Poetry and Prose by #1 Amazon Bestselling Author of Nature Speaks of Love and Sorrow, Co-Author of #1 Amazon Bestseller, Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women, and Jan/Feb 2022 Spillwords Press Author of the Month
As I was finishing these posts, and reflecting upon all of these articles, I realized there was more to say. Specifically, more to say about vulnerability and resilience. Let’s take a look, shall we.
Vulnerability and Resilience
What do vulnerability and resilience have to do with each other? Maybe it is readily apparent to you; yet, for me, the insight on these two just came this past week. Really. Funny how insight works. Fun.
Alright, before we get into our discussion, let’s define our terms. Important.
Now, though I disagree with the above definition of vulnerability, it works in this particular conversation when we consider resilience as a counterpoint to vulnerability.
Counterpoint meaning that the more vulnerable you are, the more resilient you will become. We must add here, however, that being vulnerable must be done within a context where you are safe and there is trust. Imperative.
When you are in a context that has both safety and trust, being vulnerable suddenly becomes a possibility. Not easy, no. Yet possible.
And, within this possibility, there is space, yes, for development and growth, and yep, for transformation as well; and, there is also space to develop resilience.
You see, when we are open, meaning open to new things, new experiences, new unknowns, we are vulnerable. We have to be. Anytime someone says, you know, I don’t know the answer to that, or don’t know, they are immediately being vulnerable.
Think about how often you say, I don’t know. Humans do not like to not know. Period. We like to know, like to believe we have control, and that we look good and are often right.
However, within a context of looking good and being right, there is no room for growth, no room for vulnerability. You cannot be vulnerable if you know everything.
And, guess what? Even those that say they know, don’t know. Not everything. Not possible. The greatest minds of all time knew this truth.
Really, they did. Let’s take a look at one of them now. Here you go.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” Confucius
A great quote. What confucius is pointing to in this quote is that when we know the limit of our own knowledge, we are immediately open to learning. Right away.
This then is the real knowledge Confucius is talking about. Knowing that we don’t know everything. Knowing also that to own we don’t know, to be open to learning is being vulnerable. Wise.
When we, however, act as if we know when we don’t, we are closed, and are also closed to learning. Simple. Unwise.
When we are open to being vulnerable, we can enter into contexts where we can learn more. More from people around us that are willing to share of themselves, as we are ready to share with them.
As we enter these vulnerable contexts, which can cause fear and anxiety, we begin to develop our resilience. Really. Right away.
Sometimes people think that being vulnerable means doing something way outside of our comfort zone. That’s possible, yet what is more probable is that we enter into vulnerable contexts, one step or action at time.
Taking small steps is important. And, guess what? Gradually those steps will become larger. Yep. Why?
Because as we develop and grow, what we know grows, just like our resilience, as does our comfort zone. Yep. And, when our comfort zone grows, we feel more comfortable being vulnerable more often.
Remember, however, that it takes time. Development is not a light switch. It is a process. One step and time.
What Can You Do?
When you are ready, take a step outside of your comfort zone into the land of vulnerability. You get to choose the size of that step.
Remember, it’s not about the size of the step, it’s about taking that step; and, taking that step when you are ready.
If you are not yet ready, that’s okay. It is. It’s not about the right or wrong time. It’s about sharing with each other that which we have to share; and moving ourselves and the people around us that we love forward. Doing so when we are ready.
And, you know what?
Know matter what other people have told you, you can do it. You are strong. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are vulnerable and resilient.
I’ve written a lot about vulnerability lately. Why? Well, for many years, I avoided vulnerability at all costs. Really, I did. I was not interested. Actually, I was disinterested to the point of high levels of anxiety. Today? Not the case.
Today I believe that, although being vulnerable is hard work, it is where all the wonders of being a human being live.
Wonders like innovation, resilience, love, compassion, and much more.
In fact, writing an article like this just a short two years ago would have been impossible. Too vulnerable, too much unknown, too much anxiety. We can pretend, or feel as if, anxiety is only our issue. Let me tell you unequivocally, it is not.
Many, many people all across the world suffer from anxiety. An aside, real quick, promise.
I was once in a therapist’s office, and they were talking to me about anxiety levels, and I said something like, I believe the entire population of the United States suffers from low-grade anxiety. What did they say? Yep, that’s true.
Now, I could write more about that, however, I’d like to get back to the current topic. Vulnerability.
I believe that vulnerability is important to our individual development. Showing us where we have growth opportunities if we choose, to be vulnerable, and grow into and eventually out of these opportunities. That’s development.
I also believe that vulnerability is a transformational space, which anyone can enter. Of course, of their choosing, when they are ready. What happens, you ask, when you are vulnerable on a regular basis?
Well, many things. However, I think there are 4 things that are distinct to being vulnerable where we get back much more by being vulnerable than we do by making the choice to not be vulnerable.
Alright, here, then is
The 4 C’s of Vulnerability: Why Vulnerability is Transformational
There is something about being vulnerable that exposes us to more of our own humanity. And, when we are exposed to more of our humanity, we get to know more about everyone else’s humanity. It works that way.
And knowing both about our own humanity, while also knowing about everyone else’s, gives us more sight about our shared humanity.
Connecting more deeply to the similarity of those around us. When we can connect with others in that way, we get more out of our relationships. Really.
Think about the relationships you have. Are you able to be vulnerable? Hm. If not, well, you may want to rethink those relationships. Why?
Because to be vulnerable you must be in a context that is safe, and with people that you trust. If you are not, vulnerability is way too scary, and rightfully so.
When we are vulnerable, we are exposing parts of ourselves that we don’t normally expose. And, it takes safety and trust to get there. It does.
Therefore if you are in relationships with people where vulnerability is out of the question, I would question the need for those relationships. Hard. Yet, might be needed.
When we are in a safe space, with people we trust, we can be more open, and inside of that openness, being vulnerable becomes more available.
And, as was aforementioned, when we get to share that vulnerable space with someone else, we transform that relationship into something quite different. Beautiful.
Another quite lovely byproduct of being vulnerable is the opportunity to develop more compassion.
See, when we are vulnerable, we have the opportunity to experience grace for ourselves in doing something that makes us either nervous, fearful, or anxious.
We may not always extend ourselves that grace and the accompanying compassion, yet it is there. As was aforementioned, I was actively disinterested in vulnerability for many years. Over 20 in fact.
However, that does not mean I was never vulnerable. I was. And, inside of those vulnerable moments, some of which were long moments, I did not extend myself grace, nor the accompanying compassion. Nope.
Yet, know that developing more compassion for yourself inside of being more actively vulnerable, is possible. How do I know? Because I am actively vulnerable on a regular basis today. Every day in fact.
