It was almost the end of the day when we finally cross the Chilean border. The sun’s light was already fading from white to gold.
We thought, like with the previous borders that we crossed, that the Argentinian checkpoint was a few minutes away, just behind the turn.
We were wrong.
We drove for a good 15 minutes that looked like an eternity before we found the first sign of the border to enter Argentina.
Fifteen minutes in no man’s land.
It’s a powerful feeling to know that you are in space between spaces.
In our lives, every space is owned by someone, or it is dedicated to something. The threshold between spaces is so thin that you can’t really stand on it and take a pause.
We exit something to enter something else.
We finish something only to immediately start something new.
But that day, we’ve been in no country for a while.
A space that doesn’t exist and yet it is so real.
And now I realise that it was also the sunset; that space in-between the day and the night.
There is magic in no man’s land.
Next time that you are crossing a threshold take a pause and breathe in the energy of the space in-between.
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon “The Parable of the Prodigal Son“. You’ve probably heard about it even if you don’t have a Christian upbringing.
It’s a story that Jesus shares with his disciples about a father who has two sons. The younger one asks the father for his inheritance and then leave wasting his fortune (prodigal means wasteful and extravagant) and becoming a beggar. He then decides to return home begging his father to take him in as a servant. The father instead welcomes him back with a huge feast. The older son, envious and resentful, refuse to celebrate and he complains with his father. He has always behaved rightfully, but he never had such a celebration for him. The father reminds him that one day he will inherit everything and that they must celebrate the comeback of the younger brother because he was lost and now he is found.
I listened to this story many times, and I always thought it was about the love and graciousness of the father. But this time I was struck by the loneliness and misery of the older brother. By being so judgemental, he had trapped himself in a cage.
When we judge others, we are also judging ourselves.
And when we put others in boxes, we reduce our own space.
Anytime we create a wall between right and wrong, we are reducing our space even if we put ourselves on the right side.
To do what we feel right without being judgmental is indeed a challenge, but one that can create freedom.
When I was a kid, my favourite treat for Easter was a typical cake in my region called “Focaccia Veneto”, or “Fugazza” in my dialect. But not every Fugazza. Only the one made by my grandmother. The funny thing is that she didn’t have a proper recipe to share, or at least this is what she told us. So, no matter how much my mum tried to create the same result studying my grandmother, her cake has always been different. Truth is, I’ve never tasted anything like my grandmother’s Fugazza, but over the year my mum developed her own unique, gorgeous recipe that I love as much.
Behaviour is a function of the Person in their Environment, or B = f (P,E).
Psychologist Kurt Lewin defined the equation above in his book Principles of Topological Psychology, published in 1936.
My understanding of this simple formula is that the same person behaves differently when the environment changes. At the same time, two persons will always show different behaviours even if they share the same situation.
The combination “person plus environment” is always unique, even when behaviours are similar or the same. The problem is that while environments can be observed and behaviours can be measured, a person uniqueness is more elusive. So, what we do most of the time is to study the practices of someone successful in a specific environment and model our own actions on theirs. All of this hoping to get the same results.
Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Indeed, we can learn a lot from a successful person, we can even clone almost perfectly her behaviours.
But we will never be her or him.
We must find our own unique recipe.
One that is rooted in and sourced from our identity.
In the end, we must always remember to start from the ancient wise words inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
If you divide a number by infinite, no matter how big that number is, the result is always zero.
Yesterday I was talking with a friend about how easy it is to get trap into the desire of doing more, achieving more, having more.
It may be for fear of missing out (FOMO), or for the willingness to be in service. Or maybe is just that we love so much for what we do that we crave more of it.
The result is the same.
It’s just never enough.
It happens to me sometimes.
I got so focused on doing things that I forget to savor the moment.
Yesterday morning, while I was driving home, the sky was so clear that I was able to see the Dolomites in all their majestic beauty.
That view reminded me that life, even the longest one, is practically nothing compared to eternity.
This post is just a note to myself.
No matter how far and how fast I walk, the horizon will always be somewhere in the distance. But if I pause, breathe and lift my gaze, the horizon will come to me.
Our actions are more effective when they aligned with our identity.
This alignment creates a resonance that amplifies the impact of what we do. Resonance is the phenomenon that occurs when we apply vibration to an object that is equal (or nearly equal) to the natural frequency of that same object.
Resonance can be incredibly powerful. In 1940 the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed because regular speed winds produced oscillations that matched the bridge’s natural frequency.
The same principle applies to our words and actions. When they resonate with our identity, our natural frequency, they become incredibly impactful. And that works for individuals, teams, and organizations.
That doesn’t mean that we should do is predefined in who we are.
