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Category: Tao-Dancing: Embracing Change

impermanence, change moves, change agents

THE TROUBLE WITH PIVOTS

THE TROUBLE WITH PIVOTS

I don’t know.  Maybe I am misunderstanding this new-to-me concept of “business pivots.”

starting-on-the-pivot-line
“Starting On the Pivot Line??” by Pure Geekery via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

WHAT IS A “BUSINESS PIVOT?”

The business pivot was an idea that gained traction after Eric Reis’s book, “THE LEAN STARTUP:  How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business” hit the entrepreneurial bookshelves in 2011.

Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but the Lean Startup thing seems to start with the premise that it’s a good thing to cobble together a prototype of a half-baked idea that’s “new and different” and offer it up first and fast with the intention of getting the product, service or other offering to Good on the fly.  Hmmm….

Apparently, this methodology is supposed to be a less expensive and more efficient way to gather relevant feedback from potential customers and measure the specific tastes, desires, and purported wants and needs of early-adopter buyers and others who come after as you churn out assorted re-iterations of your product or whatever.

Walking this way, they say, you’ll be all set to tailor your product, service, or business model to meet your customers’ needs and fulfill their wishes better.

The “pivot” is a particular mindset that’s part and parcel of this Lean Startup thing.

You’re supposed to stand at the ready to tweak, twiddle, and change the components and structure of your infant business – the products you sell, how you sell them, the way you communicate with and serve your clients and customers, the way you use your resources, and so on and so forth — in order to capture more and more business.

Really, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  I’m just trying to figure out why it does not resonate with me.

IS IT A DANCE THING?

Maybe my problem with this whole pivot thing comes from my knowing dancers and martial artists who use another sort of pivot step.

That one is modeled in the following YouTube Jazz Dance video “How to Pivot Turn” (published in 2012 by Howcast).  In it, director and dance choreographer Liz Piccoli shows you how to do a pivot step.

(Note that the step Piccoli is showing is labeled as a “beginner jazz dance move.”)

Maybe I’m stuck because I’m having a hard time getting away from using this dance step as a metaphor for the “business pivot.”

It does seem to me that if doing business is a dance, then there’s got to be more to it than just doing the pivot this way and that until you get the walk “right” (according to your audience) even with the added body-English.

Doing the pivot step over and over and over looks like “twirling around.”  To me, it just seems like a good way to get dizzy.

Hmmm….

US CREATIVES DON’T DO IT LIKE THAT…OR DO WE?

Maybe my problem with the thing is the whole engineering-world, feature-creature taste of it all.  Frankly, getting feedback from assorted others as you’re building your vision sounds wrong-headed to me.

both-powered-by-the-breath-of-the-earth
“both powered by the breath of the earth” by byronv2 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Wanna-be Creatives have always been exhorted to “find your own voice.”  Expressing your own self and being “original” is supposed to be the end-all and be-all of the Creative gig.  “Authenticity” and being “genuine” is a basic tenet of Creator-hood, it seems to me.

As a Creative hopeful, you believe that the “meaning” of your work is all bound up in you – how you see and feel things and your own conclusions about why the World is as it is.

Your Job Number One is, basically, figuring out where you stand and why.  F’r real, it is confusing and frustrating work.  It’s all about slog, slog, slog, and wandering around in heavy fog.

Looking for feedback too early in your process is likely to keep you from finding your own voice.  (My own thought on it all is if you’re going to do all that hard work in the first place, what’s the point of speaking with anybody else’s voice?)

As you develop your own voice and your own vision, you’ll be moved to send out “reports” from that place that is unique to you.  This could result in any number of “products” – pictures, sculptures, pots, performances, books, poems, songs, Rube Goldberg-y inventions, whatever.

With them you are trying to reach out to everybody else, using whatever skillful means you’ve developed, to produce a body of work that allows others to see the world as you do.  Your purpose in all of that is to get them to buy into that vision you’re sharing.

(The deal is, if enough of these folks buy something you’ve made, you can keep on doing what you do.)

A FEEDBACK SOURCE

Of course, none of this necessarily means that your vision or your work will mobilize and move the world to do anything other than what it is already doing.

That’s when feedback comes in handy.  Asking for feedback from other folks and being open to suggestions can help you in a lot of different ways.

  • Maybe you’ll find venues to showcase your work because of a thing someone or other points out to you.
  • Maybe you’ll try different ways and means to refine how well your message connects with and influences other people, winning their support for your work.
  • Maybe you’ll find soulmates and partners in surprising places who help you expand your horizons.  You might even find your tribe.

tim-devlin-frontside-pivot
“tim devlin frontside pivot” by andrew hutchison via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Some things will work.  Others will not.  You’ll keep doing the things that work and maybe you’ll try other new things as well to get your work into the hands of your supporters.

Instead of pivoting willy-nilly, you’ll use the vision you’ve developed and ride herd on it as you test and try out other people’s suggestions that help it evolve.  You’ll use your vision to make sure that everything you do – your work and the marketing of it — aligns with the direction you are wanting to go.

That’s a good thing, don’t you think?  I do.

PIVOTS AS THE WAY BACK

I do think, however, that sometimes you as a Creative may find the pivot is useful for getting back to the vision and voice you’ve already developed.  When you have gone off-course, it may be the only way to get back to moving in the direction you want to go.

My own favorite example of a pivot of that kind is the one made by a long-distance solo sailing legend, Bernard Moitessier (1925 – 1994).   He was inducted into the Single-Handed Sailors’ Hall of Fame in 1988 for his life achievements, but he is most famous for not finishing a race.

In 1969, the British Sunday Times sponsored the first international Golden Globe yacht race.   The fastest single-hander sailor to complete a non-stop circumnavigation of the world stood to win £5,000 (the equivalent of £82,500 nowadays).

The Golden Globe trophy, also sponsored by the Sunday Times, would be awarded to the first solo circumnavigator to do the round-the-world voyage.

Notoriety, adulation, and fame was expected to follow in the wake of both of these awards.  Book deals, speaking engagements, endorsements, sponsorships and the rest were bound to follow.

Moitessier, who was already a sailing legend as well as a noted author, had planned his own world-circling voyage on his custom-built 39-foot steel ketch “Joshua” before the race was organized.

The timing of his around-the-world trip coincided with the newspaper-sponsored race which was apparently structured to automatically include all of the sailors who were attempting to sail single-handed around the world that year.

The sponsors of the race prevailed on Moitessier to participate in the race and he reluctantly agreed even though he made it clear that he felt that doing so was somehow compromising what he considered his special relationship with the sea.

Moitessier was on the last leg of his circumnavigating journey and many say he would have won the Golden Globe race as both first and fastest if he had finished his trip.  Instead, he changed his vessel’s course and continued sailing eastward.

He ended up completing a one-and-a-half circumnavigation of the world which took him around Cape Horn (again) and on to Tahiti.

It took him 301 days to complete the voyage.  In doing so, he broke the world record for the most miles sailed solo non-stop.

Meanwhile, another legendary yachtsman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, became the first winner of the Golden Globe race, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer.   Sir Robin’s voyage took  a “stately” 312 days.

Moitessier wrote a note to the London Sunday Times when he turned away from winning the race.  He delivered the note by slingshot onto a passing ship.

