Monday, 10 June 2019

Beautiful Ugliness

Last week, I watched most of the ODI played between India and South Africa.  Thanks to my son being in England that day & being among the audience at Southampton; possibility of catching him live glued me more to the match than the pace of the match or my general levels of indifference to cricket. Following day the Economic Times carried an article on the match with a heading “Rohit struggled and batted ugly against South Africa, but that was probably his best innings NEVER GIVE UP”.

It was an innings where Rohit struggled for over an hour before he found form to score.  But in that one hour when the balls were proving elusive, he managed to give up on his ego and didn’t mind looking ugly.  It takes courage to let vulnerability of one’s ugly side pop out and stay focused on the long-term goal.  Rohit didn’t mind looking ugly. For, he knew that with Shikhar Dhawan & Virat Kohli back in pavilion his survival was most important for India to stay in the game.

Picasso's  Old Woman  (1901)
How often have you let your ugly side take front stage?  Think about it -- as a parent, as an understanding spouse, as a boss who leads her team or as a mentor who is keen about insightful learning or growth of her mentee.  In each of these relationships you play the role of a leader, particularly when you are committed to a goal large than yourself.  It is a type of leadership that is not about titles, status and power over others. 

Often  in these situations you dare to lead without fear of rejection by others.  The sight of your goal and associated accountability perhaps brings out your best foot forward.  The tentativeness of your steps not withstanding you continue to be on crease to face the rough & tough bowling. In these situations, people often find courage to ask difficult questions to oneself and others.  Holding courageous conversations with significant others, unmindful to their ugly side popping up.  I am sure many of you reading this have done the courageous act of showing up your vulnerable side in personal as well as professional life. 

Please do commemorate your perceived ugliness of the most laudable moments and best contributions you may have made to someone’s world.  How about sharing something here to inspire others and encourage people to own up & celebrate their Beautiful ugliness.

Monday, 14 January 2019

To live your Potential, help others succeed

Our Trek to Kareri Lake, Camera Malathi Panchwagh
Writing this first blogpost of 2019, while the festivities, the greetings season and the new year resolutions are still on.  Isn’t it befitting to dream of going beyond ‘your best’ this year? Have you ever wondered, what does it take to move you beyond ‘your best’?
How does one achieve that? Surpassing your peak.  At the start of this wonderful year, in response to this reflection, I am in touch with those occasions, when I have felt most fulfilled.  For me a sense of completion, fulfillment and the zenith has almost always been associated with others’ success. 

Whenever I have strived to make others happy & joyous I have been delighted.  I got rewarded every time I supported others accomplish their goals.  This has always been true; as a parent, manager/ leader, trainer, coach and consultant.  My colleague Suresh says, “If you make others successful, then the bigger success awaits you”.  This equation has proved itself many times over.  In the novel “The Palace of a Thousand Rainbows” Bilol Bose writes “…life is not a compulsion, it is the excitement of being worthwhile to someone you care for."

As a consultant when I focus on client benefits, as a coach/ mentor when I focus on the mentee’s potential, as a leader when I focus on results & team well being and as a parent when I am engaged with my child’s growth – I am focusing on their success.  And, such involvement, always brings out the best in us, leading us to unlock the hidden potential. 

The good part is that, this philosophy is contagious.  When I formed my consulting organization, it led us to coin the tagline “just add passion” (  The spirit of this tagline has always pushed us to strive for success of our clients.  Over the years, we have reaped the rewards of deep satisfaction, state of flow and thriving. 

What makes it possible for families, organizations and communities to unlock their potential? It is a sense of abundance. An appreciation that the “win-win” is a ‘law of the nature’.  But in a paradigm characterized by fear, scarcity and competition - most of us in this world get caught in the win-lose propositions. 

So if you want this new year to better your previous best than one sure shot way is to contribute to others success around you.  Please remember that the definition of someone’s success must be seen from her/ his point of view; not yours.  Can you contribute to towards success as defined by them? If you are unable to contribute than at least rejoice at their success and not sulk, feel jealous or disappointed; for, these are the start points of a downward spiral. 

