I’ve never been a lover of formalities and dress codes.
I remember that, as a kid, I couldn’t understand why I had to use Sunday’s clothes to go to the mass. Clothes with which we could not play because they were only meant for special events.
Anyway, a few months ago, I’ve been asked to suit up for a working situation. As you can imagine, I wasn’t pleased, but the request came with sound motivations that made me reflect.
So, I asked myself a few compelling questions.
What am I worried about? What is about form that I find uncomfortable?
Is my essence so fragile that I am going to change just because I change how I appear?
It was one of those a-ha moments.
I realised that I am who I am, no matter what I wear.
Sometimes, we are so focused on the form that we overlooked our essence. And in doing so, we weaken it.
If we nurture our essence, then we will be able to infuse all of who we are in every form. Being it the way we dress or the work we do.
In this inspiring article about mastery, Marcia Reynolds gives us some hints on how to get into the “the zone of mastery” or, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it, in the “Flow”.
There is one passage in the article that I find fascinating.
“I found the best competitors do not think about anything, not even winning, when they perform at their best. Thinking of winning causes their brains to entertain the possibility of losing.”
Isn’t it ironic that in a society so obsessed with results and achievements, the best performers avoid thinking about winning to express their full potential?
Keeping the focus on the prize is a common mistake in goal settings. You set an audacious goal, maybe a SMART one and then, because you want to be sure to get it, you keep your eyes on it all the time. As a result, you’re not in the here and now. And Marcia says, “being fully present while performing is the critical factor that can put you over the top into the zone of mastery“.
The approach to goal setting that I use is the following one:
- FIND: First I set a goal, and I spend time finding what makes it meaningful to me
- REWRITE: Then I think about what do I need to change to get where I want. Who do I need to become to achieve that goal? What do I have to learn? Which habits, rituals and structures do I have to install? This transforms the journey into a learning process.
- EXPERIENCE: Finally, I forget about the goal and focus only on the experience, on being consistent with the new habits and rituals.
- EXPAND: even if I don’t always achieve the results that I set at the beginning, I always learn something valuable in the end that I can apply in other parts of my life.
You’ve probably heard or read about the “board of directors” or “supervisory board” concerning big companies.
A board is a group of persons having supervisory or advisory powers over a company. They usually hire, support and supervise the people leading the company, the CEO and the executive directors.
When I think at a board the image that comes to my mind is one of a council of wise and elderlies people. I’ve never been part of a board, but I’m pretty sure my image is not accurate.
Anyway, the point of this post is that I believe that everyone should have a board. A council of wise people ready to give advice and support.
How easier would it be if you could ask for advice when you have to make a tough choice?
So, every year I appoint my “supervisory board”, or as I prefer to call it, my “life council”.
Within there are a few people that inspire me and to which I turn to in search of wisdom.
When I have to take a tough decision, or I don’t know what to do, I summon my council and ask for advice.
In my council, there can be people that I never met such as writers, historical figures or fictional characters. There are also people I know, but they don’t need to know that they are part of my council.
It is, indeed a virtual council.
Fancy creating your own life council? Just take a piece of paper and jot down the name of a few people whose words and actions are sources of wisdom for you. Then, anytime you feel stuck just open that piece of paper and ask yourself “what would they do in this situation?”.
Be aware, they can just give advice.
The responsibility for your choice is all yours.
I began journaling years ago.
It’s one of the morning rituals that help me reconnect with myself.
Over the year I’ve adapted my journaling to my changes, but one thing never changed; I never read what I write. Never.
Once my thoughts and feelings are out of my mind and heart, black ink on white paper, they are gone.
I don’t read what I write in my journal because I soon realized how hard it can be to have an honest conversation with myself.
Every transformation starts with an honest conversation. One in which we acknowledge that we want to change something and we bring it out in the light.
I always knew that these kinds of conversations with others are difficult. There is the fear of the judgment, of the pain that we can feel or cause, of the unknown that can emerge.
But it was only when I started journaling that I realized how hard it can be to have an honest conversation with myself.
I never thought that I could be so good avoiding the truth when talking with myself. I could lie to myself even when I know, obviously, that I am lying.
Yet, no transformation can start without an honest conversation with myself. My never-read-it-again journaling ritual is a safe space where I can have a frank dialogue with me.
Do you have a safe space where you can talk honestly with yourself?
Riding my motorbike I learned that I must always choose wisely where to point my gaze. Due to a well-known effect called “Target Fixation”, if you focus on an obstacle, like a pothole, you are most likely going to hit it no matter how much you want to avoid it.
Your whole body follows your gaze.
And the bike direction is informed by your body.
So, to have a smooth ride one of the most important things is to be constantly aware of where your attention is while you’re riding.
