Could it be that when an individual experiences chronic levels of stress for an extended period of time, they not only jeopardize their own well-being but cause a ripple effect of disruption on the well-being of the collective?
Imagine this. Jake, 48 years of age, contemplating a divorce as he recently found out his wife cheated on him in the middle of taking on a new job as senior partner of a successful tech company. Amidst all the paperwork, arguments, negotiations, discussions, handovers, and dealing with his family, old team members, new partners, and lawyers --- he has forgotten about himself, as many of us do when times are turbulent and we are on auto-pilot mode, doing what needs to be done. How may this influence the collective? Starting on an individual level, then impacting those at home, followed by the people at work, then branching out energetically to everyone in their community, and finally, the greater population at large.
Research at the Heartmath Institute in Boulder, CO, USA, disclosed findings of the phenomena that we leave a lasting impact on those we come in contact with long after we have left their presence physically. In other words, my stress may influence you, and your joy may actually be influencing us on a physiological level. Ie. Our physical health and that of others we come in contact with may be impacted by our state of well-being. We can slow down your body's physiological response to anger by breathing deeply, for instance. This reduces the heart rate, indicating the body now feels safe so it can perform normal bodily activities such as cell regeneration, immune responses to foreign agents in the body, basic maintenance of all body functions, and making better decisions.
If the body is constantly tense, one may always seem “wired” or “switched on”-- ready to take on the next battle with no time allocated for rest or recovery. By tracking bio-feedback metrics such as heart rate variability and heart coherence to observe how someone feels when exposed to a loving vs. fearful situation, the HeartMath Institute now has evidence-based research supporting this hypothesis: we physiologically affect each other by our state of well-being. This knowledge is profound in determining how to create a less fear-based society and how to return to love. Love, after all, is what makes the world go round. So how might Jake tackle the turbulent phase in his life? Well, we can’t answer that because there is never a one size fits all solution in the game of life. But what we do know is that if we make a conscious effort to “put our oxygen masks on first,” we will be of greater service to those we love and the collective.
So how do we put our oxygen masks on first?
We may suggest that it’s important to have something we call a home base. A place we feel safe to return to when times are chaotic or tough. We often look for that refuge outside of ourselves. In a spouse, friend, lover, community engagements, or through drowning ourselves in work, sometimes it’s purposeful other times it may not be. The ancient ones, our ancestors, whose wisdom many of us have forgotten in modern times, would tap their chests and ask, “how does that feel?” That center, in our bodies, the heart. Aristotle described it as a three-chambered organ that was the center of vitality in the body.
In ancient India, the heart held the soul and intelligence. It was the home of one's “self.” Ancient Greeks hold the heart to be the center of the soul and the source of heat within the body. The heart was regarded in Ancient Egypt as the organic motor of the body and also the seat of intelligence, an important religious and spiritual symbol.
The Center. Our Heart: Return to Center when chaos consumes us.
There are 3 questions to ask ourselves if we find ourselves trapped in a chaotic phase in our lives, like Jake:
- How can I reimagine a sense of freedom in my life?
- What is the next best thing to do to walk toward inner liberation? What would make me happy? What are my reasons, and are my reasons fulfilling?
2. Do I have clarity of purpose?
- Why am I doing what I am doing at work or in my personal life? Are my reasons fulfilling?
3. What am I doing to cultivate flow?
- Do I find myself in a state of fulfillment more times than not, where I am at ease mentally (because I am convinced of why I am doing that particular thing) despite the number of activities, relationship engagements or work I want to get done in a day?
Let’s unpack what this means. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people from all walks of life struggled to find a sense of freedom from the chaos, fear, restrictions of our “new normal,” forced lockdowns, masks, social distancing, restricted gatherings, limited travel and being forced to spend even more time with those we live with - whether we wanted to or not.
For so long, you couldn’t visit your favorite restaurant or spa and second-guessing whether getting on a plane to head to your favorite holiday destination was a good idea or not. In other areas, it was a complete shift in lifestyle as jobs were lost and relationships strained. We had no choice but to find alternatives to feel free before resorting to a ‘vice-a-day keeps my insanity at bay’ mentality. Those who exercised their will to avoid caving in explored freedom in new and novel ways despite the limitations and restrictions. Many were ultimately surprised to discover that the closest place to go to was simply within themselves. Others deepened their relationships with family and long-lost friends.
