If you’ve become aware of a behavioral trend in your own life, a pattern of behavior, or suspect you may be on a path of decay that will leave you ultimately somewhere you know you shouldn’t be, then there are a few things you can do.

Quantify the cost

One of the ways we allow destructive behaviors to endure so long is because the fail to quantify the cost. As long as the cost is mostly ambiguous, without form, without edges, and hard to really define, then it’s far easier to justify and rationalize. But when you take time to actually quantify the cost of your behavior… the cost on you, the cost on others, the cost on your future, the cost on your present, etc… then you’ll accelerate the journey to crystallized discontent.

Cost quantification is an effective strategy to help you truly recognize the damage being done.

Keep Score

One of the core 16 Elements, once you figure out the costs, choose to keep score of the damage you do every time you do it. Put it in terms that you care about. Putting a score (positioned as cost) to that behavior, trains your mind to focus not on the behavior, but the outcomes of the behavior.

Describe the destination

It’s easy for us to think only of the present. We’re not good at thinking of the future, and plenty of literature has documented this. This leads to an inability to adequately understand the impact of our behaviors on our future. It’s helpful then, to simply ask yourself “where will this road take me? What will that look like?”

Make that description vivid, even though it’s painful, that’s the point. The more you can assess and describe, in unrelenting detail what that world will look like, the ultimate and inevitable outcome of the road you’re on, the more you’re likely to reach a state of crystallized discontent, fueling the desire to change.

Sometimes it’s easy for us to see our children wandering down a destructive path and want to simply jump in and force them to change directions.

There might be times when this is necessary, for sure, but the tendency to always do this can often serve to embattle our kids against us and entrench them in an idea that they have no agency, that we don’t understand, and the result is a constant combative response, where they’re always taking a defensive posture against us. What’s more, we fail to teach them the life skills necessary for them to learn how to self-correct.

You can help your kids self-correct their path by manufacturing the crystallization of discontent with the following approaches.

1. Visibility into the end-state – Help them recognize the outcome of the path they’re on. The more you can get them to see what this is themselves, and describe it themselves, without flat-out telling them, the more impactful this will be on curbing their behavior.

2. Visibility into an alternate, more desirable outcome – The more clear the alternative, the more undesirable their current state is. It’s hard to make a current state seem undesirable when there’s no clear alternative.

3. Clarity of the way forward – when the way forward is clear, the destination feels within reach. It feels like it’s not just a more desirable outcome, but something obtainable. When a more desirable outcome feels both clear and obtainable, it’s a lot harder to go back to “the way things are”.

4. Inviting them forward – it sounds strange, because it’s so simple, but often all we’re waiting for is an invitation… an invitation to change, to wake up, to do something different. Sometimes simply inviting them to do something different, to take a higher road can be the final catalyst they needed.

There are leadership implications already captured in the “For Parents” section, which apply to how you, as a leader and influencer, can help accelerate the crystallization of discontent in others to catalyze change and fuel movement toward a more desirable destination.

But there’s another implication here, about leading a movement.

As a leader it’s up to you to activate the energy in those around you toward a cause. To do this, you need to crystallize the collective discontent about how things are today.

Every movement needs a torchbearer… someone who can see the end state so clearly, and who themselves relentlessly refuse to settle for less. It needs someone who can use language, narrative, story, data, and passion to galvanize that same resolve in others.

As a leader, get crystal clear on where you are going and why it’s worth it to get there.

Don’t let that vision dim. Make it a core driver for you. Know what that destination looks like and get good about painting that vision for others. Tell stories about what it’ll be like when you get there. Do whatever you can to make the destination seem clear. The clearer that destination is, and what it will feel like when you’re there, then the more discontent you’ll breed about where you are.

Those around you will naturally seek to do what they can do to make that journey possible.

Then get crystal clear on the gap.

The ability to perceive the gap between here and there is what will allow you to steer other people’s behaviors toward that destination. The ability to see things that stand in the way, to see the obstacles, and describe those obstacles will allow you to navigate around them. When people begin to see how their behaviors or beliefs are obstacles to that destination that you’ve sold them on, then you’ll crystallize their discontent with those things and they’ll want to change them.

A relentless refusal to allow anything to lastingly stand in the way between where you are and where you are going becomes contagious. It puts obstacles in perspective, because otherwise we tend to obsess over them, until all we see is what stands in our way, instead of what lies on the other side.

As a leader it’s up to you to be the torchbearer.

Learn how to accelerate and manufacture the crystallization of discontent… because every movement needs the emotional fuel that only comes when the group collectively concludes that “enough is enough”!

