One Apple A Day #446 – Attention, please.

I love words. There can be so much power and wisdom hidden behind a word we use regularly.

Like the word “attention“. It came out in a few conversations lately, so I felt the urge to give it some attention.

The word “attention” comes from old Latin. In particular, it’s the combination of “ad“, meaning “to, toward” and “tendere ” meaning “stretch“.

So, to give attention to something means to stretch yourself toward that thing.

The first image that comes to my mind is an elastic band. One tip connected to you and the other one to the thing you want to focus upon. To give attention to something means to stretch yourself until you can attach this elastic band to the object of your attention. The stronger the elastic band, the more you will be drawn toward the object of your attention.

Your attention is a superpower, use it wisely.

  1. If you want to achieve a goal, the first step is to put your attention on it. This way you will be pulled towards the target, and you’ll get there with less effort.
  2. If you attach your “attention” to many objectives, you will be pulled in different directions. Maybe even opposite ones, making any movement almost impossible. So, it’s a good idea to invest your attention on one thing at the time.

One Apple A Day #444 – play more at work

I discovered a new word: autotelic.

“The term “autotelic” derives from two Greek words, auto meaning self, and telos meaning goal. It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward.”

This word is used by professor Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience to define one of the essential characteristics of the experience of “flow”.

In short, one of the signs that we are in a peak experience is that we found the experience so rewarding in itself that we detach from the outcome.
It’s the kind of feeling we experience when we do something not to achieve something but for the pure joy of doing it.

Can you think about anything you do in your life that you love so much doing that you detach from the outcome?

When I read that word, the first image that came to my mind was a group of kids playing. I remember that I could play for hours — losing the sense of time is another sign of being in flow — just for the joy of playing. There was no other purpose than playing itself.

Other self-rewarding activities for me are playing the guitar, reading, writing, having conversations.

All activities that we don’t usually associate with work.

Funny, isn’t it?

One of the keys to maximising our performances is to do things for the joy of doing them, and not for the desire or need to achieve something.

Yet, for many of us, work is all about the outcome.

Maybe, we should try to make our work a bit more playful.

One Apple A Day #442 – rituals

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?

One Apple A Day #441 – being a learner

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.

One Apple A Day #440 – The volcano

“The religions start from mysticism. There is no other way to start a religion. But, I compare this to a volcano that gushes forth …and then …the magma flows down the sides of the mountain and cools off. And when it reaches the bottom, it’s just rocks. You’d never guess that there was a fire in it. So after a couple of hundred years, or two thousand years or more, what was once alive is dead rock. Doctrine becomes doctrinaire. Morals become moralistic. Ritual becomes ritualistic. What do we do with it? We have to push through this crust and go to the fire that’s within it.”

Yesterday I found this powerful metaphor from David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk. The beauty of this metaphor is that it can be applied to any organisation.

Just replace the word “religion” with “form” or “configuration”. With the word configuration, I mean all the visible and invisible elements that define the “HOW” of an organisation.

Then replace “mysticism” with “consciousness” or “energy”; the true self, the bigger “WHO” of an organisation.

Then the sentence reads: “The form starts from consciousness. There is no other way to start a form. But, I compare this to a volcano that gushes forth …and then …the magma flows down the sides of the mountain and cools off. And when it reaches the bottom, it’s just rocks. You’d never guess that there was a fire in it. So after a couple of hundred years, or two thousand years or more, what was once alive is dead rock. Ideas become risks. Principles become bureaucracy. Ritual becomes routine. What do we do with it? We have to push through this crust and go to the fire that’s within it.”

How many organisation do you know that are in that place? Where the original fire now is just some dead rocks?

And what about you?

Because this metaphor works beautifully also for us, as individuals.

Is your flame, your energy still alive or did you allow for the time to cover it beneath solid rocks?

Every transformation journey starts with removing all those layers of solid rocks to find the original fire and reignite the volcano.

One Apple A Day #438 – Authentic

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.

One Apple A Day #437 – I don’t control the outcome, just the process.

