How To Strengthen Mental Mobility – The Skill to Get Unstuck and Move Forward

My client Andrew runs a F&B group. He was trained as a chef. He opened his own restaurant 10 years ago, and now he owns a group of restaurants. In the span of 10 years, he went from someone who had to deal with avocados and spatulas to someone who how had to deal with restaurant General Managers, marketing directors, IT managers, and HR specialists.

He felt overwhelmed and often second guessed himself. I relate to him. I felt the same too when I had to lead functions and professionals that were out of my wheel house. His self-doubts turned every action and decision he had to make into a painful drag. It got pretty bad that he began asking himself – “Is this who I truly am? I miss being a chef!” I shared the same thought often – “Is this who I truly am? I shouldn’t be wasting time dealing with office bureaucracies. I miss being a high functioning star sales!”

What I worked on with him was to help him feel less suffocated and stalled. We worked on getting him mentally “unstuck” and “forward moving.” This was how we honed his “mental mobility:”

  1. Becoming aware of what is happening and how we are feeling

We worked on becoming more consistent in asking ourselves questions such as “What’s happening?” “What am I feeling about the situation?” What don’t I understand?”

It is very important that you are aware of how you are feeling. More often than not we let our emotions linger to affect our actions and decisions. The best way to remain calm and rational is to first notice how we feel.

Think about it. What would you do if you know you are feeling furious? We know it isn’t the best time to decide on anything when we are furious. Therefore the first step is to learn to become aware of how we feel. The first step is to try to create a bit of a gap between how we feel and how we react.

  1. Expose the choices we actually have

We worked on seeing all situations through a buffet of available choices by asking ourselves: “What are all the available options?” “How do these fit into our current priorities?” “Why do I want to do this? Who and what am I doing this for?”

More often than not, we tend to be too subjective when we consider our options. We tend to be influenced too heavily by our emotions. For example, if we are feeling inadequate, we tend to only think of options that protect us from risks instead of options that explore possibilities. Or when we are feeling overjoyed we tend to only think of possibilities and do not consider the risks.

In summary, the goal here is to consciously become more objective in exposing and assess our options. The goal here is to help ourselves come up with options that are more balanced.

  1. Strengthen self-trust

Lastly, I point to my clients evidence of why they should trust themselves. More often than not, I trust my clients more than they trust themselves, because as a non-judgemental observer looking from the outside, I have a much clearer view of how my clients lead and act. Ultimately, through the coaching relationship, I want my clients to see themselves objectively and operate from that vantage point. I want to remind my clients that they are mobile—that they have the capability of choice and can move in the direction of their desired ends.

This is something that will take time. It is very important that we have a balanced memory of ourselves. Only when we can assess ourselves objectively, we can trust ourselves more. The best way to approach this is to keep track of our successes and failures. We have to work on building the evidence of our successes and failure.

From my experience, having an up-to-date list of our successes and failure gives us the best chance to be as objective as we should when we have to evaluate ourselves. Having an up-to-date list allows us to rationally decide whether or not we should trust ourselves.

Try it on yourself or with your team.

  1. Try to become more aware of feelings and self talks.
  2. Objectively brainstorm and assess options.
  3. Force everyone to look at both evidence of success and failure equally.

Let me know how it goes.