VIC 14 | Alcohol Addiction

Is it possible to thrive in the middle of alcohol addiction? What role do family members have in making it a possibility?

In this episode, Dr. Bill Crawford is back with KL Wells to discuss and explore several key insights into how we can still thrive in the midst of the disease of alcohol and addiction.

How we show up, resetting relationships, suspending worry, finding peace of mind and learning how to be the calm in the storm are just some of the many topics they explore together in this powerful conversation.

Note:  We had a previous podcast with Dr. Bill Crawford in Episode #12, “Grieving The Shattered Dream”, dealing with grief and the grieving process.

If you did not listen to episode #12, please take a peek.

This is another story you will not want to miss.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

Dr. Bill Crawford On Thriving In The Midst Of Disease

I am joined once again by Dr. Bill Crawford, one of my favorite people. We are going to talk about how you show up, be there, and talk with people who are dealing with this disease. One of the major conundrums for people is, “Who am I in this, and how do I show up?” Our natural inclination is to do some things that don’t work and put us in a bad situation ourselves and the person that we love the most. I’m going to turn it over to you, Bill.

Thank you. It’s always fun to connect with you. You are one of my favorite people as well. This is a nice opportunity. I will start by saying nobody in my family has dealt with this, other than the fact that I grew up in an AA home where my dad was a recovering alcoholic, a speaker for AA, and my mom was a speaker for Al-Anon. Growing up, I got a little bit of both of that perspectives and learned a lot about what you can and can’t do. What I do is I go around the country talking to most leaders about how to be influential with people because that’s a job of a leader.

As you and I talked at the very beginning, we want to be really careful about thinking, “Bill is going to show me how to get this person to stop being addicted.” All I got to do is say it the right way, and they will change, “I never thought of that.” I’m going to stop that nonsense, and everything will be great. I’m sure everybody here probably had some experience of trying to talk to someone who’s going down some path that is not good for them.

Unfortunately, when you tell them that, they don’t say, “Thank you for sharing.” They become triggered. What we must recognize is that when someone is dealing with an addiction, they know it on some level there. There’s a certain amount of maybe denial that they don’t want to look at it, but it’s not like they have no idea that this particular disease is messing with their life.

They’ve experienced this lack of ability to stop, change or in any way address it, which then has them feeling less confident about themselves and their own judgment. When we come and say, “I want to talk to you about this thing,” I don’t think that whatever we say, it’s not like they don’t know that. What they hear is, “You don’t have confidence in me.” This is one of the things I tell parents sometimes is often our kids will take our advice as an indication that we don’t have confidence in them.

I was doing a presentation for a group of parents and teenagers, and I said, “Parents, did you know that when we give our kids advice, it comes across as if we don’t have confidence in them?” Every teenager’s head in the room is nodding. We think we are trying to be helpful, and we are trying to be helpful, but it comes across in a way that undermines their own confidence.

When you got someone who’s dealing with a disease and has probably, on some level, knows it’s not good for them, and maybe even has tried to cut back or stop and is afraid that, “If I do, I won’t be able to function,” or whatever the concerns are around that, then us telling them about the problem and giving them advice about how to stop the problem often is not supportive. What I thought I would do is go through the parts of my six-step model that I talked about leaders, like how to be influential with people and tweak it to how you talk with someone who is struggling with this illness.

Although you pretty much live in the executive space because 1 out of 3 families is dealing with this disease, this is in the executive space. This is rampant in executive Corporate America. There will be a lot of people that will be reading this that are executives and coaching executives. How do they show up for their employees? How do they show up for their coaching clients? There’s a deep bench and a lot of different people that will be reading this that will resonate completely with what you are talking about.

When I was doing my Vistage presentations to leaders, we got to the end, and I showed them the six-step model. I sit back and say, “What questions do you have about the application?” It’s very common. Someone will say, “My son, my brother, my wife or somebody is dealing with addiction. How do I deal with that?” You are absolutely right. The 1st step in the 6-step model is to go into the conversation having chosen qualities or characteristics that I want to bring to the conversation, no matter what they say or do.

