Engaged or Basic Instincts?

Engagement or basic instincts are two of the more powerful emotions we deal with internally. Are we willing to get engaged with something, or do we want to cover up and protect? The basic instincts are the classic fight or flight responses. The fight or flight desire takes on different roles in the workplace. 

The first response is to strike back at someone or something that you believe is attacking you or your project. Fighting back is a powerful basic instinct. When we are in the fight mode, we are not concerned about long-term consequences, and this feeds that basic instinct. Fighting back feels good in the short-run. The problem with the “fight mode” is it creates long-term relationship issues and can damage a person’s reputation as “difficult” and not a team player. The fight mode is destructive.

The other side of the fight or flight response is the lack of engagement, flight. Many times, our instincts are telling us to get out of a situation as quickly as possible without doing harm or damage to ourselves or our reputation. There could be a project at work where the team is needing additional help, and the person with the right skill set who can help the project succeed refuses to get involved or to volunteer to help because they don’t want to risk failure. The flight mode is destructive. 

The engagement opportunity. Being engaged in what is happening around you can be thrilling, scary, and uncomfortable. There will always be the critic who stands on the sideline and tells a person how they could have done something better or different. The person who chooses to be engaged in life is the one who will make the difference. Here are three elements to being engaged:

  1. It’s not about you – We are self-centered creatures. We look at the world through our fears and thoughts. The person who is engaged stops thinking about himself/herself and starts focusing on other people, situations, or projects. It is incredible what a person can get done when it is not about self. If you want to be successful, help other people succeed.
  2. Bring your best effort – People who are engaged are not “half-hearted” in their approach to life or work. Engaged people are “all in”.   They want to see people, projects, and events be successful. Engaged people bring a focus and effort that stands above the efforts of the average person. Bringing your best raises the bar on performance, and it gets noticed. 
  3. Encourage the heart – Engaged people bring out the best in others. Positive people attract others because they encourage the heart. Not every situation is about outcomes, numbers, or success. Engaged people have the power to attract others to efforts and projects because they have positive “mojo”.   

In every situation, we have a choice to be engaged or to allow our basic instincts to take over. When we allow our basic instincts to take over, we lose out. We miss opportunities to impact and to make a difference. Short-term, we may feel content and safe, but long-term, we have no impact, leave no legacy, and make no lasting difference.