Why we should learn to be passionate leaders

09/09/2016 05:47 pm ET

Passion that is not the result of any sort of commitment can only come into being when there is total self-abandonment. Perhaps we have never really experienced that sort of state of mind in which we feel total abonnement of everything (other than letting go of – totalling abandoning – everything)! Passion produces energy. A leader who has passion is driven forward by the energy produced. The beauty of passion is that it brings people together, ignites others and bonds people’s hearts and minds. Passion drives vision. Passion ignites inspiration and influences others.

It is when we reach a deep level of inner security that we feel what passion and joy are all about. If we don’t understand what passion is, we never really understand purpose, imagination, creativity, innovation or meaning, what makes sense and what beauty in life really is. As long as we fail to understand to such depth, we may never experience true passion as a leader. We might not understand this passion or we might refuse to acknowledge that we have quietly consented to be influenced, manipulated, corrupted and conditioned. Today we have traded passion and joy for the fleeting and shallower feelings of euphoria, sensation, intoxication and mainstream trends that make us believe we must aspire to position, title, reputation, image, power, and prestige to reach total abandonment, and yet we are blind to reality. When we achieve something extraordinary, we are passionate over our achievements, but not ourselves. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why? Why are we conditioning ourselves and others to such superficiality, such shallowness and such giddiness?

Perhaps, then, we are not really free at all. When we feel something very clearly, then we do not choose, because we are convinced we know what we want or what we should do. That explains why the brain and the mind are entirely a single unified system rooted together, inseparable. Perhaps that is why we don’t choose, because we feel prior to choosing anything, because we are born with an inner self connecting our mind and our brain. Today unfortunately, only a minority truly realise such instincts, impulses and emotions are actually here to guide and encourage us – but because we don’t understand them, we keep ignoring them. That is one of the absurdities we have invented, which proves we are basically not free at all. We are conditioned, and an enormous understanding of this conditioning is required to secure freedom.

As long we focus on thought as the ultimate result, we will always avoid getting to the core what truth really is. Thought can never understand what is. Because experience of a moment can never be an experience of an ultimate result and if it is, it may be a thought, a remembrance or even a repetition, but certainly not an experience. Thought as a result is rational and rationality does not allow profoundness, because it does not understand it. Is it possible that the outcome of the known, knowledge and experience allows truth, which then brings relief from freedom? Freedom generates consciousness and if we can move away from freedom, then we discover the most extraordinary feeling in our mind, showing us total reality. When there is no contradiction within oneself, there is no fear, no anxiety, no desire to be successful and no need to compare. To understand passion and joy, we must first understand the mind. When we do, we begin to find out what extraordinary enrichment we feel – not in knowledge, but in awareness, ability, insight, observation, wisdom, cognition and comprehension.

But often our mind is driven by the past and memories, from which there is still residual ignorance from fear and anxiety. Interestingly enough the dispelling of ignorance is of superior importance, not the acquisition of knowledge, because the dispelling of ignorance is negative knowledge while knowledge should be positive. This explains why when we think negatively we have the highest capacity for thinking; the mind can dispel ignorance and not accumulate knowledge. Such a mind is an innocent mind and only the innocent mind can discover that which is beyond measure.

Often in life we think that freedom is something that must be achieved – such a liberation is often seen as the ideal status to be achieved. But this is only pushing us to overachieve and to keep us comparing in order to reach a fake level of freedom. Instead, we must experiment on how the mind is reacting when we discover truth, reality, authenticity, solidarity, genuineness and even presence. As long as there is no freedom from the beginning, there cannot be comprehension. We are conditioned and confused and therefore it is wrong to say that we are passionate or joyful leaders, because if we would feel we would not deify euphoria and sensation when we reached a goal or overachieved.

Can freedom be given? Or is it perhaps even possible that freedom comes into being when we don’t strive and seek for it? It is only with complete relief and release that freedom comes as total order. Once cultivated – inwardly and outwardly – we have clarity, courage, compassion and consciousness. Without it we won’t understand joy or passion. Without it we can’t go beyond limitations of the mind required to step out of our comfort zone. But if we strive for and demand it, perhaps we understand what order is, which may not be the outcome of habit, but a virtue that brings order. Righteousness brings confusion and leads to conflict. Developing one’s means for resistance never directs us to truth and freedom – but to duality and separation.

Once we cultivate a free mind, we can look at the things that are known – but not the other way around. That is why we must let go of the known and move towards the unknown – and rather seek continuation of the known, the habits and the routine which restricts us from comprehending things around us. It is not surprising, then, that we rarely find passionate or joyful leaders. Instead, we keep searching for new ideas, new inventions and other methods and trends to thrill and manipulate people, clients and potential customers and even society.

When we change the way we think, our brain structures and processes change. Our experiences change the way we see the world, with numerous positive impacts on our lives such as these:

· Different mental activities change brainwave patterns.

