A New Way to Think About Growing Your Comfort Zone
The other day I was reflecting upon a conversation I had with a colleague of mine. We were talking about an upcoming leadership training, and ideas for iterating portions of the training. And, what, prey, do you think happened? Yes, I, rather we, went straight to the whiteboard.
I ended up drawing an x and y axis, and though it was, in that moment, unclear exactly what I was trying to convey, upon reflection, it became much more clear. Hence, this post about growing your awareness and attention by getting outside of your comfort zone.
Here’s what we’ll cover.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
Attention and Awareness
We all have differing levels of attention and awareness. These levels also shift, dependent on our experience, which we will discuss more in a minute.
There are three basic levels of attention and the awareness; what we know we know, what we know we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. The last of which is also called a blind spot. We all have them. Phew. Still with me. Good.
Basically, it is those blind spots that we are addressing in this article. What we don’t know we don’t know. Because, in fact, the only way to understand what we don’t know we don’t know, is to have someone or something point to it.
Of course, we must be open to new experiences, learning, and paying attention. If we are, our awareness about ourselves as human beings will increase, and our blind spot, in this area at least, will decrease.
When we choose to have the same experiences every day, sticking to our normal routine, or habits, we miss out on the opportunity to grow our attention and awareness. Why?
Because, when we stay in our normal routine, we don’t pay as close attention to our environments, as we do when we are in a new experience. Think about the last time you did something new. Did you pay closer attention to the experience? The sights, sounds, smells, or information you were receiving? Yep.
We pay more attention in a context that is new to us, because we don’t know what to expect, and, most likely, are a little unsure and hesitant. That is getting outside of our comfort zone. That feeling of unease.
Yet, when we get outside of our comfort zone, our capacity to pay attention increases, as does our awareness. And, when our attention and awareness increase by way of the new context we’ve exposed ourselves to, our attention and awareness increase in others as well.
As we grow our attention and awareness in new contexts, we discover new things about ourselves, and about the world. Of course, discovery is hard. We must be vulnerable, willing to take risks.
Humans have a tendency to stay inside of their comfort zones; inside of their habits, where they feel safe. However, inside of our comfort zone, discovery is not possible. Why? Because we know about these experiences. We’ve been doing them for, well, in some instances, all of our lives.
However, when we are open to new experiences, we get to discover, and we get to create new possibilities. As we learn and grow, we also get to create. It’s inside of this creative space, where new possibilities exist for our lives. It is quite beautiful.
Here is what growing your comfort zone, as we’ve discussed it here, looks like to me visually.
As you can see in this simple diagram, the space in between our normal experiences, and new experiences, is where we can grow our attention and awareness.
Our attention to the new experience, which will spill over into all of our experiences, and our awareness of who we are as human beings. The latter also translates into understanding all human beings. It’s how it works.
Alright, that is a new way to think about growing our attention and awareness by getting outside of our comfort zone.
And, as my colleague would say and I’ve written before, the size of the step we take outside of our comfort zone is entirely up to us. And, once outside, we always get to return to our comfort zone.
The important thing to remember is that when we choose new experiences that challenge us, we are growing. And, well, growth is a beautiful thing to be a part of, and to watch.
3 Reasons Why Vulnerability is A Key Ingredient to Creating Movement and Traction for Ourselves and the World
I’ve written about vulnerability often this past year. Why? Well, I do believe that vulnerability is one of the most important gateways to our own development. Pretty simple really.
Vulnerability conceptually is simple, as most things conceptually are. However, practicing vulnerability, well, that’s a whole different experience.
We can talk about concepts often and at length, however, when we put those concepts, like vulnerability, into practice in our lives, they can often feel very uncomfortable. And, vulnerability is no exception.
Yet, it is so important for each of us to find new ways, which are safe, to put vulnerability into practice in our lives. Safe? Meaning, where we are with people we trust and can rely upon. Important, as when we are vulnerable, we are bearing a side of ourselves that is, for lack of a better way to explain it, raw.
