Each of us has characteristics we define as ‘good’ and those we define as ‘bad.’ The parts of ourselves that we continually reject want to be acknowledged and loved. Until we honor these aspects, they will continue to assert themselves. They will do whatever they can to get our attention. What aspects of yourself do you reject?
Take a few moments to open to the parts of yourself that you do not love. See each one honestly for what it is. Explore the wounds and the motives that gave rise to its condition. Love a wounded part of yourself and it will heal.
“…self-contempt never inspires lasting change.”
Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter (via www.HigherAwareness.com)
It’s important to remember that your ego—your separate personal self-sense and all its culturally conditioned tendencies—is just not awake to the urgent need for your participation in the evolutionary process. That’s why your ego is convinced that it has all the time in the world to be eternally busy with its own self-improvement. It says, “Well, I’m not ready because I’m not perfect yet.” But that’s just the ego’s perennial excuse to avoid the overwhelming urgency of the evolutionary context of being alive. Did you ever meet anybody who was actually perfect? I don’t think perfection exists within manifestation. If you want to experience perfection—inherent perfection; unborn, uncreated perfection—meditate. As you gain the capacity to transcend a conditioned relationship to thought, memory, and time, you will eventually awaken to the timeless, formless, infinite ground of your own being and you’ll experience that which is perfect. But when we reenter the manifest realm of time, space, and form, we leave perfection behind, in order to create ourselves anew through the evolutionary process. And perfection will never be reached here.
So when the ego tells you that because you are not perfect, you are not ready yet, it traps you in a spiritually and evolutionarily self-defeating cycle. A big part of awakening to spiritual maturity is realizing that, even in all your imperfection, you are ready to take responsibility. While you realize that perfection is unattainable, you aspire for it, always reaching higher and further. You are ready to be responsible for creating the future, right now, even though your ego may kick and scream all the way. And your liberation, your enlightenment, in every moment, depends upon that. It’s not easy. You have to be a warrior, you have to be an exemplar, even though you know that you’re not perfect. So you have to deal with the reality of your human frailty, with the inherent contradictions in your character, and still be bold and brave enough to be willing to take responsibility for all of this. If you do, then the power of spirit will enter into your heart, your body, and your mind and you will begin to express That, in spite of all your imperfection. And then you, as a human being, don’t have to be perfect, because Spirit already is.
by Andrew Cohen
You cannot step into the same river twice – Heraclitus.
Just over 10 years ago, for a number of reasons, I moved from Colorado to South Carolina. Obviously this is not the first time I’ve moved, nor is likely to be the last. The last few years I’ve planned to move back west, closer to family. I was not necessarily planning on moving back to Colorado, but definitely somewhere in the region. At the risk of sounding cliché, I came to a realization Saturday: I have no intention of moving west any more, even to Colorado. Let me tell you why.
Time passes. And while some things change slowly, they do change. Sure, I could move west if I wanted to. But it wouldn’t be the same. In the last 10 years, the west has changed. And more importantly, I have changed. No matter how hard I tried, I’d never be able to make things the same as they were. Few traps are as insidious as living in past glories.
You cannot step into the same river twice, but life is more than happy to repeatedly present you with the same lesson until you learn it. This is relevant for me because I went through something very similar as a child. When I was 11, my family relocated from small town Ohio to big city Colorado. The company my dad worked for gave him an ultimatum – move and work in their headquarters, or find another job. We talked about it as a family, and later that year we were on our way.
I was miserable and wanted nothing more than to move back to small town Ohio. As time passed, things got somewhat better, but I still wanted to move back. My parents knew I wasn’t happy, and honestly, I’m not sure they were very happy either. One day we were driving home, and mom and dad said something I never thought I hear them say. It seems a position had opened up in Ohio, and if he wanted it, the job was his. So they asked me if I wanted what I wanted for so long – did I want to move back to Ohio? It wouldn’t be where we’d came from, but still, it was back in Ohio.