For customers you need to become adept at identifying and articulating the costs of your customer’s behaviors or their current situation, and how your product and/or service can eliminate those costs. They need to be able to understand that the pain of same is greater than the pain of change. You need to find out what those are, study them, write about them, quantify them, and create a narrative for them. The better you can quantify the cost of not using your product, the more you’ll be crystallizing their discontent with how things are, creating the emotional justification to purchase the product and solve for that pain.

But there’s also application here for your employees.

Your employees are also on a journey within your organization. And some of your employees will be in a state at, or nearing the crystallization of discontent.

In an employee this is a near unrecoverable emotional state, and the point in time where toxic behaviors begin to take place. This is because what they want is change, change and justification of their anger. They want their discontent to be a shared experience and will begin to seek others who feel the same.

They will act as an aggregator for this sentiment, will create and provide opportunities for this sentiment to be shared. They’ll nurture it, cultivate it, feed it, and watch it grow.

Because they’re trying to create a movement, a movement to change something.

They become a catalyst for discontent in others. And it begins to spread. This is how organizational systems develop “wobble” as the mass around a new “tribe” begins to form and grow like a cancer until it robs the host of its resources and creates a gravitational pull of its own.

Being able to identify employees who have reached the crystallization of discontent is important. You should keep them at your own risk. But know that eliminating an employee who has reached the crystallization of discontent solves only one of the problems. The other problem is what led them into that state to begin with. Before just removing that employee (if that ends up being the right thing to do), you need to understand what got them there, because as toxic as they are, it could be that they’re right. Because an employee can be toxic, and right at the same time.

Understanding the organizational triggers of that discontent, and how that state of emotional decay became possible, is an important form of employee feedback that can inform your efforts to evolve (people, systems, and processes) to prevent it from happening in the future.

Aside from what was mentioned above, knowing that change blindness exists (having likely fallen for it yourself in watching the video), and seeing just how pervasive and detrimental it can be in your life, then you should choose to take action.


Create an identity statement and review it daily


This will help train your brain on who you want to become. Your reticular activating system will then work to assimilate information that confirms that perspective (assimilation bias), and it will seek evidence to confirm that belief about yourself (confirmation bias). Additionally, as your day progresses, things happening that don’t align to that belief or narrative you are cultivating about yourself, will surface to your radar so you can act accordingly.


Create a strong value system


This will help train your brain to recognize threats before they get too close or cause too much damage. It prevents us from “waking up”, “all-of-a-sudden” having to play defense on the 1 yard line.

Write down your purpose statement and objectives, review daily


This will help you be aware of things happening throughout the day that may threaten to take you off course, even if just a little, so that you can make active, conscious decisions about them. It’s one of the ways you become more conscious about how (and what) you say “yes” and “no” to things as they surface in your day.


Keep score of what matters most


Identify the things in your life that you care the most about, and make sure you have a way of keeping score. It’ll help you teach your brain to recognize changes in that thing (like counting passes), but it also serves as an early warning system when undesired changes start happening, and before they get too far.

Help your kids understand change blindness. Show them the video (even really young ones think it’s fun). It’s fantastic to start teaching your kids knowledge of things like this, so that at a young age they start to recognize why we do the things we do.

Talk to them about the things they care most about, and help them build that muscle… the ability to recognize what things matter, and what things don’t. Then help them put in place ways to keep score (and pay more attention) to those things that matter most.

This could be things like their academic health, their spiritual health, social health, and emotional health.

Help them recognize the principle of entropy, and ask them how they think that might be impacting their lives, and what they can can do about it.

Perhaps most importantly, recognize that change blindness will be happening in their lives, and especially to an untrained mind, this can be very detrimental (to grades, to relationships, and to their own health metrics).

Recognize also that the health of your own relationship with your kids may be suffering from entropy that you’re not even aware of. Or they may be suffering in ways that you’re not aware of, because these changes are happening slowly, over time, and we tend to not recognize them until “all of a sudden” there’s some sort of behavioral trigger that forces it into our consciousness.

Don’t wait for that. Pay attention. Be aware. Be sensitive. It’s much easier to change a deviation early, than later, because of our own inability to perceive it.

Change blindness often impacts leaders, because you’re so busy focusing on other things (like counting passes, or measuring performance, or business outcomes) and core things may be changing without you ever being aware.

This will especially happen with employee engagement and employee satisfaction. Employees will start to send signals when they begin to become disengaged or dissatisfied, but we tend to not recognize those signals until they’re so pronounced that it’s often too late for us to do anything about.

The begin to travel a path of emotional distancing, which is mostly what we tend to not perceive. But that simple path of emotional distancing leads to a stage of galvanizing resolve and ultimately, the crystallization of discontent, where they become toxic to the team, and to the organization, and keeping them (let alone influencing them) becomes all but impossible.

