I’ve been reflecting a lot upon the concept purpose the past few weeks, and, whereas I’ve not come up with any real new conclusions about purpose, I do have a few reflections to share with you. Ready? Okay, here we go.
Let’s first define the concept.
the intention, aim or function of something; the thing that something is supposed to achieve
While I understand this definition, it leaves me feeling a little wanting. Meaning, while I understand the definition perfectly well, I think it can set us up for heartbreak if we’re not careful.
For instance, what happens if the “something that is supposed to [be] achieved,” is not achieved. Then what? Hm.
I have a different way to think about purpose; and it consists of three basic concepts.
Accepting what is.
When we are fully present, each moment lives and breathes with a purpose all it’s own. Thinking about purpose this way is not about “achievement.” It’s not about striving or seeking anything. It’s about being present to what is, accepting it with an open heart and mind, and then taking the actions necessary to create anew in each moment.
Thinking about purpose this way, eliminates the need for something specific to happen. Instead, each moment something unexpected can occur, and we can accept it, and create our life anew from that space.
A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about connection. More specifically, it was titled, the Year of Continued Connection. The talk was delivered at our Community Education Instructor Forum. An event we’ve been planning and delivering for, well, almost three years now.
After the talk, I continued to reflect upon the conversation with the instructors, and the concepts they brought up, and just how important connection is in our lives. In many ways, it is the bedrock of many concepts we cherish, such as relationships, engagement, an open heart, kindness, care, and yes, compassion.
When we are deeply connected to our own humanity, we get a larger picture of our shared humanity, which increases the humility and compassion we have for ourselves, and everyone else.
In this post, I would like to elaborate on a few of the concepts outlined above as I understand them in their relation to connection. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Relationships – as I’ve written about many times, all of our relationships start with the relationship we have with ourselves. The connection we have with ourselves is the same connection we will have with the people in our lives. It just works that way. There was a time when I wondered why it was that my relationships weren’t as strong as I would have liked them to be; bottom line? The relationship I had with myself was not strong. Simple.
Engagement – when we are in relationship with ourselves, and then the people we surround ourselves with, it means that we are engaged. Engagement in this context means we have easy and difficult conversations. Both. When we hold ourselves accountable, we will do the same for everyone else, which makes navigating our relationships harder. Though harder, when we hold ourselves accountable, we get back relationships that have a deeper connection. Why? Because we are real, we are speaking our truth. That’s it.
Open Heartedness – when we are in engaged relationships there will be difficult times. For us, and for the people we love. However, when we are engaged, we won’t run, we will stand by their side, and stand for those we love, just as we stand for ourselves. And, when we are standing, we are being open to all that life gives us. We don’t pick and choose the times we are engaged and willing to stand for ourselves and the people we love. We do it all the time. Without thinking. It just happens. We create more openness within ourselves because we are living through experiences that we may have run from before; and, when we stand through all of the stormy times, our connection to ourselves and the people we love deepens even further.
Kindness – with our hearts more open in these engaged relationships, we develop more kindness for ourselves and everyone else. It happens as a result of continuing to navigate all of life’s triumphs and challenges. In essence, we become a kinder human being, because we’ve been through more challenges. We’ve become more vulnerable; and, when we become more vulnerable, yes, we get stronger, and we get kinder. All of which also creates a more intense connection with ourselves and the people we love.
Care – when we are kind, engaged, and open-hearted in our relationships, we develop more care. We have a better understanding of the human condition, and what it takes to stand for ourselves and the people we love. Every day. And, as we do this work, a deeper awareness develops within ourselves, which includes a deeper connection of care to everyone and everything.
The 3 S’s of Connection
I also like to think about connection in regard to three other concepts. Here they are.
Safety – when we stand for ourselves and other human beings, we stay engaged, regardless of the situation. A result of increased engagement is safety. When we know we won’t run at the first sight of trouble, people feel safe. And, when people feel safe with you, they will be much more connected.