Anyone that participates in contexts and experiences that stretch them, that make them feel vulnerable, deserves grace and compassion; and, I can provide both to myself today. Growth.
Another opportunity inside of being vulnerable more often, and developing more compassion for yourself, is that you will also develop more compassion for others. It works that way.
Anytime we can extend ourselves more of something, we can now also extend it to others. And, believe me, everyone can use more grace and compassion today. Seriously.
Inside the space, you create to be more vulnerable, while extending to yourself and everyone else around you more grace and compassion, you have transformed yourself and that relationship.
In those precious moments, our shared humanity is realized, and we can recognize ourselves in each other. It is a beautiful experience. Connecting with another human being on that level is transformation.
It takes courage to be vulnerable often; and, when we are more often vulnerable, we get to develop more courage and resilience. Often, I think, people believe that some people have courage and resilience and others do not. Not true.
Like any other skill set, courage and resilience can be developed.
You can grow yourself into a more courageous and resilient self by doing things that are outside of your comfort zone.
And, it just so happens that being vulnerable is outside of most people’s comfort zone. I would actually argue that it is outside of everyone’s comfort zone. That is the nature of vulnerability inside of being human.
When we create the opportunity to grow into a more courageous and resilient self, we also get to model that behavior for people around us.
Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and, yes, even people we don’t know at all. Inspiring.
And, inside of creating more inspiration in this world by being more open and vulnerable, developing ourselves, while also showing others that developmental growth is possible for them too, you get transformation.
Transformation for yourself, yes; and, transformation for those that choose to journey with you into vulnerable situations and contexts, which are created by stepping out of your comfort zone and into spaces that are vulnerable.
When we have deeper connections with ourselves, and likewise, with people close to us, built upon safety and trust, there is an increased likelihood of more collaboration. Fun.
Though I think I’ve always naturally gravitated towards collaborative contexts and people that share a collaborative spirit with me, I was not always available to these types of contexts or people.
Remember, I actively avoided and resisted my own vulnerability for a long time, which also means that I, in many ways, missed out on deeper relationships with people where collaboration was more possible.
Now, I am surrounded by these types of contexts and people.
Even with people that I at one time did not share this type of connection, that connection is more apparent today. And, it can be for you too.
When we are available to a natural human inclination within us to share ourselves with others, to connect with them deeply, and to share all that we have to offer, we are or have become natural collaborators. Really. At that moment, or in those moments, it is true.
A byproduct of entering into collaborative contexts more regularly also means that there is a higher likelihood for innovation to occur. And, inside of innovative contexts transformation is regularly apparent. Why?
Because when we are vulnerably collaborating, we are out on a limb, deeply connected to others in that safe and trusting context, where courage flourishes, as does innovation. And, what often follows innovation is transformation.
In closing, I will also offer that where there is the possibility of developing more of a vulnerable self, there is also the possibility of developing less nervousness, fear, and anxiety.
What I’ve learned in the past three years, is that avoiding and resisting things that make us uncomfortable only brings more nervousness, fear, and anxiety. An example? Sure.
When I was working in the private sector, before going back to University at 33, I worked for several large corporations; and, at one of them, I wanted desperately to be promoted into a leadership role.
Well, at that time, I had a great supervisor and mentor, and that goal became a reality.
As many of you know, when you are in leadership roles, the need to speak in front of groups, your team, business, or organization is rather mandatory. It’s part of it. How did I feel about that? Horribly anxious. Really. Sky-high anxiety.
I remember the first time being in front of the group, I would eventually lead, at a district meeting. I had a 5-minute speech to give. 5-minutes, that’s all. Might as well have been an hour. Phew.
I was so anxious that the paper I was using for a guide, actually I was reading directly from it, was shaking like a leaf in my hand. Actually, my whole body was shaking like a leaf. Really.
Well, I continued to take on small parts in the meetings, 5 minutes became 10, and 10 developed, over time, into giving entire 1 to 1.5-hour district meetings to the group by myself. The point?
It took time. One step at a time. Bite-sized chunks, as they say, within a context where safety and trust were present.
And, yep, I developed more courage, resilience, much deeper connections with that team, and we did become highly collaborative. Fun.
Since that time, I’ve led several teams, including the team I am on right now and have taught at University. Transformation.
And, you can also be a part of a vulnerable transformation. It’s not complicated, yet it is, as we’ve discussed. Difficult.
Yet, when you take it one step at a time, one action at a time, knowing that it is a process, not a light switch, you can rest in ease knowing that if you persist you will be doing vulnerability more often.
And, guess what? Without even knowing it you will have developed deeper connections, more compassion, and courage, and you will probably find yourself in collaborative contexts more often.
Vulnerability is transformational, and you can partake in it if you choose. Choose well.
I originally conceived of this topic and the associated article as one for business. An article about how to create deep connections with the people we work with, and the people we’d like to work with.
However, after reflecting upon it throughout the day, it occurred to me that this topic is applicable to everyone. Why?
Well, relationships are the cornerstone of life. Really. Think about all of the people in your life. You have people that are very close to you, friends and family, work associates and colleagues, and, maybe a little further from you, aquantinaces, clients, and neighbors, to name a few.
And, connecting, really connecting with these people, all of them, requires understanding ourselves.
Understanding why we do the things we do, why we feel the way we do, and think the way we think. Knowing ourselves. Why?
Because in order to connect deeply with another human being we must know ourselves first. Then, we can know them; and, know them as deeply as we know ourselves. If, however, we only know ourselves on the surface, we will only ever know them in the same way. Not a deep connection then.
Alright, let’s take a look at three things you can do to build deeper connections with the people that are currently in your life, and the ones that will show up in the future. Ready? Let’s go.
1. Know Your Why
Remember being little where everything we saw, thought, and felt was done with a sense of wonder and amazement? Yep, me too. Well, does life still feel that way to you? If not, don’t worry, it’s not a demerit; and, you are not alone.
As we grow older, we lose some of that wonder and amazement. Yet, we can intentionally create opportunities to get it back. How?
First, we must get back in touch with the things that drive us. You know, the reasons that get us up in the morning. And, I’m not talking about intellectual reasons. Nope.
I’m talking about those things deep within us that make us the person we are today. Can you feel them? If not, don’t worry. They are there, and you can get back in touch with them.
It’s important to connect deeply with that why, or to reconnect with it if it’s been a while. When we reconnect with the why of why we do what we do, we are actually reconnecting with the vision we have of ourselves as human beings. And, in that moment, we create new possibilities. Really.
When we know who we are, what we are up to in life, we can share that with others. We can touch someone else with the passion we have for life. Just like when we were little.
