Prompted: The Watchful Eye
A strategy for ensuring your back is never against the wall.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
- Isaac Newton
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The Watchful Eye
When we’re at our best, we don’t have to worry about much because we’re confident in our actions. Without a watchful eye, it’s natural for our performance to dip, but it still feels like we’re giving our best effort.
Warren Buffet is fond of saying, “only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.” This holds true when we’re challenged. The tide goes out, and we’re forced to face the reality of our contributions.
If we really are meeting or exceeding expectations when we’re challenged it’s easy to respond to criticism. Similarly, we like to think we’d react with humility if our contributions have fallen short, but when we realize we should have been doing more, all bets are off.
We’re at our worst when we’re exposed.
We’re more likely to lash out when we feel exposed. We’re vulnerable, and instinct tells us to attack our aggressors to protect ourselves. This is when things get personal. We say things we don’t mean and respond with anger instead of humility.
To avoid saying things we wish we could take back, we can attempt to control the evolutionary reaction to fight back, or we can ensure we’ll never be caught with our pants down in the first place.
Put simply; this means living our lives as though we’re always on display.
It’s living like every action we take will be presented to our friends, parents, significant others, bosses, and beyond. And each of our actions has to hold up to their scrutiny so we won’t feel exposed or embarrassed when it’s discovered.
Attacks won't affect us if we’re proud of everything we do. Instead of retaliating, we can take it in stride, stay calm, and keep our good fortune going.
The same way mothers transcend reality and know exactly what their kids are doing, our critics (and loved ones) will eventually call us out on the moments we hoped no one would ever see.
If we do the right thing when no one’s watching, we avoid putting ourselves in vulnerable positions. If avoid vulnerable situations, we limit the possibility of doing something we’ll regret.
When’s the last time I lashed out because of my own insecurity? What can I do to patch up that area?
How can regularly remind myself that the tide will eventually go out?
What will I do the next time I recognize that I’m feeling vulnerable and the instinct to retaliate surfaces?
Your Brain During Conflict - Harvard Business Review
Walking through what happens in the brain that causes us to retaliate and say things we don’t mean, along with strategies for staying calm in the heat of the moment.
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