Raw, meaning, that these sides of ourselves have not been exposed to, what can sometimes be harsh conditions in the world, so we must take care when we practice our vulnerability.
Now, when we find those spaces and places where we can be the vulnerable-selves we know ourselves to be, so that we can grow and learn, there are many things we will get back from our environments, and ourselves, which makes practicing vulnerability quite the exquisite experience. What, prey are those things?
Right. Well, in this article we will explore three of them. Three reasons, as I think about it, why it is important for us to practice vulnerability regularly, so that we may grow into the next iteration of ourselves.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
Wow, how important is learning? Pretty important, right? Yep, I agree. Well, to learn more about the world, and the people in it, we must first, learn about ourselves. And, being actively vulnerable is key. Why?
Because we get to learn about aspects of ourselves that were previously unavailable. For instance, if you are nervous about public speaking, as I once was, and you always resist public speaking, well, you will never learn about the experience of public speaking. And?
That’s perfectly okay. However, if you are interested in tapping into a reservoir of untapped potential, then being vulnerable in the area of public speaking will be a gateway to your learning more about yourself as a public speaker.
The only way to become a public speaker is to do public speaking. You can read every book that was ever written on the topic, and still never become a public speaker. Whereas book knowledge is helpful, it is in the vulnerable practice of public speaking, for example, where we create the possibility of becoming a public speaker.
Now, as we practice vulnerability, and venture into environments that we previously resisted, we learn more about the experience of, staying with the previous example, being a public speaker. And?
Then, we get the experience of knowing what it is like to be a public speaker. Again, the only way to know what it’s like to be a public speaker is to become one. Meaning, to take one step, or one action, toward the realization of your goal to become a public speaker.
And, guess what? You get to control how big those steps are. When we actively participate in being vulnerable, we set the pace. It’s iterative. It takes time.
There was a time when I was terrified of public speaking. And, I mean terrified. Then when I was about 28, I wanted to become a leader in the company I was working for at the time. Well, there is lots of public speaking in leadership. Lots of it. And? I took one small step at a time. One step, led to the next, and so on.
And, the steps I just wrote about? That is growth. That’s what it looks like. You set a goal outside of your comfort zone, knowing you will have to be vulnerable to get there, and you take a step each day, or every other day, or once a week, or month.
Again, you control the pace.
Growth is an experience. It happens in the world by taking actions that we’ve not taken before. And, to take actions we’ve not taken before, especially when we are fearful or anxious, requires courage, yes, and it requires vulnerability.
Courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand. In fact, there is a super cool quote I’ve drawn upon a few times from Brené Brown that speaks to this truth. Here it is.
“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
Powerful. And, it’s been my experience that vulnerability and courage are linked. In fact, I believe they are one and the same. You cannot be courageous without being vulnerable, and you cannot be vulnerable without being courageous. They are one.
Movement and Traction
Now, as you learn more about yourself, and begin to tap into your vulnerable areas, you also begin to know more and grow more. These three, learning, knowing, and growing are also linked. And, the concept that lies behind them? Yep. It is an experience.
When we are in action, and experiencing life, living our life in vulnerable ways, we are creating movement. Movement for ourselves, yes, and for those around us. Meaning, when we move our own development forward, we move the development forward of the people around us.
It’s the way it works.
And, when we continue this pattern? Well, traction will inevitably follow. Meaning, that as we continue to grow, and those around us grow, we create contexts never seen before. Seriously. It’s not possible that they’ve been seen, because you are doing things you’ve never done before. Beautiful.
It’s inside of this movement and traction, and these new contexts, where the possibility to change the world lives. And, I mean this literally. The world is always moved forward from contexts that contain both courage and vulnerability.
And, remember you do have the power to change the world. We all do. What does it take?
Learning more, knowing more, and growing more in contexts that were previously unavailable to us. And, creating these contexts takes courage, yes, and vulnerability. So?
Be courageous, embrace your vulnerability, and change the world for the better. One action at a time.
