A Coaching Power Tool By Marcel Sanchez, Marriage Coach, UNITED STATES
What Is Internal Neglect vs. Internal Determination?
For busy professionals with a desire to work on growing professionally, relationally, and spiritually, there are successes to celebrate and ongoing challenges to overcome along their journey. These challenges don’t magically disappear with the snap of a finger. They often don’t provide advanced warning for their abrupt appearances or sudden interruptions. But then again, neither does the desire to develop new competencies and skills become a reality without persevering through unexpected difficulties and obstacles.
Often, an extraordinary measure of the internal initiative is required to sustain a growth mindset in each of these critical areas. Far too often, busy professionals get pulled back into the day-to-day measures of corporate success. In other words, work performance measures dominate energy levels, activities, and success factors. Moreover, these unending tasks demand more and more of our time and energy. They become the focus of our day, leaving little to nothing left for personal growth and development. In his wildly popular book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Chris McChesney describes this daily reality as “the whirlwind” we all face in our jobs.
As we dig into our own daily whirlwind, we will discover consistent patterns of neglect—as they relate to our professional, relational, and spiritual growth—while simultaneously discovering new opportunities for further growth and development in each of these areas. What is one significant cost of this neglect? When professionals stop learning, they also stop growing. Learning and growing function together. The former feeds the latter. When these busy professionals stop growing, they stop leading others effectively. This professional travesty negatively affects the individual and those whom they lead and serve.
Unfortunately, when daily responsibilities and patterns of neglect block our efforts to grow, disempowering patterns of thinking—which set the course for disempowering behaviors—can deliver a defeating punch while simultaneously serving to disrupt our own growth process. Something must change. There’s too much at risk not to change. There are too many people counting on us to change. We cannot allow the pressures of daily work to displace the need to grow professionally, relationally, and spiritually. The growing business professional must shift their perspective to a growth mindset by aggressively adjusting their daily plans and activities.
Internal Neglect vs. Internal Determination Explanation
One limiting perspective in this dilemma that we all face at one time or another is called Internal Neglect. This perspective is anything but empowering or thriving in nature. Internal Neglect is when we choose to remain passive and reactionary in our professional, relational, and spiritual development. It means we choose to accept things as they have evolved to become rather than steer things to where they need to go. This perspective allows circumstances and the daily pressures of life and work to limit one’s capacity for growth.
Internal Neglect can be compared to fans in a large sporting event. These fans react according to the activity of the athletes on the field. They may have a few things to say and some plays to get excited about, but they have zero influence on the athletes on the field. So, these fans sit down in frustration when their team makes a mistake and get up to cheer when their team scores another point. But the great frustration of the fans in the stadium is the daunting realization of their limited capacity to affect real change. The fans cannot call plays, change team strategies, or remove athletes from the field. In essence, fans are powerless. They must rely on the coach to make the necessary changes on the field as they remain powerless from a distance.
The individual practicing Internal Neglect believes they’re stuck in their development due to their surroundings. Like fans in a stadium, these individuals feel powerless with regard to changing what they see and hear in their field of work. As a result, options for continuous growth are reduced or eliminated altogether. Possibilities that once existed—and served to provide hope for the future—have become impossibilities in the present. Hope is replaced with doubt, anticipation is replaced with disappointment, and planning is replaced with abandonment.
Internal Neglect speaks to the obvious. We neglect what really matters to us as a person. We neglect what flows from within us at the expense and the influence of what surrounds us. We set limiting beliefs about what can be done right now with regards to our development in these three areas already mentioned. As a result, we cheat ourselves of what’s best to settle for what’s expected. The individual practicing Internal Neglect accepts “the whirlwind” and all its implications. After all, who can stand up to the whirlwind right? Tasks must be completed, problems must be resolved, and projects must meet their deadlines. But at what expense?
When we allow our daily workload to determine how much time we invest in our own development, we arrive and park our potential for growth in the parking lot of Internal Neglect. When we choose to keep things as they are instead of swimming against the current and making changes, we get too comfortable with the wrong mindset. What is the result of Internal Neglect as it relates to growth? Negative growth is the answer. Flat self-awareness is the answer. We don’t progress professionally, and we don’t move forward. We get stuck in what we already know. We fall behind as technology and innovation pass us by. Relationally, we’re plateaued. We find ourselves in a relational decline with gravity pulling us backward. So, our relationships suffer, and we feel totally helpless. Spiritually speaking, things remain stale and lifeless. Since quantity and quality time are severely restrained or non-existent, why would we expect to grow at all in any of these areas?
The strength of the daily whirlwind takes over and pushes us back to the place of complacency, familiarity, and routine. We don’t grow when we’re complacent. To consistently grow over time, there needs to be a strong measure of professional, relational, and spiritual dissatisfaction with where we find ourselves in the present and where we want to be in the future. We will not grow when we only operate with what’s familiar. Familiarity may be quite comfortable, but it can have a debilitating effect on our growth. And we cannot grow when we do the same things every day and remain in a rut. When we can’t see beyond our regular responsibilities to what’s really needed to promote change and growth, we’re in trouble.
When the workload, like an overpowering tornado, is generating problems faster than any human can solve in one day, something must change. What started as work has now become a burden. What was once a challenge and exciting to experience has now become overwhelming and painfully frustrating. The Internal Neglectperspective is that there is no way out. It is a trapped mindset. What was once a job with opportunities to grow and find work-life balance, has now become an unpredictable storm to manage, one which rapidly increases in strength.
