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Thinking About Trust

Thinking About Trust

Trust in other people is one of the foundations for creating a civilized working environment. Many managers are overworked primarily because of a lack of trust. They take on too much themselves, because they don’t trust their subordinates to do the work properly. They cannot allocate enough time to their own work, because they don’t believe people will put in the required time without constant supervision. They attend pointless meetings and read futile cc’d e-mails, because they don’t trust their colleagues not to knife them in the back. And they pile up extra tasks, because they don’t trust suppliers not to cheat them, and customers to stay loyal or resist the temptations put before them by competitors.

In an environment that lacks trust, everyone feels suspicious of everyone else. The subliminal message that runs constantly in the background is to put one over on the other guy before he or she manages to do it to you. Friendly greetings are scanned for evidence of a hidden agenda. It’s almost a relief to face a truly nasty, hostile person, because at least you know where you stand with them.

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Then there’s self-trust: the belief in your own ability to find your way through life and come out more or less where you would like to be. If you don’t trust yourself, it’s hard to develop any trust in others either. That gnawing, internal fear that you’ll probably screw up transfers itself to a suspicion that the other guy is probably waiting to gloat when you do. Lack of self-trust is behind a great deal of the dogmatic and rigid thinking that characterizes so many organizational leaders. If you don’t trust yourself to get it right on your own, the simplest way to avoid embarrassment is to lay down sets of rules and demand obedience to them. It prevents you from needing to find an answer that fits the current circumstances—which you fear you won’t be able to do—and allows you to get off the hook of trusting your own judgment. After all, if things go wrong, the rules were to blame, not you. People who lack self-trust have an extra need to be right all the time to allay their inner feelings of anxiety. In reality, while being right is nice, in the long run it’s more important to learn to trust your own intelligence and judgment than it is to be right every time.

Lack of trust is a symptom of fear. W. Edwards Deming, mostly remembered as the father of the Total Quality movement, said that the primary duty of every leader is to remove fear from the workplace. Yet today fear seems more present, and more powerful, than ever. Managing by fear is ubiquitous, whether it appears as straightforward bullying and dictatorial behavior, or more indirectly through constant reminders that everyone’s job is on the line and those who fail to deliver what is demanded will likely find themselves holding pink slips.

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Where fear and mistrust rule, there can be no happiness, no enjoyment, no creativity, and no sense of meaning in working life. All there will be is suspicion, anxiety, constant pressure, and the belief that protecting your own butt while kicking someone else’s is what work is all about.

Surely it’s time to wake up and see that living like this, however much money is made in the process, is no kind of living at all.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his posts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership. He also posts at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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