Just like it did Saturday, the realization hit me. I could not step in the same river twice. Going back to Ohio would be pointless. Even if we went back to the same neighborhood, which we wouldn’t have done, everything would be different. The neighborhood would be different. I was different. So I told them the only thing I could – I said no. I let go of the dream or reliving the past, and got on with living my life.
In a way, I feel like I’ve just made the same decision in letting go of the wish to move back west. I miss my family, good Mexican and Chinese food, I miss snow, at least now and then, the mountains, and the lack of better defined seasons. But I don’t miss the coldness of the people, the sub-zero temps, the traffic, the standing in line, or the higher cost of living.
Sometimes I think some of my friends are learning their own version of this lesson in some form or another. Where I’m at now everyone seems bent on recreating their college days. That’s my perception, anyway. It’s neither good nor bad, it simply is what it is. We all have our challenges.
It makes me wonder though. What else can I let go of and stop trying to step into the same river twice? What about you?
Just over two weeks ago, I took the next step on a journey I have been on for the past 7 and 1/2 years – I passed the black belt test for the organization to which my martial arts school belongs. This is longer than the average person takes, and I will readily admit that had I put my mind to it, I could have achieved this two or possibly three years ago. Which brings me to the subject of today’s discussion.
In reaching this achievement, I learned many, many lessons. One of the things I learned towards the end of this process was that making a decision wasn’t enough. I had made a choice some time ago that I wanted to study a martial art – it turned out to be jujitsu, though I’m sure I could have done others and been equally happy. I also made a choice some time ago that I wanted to reach black belt level and teach. During this time, I had periods where I would go to class regularly for a little while, reach the cusp of advancement, then stop going for a little while. This cycle would repeat for a number of years.
In the months prior to my test, I discovered it wasn’t enough to just make a choice – I had to put my will behind that choice, to become determined. It’s determination that separates choices from decisions. I can make choices all day long, but my decisions are immediately evident – because I put the necessary action behind them to bring them into being. When I made the decision to become a black belt, I determined that I was going to do that, whatever it took. I took action in line with my goal that I knew would help me get there.
Although I’m talking about something very specific, this applies to everything in life. How many times have you made a choice, only to go and do something that totally undermines that choice? The classic example of this is the new year resolution. People make all sorts of choices, and in the end, discard them not long afterwards. Most often it’s not lack of determination, but too much change too soon because of misdirected determination.
As Americans, our culture as a whole is one of instant gratification. We want everything, and we want it now. But the fallacy is, these conditions didn’t come up overnight, they’re not going away overnight. If you truly have decided to change, you must have the determination to do what is necessary to bring it about.
So, what have you chosen? And more importantly, what have you decided? What are you determined to do?
I went to the local botanic gardens today for the first time in nearly three months. I do some of my best thinking there, or non-thinking, as the case may be. I knew today would be special when within the first few minutes of being there, I was approached by a hummingbird, who decided to fly off when I tried to get my camera around for a picture. I wasn’t disappointed.
The cultivated area of the garden is changing. The old director left and late last year, and a new one was brought in. The new one seems intent on removing almost all of my favorite plants, and several beds that were lush with plants last year are now sparsely planted with mostly mulch visible. The natural woodlands area is still much the same.
As I was walking through the woodland area today, I was reflecting on Taoist philosophy. Taoism is a philosophy that studies the relationships, patterns, and changes in and with nature. It also espouses the idea that since humans are part of nature, those same relationships, patterns, and changes are reflected in us, both physically and personality wise. It covers cycles like days and years, birth, growth, death, and decay, and rain and sun.
I was also thinking about the book The Shadow Effect. While there are parts from Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, it’s always been Debbie Ford’s material that I come back to. The entire thrust of the book is that we repress parts of ourselves for whatever reason, and that to achieve wholeness, we need to bring those parts out of the shadow and acknowledge them.
Today that all came together for me. I figured out that when I’m at the gardens, I am a whole person. I must confess that at times I focus too much on what needs to change, what isn’t working, what’s going wrong. As I was walking, I noticed the trees in the forest. They’re standing there, in part, because there are leaves decaying on the forest floor, decomposing back into dirt that will then feed the tree. What a great analogy for our ‘imperfections’: they are there to breakdown and eventually feed us and make us stronger.
