Mid Week Musings

SURVIVING MT. EVEREST’S ‘DEATH ZONE’…

Julie Diamond, Ph.D, who has spent a lifetime studying the effects of power on people, draws a fascinating comparison between climbing Mt. Everest and achieving high rank and power. In her book, ‘Power: A User’s Guide’, she paints a dramatic word picture …

“At 26,000 feet above sea level, the body starts to die. Here, at an altitude known as the “death zone”—only 3,000 feet below the summit of Mount Everest—oxygen levels are a third of what they are at sea level. You have about two days before you run out of air. Hypoxia, low atmospheric pressure, means less oxygen is entering your brain. Your judgment is impaired. You become confused, your balance starts to falter, and you begin to hallucinate. You are losing your mind—right when you need it most.

“Just like the oxygen-thin atmosphere on the upper reaches of Mount Everest, the rarified atmosphere of high power and status alters our minds, diminishing our judgment and distorting our perceptions. As we attain power, we develop an illusory sense of control. Our belief in our own ideas increases while our interest in others’ feedback and emotions decreases.

“But here’s the difference: on Everest, climbers at high altitude feel awful. … In the embrace of power, we feel great. The more altered we become, the better we feel. High rank and power lower our inhibitions and prime us to act. Our confidence soars as our perceptions grow more distorted. Our self-esteem rises, while our self-awareness decreases. Our capacity to feel empathy for others lessens, just as the influence we have over them increases. The more we need guidance from others, the less we want it.“

A sobering metaphor, indeed, about the dangers of ”power-blindness”. So how can we avoid the “death zone” of power and the resultant egotism and lack of self awareness?

Here are three ways:

1. By being genuinely open to feedback: Others will only be open and honest with us if we give them the permission to be so. Those who have our best interests at heart need to know that we will value their perspectives and suggestions even if they are sometimes difficult to hear. If we react defensively when they try to point things out to us, they may have second thoughts about doing so again. As a result we could end up missing out on perspectives that could really help us.

2. By admitting we could be wrong: Receiving feedback is not always easy. It has been correctly said that the toughest words in any language are “I was wrong”. It is never easy to admit we were mistaken about something, but it is not half as difficult as having to defend a faulty position.

3. By realising we still have a lot to learn: There is nothing quite as good for our humility as making a list of all the things we don’t know. Understanding that helps to keep us in a healthy space and acknowledging that we are not the founts of all wisdom. By staying in learning mode, we remain young at heart and nicer to be around.

Have a great week!

Team Anahat

Mid Week Musings

LET IT PASS…

There’s nothing some of us like more than a good argument! And while healthy disagreements are important and certainly have a way of oxygenating and revitalising the important relationships in our lives, the danger often lies in having too many arguments and always having to be right about everything!

Once in a while, it is good to let things pass. This poem by Virginia Brandt expresses it perfectly…

Don’t stoop my friend, to answer back,

Why not just Let It Pass?

You’ll find this giving word for word

Will never pay, alas.

Though ’tis true of human nature

This giving tit for tat,

Yet truly happy folks have found

A better way than that.

And though it seems impossible

It’s better in the end

To let them have their way, and then

Just LET IT PASS, my friend.

 

I know sometimes it’s very hard

And seems it can’t be done,

But if you’ll learn this better way

A victory will be won;

For you will save what’s so worthwhile–

Both time and feeling, too,

When you ignore what has been said,

Don’t try to argue through.

For then you’ll know without a doubt

‘Twas better in the end,

To let them have their way, and then

Just LET IT PASS, my friend.

 

Now some folks always answer back

They never hold their peace;

In trying to defend themselves

It seems they never cease;

Giving vent to every feeling

Whatever’s on the mind

Regardless of the consequence,

Then, after all, to find

It didn’t pay and would have been

much better in the end

To have borne it all in silence

And LET IT PASS, my friend.

 

For truly great folks never stoop

To answer petty things;

The unkind word, the bitter cut

That rankles deep and stings.

They are too big to notice them,

They simply pass them by,

And even with a smile sometimes

Or twinkle in the eye.

For they have found that after all

‘Twas better in the end

To meet it with a smile, and then

Just LET IT PASS, my friend.


Have a great week!


Team Anahat

Mid Week Musings

The Cork and the Whale

A little brown cork fell in the path of a whale

Who lashed it down with his mighty tail!

But inspite of the blows

It quickly arose

And floated serenely before his nose.

Said the cork to the whale,

‘You may flap, sputter and frown

But you never, never can keep me down

For I am made of the stuff

That is buoyant enough to float

And not drown!’

This poem by an unknown poet brings a smile, but also underscores an oft- overlooked secret to overcoming our challenges — Good, old-fashioned resilience! The word resilience, interestingly, has its roots in the latin word resilire which literally means ’to bounce back’. Much like the little brown cork, resilient people are ‘buoyant enough to float and not drown.’ 

What do such people have in common, and what is the secret of their buoyancy? 

1. They refuse to be victims. Even though they may have been genuinely wronged or had to face tragic circumstances, resilient people refuse to adopt a ’poor me’ victim-mindset. They understand that blaming others constantly, no matter how justified it might feel in the moment, leads to cynicism, and a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. 

2. They understand that victory means getting up one more time than falling down. Resilient people don’t waste a whole lot of time or emotion lamenting a setback. They simply get back up and try again. They de-escalate drama and get on with their lives, for they understand that the more often they try, the better their chances of success become.

3. They have a ’growth mindset’, as opposed to a ’fixed mindset’. According to psychologist Carol Dweck, people with a fixed mindset see failures and setbacks as a limit of their abilities, and tend to quit when things go wrong. Resilient people, on the other hand, have a growth mindset. They thrive on challenges and see failure not as evidence of inability but as a springboard for growth and for stretching their existing abilities.

4. They have a sense of humour: Resilient people can often see the funny side of a serious situation. It is not that they don’t understand the gravity of their problems, it is that they can also see them from a less grim perspective. A sense of humour  defuses tension, cuts problems down to size, and gives the boost of energy needed to keep going. 

5. They choose hope. Instead of assuming that the worst is around the corner, resilient people choose instead to go with the belief that the best is yet to come. In the words of the poet Maya Angelou, “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”

Be like the cork. Have a happy, hopeful, resilient week! 

Team Anahat