The reason people connect with children, watch them, smile at them, want to be around them, is that, to them, everything is a wonder.
They are a wonder. Everything is amazing. And, reconnecting with your why can move you in that direction.
Further, when you reconnect with yourself on that level, you can now connect with someone else at that level. Sharing something of yourself that, in some cases, as it was for me for a long time, was buried underneath other intellectual ideas, concepts, and pursuits.
Remember one thing. People are not moved by their intellect, or by their head, they are moved by their emotional-center, or ther heart.
Now, you may be wondering, alright, I’ve got my why, then what? Well, now you can create a statement about your why. Something that you can share with those close to you and those that are further removed from you. Anyone really.
2. Create Your Personal Mission Statement
A personal mission statement is something you can create, which declares why you are doing what you are doing; it will also give the people you are connecting with a sense of who you are as a human being. Example? Sure.
Here is my why.
To increase access to higher education for everyone.
Right, yet there is more to it. Yep. Here, then, is also part of my why.
Develop leaders, inspire creativity, and assist with personal transformation.
Okay, so now lets fashion a personal mission statement. Ready? Okay, here we go.
To increase access to higher education for everyone, and to develop leaders, inspire creativity, and assist with personal transformation.
Hm, that’s not quite right. It has the components, yet is not really getting at the crux of the why. Let’s try again. Here we go.
To increase access to higher education for everyone, while also working with students and clients to develop their leadership skills, expand their creative potential, and assist in their personal transformation.
Closer. The point? That there is no one way to create a why, or a personal mission statement. They are yours, and should be created by you for you to share with others when you choose, and how you choose. Simple.
You must simply create from within you. Important. If you don’t, and it is something that you don’t really believe in, well, you will know, and so will everyone else. Believe me. They will know if it is not sincere.
And, really, the point is to deepen your connection with yourself, first, and then with other people. You want it to be real. Real from your heat to the hearts of others.
Alright, you’ve got your why and you’ve created a personal mission statement, now what? A reminder.
3. Understand that Relationships are Everything
In the post, Creating and Maintaining Relationships: What else is there?, I write about understanding that every relationship in our life is important. All of them. That, in fact, everything we do, everything, is about the relationship we have with ourselves, first, and then with everyone else.
Remember the relationships system? Looks like this.
There we go. Alright, so as you can see from the above system, everything we do starts with us. Everything. And, then as you move from the center circle, out to each corresponding circle, all that we do, goes out to those closest to us, first, and then to those that are further from us.
And, what do they get from you? From me for a time, they got cynicism. Yep. Not a judgement, just the reality as it was, not as it is today. Today?
They get everything I can give them, just as I do for myself, including the why of what I do each and every day.
The coolest thing about sharing your why, your passion, purpose, whatever you want to call it, with others is that they then get to know you on a level that will inspire them. Really.
Think about the people in your life that inspire you. What do they do? I bet they are up to all kinds of cool things, creating change, transforming themselves, working at changing the world. One step at a time.
And, you know the second coolest thing about sharing your why with someone else? You get to learn about their why. Yep. You get to know them on a level that might not have been previously available.
These deep connections are what drive people together. Actually the more appropriate language here, would be that they pull people together. Pulled by inspiring ideas, yes, and by inspiring actions.
Inspiring people to be all they can be is a pretty cool thing; and, guess what? You can be a part of that kind of connection anytime. You can create it. Yep. How? Well, as I’ve mentioned it all starts with you.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase color inside the lines. Maybe you were even told to do so. Well, consider that all socialization is about living inside the lines. The issue? Well, being socialized to live inside the lines means that living outside the lines, while possible, is hard to create.
Yet, it is possible. Yep. Let’s take a look at 3 things you can do to start coloring your life outside the lines.
3 Things You Can Do To Start Coloring Your Life Outside The Lines
Before we get too deep into our discussion, let’s define socialization. It’s topical to this conversation, and important.
noun /ˌsəʊʃəlaɪˈzeɪʃn/ /ˌsəʊʃələˈzeɪʃn/(British English also socialisation)[uncountable] (formal)
the process by which somebody, especially a child, learns to behave in a way that is acceptable in their society.
Now, what does coloring inside the lines have to do with socialization? Well, socialization is the process of ensuring that children obey and act in accordance with particular expectations.
And, it is inside of these expectations where people learn to limit themselves again and again. How?
Well, as we mature we continue to repeat these acceptable behaviors into adulthood. And, often, in fact, probably more often than not, these behaviors actually work. We’ve learned how to make them work for us. Yet, they are still limiting.
Know that I am not arguing that socialization is a problem. Not entirely. I am arguing that socialization limits our creative potential. It keeps us inside of a very narrowly defined box (inside the lines) of what other people have determined is possible in this life, our life.
However, when we become aware of this fact, which can occur many different ways, we have the opportunity to learn to color outside of the lines. How, you ask. Alright, let’s look at a few.
1. Ask Questions
One of the powers of language is the ability to ask questions. To question what we know, what we think, and what we are told. Socrates said something about asking questions. Hm. Let me see. Ah, actually it’s about knowing, and is still applicable. Here you go.
“The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.“ – Socrates
Now, here is a great quote about asking questions.
“The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity. ‘Who, what, where, why, when and how!’ They never stop asking questions, and I never stop asking questions, just like a five year old.” – Sylvia Earle
Now, you may be thinking, well, I’m not a scientist, or an explorer, so? Fear not. Everyone has the right to question. And, here is an invitation. Consider yourself an explorer, and your life an exploration. Fun.
2. Embrace Vulnerability
I’ve written a lot about vulnerability of late. Am very present to it, in fact. Why? Well, it was something that I avoided, or resisted, for a time, and now? I am embracing it more and more every day.
Here is a quote I adore about vulnerability.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” -BRENÉ BROWN
Learning how to embrace vulnerability is a necessity to develop and grow. It is. When you are vulnerable, you openly admit that you don’t know everything, that there is much to learn from everyone around you.
You also intentionally wade into uncomfortable developmentally appropriate contexts and conversations. Why? Because you are interested in growing, in developing.
Though uncomfortable, you realize that being in that context, in that conversation, is the way to increase your own resilience, and at the same time? Yep, grow your tolerance for engaging in vulnerable situations.
You also show that you know yourself enough to know that growing, stretching, and developing is something that you take a stand for; and, in many ways when you do this, you get back, yes, and? So, does everyone else. Really. You are modeling growth and development. Inspiring.
3. Ask For Help
Right now, you may be thinking, wait, what? What in the world does asking for help have to do with my development? I understand. Stay with me.