Each and every one of us is a forest – a cycle of life in itself. We are the trees, we are the leaves decaying, we are the insects that live in them. We are the worms that break things down farther, we are the water that washes the nutrients into the soil, and the roots that pull the water and nutrients back into the tree. We are the nuts and berries the birds eat, and we are the birds. We are the sky and the sun and the clouds. We are the brutal heat of summer, the cooling nights of autumn, the coldness of winter, and promise of spring. We are all of it and more.
When we hide part of ourself, or hate part of ourself, we discount the importance of that part of ourselves. Every part of us is important, and we ignore that at our peril. Each of us is perfect and imperfect, at the same time. If you would truly change yourself, you must first accept yourself as you are now. How would your life change if you accepted yourself as you are?
I flitted with a hummingbird
danced with a butterfly
slithered with a lizard
sang with the birds
was serenaded by cicadas
stood with the trees
flowed with a river
and was warmed by the sun.
Do you keep putting off things you should be getting accomplished? Eliminating procrastination isn’t as easy as just telling yourself that you might as well just do it and get it over with. If it was that easy none of would ever procrastinate about anything. You need to take a close look at the tasks that you’re avoiding and putting off, and one way to do this is by looking at the pros and cons of each job that you’re procrastinating. One of the best ways to do this is by writing it down on paper. List the pros and cons of those jobs that you’re avoiding.
You’ll most likely find that there are more pros than cons on your list, at least if you’re being honest with yourself. If you do find that there are more cons, take another look at the task you’re avoiding. Are the cons that you’ve listed for that task real and legitimate or are you avoiding this one job so much that you’re not being completely honest with yourself? Are there fears associated with this task on your list that you need to take a closer look at?
You could probably say that you’re afraid of many of the tasks on your list. Ask yourself why certain things arouse fear for you and then determine exactly what it is that you’re afraid of. Many times you’ll find that you’re afraid of failure. Once you recognize your fear you’ll find that it can’t have any power over you other than affecting how you are feeling. Work through your list again and you should find more pros than cons.
How To Stop Procrastinating
You need to redefine the way you look at procrastination. Many people constantly procrastinate throughout their entire lives. They end up feeling the pain of the procrastination to such an extent that they just accept procrastination as who they are and consequently remove all power to make changes in their lives. You put a label on yourself when you say that you’re a procrastinator and that you just have to learn to live with it. This sets you up so that you don’t take action when you need to, leading to some bad decisions just because you’ve labeled yourself in a negative way. If you want to make positive changes in your life you have to see procrastination as a choice you’ve been making and not who you are.
Procrastination can be a very negative word and for many people it brings up intense feelings of failure and pain. It can even bring on a great deal of anxiety and worry for people who feel that they just aren’t meeting their full potential. Anxiety can lead to stress and stress plays a big role in your physical and mental health. In fact, it’s now known that stress can break down your immune system and lead to short and long term health problems. This alone is reason enough to address your procrastination and do something about it.
Skills to Eliminate Procrastination
There are skills that you can learn that will help you eliminate the procrastination with which you approach the tasks in your life that need to be completed. With a bit of practice and awareness you can better manage the short term and long term things that you have to do in both your personal and your professional life. One of the first things that you need to do is realize there is no magic wand that you can wave to get things done. You and you alone are going to have to do the job.
The words that you use to talk to yourself about the job you have to do play a huge role in how you tackle those tasks that need to get done. Instead of saying that you “can’t” do something or that you “don’t want to”, try using positive words such as “I can” or “I choose to”. Even though this might not always be true it will get you on the track to think in a positive manner rather than in a negative one. There are many things that you have to do but don’t want to and learning to accept that things need to be done is a good step in the right direction when it comes to dealing with your procrastination.