Security – as a sense of safety develops in your relationships, a sense of security also develops. It has to. When we feel safe, we also feel secure. Secure in the knowledge that our relationships are a place where we don’t have to worry or create anxiety over people leaving us, or being upset with us. Now, that doesn’t mean there will never be disagreements, or even arguments; what it does mean is that people will respect each other, and speak their truth, without fear of reprisal. That’s security.
Stability – and, when we feel safe and secure, we also feel stable. The relationship we have with ourselves is more stable, which means all of our relationships are more stable.
When we have safety, security, and stability in our relationships, we have a deeper connection to those we love. It also means that we know when a relationship is not going to work. Whereas this is difficult, we stay true to our truth. The knowing we have of the kind of relationship we are creating, and want to have. Therefore, we are much more clear on the people we allow into our lives. In fact, we have much more clarity about humanity in general. Beautiful.
Connection and Compassion
With more clarity about our own humanity, we are much more clear on all humanity. I’ve written this sentence differently many times. Yet, it is such an important part of deepening our connection with ourselves and the people we love.
When we have authentic relationships, we are working hard on them all the time. And, as we do the hard work, we go through many challenges. These challenging times show us more about our own humanity, and then our collective humanity.
For instance, we can read every book ever written on being vulnerable, yet the only way to really know about vulnerability is to practice being vulnerable. It is the only way. Without the practical experience of being vulnerable, vulnerability is just information in our heads; we leave our hearts behind.
Yet, when we are open to all of the experiences life gives us, we get to learn so much more. And, it is inside of these learnings where we further deepen our connection with ourselves and everyone else.
As we deepen our connections, we also develop more compassion. We develop more compassion, because as we go through more challenges, we develop a new understanding of how hard life can be; and with this new experiential knowledge, the compassion we have for ourselves and everyone else deepens.
When we are more compassionate, we are also more patient, and have more love for people when they are struggling, because we can see ourselves in them. And, for me, one of the most magical experiences of my practice of self-inquiry over the past four years has been seeing myself in other people. It is a beautiful experience.
Remember, every connection we have in life starts with the one we have with ourselves. When we have a deep connection with ourselves, we will have a deeper connection with the people we love, and we will also become a more compassionate human being. And, guess what?
This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon, well, the last year. Phew. As businesses begin to open up more here across the country, and the vaccine becomes more and more available, it is interesting to ponder where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we are going.
It’s also interesting to ponder and be present to the need to create time for ourselves away from the chaos, so we can just be; and, be in silence.
Before I get to my reflection on silence, however, let’s have a couple reflections on this past week’s posts, and a look at what next week holds.
I spent some more time completing the Leadership Series this week, with the final entry on building high-performance teams, which will publish next Saturday. Now that that series is complete, I will turn some of my attention to a new leadership series, Leading from Within.
I also spent some time this week, writing poetry for future posts. It’s fascinating to me to watch people develop, myself, of course, included. When I look at the first poem I wrote several months ago, to the most recent one, there are similarities, yet they are quite different. Iterative development. Fun.
Alright, here are two reflections from this week’s posts.
The poem Dream was inspired by the WDYS prompt from Keep it Alive, by Sadje.
As I pondered the scenic picture, I reflected upon how we gaze upon nature, and how nature gazes back. It’s all quite lovely. I began with that thought in mind, and then just let the words come. Well, better language would be that the words just came. I don’t have anything to do with the “letting” in this process.
I also reflected upon and played with the concepts of perception, diversity, and the vast ocean of both we have in this lovely world. It is so beautiful to contemplate all that we see within and without, isn’t it? Lovely.
I obviously also played with the concepts of dreaming and reality. For now, I will only say that that is up to the individual. Each of us. What’s a dream to you, and what’s real is for you alone; and, I think it is quite lovely that way.
Ah, the poem Streams was inspired by my childhood in Los Angeles; and, yes, there really was a “river bed” out back. It was the only real river I saw on a regular basis. Know though, that, as kids, we did get to see real streams, yet they were few and far between in the big city in which we lived.