What is the result of an Internal Neglect mindset? Growth stops, opportunities are missed, and momentum shifts in reverse instead of moving forward. In short, we feel stuck because that is exactly where we find ourselves. There’s no forward motivation, no forward-thinking, and no forward action to drive strong momentum in our lives. This limiting belief has to do with an inability to manage the ever-increasing circumstances surrounding daily workloads. And this inability to prioritize well, explore what’s possible, and adjust daily, contributes to one’s inability to plan for and execute professional, relational, and spiritual growth.
The Significant Differences Between Internal Neglect vs. Internal Determination
A more empowering perspective—one with an abundance of possibilities and opportunities for development—would be to shift from Internal Neglect to Internal Determination. This new perspective is a growth perspective. It does not hang on to the past or dwell on the present. It is future-focused. We must embrace it before we can apply it in our lives. It creates new ways of thinking and creative actions, unlike the disempowering perspective of Internal Neglect.
As we shift towards Internal Determination, we choose to position ourselves for action—which leads us to grow—and refuse to become prisoners to our daily responsibilities. As we make this shift from one perspective to the other, we enter a new level of efficiency because we’re no longer restricted nor consumed by our daily workload. Instead, we’re free to explore possibilities and free to grow without limitations. Notice the significant differences between these two perspectives as we compare the characteristics of one with the other.
|Internal Neglect||Internal Determination|
|Limited Options||Unlimited Options|
|One Way||Many Ways|
Internal Determination refuses to quit. It is relentless and unstoppable in her pursuit to move things forward. It does not allow for excuses. Rather, Internal Determination paves a new road ahead. This perspective has vision, tenacity, mission, focus, and values. Where Internal Neglect can only see the problems and limitations in the present, Internal Determination can envision a new future. It can work backward from this preferred future and begin taking actionable steps to move their desire for growth from ideas to present reality and to daily practice.
The shift to Internal Determination drives us forward. It moves people to explore every possible solution, offline and online, in-person and remote, to form new hybrid solutions for growth. This motivation originates from a burning mission to be the very best one can become, leveraging new approaches, ideas, and technologies. Of course, this requires extraordinary focus. And this too is another characteristic of Internal Determination. Where our focus is concentrated, results are multiplied.
Last, but not least, Internal Determination is values-based. Our values produce new streams of energy once ignited by Internal Determination. Since values flow from our deepest convictions, our efforts tend to have greater sustainability and effectiveness when fueled by our values. This determination is much more than a verbal agreement; it goes much deeper. It flows from the depths of who we are as a person. It speaks to the very heart of our identity.
Internal Neglect vs. Internal Determination “The Whirlwind”
Marvin—not his real name—was consumed in “the whirlwind” of life. After experiencing a great loss in his family, Marvin spent the next year in disbelief and grief. Although a natural optimist, Marvin found himself in a hole that he could not climb out of by himself. Marvin allowed circumstances to dictate his feelings and his responses. Marvin remained broken and passive in nature. He neglected close relationships, pulled away from what gave him real energy, and settled for a reactionary approach to life. Marvin was not only grieving but he was also parked at the station of Internal Neglect. Without hope for the future or the strength to break through “the whirlwind,” Marvin hit rock bottom.
There was nothing positive—at least not for Marvin—for him to dwell on. Marvin did not have an ounce of creativity to brainstorm possibilities or explore new directions. His health suffered, and his relationships suffered as well. It was difficult to see Marvin without a zeal for life and people and everything else. But it was time to help Marvin leave the parking lot of Internal Neglect. He had parked in that debilitating space for far too long.
Fortunately, Marvin was able to embrace an Internal Determination mindset. He started by being proactive with his health. Marvin started exercising and lifting weights. To his surprise, Marvin even signed up for dancing lessons. It was something totally outside his comfort zone, but it was a brilliant move. From this point forward, Marvin began looking forward and moving forward. He envisioned his life-changing for the better. He was not denying the difficulties of his past nor the immeasurable workload he inherited, but Marvin was determined from the core of his being, to set a new course and direction for his life.
Marvin’s entire person changed—body, mind—soul—and spirit—because of his renewed mindset. Marvin was once again smiling often, laughing with great energy, and talking with people for extended amounts of time. Marvin’s Internal Determination led him to experience new possibilities as his future hopes and dreams were restored in the process.
Consider the following questions as you reflect on “the whirlwind” of your work life.
- How would you define Internal Neglect in one sentence?
- How would you define Internal Determination in one sentence?
- Identify at least five responsibilities that make up “the whirlwind” of your daily work.
- Are most of your time, energy, and resources dedicated to completing urgent tasks in the present or building towards the future?
- When did you consider the characteristics of Internal Neglect and Internal Determination, which of these columns would those who know you well say best represent your life today?
- Do your daily actions reflect a fan in a stadium or an athlete on the field of play?
- Are you deliberately moving your life forward—with extraordinary intentionality—or have you been passively reacting to things as they develop?
- What plans do you have currently to grow professionally, relationally, and spiritually?
- What impact would be felt by those around you by making a greater commitment to grow in each of these three areas?
Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, The 4 Disciplines of Execution. London: Simon and Schuster, 2021