Take a close and honest look at the type of person you are. Take some time to look at your own personal expectations and values. Then look at how these expectations and values fit into the way that you are taking on a certain task. Perhaps you need to find a new approach to how you’re doing things. Many times we fall into a pattern of dealing with certain tasks that we need to accomplish, only to find that the way we’re doing things isn’t always the most positive and beneficial for us. Be prepared to make changes to how you do things both in your personal life and at work so that the desired outcome is positive and productive.
Learn to recognize behavior that is self-defeating and negative. Ask yourself what you really gain from this self-defeating behavior. If you need help sorting out these feelings don’t be hesitant to talk to someone such as your manager or a counselor. The only way that you can make changes in your life and how you manage the things that you need to do is by taking an honest look at how you are currently dealing with things that you find unpleasant or that you just don’t want to do.
Take some time to identify both your short term and long term goals. If you know what your goals are it will make it much easier to recognize and accept that there are some things that you just need to accomplish if you’re going to reach your goals. If you continue to procrastinate doing something that has an effect on your goals then you might find that you’re more willing to just do it. You’ll find that you start making different decisions about how you look at the tasks that need to be done. Learn how to prioritize certain tasks so that you get those more important ones accomplished in a timely manner. Start making realistic decisions about the things you need to do that is going to allow you to achieve those goals that you’ve set out for yourself.
Always make sure that you have the tools and information that you need to complete a task. In some cases the things that you need to accomplish might require some planning and preparation. If you don’t take the time to prepare for certain tasks, you’re only going to be sabotaging yourself and setting yourself up for failure. Do what you need to do to prepare to get some tasks accomplished but make sure that you put a time limit on this prep work or you might just spend too much time preparing and not “doing”. Set aside a definite time for the planning stage and when that time is up force yourself to just jump in and get to work.
If the task at hand is a big one, don’t be afraid to break it up into manageable stages. Make smaller goals that you can manage and complete. The satisfaction that you feel when you accomplish even the smallest task will be empowering and positive, leading to feelings of success that will only encourage you to eagerly take on the next item on your list. For instance, if you have a report to write, set yourself one hour to write one section, and one section only. When you’ve completed that one section of the report you can then move on to the next section. These positive steps will motivate you and keep you going even if writing that report is something that you really don’t want to do.
Try to build your motivation by thinking about your strengths and not your weaknesses. Remind yourself of those tasks that you’ve already accomplished and that you feel good about. Keep reminding yourself that you are successful and that you’ll be even more successful when you finish those jobs that you need to get done. You might even consider giving yourself a reward for finishing a particular task that has been difficult to complete!
There will be times when you get stuck or weighed down by a certain task. Instead of feeling defeated and negative take a few minutes to come up with a different strategy for dealing with the job. If you can’t come up with a different strategy for the task you’re currently working on then switch tasks for the time being, making sure though that you come back to the other job. This will allow you to take a new look at the job and start fresh rather than sticking to it and only becoming frustrated when things aren’t working. The key here is to make sure that you force yourself to come back to that task that isn’t working out the way you want to!
Many times procrastination is related to anxieties about the excellence of the work you anticipate (or fear) you will generate. When this happens it’s important to remember that it’s better to produce at least something rather than producing nothing at all. The habits that we develop quickly become part of the way we lead our lives. You most likely haven’t always been a procrastinator and so don’t expect to see changes in an instant.
The important thing is to keep trying to stop procrastinating and to be positive about the changes that you see, even if at first you’re just able to accomplish one task at a time that you’ve been putting off.
Be grateful and express it.
We don’t do this often enough, not for the joys and not for the sorrows that allow us to appreciate them. Be grateful that you are you. No matter how good nor how bad you feel – or ever have, or ever will – you are completely and utterly and uniquely you out of all the infinite possibilities in the universe. Some would have you believe that there is no inherent meaning to life, or they would have you believe that theirs is the only one worth adhering to, but you are a conscious, self-aware entity and no matter how hard they might be– the choices are all yours. Forget the ideals they put on pedestals, just out of reach, so they can watch you vainly try and scale them. Forget sidestepping your life; it can’t be done no matter how much they’d have you believe it. Every day you start at zero and you go up or down from there based on the choices you make. Own your damage. Your scars are yours and no one else’s, but they’re your reminders, not badges of honor to be put on parade.