Asking for help has to do with modeling humility. And, humility is a developmentally important concept. Let’s define it shall we?
noun /hjuːˈmɪləti/ /hjuːˈmɪləti/[uncountable]
the quality of not thinking that you are better than other people; the quality of being humble
There we go. Humility is important. When we show humility, we model the unknown. And, what have we learned about the known and the unknown? Well, factually there is much more to learn, than any one person, or even a collective of people know.
When we model the unknown, we model our support for development and growth. We show that we understand both with our head and our heart that we are just one part in the overall system of life on this planet.
We provide people around us with the knowledge that we are open, always actively seeking more information, more ideas, and more experiences that will help us grow and develop. And?
When we take action in this manner, we will get back way more from those around us. See, when we are open, people can see it, hear it, and feel it. Important. We create safety. Safety for them to be the human being they are. To share themselves with us; and, then we get to reciprocate.
We learn more. We become more. Fun.
Alright, there are 3 things you can do to start coloring your life outside the lines. Fun.
Remember, take it one action at a time. Meaning, when we are interested in coloring our life outside the lines, interested in developing and growing, in creating intentionally contexts to do so, it can sometimes be overwhelming.
Take your time. Take it one action at a time. Example? Sure.
If you usually don’t ask questions, next time ask one. Just one. Start from there. If you usually avoid vulnerable situations, next time you are faced with one, venture out and into that situation. See what you get back.
And, if you don’t ask for help, which is something I work at all the time, next time you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Just try it once.
Developmental growth is a process, not a light switch. It takes doing things differently, creating that intention, and then acting upon it. One day at a time, one action at a time.
To question, or not to question? Hm. How many times do you remember being in a class, with a group of friends, or in a work environment where you wanted to ask a question, yet didn’t? Yep, me too. Really, we all have those memories.
Many people are afraid to ask questions, to speak up generally. Why? Afraid of looking silly, asking the “wrong” questions, not being taken seriously, or being made fun of. Has happened to all of us at some point.
Yet, the ability to ask questions, to discern relevance out of a context that is unclear, to move toward more clarity, while acquiring more knowledge and adding to the knowledge-base within the context is really important. Why?
Well, let’s ask Socrates, shall we. Here we go.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates
Powerful. Simply, there is so much unknown about life and the world, that to not ask, to not speak up in a way cheats ourselves and all of humanity out of possible progress.
The topic of questioning is so important. Important to life, the world, the production and eventual dissemination of knowledge, and, yes, it is also very important to our development. Why? Well, I’ve got 10 reasons.
Ready? Very well, let’s go.
Seems simple, yes? The more questions we ask, the more we learn. Though this concept is simple, in practice, many people struggle to ask the questions they have deep inside them. They do. As was aforementioned, though an extrovert, I too once struggled with asking my questions. The issue? When we don’t ask, we actually carry that question around. Literally. We have it within us, unanswered, which can cause us pain, and frustration.
When we ask our questions, we gain knowledge, and we also contribute to knowledge acquisition. Yep. In every question there lives the possibility of more knowledge. We know so little about life and the world. Yet, with every question that we ask, we create the opportunity for us, and everyone else, to learn more.
The more questions we ask, the more clarity we have. And, the more clarity everyone else has. As we learn, so does everyone else. And, as we all learn, we transform the nature of the context we’re in, to a context where questions are possible. A context where those that are fearful of asking questions, as you are, or once were, will be empowered to ask their questions. Powerful.
Asking questions is also the breeding ground for collaboration. When we ask questions, we are naturally contributing to a collaborative context, where learning from each other is embraced. We are actually fostering a collaborative context by asking our questions. Seriously, it is true.
Asking questions is also super important to developing and executing on strategy. Without questions, you will only ever produce what was produced yesterday. Questions are the birthplace of strategy. And, with strategy, both concepts and execution, we get movement, and with movement, eventual traction in whatever it is we are doing.
Like strategy, innovation depends upon asking questions. Creation and innovation are intertwined with curiosity, and those that are curious ask tons of questions. They have to, they are curious. With questions comes the possibility of innovation, and new ways of seeing and experiencing the world.
When we ask our questions, we are also being vulnerable. We are modeling an attribute that is a necessity for development. Developmental growth is dependent upon being vulnerable, and when we accept our own vulnerability, even enter into vulnerable spaces intentionally, we will ask our questions.
Well, if questions are important to strategy and innovation, they are equally important to leadership. Leaders are interested in what others think, know, and feel. They have to be interested, it’s part of being a leader. And, to learn how people think, know, and feel, you must ask questions.
When we ask questions we also contribute to a context or environment of trust. When we are actively interested in someone else, and what they know, or how they feel and think, we are modeling trust. Especially when we get back questions from those around us, which by leading through asking questions, we will definitely get.
Asking questions means that we get to learn more about those around us, which also means that we get to deepen our relationships with those people. It is inevitable. Learning about someone necessitates a relationship. And being in a relationship means knowing about that person, and to know, we must ask questions.
Alright, there are 10 reasons why asking questions is important to your development. Let’s take a look at how they are interconnected. Ready? Here we go.
When we learn, we know more, and when we know more we have more clarity about our life, yes, and of the lives of those around us. Learning and knowing are part of development. And clarity is an output of learning and knowing more.
When we collaborate with others we get to know people better, and we also get to know ourselves better.
Knowing others better will always shine a light on the parts of ourselves that we want to develop. It is normal, and is also very healthy.
Within a collaborative context that embraces strategy, we also create the possibility of developing an innovative culture. And, inside of an innovative culture, we create more innovative possibilities, which also contributes to future strategies. All of which contributes positively to our development and growth.
I’ve written in other posts that vulnerability contributes to and fosters innovation. Vulnerability is actually where the seeds of innovation will eventually grow. And, like innovation growing through vulnerability, we also develop and grow when we are vulnerable.
Relationships are created, in part, through trust. When we trust each other, we can be real, be vulnerable, learn more from each other, and grow together. When we are open to each other, we get so much more from each other.
Knowing that we, as Socrates might say, know so very little about life and the world. Knowing this fact is at the center of development and growth.
Leadership is dependent upon all of the aforementioned. And, I am not only writing about leaders in the traditional sense. I am also writing about every human on the planet. We all have the opportunity to lead. Lead from within, and from without.
When we lead by asking questions, we model our interest and support of contexts that are open to development and growth. We create more possibilities for ourselves, and for everyone around us.
Possibilities to learn, to know, to have more clarity, to build collaborations and strategy, which foster vulnerability, trust, and relationships; and, that is leading.
Ask your questions, and develop yourself and everyone else around you.
Have you ever considered becoming an agent of change; or, considered, how to move yourself into the realm of transformation? How about considering what leadership, change agency, and transformation have to do with each other?