In the note he said, “My intention is to continue the voyage, still nonstop, toward the Pacific Islands….I am continuing nonstop because I am happy at sea, and perhaps because I want to save my soul.”

His book, THE LONG WAY, chronicled his 301-day voyage.  It sold very well.

This YouTube video, uploaded in 2011 by GMGB68, features images taken by Moitessier himself during his nonstop solo voyage around the world.

Here’s a poem:


CIRCLES

I figured out something:

I move in circles like the sun because

I want to see everything there is to see.

Like a hunter in territory unfamiliar,

I move slowly, with caution,

Stopping, stooping, seeing the tracks

Of the wild beasts and other things,

Finding the paths they walk,

Following to where they lead me.

I glide softly through the bushes,

Stepping quietly, walking lightly.

 

I stop and listen to the sounds around me.

Let them touch me, let them flow.

My breath is deep; it fills my belly.

Calm I am, a part of the One.

I move with no thought, no expectations.

What am I stalking?

I don’t know.

There is something waiting for me

Out there, somewhere,

When I have traveled full circle,

Perhaps I shall see what it is.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Sunflower” by Mikael Hvidtfeldt Christen via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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THAW THE FREEZE

THAW THE FREEZE

It’s famous…the Fight or Flight reaction dichotomy that happens  every time the adrenaline starts pumping through your system as you’re facing yet another new crisis or unfamiliar situation.

It’s a human thing.  I mean, look at us:  Bad eyes, really limited smelling ability, can’t hear well, small teeth, no claws, weak muscles, can’t run, bad at climbing, and on and on.  In a world of predators, we tend to be a lot wary.  We’ve got good reasons.

Depending on your own propensities, you may want to believe that you’ll stand firm and fight your way through whatever obstacles and challenges you must.

Courage and perseverance and never say die…all the full-blown, pump-’em-up motivational stuff plays in your mind as you keep on trucking on.  Forward, forward, always forward.  A valuable and viable option.

Or maybe you want to believe that you will be wily and smart enough to pull a dig and peel on outa there when the odds are overwhelmingly against you.

Retreat and you’ll live to fight another day.  You’ll be able to choose your battleground and marshal your resources more effectively.  Fall back, regroup, and try again.  Another valuable and viable option.

AND THEN THERE’S THE FREEZE

Then there’s the third reaction that doesn’t get quite as much show-time.  It’s called the Freeze.  Think deer in the middle of the road, caught in the headlights of an oncoming sixteen-wheeler.  Few people want to emulate the soon-to-be street pizza, but very often they do.

deer-in-the-headlights
“Deer In the Headlights” by Shena Tschofen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The Freeze arises from the fact that we think…a lot.  It’s another very human trait — the one, in fact, that has put us at the top of the food chain and made our species the biggest, baddest predators of all.

THE FREEZE HAS A FANCY NAME

The Freeze is such a prevalent behavior pattern that the smarty-pants scientists even have a name for its extreme form — “tropophobia.”  It’s a genuine, actual condition that can be extremely debilitating and cause all kinds of problems for you.

“Tropophobia,” it says here, is “the fear of moving or making changes.”  People who suffer from it don’t handle surprises well.  They suck at dancing with change.  Even minor changes can cause a complete breakdown.

Tropophobia can be triggered by things like moving to another country, state, city, or even another house in the same neighborhood.  Changing schools or jobs are major obstacles.  Relationships that are changing are excruciating for these folks.

Getting a different vehicle, changing doctors or insurance companies, having new neighbors move in next door, making small changes in set routines, changing your mind or entertaining a new idea….anything that’s different, anything “new and improved” can throw you into a tailspin when the Freeze is your default response.

This is not good.  It’s hard to do your dance when your head’s whirling around and around and you’re feeling dizzy and nauseous.

hurricane-season
“Hurricane Season” by jamelah e. via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

ANATOMY OF THE FREEZE

To some extent, every one of us humans can get overwhelmed by changes that keep coming and coming.  Most of us develop work-arounds and strategies for it that allow us to keep on moving through the changes in outward circumstances or changes in our own feelings and internal landscapes.  Some of us just can’t.

One of the most common traits of people who are affected badly by the Freeze is extreme stubbornness.  Their “Yes-Book” is very small; their “No-Book,” very large.  Things are supposed to happen a certain way and no other way is going to work.  Rigidity is their middle name.

The general anxiety that happens when faced by any change gets blown up into major crisis proportions.  If the anxiety level gets too high a panic attack may set in.

Your heart beats faster and faster.  You have difficulty breathing.  Weakness, fainting, dizziness, tingling or numbness are common occurrences.  You start sweating a lot and may experience chest pains.  Extreme terror grabs you and you spin out.  ACK!

One cause for the condition that stands above the rest, according to the smart guys, is trauma.  Something happened to the sufferer that convinced them that moving made them a target somehow.

Any kind of movement that calls attention to their presence feels dangerous.  For them, it feels better to hide out in the bushes or behind masks rather than to risk an attack that might cause some kind of harm or suffering.

Just the possibility of future suffering or the repeat of suffering that previously occurred gets magnified so badly that they become unsettled and very wobbly.  Who wants to move when the ground under your feet is rocking and rolling and cracks are opening up in front of you?

cracked-earth
“Cracked Earth” by Gerry Thomasen via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
An extreme need for consistency makes people who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder prone to getting driven into a frenzy by any change in daily routines.

Others may just be terrified for no real reason at all.  You don’t need a reason to be scared.  Sometimes you just are.

Hey…let’s face it.  Despite our current status as top dog of the world as we know it, humans are basically descended from a long line of brainy runners and cringing scaredy-cats.

The ones who were brave (and unlucky) didn’t survive long enough to HAVE descendants.  Freeze-genes are part of our DNA.

We honor the fearless ones mostly because the majority of us know that inside our own selves there is a terrified heart prone to a heck of a lot of trembling and moaning.

hikers-at-pilot-rock
“Hikers at Pilot Rock” by Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington [CC BY-2.0]

SO, HOW DO WE DEAL?

Therapy is one solution touted by the smart guys.  Cognitive-behavior therapy can be helpful.  This type of therapy changes the way you react to a feared stimulus by helping you sort through the options available to you when you are confronted with whatever scares you.

Often, by using these techniques, you can even get some insights into what causes you to freeze up like that.  You use your mind to calm your mind by developing routines and workarounds that help you cope with some feared change or other.

Things like shock or exposure therapy have also been used to treat tropophobia as well, but that just sounds like a refined sort of torture.  (The kid’s scared of the water?  Easy solution:  throw him into the middle of a deep pond.  Watch him drown.  End of problem.)

Medication’s another solution.  Specially designed anxiety medication and/or anti-depressants can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.  They can also help with the physical symptoms of panic attacks like difficulty in breathing.

However, the side-effects of the drugs can be gnarly and, for real, popping a pill every time you get scared just shoves the fear under the rug for a while.  You’re going to keep tripping over it…again and again and again.

Relaxation techniques, including the beginning stages of meditation and yoga, listening to music and various breathing exercises have been found to be very effective at alleviating anxiety and other symptoms.  Many people choose these as quick and easy methods for coping with various situations as well.

