Are you focusing on what you want (or DON’T want)?
Maya, my client, is wading through some swampy waters with a nonprofit she’s invested a huge amount of time, energy and money in. Active on the board for more than 12 years, she can clearly see all the challenges that the group is facing and it’s easy to come up with a list of all the things that are not working. While discerning what’s “broken” can be critical to moving towards a solution and helping a nonprofit evolve, there comes a time where you have to stop the complaining and get clear on who and what you want to become.
If you’re not mindful, you’ll just keep stewing in the same pot of fear, negativity and criticism (I’m sure you’ve observed this in meetings and “group think”). Like attracts like.
Whether it’s on a personal, communal or macro-level, I know from experience that in order for positive change to occur—you have to collectively hold a vision for the highest/best expression, even if you have to act “as if” the situation as you desire it is already there.
Here are some examples of how I have seen this principle play out in my professional life:
- sad and often anxious from growing up with a parent who suffered from severe depression, I finally chose at age 30 to not let this define my happiness and I began to consciously create a vision for MY life.
- frustrated and ready for a change, I was inspired to relocate to Austin when I was 24; I would envision myself in my dream job, living a vibrant/creative life while I drove down from Dallas after work to interview for new communications position.
- exhausted and disillusioned after working in a corporate environment, I left my high-paying international position and stock options to take a three month sabbatical and spend my days researching/imagining my new ideal position (and ultimately got a truly unbelievable job!)
- done with being constrained by a 8-5 job after 13 years of working for someone else, I began to create in my mind’s eye a new kind of company that would allow me to make a great living, help others and pursue my creative pursuits/travel—this lead me to birth my first coaching/consulting firm in 1999 which was known nationally for it’s innovative approach
- frustrated by traditional publishing models, I chose to stretch myself professionally and I launched a publishing arm to house my first big book project (which is now training curriculum for women leading self-care groups in more than 10 countries around the world)—I could never have imagined all that followed from me staying true to my vision!
There are so many times throughout my career when I had to hit the negativity “stop” button and course-correct into a higher place. As I would come to key crossroads in my life (times when I could choose to expand into “What if?” or spiral downward and get stuck) my Wise Self would guide me to pause and ask, “Really?” and challenge my own thoughts.
Neuroscientists say the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones. Additionally, we have about 60,000 thoughts and day and 90% of them are the same thoughts! (Read more about the negativity bias from Dr. Rick Hanson and what negativity does to the brain.) Rick says, “Negative learning from your childhood and adulthood – both what you experienced yourself and saw others experiencing around you – is locked and loaded in your head today, ready for immediate activation, whether by a frown across a dinner table or by TV images of a car-bombing 10,000 miles away.” And most of the time, we’re totally unaware this is happening.
Pause for a minute. What or who is causing you frustration right now? Where has all your energy been going? After you’ve discerned what’s not working—have you spent as much-or more—time acknowledging what is working and articulating your highest vision for the named? Who can help you paint this vision, co-create it or get others on board to help advocate for it?
Real change has to come from a shared, collective vision of what is possible. Are you with me? I’m done bathing in dirty bathwater, give me a towel and dry clothes, I’m headed up the mountain to take in a fresh view. I’ll save you a spot.