Leaders need to train themselves to pay attention to the little things. The little indications… indications of disengagement, or even indications of growth and progress.

When you notice the little things, you can react quickly and nudge them in the right direction.

If your reaction to this is that you don’t have enough time to pay attention to that level of detail, then perhaps you need to consider delegating, or saying no to some things so that you have some more time for the people, because, after all, it’s the people that matter most.

The 1:1 is a good time to do this. When a manager meets with a team member one on one (we recommend weekly, but bi-weekly can do in a pinch). During that time, force yourself to not just focus on the big-picture objectives, and progress, but the little indicators. It’s by noticing the little things that the big things can be better controlled.

You can also use tools, like engagement metrics or performance metrics or satisfaction scores to keep track of your employees overall level of emotional well-being.

The same is true in this lens as in the leadership lens. It’s been said that businesses don’t create value, people do. So learning to pay closer attention to our people, through a better use of people metrics can help provide you the information you need to take action quickly.

This could be something like the eNPS (the employee net promoter score), or a better system for frequent feedback, measuring engagement, etc.

But you also want to be paying attention to how change blindness might be impacting your business. Is something happening in the market that you might be missing? Is something happening with a competitor? Is something happening with your customers?

Put into place clear discovery processes and scorekeeping process to both identify and track what matters most. This could be things like ongoing customer satisfaction scorekeeping (like NPS), or an ongoing customer needs analysis (often a function of product management or product marketing), or an ongoing assessment product-market fit (sometimes even a sales function), and then developing frequent feedback processes where changes in these things surface early and often.

This can go a long way to prevent things like functional obsolescent of your product or service, or to prevent too much decay in the things that matter most to your business.

Understanding the existence and impact of contextual myopia, and how it can often create barriers between you and those you are trying to influence, or barriers to your ability to progress, is the first step.

The best defense against contextual myopia is humility. If you cultivate a healthy respect for others, and a harbor a healthy degree of self-doubt, you’ll naturally always seek a more informed position before acting or judging.

Over time you begin to build an instinct, a habit of seeking first to understand. It’s a muscle that develops until it becomes an automated response.

In the meantime, focus on assuming an attitude of “I might not adequately understand” and force yourself to seek that understanding. Ask questions. Get feedback. And try to fully unload your current context, so that the new context you’re trying to mentally simulate isn’t unduly influenced by the rubble and remnants of the context you’re currently in. Otherwise, you’ll suffer from assimilation bias, and your efforts to understand will be entirely unsuccessful.

To truly understand someone else’s position, you first have to “forget” your own.

This is an especially difficult situation for parents, because even when you recognize your contextual myopia, you feel like you are representing a much more informed position. After all, now you have the experience, knowledge, and understanding, and can see the shortcomings of a child’s perspective.

But this isn’t about who is right and who is wrong, it’s about making sure that we govern and behave with empathy, so that we can truly influence.

When you consciously and deliberately force yourself back into their shoes, then you’re suddenly more capable of finding either an acceptable middle-ground, or finding a non-threatening path that will help them get from here to there.

It’s when we act in ignorance of their context that we sow the seeds of rebellion and build barricades of emotional inaccessibility. When they think “you don’t understand” the default conclusion is “therefore what you’re saying is wrong”.

When you take that “you don’t understand” away, and thoroughly and convincingly (and authentically) represent that you do, you take away the foundation of that resistance.

You’re able to represent a position that they can now see, because you’ve taken the time to communicate it from a shared foundation (of their context). You also build trust, because your kids know that you govern out of love and respect, actively empathizing with them.

It’s funny, because as parents it’s often easy to forget that our kids will grow up and hold us accountable for our behaviors.

We become blind to the context of “I’m the boss, I’m the parent, and you’re place is to obey”, we adopt the “because I said so” mentality instead of recognizing that these human beings deserve our utmost respect, and great care must be taken, that this is a temporary stewardship that we will ultimately be held accountable for.

Conscientiously stepping out of the “I’m the boss” mode, and into the “I’m a friend who has seen this path, and now want to guide you in love to the best possible outcome” is what leads to a better way to govern our homes.

Leaders have to actively remember that the context they see most clearly is the one they’re currently in, and as such, their decisions are going to be disproportionately impacted by that perspective. But healthier choices, and healthier relationships, stem from seeking first to understand.

If you have relationships with those under your stewardship that are suffering, you may want to examine your behaviors under the lens of contextual myopia. It very well could be that they’ve become intrenched in the “you don’t get it” mindset, and you’ve created some emotional distance that will need to be bridged for you to be able to actively influence them again.