The problem with all of these methods, practices and techniques is that they are coping devices.  When you use them, you relieve and mitigate the assorted symptoms of the problem, but you are still stuck with the basic problem, which is your fear.

It sits there, a raging stream that cuts across your path and the dream you’re chasing is on the other side of the stream.  Treading water in the middle of the stream just doesn’t get you to the other side.

raging-river
“Raging River” by Szoki Adams via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

WHAT ELSE?

Marketing maven Seth Godin had an interesting take on this whole issue in his book, POKE THE BOX.    He points out that things are always moving and flowing.  He calls that flow “flux” and says that engineers can measure the flux of heat or molecular change by measuring movement.

One example he uses is putting an ice cube in a cup of hot tea.  The heat moves from the water into the ice.  The ice melts.  That’s flux.  That’s movement.

iced-tea
“Iced Tea” by EmberEyes via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The problem is that people often confuse the natural flux and movement of the evolving world around us with risk, and, for real, “risk” is just a state of mind.

The feeling of “risk” is the result when we put some value on a particular outcome.  We want that outcome very badly.  If we don’t get to that particular outcome then we feel we have lost something somehow.

Risk always involves winning and losing.  And risk always brings with it the possibility of failure.  Chances are, the more risks you take the more likely it will be that you will fail at some point.

If you’ve been trained to avoid failure, Godin says, you will be especially averse to taking risks.  Your wonderfully agile mind starts in, showing you all the ways this move or that move could lead to failure.  Not only that, the people around you, who probably don’t like change any more than you do, are likely to chime in as well.

You start getting anxious.  You’re going to lose, Lose,LOSE…oh, no!  So you don’t move.

Anxiety, according to Godin, is “experiencing failure in advance.”  Your mind is doing a ju-jitsu number on you, throwing you for a loop.

Godin likens the reactions of the risk-averse to acting like a rock in the middle of a flowing river.  He says, “People act as though flux – the movement of people or ideas or anything else that’s unpredictable – exposes us to risk and exposes us to failure.  The fearful try to avoid collisions so they avoid movement….”

He tells us, “Like a rock in a flowing river, you might be standing still, but given the movement around you, collisions are inevitable.”

He points out that a log floating down that same river is in the flow of movement and change, but that log is likely to experience a heck of a lot more calm around it when compared to that rock.  Moving with the flow it doesn’t get banged up so much by the floating debris and it can land in a pretty cool place eventually.

its-too-cold-to-jump-in
“It’s Too Cold To Jump In” by Jamie McCaffrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Godin’s solution to thawing the Freeze is this:  Flex with the flux.  Move.  You are more likely to get to somewhere else pretty much intact.

ANOTHER TAKE

This YouTube video, “Numbing Pain and Joy” presents an important concept:  when you numb pain (or discomfort or fear) you numb joy.

The video was published by KirstyTV, the You-Tube channel for internationally known motivational speaker Kirsty Spraggon whose main focus in her talks and as an interview talk-show host is vulnerability and working through the issues connected with being a bonafide, genuine human being.

Here’s a poem:


PAY ATTENTION

Pay attention!

This is SERIOUS!

Here you are lollygagging down this road

on your way to your Doom.

 

You are ignoring all the smarty-pants prophets.

They tell you how foolish it is to be

refusing to be ruled by inevitability,

refusing to heed their fingers pointing at your fate,

ignoring their gloomy and direful predictions of your predicament.

 

So what happens?

 

This road of yours takes a left.

then it takes a right…

an unexpected corner – OOPS!

pothole here, mud bog there,

mist and shadows,

caves and heights.

 

You move one more jot

along your meandering trail

going hither and yon along yet another cliff edge,

then down some rocky beach,

under the pretty trees,

totally unaware of that stupendous bunch of heavy coconuts

that just misses your head because

YOU stopped to watch some hyperactive orange-and-black butterfly

zigzag-zipping along through the zinnias.

 

Ya know…

This is not so bad.

 

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Glacier” by Douglas Scortegagna via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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BE TOO BOLD: An Un-Seeing Exercise

BE TOO BOLD: An Un-Seeing Exercise

Ah…here it comes again.  Another Un-Seeing Exercise.  There’s THAT question:  Who am I to be so bold? 

The story you tell yourself about what you “cannot” do can hurt you your entire life.  This question, in particular, can tie you up in all kinds of knots and keep you stuck in suck.

WHY BOLD?  WHAT IS BOLD?

“Lemme tell ya, cookie,” as an old, rasty rascal of a friend used to say, “it’s supposed to be bold.  What are ya?  Some kinda snail?”

Jan (Arny) Messersmith published that sky-diving image in the header of this post in his Flickr stream in 2010.  He tells the backstory in a long rumination in his image notes.  He also includes one of the best definitions of “bold” I’ve ever seen.

He says, “Boldness is the exercise of one’s beliefs accompanied by a certainty that positive and well-considered actions will produce desirable outcomes.”  He continues, “Timidity and fear are not compatible with confidence and trust.”  It’s a truth, that.

This INBOUND Bold Talk, “From Suit to Seal” was published on YouTube by HubSpot in 2015.  It features Phil Black who hung up his suit as a Goldman-Sach minion to become, of all things, a Navy Seal.

“Be bold,” Black says at the end of his talk.  Bold is the first step to following your dream.

TAKING THAT FIRST STEP

How do you get to bold?  Some counterpoint questions might help.  How about these?

  • When you are 80, are you going to regret that you did not take action and believe in yourself because you were scared?
  • What message will you give your kids and your grandkids?  How are you going to authentically encourage them to follow their dreams when you stop yourself from following your own?

The saddest comment I have ever overheard was one from an elderly grandmother telling her grandson, “Go do your dream, bebe.  Me, I too old for dream now.  I can only wish.”

Another take on this is the advice in this spoken poem, “Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives” in this YouTube video by Richard Williams, better-known as American rapper and spoken word artist Prince Ea.

Prince Ea published the video in 2016.  It was a collaboration between the artist, who calls himself a “Futurist,” and Neste, a Finnish oil refinery company that, besides producing and marketing petroleum products, also produces “renewable diesel” which is produced in a patented vegetable oil refining process. The upcycled vegetable oil works well as an alternative fuel in diesel engines.

PRETEND THERE IS NO COUNTDOWN

The Real is that being bold isn’t all that hard to do.  Major tip:  Forget the countdown.  Never mind “a-one and a-two and a-three.”  Just go.

Practice will help with that.  It gets easier every time you do something that makes you scared and nervous.

scared-but
“Scared BUT” by vivek JOSHI via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS

Bold can also get easier if you can follow along the trails of adventurers and explorers who’ve gone on ahead of you.

  • Start a file folder today – either a physical paper one or one on your computer.  Choose a few people who you admire for their bravery and bold actions.  Research their stories.
  • Chances are your heroes started in situations that are no better than yours right now and they made it.  Find out how they did it.  Look at ways that maybe you can do it your own self in your own field.

sahara-footsteps
“Sahara Footsteps” by Rachael Taft [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


I AM NOT HERE TO AUDITION

I’m not here to fill

A role one playwright

Or another put down

To get some constipated plot

Moving this way or that.

 

I’m not here to match

A cast director’s vote

For color coordination

Or for an echo of some

Old star’s past glory.