As the 2019 unfolds, I am setting out the intent -- may we all and our loved ones find a sense of abundance and awaken the greatness within.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Me, Myself and I – the songs from 2018

As the curtain comes down on 2018, I’m reminiscing some songs that have stirred & impacted me this year.  For me the year turned out to be a one, in which, I had to transcend more relationships than I had thought, when the year began.  Therefore, the first song that reverberates continues to be my evergreen favorite number चलते चलते मेरे ये गीत याद रखना, कभी अलविदा ना कहना  (in the passing, remember my songs, and never say goodbye).

Last July, listening to this song humbled me.

Oh, it's just me, myself and I
Solo ride until I die
‘Cause I got me for life
Oh, I don't need a hand to hold
Even when the night is cold
I got that fire in my soul[1]

Reminding me of the solo ride of life, it inspired me to continue being in touch with that fire in my soul. This reinforced for me - seeking the fulfillment within doesn’t need a big plan; it just surfaces when one adjusts the radio frequency to peep within. 

The other day, driving to airport during the bewitching hours I tuned into Fever FM. RJ Urmin was chatting with Bollywood score composer Jeet Ganguly. Jeet’s narration about making of the title song of खामोशियाँ (khamoshiyan or the silences) touched me deeply.  The songs says --
खामोशियाँ आवाज़ हैं
तुम सुनने तो आओ कभी
छू कर तुम्हें खिल जाएँगी
घर इनको बुलाओ कभी
बेकरार है बात करने को
कहने दो इनको ज़रा

क्या उस गली में कभी तेरा जाना हुआ
जहाँ से ज़माने को गुज़रे ज़माना हुआ

खामोशियाँ एक साज़ है
तुम धुन कोई लाओ ज़रा
खामोशियाँ अल्फ़ाज़ है
कभी आ गुनगुना ले ज़रा:[2]

This song not only helped me to celebrate the silences around but also made me aware of my own journey over the years. A transformative journey of accepting my unclaimed introversion, wherein I found myself with nothing but my heartbeat by my side.  Initially it had felt lonely but in due course, turned out to be a precious movement from loneliness to solitude.  If you have taken a trip within than perhaps you will resonate with my feelings of satisfaction, peace and joy.

When you spontaneously tune into the music around, breaking free from the societal boxes, becomes easy.  My gratitude for life kindled to a new high, when a song I stumbled upon not only put me in touch with the “fountain of youth” but also made me realize that “I’m getting to my best years yet”. “The Older I Get” by Alan Jackson which goes like this --

The older I get
The more I think
You only get a minute,
better live while you’re in it
'Cause it’s gone in a blink
And the older I get
The truer it is
It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff
That makes you rich

The older I get
The fewer friends I have
But you don’t need a lot when the ones that you got
Have always got your back
And the older I get
The better I am
At knowing when to give
And when to just not give a damn

And I don’t mind all the lines
From all the times I’ve laughed and cried
Souvenirs and little signs of the life I’ve lived

The older I get
The longer I pray
I don’t know why, I guess that I
Got more to say
And the older I get
The more thankful I feel
For the life I’ve had, and all the life I’m living still

Serendipitous instances, much like listening to these songs and realizing a few home truths about my being, have often proved transcendental. Such points have helped me uncover the holes & crevices I didn’t know exist; letting discover elements within myself.  These times have made me less incomplete. In turn, helping me own up my disowned parts and experience wholesomeness in company of my heartbeat.

My realization, when one’s life is punctuated by silences (reflections within) and hyphenated with mindful moments, it facilitates the ‘makeover’.  A process where fragmented “I” paves way for a more aligned “me” and the fractured “me” makes way for an integrated “myself”. 

For me the journey from “I” to “Me” and “Me” to “Myself” has often meant to shed facades, embrace the disowned parts and celebrate the transitions.  However, I must hasten to add that this process is never complete.  For, it gives rise to a new “fragmented I” as soon as Harish makes the “integrated myself” a holy grail, making this an ever-expanding spiral. 