Here’s the problem. When we go in and talk to someone who’s having a problem, we are worried about them, and we go in with that worry. There’s a new science out there called Interpersonal Neurobiology. It speaks to how one brain affects another brain. In my model, I talk about the top of the mind, middle brain, and lower brain. When we are in that middle and lower brain, that’s where our worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, resentment, and all those negative emotions come out.

Often when we are going to talk to someone having a difficult conversation, we go in worried, anxious, not clear, confident, and creative, but from that perspective, that will trigger them. It will keep us from being effective because it means now we are stuck in this lower 20% of the brain. We do not have access to the knowledge and skills that reside in the upper 80% of the brain. You want to say, “Who am I at my best? What are the qualities or characteristics I want to bring to this conversation? Family members certainly have kindness and love but also a sense of my confidence in them.”

You want to be careful about going in, worried about their inability to address the problem. That’s going to be bad for everybody. You also don’t want to go in saying, “If I do this right, they will respond in a way that I will feel good about.” You are not going to try to get them to be a certain way so that you feel good about the conversation. What you are wanting to do is to go in and connect with this person in a way that maybe plants a seed or, in some ways, touches the best of who they are.

Step one is, “Who am I at my best? Am I willing to take 100% accountability for going into this conversation and staying at the top of the mind no matter what they say and do?” I always tell people that if they get into a conversation and get triggered, that’s the time to pause the conversation. If we are in the lower brain and they’re in the lower brain, I call that bang and brain. Nobody is listening to anybody. It’s arguing about who’s right.

If you get into a conversation and you get triggered, that's the time to pause the conversation. Because if we're in the lower brain and they're in the lower brain, nobody's listening to anybody. It's just arguing about who's right. Click To Tweet

What I’m thinking about is part of our story, and I did not always do this the best. As I got more aware of what was going on for myself and Sam, I leaned into this space of whenever I saw him, I was going to be consistently delivering the message that no matter what was going on, he was always loved. The way that I approach it was that I wanted to be the love in the room.

The person on the other side feels they are unlovable because of their experience, and maybe they’ve found some money somewhere and took some money and borrowed some money and hadn’t paid it back. There’s a lot of stuff that maybe has happened in the past that is around the addiction or the disease that they feel a lot of shame around. What we want to do is go in clear about who we are at our best and are willing to take 100% accountability for staying that.

When I talk about accountability, I talk about the ability to be counted upon. Accountability is the ability to be counted upon. It’s not about who’s to blame if something goes wrong. That’s what most people think about accountability. They are going to hold you accountable like, “That’s great. I’m waiting to screw up and be held accountable.” This is about making sure they can count on us to stay in this loving, positive, affirming mindset no matter what they say, what they do, and what they’ve done. It’s all about that.

By the way, that’s a whole lot easier said than done. It might not be a bad idea to practice this with someone. Either in the mirror, with you or with somebody where the other person can play the role of that resistant. They are going to be resistant because it’s not like they are going to be real open to this conversation about what’s going on. That willingness to practice would probably be a good idea. Step two is where the brain colors if we are not careful what we do in a way that doesn’t service.

The middle brain thinks that if we are not anxious, we are not safe. If we are not worried about something, we are not safe. It tries to use anxiety, worry, and fear to keep us safe. A long time ago, in our evolution, that worked well. The middle brain evolution hasn’t caught up with society. It’s still using anxiety, worry, and fear. In other words, it has a bias toward the negative. The tendency is for us to go into this conversation focused on the problem in this person based on our love, caring and wanting to help, but it comes across as us focusing on their worst, not their best and us trying to get them to stop their worst.

VIC 14 | Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol Addiction: Middle brain evolution hasn’t caught up with society. It’s still using anxiety, worry, and fear. In other words, it has a bias to the negative.

That’s because the middle brain thinks, “If we don’t get them to stop their worst, then horrible things will happen, and it will get worried.” Instead, you want to ask yourself a question, “Who is this person at their best? Did they get a degree? Do they have a job? Are they creative at something? Who are they at their best?” What that does is it keeps you from only focusing on their worst, and it gives you something to reach for. Whenever I’m talking with someone, especially someone who’s resistant, I’m always holding an image of who they are at their best and always reaching for that.