Funnily enough, you don’t actually have to travel far in LA to get to a stream, yet most of the time I spent in water was, as many of you know, at the beach. Love the ocean, always have, always will.
I also played with the concept of existence in this poem. Pointing to a reality only found within. And, lastly I reflected upon dreams and how important it is to have them, tend them well, and to, yes, water them with love and affection. Nurture them, I say, and they will surely manifest for you one day.
As was aforementioned, this week, I finished the Leadership Serieswith a final installment on building high-performance teams. I am amazed, and then not, at how long this series took to complete. Factually, I wanted to write an installment on organizations, yet am going to wait to complete that installment in the Leading from Within series, which I’ve started.
I am also working on new posts on silence, strategic thinking, sleep, and, yep, another post on gardening. Fun.
I’ve also written several more poems this past week, they just came, and am looking forward to sharing those with you in the coming weeks.
I have a lot more ideas, and will let those percolate for a while.
I wrote a poem once on Silence. Actually it was one of the first poems I wrote when first swept away, quite literally, with ideas, images, and language for the poems that have come since that time.
I had a couple of challenging days this past week, and I’ve never in my life been more grateful for the silence that I get to take part in today. Sitting in silence is such a wonder. It is all at once, empty and full of healing beyond a description that any language can conjure.
Suffice to say, or write, rather, as I have before, that if you find yourself overwhelmed with life, emotions, people, places, or events, try to create some silent time for yourself. Away from everything. For it is in the spaces that we create to be silent where the mysteries of this universe become more clear; and, when there is more clarity, there is more space for you to live and to love.
The past two weeks I’ve been reflecting more upon patience and asking for help. The more people I meet, the more I realize just how important developing patience is, as is the ability to recognize when we need help.
Often people mistakenly believe that asking for help is, in some way, a demerit, or means they are in some way deficient. I would like to dispel this notion now.
When we ask for help, we are recognizing a limit, for the moment, to either what we know, or are capable of doing. It does not mean that we are deficient. In fact, it means the opposite.
Meaning that when we recognize a limit within ourselves, we immediately get to grow that limit to a new level. And, in that moment we are courageous. Many of the greatest leaders of all time recognize and celebrate this fact.
Here is a great quote from Barack Obama about asking for help.
Asking for Help 101
As I reflect upon times when asking for help was more difficult for me, I considered a few strategies that may be helpful for those that, like me, continue to see the action of asking for help as a developmental opportunity.
Start small – when asking for help, you can start small. Start by thinking about the areas in your work or life that you would either like to learn more about, or could use assistance with. For instance, when I first started to open up to the idea of asking for help, I would ask people to assist me with pieces of projects that fit their skill set. When you can ask someone for help, and give them a piece of work that excites or inspires them, it makes the process of asking for help a little easier.
Begin with people you already trust – one of the reasons I shied away from asking for help was because I was concerned about looking incompetent, which is a simple thinking error. When we don’t ask for help, and we try to do everything on our own is, in fact, when incompetence will be seen and felt. However, one way to allay the fear of looking incompetent by asking for help, is to ask someone you already know and trust.
Make it a healthy habit – the only way to really make asking for help stick in your life, is to do it regularly. Simply meaning, that creating a healthy habit of asking for help when needed, will continue to push you outside of your comfort zone. However, the more you ask for help, the less uncomfortable it will feel.
There are three simple strategies you can use to begin to ask people for help. Remember, we are always getting help from people around us, always. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all connected and interdependent. Yep, true.
As we have discussed, asking for help is a courageous act. Yet, people continue to see asking for help as something that is a weakness. Let’s continue to bust this myth, shall we? Good. Here we go.
A Strength Not A Weakness
Here are a few more reasons why asking for help is needed and necessary, and should be considered a strength not a weakness.
Relationships – when we ask someone for help, we are acknowledging that relationships matter to us. That, in fact, we are vulnerable enough to say, “you know, I don’t know.” Important. When we are vulnerable in our relationships, and that vulnerability is reciprocated, our relationships become deeper and more meaningful.