I love this moment of the day. I sit here with some relaxing music, and I write for 15 minutes or so.
No goals. Just the act of writing.
It amazes me how I’ve been able to keep this practice for so long, despite my proven lack of self-discipline.

Unfortunately, any time I tried to apply the same strategy to work on my book, I failed. Again and again.
The practice of writing daily on the book never took off.
I used the same strategies: the same time of the day, same duration, the same tool.
Nothing!
After a few days, something gets in the way, and the practice is gone.

It has been going on for months. As a result, I blew up all my deadlines on the book project, and it became very frustrating.

With all deadline gone, I started losing my grip on the outcome. Questioning if I will ever see the final book.
And then, something happened.
When the outcome faded away, the habit of writing daily started to stick.

I realised that what makes this habit easy to keep is the total absence of outcome. I write every day just for the pleasure of writing.

I don’t control the outcome, just the process.

The moment I gave up my desire to control the outcome, I was able to focus on the process and make it work.

One Apple A Day #436 – you don’t have to fix everything

The other morning I was waiting at the traffic light for my turn to cross the road. Before me a couple with two dogs, a big one and a small one. Both beautiful and sociable. The smaller one, in particular, was cute and playful. When the light went green, and we all cross the road, I noticed that it cannot move one of its legs, but it was walking and jumping around as if everything was normal.
It made me think about our ability to adapt to our own limitations.

At the end of 2015, I realised that something had to change in my life.
I began my self-awareness journey reading, studying and doing self-development programs. I quickly realised that I was the one that had to change. I needed to transform myself so I double-in my commitment to self-development. I read and studied more, completed better programs, talked with many people to seek advice.
With every insight I was discovering about myself, new opportunities to grow and change were emerging.
It was an exciting journey.
The feeling of transformation was addictive, and I wanted to change everything. To become better and better.
Until I got stuck.
A few things were not changing despite all my efforts.
And I felt like I wasn’t making any real progress.

That was the moment when I learned that there are parts of me I can not change. No matter how hard I try, I won’t change them.

We don’t have to fix everything. Sometimes we have to accept that there are things we cannot change and with this valuable insight move on and live our life.

“When we let go of the things we cannot change, it frees up the energy to focus on changing the things we can.” — Tasha Eurich

One Apple A Day #435 – To be heard, start listening

“The desire to be heard is as deeply seeded as the desire to be loved. For some people, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other end.” ― David Levithan

The longing to be heard and seen is part of our human nature. It is a manifestation of our need to belong, to be loved.

In a world that is more and more crowded, in which we are flooded with data and information, and in which everything moves and changes at ludicrous speed, being heard seems a nearly impossible challenge.

People are desperately trying to be seen.
In this desperate effort to be heard they shout louder and louder.
At the point that we can’t hear anything else than our own voices.

Isn’t it ironic?
The yearning to be heard and seen is making us deaf and blind to others.

What if, the only way to be seen and heard is to stop talking so we can start observing and listening to others?

One Apple A Day #434 – An easy win

Today may be the most important day of your year.

It’s the 2nd day of this new year, but for most of us, it’s the first one of the chase of the new dreams, goals and aspirations we established for ourselves.

Dreaming and setting goals is an exciting exercise. It got us all pumped up. Yesterday our phone was flooded by wishes and inspiring messages.

Then, this morning reality comes knocking at the door, and suddenly those goals seem so big and so far away.

The first doubts pop up in our mind.

Where do we start?

What can we do today?

We have these big dreams, but we don’t know what to do, Today.

My wise friend Karen once told me “If you don’t know what to do, do something“.

The first step is the most important of them all. It’s the one stating to yourself and the universe that you are 200% committed to this journey.

So, doing something and start is more important than what you actually do.

But you need to start Today. You need to set things in motion.

Here’s a simple trick that my mentor Rossella taught me in one of our conversations.

Start with an easy win. Something so small and so easy you can not succeed.

Think about your goal and ask yourself: What is the tiniest and easiest thing that I am sure I can do Today and can take me an iota closer to my goal? 


This post was inspired by the Be The Change card I picked this morning. It says “Step forward, make yourself available. Commit.