Whenever you’re talking with someone who is resistant, always hold an image of who they are at their best and always reach for that. Click To Tweet

That goes with the whole notion that, “What you focus on, you create more of.”

Remember, these people don’t have a lot of self-confidence because of the experience they’re having. When we hold an image of their best and touch that, reach for that, talking about that, they often rise to that perspective. They see that someone they trust and care about who cares for them sees the best in them, and it gives them an opportunity to see the best in themselves.

Is it like mirroring?

No. It’s more like if I’m talking with my son, who is struggling with the disease, I know he got a degree. He had to make good decisions to get a degree, or he’s creative in this particular area, so I’m imagining him doing things well and making good choices. That’s him coming from the top of the mind. That’s what that’s all about. Step three is that you always want to understand what’s important to this person. A lot of times, especially if there has been a history or conflict in the past, or when we tried to talk with them, and it hasn’t worked, then you can’t go into a brand new conversation assuming it’s a brand new conversation because that history is coloring how they see you.

I encourage people, if there’s any history of conflict or negative conversations, to reset the relationship. The way that I do that is I encourage them to go to them and say, “I have been thinking about some of our conversations in the past, especially when I have been trying to get you to make different choices. Would it be fair to say that there have been a lot of times when I wasn’t doing a good job of understanding what’s important to you?”

That one hit me right in the heart.

This is about resetting the relationship because until we know what’s important to them, we have no leverage. That’s why this is important, plus it helps facilitate a more trusting conversation. I go to them and say, “I have been thinking about some of our conversations in the past, especially when I have been trying to tell you what you are not doing right. Would it be fair to say there have been some times in the past when I wasn’t doing a good job of understanding what’s important to you?” I bet they will say yes. I can totally see how that would be frustrating.

Here’s what I’m going to do, “I’m going to take more responsibility in the future of making sure that whenever we are talking, I’m working at understanding what’s important to you. Do you think that might help our conversations?” They may say yes but haven’t done it in the past. That’s their worry, their fear. You let that go right by. You don’t take it to heart. You are going to go, “I know.” You need to see it to be able to trust it. That makes perfect sense. This creates a more vulnerable, open relationship, and vulnerability can be scary.

You are coming in and owning your part of that. If they say, “Yes, but I don’t know if I can trust it.” You go, “I get that. You must be able to see it consistently before you can trust it.” If you are brave and you want to do something powerful, you can say, “If any time we are having a conversation in the future, and it seems like I’m not understanding what’s important to you or are not even working to understand, would you please let me know?” The reason you want to do that, sometimes we think we are doing a great job.

We’ve read a book and it says, “Do this and this,” and I’m doing that, but it’s not coming across that way. How it’s coming across their perception is their reality. We want to be doing our best, but if it’s coming across as either manipulation, not caring, some cycle bubble or trying to trick them into whatever, we want them to let us know. Make sure they have permission to let us know. If they go, “You said that anytime it’s coming across but,” they will let you know of it is. We want to be careful about being triggered by that. They are giving us good information about that.

VIC 14 | Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol Addiction: We want to do our best, but if it’s coming across as either manipulation or not caring, or trying to trick them into something, we want them to let us know.

What we are trying to do isn’t having the effect we want, and then you ask what I call a top-of-the-mind question. That’s a question about the solution in the future, not about the problem in the past. You say, “First, thank you for letting me know. If I were talking to you in a way that you felt heard, understood, loved that I was working on understanding what’s important to you, what would I be doing differently?” We think we are doing a great job, but it’s not coming across that way. We need to go to the horse’s mouth to find out what they are looking for.

Another way to do that is from Brené Brown’s book. I love Brené Brown, by the way. She’s so great. She’s talking to people saying, “What do you need from me to feel safe in this conversation?” It gives people an opportunity to tell us what they are looking for, and then we could go, “Great, I can do that.” Now we know what to do. Up until that time, we are guessing what to do. Sometimes that’s all we can do, but when they say, “This is what I’m looking for,” then that’s important.