The fire in your eyes is yours. Don’t let it go out. Be grateful. Express it.
We are impermanent creatures living in an impermanent world, with constantly changing external stimuli flashing by and an endless algorithm of internal processes responding to it every moment. The only constant is change, and we shape our lives so we can have some sense of order and routine so that within those comfortable boundaries we can deal with those changes in the ways that best make sense to us.
For the longest time I resisted change. I wanted everything to be comprehensible and nailed down, even if I had to break bones and pull off miracles to get things just the way I wanted them. But somewhere along the way I realized that it was in trying to keep a handful of things the same, and focusing on that to the exclusion of all else, that I would look up from time to time and barely recognize the world around me for how much everything else had changed. And then the things that I tried to keep static changed, and everything flew apart.
I have always written things down. The inside of my head has always been a tempest, and the only way I’ve ever been able to make any sense of it is in trying to put it down on paper in an orderly fashion, to make sense of it by seeing it spelled out in the permanence of ink and pixels. I realized, somewhere along the way, that there wasn’t even permanence in that. All of my writing is just a snapshot of a footprint in the sand that’s led me to where I am now, taking the next step into the next step into the next step.
Whether it’s a crude note scribbled on a torn-off strip of paper to a manuscript-length exploration of the thoughts and ideas that are most important to me woven through thousands of words and hundreds of pages and countless hours and days of research and trial and error, I can look at those words and see myself. I can remember where I was when I wrote them, what I was thinking, what prompted them, even the first fumbling attempts at cramming the thoughts behind the words into the words themselves, which have always seemed to me shabby by comparison.
Mostly, I treat the putting down of words not just as a passive chronicling of events but as a conscious exploration of the tempest that’s going on in my head all the time, always, when even sleep is only sometimes a respite. And that’s the only way I’ve ever been able to discover whereby something constant can lead to change.
Not many people know that the martial art I study has an associated healing art. That, more than anything else, was what made me choose this art to study. The healing art learning consists of four modules that total 650 hours, I’m currently in the third one. Because of where I live I can’t license, but if I moved, in about 25 states I already have enough hours to test for a massage therapy license. It’s been an interesting start to the training this time around. Before I went through the second module, I made sure I was ready by doing a few massages first and then flowed right into it.
This time around, I tried the same thing, though I only did one or two massages done beforehand. The first couple classes, a month apart, were pretty much disasters for me. It was some of the worst work I’d done in a long time. I was disconnected and couldn’t get my placement quite right on anything. And then one day, it finally clicked, and I’m doing them at least as well, if not better, than I ever have. It’s really made a difference on the mat as well. My martial arts techniques have improved dramatically as my healing technique has improved. When I returned to the mat this year, my techniques were a little off there too. Now that things are better, I’ve had a chance to think through things and realized some things that are true for me.
I needed this class. For reasons I don’t understand, I need to have a connection with people. The last few years I’ve wanted nothing more than to get a job working from home, move back west to the mountains, and keep my exposure to people to a minimum. But I’ve noticed that in keeping to myself, I don’t get the things I need to get, and correspondingly the things I do suffer as well. Strangely, I didn’t see that while I was going through it. I could tell something was off, but not why, let alone have any idea how to fix it.
It’s really made me think about getting the things I want and getting the things I need. With all the talk of Law of Attraction (loa), there’s a big emphasis on how we get the things we want in our lives. Something I haven’t really seen addressed is, what if what you need and what you want are at odds with each other? Loa would say that you’ve attracted things to you that are at cross currents to what you want, but I’m not entirely convinced of that. As human beings, we are all imperfect – there are things we could always do better. Correspondingly, some people want or need to bring things and people into their lives which help them learn lessons to deal with or eliminate those imperfections. I’ll use a drug addict as an example. What the addict needs is to stop using the drug, but what he wants usually is another hit. He may not even see the need to stop until it’s too late, and so he doesn’t want to stop. Which would be more beneficial? Which is more likely to happen?