When those under your stewardship sense that you have the ability to actively empathize with their position, and represent that position to others, you gain their trust, you win their respect, and with it comes a more frictionless leadership experience, where they’re willing to follow you and work for you because they know you care, and you’ve connected with them on an emotional level.

The Employee Experience


It’s important to understand this principle will likely impact your organization in a few ways.

First, bosses are likely to suffer from this the most. In your leadership development efforts, help them learn the value of empathy. Show them the importance of seeking first to understand. Help them recognize that the best decisions and employee relationships come from a foundation fully informed by every available perspective. It’s been said famously that people don’t leave organizations, they leave bosses. Increasing leadership empathy is one of the single greatest ways you can increase the employee experience, fuel engagement, increase employee satisfaction, reduce employee turnover, and increase tenure and employee performance and productivity.


The Customer Experience


It’s also important to know that there are lots of business decisions that are made out of contextual myopia. It very well may be plaguing some of your customer processes, policies, and procedures, and leading to a sub-optimal customer experience.

Take the time to create a customer journey map, and pay attention to the customer experience (from their context).

So often we see the customer experience deteriorate under the barrage of this bias of contextual myopia, where organizational functions and decisions are primarily optimized to make things easier for the employer, and not better for the customer.

Market Awareness and External Indicators


It pays to remember that contextual myopia often serves to insulate our awareness against the market indicators that might suggest the need to adapt, evolve, or even pivot.

It’s been said famously that we should fall in love with a problem, and not a solution. Kodak is a good example of this… they fell in love with their solution… an instant-print camera, and missed the whole digital camera opportunity (or were really late to the game). It’s a form of contextual myopia that causes us to obsess over the solutions we’ve already invented, and we fail to see when those solutions become functionally (or in other ways) obsolete.

We fail to see a competitor increasing their level of threat, or a change in the market, or in the buying process, or an opportunity because we’re blinded by our current context (usually “how we currently solve this problem”).

An organization is benefited greatly by identifying those employees with a penchant for empathy, an innate ability to understand others as a primary soft-skill, and then giving them adequate opportunity to influence the organization.

It’s this diversity of thinking that helps our organizations adapt and evolve in an increasingly fast-moving market.


Diversity and Inclusion


Finally, it’s contextual myopia that is one of the driving reasons for ensuring our leadership and decision-making teams enjoy adequate diversity. You’re essentially working to manufacture a scenario where as many contexts as possible can be represented.

It’s a powerful tool to running a healthy, adaptive organization.

The pertinent questions are


  • What am I undervaluing in my behavior, because of a perceived abundance of supply?
  • Where can I impose scarcity, to create a healthy increase in perceived value?

There are so many applications of this, and you’ll likely come up with those that are best for you, but here are a few to get you thinking.


Be deliberate


Knowing this propensity we have to devalue things we have in apparent abundance, we need to be deliberate about what we invest in (our time, our money, our attention, our efforts), to be sure that investment allocation matches actual value, not perceived value.

That requires being a little bit more deliberate about designating the things we care the most about (we call these “critical contexts”), and creating a plan for those context which insures they evolve in careful, deliberate ways.

One of the most important of which is the urgency we all have to find and fulfill our mission. It’s easy to put it off. To “figure it out later”. To make the change next year. A lifetime can slip away and the world needs the magic that is in you. Make it happen, and start today.

Say no


One of the best ways to leverage scarcity is to get comfortable saying no. We don’t have to be held hostage to the barrage of requests that we get every day. There’s a bestselling business book that was written recently called Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less.

In it, author Greg Mckeown talks about how we often get held back from delivering our highest contribution because we just constantly take on more. We take on more and more and more until we’re trying to do so many things that we can’t do anything well. In business, this is called “The suck threshold”. Where over enough time, the value you add starts to “suck”, not because you’re not doing enough, but because you’re trying to do too much.

Learn to say no, and learn to be comfortable (and graceful) doing it. It takes practice, but the practice is good for you.

When you start to say no to more things, the things you say yes to become much more meaningful. That’s when you can truly start to focus in.

In order to pursue excellence as individuals, we have to create space. The only way to create space is to start saying no.

The pertinent questions are


  • What am I undervaluing in my behavior, because of a perceived abundance of supply?
  • Where can I impose scarcity, to create a healthy increase in perceived value?

There are so many applications of this, and you’ll likely come up with those that are best for you, but here are a few to get you thinking.


Let them be little


The most obvious application is just this… your kids won’t be kids for very long. It’s a terribly sad thought, but one day you will put them down, and never pick them back up again. The “can you play with me” will stop. The opportunity to create memories, to influence them, to hold them, to enjoy their profound sense of wonder and awe and amazement at new things… it all goes away.