Many times we assume, and everybody assumes, that we know what we are doing here or we know what you are thinking or feeling and to pause, check-in, and ask like, “Is that what you are thinking or feeling? What are you thinking and feeling?”

A lot of people say, “I work with someone or someone in my family, and I can tell when they are done.” I said, “I can understand how you see it that way. Let me ask you a question. Has anyone ever thought they knew what you were thinking, but they were wrong?” They go, “Yes, it happens all the time.” I say, “Given that it happens to us, we must recognize it’s going to happen from us.” Let’s don’t assume we know what someone else is thinking. That comes across a little bit like, “I know you better than you do,” and more of that shutting-down stuff.

We go into the conversation clearly about how we want to be. We are holding an image of them at their best. We are working hard to find out what’s important to them either by them telling us or us guessing and them saying, “Yes, that is.” Once they say that, then we have to let them know, “That makes perfect sense. I can totally see how you would see it that way.” Even if they say that, “The solution to my problems is all cows need to be on the moon because cows produce methane, and methane is climate change. That’s what’s causing my problem, so the cows need to be on the moon.”

You need to say, “I can see how you would see it that way. I can see how that would be important to you,” because otherwise, they are going to be defending their perspective. Empathy is not designed to agree with someone necessarily. It’s designed to free them from the need to defend their perspective and their right to think and feel whatever they think and feel. As long as they are defending their right to think and feel what they think and feel, they are in a defensive or offensive position. They are not in a receptive position.

Empathy is not designed to agree with someone necessarily. It's designed to free them from the need to defend their perspective, their right to think and feel whatever they think and feel. Click To Tweet

It’s about learning what’s important to them and then empathizing with that without the need to agree, just saying, “I can certainly see how you would see it that way. I see how that would be important to you.” You use a magic word and the magic word is always And, Never, But. You never say, “I could see how you see it that way, but you have been screwing up.” In other words, But will negate anything that comes before it. It’s almost like going up to a member of your family, “I love you but.” I love you is out the window. It’s always And because And ties where they are to where you want to go.

I want you to give an exclamation point on that one. I’ve worked with that for years. I think about what I say in terms of that thing and then, But versus And, it’s a work in progress. A lot of my coaching clients will look at me sometimes before they say because they are looking at me like I’m the and person. The power of And completely changes the conversation and the dynamic. That one thing alone, Bill, if people would play with that in their conversations and get good at the power of the And and cut out the But, it would change so many things.

I encourage people to start listening to their conversations and others and notice how often but come up. But is still a but. It’s a nice but. You can’t say however. It’s still a but. It’s a nicer way to say but it’s not good. You say and, and then you move to what I call the top-of-the-mind question, where you combine what’s important to you with what’s important to them. In this particular situation, what comes to my mind is that you go in there.

You hold an image of them at their best. You find out what’s important to them and let them know. You get to say, “I have seen you make good decisions. I’ve seen you accomplish this and do that. I’ve seen you do this with your kids or your spouse in a positive way. Whenever you put your mind to something, I have every confidence in that. If I can be of help in that in any way, that would mean a lot to me. Anytime I can be of help in this process of you becoming more purposeful in a way that says you would recommend to someone you love, that would mean a lot to me. It would be a great gift for me if you saw me as someone that you wanted to help in this way. Whenever that is the case, you let me know, and I’m there for you.”

What that does is it plants the seed. Number one, you have confidence in them. They’ve accomplished things in other places in their life. AA never goes to somebody and says, “You need to stop drinking.” Whenever it gets bad enough, you give us a call, and we will be there on a Twelve-Step call in the middle of the night, whatever it is. We are not there to convince you of anything. We are here to show you a different way forward if that is the way you are looking for.

The only way that I know how to be affected by people is to make sure that you are bringing your best of them, holding an image of their best, finding out what’s important to them, letting them know you get it, asking that, “I’m curious if in the future you ever want me to be of help and this would mean a lot to me. I would feel so honored to be part of any process that you feel is something that would be valuable to you. I have every confidence that when you decide to move in that direction, then that will happen.” That feels like a good place to stop the conversation unless they are going, “I have thought of something.” Now, here we go. That way, it doesn’t come across as, “I am here to convince you to do what you are supposed to do,” kind of stuff, which is the challenge with that.