Connection – when we learn to ask for help, we become more open. More open to asking people we don’t know for help. As we pursue asking people we don’t know for help, we create the opportunity to meet new people; and, to deepen our connection with our own humanity, and the humanity of others.
Collaboration – as we practice asking for help, we learn that this practice becomes a strength. We learn that asking for help is essential in order to really collaborate with other people. No true collaboration exists without asking for help. Simple.
Synergy – as we begin to collaborate more, we realize that inside of true collaboration exists a very powerful concept, called synergy. Synergy occurs when people are aligned, work together, and help each other. When you work on a team that has synergy, you are able to innovate and execute inside of any situation. Why? Because you’ve learned to ask for help. You’ve learned that asking questions, and asking for help is an essential part of being a human being.
Alright, there are a few more reasons why asking for help is needed and necessary, and why asking for help is a real strength.
If you’re not used to asking for help. Don’t worry. Try some of the strategies listed above in asking for help 101; and remember, when we ask for help, we are admitting, yes, we don’t know something, or need assistance in completing something. And, guess what?
We all don’t know many things; and, we all need assistance getting things done. We do. It’s not a demerit. It’s the opposite.
Asking for help is a sign of courage and a sign of your inner strength.
This past week I’ve been reflecting upon time management. Well, to be more specific, time management in relation to projects, tasks, and, then, after a conversation with a colleague of mine, energy.
Have you ever thought about scheduling your day by the energy you exert in relation to the projects or tasks you work on? Well, I had never really thought about my time this way either.
Or rather, I think a lot about how much energy a project or task takes, yet I have never created a system for analyzing my energy output.
Well, it’s about time, I think. Pun intended.
Before we go on further in the discussion, however, let’s first take a look at my projects and tasks in a linear format, which is the picture below.
I find it helpful to write out the projects and tasks I am responsible for.
Yet, in the linear version to the left, I am missing several pieces needed to get a grasp on the whole picture.
Meaning, how do the projects and tasks relate to the department priorities? Good question.
Let’s take a look.
Below is a mind map to assist in answering this question.
Completing the whiteboard mind map helped me see a couple of things that are not apparent when data or information is presented linearly.
Here are some of the things I learned from mapping the projects and tasks nonlinearly.
Most of my time is currently spent in meeting the department’s sustainability priority.
There are at least three commitments that aren’t connected to a department priority. They are the bubbles, or circles, that are off to the side, disconnected from the rest of the mind map.
We are working on systems in each program, yet they are different systems.
And here is a question that arose after reflecting upon this mind map overnight.
How does my time on these various projects and tasks vary as a function of energy output?
It is very common to measure out time in, well, units of time. For instance, project A takes X amount of time, whereas project B takes Y amount of time. Helpful.
Yet, what we also know about time is that, for instance, you can work on a project or task for an hour, let’s say, without exerting that much energy. While, conversely, you can spend 30-minutes on a project or task that requires much more mental, or physical, output. How do you then manage your time?
If you simply gauge or measure all projects the same way, you may, for instance, have a work day that is full of high energy outputs, and a day that has very little, which may cause a balance issue.
My suggestion? Good question.
Well, I plan to remap my projects and tasks by energy output. It might look something like this.
A rough sketch this is, however, even in this rough sketch, you can get the idea.
What this sketch does not take into account, or, rather, does not, at this time, have space for, are those projects that fall outside the department priorities.
More reflection for me.
Alright, that wraps up this entry in the reflection series on thinking about time differently.
Remember, if we simply use time as the only way we measure our output, without considering energy, for instance, we may be missing a big piece of the overall framework of how we schedule ourselves and our work.
An Exploration of 4 Years Inside A Non Credit Department at the Local Community College
As I continue to reflect upon the last 4 years in the position I hold at the College, I learn more about myself, and about being a human being on this planet.
It is funny to think that leading a team at a small community college in Albany, Oregon, would provide insights of this kind, and yet, they do. Why?
