sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters

DO I have a thing?

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm

So I went to that conference about adaptive and transformational leadership. It was at The Mountain, which is one of the most beautiful of our conference centers. I actually don’t think we HAVE an ugly one, but The Mountain has views of the Smokies that will blow you away. (Note to self: start a page with institutions and companies I love. Put The Mountain on it. ETA: that page is created. It is here.) Anyway, the conference. Was mind blowing. And dense. Part of why I haven’t written about it is that trying to condense it into a few paragraphs is like trying to fit the Great Pyramid in a teacup. No, actually, it’s like trying to fit the tip of an iceberg in a teacup, knowing that the tip is only a tiny little part of the whole thing. It was one of those times when you realize how much more you have to learn.

But one of the things we talked about, one of the things that I have told people eighty five times already, including the poor guy next to me on the plane coming home, is what I now call the 90 second rule.

Our bodies are designed for handling very basic levels of threat.

When we experience a threat, we have one of a couple of types of reaction. The best known of these is the fight-or-flight response, but there are other options and lots of things that happen to us, biochemically, as a result. Our vision is restricted, our hearing is changed, our muscles get tense either to keep us still or to make us fight or run. Less visibly, we lose access to the parts of our brains that do creativity and humor. Let me say that again: we lose our sense of humor and our capacity for creativity. We lose it. It’s not a matter of willpower, it’s actually gone. Chemically and scientifically.

But the kicker is this: a biochemical bath like that, the wave of brain chemistry that makes that happen, lasts 90 seconds. Ninety seconds.


A minute and a half.

If you’ve ever sat through a thirty or sixty second moment of silence, you know that it can seem like a long time, but if you’ve ever had to finish ten test questions in that same minute, you know it’s not long at all.

A minute and a half, and then we regain chemical control. At the 90 second point, we can again make choices. We can continue to recite the mental script that tells us we’re under siege, which will perpetuate the sense of threat and the biological responses that go with it…or we can choose something different. We can actually widen our eyes, breathe differently, make different thought choices, and change what happens next. We can elect to relax.

The best time to make that choice, alas, is right before we go into crisis mode–that is, before the 90 second clock begins. We have about half a second, literally, to make that choice before our creativity shuts down and we lose the capacity to imagine alternatives. So we have to train ourselves. And practice. And call each other to make different choices.

This guy, Andrew Lightheart, has a post that makes all of it sound way less complicated and more accessible, so, gentle readers, I direct your attention to him. And he made a follow-up 30 minute audio track (with transcript) which I have not tried but which comes highly recommended. Certainly, his original post leads me to believe that his audio will be well worth the $14.

Check it out, and stay tuned. There’s more conference stuff where that came from.


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