 

I’m not here to act out

Some director’s dictum

Of the statement I must make

While juggling stereotypes

And tired old clichés.

 

I’m not here to bend

And spend myself,

Reworking every line

To make some producer’s

Wet dream more sublime.

 

I’m not here to audition.

The part is already mine.

Who I am is what I am,

And, on this stage,

I’m the star and the chorus line.

 

Whether I show what’s honest,

Whether I show what’s real,

Whether I am brave enough

To show what I truly feel:

Only I can decide.

 

I’m not here to audition,

And neither, my dear, are you.

On another stage,

On a different page,

For you, it’s just as true….

By Netta Kanoho

Header image credit:  “Fortune Favours the Bold” by Jan (Arny) Messersmith via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

It’s easy to stay in our comfort zone.  We’re good there.  We know where we are.  We know what we’re supposed to do about it all.

the-bell-jar
The Bell Jar by melingo wagamama via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
There are two problems with hanging in the comfort-zone, however.  Life doesn’t often let us stay there, and we don’t grow as much there.

 

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

“Post-traumatic growth” is a term coined by Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, two of the pioneering experts on the subject.  They say PTG is the “positive change that occurs as a result of struggle with highly challenging life crises.”

In this YouTube video, History of Post Traumatic Growth, Calhoun tells a bit about how their concept of studying “growth through stress” developed.

The scientists and their teams interviewed people who had endured hardship. They wanted to know why some people grow after trauma and others don’t.   What they found surprised them.

Calhoun put together their findings in a 2006 book, HANDBOOK OF POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH: Research and Practice.

Just like the wise guys keep telling us, it seems suffering can help people transform in fundamental, positive ways.  The transformations in the people who were interviewed were more profound (and more common) than the researchers expected.

They tell us that there are five ways people can grow after a crisis:

  • Their relationships can strengthen.
  • They can discover new paths and purposes in life. Sometimes these are related to a particular survival mission.  Other times the crisis becomes the catalyst for a more general reconsideration of priorities.
  • Trauma allows them to find their inner strength.
  • Their spiritual life can deepen.
  • They can feel a renewed appreciation for life.

 

HUH?  HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

“Deliberate rumination,”  (spending lots of time trying to make sense out of painful experiences and reflecting on how these circumstances have changed you), the psychologists say, helps to foster post-traumatic growth.

Tedeschi and Calhoun use the metaphor of an earthquake to explain how we grow in the wake of crisis.  Just as a city has certain structure before major earthquake so too do we have fundamental beliefs about our lives and the world.  Trauma shatters those assumptions.

Out of the rubble comes the opportunity to rebuild.  In the aftermath of an earthquake, cities aim to erect buildings and infrastructure that are stronger and more resilient than what now lies in ruins.

Those who are able to rebuild psychologically, spiritually and otherwise after a crisis are better equipped to deal with future adversity, and they ultimately lead more meaningful lives.

windswept-coco-palm
“Windswept Tree” by ptross via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
As Anne M. Mulcahy, the former chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corp, once advised, “When you have that window of opportunity called a crisis, move as quickly as you can, get as much done as you can.  There’s a momentum for change that’s very compelling.”

 

WHAT PTG CAN MEAN FOR YOU

Personal coach-mentor Robin Amos Kahn gave a short talk about this phenomenon which was published in this YouTube video, Post-Traumatic  Growth by OwnTheRoom in 2014.  In it she shares her personal story of personal adversity and how she grew from it.

Own The Room is an organization of skillful communicators  based in New Jersey who provide leadership training and work with corporations around the world.  They say they help “empower high performance cultures that enable people to actually have fun while doing the best work of their lives.”

 

OKAY….HOW DO I DO IT?

The following collection of six life-hacks are take-aways from these guys and others who have continued to figure out how to use the findings on post-traumatic growth and their ramifications to help other people survive and thrive after a crisis.

windswept-trees-at-slope-point
“Windswept Trees at Slope Point” by Marcus Holland-Moritz [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The ideas for these life-hacks were iterated by psychologist Stephen Joseph in his book, WHAT DOESN’T KILL US:  The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth. 

I’ve thrown in asides from psychologist Fredrike Bannink whose book, POST TRAUMATIC SUCCESS:  Positive Psychology and Solution-Focused Strategies to Help Clients Survive and Thrive, was written for other psychologists working with trauma survivors.

(Stephen Joseph spent over 20 years working with survivors of trauma and is a professor at the University of Nottingham.  Fredrike Bannink, who among other things is the Mental Health Trainer for Doctors Without Borders, is an internationally known clinical psychologist based in Amsterdam.)

TAKE STOCK

  • Figure out where you are now.
  • Acknowledgement and validation are important, the guys in lab coats say.  You have to understand and accept the changes that have happened.  You have to cop  to the fact that you are smack-dab in the middle of it all
  • F’r real, your problems don’t need to be analyzed to death. They are there; they are in your face.  See them.  Know where you’re standing.  If you can just see the challenges, you can actually face them and maybe do something about them.
  • Focus on what already works – assess your strengths, competencies and resources:  How do you cope?  How do you keep your head above water?   Do more of that.  What have you got?  Use it.

VALUE CHANGE ITSELF

You know what the best thing about change is?  It is happening all the time.  If you’re stuck in suck, it helps to remember that old and hoary reminder:  “This, too, shall pass.”

Obstructions and adversity do not go on forever.  Mostly that’s ’cause we don’t last that long.  Also, we always have the option to choose to step out of the bog our own selves.

One way to do that is to try to get past looking at just the negatives of a situation.  Check out how things may have improved as well.  Even a small change for the better counts.  Count them all.

BUILD ON HOPE

  • Learn to be hopeful about the future, these guys tell you. Look for inspirational stories about people who have overcome similar obstacles and start looking at how you, your own self, still have a future, one that can be good anyhow.
  • Focus on your personal goals. Seeing yourself as you want to be is the key to personal growth.   What are your best hopes?
  • The scientists, seekers and practitioners all say building hope and optimism is very important for transcending whatever 2 x 4 has hit you upside the head.  They are the antidotes to the hopelessness and pessimism that keep you in the muck.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude. Yup.  Count your blessings.  They are on the other side of all the wo-wo-woes.

RE-AUTHORING

Re-write your own story.  You can do this literally by using expressive writing techniques to find new perspectives.  As Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “I am not what happened to me.  I am what I choose to become.”

So…tell the story about who you are choosing to become.  Make up your own happy endings.

After a while you’ll start to understand that it doesn’t matter who hurt you or what broke you down.  What is going to matter to you is who and what made you smile again and why.

NOTICE NEW GROWTH

  • Ask yourself: When have you felt better lately?
  • Put on your own lab coat and use “scaling questions” to assess your progress, motivations, hopes and confidence.  On a scale from 10 to 0, where would you say you are today?  How come it’s not lower?
  • Notice the progress you’ve made. Don’t discount them just because they’re teeny.  One step is still one step.
  • Call your shots – What will be the next signs of progress?
  • Celebrate success.

CONCRETE EXPRESSIONS

The scientists who study post-traumatic growth all say that if you can get through the painful process of dealing with trauma and change, you will get to the point when you will make something that is your very own unique expression of self.