Now you’ve seen the conflict that needing one thing while wanting something else can produce. In the time that’s passed since I started writing this, I’ve discovered some other things about myself that I need to examine. There seems to be a part of me that needs to have dreams that are unachievable. When I first realized this, I thought how horrible it was that I was doing that to myself. That was because I was looking at those dreams and using them to make myself sad for not being able to achieve them. There is a flip side to that though – dreams can inspire, even unachievable ones. If I picked one to try to make real, it would start in motion a series of events that would take somewhere I’ve never been, and may never have gone if I hadn’t tried. And honestly, maybe the dream would be achievable – the judgment of whether a dream can be reached or not is always done from the perspective of where I’m at, not where I’m going. This is a big universe we live in, and what appear to be wildly improbable things happen all the time, and they can and do happen to anyone.
Life – the possibilities are endless. Maybe the universe can bring me what I want and what I need. If I have to choose between the two, I’ll take getting what I need over getting what I want. You see, I’ve found that for myself, I’m usually happiest when I’m getting the things I need. If that happens to line up with what I want, even better. It may sound unusual, but when I get what I need, what I truly need, there’s always that feeling of really deep contentment when I realize that’s happened. It’s like a part of my soul is fed that I didn’t even know was hungry. So, I am going to ask the universe to bring me what I need, even if I don’t know consciously that I need it. I choose to believe that the universe will bring it to me at the right time and in the right way, even if it’s not pleasant at the time.
What about you? What do you want? What do you need? Do you know?
The phrase “letting go” has long been a vital part of my stress management overview, especially related to breaking the “erosive spiral” of that all-consuming “b”-word. (When it comes to stress, actually, a number of emotionally charged “b” words jump to mind, for example, “botox,” or when you have a BMW colleague, which I recently learned stands for an individual constantly “Bitching, Moaning and Whining.”)
Now, of course, I’m talking about burnout. As noted in “The Vital Lesson of the Four ‘R’s”: If no matter what you do or how hard you try, Results, Rewards, Recognition and Relief are not forthcoming, and you can’t say “No” or won’t “let go” – because you’ve invested so much time and money, energy and ego in that one right person, position or possible outcome – so that you cannot or will not step back and consider new perspectives, resources or options…trouble awaits. The groundwork is being laid for apathy, callousness and despair.
I’ve come to appreciate three key arenas – psychological-interpersonal-motivational – in which “letting go” is critical for rebirth, resolution and resilient risk-taking, i.e., for generating new direction, a more daring focus and a revitalized determination, both for yourself and for others. And appropriately enough, the first two arenas of “letting go” stimulate your “Inner GPS,” providing a map and tools for “Engaging with ‘Grief’ and ‘Power Struggles’”:
1. Letting Go as the Key to Freeing Up Grief. Consider my Mobius Strip mantra: “One must begin to separate; one must be separate to begin.” In paradoxical, yin-yang fashion, every beginning or separation contains its own seed of endings or returns; every ending or return has a beginning and separation seed lying dormant. Any transition, whether stirring rage or resignation, rejoicing or relief is a dynamic, ongoing mix and flux of endings-wanderings-settlings-separations and potentially-eventually new beginnings and returns. And in turn, every new beginning eventually comes to an end, once again providing both a fresh or unexplored landscape and mindscape of “danger and opportunity.”
Having the courage and support to face the acute emotions of this ever twisting and turning transition – such as fear and anger, helplessness and hopelessness, panic and paralysis, and/or mania and melancholy – makes it more difficult to deny the swirling, shifting currents, makes it harder to merely tread water. Letting go and grappling with grief enables you to embrace and retrace, if not gradually replace, the past with new or reenergized purpose and passion. As I once wrote:
Whether the loss is a key person, a desired position or a powerful illusion each deserves the respect of a mourning. The pit in the stomach, the clenched fists and quivering jaw, the anguished sobs prove catalytic in time. In mystical fashion, like spring upon winter, the seeds of dissolution bear fruitful renewal.
