‘Working in the business or on the business?’ A common phrase to shift attention out of the day-to-day. Up and out into strategy and external insight. But have you ever considered this in the context of your mind?

Helen Amery
Jul 13 · 5 min read

This week I was one of a group of parents at a meeting with the Head of my kid’s school about changes and improvements they’re making.

At one point there was the suggestion that they ask parents for help more; a wealth of knowledge and experience on their doorstep and from very differing backgrounds and industries.

There was some nodding at this but then quite quickly a response of ‘well we have great experience in the school and we go to events like Head Teachers learning events and other such CPD.’

I offered that this is still education-focused and there is often even richer insight available by going beyond your sector.

It seemed this possibility was too much.

Understandable. When we think our business, industry or market is unique and special, we naturally believe that nobody else could understand the nuance of and therefore have valuable insight for it. That’s a very understandable and obvious response when you believe that the specific content ‘in’ your business is king. If you don’t ‘get’ the content of the educator’s experience you can’t have valuable content to add.

It’s also a response based on the fear stories of the mind: ‘We don’t know what’s out there.’ ‘There could be great things we can’t then implement and we’ll feel rubbish about that.’ ‘There might be time wasted hearing things from others from different-land that aren’t useful — and we don’t have time to spare.’ ‘They might make us do something we don’t want.’

Fundamentally, fear from ‘this might challenge our identity as educators and a school and what would we be then??’

Fear of rejection in the sector. Fear of disappearance.

The same is true across business, not just education.

And of course some leaders will look up and out. Secure in the knowledge that there is more benefit than downsides to learning from others outside their normal sphere. Secure in who they are and that all of this is information to be gathered, to inform. Saying nothing about who they are or what their business is or isn’t. Unleashing more potential in the business, nothing like the disappearance that is imagined.

But what about all this from the perspective of the mind?

How much are you busy ‘in’ the mind rather than shifting perspective to ‘on’ the mind.

On a personal level we’ve been taught to believe in us as an identity. I’m like this, or that. I can do this and can’t do that. I’m the kind of person who…

And the same applies to this ‘us’ as it does in a business or in the school.

This perspective of ‘me’ that we’re so entrenched in day-to-day, because we’ve been brought up believing the content ‘in the mind’ is king. We’ve entirely been living ‘in the mind, not on the mind’.

When we’re absorbed and tied up in our ‘self identity’ as the brand of ‘me’ in this unique industry of ‘my career’ and the unique sector of ‘my family’ we’re working ‘in the mind’. We believe that to improve our experience of life we need more and better content. We need experts who ‘get me and my unique life and experiences’ to enhance our future experience of life.

From here it makes sense to believe we can solve all our ‘in the mind’ problems from within the mind — supplementing our existing intellect, knowledge and concepts with more, new and better intellect, knowledge and concepts. And only seeking it from outside if it’s from those like us — those who understand the content of our experience. Those who ‘get me’. So essentially — still seeking from others from an ‘in the mind’ perspective and pretending it’s new and fresh.

To look beyond this can feel scary. To go genuinely fresh and consider working ‘on the mind’ challenges the retention of the identity we believe makes us ‘us’.

The educator afraid that looking outside of education will make them less of an educator. The mind afraid that looking outside of the mind will make me less of me. The voice of mind tells us we need it, that without its voice we’re nothing — and then what?! What will become of you if you’re not paying attention to me?? Rejection! Disappearance!

But the mind has no idea of the wealth and richness that lies beyond its limited and limiting thought-created boundaries. It has no idea what becomes available when it lays down its idea of itself as the centre of its own universe. It has no idea of the value beyond the content of experience.

It has no idea that by working ‘on the mind’, any content that subsequently seems to be needed (including goals), now becomes even more useful and even easier to assimilate or take action with than before. No longer going via this idea of ‘me’ and its opinions.

If you’d lived in a windowless box your whole life you wouldn’t know anything about the world beyond the box. You’d act within the confines of the box. Even if the box disappeared, if you never really looked to see what else was available you’d still act as if the box was there*.

But luckily you haven’t lived in a windowless box, just ‘in your mind’, and so those moments when ‘you’ have disappeared, you’ll have dropped into the space beyond the mind and its circular thinking. You’ll have experienced the world from the perspective of ‘on the mind’.

Times when you’ve been in deep connection with someone. All sense of self and time disappeared.

Times when you’ve been entirely in the moment and achieved something you never thought possible.

Times of significant challenge or trauma where you acted with clarity and no thought for what this says about ‘me’ or ‘my future’.

And a multitude of other day to day moments where you didn’t even notice that ‘you’ and the mind’s ‘thoughts about you’ weren’t present, and which went un-noticed because there was no awareness that ‘on the mind’ was available as a consideration.

This is what’s on offer more of the time if we really look outside the confines.

Far from disappear when we shift from ‘in the mind to on the mind’, we become even more of who we are.

Unlimited.

Unstoppable.

Authentically true.

Worth a try?

*Deepak Chopra in this episode with Oprah talks about research where rabbits were raised in rooms with either horizontal or vertical lines. When the environment was changed to normal, all they could experience were objects aligned with their horizontal or vertical experience to that point. [PS you need to subscribe to Luminary to listen but there might be a free trial offer if you’re not on it :)]

The Helm

Business Leaders, in their own words. The Helm is a carefully curated collection of insightful content from the business frontlines.

Helen Amery

Written by

Reconnecting leaders to their innate brilliance so they gain Connection, Clarity and Calm. Director of Wild Fig Solutions @WildFigSolns. Founder @LearnConnectDo

The Helm

The Helm

Business Leaders, in their own words. The Helm is a carefully curated collection of insightful content from the business frontlines.

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