It is worthwhile to remember, I think, that one old meaning of the word “suffering” is “to undergo.”  When you “suffer,” you are undergoing something.  What you’re doing is just all about going on through it.  You can choose to suffer over your suffering, or not.

Once you’ve made it to the other side, you’ll be able to make something, the guys in the lab coats say.  Maybe it’ll be a marvelous thing the world has never before seen.

 

windswept-tree-at-bow-fall
“Windswept Tree at Bow Falls, Banff, Alberta, Canada” by davebloggs007 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

FINAL THOUGHT

The poets, the artists, and the wise guys got there before the scientists again, I am thinking.

They know, those poets and artists.   Through all of the ouches and angst and all the confusion and chaos, there’s a golden thread that leads you back to your Highest Self.  And when you get there, oh…the thoughts you can think and the things you can do….

All this other stuff is about finding that thread.

 

golden-threads
“Golden Threads” by David Pilbrow via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Here’s a poem:


LOOKING FOR THE GOD THREAD

Looking for the God Thread…

Where the heck did it go?

It’s buried under all this other stuff.

Tangled up in all this blustering blow.

 

Looking for the God Thread…

Do you see a shiny fine gold wire

Wandering through this mass of

Fuzz-ball thoughts, messed-up desire?

 

Looking for the God Thread…

It’s in here, I know.

I’m picking through all these old bits,

Growling ’cause the going’s so slow.

 

Looking for the God Thread…

Where the heck can it be?

It’s all my fault!  I got distracted, a bit refracted,

Now that God Thread’s LOST somewhere in me.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Windswept” by Maciej via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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ORDINARY MAGIC

ORDINARY MAGIC

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that transcendence has nothing to do with escaping the world or your own self.  [All it means is stepping out and dancing your own heart-dance right out in the open, in the middle of the world and in the middle of yourself.]

“Listening to your heart” often seems like a scary thing.  Your heart keeps insisting that you just have to do things that are counter-intuitive and not-the-thing — the very opposite of what everybody around you says is the Smart Thing To Do.

Your heart often keeps urging you to make these moves that make no rational sense, insisting and insisting that the very thing you are trying to ignore or avoid or resist has to be embraced.

Your heartsong, it turns out, is also what holds you together when your life turns to dreck and you have been knocked down to the floor again by some other Life-thing.  Not only does it help you get back up, it can even help you keep your feet under you the next time you get a 2×4 upside the head.

This seems to me to be a very good thing to explore when you’re searching for meaning and mana for your ordinary life.

THE POWER OF THE HEART

In this YouTube video of a TEDxRockCreekPark talk, “The Power of Resilience,” neuro-psychologist Sam Goldstein tells a story about his work with children and touches on some of the things that his patients have taught him.  His early work with children led him to focus on studying resilience in humans, his life-work.

Resilience researchers ask why some people handle adversity better than others and go on to lead normal lives despite negative life experiences while others get de-railed by them.  Goldstein is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah, a Research Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and the director of the Neurology, Learning and Behavior Center in Salt Lake City in Utah.  He’s written many books and articles on the subject.

Goldstein’s own work has led him to understand that it is the ordinary, heartful actions of everyday people that fosters and instill in childen the strength, hope and optimism they need to face the world.  It is, as he calls it, an “ordinary magic.”

He also points out that our heart is connected to our brain in more ways than any other organ in our body.  It affects us physically and mentally as well.   He encourages us to listen more to our hearts.

In this YouTube video published by the HeartMath Institute, “The Importance of Resilience” further explains the real effects of the heart-mind connection, applying it to the business world.

HeartMath Institute is a nonprofit research and educational organization founded in the 1980’s by Doc Childre, an internationally known authority on optimizing personal effectiveness.  He believes that the “intelligence of the heart” can be harnessed and originated a system of “heart-based tools and technologies” that has been used widely in business, the military, hospitals, clinic and schools to enhance health, performance and well-being.

Another scientist (one who’s turned mystic) is Gregg Braden.  He spends his time exploring ancient wisdoms from a scientific perspective, sharing what he has discovered on his journeys and his thoughts on these discoveries.

This next YouTube video, published by philosophical freeborder in 2015, features Braden talking about how the emotions of the human heart can apparently affect the electromagnetic field of the earth in a GAIAM TV interview.

The thinking’s “out there.”  It’s also fascinating.

Braden’s book, RESILIENCE FROM THE HEART:  The Power to Thrive in Life’s Extremes, is also worth checking out.

FINAL THOUGHTS

From the ancient wise guys to modern-day big brains, the advice remains the same:  Listen to your heart.  That’s where the magic is.

Here’s a poem:


CARING FOR THE ESSENCES

I am learning:

The wiseguys are right.

It really does NOT matter

What happens to me.

The only thing important

Is my response.

 

Building up and tearing down,

I wade through the stream of Time

And dance in the Creative

As I work on caring for

What is essential to me on

This journey I am making.

 

Caring for the essences of my existence

Keeps me hopping,

But on the stage

The dancer leaps with abandon,

Throwing out her heart

And following after it as

The beauty of the dance

Continues to grow.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Sunny Sunday Mornings” by Chris Chabot via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

 

 

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A CROWDED FIELD

A CROWDED FIELD

Very often the stories you tell yourself keep you stuck in suck.

TOO MANY PEOPLE GOT THERE FIRST

Here’s one that’s likely to stop you in your tracks:  “There are too many people doing __________ (fill in the blank) already.”  You tell yourself this and then make up a story about how you’ll get lost in the vast crowds of people doing the same ­­­­__________ (fill in the blank) that you want to do.

Maybe you tell yourself, “Nothing I can do will really make me stand out in this crowd,” and then, after surveying all the competition, maybe you allow yourself to be intimidated.  Maybe you ask yourself, “Why even try?”

THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD

Remember the Good Mom Litany?  Do this, don’t do that….”If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?”  If you’re running the “too-many-people-are-already-doing-it” story in your head, it could be you took that Litany to heart a little too much.

In this funny YouTube video published by joeschoi, comedienne Anita Renfroe condenses what a good Mom says in 24 hours into 2 minutes and 55 seconds in “The Mom Song,” sung to the William Tell Overture.

That litany, like all the other Mom (and Big Person) admonitions, was supposed to get you to stop and think before you did something irrevocably damaging – physically, mentally or socially — to your little self.

It was supposed to keep you safe and unhurt when she or some other Big Person couldn’t be around to watch over you and protect you.  Maybe you heard it so much that now it just pops up all on its own every time you want to try something new or do something different.

In order to get your head turned around when the Litany is running through your head, you will probably need to do another Un-Seeing Exercise.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER IMMORTAL

The best way to turn this situation around is to channel your Inner 12-Year-Old.

  • Remember when you still thought you were Immortal?
  • Remember when you thought you could do anything?
  • Remember when you wanted to try something just because you wanted to see what happens next?
  • Remember when you were too dumb to know what the Smart Thing was?

Here are some counterpoint thoughts you might want to roll around in your head that will encourage that 12-Year Old to step on out:

  • Just because somebody else…or even many somebody elses are doing it does not mean that you can’t too.
  • Nobody is you. You will bring your own gifts, your own skills, your own sensibilities to this thing you do.  (Just make sure you do the thing the best way you know how.)