Because no matter where you lead, it’s you doing the leading, for one, and two, all contexts to some extent are the same. Yes, the challenges, people, systems, and structures, are different, yet you are there, and you are always getting to know, and developing yourself and other people. Same.
After spending time in leadership in the private sector, and now having done so in the public sector, there are several things that we will discuss in this new series that are similar; and, in some ways, mirror each other.
In this first installment in this new series, I will lay out a brief outline, if you will, of the posts to come. It will be a way to set the stage for the concepts we will discuss, unpack, and walk through together.
I’m going to frame this first entry, and the following entries, by year, which will provide us a base from which to work through the narrative to follow. Ready? Alright, here we go.
I remember well when the job description for the position I currently hold, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, landed on my desk. I was working in a program at the college, which was struggling, and in threat of being eliminated. In fact, the program has been eliminated.
I looked over the position description, talked to my wife, friends, and family, and took a walk with a colleague, who asked me this question. Are you an operations man, Jeff? Whoa. Was I?
I was very unsure, and needed to think about it. Here are some of the considerations I made previous to applying to the position, which, I think, are quite generalizable.
Reflecting upon my work and academic career.
Reflecting upon what I would bring to the position.
Doing research about the position.
Having conversations with the hiring supervisor.
Having conversations with staff in the department.
There were more, bet you get the idea. It is important when making a life change to make all of the considerations and reflections we feel necessary. What happened? Well, I ended up saying this to my then wife.
If it was meant to be, we will know by getting the offer; and, if not, then not.
Of course, you know that I got the offer, and have been in the position for almost 4 years. And, what was the first year like? Hell and heaven all rolled into one. Kinda like life.
The first year, especially the first six months, was extremely painful. One of the most painful experiences of my life. Why? Because all day every day, I was outside of my comfort zone. I was also, at this time, not treating my mind and body very kindly.
Here is what the first year looked like.
Remembering who I am.
Development outside of the college.
Breakdown to breakthrough becomes a reality.
Relationship development, with myself, and the team.
I say often when talking about that first year, that that was the year of relationships. Yes, we did other things, which I’ve written about in other posts, yet the basis for almost every action that year was developing deeper relationships with ourselves and each other. Painful in many ways, yes, and beautiful in many more.
In the second year, things started to move. Meaning, we began to move, well, almost like a team. We were getting closer, and yet, had a lot more work to do.
Here is what the second year looked like.
Process and system improvement.
People in the right positions.
Vision, mission, goals.
Metrics and measurement.
As we then moved into year 3, the team became more aligned, and we began to get traction in all areas of our business. As a matter of fact, in the fall of 2019 we were on pace to grow our service to the local communities by another 10%. Amazingly fun.
Then, as we moved from fall to winter, we continued our alignment trajectory, and, of course, you all know what happened in early 2020. Yep. A pandemic.
Here is what that looked like.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Creating 5 new business models.
Initially, we were wrestling with questions, such as could we deliver completely remote classes. At that time, we did not have remote offerings, so there were no processes or systems to draw upon. Yet, we ended up taking all 5 business models completely remote, and the community response was stellar.
As we entered year 4, all 5 programs were either creating and delivering remote classes and training, or would be by the fall of 2020. And, there was a lot of work to do to continue the momentum we created earlier that year.
Here is what that looked, and well, is like.
Creating all new processes and systems.
From disruption to sustainability.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Engagement, relationships, conversion, process and priorities.
Planning for the future.
10 business models?
And for next year? Well, I’ve actually been reflecting upon this question quite a bit. Someone asked me recently, what do you see for our work as we, at some point, begin to offer in-person classes again. First, I think offering in-person classes again is still in the distant future, yet I do have some thoughts.
As we move into the second-half of the 2020-21 school year, we are offering new classes and training, and filling them up with local community members.
I see a 2 to 3 year slow progression from completely remote classes and training, to what I think will be a hybrid-model of both remote and in-person classes and training in the future.
What will the percent mix be of remote and in-person classes in the future? I don’t know. I do think, however, that, unlike when the pandemic started here locally, it will not be sudden. It will take time.