· People who meditate have more of the vital neurotransmitter serotonin. These are the brain’s chemicals for communicating information throughout our brain and body. This increases resistance and inner balance and improves the immune system, which is why the brains of those who meditate are much thicker in the regions engaged with sensory awareness and with the control of attention.

· Brains of pianists are thicker in the areas of fine motor function.

· Traumatic experiences such as physical, emotional or psychological harm, as well as great shame, the experience of loss of a loved one, illness, separation, financial challenges – such experiences often shrink the part of the brain responsible for storing new memories.

Because implicit memory is different from remembering ideas or concepts, this kind of memory is in our ‘gut’. It is visceral, felt, powerful, and rooted in the fundamental and ancient – reptile and early mammal – structures of our brain. The inner atmosphere of our mind – what living feels like – depends greatly on what is stored in our implicit memory. In a basic sense, we are what we implicitly remember – the slowly accumulating registration of lived experience, that is, what we have ‘taken in’ to become a part of ourselves.

Unfortunately, the brain emphasises negative experiences. It’s the negative experiences that signal the greatest threats to survival because we have not yet learned how to learn differently, how to better deal with fear, anxieties, the unexpected and the unknown. This behaviour of the unpleasant and unknown is a natural behaviour because the amygdala – the switchboard that assigns a feeling tone to the stimuli flowing through the brain, pleasant, unpleasant, neutral and directs a response – is neurologically primed to label experiences as frightening and negative. In other words, it’s built to look for the bad.

When an event is flagged as negative, the amygdala-hippocampus circuitry immediately stores it for future reference. Then it compares current events to the record of old painful ones, and if there are any similarities, alarm bells start ringing. The brain doesn’t just go looking for what’s negative; it’s built to grab that information and never let go – and this becomes a huge problem in our day-to-day life because we hold on to it tightly.

Unfortunately, the negative generally trumps the positive: A single bad event for a dog is more memorable than 1000 good times. That is why it takes extraordinary effort to get past such negative memories, and to unlearn such behaviour. It’s as if we are predisposed to believe the worst about the world and ourselves, and to doubt the best. In fact, our own personal training in the negative – whatever it’s been – shapes our view of the world and ourselves, and our personality and interpersonal style and approach to life, leadership and the unknown and the unexpected. Today we know that from a serious history of trauma or depression, the hippocampus can actually shrink 10-20%, impairing the brain’s capacity for remembering positive experiences.

All that can lead to more of the negative showing up on our radar – either because we are scanning for it preferentially or unwittingly increasing the odds of negativity coming our way, which, as a vicious cycle, can make us even more inclined to see more negatively into the future, even though the vast majority of events and experiences in our lives are neutral or positive. Every day, the minds of most people render verdicts about their character, their life, and their future possibilities that are profoundly unfair.

We can emphasise and store positive experiences through our conscious attention.

· Paying attention to the good things in our day-to-day world (externally), and inside ourselves (internally): setting a goal each day to actively look for beauty in our world, or find signs of caring for us by others, or good qualities within ourselves.

· Intentionally deciding to let ourselves feel pleasure and be joyful and passionate, rather than feeling ascetic or guilty about enjoying life.

· Releasing any resistance toward feeling good about ourselves.

· Opening up the emotional and sensate aspects of our responses to positive events, as that is the pathway to experiencing things.

· Doing things deliberately to captivate positive experiences for ourselves.

Positive experiences have many important benefits.

Emotions organise the mind as a whole, so positive feelings have global effects. They lower the stress response in your body by dampening the arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight or flight’ wing) and by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (‘relaxed and contented’). For example, positive feelings reduce the impact of stress on your cardiovascular system:

· increasing psychological resilience;

· lifting moods and protecting against depression;

· promoting optimism – another bulwark against depression; and.

· helping counteract the effects of trauma or other painful experiences.

When we remember something painful from our past, our brain first reconstructs that memory – including its emotional associations – from a few key elements, and then it reconstitutes it in storage with tinges of your state of mind at the time you recalled it. This means that if we recall an event repeatedly with a dour, glum state of mind, then our recollection of it will be increasingly shaded with negativity. Alternately, if we recall it repeatedly with a realistically upbeat state of mind, then it will gradually come to mind with a more neutral quality: we will not forget the facts of whatever happened, but the emotional charge will slowly fade – to an enormous relief.

We highlight key states of mind so we can find our way back to them in the future. So we can more readily tap into peace and contentment, feelings of strength and well- being, loving kindness, altruism, courtesy; and perhaps reward us in doing something noble when we are at inner peace. This gives us steadiness of mind through cultivating stillness and meditation. It deepens our states of absorption that are both blissful and profoundly insightful. In other words, the high levels of dopamine associated with joy, passion and pleasure keep the gate of awareness shut from being flooded by new experiences and support our concentration. This elevates our confidence to be courageous, clear, consciousness and compassionate – better for dealing with the unknown and the unexpected.

Fundamentally, we are cultivating wholesome qualities in our mind and heart, crowding out and replacing negative ones – what we deem as the best possible ingredients for a passionate leader.

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