Simply, the distinction is that transformation is internally driven, whereas development is externally driven.
And, of the former, becoming a change agent as a leader is transformative. Why? Because when we move on the leadership spectrum away from the status quo and toward becoming an agent of change, we create the possibility of transforming ourselves and everyone around us.
Alright, let’s take a look at becoming a transformative change agent as a leader. There are two parts to this conversation, and they are as follows.
4 things you can to do to move into the realm of transformation; and,
3 things you can do to become a change agent.
Ready? Let’s go.
4 Things You Can Do to Move Into the Realm of Transformation
1. Question All of Your Current Beliefs
When we are living in and for transformation, we always question what we know. Why is this important? Good question.
Because if we know everything there is to know about a particular topic or subject, we can’t learn more. And, when we are closed to learning more, we are also closed to transformation.
The entire realm of transformation occupies the unknown. Why? Because when we live today as we did yesterday, which is essentially what happens when we are closed to learning something new, we simply reproduce today as we lived yesterday. Not transformative.
However, when we are open, and question all of our beliefs, we immediately create a space where learning is possible. Yep.
Now, though learning is possible when we are open and we question our beliefs, we must also be willing to let go of our beliefs. Questioning our beliefs is the first step, and we must also learn how to let go.
2. Let Go of the Beliefs that No Longer Serve You
When you begin to question your beliefs, the next step is to let go of those that no longer serve you. Can be difficult. Why?
Because we are socialized to think and act in certain ways. And, socialization is powerful. However, when you begin to question your beliefs, you will see there is much to learn. And, it is often necessary to let go of our previous views. It’s okay.
Letting go of beliefs that no longer serve you is not a problem. You don’t get a demerit for letting go. Know also it’s not a sign that those that taught you what you know, were wrong.
It’s not about right and wrong. It’s about knowing that letting go is a natural process of growing, first, and, second, letting go is necessary and needed to find your transformational path.
Once you question your beliefs, and begin to let go of those that no longer serve you, it’s time to begin re-creating your belief system.
3. Recreate Your Belief System as Often as Needed
People interested in transformation, are actively interested in recreating their belief systems. They are always searching for new ways to learn, to develop, and to be.
Though development and transformation are different, they are related. Development is a wonderful platform to gain the knowledge necessary to enter into the space of transformation.
Recreating your belief system simply means that you are open to doing the internal work necessary to transform.
When we are quiet and do the internal work necessary to question all that we believe, and then let go of the ideas, concepts, and emotions that no longer serve us, we automatically create the space needed to recreate our belief system.
Know that in a space of transformation this process is continuous. It becomes a daily practice. And then? Well, then you are ready to act from a new space, with new beliefs.
4. Taking Action From Your New Belief System
When we question our beliefs, let go of the beliefs that no longer serve us, and then recreate our belief system to fit our current transformative iteration, we automatically take action from that new belief system.
We begin to act from a new space and in a new way. Does it happen all at once? It may, yet often it is iterative, which simply means, as was aforementioned, that it is a continuous process.
Transformation is a continuous process of inquiry, investigation, and in some cases interrogation.
Old beliefs, habits, and patterns can be hard to let go of; yet, with practice, and guidance as needed, new beliefs, habits, and patterns can be created.
Yet, because these beliefs, habits, and patterns are so deeply ingrained within our beings, it takes being intentional.
Much like development, you must want to transform. You must create and set the intention to develop, and you must do the same with transformation.
Alright, once you’ve intentionally embarked into transformation, there are three more things to consider in order to see the connection between leadership, change agency, and transformation.
3 Things You Can Do Today to Lead as a Change Agent
1. Create Your Future From Your Future
When we create our future from our future, we recognize that to do other, is to create our future from our past. Happens often. It’s not a demerit.
However, to really create change, we must move into a space where we let go of the past, and stand in a reality that is being imagined as a future concept of a reality we want to live into. Important. How, you ask?
Imagine. Dream. Create. Repeat.
You have within you all of the imagination and dreams that have been present for, well, possibly, your entire life. Time to let them out.
Once you have, you can begin to create the future you want to live into. Create? Meaning, you can begin to take ideas and put them into systems and processes to see them realized. Concept meets execution.
Three simple steps, ready?
Put your imagination to work. Get those dreams out of your head and heart and into the world somewhere, anywhere. Write them down. Don’t limit yourself. Just write them down.
Create a map of those ideas, connecting the ones that are connectable, and then categorize them, or prioritize them. What do you want to create first?
Now, one at a time, create plans and associated actions to see these dreams into reality. Doesn’t matter how “big” or “small” these dreams are. What matters is that you put them into a system to make them a reality. Try it.
2. Don’t Worry About Barriers, or People That Don’t Understand
People that actively work to create change in the world are often met with barriers, and people that say it’s not possible. Normal. Why?
Because the status quo is more comfortable, and it’s what people know. People are fearful of what they don’t know, and don’t understand. You will be met with resistance.
However, when you are aware of this, you can meet those barriers and people where they are at. No judgment. And, no problem.
Where there is a barrier, or a person that says what you’re doing is impossible, there is another path toward the realization of your dream. Truth. Often, there will be several other paths, you just need to be patient.
They will show up. How do I know? I’ve experienced it many times. When you are creating change in the world, you are in action, you are pushing on systems that have been in place, in some cases, for years and years.
Yet, they are changeable. All of them. With a little persistence without resistance, you can create the change you want to see in the world.
Well, sometimes that force can also feel like resistance. Like we are resisting our current reality by trying to create something new to supplant our current reality. It can be subtle.
Or, have you ever just plain resisted your current reality? Maybe, more common?
Either way, when we resist our current reality, we are, in effect, creating more of that reality. Paradox? Yep, yet it is true. There is another way.
Be persistent without resisting your current reality. Meaning, accept your current reality, just as it is, with all that you enjoy and dislike. Then? Begin to create from that space. A space of no judgement about all that is in your life. Can be difficult.
Yet, in a space of persistence without resistance, we have the best opportunity to actually manifest the reality we are working so hard to create. Yep, just like that.
Alright, so we’ve now discussed 4 things you can do to move yourself into the realm of transformation, and we’ve also covered 3 things you can do today to lead as a change agent.
And, there, then is 4 + 3 = 7 Ways to Become A Transformative Change Agent Today. As I’ve written in many other posts, we need more transformative change agents. In fact, I would argue, we need every one of us to step up, and work to create the change we want to see in the world. Why?
Simple. Because you deserve it, we all deserve it, the whole world does. We all deserve to live in a world where dreams, imagination, innovation, and positive change are regularly created by each of us, you and me.