It’s just so easy for us to assume abundance… that they’ll always be there, because from day to day, that’s where they are. But imposing the perspective of scarcity can substantially change our behavior, and in ways that are hugely healthy both for them, and for us.


Screen time


Technology is wonderful. But there’s a propensity to devalue it, and to not recognize the overwhelming impact it has on us. There’s value in imposing scarcity on screen time for our kids. It helps them appreciate what is there when they use it, and it helps them appreciate all the other amazing things in life as well.

There’s so many other applications than just screen time, but it’s perhaps the most timely illustration. The same is true though for games, television, and even time with friends. When we force moderation in all things, we increase the health of everything.

The pertinent questions are


  • What am I undervaluing in my behavior, because of a perceived abundance of supply?
  • Where can I impose scarcity, to create a healthy increase in perceived value?

There are so many applications of this, and you’ll likely come up with those that are best for you, but here are a few to get you thinking.


As a leader, increase respect and influence by imposing scarcity on your time

Leaders who work closely with teams often find that their constant availability and presence in and amongst their teams can create a tremendous camaraderie, a sense of “being in the trenches” that builds respect. To a point. But then, all of a sudden that familiarity “breeds contempt”. Their presence and availability is taken for granted. And all-too-soon, the leaders input and time actually decreases in perceived value, even to the point where it can harm the respect they have for you. Their familiarity makes you seem too human, too similar to them, and in our leaders, we like to feel like they are slightly outside of our reach. Creating distance by being unavailable can help them wake up to the value you bring, and make them regain an appreciation for the time you’ve spent together, even longing for that again.

Improve meeting quality, and decrease meeting time, by making them scarce.

We all know how easy it is for meetings to get out of hand. Because there’s no (or little) barrier to setting up a meeting, and because they’re viewed as an unlimited resource, we tend to take them for granted. We come unprepared, we don’t optimize that time, wasting much of it in idle chatter or unfocused discussion, after all, we can always hold another one. But by imposing some scarcity on meetings, by having only certain times of day, or certain days of the week, or only a certain frequency during the week, it manufactures a newfound respect for that time, because now it’s scarce. All of a sudden we realize that we need to be prepared, we need to be focused, and we need to make the most of it.

Reduce email volume by imposing scarcity on your replies.

Email can quickly sabotage the best of us by it’s sheer volume alone. What’s more, the more attentive we are to our email, the more out of hand it tends to get. When people realize that you “always read and answer your email”, sometimes very quickly, then they begin to take advantage of that channel for communication. It feels like there’s an “unlimited supply” of your attention when communication happens through email. And without constraints on that supply, the channel gets taken advantage of, and volume increases. But by imposing a little scarcity (or a lot, as the case may be) on how many emails you answer, or how often you answer them, suddenly people become more deliberate and thoughtful and selective about what they send you by email, and simply by reducing how much you use that channel (supply), you increase the perceived value of when you do reply, and put natural constraints on demand (how many emails are sent to you).

Create scarcity in project requests to improve a team’s internal reputation.

When anyone can make a recommendation from a team to produce work, and all the work is expected to be complete, suddenly an overwhelmed department can begin to build a negative internal reputation. But under the same circumstances, a team can benefit greatly by communicating limits to supply (how much work that team can reasonably produce in a period of time) and by imposing scarcity on how many requests can be made. Suddenly that team can begin to radically transform its internally perceived value. This is why engineering teams determine a certain number of “story points” (a somewhat random ascription of how much work can be done) to a given sprint (a given period of time). Now a product manager, whose job it is to introduce stories to a sprint now has to be very selective. That scarcity makes the product manager appreciate more the work that is done and the value of the time spent doing it, and makes them more attentive to the work they choose to prioritize for a sprint.

The pertinent questions are


  • What am I undervaluing in my behavior, because of a perceived abundance of supply?
  • Where can I impose scarcity, to create a healthy increase in perceived value?

There are so many applications of this, and you’ll likely come up with those that are best for you, but here are a few to get you thinking.


Reduce financial waste by imposing scarcity on budget.

It sounds bizarre to many of us, but the lack of oversight and control that sometimes surrounds corporate spend or credit card use can create huge amounts of financial waste. Unregulated expenses create a feeling that “there’s always money to spend”, and so money just gets spent.

But by imposing scarcity on budget, or by imposing rules on how that budget is accounted for, or by imposing a little pain on spending money (creating a non-financial cost in the form of an expense report) suddenly makes us more aware of the money we’re spending. Without scarcity, there’s no perception of its value.

Increase the market-value of your product by limiting supply

Apple does this exceptionally well. When it releases an update to one of it’s products, or a whole new product altogether, it does two things in concert with each other. On the one hand, it’s marketing engines kick into hyper-drive, building demand. On the other hand, it limits supply of that product during the first few months on the market. This one-two punch ends up creating a frenzy in the market that increases the perceived value of the product beyond what it would be with just marketing alone. We tend to interpret the unavailability of something to mean it’s in high demand, and that scarcity makes us value it even more.

