Monday
May232005

The Constant State of Fix

It's early Monday morning and I just spent a glorious weekend reading. I finished three books this weekend: "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter" by Sue Monk Kidd, "The Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff, and "Be," by A.C. Ping. I made significant progress in "Conversations With God - Book 3" by Neale Donald Walsh, "Do," also by Ping, "A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age," by Dan Pink, and "Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future" by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers.

All of these books are calling me to some sort of action, even if that action is stillness, which for me may be the most significant.

I recognize that throughout my entire life, my most familiar state is a state of fix. I remember always striving, striving, striving to be better, to do more, to learn more, to achieve impossible goals and then never be satisfied with the results. But that is what the constant state of fix demands. By its very definition - like perfection - it is unachievable.

This state has become familiar, although it is no longer comfortable. When it was both familiar and comfortable, it would allow me to long for someone else to show me the way, someone else to guide me toward the awakening I knew was there, but didn't see how I could achieve by myself.

Even as recently as earlier this morning, I found myself, while reading "Presence," with its profoundly moving accounts of the authors' journeys to knowing themselves and their connections with others and with nature, automatically shifting my thoughts to that familiar "well sure, they can do that. They've got money, fame, power, experience, (insert appropriate word for what they have and I haven't)."

I've found myself noticing when I start dwelling more on what I don't have than what I do have, which is a definite step beyond that old familiar state of fix. The noticing is great - but it will be the going beyond noticing to the action that I'll be striving for.

My dichotomy is where the doing and the being become blurred. As I've been so focused on mere doing, I know I must become more mindful of the being as well. So my dilemma is where one stops and the other takes over. Perhaps the difference will be in "mere doing" and "pure doing"; deciding and noticing when the doing is driven and when it is compelled.

Life is a journey, not an event, so how will I know when I've gotten "there"? Perhaps that is why it is a constant state of fix. The process is in the becoming, and maybe the goal is to be present in the becoming. It's not for me to decide when I'm "there." As Richard Bach said in Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah: "Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't."

Thursday
May192005

Revisiting Simplicity and Complexity

"I wouldn't give a nickel for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." -Einstein

Thinking more about this quote recently has caused me to begin thinking about that point at which we can measure the other side of complexity. Picture it as a triangle where the point of the triangle is the point of complexity, and the left side of the triangle is "the simplicity on this side of complexity" and the right side is "the other side of complexity." What might we do in our own lives to get to "the other side"?

Does it start to get simpler on the other side? Does noticing the peak of complexity allow us a different vantage point from which to determine which simplicity we're in? Does it get more difficult before it gets more simple, like climbing up the side of the triangle in order to come down the other side?

In the current issue of "Worthwhile" magazine, editor Anita Sharpe mentions an old Chinese saying: "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed." Another way to say it is: "It's always darkest before the dawn."

So if we can just trust that the path we're on is going to get us to that level of simplicity, we can become more mindful. We can start to enjoy our days instead of filling them with busyness so we can drown out that persistent voice in our heads that keeps telling us there's something more out there.

The voice of status quo seems to be louder on this side of complexity - it wants us to remain in ignorance. After all, ignorance is bliss, isn't it? When we begin to actually listen to the voice that is our true self - and even perhaps the voice of our higher self - we can't go back to status quo.

What is that tipping point that causes us to recognize the path? Does it have to be a tragedy or a crisis to cause us to realign our values with our lives?

I'm curious to hear from people who have begun to listen and are recognizing the complexity triangle. Which side do you find yourself on? How do you know when you've reached the other side? What does simplicity feel like on each side? Can you even tell until you've reach the complexity?

Saturday
May072005

It Takes Courage To Be Creative

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." - Mark Twain


Getting beyond what others think is a huge victory, at least it was for me. And even the belief that those "others" might be out there judging new endeavors is often enough to keep us in status quo behavior even when we know it's not the best solution.

This seems to be especially true when it comes to creativity. I didn't realize how difficult it really is to define creativity until I started to think more about it. My own definition would be something like: the ability to create; inventing something new; or coming up with fresh ideas. I used to think that people were either born creative or they weren't, and that creative people were those people who could draw, or paint, or act, or write.

Even the dictionary doesn't do a very good job of defining it - at least not much better than I did. Dictionary.com says: n. The ability to create.

I believe now that the level of my own creativity was in direct proportion to my level of courage. I spent so much of my youth as a perfectionist that I had very little space to be creative. Being creative means being willing to step outside the traditional into the unknown. It means being willing to make a mistake - to take a risk - to get beyond worrying about what others think and following your heart and soul and intuition.