One of the most important social constructions to understand is how knowledge is socially constructed. Numerous books and articles have been written on this topic, from both a theoretical and practical perspective.
Here, we will explore the social construction of knowledge likewise. Both theoretically and practically. Ready? Let’s go.
Let’s first define knowledge.
noun ˈnɒlɪdʒ/ /ˈnɑːlɪdʒ/
[uncountable, singular] the information, understanding, and skills that you gain through education or
experience practical/medical/scientific knowledge
knowledge of/about something He [she] has a wide knowledge of painting and music.
There is a lack of knowledge about the tax system.
There we go.
Now before we go onto our discussion, let’s take a look at what two prominent philosophers had to say about knowledge, Jurgen Habermas, and Michel Foucault.
“Habermas argues that domination is an obstacle in the pursuit of true knowledge” (Anttonen, Saila. 1999).
And, what prey tell, do both of these philosophers consider an obstacle to knowledge for some, and a boon for others? Power.
Let’s now consider the social construction of knowledge.
How is Knowledge Constructed?
Knowledge is continually produced, internalized, and practiced, or acted upon. Though not always in this order. Sometimes intellectual knowledge precedes practical knowledge, and sometimes practical knowledge precedes intellectual knowledge. Depends.
Think about a time when you learned something through doing. For instance, learning how to drive a car. You can possess the intellectual knowledge about how to drive a car, yet until you actually drive a car, you don’t possess the knowledge necessary to drive a car.
You need both. And, in fact, some would argue, as would I, that practical knowledge outweighs intellectual knowledge. For it is in the doing, or practice, that we learn the most.
We accumulate the real knowledge about something when we do it.
Conversely, however, you can ask me to create a presentation on the social construction of knowledge, yet unless I possess the intellectual knowledge about the social construction of knowledge, I will be unable to create that presentation, try as I might.
Therefore, knowledge is constructed two ways. Through our intellect and through practice. Both.
Who Constructs Knowledge?
Everyone constructs knowledge. From a young child to an older adult, knowledge is continuously produced, internalized, and practiced. Knowledge is all around us. Everywhere.
Think about an interaction you’ve had recently where you learned something new, or taught someone something new. That is knowledge production.
Knowledge is produced, internalized, and practiced continuously, all day, every day.
Yet, there is some knowledge that is considered more illusive, more special, or maybe the more appropriate term is specialized. You typically go to University, College, or Trade School to learn about these types of specialized knowledge.
Who Constructs Specialized Knowledge
Simple answer, experts. Yet, what does that really mean? Ah, good question. Someone is considered an expert when they have attained a reasonable amount of intellectual and or practical knowledge about a particular subject or topic. Simple. Why does this matter?
Because the humans that have constructed this knowledge, are just that, human. Meaning that they are like you, like me, and like everyone else. Full of strengths and weaknesses. Both
People often get caught up in the term, expert, thinking that because someone has a degree or certification in one specialized area or another, that they should know what is best for us, or know the best path to take in a certain area of our lives.
Yet, because experts are also human means that they are not infallible. Important. Additionally, because we know that the world and all knowledge within it is socially constructed, we also know that there are many, many ways to understand a subject or topic. Many ways. Not one.
Further, not all knowledge about a particular subject or topic has yet been discovered. Meaning that there is always something more to learn. Always.
Here is what Socrates said about knowledge.
“At the trial, Socrates says, “The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing.” Socrates put emphasis on knowledge all his life because he believed that “the ability to distinguish between right and wrong lies in people’s reason not in society.”
Ah, wonderful. According to Socrates, then, it is up to the individual, each one of us, to distinguish between right and wrong. And that includes distinguishing between the right and wrong of what someone is telling us is true about our bodies, families, community, and the greater world.
Of course, that does not mean that we don’t need assistance from others, and access to the knowledge we need to make informed decisions and choices. Quite the contrary. More assistance and access is needed.
How is Knowledge Disseminated?
Knowledge is disseminated in many different ways. We’ve covered some of them already, such as through Universities, Colleges,and Trade Schools. Yet, knowledge is also produced, internalized, and practiced in many other social contexts, which are typically referred to as social institutions.
Before we go further, let’s define the term social institution.
“Typically, contemporary sociologists use the term to refer to complex social forms that reproduce themselves such as governments, the family, human languages, universities, hospitals, business corporations, and legal systems. A typical definition is that proffered by Jonathan Turner (1997: 6): “a complex of positions, roles, norms and values lodged in particular types of social structures and organising relatively stable patterns of human activity with respect to fundamental problems in producing life-sustaining resources, in reproducing individuals, and in sustaining viable societal structures within a given environment.”
Ah, helpful. Thus far, we’ve covered the social construction of knowledge within University, College, and Trade Schools, yet as you can read above, there are many social institutions that socially construct knowledge.
The issue? Same as with the socially constructed knowledge that Universities, College’s, and Trade Schools produce. When we internalize a socially constructed view of the world, and our place in it, we are receiving knowledge that has been produced within a very particular framework.
And, those frameworks include within them people that have biases, just like you and I. Yep. We can deny we have biases, yet we all have them. They are part of socialization.
All socialization, which just means the how, what, why, when, and where of all that you learned as a child, youth, and young adult has within it bias. It has to. It’s one way of viewing the world. Yet, it’s not the only way.
Now, choose any social institution you like, and we can discuss the problems inherent with the production, internalization, and then the eventual reproduction of that knowledge through practice, or action. What problems, you ask? Good question.
One of the largest problems, or issues, we have just discussed. Because we know that knowledge is socially constructed, and we know that all social institutions have within them a particular worldview (or bias) this knowledge then, which is often told as truth, is not truth.
This knowledge is, rather, a subjective interpretation of life and the world through one lens, or viewpoint.
However, when we internalize this socially constructed knowledge as truth, we limit ourselves. We limit that which we can really know about the world and life. If we are conscious of this fact, and continue to choose a limited framework, very well.
However, most people are unaware, so do not actively choose. They subscribe to a particular set of knowledge constructs because they were socialized to do so. Many people live their entire lives this way.
Hm. What to do? Before we get to that question, let’s take a look at obstacles to the acquisition of knowledge. Important.
What are the obstacles to the acquisition of knowledge?
As we’ve discussed, Habermas and Foucault would both argue that power is an obstacle to the acquisition of knowledge. Meaning that with more power comes more knowledge. Or, maybe, it’s that with more knowledge comes more power?
Actually power and knowledge have a reciprocal relationship. Meaning that with more knowledge, you do have more power. Likewise, with more power, you have more access to knowledge. Truth.