“Be satisfied enough to be happy and dissatisfied enough to grow” has been an adage that has propelled me through life.  However, embracing this adage has meant finding a pause or ठहराव; it is a word in Hindi, for which I don’t find an English equivalent (the closest perhaps is pause/ abeyance).  As I look forward to 2019, I am wishing for myself a little more ठहराव. 

Wishing you all the very best of 2019.  Do share the poetry & songs touching your life --

[1] Me, Myself & I – song by American rapper G-Eazy – 2015
[2] Source & Translation at:

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Self as an Instrument of Change

Every one of us wishes, enjoys and thrives on living their potential, or so I believe.  The potential as that which is seen in personal achievement, professional feat, nurturing a happy family, creating community impact or uplifting the society.  We all bring an inherent potential to accomplish in many an area, each of which requires change, with the word ‘change’ here encompassing the twin meaning - transformation as well as growth.

Whether one wishes to realize something for oneself or contribute towards collective accomplishment, the fulcrum to reaching one’s potential is always - ‘Self’.  Mohandas to Mahatma, Mandela to Madiba, Agni Sharma to Valmiki, Siddharth to Buddha or even the newspaper boy Pakir to Bharat Ratna scientist turned President Abdul Kalam – each of these stories of unlocking one’s potential are a testimony to the role played by Self. 

Transcending oneself beyond limiting beliefs, flirting with risk & vulnerability and experimenting with unthinkable, has been the hallmark of people who have demonstrated and achieved the extraordinary, despite the ordinary or sub-ordinary start.  In the next-door businessman’s story of rags to riches, your boss’s endurance feat at the Marathon, neighbour housewife’s emergence as a celebrated author or the President of your Rotary Club mobilizing impressive resources to impact community – the accomplisher herself/ himself in each of these examples has been an instrument of change. 

For every single demonstration unlocking one’s potential, perhaps there are hundreds who are standing just short of the threshold which will shift them into the next orbit.  In my experience as a facilitator, trainer, coach and an organization developer, I have come across many an individual, who by virtue of their own (in)actions remained on the southern side of the threshold. People who crossed the threshold in pursuit of their true north have demonstrated one key difference and that is their place on the “Euphoria çè Cynicism” continuum. Before I unravel this continuum, let me also submit that there may be multiple lenses to look at the key differentiator.  I am but presenting just one of frameworks that has not only helped me personally & professionally but proved invaluable in my ‘helping relationship’ roles. 

In a fresh relationship, a new job/ project or a resolve for better health etc., most of us start with a sense of excitement; possibly, an all-pervading euphoria that fills us with energy & determination.  As time passes, there’s a tendency to slide down towards cynicism; perhaps attributed to others, circumstances, or one’s own beliefs. The achievers display an awareness of their location on this band and make a conscious effort to stay in the generative zone.  A zone that propels one to overcome the difficulties of crossing that limiting threshold that keeps one at their sub-optimal. 

Staying in a net positive energy zone where the real hope of success is greater than the fear of failure is the key contributor to crossing a limiting threshold.  Here, the word ‘real’ is an operating word; for, the popularity of book “The Secret” and aftermath resulted in so many pseudo positive psychology practitioners that their surface-level grasp of the underpinning has only created more agony. 

The net positive energy zone provides advantage of operating in optimism quotient.  The diagram here would help mitigate the need for verbose explanation.  Staying in this zone requires periodic calibration of one’s pursuits, environment and supporting actors.  The true achievers do not hesitate to step of out of limiting environment and/ or create an optimistic one for themselves, even dumping the other actors in favor of walking alone or finding new partners.

Bringing this model to the fore in my practice and interventions, has eased many an executive to cross the threshold towards their true north.

Unfortunately, I have also experienced, quite a few people slide down the continuum. Over the past two years, my close relationship and association with a few people, who slid-down rather rapidly, prompted me to observe & study the underlying causes of such an erosion.   My finding in each of the cases - invariably it was caused by jealousy, obsession with self or a competitive zero-sum attitude.  At least one of these three factors have played the role in all the three cases I studied.  Someone sliding down this continuum in their sunset years doesn’t bother me much. However, in an era where I see many a role model nonagenarian, to see people in their prime become victims of these factors has saddened me.