The people who are most successful in life tend to be the people who are relentless about understanding their own unique talents, falling in love with those gifts, and going all-in on them.

This has been captured in a number of books, but two of my most favorite are written by Marcus Buckingham. The first is called “First, break all the rules”, and the second “Now, discover your strengths”. You can learn more about them in the Life Engineering Library by clicking on those links. Between the two of them he really teaches how to break away from the propensity to conform to the status quo, and instead, hone in on the things you are specifically good at.


Relax and keep going


First and foremost, simply knowing about imposter syndrome gives you power. It gives you power to recognize that this feeling you have, when you have it, is totally natural, is felt by everybody, and is totally false.

Once you recognize the deceit under the surface of those emotions, you can courageously and refreshingly ignore them. Just shove them out of your consciousness with a knowing “yup, I know what that is, and I aint failing for it.”

Now you can move on, and keep pushing forward.

Focus on your strengths


Because you’re most likely to feel imposter syndrome about the things that you’re actually best at, for all the reasons described above, those feelings should actually be a leading indicator that you’re on the right track!

The key is to know your talents. Know your strengths. Fall in love with them. Go all-in on them. And when you feel imposter syndrome settling in, as it will, again and again, let it be confirmation that you’re probably on the right track.

And if you haven’t yet truly identified your strengths, and are still wondering what you are specifically good at, you need to get yourself a copy of the Gallup StrenthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath, and go take the test. It’s a several-decades-old model that is the industry standard in finding out what your unique strengths profile is.

It’s a beautiful way of building up your identity, and ensuring alignment between your identity and your objective (and even choosing an objective to begin with).

As a parent, you’re likely to feel imposter syndrome all the time. That’s because you are continuously faced with new circumstances that challenge you, and your propensity at any give time will be to feel like you’re not good enough, like you’re not adequately equipped for what you’ve been given. It’s false.

You made it here, and you’ll make it through. Focus on your strengths, and lead with love.

More difficult, perhaps, is that like you, your children will be faced with imposter syndrome. They’ll go to school and compare themselves to friends and peers, and they’ll feel like they just don’t measure up. Because they are digital natives, they’ll be more prone to spend time on social media, and will be deeply influenced by the unrealistic comparisons they’ll make there.

This sense of imposter syndrome can be paralyzing to a child who lacks the emotional maturity and knowledge to recognize it for what it is, and who lacks the history of success and other evidence that an adult my otherwise draw on to combat it. It can lead to intense feelings of depression and low self-worth.

You can learn to recognize imposter syndrome in your kids. Look for things they say that might indicate “comparative processing”.

Look for behaviors that might suggest a sudden (or sometimes not so sudden) drop in confidence. They may start using words that describe themselves as being less, or language that is otherwise self-demeaning.

If you recognize that you may have a child stuck in a cycle of imposter syndrome, teach them what it is. Knowledge gives us power. Even knowing the name for something, and especially knowing that everybody feels it, can go a long way to helping them recognize that this is normal.

Most importantly, focus on their strengths. Learn to see (and learn to be the first to see) the magic in your kids. Focus on it, dwell on it, celebrate it, talk about it, and encourage them in every opportunity to develop it. The more they see you recognizing their strengths, and the more they start to see evidence of those strengths, the more ammunition they have to mitigate feelings of imposter syndrome when they happen.

You can even get the book and have them take the included StrengthsFinder assessment. A formalized recognition of their skills is as valuable as just knowing what they are. In a recent study, college freshmen who took the assessment were 50% more likely to graduate.

As a leader, you will often find employees, or those within your influence who, under a new assignment, or just in life, are starting to suffer from imposter syndrome.

This often shows up with evidence of black-boxing behavior. Where they try to shut you out from gaining visibility into their performance, or what they are doing or how they are doing it. There’s a (sometimes very sharp) reluctance to be measured or examined or to face feedback. They will try to create boundaries, and defend those boundaries to decrease visibility, under the fear that they may be found out.

It’s especially important in these situations to help them recognize that error and even failure are an important part of business, as well as personal and professional development. Help them know that you are playing a long-game, and not a short-game. That you’re more interested in building long-term competency and perfecting imperfect processes and activities, and that imperfection is an expectation. Help them recognize that what you really care about is helping them become better, which is a warm embrace to the idea that you know they aren’t perfect.

By doing so, you remove the fear of reprisal, and break down the anticipation of disappointment.

