Our values create a powerful force in our lives. Understanding those deeply held values and living a life in alignment with them is the foundation of Values Based Leadership, a practice that we see transform individuals, families, and organizations. While understanding our values can allow us to make positive and aligned choices in our lives, it is also true that when we feel that our core values are being violated or challenged, it can be the source of significant conflict in our lives.
In this series, we’ve explored ways that conflict can be used to fuel personal growth and development – by building self-awareness and by fostering compassion. Each of the earlier posts in the series offered questions to ask ourselves during those difficult times. In each case, though, the key action required is to pause in the midst of conflict and make the choice to reflect. Yet, the well-known responses to feeling threatened are fight, flight, or freeze, not pause to reflect. How do we build our capacity to make the choice to engage our inner will and pause during conflict?
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
~ Maya Angelou
Ellen Langer, who has been described as the “mother of mindfulness,” describes it as “the act of paying attention.” Some cultivate mindfulness through meditation or yoga; Langer proposes that it can be cultivated simply through actively noticing what’s happening around you on a daily basis. Over time, your mind is trained to be attentive – training that you can draw on during times of stress and conflict.
The link between mindfulness and resilience was highlighted by researchers Bajaj and Pande in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences. They found that “mindful people… can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down.”
In the same way that exercise places stress on your muscles in order to strengthen them, each pause to work through a conflict with awareness and compassion can strengthen your inner will, and prepare you to better navigate life’s inevitable challenges. In fact, researchers have recently begun to study the positive effect that can result from trauma, using the term “post-traumatic growth.” Rather than the more commonly understood outcome of trauma, which is stress, psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun studied the experiences of people who had suffered traumatic life events and felt that it had created powerful personal development and growth.
Recently, I noticed my partner and I headed for conflict as my value of hard work ran headlong into his deeply held and regularly practiced value of compassion. I was grateful for the mindfulness I’ve been able to cultivate and the learning I’ve gained from stumbling my way through conflict in the past. While I was far from perfect in my response, I found the inner will to pause, reflect, and choose a response that better reflected my love for him, and the better version of myself that I wish to be.What is your fitness plan to prepare yourself to better navigate conflict?