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Elizabeth R. Thornton

Sometimes the greatest challenges in your life can lead you to your true purpose and passion. Losing a million dollars was excruciating and it took me a while to recover. I kept asking myself a lot of questions. How could a successful person who had not only never failed, but achieved some level of success in the corporate world at a relatively young age, crash and burn so badly? Why didn’t I see this coming before it was too late? What could I have done differently? After months of self-reflection, I had to admit to myself that I had often experienced hiccups along the way, although not to this extreme. By hiccups, I mean times when things were going along just fine, and then all of a sudden they weren’t. But now I needed answers. If I didn’t understand what I had done or why, then it was possible I could do it all again and maybe self-destruct—even worse.

It wasn’t just about how I lost a million dollars. My questions were more fundamental: Who was I, if not the job I had or the role I played? Over the next several years I continued searching for answers and began studying psychology, sociology, western and eastern philosophers, leadership, neuroscience, and even quantum physics. When I began to reflect on and synthesize all these ideas, I realized that the core reason I had hiccups along the way, and ultimately crashed and burned, was because of my inherent subjectivity. The problem did not stem so much from the business decisions I did or did not make, but in how I framed my world—the underlying assumptions that drove my perceptions and responses to the people, circumstances, and events in my life. What I learned was that being happy, effective, and successful requires wrestling with my inherent subjectivity and practicing objectivity.

With this new understanding, it was clear to me that if I wanted to respond differently, I had to change my mind about what I fundamentally believed about myself, others, and the world. I began to reevaluate all my assumptions and found that the way I was framing my world was not serving me very well. Things that I learned and accepted as true when I was younger were no longer true for me yet these assumptions were still guiding my behavior. I found that many of my ideas and beliefs were based in insecurity, fear, and self-doubt and that these beliefs were clouding my perception and interpretation of everything I experienced. The fear-based lens through which I perceived the world did not just contribute to my failed business; it was also negatively affecting my interactions with the people in my life.

I finally understood that my experience of the world was, in fact, in my mind. I knew that my happiness and my success depended on my ability to be objective, to see and accept things as they are. After a lot of honest and painful self-reflection, I was able to rethink many of my fear- and insecurity-based beliefs. Overtime, I was able to rebuild my self-concept so that it was less dependent on other’s approval. I began to redefine not only who I was, but also what I was relative to everything and everyone else. I also began to reassess how I valued myself so that my self-worth was less tied to the job I had, the title I held, or the role I played. I began to value and appreciate myself for who I was,not what I did, and along the way, my relationships got better.

Now, I am happier and more successful then I have ever been doing what I love. As a Professor of Management Practice, I train leaders of all levels  to be more objective through Babson Executive Education. My life’s work is to share what I have learned about the power of seeing things as they are with the hope that it will inspire others to change their life . . . without the need to experience a disorienting event like losing a million dollars. My goal now is to help transform organizations and institutions with the power of objectivity so that we can create a better world.

Purchase Your Book Today

The Objective Leader: How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are

Purchase Your Book Today
In her new book, Thornton draws on her original research, as well as her years of experience as a manager and entrepreneur, to offer proven strategies for identifying limiting and unproductive ways of thinking and creating powerful new mental models that ensure continued success.