Alright. Now, as I’ve written before, I understand why vulnerability is defined as it is, yet I see and experience vulnerability completely differently today.
Let’s explore three of the ways I experience vulnerability in this article. Ultimately, I believe, vulnerability leads us to new possibilities. New ways of being. Bottom line. Truly. And, here are three reasons why.
Vulnerability as Growth
When we enter into situations or create contexts that are vulnerable, we are instantaneously navigating a space that is full of growth opportunities.
Being vulnerable is about growing. In fact, growth is impossible without the ability to be vulnerable. Why?
Because it is in the areas that we fear to go most that our largest measure of growth awaits us. Truly. And?
That growth potential already exists within you. It is there. Awaiting you. Now, you can leave it there, if you choose.
There is absolutely no issue with not practicing vulnerability, and it is not a problem at all. However, to really be alive, to feel alive in every aspect of your being, you must allow yourself at times to be vulnerable, and to grow as a result of that vulnerability.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to take up every vulnerable situation, or continuously create vulnerable contexts for yourself to grow. Really.
Rather, being mindful about vulnerability simply means taking a vulnerable step. One at a time.
I think sometimes people think it is an all or nothing proposal, or approach to vulnerability they must choose from. You must be vulnerable all the time to grow, all day everyday. Not so. That is daunting, and, well, impractical and quite scary. Nope.
If you are looking to add more vulnerability into your life as a way to grow yourself, take one step at a time. One vulnerable moment at a time. And?
Before long you will find that you are adding another vulnerable moment to the previous one; and that my friends is growing.
Vulnerability as Understanding
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we also gain a much deeper understanding of ourselves. And, as we learn more about ourselves, we also learn more about everyone around us, and all of humanity. Why?
Because to be vulnerable means to feel things that we’ve resisted or avoided feeling. For instance, to feel and be with the fear or anxiety we have about doing something or talking to someone.
When we face those fears, step into them, and work through them, we learn. And, inside of that learning, we get to know more about how our minds work, how our feelings work.
And, as we learn more about our own mind and emotions, we can readily understand how other people think and feel that much more.
There is a measure of grace and compassion that grows within you as you practice your own vulnerability. Really.
Vulnerability as Active
Though vulnerability is labeled a noun, I see it as a verb. I do believe that being vulnerable is about being active. Taking action in our own lives, entering into situations that stretch us, and creating contexts where we can grow.
Again, though I see vulnerability as active, we create those actions and can choose when and how often we practice our own vulnerability.
The notion that vulnerability is about weakness in any area is an outdated concept, both psychologically and sociologically.
What is known psychologically is that the brain is very plastic, flexible. Meaning, that throughout life we have the ability to create new brain patterns, which are simply manifestations of new habits. Seriously.
Yes, you can change your brain patterns by creating new habits. Yep. In fact, you can argue, as would I, that creating new habits is a practice in vulnerability.
In fact, we could say that vulnerability, the act of being vulnerable in situations we know little about so we can learn and grow, is creating a new brain pattern.
Yep. And, as you continue to take those vulnerable actions, that brain pattern, or groove in the brain becomes deeper.
Which is why as you practice being vulnerable it becomes easier, or, rather, you become more comfortable doing something that is, and can be quite uncomfortable.
And, sociologically, we know that as we practice vulnerability with others, we gain a new understanding of who they are as human beings. Which from a sociological perspective is very important.
The more we understand each other, the better we communicate and relate to each other; both of which are very important sociological concepts.
Alright. Well, that was so much fun, I might create a series out of the topic of vulnerability. We will see.
Please remember, being vulnerable and practicing vulnerability is about growth, understanding, and being in action in life. And, guess what? Like everything in life you create, you also create when you want to be and or how often you practice vulnerability. And?
No matter what you choose that’s just fine. You are whole and complete just as you are.
Practicing vulnerability is not about changing who we are; being vulnerable and practicing vulnerability is about experiencing life in all of it’s pains and pleasures. Because in the end, both pain and pleasure are about being alive.