And, that’s okay. There is no rush. We will meet the community needs as they change. That’s part of what we do, and what we do well.
Alright, that completes the overview of the Leading From Within series. I look forward to future posts, where I can share, in more detail, how each of these years has impacted me as a leader, and, even more importantly, as a human being.
Now, in this article, we will discuss how we can increase our productivity by simply being the human being we know ourselves to be. Yep. Ready? Good here. we go.
Have you ever seen behind the scenes of a theatrical production? Yes, no? Well, either way, there is a ton of work that goes into creating a stage production, even a small production at a local high-school.
I remember taking, what was then called stagecraft, in high-school, and that was our job. Creating the stage, or, in sociological terms, creating the visual context for the play. Was great fun.
Erving Goffman, an American-Canadian Sociologist from the 1950’s, talks about life in terms of a play. Noting that we all take on particular personas based on socialization, yes, the context we are working or living in, and the ideas we have about who we are, and, yep, the ideas we believe others hold of us. Phew. That’s a lot of information to hold, which, hint, hint, is part of the point of this article.
I digress, back on track. Here is a short, well, relatively short, synopsis of what Goffman terms dramaturgy.
Dramaturgy is a sociological perspective that is a component of symbolic interactionism and is used in sociological analysis of everyday life. Developed by American sociologist Erving Goffman in his seminal 1959 text The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, dramaturgy uses the metaphor of theater to explain human behavior. According to this perspective, individuals perform actions in everyday life as if they were performers on a stage. Identity is performed through roles. Here, the term “role” works in two ways, referencing both the name for a theatrical character and the ways in which individuals fill roles in reality by acting as a mother, friend, husband, etc. Dramaturgy argues that the presentation of oneself through role is a way of engaging with society.
Well, think about all of the roles you take on each day. Seriously. Count them real quick. Here, I’ll do it too. I came up with 7. And, that was just a quick inquiry. A more focused inquiry would reveal many, many, more. And, you? How many did you come up with? Yep. Good.
Now, with all of these roles, and what I will now term performances, how much preparation do you do to create, deliver, and sustain these performances? Hm. Quite a bit, I bet. And, time? Yep, preparation is time. And time is energy.
Alright, so we spend a lot of time backstage, in Goffman terms, preparing for our individual performances, even when we are unaware. Yep. And, then frontstage, delivering them? Exactly. We spend a lot of energy there too. True.
And, now, let’s add in being inauthentic. If we are, let us say, working even harder on our performances, because we believe we need to look, act, and behave a certain way, either because we feel we should, or, we feel that others expect that of us, that is even more tiring. Phew. That’s a lot of tiring. Yet, there is another way. How?
By being authentic. And, guess what? Yep. When we are authentic, we save energy.
Authenticity and Productivity
When we are authentic, we save energy because, quite simply, we work less hard trying to convince ourselves and everyone around us that we are someone we’re not. As we’ve already seen, it takes a lot of time and energy just to perform our various roles, which does not include trying to perform them in ways we think we are supposed to.
Further, we all have a limited amount of energy to utilize throughout our day. We can think about our day in terms of exchanging units of energy for each task, project, or activity we take on.
As we exchange our units of energy, our stores become depleted. Now, we can recharge these energy stores by doing various things, such as taking a walk or sitting and breathing for a couple of minutes.
However, we should also covet these energy stores by being aware of our energy levels throughout the day. And? Well, when we are continuously thinking about our performances, our energy is depleted at a faster rate. Why?
Because we are distracted with thoughts and mentalizations that make the work we are engaged with more arduous. Pretty simple.
However, when we aren’t concerned about our performances, meaning we are being authentic and true to the person we know ourselves to be, our energy is saved from tasks such as worrying and overthinking. Important.
And, when we save our energy we can be more productive.
Alright, here then are three productivity byproducts that come from being authentic. Being who we really are. Just for fun, we will call these the 3 C’s of Authentic Productivity.