This YouTube video, “Too Many People Already Do What I Do” was published by Sean McCabe, a young entrepreneur who is the founder of seanwes, a brand that mashes together making art (in this case, hand-lettering) and creating a successful, audience-driven business.

In the video, Sean deconstructs and refutes the too-many-people story.  He points out that in this vast interconnected world of ours, we are exposed to the best of the best on a daily basis.  We often populate our daily feeds with all the minds we appreciate.

He also points out that it’s quite likely that when you are checking out all of the makers you admire and against whom you measure yourself, you are probably only seeing a tiny fraction of the 7 billion-plus humans on the planet.

The tiny fraction of the world’s population that is grabbing your attention are the ones who are doing things and making awesomeness.   If you’re looking to become one of that number, then you’re going to be one of the relatively few.

Most of the rest of the people on the planet are more likely to be spectators, audience, or customers….people who are waiting for you to share your own gift.  That is a very cool thought, huh?

Imbue what you do with your own meaning and start building and sharing your __________ (fill in the blank) your own way.  Listen and respond to the feedback from your audience and persist in sharing what you do.

REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR MESSAGE SIMPLE

Steve Jobs once said, “This is a very complicated world.  It is a very noisy world.  And we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us…And so, we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”

Keep your message about your __________ (fill in the blank) focused.  Keep your message simple.  There is incredible power and freedom in simplicity.

Think.  What’s the ONE thing you want people to know about you?

If you can distill your message down to one simple phrase that’s aligned to your values then that one phrase will help you maintain your conviction.  With that one phrase you can carry on through the whole obstacle course you may encounter and finish what you start.

Showing up is what counts.  Doing what you do the best way you know how is what counts.  Maintaining your effort tenaciously (McCabe suggests showing up every day for at least two years) until you’ve made your dream real is what counts.

The rest is just parsley.

parsley
Parsley by Phelyan Sanjoin via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


ANOTHER FOOL, ANOTHER FOLLY

I am a Maker.

(You are one too.)

The choices and decisions I make

Determine and define the life I live.

They make a springboard or a pit

As I run and tumble and leap,

Cartwheeling across this stage

We call the World,

Dancing like God’s Own Fool.

 

I do have to remind myself:

It is only another performance,

Only another folly,

Just another chance to make

Someone else smile or frown or weep,

A chance to grow,

A chance to make Beauty,

A chance to touch the Mystery.

 

And I have to think:

It is not such a bad thing,

This dancing like a Fool.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  Great Reno Balloon Race by Ken Lund via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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WORK AND MEANING

WORK AND MEANING

“Meaningful Work” is the new Grail, it seems.  Every time you turn around there’s somebody or other admonishing and exhorting you to get out there and “find” the work that gives meaning to your life.  It’s the key to happiness, joy and self-fulfillment, they say.

WHAT MAKES WORK MEANINGFUL?

Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, in his book THE QUARTER-LIFE BREAKTHROUGH, has a clear and succinct description of the shape this “work with meaning” is supposed to take.  He says this sort of work has these four qualities:

  • It reflects who you are and what your interests are.
  • It allows you to show your gifts to help others.
  • It provides a community of believers that will support your dream.
  • It is financially viable, given your desired lifestyle.

This is the kind of work that has all the bennies and the good stuff that you like, so I suppose it does makes sense that if you actually had a job like that it’s likely you would be blissed.

Lifestyle and career coaches and fire-starters all seem to agree:  If nobody will hand over that Meaningful Work treasure to you, then, by golly, you can just get out there and make your own bread for your own self!  (Go, you!)

daily-bread
Daily Bread by M. Dreibelbis via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

“MEANINGFUL” CAN BE HARD TO FIND…OR IS IT?

In the real world, it seems to me, a majority of the people who must work for a living often have a limited number of options.  For one thing, they do have to accept whatever available jobs there are that they are qualified to get.  (They hope these jobs will pay enough to support them and their families.)

servant-girl
Servant Girl by University of Hawaii at Manoa (Hawaii Digital Newspaper Project) via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
If not, they may choose to take on a couple more similar gigs or invent side-gigs that take up the slack.  Often they may work really hard on acquiring or expanding skill-sets that will make them more attractive to assorted employers.

Some of them may even make the effort to develop skills that will allow them to build a framework for work that is uniquely their own.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a press release issued in March, 2015, tells us that the four most common occupations in America at the time were retail salesperson, cashier, food preparer and server, and office clerk.

All of these jobs are basically low-paying positions that are mostly done by rote.  If you tried to fit them into the “meaningful-work” template the life-coaches tout, these jobs probably would flunk a bunch of “meaningful-work” tests.

The thing is, these jobs are still a necessary part of keeping the world around us functioning smoothly and well.  If you take away all the salespeople and cashiers, all the food service people and all of the assorted office minions and functionaries, would we be able to live life as we know it?

Probably not.

WHERE DID ALL THE MEANING GO?

In this YouTube video featuring a TEDx talk given at Azusa Pacific University, Ryan T. Hartwig explores how Meaning went Missing-In-Action from the still-useful post-modern jobs we do.

Hartwig’s point in the video is this:  “There is no meaningful job unless someone brings meaning to it.

It’s not a new idea.  For what was perhaps his best-known book, WORKING, which was published in 1997, American journalist and radio broadcaster Louis “Studs” Terkel talked to over 100 people – from gravediggers to movie studio heads — about their jobs and how they felt about them.

He came away with the thought that “Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”

A couple of stories from the book THE POWER OF MEANING:  Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith, illustrate this point quite handily.

In the first story, John F. Kennedy ran into a janitor at NASA in 1962.  When the president asked the cleaner what he was doing, the janitor said he was “helping put a man on the moon.”

first-man-on-the-moon
First Man on the Moon by John Flannery via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
The second story is about a road-worker directing the flow of traffic near a repair site on a stretch of Colorado highway.  The guy stood in the hot sun and periodically he would turn  a sign that read “Stop” on one side and “Slow” on the other.  He kept doing that diligently, over and over again.

A driver in the line of cars waiting for their turn to get past the repair site asked the road-worker how he could stand such boring work.  The road-worker replied, “I keep people safe.  I care about these guys behind me and I keep them safe.  I also keep you safe, and everyone else in all those cars behind you.”

As Smith points out, “The ability to find purpose in the day-to-day tasks of living and working goes a long way to building meaning.”

 THE SERVICE AGE

Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant did a survey of two million individuals across over 50 jobs.  Those who reported finding the most meaning in their careers included clergy, English teachers, surgeons, directors of activities at religious organizations, elementary and secondary school administrators, radiation therapists, chiropractors and psychologists.

These people all felt that the world was a better place and other people were better off because they were there doing their work.  Grant found it telling that every one of these satisfied workers provided needed services to other people.

We’ve been told that we have moved out of a “manufacturing economy” into a “knowledge economy.”  However, as Grant points out in a 2015 Huffington Post article, “Three Lies about Meaningful Work,” we are actually living in a “service economy.”

In the United States, nearly three out of every ten employees are knowledge workers, Grant says in the article.  They are outnumbered by the service workers who represent eight out of every ten American employees.

