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”.
This post is inspired by this short and fascinating article.
In the last months, I’ve been searching a lot about goals vs habits, and behaviours vs identity.
I started this quest because I struggle with goals. I tried many strategies, methodologies, tools without cracking the code of this limit.
Until I started focusing on habits instead of goals. Creating patterns is definitely more in tune with how I operate, and it helped me improve in many aspects of my life. Still, sticking to some habits has been and still is harder than others.
The next shift in my quest was realising that only when my habits are in synch with who I am, I can be more consistent and create significant results.
These are my learnings so far.
Your identity informs your behaviours.
The starting point is the WHO, not the WHAT or the HOW. Once you have clarity about who you are (“I am a writer”), then you can design your goals or habits (depending on what works better with you) as a way to become more of who you are (“I am a writer because I write every day”).
Unfortunately, at least for me, this is not enough to really create an impact in my life.
Your behaviours shape or reinforce your identity.
To know what to do is not the same as doing what you know. Once you have clarity about who you are and you have designed your goals or habits, you need to infuse discipline in your practice.
That means creating the structure that will support your newly designed behaviours. Over time these identity-based behaviours will shape and reinforce your identity, that in turn will infuse more energy in your behaviours creating a positive growing loop.
To empower means to give (someone) the authority or power to do something. Or, more broadly, to make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.
Being able to empower others is often listed among the pillars of an effective leader.
When we empower someone we are giving the same power we have. An empowered person gains control over her work or life.
In organisations, empowering everyone is a crucial ingredient to create a democratic and flat organisation. One in which, everyone raises to the same level creating co-leadership.
Though, there is a fascinating paradox in empowerment.
When we, as leaders, are empowering others, somehow we are elevating ourselves one layer above them. They may have now the power to do something, but we are the ones who gave them the power. So, we are still above them, and they have less power than we have.
Isn’t that through the empowerment of others we are in reality reinforcing our own power?
What would change if instead of empowering others we create the space in which they can awaken their inner power by themselves?
Have you ever heard of a product called VantaBlack?
It’s a paint developed in the United Kingdom, and it is one of the darkest substances known. It can absorb up to 99.6% of the light.
If you search for it on youtube, you’ll find a video in which the creators show a mask painted with this material.
If you look at the object from the front, you just see a flat black surface, like a hole in the space. The mask has no shape, no depth, no form. Only when the camera moves to the side, you can see that the object is not flat.
This is because our eyes use lights and shadows to understand the shape of things.
That video reminds me of the importance of having different perspectives. Sometimes, we get stuck into one view, and we become blind to the richness of what we are looking at.
People, situations, problems.
To be able to perceive their depth and their substance, we need to embrace different perspectives.
We can shift the lights or move to a new point of view.
Only seeking multiple perspectives, we can see the wholeness in everything and everyone.
This is fascinating.
I picked a BeTheChange card this morning.
One that says “Being Creative by BEING who you are”.
This card is an invitation to explore my bigger me.
It challenges me to think about when I’m most of who I am.
I started writing about the quest for who we are.
But words weren’t flowing.
I wrote and rewrote each sentence.
Until I realised that I wasn’t me.
Sometimes, the search for something can take us away for that same thing that we are looking for.
Like in this case.
In my desire to find the real me I was walking away from it.
My bigger who is not in the answer.
It lives and expresses itself in the question.