I can see all the things and pieces of what you are talking about, and I’ve employed a lot of those pieces to the puzzle. I also can feel internally that mom or that dad or that spouse that is in this space of, “I’m watching somebody self-destruct in front of me, and you are asking me to do these things as if that isn’t happening.”

Let me address that because that’s good. We know it’s happening. Here’s the thing. Sometimes people won’t change until it becomes too painful not to. What I’m doing is I am saying in my mind, “I am trusting there is a part of you that probably wants to change. I never have to say this. I just feel it.” Sometimes I would even say, “If it ever becomes too painful, I bet you will do something about it. Maybe it hadn’t got bad enough yet.” Sometimes people need to feel a certain amount of pain to be motivated to change.

VIC 14 | Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol Addiction: Sometimes people won’t change until it becomes too painful not to. Sometimes people need to feel a certain amount of pain in order to be motivated to change.

In fact, most people don’t stop the problem because of a love of happiness, peace, serenity, and sobriety. They go, “I’m tired of waking up this way, losing jobs or whatever.” It becomes too painful not to. You are not sitting back and watching people self-destruct. You are giving them the opportunity to experience the pain as good information. This part of them will experience that, and this part of them won’t. What you are doing is partnering with the part of them that will.

In some respects, my own journey was seeing the real Sam, even with the package being caught up in addiction and knowing that part of Sam was still there. I, as his mom, wanted to be as healthy and whole as I could possibly be so that if and when he popped out the other side, it got painful that he chose to tackle this and take this on, I would be there. This is probably one of the hardest things that people will struggle with.

That’s so important. If we go down the same drain and they are going down, then who’s around to pick up the pieces? There is a thing that I do and talk about having your life energy. This is full of our life energy. Some people give some over here and here until they are drained and depleted and don’t have any to give because they are not taking care of themselves. There’s a quote I love that says, “You can’t serve from an empty cup.” We go, “I must put it all back together,” but it never gets all the way back together.

We then start all over again, giving some over here and here. We get drained and depleted, so we can’t be of help to ourselves or anybody else. This is about self-care, which is not only so that I can be there when he pops out but also, so they have some idea of what self-care looks like. This person has a whole lot of trouble with self-care. People see that as either selfish or denial. No. It’s making sure that there’s enough of me there to handle the sadness that I see but also to be there and give them some model for what self-care looks like. That’s important.

There are several Facebook groups out there relative to addiction, and I posted a question in one of the groups one time. I said, “Who believes that it’s possible to thrive in the midst of the chaos of this disease?” The vast majority of the comments that came back were, “That’s not possible.” Even if I say that out loud because this has been months, it hurts me to think that there are moms, dads, and people who love people that are in the midst of this disease that believe that they have to be in the trauma, drama, chaos and desperation that the person who’s dealing with the disease is in that same space.

A lot of people feel that, “If I’m okay with someone who isn’t okay, then I’m insensitive to their problem.” They also believe that since I’ve tried everything and nothing’s worked, I have to almost believe that nothing can work to feel like, “I’ve done everything I can.” The question is, “Do you want to survive or do you want to thrive?” The survival is this lower brain. It’s this anxiety, worry, fear, shame, guilt, anger, resentment, and all this stuff that is about survival.

Thriving comes from the top of the mind. That’s where if we can engage with the person from this more loving, healthy part of who we are, we show them that they are not responsible for our pain, which is another thing that happens. A lot of us have grown up. God bless our parents. With parents who have gone, “If you would only see me more,” in other words, they’re trying to make us feel responsible for their unhappiness, happiness, whatever, that whole guilt perspective.

We grew up with that model, and so now, without sometimes meaning to, we translate or transfer it onto the person, “Maybe if I can feel pathetic enough, they will finally stop this thing out of what they are doing to me in the family.” Unfortunately, this person already feels terrible about what they are doing to themselves and is now even more terrible at what they are doing to the family. That’s all lower shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety stuff. We can say, “I’m going to take responsibility for me. I’m going to do that out of love for you and out of love for me and to have confidence in me and confidence in you. If you see me being okay with this, it’s not that I don’t care. I absolutely care.”

