The Maps that Drive Us

The Maps that Drive Us

Whether you are a successful CEO of a multi-national company, a parent taking your kids to a soccer game or a trial attorney, you have ways of doing things that are driven by internal “maps” that were created beginning the day you were born. Recognizing those maps is key to taking responsibility for the impact you have on those around you – a key part of great leadership.

In some cases, working with a therapist is appropriate to uncover patterns of behavior so that they may be understood and adjusted. But in most cases, working with a professional coach who helps guide you to make choices about moving forward, is highly effective.

Recently I bought a new car because my previous car was totaled in a rear-end collision. The car I bought is fun, beautiful and incredibly fuel-efficient. But for nearly three weeks I was disappointed because it didn’t do things the way the old one did. The navigation system wasn’t as robust. The sound system didn’t have the booming bass. The acceleration wasn’t as inspiring.

And so it went… I was less than enamored with my new car because I was constantly comparing it to my old one. Do you ever do this with cars? Girlfriends? Husbands? Employees? Books? Homes? Vacations? Companies?  We do this because our experiences are imprinted on our memory. In fact, it’s one of the brain’s safety mechanisms—we remember things that hurt or didn’t work out so that we avoid them in the future. This is great until it begins to stifle innovation and future possibilities.

Eckhart Tolle, in his book, A New Earth, says, “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” Of course—the car wasn’t causing my unhappiness, my thoughts about my previous car were. While my former car was better in some ways, my frustration was keeping me from enjoying all the things that were better about this one—kind of like driving while looking in the rear view mirror.

Now, apply this to your work situation, your leadership, or your daily job. How much of what frustrates you is based on they way it was before? Economic conditions were great 5 years ago… if we could only get back to those times; my relationship with my boss was great… I wish she hadn’t been promoted leaving me with this new guy, and so on.

Innovation and healthy relationships demand a freedom for creativity that isn’t possible if we’re unaware of the maps that shape our current outlook. What are the maps that drive you and what are you doing to make sure they don’t get in the way of better relationships and fresh ideas?