backed up by many neuroscientists [who] have determined that most of our thoughts on any given day are the exact same as the day before (p. 5).
Many of us score poorly when evaluating how we use our time, especially when we have not established our genuine High Payoff Activities (HPAs). Shores' applies a similar 80/20 rule called Will this cleanse me or clog me? (p. 6), enabling the required focus necessary for improved outcomes based on actively changing our thoughts.
Five type of expressions (p. 7): Self-talk, spoken words, affirmations, goals and gratitude form the heart of Conscious Communications, with emphasis on gratitude - implying we have voluntarily made a choice to focus on the good we have (p. 8).
Getting Started | Cleanse or Clog
Conscious Communication is not possible without first identifying our own cleansing activities. Several favorites from Shores list include (pp. 118 - 123):
• Exceeding expectations
• Honoring the other person's dreams or goals
• Writing in your journal
• Knowing and living your purpose
• Frequently consuming over the counter medications
• Having a consistently negative attitude
• Failing to acknowledge efforts to improve or change
• Sacrificing your need to have personal time
• Engaging in gossip or lashon hara
These habits may take time to form. Health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally found that establishing a new habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, but generally takes 66 days to fully form (p. 28). Shores' cleansing habits fostered deep questions:
I asked myself questions about my purpose, about where I was supposed to be,
what I should do, and where I should go (p. 15).
Learning to Know Yourself
Shores learned that when we begin choosing to see life through our own personal [leadership] philosophy (p. 16), we then truly begin to know ourselves. Positive and powerful experiences are then likely to occur. An example is seeing the connection between our brain and our environment -- experiencing a synchronicity -- or, according to Carl Jung, a meaningful coincidence (pp. 20-21). Even Harvard Medical School has published studies on gratitude, and in 2011 reported that "gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness" (p. 29).
We can change our personal story. As in Crucial Conversations , Shores asks us to re-create our stories, avoiding feeling stuck in our own victimhood (p. 37), via three steps (p. 44):
• Stop hitting the play button on your repetitive, tragic stories
• Loosen your grip on the traumatic emotional injuries of your past
• Tell a new story
Are we too late as professional adults to do this? Sharon Begley, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, wrote that the brain retains the capability to change in response to experiences at any age (p. 49). Or, as Shores concludes, when you change your internal beliefs to align with your conscious desires, you will begin to value yourself more (p. 55). This is a perfect example of truly living within an individual leadership philosophy.
In an Academy Leadership Setting Leadership Priorities workshop, the word appearance is included in the definition of urgent. It sure seems that many things we initially believe are urgent, are actually not. Perhaps this is because the most fascinating part of the fight-or-flight system is that it cannot determine whether a threat is real or perceived (p. 60). Developing a habit of detecting false urgency and curtailing reaction to such events is a critical energy saver. Additionally, Shores offers tips to keep one's nervous system balanced (pp. 63-64):
• Control your sensory input
• Do things to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system
• Avoid talking on your cell phone on the way home
• Surround yourself with positivity
• Properly nourish your body
• Get a full night's sleep
• Adopt a vitamin regimen
• Do your research
Holistic physical health is key. In his 2011 study, gastroenterologist and UCLA professor Dr. Emeran Mayer stated that the gut-brain connection likely affects motivation, higher cognitive functions, and intuitive decision making (p. 73).
Application | Making Conscious Choices
Now we are set up to make better choices. The more [we] use [our] nervous system to make a decision, the more power there will be behind [our] everyday choices (p. 89). Or, think about how our leadership philosophy may inform our decisions, and how aligned and powerful they may become.
Shores advises focus on the now (p. 91):
• What do I really want?
• What do I want right now, and what do I want in the long run?
• Are the two matched up, or in alignment?
Recall, Shores had originally turned to implementing Conscious Communications for two main reasons: 1) because people wouldn't budge to pay their debts, and 2) my staff needed to succeed at their jobs in order to want to do good work and keep coming to the office (p. 131). But the process became much more.
Like Dr. Brené Brown in Daring Greatly, Shores identifies the scarcity myth as an issue. It's natural to want to talk about what's not working, as it doesn't take much imagination (p. 143). This may require a mindset change, especially given our currently selected job or career. Shores found herself asking:
Again, it is all about knowing who we are, sharing who we are, and becoming an authentic person and leader. Shores offers a good list of self-exploration questions on page 153 including "What movies inspire you?" and "What causes do you find yourself drawn to?"
A few more questions to ask yourself (p. 157):
• If I were someone other than who I think I am, who would that be?
• If I could be anyone, who would I be?
• If I were not being others (including society) prescribed, who would I be?
• Am I sacrificing my end-result goals for short-term satisfaction?
• What would I change my name to if I could?
This self-knowledge leads to additional benefits, such as decluttering our minds. Bravo.
When We Live Our Leadership Philosophy
Eventually, Shores awoke to her consciousness, sensing an invisible connective thread (p. 170). It sounds similar to Buckminster Fuller's description of people ultimately as pattern integrities. Likewise, it reminds us of Dr. Larry Arnn's often mentioned assertions that our human capacity for speech sets us apart from other species in so many ways.
• Negative and disempowering affirmations
• Releasing statements
• I am statements
• Asking statements
• Gratitude statements
This allows us to immerse ourselves in the life [we] want to create through deliberately aligned speech (p. 175).
In the end:
Our words are an act of creation (p. 173).
Note: Mary Shores generously provided a copy of her book for review.
JE | November 2017