Well, those with power construct more knowledge, especially of the specialized kind. And, as we’ve discussed, accessing such knowledge is inaccessible for many people.
Therefore understanding how knowledge is socially constructed is important for everyone. Why?
5 Reasons Why Understanding The Social Construction of Knowledge is Important
1. Know matter how much you know intellectually, you must practice it
Practicing our intellectual knowledge is necessary to develop ourselves. When we learn something, and internalize it, the cycle of knowledge production is not complete.
We must practice that knowledge to really know it.
Once practiced, we know it through our entire selves, which is a very different experience than simply having intellectual knowledge about a subject or topic.
2. You can do something with that which you know, or are knowledgeable about
Knowing that knowledge is socially constructed, and that you are an active participant in constructing knowledge creates an opportunity for you to practice distributing your particular knowledge to others.
You are the only one that can educate someone on that which you know, just as you know it.
And, when you give out that which you are knowledgeable about, you will get back that which someone else is knowledgeable about. Meaning, that you will now have acquired more knowledge by giving someone your knowledge. Reciprocal learning.
3. Specialized knowledge is an interpretation, so question it
When we know that all knowledge is socially constructed, we know that questioning all that we learn is necessary and needed. We must question what experts tell us is true about our bodies, families, community, and the greater world.
When we begin to question other people’s truths, we create a space to develop ourselves more. Why?
Because we have created a space to learn more from the expert. Simple. When we don’t take expert knowledge at face value, we create a space to learn more about the subject or topic. Keep questioning.
4. Because bias is inherent in all socially constructed knowledge, be wary of limitation
When we accept knowledge as true, which is given to us by a social institution we limit ourselves. We limit what is knowable.
However, as was aforementioned, when we question that knowledge, we create the opportunity to learn more, and develop more. We don’t accept one worldview or interpretation of the world, which is limiting.
We know knowledge is socially constructed, so we question. We question the knowledge. We become unlimited.
5. Search for knowledge everywhere, both intellectually, and in practice
When we know that knowledge precedes and follows power, we can intentionally create opportunities to learn more. Acquiring more knowledge, both intellectually and practically, moves us forward as human beings.
When we internalize and practice what we learn, we also create an opportunity to produce something out of this knowledge. Of which this article is an example.
And, when we practice that which we know, we have more power as a human being.
In Closing: Question Everything
My final thoughts on the social construction of knowledge is to question everything. Really.
Question the knowledge you now have. Question the knowledge people communicate to you. Question all of it. Powerful.
We choose to accept the knowledge that we have, as well as the knowledge that is communicated to us as true. However, when we know that the world is socially constructed, and that all knowledge is likewise socially constructed, we create an opportunity to question these truths.
Both the ones we’ve considered as truth for most of our lives, and other people’s truths.
We also create a developmental opportunity for ourselves, and as we have discussed, for everyone that we know. We move ourselves from a limited framework to an unlimited one.
Remember, on any subject or topic, there is more to learn. Always. Because we know this to be true, there is always an opportunity to share your knowledge with someone, and for them to share their knowledge with you.
That which you know is powerful. That which you can learn about is powerful.
Knowledge that is produced, internalized, and practiced is socially constructed by you, by me, by experts, by every human being. Thus, question it, question all of it.
This week I’ve been reflecting upon how we learn. Though there are learning styles, which are important to know, I’ve been reflecting more upon the process of learning. How we take in new information, process it, reflect upon it, adapt it, and formalize it into the other processes and systems we currently use.
Why might this be important to consider, understand, and become familiar with?
Good question. It is important to consider and understand, because this understanding can help leaders create bridges for people. The familiarity of which can create a bridge for your team and move you from concept into execution. Let’s take a look how.
It’s important for everyone to have access to developmental opportunities. To learn and to grow. Important. Knowing this, how do you suppose you create these opportunities? While larger organizations typically have a model for training staff, it does not always follow that everyone in the organization has the same access to developmental opportunities. Hm.
What to do, then, when your business or organization does not offer training, or those training programs are limited in some way, or designated for only mid-level and executive employees?
Create them from within
As a leader, you can create opportunities for your team to develop and grow. How? Find out what each person’s strengths and weaknesses are, always starting with yourself first, and then find ways to engage them with new concepts and tools to stretch them, and help them grow.
For instance, we created an opportunity in our second year as a team to develop strategic thinking skills, which included several training days. The culmination of which was deploying a system for organizing our daily work and balancing strategy. The need was there, and we moved it forward, and so can you.
Here are some considerations on how to get started.
Define the need – here are some questions to assist your thinking.
Where is the gap?
What training is needed to fill the gap?
Who will facilitate the training?
When will you implement the training?
How will you evaluate the training’s effectiveness?
What is the return on investment of the training?
Create a training plan with internal or external training professionals – here are some questions to consider.
What is the training goal?
How will you know when you’ve met your goal?
What does post-training traction look like?
What metrics will you use to measure traction?
Implement – communicate about the training, create buy-in with staff, and implement.
Evaluate – make sure you have traction.
Repeat – we created a system of training once a quarter. Worked well.
With any learning process, there is a period of time that people need to adjust to their new workflow reality. How can you assist staff in making these necessary adjustments?
Here are a few ideas.
Create a post-training system to ensure that you have traction – the system should at the very least include:
Post-training follow up – what did you and the team learn, and how will you move the new concepts and tools forward.
Periodic staff check-in’s – I’ve always used one-with-ones to ensure that staff have the support they need, and are adjusting well to their new workflow reality.
Measure your movement – create a way to measure your post-training progress. This might be quantitative metrics, such as increases in revenue, or it may be qualitative, such as increased workflow effectiveness.
Continue to follow-up – to really gain traction, the new concepts and tools must be incorporated into everyone’s daily work, including yours. There really is no other way. If this does not happen, the new concepts and tools you are implementing will lack traction.
Create consistency – once you have movement, start talking with the leadership team about the next training. Be consistent, and offer training opportunities at a regular drumbeat, so staff can count on, and expect them.
Monitor progress – continue to check in with staff on their progress. Monitor traction. You may find that after three months, the team needs a refresher on a topic you’ve already covered. That’s okay. What really matters is that you’ve created access for your team to develop and grow; and that you will remain committed to doing so, refreshers and all.
Once the team has adjusted to their new reality, which includes new concepts and tools, you will need to devise individual development plans. These plans will ensure that each staff integrates the new concepts and tools into their current workflow in a way that suits their learning style, which will increase retention, mastery, and traction.
Where to start?
As was aforementioned, I’ve used one-with-one’s often in my professional career. I find that they work well to create plans tailored to the individual. These plans can also be used to track progress and as a coaching tool.
