Today I want to write about passion. Or better, about the lack of it.
When I was a child, I didn’t know what my passion was. Sure, there were many things that I love, reading above all, but I didn’t have a clear idea of who I wanted to become.
Things didn’t get better growing up. I can’t remember a moment when I thought “this is it, my passion, what I’m going to do from now on”.
Instead, I went using a trial and error approach.
An approach that I’ve been refining over the years and it worked quite well for me. Though, I still have that subtle feeling of envy when I meet someone who has a burning passion for something; a person on a mission.
I know I’m not alone in this. Many people haven’t found that defining passion or mission, yet.
And you know what? It’s ok.
It’s ok to be searching and trying. Isn’t it the quest for our mission a mission on itself?
The important thing is to keep searching, trying and learning. Fragments of the picture will emerge along the way. Our passion will grow within us while, at the same time, we will grow into it.
Of course, there’s a problem with this approach: life is short.
We need to find the best explore/exploit trade-off.
Find something that works for you, something on which you get higher returns than the average person and exploit it. But always keep a window open for exploration, to try new things and when you find something that works well, exploit it integrating it with what you’re already doing.
It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon here in Valencia. I’m about to leave to go celebrate the birthday of my favourite place in town, and usually on the weekend I don’t write posts.
But I feel this urge to write a thought that emerged in my head while I was taking a shower and I don’t think I can resist until the next Apple A Day on Monday morning.
So here I am, writing about lines.
Let me start from something that happened a few weeks ago when I was in Italy. I was listening to the news on the radio while driving. As you may know, the political situation in my country is quite tense at the moment. The journalist was talking about some friction within the government. I can’t remember what it was, but I do remember a brief interview of a politician from one of the opposition parties. She said that the tensions going on between the parties in the government was a sign of their weakness and that her party was the only viable alternative. I remember thinking “hey, but aren’t you all there because you want to serve the country? So, wouldn’t be better to offer your help to solve their problems for the benefit of the whole nation instead of trash talking them?”
Yesterday I was joking with a dear friend about our work descriptions, and I told her that I should write “I draw lines” on my business card. It wasn’t the first time we joked about me drawing lines, but yesterday I had a small a-ha moment. One can draw a line to separate two spaces or to connect two points. The gesture is the same, but the intention is totally different.
Then a few moments ago, in the shower, I was thinking about all of this. At how good we are in drawing lines that separate; right and wrong, good and bad, left and right, winners and losers, us and them. We surround ourselves with all these lines that are imaginary but feel as real as concrete walls. What would happen if we would start drawing lines to connect? If when we see a fracture, we draw a line to connect the opposing sides?
After a while, we would create a network. Like a spider web or a texture when we will be all interwoven so when someone rises everyone will rise.
All of this to share with you that I love “drawing lines“, but I prefer the ones that connect.
In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear presents a concept called the “Three Layers Of Behaviour Change” to describe how we approach change.
Going from the outside-in, the three layers are outcomes, processes and identity.
“Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.”
All levels are useful to create a change.
What really makes a difference is where we start from; the direction of change.
The need for a change something in our life is usually triggered by the desire for different outcomes. We want to have something different, so we start a process to change what we have.
This focus on the outcomes sparks one or more outcome-based interventions; projects aimed at changing what we have.
Some of us are wiser, and they understand that if they don’t change how they do things they won’t get different results. So they review their processes so they can generate better outcomes.
Indeed, changing how we do things is more effective in creating the desired results but, as we know, when our behaviours (processes) are not in tune with our identity (beliefs), they are not sustainable on the long term.
“In fact, the word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your repeated beingness.”
Behind every action that we make there is a set of beliefs. The beliefs that define our identity. The reason why many change projects fail is that we focus only on the outcomes or the processes while bringing in the process the same beliefs that create the reality we want to change.
A sustainable change must start from our identity.
According to the Global Challenges Foundation – a foundation that works with researchers to explore threats to humanity -, the next 50 years will set the pace for humanity’s survival in the next 10,000 years.
Climate change, mass migrations, artificial intelligence, political instability, deforestation. The list can go on and on.
The challenges ahead of humanity are greater than ever, and it’s easy to feel small and powerless.
What can we do?
What can I do?
When I caught myself in these thoughts, I always go back to this sentence from “Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler“, a beautiful book by Paul Lindley.
“While a toddler’s world might be geographically tiny, it is mentally limitless; conversely, when we grow up, we have the potential freedom to explore everything around us, but will often limit ourselves to the same narrow range of places, people and experiences.”
