I started meditating again a few weeks ago, on a Monday. Just five minutes each morning, as a start, and now I’m up to 10.

I’m beginning again at meditation because I don’t see how I can say I’m firmly on the path of being a calm, steady presence of a leader without some kind of stillness practice, some kind of thought/focus exercise that builds the muscle of waking up to what’s going on with me in the moment–especially when it’s not productive–and coming back to my commitments, seeing what’s next from there.

I’m committed to leading from my commitments, and being asleep at the wheel of myself isn’t going to win the day.

This comes up because our Dorrier Underwood team is studying the book, A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman. In it, he builds up to what it takes to be a “self-differentiated leader”…one who can stand apart from the emotional charge of a situation and others around him/her.

I find that I’m wanting a “Field Guide to Self-Differentiation”, or “The How-To Book for Self-Differentiating Leaders”. (Maybe that’s ironic or a symptom of something given “A Failure of Nerve”’s tagline: “Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix”.)

I am asking of myself, “What does that LOOK like?” and “How do I make progress on this?”

Friedman says, “Differentiation is taking maximum responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny rather than blaming others or the context.”

To me, “being taken out” in any moment (like during a team meeting a few weeks ago) is like a big, red, blinking arrow pointing to me *not* being self-differentiated. When that happens, I spent much of the day angry, blaming in every direction, and definitely self-righteous, all the while trying to justify myself.

During that recent team meeting, a possible change in a focus of my role was brought up, unexpectedly. I still can’t quite put my finger on what happened, but somehow, my whole system took that possible change as a total and complete threat. My machinery went into effect…making things up about why the change was being offered as a possibility, what it meant about people’s’ perception of my performance, my value, etc. Of course, the worst case scenarios were the most popular inside my head. Fear and anger took over. I shut down, and I couldn’t get pull myself out of it until the next day.

Oh, so that’s what it’s like to be non-differentiated. Oh, so that’s what it’s like to be someone radically other than who I’m committed to being for my team. Aie yie.

Maybe…just maybe…rather than waiting for someone else to create one, I can be the source of my own field guide?!

As I work with this, here’s what I see my “field guide” could include, on this quest to be able to self-differentiate in the moments I need it most:

  • Meditate daily;
  • Write daily, and keep writing;
  • Possibly talk situations through with someone who can be objective;
  • Exercise 3-5 times/week;
  • And when I have some semblance of myself again, and if it’s still needed, talk with the person I need to talk with…dissolve the triangulation of myself, the other person, and the issue by dissolving the issue through communication.

What would you include?