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  • Nathalie Weister


In his forward to the book Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Jesuit priest and spiritual leader Anthony de Mello, the editor shares a story about an eagle’s egg that was misplaced in a nest of barnyard hens. The baby eaglet hatched and grew up with a brood of chicks; as a result, he thought he was one of them his entire life. He clucked, pried insects from the earth, and thrashed his wings, only flying a few feet in the air. After many years passed, the old eagle happened to see a bird soaring high in the sky above him. When he asked a fellow chicken who it was, he learned it was an eagle, “king of the birds.” The chicken declared matter-of-factly, “he belongs in the sky while we belong to the earth.” This simple yet profound tale illustrates the ubiquitous power of a conditioned mindset – an acceptance of reality as we are told to believe it, rather than one in which we challenge normative ideology and choose instead to not only question our own mental models but, more importantly, recognize our unbounded potential and the innate freedom we have as the creators of our experience.

Naturally, the conditioning in our formative years establishes a distinct framework through which we view the world. We are raised with a strong predisposition to adopt a mindset from our parents or caretakers, which is heavily influenced by their own rearing. Whether consciously or not, our thoughts, attitudes, and actions for the rest of our lives are governed by those markers of reality, as if we are wearing goggles that filter out anything that does not fit our programmed standards. In our humanness, we perpetuate the adaptive conventions that keep us safe within our social and cultural environments. This concept is particularly prevalent in the business world, where leaders and teammates operate with both overt and hidden manuals for how others should work and interact based on their own frameworks. While it is critical to build a healthy organizational culture by setting standards for performance and values for behavior, that doesn’t mean everyone will have the same motivations and productivity – a frequent source of conflict. If people and circumstances match our patterns, we feel secure. But unfortunately, that comes at the expense of diversity of thought and creativity. Our conditioned views can trap us in a self-made cell, limiting growth and innovation.

In order to break free from the conditioned mindset that often limits our leadership potential, there are several practical tools that can be instrumental:

  1. Embrace the 'I' Versus 'Me' Perspective: Cultivate the habit of observing yourself as "I," the witness, rather than "me," the ego. This shift in perspective helps you detach from limiting beliefs, reduce the comparison trap, and view disagreements as opportunities for growth rather than personal threats.

  2. Foster Diversity of Thought: Intentionally build teams with distinct perspectives and encourage healthy disputes. This diversity not only challenges conditioned ways of thinking but also leads to more innovative solutions and a stronger, more adaptive team environment.

  3. Engage with a Skilled Coach: Working with a coach who can support you in this self-reflection and strategy, providing behavioral assessments and tailored guidance, is transformative. Such partnerships help in understanding underlying motivations and in developing healthier ways of interacting with others.

As a coach specializing in empowering leaders, I invite you to explore how you can break free from limiting beliefs and maximize your leadership impact. Connect with me to challenge your conditioned mindset and realize your potential to fly, just like the eagle.

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