A lot of us grow up with worry and love being connected with each other. I wouldn’t worry about you if I didn’t love you. It’s that kind of thing. Unfortunately, the worry about them taps into their own worry about themselves and drives them deeper into that fear-based, shame-based perspective. Whereas we go, “I’ve seen you do this and this.” Whenever it gets bad enough, that confidence at least shows that somebody else in the world has confidence in me. “Maybe I can have confidence in me.” It’s not only a healthy thing for us because it keeps us out of the mire, which is easier said than done. If we are willing to go there, work on it, and practice, it’s doable. It’s not easy but it’s doable.

This is work. This does require us to retrain ourselves. There’s a whole notion where I don’t know who made the job description up for a parent, but whoever wrote, “We are supposed to save them from suffering, pain, and all the things,” I wish I had five minutes with them in a room because that is not the job description. I finally got clear that my role with my friends and the people that I love the most is to hold the space for them to become the best version of themselves and be the love in the room.

They are on a journey, and pain and suffering are part of that journey. If I can help them lean into the gifts embedded in pain and suffering, which is it will get us cracked wide open to that next best evolution of who we are, there are so many things to learn from that. That has been my own experience. It’s about changing the description of who we are as a parent and how we love in a way that serves our kids and our loved ones at the highest level possible.

When we think we have to be responsible for fixing, changing, and keeping them from feeling, it basically says, “I have no confidence that you can do that.” That’s what they are experiencing anyway. Now that gets reinforced deeper here, but when we say, “I know it’s my job to take care of me like it’s your job to take care of you. I’m going to do that. I want you to know that it is me loving you. That is me holding the best of you. When you are ready, you let me know. If you want my help in tackling this, we will jump in it together.” It’s that whole perspective of confidence versus fear, worry, shame, guilt, anxiety, anger, resentment, and all that. Lower brain confidence is the upper brain perspective.

I want you to say a little bit more about shame because I have spent a little time studying what it actually is and that it drives us deeper into the disease. My understanding at this point is that shame is the notion that we are bad people because of this.

Regret is looking at a decision we made in the past, going, “If I had that to do over again, I would do that differently.” That’s wisdom. Shame and even guilt is, “There’s something wrong with me.” By the way, little babies are not laying in their bassinet, being ashamed of crapping in their pants. Just so we are clear, we are not born with shame. We get it a lot, and that’s not blaming anybody but it’s a learned perspective. What we want to make sure we are doing is not feeling the shame of not being able to fix the person we think we are supposed to fix and not implying that shame, guilt, fear, anxiety or whatever is going to be what helps them change.

VIC 14 | Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol Addiction: What we need to make sure we’re doing is feeling the shame of not being able to fix the person we think we’re supposed to fix.

It’s that recognition that we feel ashamed of, “Maybe the fact that someone in my family has this. It’s probably something I did wrong.” That stuff. We can’t fix them or they won’t listen to this or whatever it is but that’s our stuff. Their shame is, “I know this is not a good idea, and I hadn’t been able to do crap about it. I keep doing it and that must mean there’s something wrong with me.” That guilt and shame are something embedded in us, and it’s in the middle and lower brain. Remember, the middle brain thinks we must feel bad to be safe. It tries to use shame, guilt, anxiety, fear, worry or all that negative emotion to keep us safe, but it’s not keeping us safe. It’s trapping us in this reactive brain.

If you want to get a sense of what this is all about, Brené Brown does a wonderful job of looking at shame and how it is inbred without us knowing it and its meaning. We got it at some point and go, “I am no longer going to trust shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, worry, resentment, and anger as a guide to my next thought, emotion, and behavior. What do I trust?” By the way, there’s this whole concept about it being work. One of the things I encourage people to do is make a list of who they are at their best.