For the moment, my conclusion basis my observations is – when the gratitude evaporates, so does the energy to excel. The slide that sets in, not only drowns the person concerned but sometimes even their dearest loved ones.  While absence of gratitude seems to pull one down on this framework, I am curious to know if cultivating gratitude would turn the tide up?

Keen to read/ hear more perspectives and stories of your experiences.  Please do write in, or connect with me -- harish at potentia dot in.

*With gratitude to Yawar Baig who presented the continuum over 25 years ago and Bhupendra Sharma who triggered a generative thinking through his program over two decades ago.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Embrace the Benign Shit

Over a year ago, I was invited to become a donor for a patient suffering with recurring intestinal infection.  When the problem first surfaced, I shuddered at the thought that I may have to offer a part of my intestine. But thankfully, the contribution needed was not that grave.  The need simply was, ‘could I donate my poop to this patient?’  The need arose ‘coz the healthy bacteria in the patient’s stomach had decimated due to excessive antibiotics usage.   The best remedy in this case was to inject, naturally healthy bacteria into the stomach; thereby through Fecal Transplantation making feasible, the resurrection of healthy bacteria.

During the four visits to a medical facility as a donor and in the following months, this episode reinforced for me, a human growth principle that perhaps all of us are aware of, but perhaps not as mindful.  Many a times, the shit that comes our way is far more useful than the nicely wrapped and labelled bouquets we receive.  The benign shit that possibly sounds awful and may raise  a bit of a stink sometimes, is often the feedback we need to grow.  How open are we to receive such authentic critique from a benefactor? For, ‘acceptance’ of such feedback determines whether we can truly unlock our potential as exemplary performers, leaders, reformers, parents or change-agents.

Sometimes, in our desire to feed the narcissism within, we surround ourselves with people who are constipated in the face of our position/ power.  When one is intoxicated with power, they receive only the musical farts from sycophants, which sound lyrical to a pair of self-obsessed ears.  Blissfully unaware that neither their choked nose allows them to experience the stink nor their myopic eyes, reveal reality.  Hope you haven’t shut the door onto yourself by being trapped amidst such constipated well-wishers. 

Offering benevolent poop is even more difficult than receiving it; for, it requires us to shift our focus from a close-easy-convenient connect to a bigger purpose, larger good and long-term impact.  Additionally, it demands that one is willing to expose their vulnerability as well as take some risk.

Let me explain this with an example. In an organization, I saw a role holder was abusing power. My relationship with this role holder was very friendly, comforting and fulfilling to my own needs. Gradually I saw, in his egoistical pursuit he started compromising organizational values. Now, if I chose friendship/ comfort/ my needs over organizational demand than I would be choosing close-easy-convenient.  Continuing with the same example, let’s understand why this could be a vulnerable choice. When I raised the issue in a manner that gave rise to some stink; my relationship with the person tanked right down to a new nadir.  Additionally, another close colleague described & labelled me as ग़ोबर (cow dung).

The higher one’s position or bigger the responsibility, the greater is the role of benign shit.  While it requires high degree of authenticity and risk-taking to surface this, it requires open-mindedness and agility to receive & benefit from it. 

Are you ready to receive and offer benign shit to build your immune system better and cultivate antidotes to the organizational germs?

Do write back and keep adding manure to grow #CelebrateTheRight.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

An Anatomy of Thriving Relationships

My last blog ‘Set the Soul Free’ prompted a reader to ask me, “Harish, since you say every relationship comes with an expiry date, are you saying - no relationship sustains through life?” Before I respond, let me pose a question: have you ever pondered & found an answer to, “what is my definition of Love?” 

Anyone interested in meaningful relationships must understand ‘love’. 

