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In working with leaders in “real life” business, it is very often marked by levels of “unhappiness”, anguish and in many cases total despair in the leaders moving their businesses into new space. This might have been pure survival due to cash flow challenges or decisions on future direction and growth obstacles. One can ration that this is all part of the leader’s journey, but I have been struck by the total reluctance by the self-same leaders to really move into better spaces, even when the possible solutions are “on the table”. What causes this apparent “leadership freeze”?

I have termed this the “happily unhappy” leader, but in reading Marshall Goldsmith’s book Mojo, realized that he has described this phenomenon more elegantly as the Mojo Paradox. In other words, our most common everyday process…the thing we do more often than anything else…is continue to do what we’re already doing. It can be summarized as our default response in life is not to experience happiness and meaning but to continue to experience inertia. Experience has shown that because of the Mojo Paradox the most reliable predictor of future leadership performance is going to be your leadership current performance.

Thomas Plummer is a coach to the fitness industry. In a Facebook post he advised fitness professionals. The mindset of survival that 

keeps you alive in tough times is also what will kill your business during good times. Keeping a struggling business alive during tough markets is a skill that drains the life out of you. Every day you fight for pennies, do the work of many and learn the techniques necessary to keep going when others are failing. This same mindset is also what leads to failure for these owners during good times because they forget how to attack the market and grow the business.  Question your mindset and style. You may be the problem and not the solution you think you are. Most often the thing that got us to where we are is not the thing that will get us to the next place we need to go. Sometimes we get so focused on what we have become good at, that we miss the changes around us. 

It’s easy to get stuck repeating what we’ve always done. When we do we come from a place of weakness rather than strength. 

Inertia can keep us from considering the possibilities. Reintroduce possibilities into your thinking. Survival isn’t enough to give your life to. It’s a self-defeating approach to life. Marshall Goldsmith takes intent one step forward into a leadership in Action mode with the following exercise.  As you go through your day, evaluate every activity on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the highest score, on two simple questions:

1.  How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity?

2.  How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity?

There is no “right” answer.  No one else can answer the questions for you…. it’s your own experience of happiness and meaning.  No need to over-analyze.  Just take a couple of seconds and record your scores.  At the end of the day you will have a chart that tracks your experience of happiness and meaning.

If you do this, you may end up with much more than a score.  This experiment asks you to change how you approach any activity.  You are changing your mindset, and you’re no longer defaulting to inertia.  You’re electing to be more mindful, more alert and more awake.  This is how we can overcome the pernicious effects of inertia, or mindless activity.  This is how we can solve the Mojo Paradox, regain control of our future and create positive change.

Are you willing to become a “happily happy” leader as part of your journey to extraordinary?