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.
Who are you, and what do you do? How much do you enjoy a typical exchange like this with another human being? Oh, hello, my name is, insert any name you like here, who are you; or, what do you do? Sound familiar?
We get these types of questions all the time. And, did you know that how you answer this question is, well, rather powerful? Why?
Because when we describe ourselves in language, we are, in effect, solidifying our identity as the person we are today.
Yet, what you may or may not know, or have only general cursory knowledge about, is that your identity, my identity, all identities are socially constructed.
Meaning that they are a product of socialization; they are productions caught in a particular time and place. Bound, if you will, in language to ideas we have about who we believe we are, about who we were told, and or are told we are.
Yet, because identities, like all things, are constructed in language, and are embedded in particular geographic, cultural, and societal contexts, they are not fixed. Again, they are not fixed.
They are, rather, fluid, and understanding this fact is important to everyone’s development, and, yes, to our lives as well. Why? Well, many reasons, however, for now, let’s take a look at
7 Reasons Why Understanding Your Identity as A Social Construction is Important to Your Life
Empowered – when we understand that our identities, like all of life and the world, are socially constructed, we are immediately empowered. Empowered to let go of preconceived notions of who we were told we are, are told we are, or think we are. When we subscribe to a fixed identity, instead of one that is socially constructed, we are limited. And, limitation is stressful. However, when we subscribe to the idea that our identities are socially constructed, we are unlimited, able to create the identity and person we dream to be.
Engaged – when we let go of our previously conceived ideas about who we are, we also let go of the types of people that we are “supposed” to engage with, be friends with, and partner with. Also limited. Yet, when we let go of those limitations, we free ourselves to engage with anyone that sparks our interest. Anyone.
Unlimited – when we get clear on our identity, both the identity we were handed, and the one that we created around that identity, we break the limitations that were handed to us, and the ones that we’ve created for ourselves. The only limitations we have are the ones we continue to believe in and the ones we continue to create for ourselves.
Reality – reality becomes more clear. We can see where social institutions, like the family, government, and educational system, have placed limitations on our lives. And, we can make choices to break free from these pre imposed limitations. How? By creating a new life, a new way to conceive of the human being we are today, and the one that we want to become.
Freed – when we can clearly see the limitations we’ve been living within, bound by stories we have about who we are as a human being, we can make different choices. Make different choices to free ourselves from those stories. When we are free from these stories, we can act in new ways, and become new. Seriously. We become a new iteration of the human being we’ve always been, living free from the constraints we were given, or created.
Energized – when we let go of the ideas we have about who we are, we can create a more energized life. A life that is present to all that we have, and want to create. In this kind of life, you will be more often tired, yet, overall, you will have more energy, and feel more regularly energized.
Loved – when we realize that we are not the human being someone has always told us we must be, we are free to love ourselves for the human being we are right now, and the human being we are going to become. And, guess what? When we begin to love ourselves more deeply, we can love others more deeply. We get deeper connections with those we choose to have in our lives. Pretty special.
Phew, that went quick. Obviously, there are many more to add to this list, yet those are some of the most powerful reasons why understanding that your identity is socially constructed is important to your life.
You may be asking, okay, now what?
Well, you can, right now, begin to get clear on the fact that everything you know to be true about the world has been handed to you.
Handed to you by the various social institutions that make up any society or culture, such as parents, educators, friends, churches, healthcare, and the government, to name a few.
When we understand that all knowledge, thus all identities, are socially constructed, we have the power to let go, and create, learn, and recreate.
Let go of ideas and concepts that don’t help move us forward as human beings, and create, learn, and recreate new ideas and concepts that do move us forward as human beings. Fun.
Hard work? Yep, for sure.
Letting go of ideas and concepts we’ve held onto for years is extremely difficult. Yet, know that the reason it is so hard is that we, as humans, like habit, like patterns. We are comfortable with the known.
And, what we know, is how we think, and then act. Yet, when we act from a space of outdated ideas and concepts that no longer serve us, it is time to let go. And, guess what?
