This is not the end, this is just the beginning.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ― Henry D. Thoreau

As the people close to me know very well, I am not very good at celebrating my achievements.

I’ve always been like that.

Maybe I’m just restless.

When I arrive somewhere, my mind immediately starts to think about the next destination. The moment I have completed something, I am already projecting myself towards what comes next.

Not a big issue, I know. But it’s annoying.

In particular, because rewards are effective ways to motivate ourselves to achieve a goal. Because I don’t find rewards and celebrations particularly attractive, I can’t play this card to drive me to take action.

Luckily for me, my coaches helped me in exploring this topic, understanding what drives me and defining alternative ways to pull myself into action. As Thoreau beautifully says in the opening quote, my growth and transformation are my sources of motivation.

Though, this feeling of missing out is still present.

The story of this post is an excellent example of my complicated relationship with celebrations.

On the 31st of July, I completed my Coach Training and I got my Certification from ICA.

It’s the result of thirteen months of study, work and sacrifices.

I thought the occasion deserved a celebration and a post of its own.

9 days later, I couldn’t remember how many times I had written, deleted and rewritten it. I couldn’t understand what I really wanted to share.

The why behind these words.

Do I want to celebrate the achievement? Do I want to let the world know what I’ve been doing for the past year? Is it just a way to rub my ego? Is it a way to legitimate the sacrifices that I (and my partner and my family) have been through over the past year?

With this questions running through my head, I kept rewriting.

What’s wrong with celebrating an achievement? Why is it so complicated for me to write about it?

The answer revealed itself today. And as it often happens, it came out of the blue when I wasn’t looking for it.

This morning a lovely friend sent me a picture of a sunrise.

And I thought about my love for the dawn.

That fleeting moment of transition when the night is not entirely gone and the day is just a promise.

I remembered how much I love to stay in the in-between space. How much I love airports and stations.

I remembered my fascination when I read about the Bardo, the liminal state between death and rebirth.

The answer was there all along, but I couldn’t see it.

I don’t enjoy celebrations because they are only about the end.

What gives me pleasure is the liminal moment between the end of a journey and the beginning of the next one.

That’s why I crave a new beginning. So I can savour the feeling of breathing between the old and the new.
And the awareness that those moments are ephemeral makes them even more rewarding.

Finally, I found the why for this post.

It’s not the celebration of my achievement. It is me sharing the pleasure of being in this liminal space.

My journey as a student coming to an end and a new adventure unfolding in front of me.

Direction; unknown.

Post scriptum.

“if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

One of the rituals I do every morning is to welcome the new day expressing gratitude. And it is with gratitude that I want to embrace this new adventure before me.

I wouldn’t get so far in this journey, as a person and as a coach, without the support of an extraordinary team of people.

The fantastic ICA teachers and students from everywhere in the world, the unique energy of the Italian chapter, my gorgeous peer-clients and my precious peer-coaches, my supporting friends, my loving family, my late father and his lifelong example of integrity, Sujith and the extraordinary people of Being At Full Potential. Rossella whose relentless guidance, energy, optimism and trust is a constant inspiration for me. Lorena who believes in me more than I do and inspires me every day to be the best version of myself.

This is not the end, this is just the beginning.

You can’t blow out a fire

“You can blow out a candle
But you can’t blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher”
— from Biko by Peter Gabriel

Through the course of our lives, we occasionally experience moments that light up a candle in our hearts.

It can be a journey, a retreat, a book, a random encounter, a moment with friends, a walk in nature, a concert, a speech, a workshop or something else.

Once that candle is lit, its flame allows us to see the extraordinary beauty that we hold inside.

Sometimes we share that moment with others, and the combined light from all the candles gives us an opportunity to see more.

More of our beauty and more of others’ beauty.

To lit a candle we need at least three elements.

First of all, we need the candle, obviously.
As human beings, the candle is our potential to shine.
A potential that, like a candle, won’t shed any light if we don’t light it up.

Then we need a spark to kindle the flame.
Sparks are everywhere around us, and they can take any form; people, places, words, images, silence, animals, elements of nature, objects.
Anything can become the spark we need in order to light our candle.

Then, there is the final element.
A vital one that is often overlooked.

Space.

Like all living beings, a flame needs to breathe.
We can’t lit a candle without oxygen.
To ignite the flame, we must create the space for the wick to burn.

It is amazing what happens when we create and hold a safe space for others.
They open up, surrendering to the space, and they kindle the candles within allowing their inner light to radiate.

When the space is created and nurtured by a sacred circle of people, the light becomes brighter.
It makes everyone shine.

And it is in that moment when we allow ourselves to shine that our fears show up.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson

The flame of a candle is feeble.
A small breeze can kill it and bring us back to darkness.