And what helps ignite the mystical or, at least, the mythical?
For the Phoenix to rise from the ashes
One must know the pain
To transform the fire to burning desire.
And if you can risk confronting that roaring river of pain – an often confusing rush and reliving of past and present emotions and memories – and over time can survive the occasional eerie stillness, the oftentimes tumultuous white water passage of grief, then you may arrive at a place more light than dark, a new transitional harbor offering some hard-earned healing and wisdom along with newfound maturity and opportunity.
According to Nobel Prize-winning author, Albert Camus, Once we have accepted the fact of loss, we understand that the loved one [or loved position] obstructed a whole corner of the possible pure now as a sky washed by rain.
Helping people engage with the emotional vulnerabilities, uncertainties and pain inherent in loss and major transition, that is, grappling with the psychological ramifications not merely with the changing physical realities – managing a new operating system, relocating an office, merging departments or divisions, etc. – is the foundational first step in the journey of evolution.
As renowned, 20th c. medical pioneer, Jonas Salk, declared: Evolution is about getting up one more time than you fall down; being courageous one more time than you are fearful; being trusting just one more time than you are anxious.
2. Letting Go as the Key to Defusing Power Struggles. In the heat of interpersonal battle, why is it so hard to let go? In addition to the fact that we’ve been engaged in such struggles most of our life (certainly toilet training was an early testing ground), power struggles definitely can set off some emotional “hot buttons.” Here are key psycho-social-cultural dynamics that impede stepping back and attempting to reengage more effectively –“The Five ‘C’s of Power Struggles”:
a. Control – who has control, who is in charge?; this relates to the authority-status-power dimension, whether in the workplace, e.g., supervisor-subordinate relation, or the parent-child family dynamic; however, sometimes control needs are driven less by role considerations and more by aggressive messages and actions; consider my take on the covert motivation of the dysfunctional “strong silent type”: “For me to be strong you must be silent!”
b. Competition – another family dynamic – sibling rivalry – or competition; who is the favorite who is better?; it’s easy for these issues to get acted out in the workplace as well
c. Change – times of change raise levels of uncertainty and anxiety; not surprisingly, at these times, many people have a greater need to be in control of their environment, including other people
d. Cultural Diversity – surely, different perspectives, values, customs, expectations, etc., forged by cultural upbringing and experience can contribute to misunderstanding and standoffs
e. Communication Skills – do the parties have the communicational competence to negotiate conflict and find “the pass in the impasse”?
Understanding the emotionally charged nature of these dimensions may allow for a cooling off period, at least for the person who can “let go.”
When the Other Party Won’t “Let Go”
My metaphor for letting go in an interpersonal context is “dropping the rope,” that is, acknowledging to the other party that the tug of war or words is not working for you. Dropping the rope is not a sign of resignation or intimidation. When declared up front, “letting go” opens another problem-solving pathway. Of course, real life is not always so rational; actually, it’s often more psycho-logical! As a recent workshop participant painfully declared, “What if the other person – a colleague at work – won’t let go of the argument; tries to call you out for wanting to cease and desist even after a reasonable attempt at problem-solving?” It was clear the workshop attendee’s blood pressure was rising even as she spoke. My response was brief and to the point. “Let the individual know that you are taking a time out from this back and forth (to this point unproductive, from your perspective). You are neither afraid of him nor are you giving up; in fact, you will get back to him the next day. However, if the two of you cannot resolve your differences, you are not going to continue this head banging. You will call in a third party; you are not going behind anyone’s back. But you will insist there be some form of mediation.” Her energetic “thank you” told me “message sent was message received.”
So letting go doesn’t mean losing or giving up; it involves stepping back, presenting new perspectives and approaches, while reaffirming interpersonal boundaries as well as your personal integrity. And in a letting go process, at a particular juncture, you may have to accept that meaningful resolution may be out of your individual control. And you can live with this!