Capacity – when we are authentic, we have more energy for the aforementioned reasons, and we also have more capacity. More capacity to do the work we need to do, free from the constraints of spending time and energy concentrating on performing in ways that we think we are supposed to, or we think others expect us to.
Concentration – when we are authentic, we are also able to concentrate more easily. Our minds are not busy fretting about our performance. For instance, wondering what someone thinks about what we just said, or how we are acting in a particular context. When we are free from these mentalizations, we are much more clear.
Clarity – and, yes, when we have more capacity to concentrate on the work at hand, we are also more clear. We have more clarity in general about all things, and are able to complete tasks and projects with much greater efficiency and effectiveness.
There is one more bonus to being authentic. Insight.
When we have more capacity, are able to concentrate more effectively, and have more clarity, we create the possibility of receiving more insights. Insights occur when our minds are quiet. When we are quiet.
And, we are much more quiet when we are not in a continuous internal battle about who we are. When we are authentic, this battle drops away, and insights come more frequently.
Wow, that was fun.
Alright, that’s the 3 C’s of Authentic Productivity. Know there are many more benefits to being authentic. Seriously. Many more.
Pretty much everything we do, we do more effectively and efficiently when we are authentic. As we’ve seen in our discussion, worrying about our performances depletes our energy levels.
However, when we are authentic, we save our energy, and in doing so increase our capacity, ability to concentrate, and overall clarity.
You are already just as you are supposed to be. So be who you are, be authentic, embrace yourself, and enjoy each moment of every day.
Oh, yes, and, remember, when you do so, you’ll also enjoy more insights along the way. And, believe me, that’s super fun.
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 often write about paradoxes, well, because life is full of them. Really. And, as we recognize a paradox, we are poised to reconcile what is seemingly unknown into something that is known. Yep.
And, how does that aid leaders? Well, first, I consider leadership something that lives inside of everyone. Yep.
Leadership is something we can all do; and, in fact, leadership is something that most of us already do. Really. In some way in our life, we lead. Even if the leading you do is just for you; you are still leading.
And, we also know that in leadership the self is where it all starts. Yep. Also tue. Leadership goes out from you to everyone and everything else. It’s just how it works.
Leaders also need to know that most things are unknown, and that we know far less than is knowable. Important.
Therefore, inside of a paradox, there is an opportunity to turn something unknown into known, which is helpful for yourself, yep, and for everyone you are leading.
Now, before we go further, let’s define leadership, so we are all on the same page. Okay? Good. Here we go.
Pronunciation /ˈlēdərˌSHip/ /ˈlidərˌʃɪp/
The action of leading a group of people or an organization.
Ah, much better. Here is what we have so far. A leader is someone that goes with someone, or shows someone something by going in front of or beside them. Very good.
Alright, so what are these three paradoxes? Right. Let’s get right into our discussion, shall we? Good. Here we go.
1. The Real and The Ideal
As a leader it is important to know the current reality. Meaning to know your strengths and weaknesses, and that of the teams. Super important. Yet, that’s not all. Nope.
You must also communicate that reality, and do so often. One of the most important functions in leadership is setting the pace and the reality. A reality that will include both strengths and weaknesses. It has to.
We all have areas to develop, as do teams, and when we own them, guess what?
We have now created a context that welcomes development, one that is open and growth-oriented. Fun.
Now, once you know and have communicated the current reality, it is time to begin to balance the real (current state or reality) with the ideal (future state or reality). Very important.
And, how this is done is predicated on knowing that everything we do today informs tomorrow, and that tomorrow is simply a mirror of today. Yep. Say more? Of course. Here we go.
2. Today and Tomorrow
Alright, so when we cast a vision for our life or our team, we are setting down in language that which we want to accomplish in a certain amount of time. Might be a week, a month, a year, or several years. Depends.
What matters is that we tie that vision, those specific goals, to objectives and priorities that we can set our sights on and work towards each day. Yep.
When we connect our daily actions to our long-term goals, we are actively creating tomorrow today. Wait, what? Yes. It’s true.
