Imagine yourself walking down a winding woodland path. The birds are singing . . . rays of sunshine are peaking through the trees . . . wildflowers are blowing in the breeze. Nice, right? Now, imagine the exact same scenario except this time, you hear the soundtrack from Jaws echoing in your head . . . All of a sudden, you are on high alert, scanning the landscape, waiting for something to jump out at you. Now instead of enjoying a pleasant walk, you imagine what horrible things might be lying in wait for you around the next bend. Even just reading these words, do you feel your body tense up? In our work with severely traumatized kids, we call that “hearing shark music.”
Right now, a lot of leaders are hearing shark music. I’m not saying that there aren’t real, legitimate reasons for that, however shark music is a sign that you are functioning out of back brain — the reactionary, fight, flight, freeze part of your brain. If it feels like you may be spending too much time hanging out in back brain (and if you are, I guarantee your people are, too), what steps can you take to tap into the thinking, reasoning part of your brain?
- Find a way to center yourself. There are lots of ways to do this . . . exercise, talking to family or friends, deep breathing, prayer, replaying a funny memory in your mind . . . Taking even a few moments to focus on something other than the crisis at hand serves to turn down the volume on the shark music, allowing you to keep the challenges before you in context. And if you are thinking you don’t have time for any of those things right now, it’s probably a good sign that you need to make time for them.
- Focus on what you do know. Yes, at the current time there are lots of things you probably don’t have answers to. News flash, there are always lots of things you don’t have answers to. The difference is, shark music causes you to feed into the unknowns rather than calmly consider the options before you. What you focus on grows in your mind. Focus more on what you do know than what you don’t.
- Make a conscious decision. You can always change your mind if you get new information, however the longer you stew about the unknown monsters that could be lurking around the corner, the louder the shark music gets. Each decision turns down the volume. Making a decision doesn’t necessarily make the risks go away, but it does increase your confidence (and that of your people) that you will be able to respond to whatever comes your way.
You may not be able to totally turn off the shark music, but you do get to control the volume. How’s that sound to you?