“Genes can predispose, but they don’t predetermine.” — Gabor Mate
But we all have natural inclinations and. When we have clarity about who we are, we can design our unique journey towards our goals.
At the beginning of every learning process, it is natural to model our actions on someone else who already achieved what we want. But at some point, we must understand our uniqueness and find our own model if we really want to leap forward.
In the early 1990s, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and his wife Hanna where studying patients with brain lesions that were affecting their ability to feel emotions but not their reason capabilities. They observed that when emotions and feelings are impaired, we are unable to make decisions.
Anytime we need to make a choice, we all want to make the most reasonable and objective one. This is particularly true in working environments. We are often pushed to leave our emotions out and make rational choices. The incredible amount of data to which we have access at any moment should always allow us to make the right or at least a good decision.
But does it?
I remember when we had to choose our second flat to rent in London. We spent weeks browsing websites, talking with agencies and viewing options to find the perfect fit. In the end, we choose one that ticks all the boxes. We never really enjoyed that place. After one year we started looking again. Only this time we left more space to our feeling. We ended up with the most unexpected, and a bit fool choice, where we had our best time in London.
What would happen if, instead of ignoring them, we observe and become aware of our emotions and feeling?
“It is emotion that allows you to mark things as good, bad, or indifferent.” — Antonio Damasio
I am fascinated by the paradox of human behaviors. And they are everywhere.
Everyone wants to be heard, so we all talk louder and louder (figuratively on social media, for real in meetings) and as a result, nobody listens.
When we are drowning in a problem, we double the effort. But as the instructors teach in swimming lessons, the more you move to stay afloat, the more likely you’re going under.
When we feel lost, we go anywhere to find ourselves. Yet, when we were kids, they taught us that if you are lost, you should stay where you are until your parents come and find you.
We want for everyone we love to be happy, so we sacrifice our own happiness for them. And if they do the same, what remains, in the end, is only the sacrifice, while the joy is gone. What would give more pleasure to someone that loves you, to see you happy?
I don’t have a magical recipe, but lately, I found that there is enormous power in taking a pause to step out of the race and just observe.
One of the good things about travelling is that it forces me to reassess my habits.
Our life runs on habits. And of most of them, we are not aware.
Without automatic habits, we would have to think deliberately before doing anything. That doesn’t sound efficient at all.
Luckily for us, our brain and body have the incredible capacity to identify and implement patterns that allow us to function efficiently in our environments.
Automatic habits are vital elements of our life, as long as they are good ones. With good ones I mean the patterns that help us thriving and improve the quality of our life.
But the same process also works for bad habits. The ones that don’t support our growth but impact negatively on our life.
When behaviour becomes automatic, it also becomes invisible.
So, most of the time we are not aware of our habits, nor we can’t distinguish a good from a bad one.
Any change begins with awareness.
There are three practices that I found helpful to gain awareness about our automatic habits.
Introspection, using a tracking system and travelling.
The first one helps you take a pause and observe your life from a new perspective.
A tracking system can help you notice the effects of invisible behaviours in your daily routine.
Travelling takes you to new environments and disrupts your habits. In my case, it forces me to reassess my morning rituals to understand which ones are essential.
How often are you asked to be objective?
Particularly at work, we are often told that to do a good job, to make effective decisions and, in general, to see things as they really are, we must be objective.
To be objective means to be unbiased. When you’re objective about something, you have no personal feelings about it.
Is it really possible or are we just lying to ourselves?
To ask someone to be objective is the same as asking to avoid being human. How can we fully experience the world if we try to strip away or hide a large part of who we are?
Anytime we think we are making objective decisions we are just lying to ourselves. So, what if instead of trying in vain to be objective, we acknowledge our subjectivity?
Even more, we explore it. Through introspection, we shift our attention from the known to the knower, from the observed to the observer.
“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” ― Anaïs Nin
If you struggle to get a sense of the reality in which you live, it may be worth to turn your focus inside.
Something magical happened yesterday during a session with my coach.
We were exploring a problem that has been troubling me for some time. Something practical that requires a workable solution. A tool or strategy that can help me overcome the problem and get the results that I want.
The annoying thing is that I already know about many possible solutions, but I don’t use them.
It is as if my mind knows what to do, but all the other parts of me refuse to follow.
So, yesterday during the session I was stuck again in this uncomfortable place. I was feeling the usual guilt of knowing what to do and not doing it.
Until I realized a troubling truth.
I didn’t know what to do once the problem was solved.
I focused so much on the problem before me that it became the only thing I could see.
So, I decided to take a step back. To put some distance between me and that problem so I can see what’s around it. And beyond it.
If we get too close to it, even a grain of sand becomes a mountain.