Not only that, but it was estimated that in 2016 almost two-thirds of the world’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was produced in the service industries.

ANOTHER ANSWER

In this YouTube video of a 2012 “Capture Your Flag” interview, author and public speaker Simon Sinek answers the question, “What makes your work meaningful?”

Capture Your Flag” is executive producer Erik Michielsen’s educational media company which has been creating online video content and helping to develop material for online and educational publishers since 2009.

In the series of videos Michielsen continues to produce, he interviews what he calls “rising leaders” and “near peers” (people a step or two ahead of the viewers of the video) who have faced and resolved familiar business and career situations and problems.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND A TAKE-AWAY

If the only meaning in work is what you, the worker, brings to it, then it seems to me that it would be a good thing to think on the counterintuitive advice Professor Hartwig gives at the end of his TEDx talk:

  • Focus on the good you do in your work. How you help others and the value of the work you do are important building blocks for finding meaning in your work.
  • See and act beyond the bottom line. Profit is an important thing, but it is not the only thing of value for your bottom line.  Building relationships, connections and community transcends and adds to your bottom   line.
  • Never say, “I’m just a ________” (Fill in the blank) You are more than just a job title.  Remember that.

Hartwig also encourages managers and administrators to develop a work environment that will help to foster this way of thinking by allowing and encouraging workers to make their work more meaningful and allowing them to use all of their human qualities to do it.

Here is a poem I wrote about what being a property manager means to me and the lessons it has taught me.  [Kuleana is Hawaiian for “responsibility.”]


THE GATEKEEPER SPEAKS

 

Ya know, I’ve been thinkin’,

I get to walk through Other People’s worlds –

All of them valid, all of them real.

The people living in these worlds

Are who they are,

Are what they are,

And they have to be Real with me.

 

Because I am the gatekeeper –

The foo-dog holding the key that

Unlocks the theater back door.

In order to use that stage that is my kuleana,

These people must get by me,

So I become a tourist in their lives.

 

They show me its shape –

All the good parts, polished up and spiffy-nice.

(It’s only later that I get to see

The darknesses and broken crockery.)

 

This all helps me understand a fundamental thing:

These others walk wrapped in a bubble-world

Of particular hopes and dreams.

They come to me lugging a load

Of issues, the consequences of past mistakes.

 

It has nothing to do with me

When some dream blows up in their faces,

Or some hope dies a lingering, agonizing death.

It has nothing to do with me.

Their moves then are predicated on

The prevailing climate in their own world-bubbles.

 

Sometimes I get caught in the crossfire of conflicting other-people needs.

Sometimes I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time –

The quintessential bystander

(Not always innocent)

Who gets the random fist in the nose.

 

It has nothing to do with me.

But, DANG!  It hurts!

Since I don’t see it coming,

A face-block’s the only move left to me.  Ouch!

The blows a reminder-tap.

It says, “Pay attention!”

 

It surely is a liberating thing to know:

People are doing what they do,

And very often,

It has nothing to do with me.

I do not have to take what they do personally.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  The Grail by Carlos Garcia via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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KEEP WHAT YOU LOVE

KEEP WHAT YOU LOVE

It’s the new “thing” — Letting Go.  Everybody who’s anybody keeps telling you that the only way to move forward is to let go of all that baggage you’re lugging around.   “The Simple Life,” hey, ho!  Minimalism rules.

They tell you, “Gee whiz, guys and girls…you’ve got a wagon train following along behind you with all the accumulated baggage of a lifetime and you’re pulling that thing around with you.  No wonder you’re so tired all the time.”

For the most part, that is probably a truth, you know.  People who have little day-packs can scoot along hiking trails a heck of a lot easier than the guys lugging around those huge mountain backpacks that tower over their heads.

backpacker
Backpacker by dontdothisathome via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

MAKING A START

You figure that you probably do have to let go of at least some of that stuff.  As you’ve probably found already, if you’re a natural-born hoarder who tends to leave claw marks all over stuff you’re forced to release, even letting go of just one little thing might be really tough.

It’s likely that you’ll start remembering the back-story behind every itty-bitty thing or else you’ll recall the dreams you had for this thing or that.  Getting to The Simple Life could very well become an exploration and excavation into your life-story.

You may keep getting sidetracked by all those stories and perhaps you’ll never get to the part where you let go of anything.

GETTING CARRIED AWAY

So, finally, after much browbeating there you are, winnowing your way through your stuff and starting to feel good about making all that progress.  The space around you is starting to clear up and it really does feel good.

It’s a good thing to remember that some of the more enthusiastic of our wanna-be advisors ignore the truth that you do have to be careful when you start tossing stuff.   If you make it past the first little throw away and then start getting into the swing of it all, it’s relatively easy to tip into deep toss-mode.

Then it’s possible that anything or maybe even everything can go out the window.  There you are, at the height of minimalistic euphoria….

“Tossing out the bath water…heave, ho, hup!..OOPS!  There went the baby!”

Easy, there.  Take a breather.  You do not have to clear everything out all at once.

 QUESTIONING YOUR WAY TO CLEAR

Here’s a three-part exercise that might help if you really are not making any headway at all.

Choose a target area that you want to clear. It doesn’t have to be a large area. It could be a small corner of a room.  It could be a kitchen drawer.

Part One is to pick up each object in your designated area and ask yourself these three essential questions:

  • Do I need this? (Be brutally honest here.  Do you really need twelve can openers?  Do you need that tacky-   looking tattered potholder?)
  • Is this useful? (Does it work?  Have you used it at all in the past six months?)
  • Do I still have a strong connection with it? (Do I love it? Is it uplifting eye-candy? Or is it some guilt-holding like that uber-tacky hand-me-down vase from your beloved old Aunt Martha, the one that leaked all over the dining room table the one time you used it.)

Depending on your answers to these essential questions, you can stick the thing into one of three piles – the YES pile (for the stuff you’re keeping), the NO pile (for the stuff you’re tossing) and the MAYBE pile.  If you’re a real pack-rat the MAYBE pile is going to be the biggest one of all.

Part Two of this exercise is to disappear the MAYBE pile.  Ask yourself the questions again for each of the objects in the maybe pile.  Keep asking until there are only two piles – YES or NO.  The goal is to end up with only YES things in your life.

Part Three is to find places to put the YES stuff on display or in some easy-to-reach place.  Understand that YES stuff that are packed in boxes stuck on high shelves are actually MAYBE or NO things in disguise.

Then, pack up the NO stuff and — this is the important parttake the NO stuff far, far away before the sun sets on your head.

If you are a natural-born hoarder, keeping the NO stuff for the Someday Garage Sale is just an invitation to collect more stuff.  Do not do it!

Renting out storage space for the NO stuff is cheating.  It is also very expensive.

Understand that these drastic measures are just a kick-starter.  Once you get the hang of disappearing things, you won’t need to be quite so deliberate about it.

Once you’ve gotten one space cleared, it does get easier to tackle another little bit and then another until the only things left in your life are the YES stuff.

(Maybe you haven’t noticed this, but these same questions work whether you’re looking at a thing, a person, or some situation that is bothering you.)

PUTTING FIRST THINGS FIRST

Victoria Moran, in her book LIT FROM WITHIN: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty, points out, “A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar. ”

This is another good reason for understanding the why of the things you keep.

