Structure and Freedom: Why You Need Both to Thrive

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September 10, 2019

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Structure and Freedom: Why You Need Both to Thrive

One of the things I notice about being and working with entrepreneurs is that we seem to get “stuck” on projects we’re working on without knowing exactly why.

And before we know it, frustration hits. The work that was once flowing becomes instantly stagnant. We think, “Oh no, is my creativity dried up? Did I use all of my best work already? Is there nothing left?”

It’s a downward spiral that seemingly never ends…if we let it. But if we know how our brains work, we can course correct when we notice the dip and rebalance ourselves.

Our Brains Need Structure…and Freedom

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a coaching call with my client, Laura. Laura was feeling totally overwhelmed about a project she’s been working on over the last year or so.

The presentation she thought was perfect for her audience needed some tweaking, she learned, and finding this out threw her into a state of fear and hopelessness. She knew she needed to make changes but had no idea how.

As I listened closely to Laura, I could see how the unexpected need for some tweaking of her presentation had triggered a piece of her fear and hopelessness, but there was more to it.

Laura’s overwhelm was coming from “right brain” dominant thinking. She needed some help from the “left brain” to balance things out and get her back on track.

How Our Brains “Think”

The funny thing about our brains is that they work best when our left and right hemispheres are working together in an integrated fashion. When a stressor enters the picture, brain function gets disrupted and one hemisphere will often dominate the other.

Depending on the response, we can determine which side is taking over…and how to add in the other hemisphere to pull our brain back into balance and thriving again.

When The Left Side Takes Over

When one hemisphere takes over, we get angry and start blaming others for our situation and deny evidence around us that would suggest otherwise. We become extremely stubborn and aggressive and rigid in our beliefs and actions. Further, we don’t see other possibilities outside of this place.

It’s THIS way – period.

We get stuck in rigidity inside ourselves. That’s a clear signal that our left brain hemisphere is running the show.  

When The Right Side Takes Over

If the other hemisphere takes over, we get totally overwhelmed emotionally. Fear, sadness, and hopelessness all show up…and all hope appears to be lost.

We become extremely dramatic and feel completely helpless.  

We get stuck in chaos inside ourselves, which is a clear signal that our right brain hemisphere is running the show.

And In Harmony…

When our brains are working at their best, the hemispheres are working in an integrated fashion.

The left brain brings positivity, focus on specific parts, logic, and analytical abilities to the table. The right brain shows up with empathy, insight, inspiration, cooperation, and big picture thinking.

What To Do When You’re Feeling Stuck

A simple way to remember this is to say that the left brain brings STRUCTURE to the table and the right brain brings FREEDOM. And when they come together to form our thinking, innovation, creativity, and flow happen seamlessly. 

So when we find ourselves “stuck,” or stalled out in a particular set of emotions, we can get “unstuck’ by inviting the strengths of the other hemisphere to help us get out of the hole.

Guiding Yourself Back to Center

In Laura’s case, the overwhelm, fear, and hopelessness she was feeling were a sign to me that she was deep into right brain emotions and STRUCTURE could help bring relief to the chaos she was experiencing.

We first spent some time honoring her feelings and looking at the beliefs that may have triggered her. Then, when she was ready, we explored some structure to help her move out of the chaos she found herself in.

Bringing in structure meant focusing positivity and on creating small, controllable parts.

By helping her to break down the steps she might want to take one at a time, it allowed her to feel more in control and less emotional about the edits she really did want to make, even in her disappointment of needing to do them.

Without the conscious guidance I used to help her connect with the strengths of the left brain, Laura would have possibly stayed in overwhelm and hopelessness. She could have also flipped over into rigidity – and gone to a place of “I’m mad just thinking about it!” – allowing anger, blame, and rage to take over.

If I would have found Laura in that rigid place, here’s how I would have brought her back to center:

I would have seen the rigid, unyielding emotions as a signal that she was too far into left brain thinking and needed freedom. Freedom is the strength that the right hemisphere of the brain offers.

Finding freedom would have helped her brain re-integrate by helping her connect to the bigger picture, find empathy, and reconnect to her inspiration and insight. It would have moved her out of a place of stubbornness so she could see other possible solutions.

If you’re feeling “stuck” on an issue, take a closer look at where your thinking is leaning (rigidity or chaos). Then, use the elements of structure (in the case of chaos) or freedom (in the case of rigidity) to help guide you back to center.

I’m curious: how have you felt rigidity or chaos and what have you done to pull yourself back to equilibrium? I’d love to hear more in the comments. It’s possible you were using Structure and Freedom without knowing it!

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