The Choice to Flip

In times of uncertainty and confusion, it can be challenging to be true to your self. You can deal with difficult circumstances in one of two ways:

  1. React to what’s happening as if you have no agency with the people, situations, circumstances around you, or
  2. Pause between the difficulty and your reaction, observe what's happening, center your self, and authentically choose how to respond.

The first response perpetuates problems and self denial -- if it's the only way you know how to handle things.

By choosing the second option, you can make sense of what is going on, anchor more deeply into your true self and creatively engage in better solutions - rather than being at the mercy of events.

The Flip starts with pause

Pausing creates an opening for something different to happen.

It gives you the opportunity to create experiences that are healthier and better than your current challenge.

It takes self-control to pause

Pausing instead of reacting requires noticing habits like:

  • doing too much
  • avoiding discomfort
  • losing your voice
  • stuffing emotions
  • tolerating disrespect.

These behaviors are sometimes described as fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Let's call them triggers.

You'll need enough self-control to notice triggers and pause!

It takes self-awareness to pause

You won't be able to pause if you're not self-aware enough to know that you're being triggered, or have been triggered.

Eventually, you need to give yourself the time and space to realize a trigger has happened. With practice, you can be self-aware enough to pause!

Why are we Flipping again?

It can help to know that a plethora of new possibilities become available when you pause a habit of reacting and make a conscious choice to do something different.

Think of it this way: reacting is usually a habit of losing contact with who you really are, the part of you deep inside that is yearning for something different or more. When you lose contact with yourself, you lose connection with your personal power and your ability to change or influence a situation.

You are flipping so you can navigate uncertainty, and confusion, and difficulty in a way that brings your best to the situation - so better outcomes can happen!

Yes there is a process for Flipping described below which you can jump to if you'd like. If you need a bit more background, here's an example of the Flip.

An Example of the Flip

An example of reacting

Let's say you're a leader who needs other people to understand something. You find yourself in conversation, talking, and explaining, and describing. Before you know it, 25 minutes have gone by in a 30 minute conversation and you've done most of the talking.

You've gotten feedback people are confused, but you're working so hard to explain. You care!

But you're talking so much, you don't feel the underlying anxiety within yourself your talking is covering up. It's uncomfortable to feel that anxiety - so you keep talking and the habit continues.

I know, you probably thought reacting was going to be some big, messy explosion of emotions! But usually, reacting is very subtle.

An example of pausing

If our leader can notice their habit of talking on and on in the moment, they can pause and stop the pattern, get curious about what's happening both inside of them self and about what is going on with others.

Or, if they are not able to notice what's happening in the moment, they can get help from a colleague to flag the behavior.

Rather than simply pushing forward and doing more of the same thing, pausing puts our leader in a position to explore what's really going on, to be more empathic, to show how they care - by listening.

How did our example leader Flip?

The Flip happened when our fearless leader paused and stopped a pattern of anxious talking, and made a choice to more consciously handle the situation.

Our leader shifted from being unconscious to conscious.

The Flip is a shift in behavior

When you Flip, you can shift from behavior that is automatic, unconscious, and habitual to behavior that is more conscious and more effective.

You shift from reacting to the people, situations, and circumstances around you as if it's all inevitable, to connecting to the personal power you have to influence and create change.

Flipping allows you to thoughtfully choose how to respond in a way where you stay true to who you are at your best, while also dealing with the challenge of the situation - where you learn from and improve on what's happening.

What Makes Flipping Tricky

Your nervous system

The tricky part is that when things are challenging or difficult, your autonomic (automatic) nervous system takes control and you slip into unconscious and automatic habits.

You can think of it as your mind being hijacked by your fears.

Making it bad doesn't help

Also, you could be judgmental or annoyed or frustrated that anxiety is arising. Or you could be curious and allow the emotional energy to move.

Making very normal human experiences like anxiety bad or wrong - or trying to make them go away - is another thing that makes Flipping hard.

Of course, if you have something like anxiety arising that feels unmanageable, get help! And with practice and guidance, anxiety can become part of the normal flow of life-force energy and life. Anxiety in a healthy flow of Life energy becomes excitement, or curiosity, or whatever is shifts into.

Meditation does help

Practices like meditation help you to build the capacity to pause and notice unconscious thoughts, feelings, and sensations that drive your behavior.

Meditation develops self-control and self-awareness: the ability to pause and make more effective choices.

In the example described above, meditation would help our leader develop the ability to notice anxiety as it's arising and make a different choice than to keep talking. New possibilities thus become available.

Flipping is a Continuum

Don't make this mistake

One mistake I've made and I've seen clients make over and over - is to think that Flipping is a one time event.