So, we want to protect it.

Protect it from our limiting beliefs, the naysayers, the struggle of our daily lives, the small difficulties we encounter every day. We start worrying that someone may want to blow out our candle, for fear of the greatness they may discover if they lit their own.

To protect our burning candle, we hide it inside.

Someplace where nobody and nothing can blow it out and take that light from us.

Until, without air and space that same flame we want to protect, slowly dies.

But here is the good news.

You may blow out a candle. But you can’t blow out a fire.

Once the flames have started then the wind will only blow it, higher and higher.

Before a fire nobody can hide, they will all feel the warm power of liberating their inner light.

Anytime someone or something light up a candle in our heart, instead of thinking about how to protect it, we should ask ourselves a much more powerful question.

How can I use my candle’s flame to start a fire?

Photo by Joris Voeten on Unsplash

Self-awareness is my best productivity tool

I grew up in the North-East of Italy, one of the most productive areas of the country. When I was a student, I remember that the adults around me were all working a lot and hard. My father worked 10 hours a day, five days a week, plus Saturday morning. Everyone used to measure the health of a factory with the number of extra hours that the workers were able to do in a week. Then the crisis hit Italy. I remember people talking about the companies having issues saying “it’s bad, they had to stop working on Saturday”.

That working culture is an example of the “Religion of Hustle” that Mark Manson excellently describes in this post. I found the same working culture when I started working in the digital industry. Both startups and agencies were, and still are, celebrating the hustle. Yes, everyone talks about work/life balance, but then the employees that sacrifice the weekend for a project are praised. It’s the competition baby. Do you want results? You need to work hard. More and better than your competitors. And it may work, sometimes. But most of the time, it generates stress, exhausted people that have to take a sabbatical year to recover, and average results.

The problem is that work is not a linear function; productivity does not increase linearly adding more work. As Manson explains, most of the works produce diminishing or even negative returns over time. If you push hard, for a long time, you will reach a point when your brain tires out. After that the incremental gain is marginal, you will start making bad choices that can even have adverse effects on the final results.

In his book “The 4-Hour Body”, Timothy Ferris explains the concept of the Minimum Effective Dose. The MED is the smallest dose of something that will produce the desired outcome. Anything beyond the MED is wasteful. The MED to boil water is 100º at standard air pressure. Higher temperatures will not make it more boiled. They will just consume more resources.
For you to be productive, it’s important to know which is the desired outcome of your work and what is your MED of work needed to produce it. As every productivity expert says; you need to work better, not more.

And you are lucky. There are plenty of books, website, classes and tools that propose strategies to increase your productivity. They teach you how to work better rather than more. So, it is easy. You just have to pick a strategy, learn it, apply it, and you will get the results.
My experience is that it’s not so simple. I’ve seen teams go through a painful process to adopt new tools and strategies without any measurable results. As part of my growing journey, I tried a few tools myself. Some worked, others not at all.
Why is that? All these strategies are proven to work. They have plenty of testimonials from people and companies that have achieved remarkable results. If it works for them, it should work for me. Or not?

“Because see, this may surprise you, but not all work is created equal.” — Mark Manson

Not all work is created equal. And I would add, not all workers are created equals.
Picking a strategy or a tool is not enough to get the results you want. Every work has its specifics. What is effective to manage the creation of furniture may not work if you’re trying to write a book. Even when jobs are similar, the workers are most likely different. Circumstances can be comparable, but we are all unique. You have only one way to choose the right tools and strategies; to know yourself better.

Before anything else, the first tool you need is self-awareness. You must understand your limits, your weaknesses and your strengths. You must find the leverages to increase your productivity. Once you increase your self-awareness, you will be able to make the right choices to improve your productivity.

“Awareness precedes choice and choice precedes results.” — Robin Sharma.

Inspired by the words of my friend Sujith of Being At Full Potential, I understood that I was looking at productivity from the wrong angle. I was focusing on the things I was doing while forgetting to nurture who I am. My uniqueness.

When the BEING comes alive, the DOING thrives.

In the last months, I put aside most of the tools and the strategies I used to manage my time and productivity, and I turned into listening mode. I pay more attention to my emotions, when I’m productive and when I’m not. Every morning I download my thoughts on a journal. Writing is my way of listening to myself. I keep a “good time activity log” — inspired by Designing your life — to track the moments of the day in which I’m engaged. And the more I know myself, the more I can tap into my strengths, and I can use my energy and time efficiently.

Self-awareness is my best productivity tool. What about yours?

 

Photo by Calum MacAulay on Unsplash

Article originally published on medium on May 29, 2017