Emotional health: the 100K race
Inspired by the theory of co-creation, the organizational coach Sabrina Díaz Ibarra shares a useful resource for dealing with anxiety and worry.
The change in context caused by the pandemic forced us to reallocate and reorganize our time and our virtual and in-person spaces, bringing us face-to-face with a new world order. As we wrote in our article on "The world changed, what’s moving us?", today everything is about life. How do you find a balance between the world of work, your personal life, your family sphere, and virtuality, combined with being in-person? The challenges balloon before us, there are no right answers: this is an entirely unprecedented experience. Media and social networks alike underscore the fact that we are facing a phenomenon whose impact may be being felt at different speeds, but is most certainly present wherever you look.
As part of this thought system, I wonder why the moments when I feel confident and focused switch so frequently with others where I feel tired, sad or angry? How do I get my balance back? What does it say about my emotional world? When these questions start to overwhelm me, my anxiety levels rise, and my thinking and emotions fall out of kilter.
To reduce anxiety levels, I turn to a practical exercise for help: I visualize a path stretching 100 km into the distance.
This strategy suggests taking resources from the co-creation theory, inviting us to visualize a scenario to prepare our mind, so that later the brain can recognize that path. It’s about imagining specific scenarios so that when you find yourself in a moment of anxiety or worry, you merely understand that this is another moment in your life, a transition (that’s what life is! And sometimes we forget that it has a beginning and an end).
If we think of that path of uncertainty as a 100K-sporting objective, over the first 50 km we’ll focus on what’s within reach. That means focusing on what does depend on me and what I can control, knowing that this is a stage of self-knowledge. We need to stop looking for an answer outside and turn an inquiring gaze inwards, rather than looking at what’s going on around us with such a heavy spirit.
Look at those first 50 km from a different emotional space: ok, this is new information for me, it’s not about labeling things or looking for antidotes... We are by nature alarmists and we seek to kill the symptom, as part of a routine that provides us with psychological security. The proposal is to put a stop to these reactive automatic responses and think: ’let’s look at what’s happening to me.’ And taking the attitude that this is a path to be traveled, that brings us to a moment of transition. This too shall pass: it's a relief, it's today.
Sometimes, in these first 50 km, we find emotions that we can’t put a name to, because the emotional world as a whole has been repressed in the educational system. In fact, each emotion gives me valuable information, although this data is quite different for each one of us. The proposal is to get to km 100 by rigorously carrying out all the apprenticeships. To have conversations that contribute to our learning process, which is something that we owe ourselves, even those that make us uncomfortable, and without looking for shortcuts.
The first 50 km are about connecting with what’s happening, it’s part of what’s known as emotional literacy (meaning, what does this tell me about myself?). This is to help us during the second 50 km so that we don’t lose the notion that we are walking forwards in this process, particularly in moments of difficulty. Sometimes the realization can be painful: there is a part of me that simply doesn’t work any more as it is. That produces anguish, pain, and suffering. It may be a crossroads or a recurring thought, but the thing about these breaks is that they let the light in. Then you can see a new way forward.
Behind the idea of "enough" an abyss seems to fall away, but we can also see it as a gateway to an exciting opportunity to redesign ourselves.
These second 50 km are the part of the journey when you start to relate to others in a different way, when you learn to open up to new conversations about shared futures and limits. And to design new work spaces and coexistence, new ways of connecting.
But this is not just an individual path. The leadership styles of the last 20 years no longer work. We are now trying to design an organizational space as a truly joint effort. Change is a slow process which people take at their own pace, and this must be respected, but it is not something linear, rather a spiral-like process.
When you cross the line of the first 50 km, you realize things are no longer the same. You’re no longer who you were at the starting line. That's the magic of this process.
Sabrina Diaz Ibarra