Last week I had a few conversations about discipline and rules.
I believe that the combination of discipline and self-awareness help us create more freedom in our life. I also think that creating a safe space is crucial to help a group of people express their full potential. Discipline, seen as a set of standards or agreements, can provide the structure to protect the safe space needed. But discipline and rules can quickly become a limiting wall, a barrier crushing personal creativity.
In my experience, for discipline to be effective, it must be meaningful.
It must serve the purpose for which everyone is working. It’s not a way to avoid problems or to make the work easier for the facilitators. Discipline must be designed to enhance the experience and help everyone express their full potential. When we don’t feel that the discipline is meaningful, we continuously look for ways to work around it.
So, when we ask for discipline, when we design a standard we should always check with ourselves the nature of our intent.
I feel blessed by the presence of amazing friends in my life.
People who help me grow with every conversation or experience.
Two days ago, I wrote about power and love. In that post, I also shared the need for me to do some news cleansing because I realised that they, the news, where releasing some toxins in my system.
Less than an hour later, my best friend sent me a text. It was a reflection about how much energy we waste to get angry and upset about what happens in the world and how, this anger, influences how we see the world and the people around us. So, staying away from the news is not an escape from reality. At the contrary, it’s a way to protect our energy so we can use it to make our own world better.
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” — Dave Gray
Then yesterday I had dinner with one of my brothers. As usual, it was an inspiring conversation in which every word opens up new insights and learnings. I realised that too often we turn our attention to distant things that we can’t change so we don’t have to look in the only place where we can really change something; ourserlves.
“To change the world, you must be willing to change yourself.” — Dave Gray
This is what I was doing lately. I was allowing for the news of the world to distract me from my world and my own growth.
By the way, the day I wrote that first post about power and love, I went to experience archery with another amazing brother (you should definitely try if you have the possibility, it’s pure wonder).
During the drive, I listened twice to a song by Michael Jackson, I had not heard for a while; Man in the Mirror.
A sat this morning with a BeTheChange card asking me “What wants to emerge?“.
It’s undoubtedly a different question to ponder on because it shifts our perspective on things. It reminds me of one of my favourite passages from Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E Frankl.
“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.”
What wants to emerge right here and now, at this exact moment while I’m writing? I was trying to find some thoughtful reflection to share only to realise that again, I was tricking myself making everything about me.
So, I deleted what I wrote, and a memory came in from yesterday.
A conversation I had while I was on a long drive and listening to some music. It started with another question: a piece of art made by an awful person is still a piece of art?
That question quickly shifted to another one; does the author owns her or his creation?
We use to think at the author as the “creator”, someone who creates something out of thin air and so “owns” what she or he creates. But what if the author is just a tool? Someone channelling what wants to emerge into the reality of our shared world?
What would change in your life if you look at yourself as a tool instead of a creator?
A few apparently disconnect things that maybe are not (disconnected).
Sunday I was checking the news online when I had one of those a-ha moments. The more I was reading, the more I was feeling bothered. Even worst, some anger was boiling there.
All those negative news were finding their way into my system. All the hate, the oppression, the suffering, the divisive words they were intoxicating my mind and my heart.
So, I’ve decided to take a full day off the news. And it has been so refreshing that I’m going to take a whole week of detachment from the news.
Yesterday I heard on the radio that it was the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I remember reading the book The Day of the Bomb by Karl Bruckner, more than thirty years ago. It is a children’ novel about that event, and I still feel a knot in the stomach, remembering that story.
I went to bed yesterday asking myself how is it possible that we use all this incredible potential to harm others.
Then this morning, after my training, I walked in the bedroom to pick the BeTheChange cards for my morning reflections. I didn’t put them away in the box yesterday, so they were still there laying on my bedtable. And the one on top caught my attention. It says “Power + Love”.
Inside the booklet a quote.
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
“Being in your true essence makes it less of a struggle”.
This BeTheChange card led me into my morning reflections.
Over the years, I’ve experienced many times the struggle of not being aligned with who I am.
When my actions are aligned with my identity, they just flow. But when they are not, everything is a burden.
After many trials and errors, this is my process when I want to achieve something.
First thing, I understand what I want to achieve. I need clarity of the goal to know where to put my attention.
Once I have clarity about what I want, I ask myself who the person who achieves that is. In short, who do I need to become to get what I want?
Then I design a new set of behaviours to install in my life based on my future self. But that’s not enough to sustain the new practices. I’ve learned that I need a set of structures and strategy to support those new behaviours. This is where knowing my present self, with my strengths and weaknesses, is essential. I design structures and strategies around my present self, so they can sustain my journey towards my future self.
Earlier this morning, I was sitting with my eyes closed.
I was trying to slow down my heartbeat after the morning exercises.
There was a lot of noise at the beginning, but not outside. It was inside my head.
