Before the challenges of life – the small and personal ones, so close to us to fill up our vision, and the big ones that are shaping the future of humanity – we usually ask ourselves “what can I do?“.
What can I do for climate change?
What can I do for the dear friend who’s going through a tough time?
What can I do to be happier with my partner?
All powerful and essential questions without an easy answer.
As a result, too often the answer is “nothing“.
So, I am wondering. What if “what can I do” is the wrong question?
What if we turn the direction of our quest inward by asking “Who can I be“?
Or, if you want to make it more practical, then you should ask “How do I show up?“.
How do I show up amid climate change?
How do I show up for my dear friend who’s going through a tough time?
How do I show up with my partner?
But be aware, because these are challenging questions. They ask you to look inward, to check your intentions and, above all, you can’t use “nothing” as a valid answer.
Neither you can postpone the action that comes with the answer.
Because this is about your identity, your being.
“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.” — James Clear
The way you show up here and now, is how you show up every day in everything.
Sometimes I have the feeling that all our doing, our being busy, our effort in filling up our lives with things, with people, with experiences, it’s just a way to avoid listening to what wants to emerge.
You may give it different names depending on your culture and your upbringing; call, vocation, purpose.
Whatever the label you decide to use, you know what I’m talking about.
It is that feeling like when you fall in love with someone.
And no matter your will or your reasoning, it’s a force that pulls you towards the other person.
It is a beautiful feeling, but it is also scaring.
Because to live it fully we need to let go of our desire to control, we need to surrender and welcome the not knowing.
So, we fill up every space in our lives to block that force from emerging.
What if what wants to emerge is too challenging?
What if it pulls us towards places we don’t know how to reach?
What if it challenges us to step away from the things on which we built the lives we have?
And yet, can you think to something more blissful than falling in love?
What it takes is just slowing down a bit, taking a pause, a step back creating an opening in our crazy life, so we can make space for what wants to emerge.
This morning I draw a Be The Change card that says “Invite multiple perspectives“.
I’m well aware of the power of finding and having multiple perspectives on things. It is the only way to go beyond the “flat” reality created by our beliefs and assumptions, and give substance to the world.
But this card uses the verb “invite“.
So, it is not inviting me to seek new viewpoints. Instead, the card challenges me to draw different perspectives to my life.
The best way I know to do it is by creating space for a “conversation”.
An open and enriching conversation.
One in which everyone feels invited to contribute.
I’ve been lucky to experience the wonder of such conversations.
And I’ve learned that to make those conversations happen, we must direct our energy on creating the space for the conversation, not on having it.
It’s not about talking, it’s about being open and ready to listen.
If we create a listening space, then that space will draw multiple perspectives, and a transformative conversation will start.
In over two years of this morning practice, I had all kinds of days.
Some days I woke with so many ideas in my head that I don’t know where to start. Other days words flow out so quickly that I struggle to squeeze everything in a15 minutes writing slot. There are also days where I know what I want to write about, but I couldn’t find the words. And then there are days when my mind is dry, and I stare at the screen without any clues on where to start.
Luckily for me, I have the BeTheChange cards with me all the time.
What I do is to pick one and see what kind of emotions and thoughts the card generates in me.
There is one card in particular that I love. It’s a colourful card with the following words: “Kidfulness, remaining curious”.
The funny thing is that in many months using these cards, this one never came out. Never.
This morning is one of those in which I have an idea, but I couldn’t find the words. Yesterday I had a few conversations about the power of art. So, I woke up and I wanted to write about art and artists. But I didn’t know where to start.
No problem, I thought. I took my deck of cards, shuffle them as usual, and one fell.
So, now I have the idea of art in my mind and the word kidfulness before my eyes.
And I feel that there is a powerful connection there. That curiosity that comes from the need to find meaning in everything without knowing anything.
Artists and children teach us that the wonder comes from within.
“It is well known that humour, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.” – by Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning
Here I am, with three minutes left of my fifteen-minutes writing slot and nothing to share. This morning I wanted to write about serious silliness – one of BeTheChange cards – and about the importance of infusing humour to our life.