Most importantly, when you find someone in this category, focus on their strengths. Help them recognize the magic you see within them, and how that magic uniquely qualifies them for the work you’ve asked them to do, and how that magic is more important to the outcome you’re seeking than any deficiency they might have.

When you do this, you will win not only their performance, as they open themselves up to tutoring and feedback, but you will win their love and loyalty as well.

And of course, I highly recommend you have your employees read the book and take the (free, included) StrengthsFinder assessment.

Imposter syndrome can be crippling in an organization, especially one that is growing fast. It can run rampant in new managers and cause them to behave in ways that become culturally toxic, and can create a heavy tax on employee satisfaction and engagement.

Worse, the black-boxing byproduct of imposter syndrome can blind an organization to the very data and feedback it needs to pivot, evolve, and adapt in such a fast-moving economy, where the nimble and fluid survive.

It’s important to build up “cultural allowances” around failure. The greater the fear of failure, the more likely your organization will be to suffer from imposter syndrome and it’s unhealthy manifestations.

It’s not that you should stop holding people accountable, but it’s how they’re held accountable that matters.

Insofar as the ultimate organizational objective is to evolve and improve over time, and that objective is clearly and repeatedly articulated in both words and behavior, then you can prevent a lot of those symptoms from ever happening.

Make feedback core to culture. Invest in it. Creating a culture of openness, all the way to the top, will create feelings of psychological safety, which (according to Google’s latest research) is the primary driver of high-performing teams.

Just knowing about the Emotional Hype Cycle gives you power. It gives you power to predict that your energy will expire, so that you can put systems and processes in place to refuel so that you can keep going.

One of the primary principles of the Escape Velocity system is to anticipate this inevitable upcoming energy drop, and to establish emotional supply lines of the critical 16 Elements of Engagement before that happens. After all, it’s the ability to sustain energy toward our initiative that is one of the principle differences from those who end up successful, making a meaningful and measurable difference, from those who just coast through life where they are, and succumb to all the natural energy cycles inherent to humanity.

So your first step, after you experience a personal launch event, where you get crystal clarity over where you’re going and feel the energy and thrust to get moving, is to learn the Escape Velocity framework, and put in place your energy plan so you can maintain momentum when everybody else (including you, before now) might have quit.

What’s more, knowledge of this principle gives you perspective so that if you do find yourself in a moment of low energy, where you’re tempted to give up and throw in the towel, you can recognize that this state too is temporary. You’ll know that this feeling is just part of the journey.

In truth, in some way’s it maybe even the best part, because from here, comes the slope of enlightenment. From here is where you begin to differentiate. Because here is when most people quit. But not you. From this moment on, you’re different, you’re still moving forward.

And yes, the slope may still be long, but every step you take from here on out is one step someone else is not taking, and that someone else may have been the former you.

So when you find yourself in the trough of disillusionment, recognize it for what it is… a temporary, yet critical part of a very important journey. A turning point. Because from here, you’re going up.

So keep going.

Apart from the individual application mentioned on the prior lens, it’s hugely beneficial to understand this cycle and to be able to properly diagnose where each of your children are on it.

Think for a moment where each of your kids are at on this emotional journey.

If they are at the start of something new, you can anticipate the upcoming peak of inflated expectations, or maybe if they’re already there, you can help them moderate accordingly. By reducing the height of the peak, you also reduce the strength of the crash that comes after.

Of course, you don’t want to come across as a killjoy. You want to celebrate and participate in those high-energy states with them. It turns out our memories are disproportionately influenced by those states because they have strong emotional markers attached to them, increasing their status in our long-term memory. So you want them to remember that you were excited when they were excited. But with wisdom, you can help temper their expectations a bit by helping them learn to self-modulate those expectations. I recommend teaching them this very principle, and then asking them questions to determine their expectations and then asking them to identify the ones that might fall into this category.

The ability to self-modulate our expectations while young will prevent many of the hard crashes that their contemporary peers will likely experience in life, and that can sometimes be hugely detrimental. Especially because they can end up making life decisions based off of those inflated expectations. Like the expectation of a huge payoff, and so you go buy something expensive, before it actually happens. None of us have ever done that before, have we?

Likewise, if you sense that they’re in a trough you can help them recognize that this is an inevitable part of every journey. You can help them see it in perspective, and then can use what you know of the 16 Elements to reactivate their energy toward their initiative so that they develop the grit, resolve, and sticktoitiveness to make it through to the slope of enlightenment.

We often think that kids aren’t capable of grasping complicated concepts like this, but in our experience working with youth, we find they love to be exposed to principles like this. It makes them feel grown up, like you trust them, and like you see them as an equal.

When employees enter our organizations, they, like anyone else, follow this predictable emotional cycle. When they start, they come in at the peak of inflated expectations.

They think their boss will only tell funny jokes. They think they’ll never not get along. They over anticipate the level of autonomy, or permission, or trust, or empowerment they’ll have. They think that nobody will ever cook fish in the break room. They think that… well, you get the point.

But eventually every, yes, every employee will reach the trough of disillusionment. They’ll encounter some sort of a departure trigger that will begin a path of emotional distancing. That will lead to the galvanization of resolve and the crystallization of discontent, at which point they usually leave.

This is why we see so many quits around the 6 month to 1 year mark. Employees hit the trough and increasingly lack the grit, sticktoitiveness and perseverance to go on. They think that if they just leave, they’ll be able to find that panacea organization that they originally thought yours to be. Which is partially why we see shrinking tenures today. The average employee only staying with an organization for a couple years.

But leading organizations have learned to measure employee sentiment, with tools like eNPS and disengagement diagnostics.

They have on boarding programs that don’t let go too soon, but rather hold on until that trough is in the past, because an employee that makes it through the slope of enlightenment, where they figure out the organization, and what it takes to be successful can reach the plateau of productivity. That, of course, is where the organization and the individual benefit the most from the relationship, and where you get most performance and productivity.

As a leader you want to watch out for when a new employee, or someone under your stewardship might be in the trough, knowing that it will happen sooner or later (usually sooner). Be prepared for it. Use the power of story to reconnect them to your mission, to remind them why they’re here. Help them realize how important they are to the cause. Make sure they have a plan on how to move forward. Help re-establish a shared identity by helping them feel a part of something bigger.

Use the 16 Elements as your guide to be sure that they have a motivational means in place to glide through this phase so that they can reach the slope of enlightenment, and accelerate their journey to the plateau of productivity.

If you need help with this, let us know.

You’ll first want to see the implications mentioned on the Leadership Lens. Leading organizations architect long-term onboarding processes, centered around an employee journey, and anticipating the arrival of the trough. Often historical employee data can help you predict when that will be (it’s often unique to a department). They also create casual checkpoints, train managers on what to look for, implement a cadence of meaningful 1:1’s, leverage frequent feedback systems, and take advantage of tools like eNPS and employee engagement survey’s.

It’s been found that the average cost of replacing an employee (when all is calculated, including lost opportunity cost and all that goes into bringing the new employee fully up to productivity) can be anywhere from 50-200% of that employee’s salary (it goes up with the level of the employee). So putting systems in place to catch when an employee is in a trough, and having interventions to bring them back into alignment is critical to avoiding unnecessary attrition and sustaining both engagement and productivity.

But it’s also important for organizations to realize that their customers go through this same cycle. Our customers will buy our products and have, to some degree, a peak of inflated expectations. They’ll expect it will be more than what it is.

At some point they’ll realize that the product or service or solution isn’t perfect. That in some ways it doesn’t meet their expectations. Maybe it’s that you don’t answer the phone fast enough, or that the solution doesn’t do “all the things”. That it has bugs.

That’s when a customer hits the trough of disillusionment. You’ve probably experienced this as a consumer yourself.

Leading organizations know just when, in the customer lifecycle, this is likely to happen, and develop implementation processes and customer-service reach-out processes to watch for this so that they can be there to actively manage them through that trough. To remind them of the real reason they bought, to reset expectations, and to help them get the value that the desire out of the solution.

That’s when customers reach the slope of enlightenment, when the implementation of the solution they’ve purchased is solving a real problem in a measurable and meaningful way.

That leads them to the plateau of productivity and they become long-time, loyal customers.

It can be helpful to note that the peak of inflated expectations a customer experiences is often the byproduct of an emotional hurdle they had to overcome to justify the expense of purchasing the product or solution.

The more justification that they had to do, either because price was high, or their financial timing was bad, or for some other reason… the higher this inflation actually is, the greater you can expect the resulting crash to be. This is where you can find the most toxicity in a customer, where they post bad reviews, and actively work to sabotage the success of the organization. A toxic customer is one usually found in the heart of the trough of disillusionment.

Leading organizations work, not only to minimize the height of the peak of inflated expectations (by taming sales promises, providing clear pre-and-post-sales documentation, or by other means), but they also have implementation process to watch for this so that they can be there to actively manage them through that trough.

If you have a business with a high post-sales return-rate, it’s usually because you have a trough problem brought about by a too-high, unmanaged peak. You’ll want to either look at expectations (often in sales or marketing), or analyze your product-market fit.

Lastly, your average customer LTV (lifetime value) is often a true measure of your ability to get customers into the plateau of productivity, because that’s where they keep paying you, and pay you for other things as well.

If you’d like consulting on the application of this principle, we’re happy to help.

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