How much attention do you put on the words you use?
A few days ago, while I was checking the news online, a headline captured my attention. It was about UN chief António Guterres who, during an of the year press event, called all countries in the world for a renewed commitment to a “rules-based global order“.
Words create worlds.
They have this power.
This is why it is so important to choose wisely the words that you use.
In your own life but it’s even more critical when you are a leader. As leaders, the language we use helps shape the cultures we lead.
So, what does a “rules-based global order” says about the world the leader of UN envision? To me, it talks about a world based on fear and lack of trust. It talks about protecting the status-quo instead of moving towards the future.
Is this the world that you want?
I know for sure it’s not the world that I want.
I’m ready to commit to a “values-inspired global vision“. One driven by trust, love, compassion, forward thinking.
What about your words?
Are they reflecting the world that you want to create in your life?
It’s Christmas time.
That period of the year in which we buy presents for the people we love.
And it makes me think about the power of giving and the struggle of receiving.
At an emotional level, I’m used to exchange.
You give me something, and I feel the need to provide you with something in return. Or I give you something, and I expect for you to have something for me.
To give without attachment is more complicated.
Being able to just give without expecting anything in return, not even a thank you.
I observed that It’s easier when I am giving to someone in need or when I’m making a donation to a cause.
It’s easier because it makes me feel a better person. But also because when I give to someone in need, I put myself on higher ground.
As a giver, I have the power. The energy flows from me down to the other person.
As I learned last summer, the real challenge it ’s to receive without attachment.
I grew up knowing that everything as a price.
You don’t just accept something, you have to give something back.
It’s a matter of pride.
To accept something without giving nothing in exchange, that’s the big challenge.
Yesterday, during a lovely conversation about wisdom with two fabulous ladies, I was gifted with this insights; knowledge is about collecting dots, wisdom is about connecting them.
We live in an era of big data, sensors and deep learning.
We can measure almost everything.
We can know a lot.
But does all this knowledge make us wise?
I believe that real wisdom doesn’t come from having more dots but from finding ways to connect them.
With this idea in mind, I was reflecting about the way we talk with each other. Most of the time we enter a conversation to collect dots. Collecting is a one-way process from others to us. Yes, we may have to give something in exchange to obtain what we want, but all our focus is on what we get and not on what we offer.
Connecting, on the other side, is a two-way process. It’s not about the “what”, it’s all about the “how” and the “why”. When we enter a conversation to connect with others we must open up, we have to listen to a deeper level so we can open a new channel where things flow in both direction.
So, I have an invitation for you.
Next time you join a conversation, ask yourself this simple question: “Am I here to collect or to connect?”
Knowing what to do it’s not the same as doing what you know.
I’m reminded of this simple truth every day.
I dedicate some time every day to nourish my knowledge.
I read, study, have conversations.
I learn new strategies and discover new perspectives.
And sometimes I write about the things I’ve learned.
However, all the knowledge of the world is meaningless if I don’t act on it.
Knowledge is not power. It’s just potential.
It’s when we act that we transform it into power.
So, the right questions we should ask every time we learn or discover something is “what do I do with this new knowledge or insight? How can I act on it?”.
And not only in that moment. We should ask those questions every day.
This morning I realised that in my burning desire to learn and acquire new knowledge, I forget to act on it.
Even worst, it’s getting in the way of habits that are important to me.
So today I’ll focus on acting on what I know before learning something new.
“I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee
I don’t know how long I’ve been staring at this empty page.
My process to write these short posts is very simple.
I start a 15 minutes timer, and I open an empty document.
Whatever comes out of my head ends up here.
There are morning when it’s easy.
The words were already there, waiting for this moment.
Other mornings, like this one, my mind is empty: no ideas, no thoughts, no words.
It’s funny because most of the time I can’t stop my mind from thinking no matter how hard I try. I usually struggle to slow down my thoughts, to take a pause and be present in the moment.
And now that I need my mind to work, I got only silence.
Though, there is incredible power in not thinking. We may discover that we have other sources of intelligence; some within us like the physical one and the emotional one. Others are unlocked when we connect to something bigger.
When we pause our inner voice, we can source the words from the universe.
I can see it coming.
It’s like watching myself from the outside.
I can observe the whole scene as it was a movie.
The external trigger and my internal reaction.
I can clearly see the inner pain surging and opening its way to the surface.