The mistake is to think you'll arrive some day at a utopia free from the normal and difficult aspects of being human. The mistake is to have a goal for there to be "no drama." The mistake is to miss the learning that comes from Drama.

Flipping works your nervous system

As a reminder, you get stuck in reacting when your autonomic nervous system takes control and you slip into unconscious and automatic habits - and this becomes your default way of handling challenges.

There are two modes your autonomic nervous system can be in:

  • reactive: sympathetic (find, fawn, flee, flight), parasympathetic / dorsal vagal (freeze, fold, feign death, fragment)
  • responsive: parasympathetic / ventral vagal (rest and digest)

Flipping is how you can shift between a reactive nervous system mode and a responsive mode.

So you can build resilience and willpower

The process of shifting between reactive and responsive states, as described in this article, has been shown by science to increase heart rate variability which according to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct, is a measure of the body’s reserve of willpower – a physiological measure of your capacity for self-control.  

With a continuum of Flipping, you will develop your willpower and your capacity to be resilient and flexible in challenging times.

Achieving the highest levels of performance

Think about how reactive the people are in your place of work. Over reliance on reactive behavior limits you and everyone else to maintaining the status quo and stagnating performance.

The alternative, with ongoing Flipping, is a shift from reacting to responding to collective and conscious creation at the highest levels of performance.

Flipping is Foundational to True Self Leadership

Take a stand for your Best Self

Flipping is a skill that you can learn, that is necessary for staying true to your self in challenging times.

Flipping is foundational to True Self Leadership: the ability to bring your Best Self to the most difficult situations you can imagine.

Learn from Drama

We affectionately call the challenges to your Best Self - Drama (like the anxiety of our example leader above).

True Self Leaders lead from their Best Selves, acting from their passion and authenticity, wielding the healthy power of Love...

And they learn from experiences of Drama.

The True Self Graphic - visualize Flipping!

We use visuals with IAMX to help you understand the territories we're navigating.

The True Self Leadership graphic shown here might help you experience Flipping as shifting between the Best Self and Drama aspects of yourself.

A Process: The Flip in Conversation

The Flip becomes especially powerful when it can change how you show up in conversation with another person.

Preparation starts before you start talking, with a centering practice of some sort (like meditation) that allows you to show up clear, confident, and courageous at your best, already having learned from Drama.

In other words, showing up blaming or negotiating for scarce resources or ideas or vying for position are not at play.

You will show up ready to be creative together with another person or people, generating solutions that are not possible alone.

The process includes preparation:

Be radically honest about Drama

Notice that Drama is happening. Pause. Breathe. Relax.

Do not beat yourself up about what’s happening.

Spend as little time as you can in denial, avoidance, and reacting. Stay in Drama for as long as it’s useful and no more.

Decide to be conscious and empowered
  • know you have a choice to be open and curious about what’s happening (unless you're in freeze in which case please get help),
  • know that deep down your “Best Self” identity is who you really are,
  • be aware of both your Best Self and Drama in a neutral way,
  • focus from the energy of your Best Self and let Drama inform you,
  • create a story that it’s safe to be curious about Drama and learn,
  • take inspired action from your Best Self – when it’s the right time to act.
Engage with YOURSELF in reflection
  • Ask yourself what you really, really want.  The question: “What is this Drama telling me about what I want or need?” is useful.
  • Get help clarifying what you want and how Drama is useful and appropriate. Most people need help extricating themselves from Drama triggers and patterns.

After preparation, the conversation:

Engage in conversation
  • Hold on to what you want knowing that somehow, you’ll get what you want or something better and let go of attachment to how that will happen.
  • Be curious, inquire, and listen. Open your mind, heart, and will with others and explore.
  • Pay attention to your need to be right, have the answers, and/or control the situation. Let yourself experience feeling uncomfortable, confused, and out of control!
  • Pay attention to either/or dynamics, where either you get what you want, or others get what they want. This is an indicator of scarcity dynamics.
  • Share what you want if or when it feels right, when there is space.

The process of Flipping in conversation gets easier over time. With practice, you'll be able to prepare fairly quickly, even in a moment.

Flip Resources

If you'd like to learn more about how to navigate the Best and Drama aspects of your True Self using the Flip, explore these resources:

As you practice the Flip between Drama and Best Self aspects, you will become more and more identified with who you are at your best, building your capacity to lead and contribute to a better world.

It will become easier and easier to imagine what it would be like to show up fully engaged, at your Best Self every day.  

You will develop the skills to cultivate the culture and systems of your organization to support everyone being their Best Selves.