Wake up in the morning and before you get out of bed, look at your phone, and do anything, you read that list and say, “What are the qualities or characteristics from this list that I want to bring to the morning? Just the morning. I know some of the people I’m going to be dealing with.” You imagine going into the morning, practicing being the best of who you are. You don’t go in worried, anxious, ashamed, frightened, frustrated or all the stuff that we get triggered.

Around lunchtime, you stop. You take some dress, maybe you do some meditation, say a prayer, take a walk around the building, do something that creates a moment of clarity and say, “What are the qualities or characteristics I want to bring into the afternoon? Just the afternoon.” You do that. You practice that without needing to be perfect. Dinner time or sometime between the afternoon and the evening, you stop. You say, “What are the qualities or characteristics I want to bring to the evening?” Three times a day, you are practicing going into life already at the top of the mind.

That begins to rewire the brain. If you do that enough, say 21 days, because it takes 21 days to change a habit, you are creating new neuropathways going from this middle brain to the upper brain. You are saying, “I’m going to be safe based on bringing my best to life versus worry, fear, and anxiety.” That can begin to have you responding differently in the future because you’ve got these new neuropathways.

I think about it in the rubric of intentionality. That’s how I start my day. It has taken practice. I will say that more days than not, I get to operate at a high level and show up in the best version of who I am. It’s a continuing process and an evolution of the best version of me. It keeps evolving. I set the intention to love and serve every morning and make sure that I am heart-centered and heart-led in the work that I do. I think about the people I’m going to meet that day, and I ask for guidance in terms of how I show up. I realize it’s not just me, that there’s a little tribe around me. That intentionality, even as brief as it is, has proven to be powerful.

A question I love to ask people is, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is your peace of mind? How important is it for you to be able to bring your best in any situation regardless of what it is?” Nobody’s ever said lower than an eight. Most people say 9 or 10. If it’s one of the most important things in our life, then the question is, “What kind of effort am I willing to put in to make this a new habit?” What if learning to play the guitar would totally solve all of your problems, and you would be a happy person for the rest of your life?

People would go out and get a guitar to have someone teach them how to play the guitar. They would practice the guitar every day. Their fingers would be sore but they are still practicing because it’s so important or learning a new language. This is about learning a new way of being versus allowing ourselves to continue to do what we’ve always done. If you will practice it, anything you practice becomes more permanent. It doesn’t mean practice doesn’t make perfect but it does make it permanent.

The whole idea of being willing to practice it for a period of time, let’s say 2 to 4 months, we are going to plan it 2 to 4 months later anyway. What if we were good at this? How valuable would that be? If we are willing to commit to a certain 21 days, 2 to 4 months, whatever it is of continual practice, it gets easier and easier.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. But with continual practice, it just gets easier and easier. Click To Tweet

I’m thinking about the whole notion of being the calm in the storm. We have a pretty big storm going on societally, culturally, and all the things. Another reason why I believe that your work is critically important is to show that there’s another way. We can be the calm in the storm instead of the storm.

When I was graduating with my PhD, I said, “Bill, you’ve learned a lot of cool stuff. How can you put it into a system, a philosophy, a framework that, number one, helps people understand what’s going on how the brain works?” It’s not, “Don’t worry, be happy.” It’s understanding the neuroscience around that and then giving them a step-by-step system, “Know this, do this,” to the point where if they will keep doing it, then they will rewire the brain and recreate their experience of life. It’s so much fun going around the country and sharing this with people because you can see the light bulbs going off and the value that people are getting from it. I call it getting paid to do what I would pay to do.

You work in the executive space, and pretty much I work in that space too. There’s the notion that they tend to think in terms of results, “What’s the ROI? What’s the return on investment here?” The whole notion that if you are in your brain stem, you are hampered to make good decisions, be creative, confident, and all the things. Knowing that is transformative.

There’s a great quote from Brené Brown’s book, Dare to Lead. She says, “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in themselves and others and then has the courage to develop that potential.” If our job as a leader is to bring out the best in everybody around us, we are going to have some idea of what their best looks like. We are finding the potential in ourselves and others and have the courage to develop that potential. That’s a whole different than, “I need to get people to do the right thing,” or, “Stop doing the wrong thing.” That’s a different form of influence. It’s a wonderful way of thinking about leadership. I see organizations, parents, and people, in general, moving toward that perspective of bringing out the best in others.