I can see it, but I can’t stop it.
All the work I’ve done on myself gave me the ability to see my reactions when they are happening. I learned what triggers me and I can spot all the signs.
Yet, I can’t stop all of this from happening.
Some reactions, some beliefs are wired so profoundly that it’s hard to change them.
I may, one day. Or I may not.
At some point in my self-development journey, I thought I would be able to change everything. So, it was frustrating to see some patterns surfacing without me being able to do anything to fix them.
Until I realised that I don’t have to.
There are things we can not change. Not now at least.
I’m learning to be present with what it is.
Through self-compassion, I’m finding peace.
In my experience, any sustainable change in our life takes at least four stages:
- Becoming aware of what you want to change
- Choose to change
- Act on the choice
- Make it stick
They are all vital and, with different labels, you can find these steps in self-development journeys.
But this morning I woke up realising how often the second stage is overlooked.
To want a change is not enough to make it happen.
You need to make a choice. A deliberate choice.
You need to transform a desire into a clear intention and then into an objective.
This is particularly true when we talk about innovation. Innovation is a deliberate human change to something existing to create something new that has an impact.
It’s not enough to need or want to innovate. You need to choose to innovate. To set the intention on which you can act.
So, if you want to be an innovator the first step is to choose to be one.
It’s not easy, I know.
I wrote this post to remind myself that it’s not enough to want to change.
I need to make a choice.
“Energy flows where attention goes”.
As we know, our attention is incredibly limited.
“A neuroscientist named Manfred Zimmermann estimates that our capacity for perceiving information is about 11 million bits per second. […] He also estimates that your conscious attention has a capacity of about 40 bits per second. […] That’s a tiny, tiny fraction of what you can perceive: 40 bits out of a potential 11 million. That’s 10,999,960 bits of information that you sense but don’t notice, every second” from Liminal Thinking.
The choice of where you put your attention is crucial. It will define what image of reality you will create and on which you will act. Yet, how often is the choice yours?
There is a war going on for your limited attention. Every brand and every company are battling to be at the centre of that tiny fraction of world that you can perceive. This is why it is more important than ever that you learn to deliberately control where you want to put your attention.
I do it through my morning rituals. Before the world knocks at my door, I spend some time to anchor my day and choose where my attention will be. I’ll do it through meditation and journaling.
You may find different ways, each one is unique, but it’s important to take the time to choose where to put our attention.
The world has become a complicated place to live and work.
Business experts call it the VUCA world.
“Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.”
Hasn’t it always been like that? I mean, with our knowledge we can look back to a few centuries ago and say that life was much easier. But how was living for the people at that time? With their knowledge and understanding of the world?
My point is that, no matter how far we expand our knowledge and understanding, our boundaries extend with us. And the universe outside, the space of the not known, will always look volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
The other evening, I was talking to a small crowd about leadership, and this question emerged.
If the world will always be complex and uncertain, how do we thrive in this complexity?
Immediately another question popped up in my mind.
Who do we know that thrive in complexity and uncertainty?
I smiled because the answer looked so obvious at that moment.
Children. To them, this world made of and by adults must look so volatile, complex, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. With their short and unstable feet, their small hands, their limited language everything must seem so complicated.
Yet, they thrive.
What can we learn from a growing toddler?
What if your ultimate purpose is to fully realise and express who you are?
The quest for purpose or “why” is becoming more and more relevant for both individual and organisations. I witnessed groups dedicating long brainstorming to define their purpose, their cause. I have friends who felt lost because they don’t have a higher cause or a reason to which they can dedicate their lives.
We are constantly reminded about great leaders with a compelling vision and a clear purpose that fits in a t-shirt or an Instagram post.
You probably feel that you too should have a higher cause and are investing time and resources to find your “why”.
I hear you. I’ve been there.
The quest for purpose is a tricky one. It can quickly transform into feel-good research. Without even noticing, you shift from “what is my purpose?” to “what is a purpose that would make me feel one of the good ones?”.
Nothing wrong in being one of the good ones but if your purpose is not aligned with who you are, it won’t bring in your life the bliss you’re looking for.
So, what if you decide that your purpose is just to fully become who you are meant to be? The quest then becomes “who am I?”. A personal one. One that is not about feeling good but being real.
And in this quest for your “Who”, you may also find your “why”.