This YouTube video of a TedXIndianapolis Talk by screenwriter and blogger Maura Malloy, “The Masterpiece of a Simple Life,” points to a balanced way to get back to simple without losing what you love.

Here’s a poem:


CHANGE

Change is going to happen…

That’s guaranteed.

With me or without me,

Change is going to happen.

 

And it’s a very funny thing:

I can affect change

One, two, three…

And it’s a very funny thing.

 

When I put my energy there

Towards nurturing the good

Then the good will grow,

When I put my energy there.

 

When I put my energy there

Towards nurturing the beauty,

Then beauty will surround me,

When I put my energy there.

 

If I grow lax, letting things fall apart,

Get all lazy, losing heart,

That’s where the change goes

If I grow lax, letting things fall apart.

 

If I lose my way, if I grow weak,

Forget my path and forget to speak,

That’s where the change goes

If I lose my way, if I grow weak.

 

Change can’t be forced, oh, no, no, no…

You can’t push the river,

It just keeps it flow

Change can’t be forced, oh, no, no, no.

 

Going where it will, where it must,

Change still needs space and trust.

Time is the essence, a vehicle,

Going where it will, where it must.

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  Clutter by staci myers via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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STANDING IN AMBIGUITY

STANDING IN AMBIGUITY

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that the willingness to stand still in the middle of uncertainty without giving in to despair allows for new opportunities to show up and gives you the space you need to notice them.  [If you focus on fears and doubts, there really is no room in your head for paying attention when a new door opens.]

Apple founder Steve Jobs had an interesting take on how to deal with the uncertainty of life.  He suggested using the ultimate uncertainty, death, to get past the fears and doubts you are likely to encounter during times of change.

steve-jobs-with-red-shawl
Steve Jobs With Red Shawl by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, ProjectRED Grouppicture, retouched by Sagredo, via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]
Jobs has been quoted as saying, “All external expectations, all fear of embarrassment and failure – all these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.   You are already naked.”

This is, I think, a profound thought, and it is probably the best (and the most difficult) way I know of dealing with “standing in ambiguity” – the whole uncertainty of just living your life, making plans and executing them, having goals and realizing them,  and so forth and so on.

WHAT IT IS AND WHY DO IT?

“Standing in ambiguity” equates, I think, with poet John Keats’ “negative capability,” which he describes as “when a person is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason….”

Wise guys through the ages have tried to get us to just sit with the uncertainty, feel the feelings, understand why they are welling up in us, and then step away from those feelings and look at where we can make our next move.  After that we can take the next step, then the next one, and so on until we get to a new place that feels more comfortable for us.

But, uncertainty and ambiguity is never an easy space to be in.

So then there’s this question:  If it makes us so uncomfortable, why would we even go there? 

One answer is that it is in this space that Creativity happens.  All that discomfort produces new ways of looking at things, change-making moves, and products never seen before.  (It also produces a lot of crazy people…but that’s another story.)

Here’s a short YouTube video, “Embrace Ambiguity,” by IDEO.org, an organization that works with nonprofits, social enterprises and foundations to design solutions for social impact around the world.  It explains some of the benefits of standing in ambiguity that creative people can use.

 

CULTURAL AMBIGUITY TOLERANCE

How much ambiguity you can tolerate is a personal thing.  Each person has his or her own level of tolerance.  The same is true for different cultures.

This YouTube video by Mary Rowland explains about the “ambiguity tolerance” of different cultures and what it means to you in practical, nuts-and-bolts fashion.

(I’m not sure who Mary Rowland is.  I couldn’t find anything about her on Google and her other YouTube offerings are not particularly helpful.  Still, this video is a lovely schmooze about an important topic.    Thanks, Mary Rowland…whoever you are.)

If your own ambiguity tolerance doesn’t match that of your culture, it’s quite likely that there will be friction.  If your own high ambiguity tolerance clashes with your culture’s lack of tolerance for ambiguity, you’ll have to deal with being labeled as a troublemaker or a ne’er-do-well.  If your ambiguity tolerance is low and you’re in a culture with a high tolerance for ambiguity, then you might be labeled as a ‘fraidy-cat, a worry-wort, or even a coward.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to figure out how to work with your culture’s level of tolerance for ambiguity as well as your own.  If the mismatch is too great, then perhaps you will need to go find a more supportive environment for yourself.  This, of course, will add to all the uncertainty.

JUST DO IT

Another take on how to deal with the uncertainty of life is in this YouTube video by Bob Miglani who exhorts, “Dealing  With Uncertainty?  Stop Waiting.  Move Forward and Embrace the Chaos.”

(Bob Magliani is the author of EMBRACE THE CHAOS: How India Taught Me To Stop Overthinking and Start Living.  In 2012, it was a Washington Post bestseller.  In it Magliani addresses how to deal with facing major uncertainty and stop doing the deer-in-the-headlights freeze.  He tells you that you have to let go of trying to control the chaos all around you and focus, instead, on what you can control — your own actions and your words and thoughts.  An interesting read.)

FINAL THOUGHT

The irony in all of this is that standing in ambiguity is…well…ambiguous and also very personal.  There are no final answers, no right or wrong way to do it.  There is only you and what you feel you can or must do.

About a year after my husband died, this poem came.  It  was a signal to me that I was ready again to turn around and face future.

After Fred died and the world I knew changed, I was very lost.  One of the first steps was getting through the grieving intact and through the acceptance and letting go.  And then there was the learning how to stand up strong in the middle of a heck of a lot of ambiguity.

When you’re already naked and the illusions in which you used to dress the world have all melted and dribbled away, when you no longer have anything obscuring your look into the Void, it does tend to free you up to do lots of other things.

I went and did a lot of other things.  Many of them turned out pretty okay.


I CAN TELL YOU GOODBYE

I can tell you goodbye now

And mean it, in my heart of hearts.

Your passing nearly killed me,

The pain squeezing me into

An otherness that whimpered

Helplessly against the loss

Of you and of the world

I thought I knew.

What is it somebody said?

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional….”

Something like that.

 

I decided not to suffer.

I don’t know what I’m doing

And no ultimate answer rises up,

No banner or signpost

To show me where to go.

I am lost in ambiguity,

Lost in the illusions

That keep swirling

Through this shadow-play.

And I cannot find my way

Back to the surety

I once knew.

 

You’re the one who was sure.

I thought you knew the way.

I only had to follow you.

Then you left me

Standing lost on this

Mist-covered mountain

And the world has changed

And changed and changed.

No visible landmarks –

All gone, along with you.

And your assurance that all of this is real.

 

You lied to me.

(Or maybe it was only to yourself.)

You were so sure that

I believed you.

I followed your lead

Because I thought I had no

Guidelines of my own.

And now I have to make them up,

All by myself, all over again.

Every day I make it all up.

 

It’s been good, you know.

I like it just fine now.

I have to thank you

Even though you brought

So much pain and confusion in your wake.

You taught me about a world

I had not known and made me

Play to its many faces.

 

Now I’m going back to what

I used to know,

Richer for having known you.

I loved you the best I could.

You loved me too, I know.

 

Good-bye, ei nei,

It was all good.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Sunrise by blese via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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