Certainly, with COVID, which was a massive cracking, things wide open and shown in a spotlight on what matters and what doesn’t have been a great opportunity for us to reexamine who we are in the world, how we show up, and what is most important. That quote speaks right to that.

That’s a good point that you bring up COVID because we are not living in the same world we were living in a few years ago. Going through that, as a society, the middle brain was freaked out. Not only did it seem dangerous. It was dangerous. People were dying, and it was on the TV. They were in our faces for a few years. People were shut down, and all of our routines were changed. We are coming out of that going, “Is it safe to come out of the cave now?” We must recognize that there’s a component of that in all of this as well. The history of the last few years has now impacted how we have tendency to see the world. We want to make sure we are seeing that from a different perspective.

The point is that we get to choose. We are at choice in terms of how we decide to see the world and ourselves, who we decide to be, and all the things. This whole notion of choice, which is all the things that you are talking about here, is like pausing and thinking, “Who do I want to be in this scenario? Who do I want to be as a mom, a friend, a spouse or whatever in the midst of this disease?” It’s all up.

If we are not making a purposeful top-of-the-mind choice or one that we would recommend to someone we love, one that defines who we are, that we believe is going to be effective, and it got some criteria to it, our middle brain is making an unconscious choice. That’s mostly based because it’s biased toward the negative. It’s trying to use worry, shame, fear, anxiety, anger, and resentment to keep us safe and everybody else safe. We must make sure we are practicing this as much as possible. It’s not like it’s a neutral thing. If we are making this choice, it’s making it from down here.

I love talking to you because, number one, you are one of the most joyful people I know. You take it with you wherever you go. Who we get to witness I’ve seen multiple times. He is an extraordinary human being shifting the planet. That’s how I view it. I’m very grateful to have you in my life and to have you join us and bring more insight, more intentionality, and potentially different ways of viewing things for people so that you can thrive in the midst of this disease. Laying that out there for some people is going to be extraordinarily provocative.

For those of you who want a manual for how to do it the, Life from the Top of the Mind is designed to give you a manual for how to do it. This is on Audible also. There is a free resource. It is my YouTube channel. It’s got about 500 short videos on there. It reached one million views. I’m so jazzed. I know there’s something about dealing with difficult people, anxiety, shame, worry, and all this stuff. For those of you who are looking for 5 or 6 minutes of me showing you how the brain works and how to use the material to that, then check that out. If I can be of service, feel free to let me know.

What I love about those videos is that they are 5 or 6 minutes. It’s short, concise, and to the point.

It’s a lot of content like, “Here’s the problem. Here’s the solution.” If it resonates with you, feel free to run with it.

I mentioned this last time but I want to put an exclamation point on it again. Bill’s book, Life from the Top of the Mind, was one of the books I went to right away to figure out, “How do I navigate this in as healthy a way as possible for myself and then for my family?” That book was instrumental. It’s on our resource list. I highly recommend it. It’s written in a way that is conceivable. Everybody who can read this can read this and take things away. Mine is earmarked, underlined, written in, and all kinds of things. It’s a dynamic process when I read. Bill is an absolute resource, and you can go to his website.

It’s or google Bill Crawford, PhD. The good news is, I will come up on the first page. I’m easy to find.

Thank you so much for being with us. Much gratitude.

Even when I’m not getting paid, which I’m not now, the joy of doing it is so much fun for me, so thank you for the opportunity to give some ideas, say what I love, and hopefully, help some folks.

Happy holidays.

Happy holidays to you as well.

Thank you.

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About Bill Crawford

VIC 14 | Alcohol AddictionDr. Bill Crawford is a licensed psychologist, author of 8 books, and an organizational consultant who helps organizations and individuals access their best knowledge and interpersonal skills, regardless of the situation.

Over the past 30 years, he has created over 3,500 presentations for organizations such as Sprint, Shell, The American Medical Association, Vistage, and many others both nationally and internationally. His two PBS specials on stress and communication have been seen by over 15 million people.