From toddlers, we can learn to be creative with what we have. But there is something more than that. They face every challenge with an open mind because they haven’t been conditioned yet. When we want to find a solution to a problem we approach it with the same mindset that creates that challenge in the first place. Our mindset comes with us, and it limits us our possibilities.
I believe that I can do something about the significant challenges we face as humanity.
But it all starts by expanding my awareness.
“The biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness, not saving the planet. The planet doesn’t need saving, we do.” by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (a 19 years old activist)
At a conference about sustainable development, climate change and human rights that I attended a few weeks ago, one idea was shared in different forms by many speakers.
One said that “all wars start in our head“, another that “borders exist only in the human mind” and someone else said, “without peace at the individual level there can’t be peace in the world“.
It all starts within you.
Every change, every transformation.
The world that you want begins within you.
This unique superpower exists within you.
I’m writing this as a note to myself too.
Sometimes I got heated thinking and debating about things I’d like to change in the world, in my community, in others.
And I forget about the one thing I can always do; I can change myself.
“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Sometimes I get stuck and lost.
It may be because there are so many options and parameters that everything gets blur.
Or because no option seems the right one.
Sometimes I’m just overwhelmed, and I can’t think straight.
When I’m in that place, I remember this conversation between Alice and The Cheshire Cat.
When I have no idea where to go, it doesn’t much matter which way I go as long as I move.
Where do you look for inspiration?
In books, places, nature, peoples, objects or what else?
I met people who are capable of finding inspiration everywhere and in everything.
I remember once I was walking on a trail with a friend when he suddenly halted to take a picture. I couldn’t see anything different from what we had seen for the previous hour.
But he could.
And later on, when he sent me the picture, I saw it too.
We were in the same place, at the same time but his eyes saw something to which my eyes were blind.
According to the studies of the neuroscientist Manfred Zimmermann, our capacity for perceiving information is about 11 million bits per second. Zimmermann estimates that our conscious attention has a capacity of merely 40 bits per second. That means that every second, 99.9996% of the information that we sense, goes unnoticed.
We are all somehow blind to the infinite vastness of reality.
So, inspiration is everywhere.
What change is where do you choose to put your attention.
It is not about finding inspiration, it is about being inspired.
“A map is not the territory it represents.” — Alfred Korzybski
We love shapes and forms because they answer to our need for predictability. They create order and help us understand reality and make informed decisions. They can also be measured, so they allow us to gain clarity about where we stand. They defined boundaries.
However, we should always be aware that the shapes and forms that we used to interpret reality, are products of our mind.
Countries, religions, organisations, social norms.
They are all shapes and forms that we put on top of reality to make sense of it.
But they are not reality.
When we convince ourselves that those shapes and forms are the reality that they become cages, taming our human potential.
“Perception always intercedes between reality and ourselves.” — René Magritte
This is why art is vital.
Artists remind us to look beyond shapes and forms to see the infinite essence of everything.
“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” — JFK
Too often we underestimate the power of the small choices and actions we make and do every day. Most of our time in life is made of small acts, sometimes apparently insignificant. But, each one of them contributes to building your identity. And, most importantly, while you may not have control over the big events that happen in your life, you surely can choose how you want to show up every day.
I love how James Clear explains the power of the daily action in his book Atomic Habits.
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
So, who are you voting for today?
This post is inspired by the Be The Change card I pick this morning; “How do I show up every day” and by the realisation that the writer within me reached 500 votes this morning.
All human beings are extraordinary.
Within each one of us, there is a universe of wonder, ready to expand if only we create enough space.
I just came back from a workshop with other 15 people.
They are what you may misjudge ordinary people. Like the ones that you meet every day when you go on with your life. The colleagues you see every day in the elevator, the parents waiting outside the school, the bankers, the plumbers, the guy driving the car in front of you and so on. Everyone trapped into a role, our universes compressed within the boundaries of the doing.
But once we created together a safe space in which each one felt safe to expand the being, the magic happened.
All these extraordinary universes, no more tamed by the boundaries we imposed on ourselves, flooded into the shared space. They fused together, and a new collective awareness emerged, one that embraces all perspectives and wisdom.
And when it was time to go home, a spark of that wonder was shining in the eyes of everyone.
All human beings are extraordinary, we need to create a safe space where this extraordinary potential can get out and shine.
Anytime you help others shine, the world gets a little brighter.