The most important thing about integration, is that all staff actively integrate the new concepts and tools into their daily workflow. You are building healthy habits in this regard. Really. People like habits, and once you have created that habituation within yourself, a must, you can deploy that to the team.
Here are a few examples.
Whiteboards – some people are very visual, and literally need to see the work drawn or sketched out. I’m like that. If you have staff that are visual, do whiteboard work with them, so they can see the new concepts and tools inside of their current workflow. Important.
Post-its – funny. I always say it matters less how you organize yourself, than it does that you develop a system that works for you. And, if post-its work for you, like they do me, use them. Again, what matters is that the staff member can feel a level of comfort with the new concepts and tools, inside of a system they’ve already developed.
Calendars – a good way to organize by setting reminders for new tasks. For instance, after we completed a strategic thinking training day last year, I had every staff member add one hour per week of strategic thinking to their calendars.
Project Management Systems – we’ve been using a project management system for over a year now. Works for some on the team, and not as much for others. Yet, having a systematized way to move larger projects forward is important. I’ve found this addition helpful, and a contributor to the team’s overall traction.
We all need time to process new information, time to reflect. I advocate for giving your staff the same consideration you give yourself, especially when incorporating new concepts and tools into their daily work. You need it as a leader, and so do they. We all do.
How do you incorporate reflection time into the day?
If you use reflection often as a daily strategy this will be simpler. If you do not, there may be a stretch here for you, however, I believe it is a worthwhile endeavor. We are all inundated with constant stimuli, and the need to take a break from that stimuli to really get clear on our work is necessary and needed.
Here are a few strategies you can try.
Build that time in for yourself first – the only way to create traction with anything, is to create it for yourself first. Once you have a system down, you can coach and guide people into it. If you are not familiar with reflection time, add 30-minute reflection times into your daily calendar. Try it a couple times a week, with a goal to have it worked into your calendar daily.
Coach the team on taking the same time – once you’ve practiced taking reflection time for yourself, you can advise the team on doing the same thing. Have them build it in similarly. A day or two a week to start, with the goal of having daily reflection time.
Create reflection time after meetings and one-with-one’s – another strategy that we employ is taking time to reflect upon decisions. As you practice this strategy, you will come to see, as we have, that many decisions do not need to be made quickly. You have time. Take it, and use it wisely to reflect and engage with yourself and your team on the best course of action.
Once you have strategies in place to incorporate new learning, integration, adjustment, and reflection time into everyone’s workflow, you can start to make plans to formalize these new processes and systems. Simply meaning that to build these healthy work habits, and to have them stick, they must be practiced daily; and they need to be documented.
As we’ve discussed, people all learn differently, so create a few different ways to engage with the team, which will ensure you maintain traction on the aforementioned learning strategies. The main way we move projects of this size forward is to input them into our project management software, which has worked pretty well.
Again, what you use to formalize and document a new system or process, of which learning and development are two, matters less than you taking the time to create a learning and development plan for yourself, each team member, and the overall team.
I think you will find that the payoff in terms of work efficiency, overall team moral, and team cohesion will increase as you continue to create opportunities for people to learn new things, and to develop themselves at work. And, once that is accomplished, you and your team will be ready to move from concept to execution, and into the traction zone.
Have you ever considered hope and despair at the same time? Hm. I’m not sure that I have. I would like to. Thoughts? Well, let’s do a cursory look, and see what we get.
In 4 Reasons Why Language Is Power, I wrote about the power of language. We don’t typically consider the power that lives inside the language we use. It is very important. It shapes experiences, expectations, and trajectories that we set our lives on.
Well, look at that. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire about a result. Hm. Interesting. And, despair is defined as the lack of hope, or lack of such a feeling of expectation and desire about a result. Mm, this will be fun.
Expectations and desires for a certain [result] thing to happen
If hope is, at least as it is defined here, associated with an expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, when we hope we are essentially concentrating on a result.
And, if that result doesn’t occur? Then we may fall into despair, which is the lack of the expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. The issue?
We cannot have hope without despair. They go together. If you can feel hope, then it is equally possible to feel despair. Not a problem. Important, however, to understand. Why?
Often, people get upset or frustrated when in despair. Yet, as we can see from the language itself, it is only natural. If you subscribe to the feeling of hope, then you will sometimes feel despair. And, vice versa.
Another way to look at hope and despair
Another way to think about hope and despair is as two sides of the same coin. The world is full of these opposites. Sad and happy, life and death, and so on. For the world to occur as it does, they are needed.
Yet, we can create more power over these concepts by understanding that they always occur together. Meaning that if you are sometimes hopeful, you will sometimes feel despair. It is a must.
When we understand this as true, we can shift our thinking, and mindset to incorporate this apparent paradox with a new understanding.
The new understanding is that these concepts are one. Think about the coin analogy I’ve used in this post. A coin is one thing, yes? Yet, it has two distinct sides; head and tales. Hope and despair are the same. As are all pairs of opposites.
When do we run into trouble with these concepts?
When we expect hope, for instance, to show up more than despair. Why? Because then when despair shows up, we get down, frustrated, maybe even angry. Not helpful.
By accepting that despair is a part of hope, as sadness is a part of happiness, we increase our awareness about the fact that despair will come; and, guess what?
When it does, it’s okay. It’s normal to feel despair sometimes. Just as it’s normal to feel sad sometimes. If you never feel sad, or despair, then happiness and hope will elude you. True.
It is also important to welcome despair as much as you welcome hope. Why? Because when we resist feeling despair, we avoid it. And, when we avoid things, we actually attract more of those concepts into our life.
I avoided sadness for such a long time, that I was often sad. Really. Did I look sad all the time? No. It was internal. Yet, believe me, it was there. As was despair.
Yet, when you openly accept that all feelings happen, you create a space to be with them when they come. No judgment. Being in despair or sad doesn’t mean anything.
You are not having “issues” because you sometimes feel despair. Funny how we create language around “negative” emotions and associate them with problems. Not helpful. In fact, detrimental, and untrue.
What can you do?
When you are hopeful, notice. And, be hopeful. Be just as you are in those wonderful moments of hope. Or, happiness, joy, or elation.
And, when you are in despair, notice. And, be in despair. Be just as you are in those wonderful moments of having despair. Or, sadness, melancholy, or misery.
Our emotions come and go. It is important to expect them all to show up. All of them. And, to welcome them all. When we welcome them all, they stop having power over us.
In that moment of acceptance, we create a space to be with our emotions in a completely new way. Free of judgement and created meaning that one emotion is better, or should be more expected than another.
Remember that our emotions just are, and that hope and despair are two sides of the same coin. Just like the heads and tales of a coin, hope and despair are one.