You can even if you don’t have a motorbike. Try to walk straight towards a point while keeping your head turned and looking all the time at another direction. You will struggle to keep a straight line.
I found this principle very useful in every aspect of my life.
My attention drives my actions.
When my attention is not aligned with my goals, I struggle to keep myself on track.
If you’re not getting where you want, maybe your attention is not aligned with what you want.
Sometimes all it takes it’s just to begin.
To do something.
To write a word.
To draw a line.
To say a word.
Whatever as long as you set things in motion.
Sometime our goals may be scary.
When I was leaving in London, I used to go out running early in the morning.
Midway in my usual path, there was this beautiful place called Primrose Hill. As the name suggests, it’s a nice little hill from the top of which you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city.
Little but with a steep slope.
I knew that I wanted to see the dawn from up there but, being midway in my running I was scared by the climb.
For a while, I got there only to take a look and then start my way back.
Then one morning, inspiring by something I read, I decided to go for it.
That day I didn’t look at the top, at my destination.
I knew very well where it was.
Instead, I kept my gaze on my feet.
One step after the other.
A bit worried at the beginning but, in the end, it was just about taking a small step. And another small step.
And then I gained momentum, and before realising it, there were no more steps to take.
I was at the top.
The city before me.
It’s great to have bold and audacious goals, but sometimes those same goals may stop us from acting.
Once the goal is set, stop thinking about it. Find the first small action you can take to go in the direction of your target and put all your attention on that. That step is all you have to worry about.
And once is done, move to the next one.
Keep focusing on your next step until you gained momentum.
And then you are unstoppable.
Ready to conquer your hill.
I believe in the transformative power of small daily practices.
If I want to learn a new skill, develop a new behavior or become better at anything, I create a daily habit. Something, small that I can integrate seamlessly into my life and in my environment.
I love to experiment and play new practices.
It transforms everything into a playful experience.
For a new practice to stick, it must match my passions, my values, and my strengths. This way I can create the consistency needed to make it a habit.
The other day, however, I was facing a different type of challenge.
I didn’t want to learn something new.
I needed to stop doing something.
I wanted to get rid of a habit that it’s affecting my focus and my productivity.
When I don’t have something planned like a meeting or a session with a client, instead of tackling an item in my to-do list, I end up wandering aimlessly online between useless videos and not-so-interesting articles.
At the crossroad between work and idleness, I just go with the path of less resistance.
Anytime this happens, I feel guilty.
I tried many solutions from better planning to external accountability, but nothing really worked.
I know how to create a habit, but how do you get rid of one?
One that plays on my weaknesses.
In this case laziness.
And then, in a session with my fantastic coach, it hit me.
The answer was in that same weakness.
I just needed to be creative by being more who I am.
In this particular case, I decided to use my passion for stories as a way out of the unwanted habit.
I now keep a novel always at hand. Anytime I feel I’m dragged towards a time-wasting activity, I take out my book, and I start reading.
I’m still not doing the things in my to-do list that I should do.
But at least I don’t feel guilty at the end of the day.
In chapter 21 of “The Little Prince“, the prince meets the fox.
Even if you haven’t read the book for sure, you have heard or read the most famous quote from this chapter, the secret that the fox reveals to the little prince before when they are saying goodbye.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Though, there is another gem in this chapter.
“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.
“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”
Rites and rituals are indeed too often neglected.
And I can understand why.
Think about one of your favourite music groups. You probably love the lead singer, and you know very well the lead guitarist. But what about the bass player or the drummer? Most of the time they are not as cool as the others. Yet, they are essential to the sound you love so much. They are the ones setting the rhythm and the groove on which the magic of the other instruments can happen.
In the same way, rite and rituals may look dull. Where’s the excitement and the creativity in doing the same thing every day?
Though, rituals set the groove of our lives.
My daily rituals help me anchor the days to what really matters to me. They make me feel grounded, and they give me the energy to creatively face any challenge that comes in my way.
What are your rituals?
My coachees are extraordinary.
Every session is a unique opportunity to learn something new.
Like yesterday, when a conversation about practice became an invaluable reminder of the power of having a learner’s mindset.
You see, we admire and respect masters. Those people who dedicated their lives to learn something only to share it with us.
But what really makes them teachers is not their knowledge or their wisdom.
Students make someone a teacher.
You probably remember the famous story of the empty cup.
A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “This is you,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”
What makes someone a teacher is our willingness to learn, to empty our cup so we can be filled.
If you nurture a learner’s mindset, then every person that you meet becomes a master.
According to the dictionary, something authentic is “something of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.”
I feel authentic anytime my words, and my actions originate from who I am.
Even when I make mistakes.
Even when words don’t come out easily.
Because being authentic means being human.
And accept that I am perfect in my imperfection.