No, you don’t have to go to your room, and yes, you can still see your friends (it’s been a long time since this sentence was handed down to me, but I assume the age-old punishment still works in a somewhat similar way? Maybe with the exception that at the time of my coming-of-age, I didn’t have any technology to take away – no cell phone, no laptop, no tv). The kind of grounding I’m talking about is less literal and a little more nuanced.
Have you ever felt anxious? Less than confident? Off balance? I have. During a season in my life, I began to notice that many times when I was in a social situation, I would leave and spend the rest of the night tossing and turning in my bed, picking back through every conversation, every interaction I’d had and wonder: did I say anything to upset or hurt anyone? Was I misunderstood? What had my questions and statements been motivated by?
More often than not I would find something I had said that, maybe had I typed out a script ahead of time, I would have chosen to edit. But that’s not a luxury of live conversation. Live conversations are improv. We think and respond real-time. And during those beautifully unscripted scenes we’re motivated by all types of things: fear, pressure, passion, a desire to connect, a need to appear good/smart/right/worthy/kind/generous/witty…
In the world of leadership development, when we talk about grounding, we’re talking about centering, anchoring. This can be mental, physical, and/or emotional. A poem, a breathing exercise, a mantra, an intention, a walk in the woods, a yoga class: these examples and many more can all serve as catalysts for grounding.
You might be thinking: got it, but what’s the point of getting grounded? How can it help with mild social anxiety? Or fear? Or issues around confidence? After resolving to pay closer attention to what was going on for me, and turning those tossing-and-turning nights into some very long, curious journal entries, I began to notice a pattern. What I realized was that at times, I spoke or acted out of emotions that found me at less-than my best.
At my best, I’m full of love. Brimming over with openness and curiosity and confidence and acceptance and playfulness. But I’m not always at my best: sometimes I’m nervous, or feel out of place, or am just plain tired and not thinking clearly. And at those times, I don’t make my best choices about what to say or how to say it.
And that’s where grounding comes in. Once I made this realization, I made a decision. If I’m at my best when I’m full of love – for the world and the people around me – then I’ll make a conscious choice to ground myself in love. Meaning: when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is set an intention in service to this. Before I go into a meeting, I stop and re-center myself on this. When I find myself unconsciously walking the path of harshly debriefing any/everything I said in a social situation I’ll ask myself: were you grounded in love? If the answer is yes, I have nothing to regret.
So, think about this: when are you at your best? If you could get grounded in your best, what would it look like? What new practices might you try that will serve you in living more aligned with this best self?
Good luck walking this path and asking the tough questions. I believe in you and your brilliance. And, don’t forget: you’re grounded!