When does one experience, ‘two people are in love’?  My bias – “two people can be said to be in love, when they support and rejoice in each other’s growth”.  When that happens, relationships thrive.  There are siblings, couples, friends or parent-child dyads whose relationships thrive through their lifespan.  In these relationships one’s joy becomes other’s smile.  A thriving relationship demonstrates that each one tends to contribute more to it than expect more for self.

In current era, characterized by an increasing number of divorces, breakdown in business partnerships and colleagues turning competing adversaries, most relationships do come with an expiry date.  Few instances to clarify -- a parent-child dyad where they cannot see eye to eye and avoid each other despite living under one roof; two colleagues by complementing one another created a series of innovations, product launches and built a flourishing enterprise until one day when their inter-personal equation got on a slippery slope that culminated in closure of business, a toll on their health and broke their spirit.  Though not every inter-personal tension turns degenerative, yet, there are many which do.

Sometimes, despite signals of breakdown in a relationship, one or both sides persist with selfish motives (e.g. two brothers slug it out to inherit property left by their father) or one up man ship (e.g. between colleagues) or simply an ego-trip.  Although persistence to stay on in the relationship appears a noble intention however, the result often is a corrosive erosion that engulfs even others in proximity.

Thanks to western influence, societies have moved from collectivistic to individualistic communities; while this meant celebration of every individual’s freedom & independence, a major downside that unfolded - breakdown of relationships at an unprecedented pace.  The fallout of this has been an ever-increasing number of people who are lonely.  The glorified and chiseled individualism hasn’t improved the happiness quotient in families or community; rather, misplaced ideas of self-sufficiency & autonomy have blunted the resilience required to strive for increased compatibility.

Given that our inherent biology was designed to lead social lives[i].  The true strength can only be found in ‘belonging’, ‘connection’ and by developing abilities to nurture and maintain ‘social bonds’.  In turn making the thriving relationships the sine qua non of fulfilling life and wholesome being. 

Before, I unveil the anatomy of thriving relationships let’s examine the facets that make a relationship go bitter.  In Bollywood flick Ki and Ka, one gets to see, how in a perfectly complementary & compatible couple, relationship turns sour. Serving the fanatics’ palate, the movie had a happy ending; but in real life, there are very few fairy-tale-endings in such scenarios.

The root-causes of languishing relationship are -- competition, jealousy and/ or self-obsession.  A self-obsessed being fails to see the other’s perspectives, jealousy leads to contempt and the competition breeds win-lose mindset. Toxicity surfaces when one persists in a relationship without mitigating these root-causes.  When a relationship pedals on a slippery slope, the bystanders get to see plenty of denial, drama, blame, manipulation and aggression (or passive aggressive behavior).  It’s always better to expire a relationship than be a victim of toxicity.

In an increasingly individualistic world where, 3 am friends are diminishing rapidly, we must cultivate a few thriving relationships.  Certainly, freeing oneself from toxic relationships, if any, is the crucial first step to creating a room for thriving relationships. 

However, walking out of every relationship in which one does not perceive the other to be Ms. Perfect/ Mr. Right is unlikely to be a solution.  Walking rapidly out of relationships, could be a pathway to locking oneself in a ‘Lonely Room’ with neither the keys to unlock nor the strength to break it.   The second step is to preserve, nurture and celebrate those relationships, which provide some uplifting moments. One must try her/ his best before hitting the incompatibility curve.  Cultivating a habit of celebrating imperfect parts in others and developing a funny bone around one’s own flaws are the ingredients to navigate the second step successfully. 

The third step is to shed the facade and make one’s authentic self, visible.  Flirting with difficult emotions and being vulnerable are integral to one’s Authentic behavior. Perhaps, only machines work with perfection & precision; when one recognizes the adage ‘to err is human’, it helps to build relationships that last.

Finally, but not the least, in romantic love or any rewarding relationship it helps to periodically calibrate our authenticity quotient and gratitude factor.  These two aspects not only help preserve the thriving relationships but also reboot one, where it appears to slide down. 