From GPS (Grief and Power Struggles) to Intimate FOE and Inspiring Flow
We’ve examined letting go both from a poignantly psychological perspective and from a power struggling and defusing one. Now let’s consider letting go from the vantage point of self-acceptance and meaningfully touching and moving others. My “four word” small group exercise hopefully will prove illustrative. It’s pretty basic: “Share an embarrassing moment.” And the room invariably goes through a metamorphosis – from somewhat anxious silence to uproarious verbal outpourings and animated nonverbal gesturing and posturing. One story cascades over another: “That was good; now let me tell you about my experience!”
3. Letting Go as the Key to Inspiring Flow. I especially like using this exercise with folks in leadership positions. Why is that? The exercise helps remove the “having it all together” or “always being in control” mask. One may have to risk revealing a vulnerable aspect of self. Yet, lo and behold, not only don’t people think less of you…hearing your story evokes knowing laughter, a genuine empathy (“not only have I walked in similar shoes, I can feel your bunions”), and even some admiration for your courage to share. I call this “Confronting Your Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure.” And as previously noted, the storyteller becomes a risk-taking role model; one vignette inspires another, invariably becoming more animate and passionate with each telling.
Making Room for Cultural Diversity, Mutual Humanity and Authenticity
Such unguarded sharing also reminds us that some experiences, like embarrassment, are universal and helps underscore our mutual humanity no matter how diverse our cultural backgrounds. Perhaps most important, for a precious moment in time, it breaks down artificial rank and status barriers between people, allowing for more personal and intimate connection. (For example, when the military wants a free flowing team exchange, despite the presence of “superior” rank in the room, they may hold a “Helmet’s Off” meeting. In fact, I have done facilitation work with army and air force units; my interactive exercises help them to better “walk their team and trust building talk.”) Remember, in a healthy social environment, not one simply manipulated by Big Brother media, machinations or mayhem, most people place their hopes and trust in authentic individuals whom they come to know through real give and take relationships. People identify with an imperfect yet accessible and courageous leader more than an unfeeling iconic statue.
A Closing Leadership Mantra and Message, Method and Model
Here’s a final leadership mantra: Learn to “Let Go”: Turn Your Intimate FOE into Inspiring Flow! People want to connect with real and risk-taking leaders. They too want to laugh at their flaws and foibles, to painfully learn from yet also playfully laugh in the face of failure…to finally let go of that incessant critical voice. Many want to taste and touch this potent, idiosyncratic and liberating energy and spirit. For when you bring both head and heart, when you simultaneously project a purposeful and provocative, passionate and playful message and presence, you become a magnet; people are drawn to your energy and essence. (Consider my expansion of a saying passed on by a battle-tested salesman: “Logic Tells and Passion Sells. And ‘Passion Power’ Compels.”) Yet, ironically, if your motivation is unselfish, you will help others become less afraid of speaking up, if not of breaking out and breaking away. Remember, from its biblical origins, spirit is “the breath and flow of life,” hence spirit’s connection with “respiration” and “inspiration.” So if you are determined to:
a) rebuild your purposeful and passionate, newfound possibilities fire,
b) not be distracted or constrained by draining and unproductive power struggles, and
c) embrace and share your imperfect humanity while breathing life and energy into others…try the Stress Doc’s CPR method – be a model for “Creative-Passionate-Risk-Taking” (CPR) Leadership…“Grieve, Let Go and Become the Flow.”
by Mark Gorkin
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, “The Stress Doc” ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker as well as “Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst” known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations. In addition, the “Doc” is a team building and organizational development consultant. He is providing “Stress and Communication, as well as Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building” programs for the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA as well as Andrews Air Force Base/Behavioral Medicine Services. Mark has also rotated as a Military & Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at Ft. Campbell, KY. A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, The Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online “HotSite” – http://www.stressdoc.com — called a “workplace resource” by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc’s “Practice Safe Stress” programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-875-2567.