I have shared a lot about my journey with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in recent months, and I feel it is important to share the tools that kept me afloat until my formal diagnosis in February of 2021. I have struggled for so many years with my own emotional awareness, to the point of complete exhaustion. In hindsight, it was my own leadership process that kept me moving forward through some very difficult times.
As I noted in my last blog outlining my journey with TBI: “The Life Saving Process (Emotions and Culture)”, being aware of your emotions leads to better decision making. Better decision-making leads to a better, less stressful life.
It seems like common sense because it is common sense. But it is not common practice. However, when you make people aware of this reality, they understand and begin to practice emotional awareness. When they practice this awareness around emotions, the effect on their decision-making process improves tenfold. When the decision-making process improves tenfold, better decisions are made and life becomes less stressful.
This is a good formula, unless your brain is not allowing you to process the emotions you are working so hard to be aware of so you can make better decisions and create less stress in your life. That was my struggle as I unknowingly suffered with TBI for the better part of 20 years.
My injuries rendered the area of my brain that is responsible for processing emotions dormant. Yet, I understood the importance of recognizing my emotions before I acted because of the deep and intense self-reflection I put myself through after the leaving the SEAL Teams. The dichotomy here is more striking than you can imagine. And, more exhausting than you can imagine.
When we do something repeatedly, like recognizing emotions, it creates a habit, and your brain begins to hardwire itself according to that habit. Eventually, you begin to do these things subconsciously, without even thinking about it, because you have made them a habit.
Subconscious behavior is the reward for working so hard to create good habits. They eventually become intuitive, part of your personality that you don’t even have to think about anymore. Then, this allows you to move on to other behavioral improvements.
Now, imagine working so hard to create a behavior that never gets hardwired in your brain. Then imagine knowing that if you don’t continue the behavior, you will likely send your life into a downward spiral you may not recover from.
This was my life.
All day, every day, thinking about my emotions and how I should act on them. Or, reflecting on how I acted without considering my emotions and then trying to make up for the poor decisions I made. I did this all day, every day, without the benefit of having it become hard wired because the part of my brain that would benefit from this effort wasn’t working.
It was like Groundhogs’ Day, except by the hour. Sometimes by the minute. So, it was more like Groundhogs’ Hour.
The point is that through the years I continued to work this process, despite how exhausting it was, because I knew the alternative was unacceptable. I had faith that someday my work would form a habit that would not drain my emotional and physical energy by the hour.
My persistence paid off when I began treatment to heal my TBI. The improvement and healing my brain experienced between my first and second WAVI scans were of the magnitude my doctor had not seen before. While my results were exciting, it was important to know why I had such a positively dramatic reaction to the protocol.
My doctor asked me about my leadership process. I explained it begins with emotional awareness, then understanding the intuitive reaction based on the emotion, moving towards establishing a desired behavior, then making a plan to execute the desired behavior, and finally having the understanding that this process served to re-wire the brain and that I needed to leave room in my life for some grace should I fall off track.
The doctor asked me how long I personally had been executing this process. I told him nearly 20 years. “That explains it,” he exclaimed.
My doctor surmised that I had so fully conditioned my brain, spirit, body, and mind towards positive behavior that when I was given the needed catalyst (the TBI protocol to heal my injured brain) my entire being responded with a thunderous, positive reaction.
Now the process I just described, which is called The Ice Cold Leader Process, comes as naturally as I hoped it would and no longer exhausts me.
The Ice Cold Leader Process saved my life during a time when my brain injury could have led me down a dark place, to include suicide. In other words, it sustained me during the bad times.
Now, after HEALING my brain, The Leader193 Way propels me during the good times. My life is better today because I now execute The Ice Cold Leader Process at a higher level.
My leadership process saved me and is the same process that continues to propel me today.
More to follow …
Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.