In writing this blogpost, I have used some of my biases; to me both the terms ‘love’ and ‘relationship’ have a specific meaning.  To me the acquaintances & transactional role connects don't constitute relationships; and ‘Love’ is not confined to romantic pairs or blood relationships.  You may have different connotation to these terms.  However, in my experience whenever I have been able to bring to fore, a sense of abundance, I have been able to enjoy many loved relationships.  The factors of abundance are – (i) Empathy (ii) Authenticity (incl vulnerability) and (iii) Gratitude for what that relationship provides/ has given

Wishing you an abundance of thriving relationships.

[i] à We are wired to connect: Current research indicates that humans are interdependent at all ages. Studies of adult- hood and aging all point to the vital role of friendship and social connection for adult health, well-being, and longevity. Loneliness is particularly toxic to one’s health…

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Set the soul free

My mother was a very dynamic & progressive woman by all contemporary standards, back then, her resilience intact even at the ripe age of 80 years.  13 years ago, she was fighting her last battle in the Manipal Hospital Bangalore. After a botched-up surgery, she seemed to be breathing her last; for over 48 hours she was surviving on life support system and non-responsive.  At that moment, my sister went close to her and whispered in her ears that ‘she was free to go’ if she chose.  That perhaps was my sister’s way of letting the soul realize its freedom and not keep it chained in relationships.

How often can we grant freedom to the significant others’ souls?  The moksha for a soul is not just what happens when one departs from the world.  A soul seeks moksha in one’s life perhaps several times.  How often do we recognize and honor it?  Every relationship comes with an expiry date, which no-one knows nor  can predict precisely. However, there exists an expiry date certainly and holds true for all relationships, be it your spouse, children, colleagues, business partners et al.

When one doesn’t honor this law, the suffering triggers and it is a two-fold suffering for the soul as well as the body.  Misery to the soul – for, a soul is never happy in a body that has ceased to enjoy; the entrapment in the body thus becomes a source of suffocation.  Any forcible continuance is bound to create loss of spirit for the soul.  Diseases for the body – any demand on body to contain free spirit leads to multitude of ailments for the different organs.  Every single relationship, that outlives the symbiotic integration of body & soul, tends to suffer from this. 

When one learns to let go – this becomes easier.  Otherwise, the possessiveness begins to chain the soul with body or vice versa.  In a relationship when we don’t learn to get better of the possessiveness, we torture the body as well as soul.  The question arises then, how should we discover in a relationship (say between a parent and child) that it’s time to set the soul free?

My take from some of my recent experiences – in any bond, when you notice that to continue the relationship, one or both sides increasingly require facades or masks; or when you notice that the congruence takes a back seat and the primary play between the beings is for the gallery,  Then these are the first signs for you to do something about it.  Be mindful though that if the 'authenticity deficit' continues to widen and/ or 'mutual gratitude' evaporates, then maybe it’s time to grant that relationship, a release (moksha). 

And that release may not be forever – maybe in the same life time, the relationship will begin to thrive one more time.  As has happened in many a parent child relationship, teenagers/ young adults who experienced release (not the possessive controls) often, after a liberated detachment, rediscover the symbiotic magic in the relationship such that they live happily ever after.  On the contrary, the parent-child relationships where entrapment of the soul far exceeded the desire of that soul, then finding such an equilibrium remains elusive throughout life.  The same pattern is visible in many couples, business partners and employee-employer relationships.

In many cultures when people pass away, the occasion is celebrated.  In our family too, we celebrated departure of my mother; for, we believed that her soul lived a fulfilled and contended tenure with all of us.  We were sad but didn’t carry remorse.