People were forced to question their current lifestyle choices, adapt to difficult life-changing situations, confront loss, and even reinvent themselves or suffer the consequences. Many who were living balanced lives pre-pandemic experienced high levels of stress during the pandemic as these individuals played the role of being the family’s life coach -- keeping loved ones from going stir crazy or became the support system for many near-and-dear people in their families, networks, and communities.
Finding a sense of calm and peace, a new sense of “freedom” amidst the chaos, ranked high on many people’s to-do lists. Nevertheless, more times than not, people quickly found themselves out of time as they juggled numerous tasks and deprioritized worthwhile goals like rest, downtime, and self-care due to a misguided belief that they are being “unproductive” during a time when chaos most needed organizing.
Someone once confided in me, “I’d rather look reality in the face and watch the news than take time out to do nothing.” This attitude makes it extremely difficult to experience our own personal freedom because we rely on outside forces to shape our reality and, ultimately, our destiny. When we don’t think critically or accept information without questioning it, we get caught up in someone else’s views and opinions. Predetermination becomes the norm. If we continue to believe that freedom is an outside job left in the hands of others, we will never truly be free.
Instead, what if we took over our freedom? Imagine if freedom was not an outside job but an inside job? What if we possessed the decision-making power to create our freedom simply by...reimagining it? We can. By taking responsibility for our own decisions, well-being, and freedom, we can create freedom within us and find that happy place we long to be in.
Clarity of Purpose
Why are you here?
Ok, let’s break this down into a simpler question directed at something specific in your life. Pick something you are currently focused on doing in life. For example, Alexandra may be looking for a new C-suite job or a side hustle. The question you can ask yourself is, “Why am I choosing to do that?” This may be self-explanatory. But let’s play along for a moment. Alexandra begins to list down the reasons, in other words, the purpose for her to be looking for a new job or side hustle. She may jot down some of these reasons…
- I feel I have nothing more to learn in my current role
- I’m bored of the industry I’m in, it’s been 10 years!
- I deserve more money for what I do
- I just feel it’s time for a change in the people I work with
- My life feels mundane, I want some more excitement
- I want to try building my own business
- My husband’s just taken on a new job after years, I feel it’ll be good for me to as well
- I want to pursue something that has meaning
Now let's take one of the above reasons and unpack it further. Let’s look at “I feel I have nothing more to learn in my current role.” Alexandra may ask herself next, “why do I feel I have nothing more to learn in my current role?”
- The company doesn’t take a risk and want to invest in new tech teams & innovation
- There are limited investments made in training teams within the business
- The budgets for leadership & transformation programs and coaching are next to zero!
- The board of directors I deal with on day-to-day bases has changed, and I just hate working alongside them now because they tend to be tight-lipped and condescending
So here we now know the deeper reasons Alexandra believes she has nothing more to learn in her current role. In this case, her clarity of purpose to change becomes more apparent, and she can look more specifically for what will bring her more fulfillment in a new role.
Alxendra’s purpose may be something along the lines of..”To contribute to building the future with people who are fun to be around.” She can now look specifically to find a C-suite role within a company that is futurist in their vision, has a down-to-earth culture, an open-minded board of directors, and invests in its team's development generously.
To unpack the layers saves you time and gives you clarity of purpose in your actions.
Asking yourself why you are doing what you do is vital to developing your flow muscle. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, described why some brands win our hearts while others don’t. This is not a new concept: it has been around since prehistoric times when cavemen were out gathering food and even in modern times when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous speech with words that still linger in the minds of anyone bold enough to fight for anything worthwhile: “I have a dream…” …what he’s saying is “I have a purpose”..”I have a reason for being…” …“I have a why (something of meaning to drive my actions)”
How many of us go through life on autopilot, cruise control or “zombie mode” without knowing what our purpose or purpose(s) in life are? Are we doing the necessary work to examine our lives, make the necessary changes and continually improve the quality of our lives? Having a guiding purpose in all we do gives us much-needed direction and a reason to pursue a vision.
