Living in the Green Zone
The language you use to communicate at work could improve your flow of communication, reduce stress levels greatly, increase the amount of fun you have together, and make everything work more smoothly. Here’s how ‘Living in the Green Zone’ works…
Arjuna Ardagh and the team that delivers the Awakening Coaching training have a unique way of communicating. They talk to each other using the code language of being in the ‘red zone’, ‘yellow zone’ and ‘green zone’. Based on the popular color-coding of traffic lights, they have defined the zones to reflect their moods, state of being and way of working.
The Green Zone
Living in the green zone means that everything is flowing smoothly, almost as if you are not doing anything at all, and things are just happening on their own.
When you are in the green zone:
• There is a feeling of ‘the wind in your sails’ – a lot gets done with very little effort.
• Communication with other people is easy, open, and complete: you understand each other well and nothing is held back.
• People laugh a lot, have fun, and feel like what they are doing has more of a sense of play than work.
• At the end of the day, or work period, you feel more energized than drained.
• Creativity is freely flowing, as you get the sense of something wanting to give itself through you rather from you.
Everybody knows the green zone from time to time in his or her life. It is where you live when you are on vacation, or when you go out in the evening, or when you are being creative or involved in something that you do really well. Unfortunately many people equate the green zone with recreational activities more than with their work.
The Yellow Zone
The yellow zone has a slightly addictive quality to it. It is where we go when we set intentions, have goals and create visions. The confusing thing about the yellow zone is that it feels really good. In fact, it often feels more attractive that the green zone. Not that is a terrible place to be, but it is a place to be attentive.
Some of the statements that are symptomatic of yellow zone living are:
• Let me jump in the car, dash back home, and I’ll zip it off to you.
• Ok, let me log in reeeeal quick here
• Let’s just jam on it and get it done, no matter how late we have to stay up.
• I have a great idea, let’s rebuild the whole website, it can’t take that long.
When we are in the yellow zone we have completely lost awareness of time and space. We think we can accomplish anything we dream up, and get it done in no time at all. It is actually quite difficult to spot when you are in the yellow zone; it is easier to notice it in other people.
You know you or someone else has entered the yellow zone when:
• Their breathing becomes shallower.
• There is less awareness for the needs of the body, particularly for water, food and rest.
• Getting the job done has become more important than listening to other peoples’ point of view, or feeling into their comfort area.
• You feel impatient or frustrated with how long things are taking.
• There is much more attention going to what can or will be accomplished in the future, than appreciating what is already here right now.
The Red Zone
Just like with traffic lights the red zone is what follows the yellow. It is the zone of stress, burnout, missed deadlines, people annoyed with you, you annoyed with people. Finally, you want to crawl under a rock and make the world go away. When we have got to the red zone our debts are greater than our income, projects are left unfinished, and even though we are burnt out we just can’t get to sleep. Most people today know what the red zone feels like, but relatively few people realize that the break-through-the-limits, take-it-to-the-max, yellow zone mentality is actually what creates the red zone experience.
You know when you are in the red zone when:
• People around you appear incompetent and even like saboteurs.
• You are faced with an impossible to-do list that seems you will never get completed.
• You develop symptoms of stress: like insomnia, anxiety and hypertension.
• People make polite excuses to avoid you and don’t want to work with you any more.
• You feel “out of sync” with life around you
The commitment that Arjuna and the team have made to each other is to come back to the green zone as often and as quickly as possible. They recognize together that the end never justifies the means. In other words, he says, it is literally never worth missing a meal, missing sleep, or going without daily disciplines like yoga or meditation, just to meet a deadline. If the deadline can’t be met in a relaxed way, it is the deadline that needs to change not the sense of well-being.
The Green Zone is for everyone
The responsibility that everyone carried in the team is not just to create or live in the green zone themselves, but also to create it for each other.
A story that Arjuna shares is a good example of this:
We had a meeting of the staff at one of our trainings. One member of the team was tired and needed a nap. So her roommate said, “Don’t worry, you sleep, and well take care of everything without you.” But she did not take the nap, because she knew that there were key pieces of information that only she had, and that were needed at the next meeting. She knew that if she napped she might get nicely snuggled into deep Green Zone, but the rest of the team would go into yellow or red trying to figure everything out without her. Here commitment was to a Green Zone experience for everyone on the team, not just for herself. She went to bed right after dinner that day, and got a really good sleep.
Recreating the zones at your workplace
This system of codes seems to have worked remarkably well for the team. However, like all good teams, they have had to work towards it. Here are some ways they have found helpful:
Reminding each other:
It helps you to remind each other when people are in the yellow zone because the culture in most organizations revolves around pushing boundaries, meeting deadlines and higher productivity. While there’s no problem when you are in the yellow zone from time to time, Arjuna cautions us that staying in the yellow zone for too long will cause us to go into the red zone or drive other people there.
Often we think we have to live in the yellow zone, so that we can get more done and be more productive. However, instituting agreements within the team to create green zone experiences for everyone can help people get more done with much less effort. According to Arjuna, the work can also have better quality, serve people in a deeper way and leave everyone involved feeling good about themselves and wanting to play together again.
Have you instituted simple practices at your work place to help people and teams collaborate better? How has this affected the job you do? Please share; we would love to hear from you.
This article is adapted from facilitator Arjuna Ardagh’s blog. To read the original piece click here