The relationships in which you (or the other person) is consciously moving away, are occasions to celebrate.  You have a choice whether to cherish those or repent.  No prizes for guessing what I prefer to do in my life.  TS Eliot has beautifully said (the first stanza of BURNT NORTON)

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Power of Words

I feel blessed to have been exposed to Appreciative Inquiry at the turn of the century and over the past 12 years this philosophy has overshadowed my other propensities.  This life-glue has provided a number of opportunities to experience the impact in my personal and professional life.  I wish to discuss one profound facet of positive psychology and other strength based approaches (like AI) here.  The choice of our words – expressed or otherwise often determines our well-being or otherwise.  This has been reaffirmed repeatedly for me as a parent, sibling, and a friend or as a Leadership & Business Coach and Organization Development catalyst. 
I have seen that the word-choice – howsoever, unconscious (or conscious) alters the happiness quotient or stress quotient in one’s life.  The choice of words adjusts the cellular signals emergent in body, feelings, thoughts, and opinions; also, of course the judgements about people/ situations.  The word choices made (or triggered unconsciously) modify our emotional being and the decisions we take.  Further, through mirror neurons[1] that we possess, to a large measure, our choice of words influences people around us, the environment and eventually many an outcome that we achieve/ miss-out.  The gift that every one of us has is – the ability to cultivate an orientation for desirable words; upshot being -- power to create contentment at will and when one is persistent enough to make this a habit, it raises the joy & fulfilment index.
Before offering examples to understand this phenomenon and share experience of how to harness this power, let me share with you a link to a video that helped me imbibe this principle viz.  historia de un letrero (, a 5-minute multiple awards winning film (  This film made me realize the spirit embedded in the quote “Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change”[2]                                                                          
Let me share two examples from my practice last week.  Currently I happen to coach an accomplished CHRO of a company who’s committed to delivering his best for the organization.  Backed by a rich experience of over 20 years he understands the organizational nuances, be it People, their Prejudices or Politics at work. He confided his restlessness about increase in his short-temperament caused by these three Ps.  He said, after narrating a long incident “…under these circumstances there’s no way but to react like this…”. As he spoke, I sensed the change in his breathing and pain in his voice.  A nudge to reflect on his feelings in the moment revealed the impact of the word “react”, when encouraged to describe the emotions he acknowledged feeling stressed.
Before we dive deeper let me share another coaching session with a senior executive.  This executive brings impeccable credentials to her new job & role as the change catalyst of a Fortune 200 company.   She was using the coaching session to bounce-off her multifaceted situation of -- high expectations & faith of seniors in her, difficult to decipher market reality, trying circumstances in personal life, her ambivalence in dealing with a peer group dominated by male dominated older colleagues with long vintage in company and her own desire & impatience to add value.  As she described scenario, heaviness & confusion was evident in her quip, “…it’s all very overwhelming”.  My nudge to reflect revealed to her that her choice of the word ‘overwhelming’ had accentuated her feelings of helplessness & anxiety
In both the above examples as you see, the choice of words had produced emotions that appeared energy draining.  As a coach what I did in both those situations was to ask the person, if (s)he were to replace that word (“react” and “overwhelm” respectively) with another word what would that be.  The words which emerged in these situations were “respond” and “challenge” respectively.  As soon this dawned and they rephrased their statements their exhausting feelings got replaced with the more refreshing and bouncy ones of keenness, anticipation, curiosity and interest.  As these separate explorations progressed further one couldn’t but notice the common thread of buoyant emotions and a ‘can do’ approach with locus of control firmly with the person.  Not only had their inner emotion changed but even the outer one as well.
Over the years, I have experienced, experimented with and guided others to cultivate a muscle memory that helps one to change conscious and unconscious vocabulary spoken or otherwise.  We can certainly draw an inspiration from a 200 years old poem by Letitia Elizabeth Landon[3]
 ‘Tis a strange mystery, the power of words!
Life is in them, and death. A word can send
The crimson colour hurrying to the cheek.
Hurrying with many meanings; or can turn
The current cold and deadly to the heart.
Anger and fear are in them; grief and joy
Are on their sound; yet slight, impalpable:--
A word is but a breath of passing air.

In the next part of this blog, we’ll tap into the neuro-psychological knowledge, to help us understand how to rewire within and achieve a positive upward spirals of thoughtsàwordsàemotionsàactionsàresults

[1] Mirror neurons are a kind of ‘neural wi-fi’ that triggers cellular activity and feelings that contagious and impact not just within a person but even in people around; we’ll cover this fascinating truth some other time
[2]   Ingrid Bengis
[3] courtesy --