March 4, 2020

Conscious Leadership and the Coronavirus

Oh my, have I been below the line about the Coronavirus.

  • I have occasionally painful anxiety mixed with entitlement about getting to be “okay” (such as it is).
  • I am judging myself as being foolish and arrogant about continuing to travel for work, family celebrations, etc.
  • I am oscillating between an inclination to get some food and extra prescriptions in my house (versus the just-in-time systems I usually employ for this) and a judgment of myself for overreacting.
  • I am nervous about going to UCSF hospital for a brain MRI in two weeks. I am nervous about not going to UCSF hospital for that MRI.
  • I am bummed that I didn’t grab a mask they (used to) keep in the handy-dandy hallway canisters all over the aforementioned UCSF hospital on a prior visit for an MRI.
  • I have a spike in fear every time I see someone else in a mask

Spin, spin, spin.

One of my best friends and favorite collaborators Leah Pearlman once told me she shifted out of a below-the-line state about major decisions by following a simple rule: just do the very next thing you want to do.

I reflected on my below-the-line consciousness on a flight home from Chicago today (work trip), I thought about this idea. I realized in a quiet moment that the main thing causing me anxiety was not the risk of getting the Coronavirus but the thoughts about the risk of getting the Coronavirus. If I could let those thoughts go, or consider the opposite of those thoughts to gain more space around them, what would be left?

As I was watching my brain do some Conscious Leadership gymnastics, I realized how much fun I’d had with two new coaching clients these last two days in Chicago. They are both so bright, so interesting, so engaged in the idea of growing in their leadership and in their humanity. I’ve almost always loved work just as much as “play.” In this current iteration of my work as a Conscious Leadership facilitator and executive coach, I rarely see the difference between work and play.

After sticking with my thoughts and my heart for a few minutes, I shifted. I realized that I could, in fact, let go of some of my virus anxiety, particularly given all that I get from taking risks to travel for work.

I could follow Leah’s lead and choose to do the next thing I want to do.

I realized on the criterion I would use for “what I wanted to do next” was to choose to follow love. For now, I will travel for work I love. I will travel for moments that include people I love. I think those choices mean more to me than surrendering to what today has felt like growing self-preservation anxiety about getting sick. I would rather choose love than fear.

I realize that as the situation evolves, my actions might shift. I realize that there may come a point where choosing “love” — say for the whole — might involve not traveling or gathering. However, my intention is to hold on to this calculus, which at this moment feels above the line.

As usual, finding acceptance for where we are when we’re below the line can open the door to shift. Today, for me, that shift (which may falter the next time I see the news) feels like relief.

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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