But after more than ten minutes tapping on the keyboard, the result was a sequence of severe sentences. And it struck me how often, in the effort of being playful and seriously silly, I end up being ridiculously serious. It happens anytime I approach playfulness from the doing perspective. As a result, I bring my heaviness into what should be a playful experience.
Being seriously silly, it’s an attitude, a state of the being that infuses everything we do.
What does it mean to do something with a playful attitude?
So, my invitation for today is to be a little silly while doing serious stuff.
One day I was playing with some kids. Tough stuff like jumping, running, doing somersaults, throwing stuff. For some reasons, kids think that I’m a good playmate for this kind of things.
Anyway, we were playing and having fun when one of them threw something at me. He hit me quite heavily on the chest. Because I’m an adult, it was just a bit painful, but it could be worst if he targeted one of the other kids. So, I told him that what he just did wasn’t fun at all, that it was painful and I didn’t want to play in that way.
I can still see his puzzle eyes staring at me, trying to find a sense in what had just happened. His curious mind was combining information and creating new connections.
I admit, for a moment I envied him, his not knowing, his curiosity, his need to experience the world first-hand to find meaning and discover the boundaries. With all our knowledge we know, or we think we know, the outcome of an action before trying. Even if we never did it before. And those expectations set boundaries from the very beginning.
What would happen if you go into something with the innocent curiosity of children? Are you able to set aside all your knowledge and jump fully into the experience?
“Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms.” — from Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
Chaos is scary because it is unpredictable.
You can create the conditions for chaos to happen, but you can’t design it. Our brain is a predicting machine. It continuously evaluates the situation to find clues that will trigger behaviour in response. In every moment, our brain tries to fit the complexity of the world within the map of reality it has built over time.
But amidst chaos everything gets blurred and mixed up, clues are hard to find, and our mental framework becomes almost useless.
For all these reasons, chaos can’t be modelled or replicated. So, it is hard to deliberately create chaos to solve a problem. Though, chaos is generative. Because we can’t rely on what we know, we are forced to connect with the energy, to use our intuition and to trust.
Chaos challenges our beliefs, and in doing so, it helps us evolve beyond the boundaries of our mental framework.
“Unless some degree of chaos is permitted to enter the system, no further progress can be made. Sometimes, to create new structures, the old ones must be destroyed so the blocks can be recombined in different ways.” — From Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray
Courage: c. 1300, corage, “heart (as the seat of emotions),” hence “spirit, temperament, state or frame of mind,”from Old French corage “heart, innermost feelings; temper” (12c., Modern French courage), from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor “heart” [source]
If I ask you to place courage or love somewhere in the body, I believe that most of you would associate both of them with the heart. An organ that we don’t control and that relentlessly pumps life in our body.
There is a powerful connection between courage and love. They are both about surrendering to something bigger than ourselves.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this morning reflections. It all started with my morning Be The Change card that has the word “Courageousness” on it. The drawing that accompanies the word is a human being with a stream of energy flowing through his core.
And I thought that love is the same; a stream of energy flowing through all of us, connecting people.
So, maybe to be courageous is just to open up my heart so love can freely flow through.
“The opposite of love is not, as we many times or almost always think, hatred, but the fear to love, and fear to love is the fear of being free.” — Paulo Freire
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.
“If you’re part of the system you want to change, you’re part of the problem.” — Dave Gray
Gray is mainly talking about organisations, but I believe it can also be applied to your life.
When the system you want to change is your life, personal or professional, you’re not only part of it, you are it.
So, it’s even harder to see the solution because we are fully wrapped in the problem.
Many of my coaching clients begin their journey saying that what they need is clarity. The feel that they need a change, but they are unable to see what that change is and where they want to go.
Most of the time, once they can see the problem, the solution emerges naturally.
To be able to see the problem, you need to step out of it and find a new perspective. One that allows you to see your situation from the outside.
Working with a coach is like having someone holding an honest mirror before you so you can look at yourself from different angles.
If you can’t get a coach right now, then you can try to walk out of your bubble.
Take a walk in nature.
Change your scenario, disconnect from your network for some time.
Not to find the answers, but to tune in to yourself.
When you go back to your life, you will have new eyes.
“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust