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.
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.
We are all aware of the importance of finding meaning in what we do. In this McKinsey’s article, the authors say that “increasing the ‘meaning quotient’ of work” has a huge impact on people’s performances.
If you do a quick search online, you will find plenty of articles with suggestions on how to find a meaningful job.
However, there is a high probability that the quest for a meaningful job will be delusional for many.
Because a job does not have a meaning on its own. It is just a job.
As much as an object is just an object.
We infuse meaning in things, including jobs.
We can not expect for our job or for anything else to give meaning to our life. We are the only ones who can give meaning to our lives.
We must look inside, dig out our values and aspirations, understand what really matters for us and then we can infuse meaning in what we do.
“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.” — Viktor E Frankl
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.
Did you have a good weekend?
It is probably the main question asked on Monday morning when we go back to work.
Everyone has a different idea of a good weekend. For someone is about spending time with the loved ones. For others is about doing nothing or maybe doing all the things that can’t be done during the working days. Some engage with people while others seek only silence.
This morning I woke up thinking about the importance of rest and recovery. We often overlook how vital it is to take the time to rest our body, our mind and our soul.
A friend once told me that even the stronger bow would snap if you never release its tension.
Pushed by the desire to achieve our goals and improve our performances, we focus only on the things we have to do, and we overlook resting.
Everyone whose performance depends on their physical condition, like athletes but also people with physically demanding jobs, are well aware of the importance of rest and recovery.
But what about our mind? How much time do we give to our mind to rest and recovery? How much space do we invest to refill our creative reserve?
Personally, not as much as I should. And having a smart device with me all the time is not helping.
This is why I decided to carve out more disconnected time in my week to replenish my creative tank.
And what about you?
Do you give some time off to your mind?
Sometimes all we need is just a nudge.
A little push to break the inertia and start moving.
I discovered it soon after I decided to write every morning.
The first days I was so excited that it was easy to find something to write about. And to be completely honest, I just wanted to write, so I wasn’t paying much attention to what I was writing about.
Soon, I found myself consuming most of my writing time to search for something to write about.
In the beginning, I thought that I needed a topic. A destination or at least a direction for my words. But this search wasn’t easy and, even when I found a direction, I wasn’t satisfied with the final result. Having the end in mind was narrowing my creativity, and the outcome wasn’t very inspired.
Then I discovered The Write Practice and its prompts. A prompt is a great way to inspire the writing process. It gives you a starting point, not the destination. It’s a little push, so you start moving, but being free to go anywhere.
Anything can be a prompt; a word, a question, a picture, a sound.
You just need to be willing to surrender to it, open the gate and go with the flow. Prompts are great for writing, in conversations, in self-reflection.
It’s a way to start without the end in mind.
I usually use the Be The Change cards.
Another good starting point is this set of 50 questions by my friend Marc Winn and his 50coffees project.
You can also use a “Word of the day” service.
Whatever, it’s not important what you choose as long as you are open and start even if you don’t know where you will get at the end.
Remember, not all who wander are lost.
Self-doubts are thieves.
They sneak into your mind, and they steal your self-confidence and your creativity.
It’s an awful feeling to stare at a blank page realising that you’re as empty at that page.
Sometimes life tests us.
Things don’t go exactly as planned.
The expected results are not coming.
The self-doubts lurk in.
And before we realise it, we are questioning everything.
I know the feeling.
I’ve been there often.
It still happens.
We all have moments of doubts and fear when we question what we do and who we are. I used to rely on self-reflection to find my way out of those moments. But in doing so, I was adding even more questions and making the hole bigger.
I was feeding my fear.
Now, when it happens, when the self-doubts arrive I ground myself in my rituals. I stop the thinking that is just feeding my self-doubts and rely on the habits and structures that I created when my self-confidence and my creativity were full and energised.
“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralysing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all.” – Vincent van Gogh
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?
It’s often a surprise when you meet, in person or through stories, the man or woman behind the artist.
I remember some encounters after which I was perplexed, asking myself “How can this person be the same who wrote those beautiful and inspiring songs?”
On the surface, this distance between the person and the artist may seem a lack of authenticity. But if we look a bit deeper, we can see that they are just different vibrations of the same energy.
Human beings have the potential to do things that are bigger than themselves. Things that go beyond the limitations, weakness and miseries of their human form.
This ability is more evident in artists, but it is innate in everyone.
We all have the power to go beyond our human form.
To make our actions and words bigger than ourselves.
We are all artists.
Are your actions and words bigger than yourself?
Are you inspiring and uplifting yourself and others beyond your limitations?
We’re all born creative. It’s our nature.
Can you think of someone more creative than kids playing? They can transform every object in a new game, any space into a new world.
Then something happens while we grow up.
Studies are showing that our creativity dry out while we go through school and when we become adults, for must of us, it looks like it’s gone.
We get stuck in the logic trap.
We do things only when they are reasonable.
When we can predict the outcome. And in doing so, we become blind to what is possible beyond what is probable.
Unfortunately, when we are called to face the unpredictable, some crack. They can’t see a way forward, and so they hide moving backwards.
But we are all born creative.
Creativity is there.
It doesn’t disappear.
We just need to create space in our life for creativity to expand.
When I feel stuck in something, and my mind can’t find a way forward, I ask myself questions such as:
- What would I do if this was just a game?
- What would I do If I know I can’t fail?
A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. — Steven Pressfield