Your purpose can also be sculpted on a more generic, overarching note. When considering one’s bigger life purpose(s) the terms Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) can be used or Mission statement can be used. These are brief statements that describe your overall reason for why you choose to do what you do. For example, Ann’s purpose is to upgrade society's concept of wealth and well-being, giving rise to generations of self-sustainable conscious creators. Eric's mission was to help others thrive through unwavering loyalty, selfless service, and lifelong friendship. This guides their decision-making on what projects to get involved with and how to show up in their lives.
Having a purpose provides a guiding light, the reason for being, and the “why” you are on this earth. You can have one or many. A big overarching one and specific one, like in Alexandra’s example above. Moreover, your purpose(s) may change over the course of your life, and that’s ok too.
In Csikszentmihalyi's words, the founding father of the concept of flow, flow is “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” (1990). Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced flow theory in the 1970s. Flow is when the front lobe of the brain has less activity. The frontal lobe manages thinking, judgment, self-control, muscle control, movements, and such. This means that when in flow, one is automatically acting out the motions needed. In other words, they are in flow. They are not thinking about what they are doing as much as they are just doing it. There is a sense of fulfillment or enjoyment in being in the flow.
Focused attention, sometimes called uninterrupted concentration or a high-flow activity, is a form of distraction management. Focused attention is the ability of your brain to concentrate on one activity for a specified period of time. Your brain, in other words, uses focused attention to do only one task at a time. The “task” is more enjoyable if it has more meaning to you. Ie. If you have clarity of purpose, attaining flow is something one experiences more often than not.
Here are some ways to inspire flow:
- Meditate - remove mind-clutter
- Movement - Exercise, sports, dance, yoga: train us to focus attention through the body and experience flow
- Rest - Revitalizes our brain and regenerates tissues & cells in our body, priming us for flow states
- Single-tasking - Practicing focused attention by performing one task at a time, whether we like the task or not, trains our brain to experience a sense of gratification
As the wise and revered Buddha once said, “Stay centered; do not overstretch. Extend from your center, return to your center.”
Return to your home base whenever you feel off-kilter. The answers always lie within.
About the Authors
Ann Boothello and the late Eric Patel, co-founded the community-wide Exponential Individual (ExI) project to make self-awareness, human optimization, and collective betterment universal. The initiative was run along with Kevin Allen from OpenExO in its initial year, after which it grew to a team of global leaders from various backgrounds.
Ann is an entrepreneur, leadership mentor, poet, and philanthropist with a focus on art, technology, purpose, well-being, and regenerative communities. Eric was a 4x startup company founder helping the ExO Economy bring the EXO token to market and OpenExO's Transform DAO to life. Ann and Eric (during his time on earth) serve as business & leadership mentors focused on driving positive change, one individual at a time.
About Exponential Individuals (ExI)
Exponential Individuals (ExI) is comprised of a group of global leaders, published authors, and human transformation enthusiasts focused on assisting people across the globe to evolve their way of being into one that encourages individual authenticity, community collaboration and care, deep healing and a sense of interconnected responsibility to create a better future for all.
Our moonshot is to help over 1 billion individuals by 2040 harness the power that lies within themselves to live more fulfilled lives. We serve as a catalyst to make self-awareness, human optimization, and collective betterment universal.
Playing at the intersection of exponential technologies and elevating consciousness, Exponential Individuals is set to become the leading global ecosystem for personalized human transformation solutions and community support using the latest technologies to amplify our purpose.
#WellBeingMatters #CollectiveImpact #StressEffects #HeartMindConnection #SelfCare #MindBodyHealth #ConsciousLiving #InnerBalance #FlowState #PersonalGrowth #PurposeDrivenLife #EmotionalWellness #PositiveChange #SelfAwareness #TransformationJourney #InnerPeace #ResilienceBuilding #CommunityWellBeing #ExponentialIndividuals #HolisticHealth #Mindfulness #EmotionalResilience #HolisticLiving #SelfOptimization #InnerStrength #HealthyMindset #IndividualEmpowerment #GlobalChange #HumanPotential
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