Thoughts and images spinning around chasing each other.
And my heart pumping in my ears.
So, I shift my attention outwards.
The familiar sound of my dog barking to someone or something. The engine of a car, slowing pulling away taking someone to work. The birds singing, a choir of different voices that I can’t recognize but I felt some were saying hello to the new day and others were saying goodbye to the finishing night. A kid’s voice asking for something, maybe breakfast. The cat drinking from its bowl.
Then, all of a sudden, the silence.
As if the world pauses for a moment.
I couldn’t even hear my own breath.
My body felt light as if it was made of air.
I opened my eyes, and the world burst to life with all it sounds, voices, colours, light, and smells.
It felt so alive.
I felt so alive.
I want to do it more often.
Pause and listen.
Not to achieve something, not even peace.
Just to be.
It is an experiment on delayed gratification conducted in the late sixties at by at Stanford University psychologist Walter Mischel.
The test was straightforward. A group of children are taken one by one into a room where there is marshmallow on the table. The tester tells them that they can eat the marshmallow, but if they wait for a short period without touching it, they will receive a second one.
Then the tester leaves the room for approximately 15 minutes, so the child is left alone with the marshmallow.
Some resisted until the tester came back and received the second marshmallow. Others gave up and ate the one they have in front of them.
The researchers kept monitoring the children while they were growing up. They found out that the ones who were able to resist the temptation of the immediate gratification and wait longer for the bigger reward ended up with better life outcomes according to many parameters.
I’m sure many different factors contribute to our outcomes in life, but I believe that the ability aim for the long run is a critical one.
Observing how people operate around me, including me, I can see how we are constantly pressured to favour instant gratification. It’s how everyone who has something to sell gets our attention.
What about you? Can you wait for the bigger prize?
“Boiling water will soften a potato but harden an egg.”
It’s great to study the lives of remarkable people. To learn about the strategies of the ones who inspire us. From their experiences, we can extract many useful ideas that can help us in our own life journey.
But there is a caveat.
For an idea to create a real impact in your life, you must be able to mould it around your unique identity.
We study successful people because we want what they have. But what they have is the result of what they did. And what they did is informed by who they are.
Your actions are more powerful when they are aligned with your identity.
So, the first step, as Socrates said, is to know yourself.
The second step is to know who you want to become.
Then you’ll have an inner compass that will help you navigate through the ocean of ideas and strategies from successful people. So you won’t do what others do. You’ll create your own unique way.
As you probably know from some of my past posts, I’m a petrolhead. Or gearhead, depending on where you’re from.
I love motorcycle and car racing.
In a race, both machines and people are pushed to their limit.
When you’re going at 300Kmh on a track, there is no time to think about your next move or how to approach the next turn.
If you listen to a racer interview, you may hear them talking about “lines”, or better, the ideal line or trajectory.
On every track, there is usually one ideal line. It is the one that maximizes the speed in every point of the circuit while minimizing the distance covered. Following the perfect line make a massive difference between a winning lap and a poor one.
So, every racer spends some time to learn that line. Finding it, it’s a combination of science, knowledge, feelings and plenty of practice.
But even when you have found that perfect line, it’s not easy to stay on it for a whole race. Circumstances evolve during a race: there are all the other racers aiming at that line too, the changing weather, the evolving grip of the tarmac and the tyres, and the increasing fatigue both physical and mental.
This is why racers need clues. They fix in their memories a set of visual clues along the circuit that they use to quickly understand if they are on the perfect line. After a while, they are not even conscious of those clues. They just sense them and then act accordingly.
Rituals for me are like those clues.
I design them to help me stay on my ideal line. The one that connects me with the person I want to become. Every time something pulls me away from my ideal line, my rituals help me getting back to it.
We all make mistakes.
Some are small, others have a significant impact.
Sometimes nobody notices, other times they get all the spotlight.
Sometimes it’s our fault, other times it just happens.
We all pass through some failures in life.
Or at least, I know I did, and I’ll do again. Many times.
What I found to be very important is what we do with our errors and failures.
We can make excuses. I was great at this when I was a teenager (that means until my late thirties). I was able to find the most creative explanations to divert the blame on anything else but me.
And things didn’t improve when I began blaming myself.
The outcome was the same; I was telling myself that I wasn’t in charge of my life.
A comforting but dangerous lie.
Things really change when we decide to own our failures.
When we take responsibility for them and accept that we are human and imperfect. We make mistakes, it is part of the growing journey.
When we own them, we can learn from them.
There is this one crucial question that I ask myself when I fail; What can I learn from this failure/defeat/error?
Every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow, but only if you own it.
Oh yes, you can also ignore them and keep going through life as if nothing happened. I tried this route, and it worked for a while, but they never really went away. At some point, they always came back to haunt me.