Cultivating freedom is not the usual title of an MBA course and not top of the list of what leaders normally need. However, says Jill Taylor, as a business community we are overlooking a valuable asset – namely, freedom
You might argue that you don’t have time for freedom, that you’re busy, that commitment and dedication are your priorities. One misconception of the idea is that we would be free to do what we want, free to go to Bora Bora at any moment for instance. That’s freedom to. But let’s start with freedom from.
We all imagine we are looking towards the future, moving ahead in our thinking, ready for the unknown, ready to act. But what if this is not the case? What if our own filtering system prevents us from clearly seeing the future?
According to a 2020 national public radio daily science podcast, ShortWave, 11 million pieces of information enter our minds per second, while we can take in only 40 to 50 pieces. The brain must filter, which is one of the processes of the Reticular Activating System (RAS). This system matches what is already there, confirming and reinforcing a reality that we have already constructed.
The role of the RAS is to filter out things that are not part of our world. Our world is made up of culture, morphogenetic field, the voice in our head, our social networks. The algorithms of social media reinforce that always-already world.
Cultivating freedom begins with the self and enlarges to include the role of the leader and the role of the business itself. If we detach ourselves from what is constraining us as a person, a leader, and even as a business, we will then be free to act more fully and with intention, truly aligning with the future from a new perspective.
- How does it work?
Consider yourself standing in the centre of a room with a window along the wall. Approach the window, now go past it until you are outside. What would you see if you turned back and looked at yourself standing in the room? This is cultivating freedom, training yourself to be an observer, a witness of the self who is acting in the room. Cultivating freedom is establishing a relationship between the self in the room and the observer outside.
The self in the room is the shaped self, the conditioned self, with its habits of mind, its identifications, its lived experience. We’ve learned how to engage, how to belong. And there are gifts in that. Inside the room, we are acting, but not seeing. Outside of the room, as the observer, we can witness the self. This seeing gives us choice, the freedom to act with intention. When we hold our identities lightly and challenge our blind spots, we see outside of our own world.
- Interpretation vs transformation
When we are inside the room, acting from our shaped self, we think we are working with transformation. Actually, we are only interpreting, which occurs within the already world. Transformation happens when we move from the already world to a larger sense of possibilities. That’s why the practice of cultivating freedom is vital for leaders.
How have you been shaped as a leader, conditioned to believe certain premises about the way business functions? How has your business been shaped? Through mapping strategies and inquiry, leaders are able to challenge their always-already world, free themselves from beliefs which no longer serve, and lead with fresh insight.
- What are the effects?
Released from the constraints of the conditioned self, leaders are far more flexible, tapping into the new intelligence of the observer, and free to entertain new possibilities. From this new perspective, the team is more open, responsive and more giving, not so vulnerable to fads and uncertainty, and able to see the future more clearly.
Before you strategically position your business, there’s some reflection to do, given that the manner in which we do business is so historically shaped. These reflections begin with an awareness of what we called the shaped self, the conditioned mind. What are you communicating to the reality that you have already constructed? What has shaped your views on finance? And in turn, how does that shape your views on what’s possible? These questions help you key in to how you’ve limited yourself as a leader; with this awareness, you can help your business adjust to new challenges in a new way.
Co-founder and CEO of three businesses, Jill Taylor has devoted her career to fostering unique methods of transformation for individuals, teams and companies. Together with Shelly Cooper and Daniel Goodenough, she co-founded the HuPerson Project earlier this year to transform a leader’s awareness and presence, as well as opening a new structure of thinking needed to navigate the modern world. Taylor was recently recognised as one of Portland, Oregon’s most influential women by the Portland Business Journal