Though it is difficult, it does get easier. And, after time, you will wonder why you hadn’t made the choice to let go of those stories, ideas, and concepts much earlier.
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.
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.
I’ve written several posts about the fact that human beings develop narratives about what they know, what they see, and what they are told. All of us do. We are natural storytellers, and meaning makers. It is how we make sense of the world. However, there is an issue here. Can you see it?
As we create stories about our reality, about what we believe to be true about the world, we can get stuck inside of faulty thinking. And, inside of this faulty thinking, we can begin to create realities, which are not really real. Yep, it’s true.
Right now, on the west coast of the United States we have a raging wildfire issue. At this same time, we are living in a pandemic, and have people all across the country in the streets, like they have been in Portland, OR, for months, protesting against systematic and institutional racism. The issue with the latter, of course, is not the protesting, it is the fact that systematic and institutional racism still exists.
Okay, what’s the issue with these issues, you ask? Hm. Let me explain it this way. Here you go.
Connecting Disparate Events and Situations
I’ve talked to several people this past week that are connecting these disparate events, creating stories about the compound effect of this year. However, these issues, while severe and highly problematic, are not connected. They are separate, and are just happening.
Because we are storytellers and meaning-makers we create something more out of what is happening than is really happening. We make these connections. That we do this is not a judgment or a demerit. It is how we are programmed.
However, it doesn’t help our mental health when we connect disparate events. Why? Because when we do, we can go into overwhelm more easily, and start blaming these situations on other people, and, yes, even ourselves. It happens all the time.
Think about a time when you failed a test, or didn’t get a job; and, in that same week or during that same timeframe, a friend or coworker upset you, and then a family member did something you didn’t expect, which also upset you. Well, did you pull these events apart, or did you rather, like most humans, connect them? Important distinction.
If you did connect them, you are not a problem. You are human.
Understanding that our brains work this way instantly creates a new awareness, which can be used to our advantage. How? By understanding that when events happen, they just happen.
We may not like them, or understand them, however, that is part of life. And, these events that just happen are not connected to each other. They are separate.
When we fully grasp this, we have more power over our reality and our life. How? Hm, okay. Here are 5 ways you can create more power over your reality by understanding that disparate events are just that, disparate.
5 Ways to Create More Power Over Your Reality
Notice when you are making connections between events that are disconnected – the first step is always to create more awareness about how our mind works. Knowing that all human beings are storytellers and meaning-makers instantly creates a new awareness. Now that this awareness is there, notice when you are making connections between disparate events. Just notice.
Pull those events apart, separate them – when you start to create stories about your reality, which include connecting events or pieces of information that are disconnected, you can pull them apart. Separate them, and leave them that way. More power.
Reorient yourself to the current reality – now that these events, situations, and or information have been separated, you can reorient yourself to the reality as it is, instead of the reality you’ve been creating. Be with that reality, connect with it, really see it as it is.
Notice the difference in how you feel – as you practice noticing your mind and how the mind connects disparate events and information, notice how you feel. How do you feel when you have the power to pull those events apart? Empowered, maybe? Excellent. If you don’t feel empowered right away, don’t worry, keep practicing.
Repeat – building healthy habits, as has been aforementioned, takes practice. Humans also like patterns, or habits, so continue to practice noticing. It takes time. Know though that the only way to become experienced in this practice, like anything, takes doing it again and again. There is no one way, and there is not right and wrong. There is just doing. Again, and again, and again. And, you will get better at it.
There we go. Now what?
Well, if you are so inclined to do so, practice. If not, that’s okay. What I can say is that there was a time when I suffered from terrible anxiety. Much of my anxiety had to do with the stories in my head, which were, of course, not really real.
They were created through habitual thinking. Through connecting disparate events about the world, myself in the world, and about information contained in my head.
You do have a choice. Today, right now. You can choose a different path. One with more power, and empowerment. It takes time. Yet, anything worthwhile always does.