As I've started listening to my life speak, I find that my true self is, as some have called me, a boat rocker - a limb sitter - a trailblazer. I've found it to be much easier to follow my heart than to feel pressured to justify my existence in a work environment that doesn't know what to do with me.

I believe that everyone has the ability to be creative. But in order for people to connect with their inate creativity, there has to be some semblance of courage present as well, because many of us don't have enough experience out on the limb or outside the status quo to even know how to support someone who's venturing out there. It might seem to be lonely out on the limb, but it's much less lonely when you find others in the same place than it is to be struggling alone amid other closet creatives, none of whom is yet ready or willing to venture into the unknown.

Living creatively = living courageously.

Thursday
Apr282005

Capacity vs. Potential

Have you ever heard someone say that you have a lot of potential? On the surface, that could sound like a compliment, but when you really start to think about it, what does that say about your current level of performance? If you have a lot of potential, does it mean that maybe someday you'll live up to it, but it's not happening now?

Maybe as a young person that's a great thing to recognize. After all, what do young people have to compare anything in their lives to? They haven't had time to develop too much personal experience.

But for those of us who have been around for a while, what are we waiting for? If we're still seeing ourselves in the eyes of potential, when might we choose to start living it?

That's what I see as the distinction between potential and capacity. If I've got a 12 oz. cup of coffee, that cup's capacity is 12 ounces. That's the maximum amount it can hold. If the cup is 100% full, it's (figuratively) living its capacity.

How many of us can say that we are living our capacity? Potential is somewhere off in the future. But is the future really sure? All we really have is today. So if we're living in someday, we're living in potential.

I've spent a good portion of my life in love with the potential - in personal relationships, business relationships, career opportunities - but have only recently begun to see that that isn't always the reality. The reality is right here, right now, today - the capacity.

I choose to live my life each and every day at 100% capacity, whether that's a 12-ounce cup or a gallon jug. I think as we grow and learn and evolve in our thinking and our ways of being, we move from the 12-ounce cup to the 20-ounce cup to the 32-ounce cup and eventually, wherever our capacity takes us. But it's not an immediate jump from one to the other. That's where we might get hung up.

"But he's doing more than I am." "She's smarter than I am." Comparing the size of our cup to another's can have us focusing backward instead of on the reality of the present.

Maybe the goal should be for each of us to examine our container (whether it's 4 ounces, or 12 ounces or 10 gallons) and determine whether we're living at full capacity. What is your 100%? If we can all figure out first what that 100% is and feels like, and then figure out how to give that - or just to be aware of how much of the percentage we're comfortable giving - we can find that place where we know we're doing our best.

Isn't that what excellence is all about? Doing our best and being happy with the outcome?

Tuesday
Apr192005

The Two D's and the Two L's

I'm starting to discover - finally - why we have so much trouble with effective communication. It really has very little to do with our intention and much more to do with our biology.

People respond to anything they don't know with defensiveness. It becomes a physical response. You can see it in their posture and the set of their jaw. And it all goes back to that reptilian brain way inside our heads.

The reptilian brain is the oldest part of our brain, that part that gives us that fight-or-flight response to anything new or unexpected. That part of us is rigid, obsessive, compulsive and paranoid. It is the part of our brain that keeps repeating past behaviors, and doesn't learn from them.

Thankfully we do have two other more evolved brains in our heads: the limbic system, or the middle part of the brain, and the neocortex, or the most highly developed outer part of the brain. In terms of size, the neocortex makes up more than two-thirds of the entire brain. So why is it that the smallest and most primitive portion of our brain is often the one that takes over? Shouldn't we be able to override that instinct with our intellect?

Is it any wonder we humans get defensive in our communication style when faced with new information or unfamiliar subject matter or, worse yet, new emotional ground? We don't know how to listen because we're too busy defending. We're in survival mode and we don't know any better because we haven't practiced anything else.

What if you changed the rules for yourself and didn't get defensive when you heard something that went against your initial beliefs? What if you changed the rules of your game and didn't make it wrong that people get defensive?

We're humans, not reptiles. We have every opportunity and every responsibility to let our neocortex in on our communication. What if, as Jerry Hirschberg of the Nissan Corporation once said, we fight the 2 D's in our communication (Defensiveness and Debating) with the 2 L's (Listening and Learning)?

I'm confident that noticing which of our brains is responding to new information in a communication setting will start alerting us to new, more effective habits in our behaviors.