One of the core tasks of leadership is to manage paradoxes. In this series of articles, I present an approach on holistic paradox management.
After paradoxes were dealt with on a rational level in the second part of the series and on an emotional level in the third part, the question of paradox management in everyday life now arises. Here, the greatest danger is that our autopilot mode (in which our old patterns and, above all, internal tensions in dealing with paradoxes are stored) will take control. To prevent this, there are two important success factors: (1) Acute paradox management, i.e., the rapid recognition of situations and the transformation into a positive state; and (2) Long-term paradox management, i.e., the successful securing of this positive state with the help of routines.
Acute Paradox Management with the ACT Model
To prevent the autopilot from taking over, there are three simple steps in everyday life:
- Awareness: Pausing and becoming aware that a paradox exists. The best way to do this is to perceive tension in the body, commonly referred to as ‘bad gut feeling’.
- Call-to-mind: Recall how you want to manage the paradox (e.g., about the higher goal, see part 2 of this series) and decide for the upcoming situation: How do I want to shape it? How does it feel?
- Transform: From a relaxed basic state, connecting with the bodily and emotional experience that you have practiced, for example, through the bodyhacks (see part 3 of this series). Anchoring the experience in the current situation and acting accordingly.
In our example from this series, this could mean that the manager trains his or her attention to situations where the question of quick decisions vs. broader employee involvement is at stake. This is where the ACT model can help to put the brakes on and demand more participation in an important stakeholder meeting by visualizing the higher goal (“Ensuring entrepreneurial capacity and employee empowerment through transparent decision-making processes”). To successfully use the ACT model, repeated training to increase awareness is needed. For example, the routines described below will help with this. The ACT model itself can also become a routine through repeated practice, which can be used regularly before important meetings, for example.
Long-term paradox management with routines
Routines are habitual behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. With their help, we can efficiently design recurring tasks and situations without much effort, i.e., without wasting cognitive, physical, or emotional resources. Examples from everyday life are getting dressed in the morning and driving to work, but also more complex situations such as dealing with conflicts. Routines are not good or bad per se, but functional or dysfunctional. Routines are functional when, with their help, we both achieve the desired result (WHAT) and at the same time do not fall into a fight or flight mode (HOW). Routines become dysfunctional when the solutions they contain do not (or no longer) fit a given situation. For example, if you only act assertively in conflicts, this can be successful in many situations, but you will also reach certain limits. Then, it depends on whether we have alternative courses of action to our learned patterns.
We can make excellent use of routines for our long-term paradox management by establishing serenity and gratitude into our everyday lives, and preparing or reflecting on situations in which a paradox becomes or has been active. For most people, it makes sense to perform routines either in the morning or in the evening.
Examples of morning routines include:
- Activation of a relaxed basic state, e.g., through meditation, yoga or bodyhacks,
- Setting a clear intention for the day: “What is generally important for me today (e.g., joy, goal orientation) and what do I want to achieve in concrete terms?”,
- Preparation of important situations / meetings related to a paradox, both on a rational and emotional level.
Examples of evening routines include:
- Gratitude for what has been achieved during the day, for fulfilling encounters with fellow human beings, and for situations in which one has acted according to one’s own values,
- Relaxation, especially after a stressful day, e.g., with the help of the bodyhack “Integration” presented in part 1,
- Journaling: Reflecting on the day, e.g., “What paradoxes did I encounter today? How did I decide in the situation, and how does it feel now?”, “What have I achieved, what remains unfinished?”.
In this way, we improve our awareness and can work in small steps repeatedly towards the life we want to live and deserve.
You find all parts of this series on paradox management here: