14 Apr Just STOP
One commonly reported ‘gift’ of the extended Covid 19 lockdown periods experienced world-wide in 2020 was the permission to STOP the crazy pace of ‘busyness’ most of us had accepted as ‘normal’.
As executive and leadership team coaches, we have had the privilege to co-create space with our clients to reassess ways of working both personally and collectively. This has been a priceless opportunity for senior leaders to actively navigate the impact on stress and productivity levels brought about by these unprecedented times.
Over the past year, I have regularly introduced the STOP model as a resource for senior leaders and their teams. The STOP model is based on the psychological flexibility principles of Gestalt and ACT – both 3rd generation psychotherapies that have been used very successfully in clinical, coaching and organisational settings.
STOP is an empirically-based resource that helps develop resilience through learning to better manage one’s ‘inner critic’. This might be ‘imposter syndrome’, an overly developed need for control or the myriad of assumptions and stories that we tell ourselves, particularly when we are under stress.
Using STOP helps to shift habits of thinking that have been with us for most of our lives yet don’t serve us well, especially when faced with navigating the levels of disruption and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. In fact, ridding ourselves of our inner critic, whilst appealing, is incredibly difficult. This is because at some point in our past, our habits of thinking are ‘stories’ about ourselves that we have we have internalised (that is, believed as undeniable truths) in largely unconscious efforts to protect and care for our fundamental needs to belong, be seen, heard and accepted.
The seemingly counter-intuitive aspect of noticing, rather than actively trying to change unhelpful ways of thinking reflects one of the principles of Gestalt, being the Paradoxical Theory of Change. That is, change occurs when you become aware of who you are, rather than when you try to be what you are not. By becoming aware of and genuinely accepting one’s inner critic as being a natural (but not the ONLY) part of ourselves, we can release our tendency to be hooked by this way of thinking. This creates the space needed to focus on what is most important. Ultimately, we can’t stop or change our thoughts, feelings, sensations, or who we are. What we can do, is to shift our relationship with ourselves.
Written by Kerryn Miller