When we take actions today that are connected to goals we have in the future, we are creating our future from this very moment. Therefore, when we take action today, tomorrow ends up being a mirror of today. Meaning?
We are actively actualizing tomorrow’s goals today. One action at a time. Fun. And, truth.
The concept of creating your future from today is a very powerful concept for leaders, teams, and, well, everyone. And, what happens when we create a context full of this type of possibility?
Well, we lead, yes, and so do those around us. It works that way.
3. Lead and Follow
Right, so leadership as we’ve defined it has to do with going out in front, paving the way, if you will, with a vision that ties back to objectives and priorities that you, and your team, if you have one, work on each day. Yep.
And, when you are out in front like that, sometimes, you will have to pull back a bit, as the team moves closer to you. Yep. Or, if they are moving quickly, you may have to go out in front even further. Depends. And, guess what?
Sometimes, your team will move right on past you. Yep. Can and does happen. It is a beautiful thing to see really. And, when that happens?
No problem here, you, like they would, catch back up. Simple. The point?
That leadership is a complex, and yet very simple, set of relationships you have. First with yourself. Always with yourself first. And, then with everyone else around you.
Relationships are leadership. And, leadership is about having high-quality relationships. Yep. Bottom line? Sure.
Leaders lead and follow, both. They are, in fact, one and the same. Not separate at all. One.
Alright, so there are three leadership paradoxes that, when we have an awareness of how they function, create a context where we are connecting the unknown of tomorrow, or 5 years from now, to today. Meaning?
That we are creating the known from the unknown. In this very moment, in fact. And, well, that’s fun, and powerful.
For me, it then follows to ask the question, is high sensitivity binary, as in you have it or you don’t? Or, rather, is high sensitivity a spectrum of experiences? Hm. Good questions. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Alright, so let’s first define binary and spectrum. Ready? Good. Here we go.
There we go. Again, for the purpose of this conversation, you can think about a complete or wide range of related sensitivities, as a spectrum of sensitivity. Make sense? Good.
Now, why is this important? Good question.
Sensitivity as a Spectrum
Because if we think about sensitivity as binary, we limit the experience of being a sensitive human being; and, we also limit our own experience of what it means to be sensitive.
As we discussed in the previous post on sensitivity, being sensitive is not a problem or an issue, it is, rather a gift. And, being able to own that gift, and really internalize it as such is an important and empowering experience.
And, at the same time, it is equally important for everyone to have access to the possibility that they are also sensitive. Why?
Because understanding our sensitivities, whatever they might be, is such an important aspect of being a human being. Truly, truly, this is so.
People that are highly sensitive often turn to substance abuse and other forms of self-abuse in order to dull their sensitivity. And? It is extremely damaging.
Yes, of course, for the person with sensitivity, and also, for those around them. Both. Yet, it need not be that way. Truly.
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to see if you too might be a highly sensitive person. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Are you sensitive to light?
How about being sensitive to cold or heat?
Maybe you are sensitive to noise?
Are you easily overwhelmed?
Do you feel your own emotions more?
How about feeling other people’s emotions more?
Now, you can use these questions, if you choose, to start an investigation into your own sensitivity. Yep. Oh, me?
Yes, to every question listed above, and more. I typically score between 17 and 19 on the highly sensitive person questionnaire, which I recommend everyone take. Everyone. Seriously. Why?
Sensitivity As a Gift
Because finding out that I was a highly sensitive person was pivotal in my life. A gift, as was previously stated.
Therefore, I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to explore their sensitivity, free from bias and judgment. Yep, that’s about it.
Further, I believe that everyone is highly sensitive in some way. Really. I do.
Remember, sensitivity is a spectrum, not binary. Meaning, that it is quite possible that everyone in some way is highly sensitive to something. Yep. Possible. And?
Removing the Stigma of Being Sensitive
Well, removing stigma about sensitivity, especially in the United States, is super important. Especially for young boys. Really.
Young boys are often raised to dissociate themselves from their sensitivity, yet, that is so very unhealthy. It is unhealthy for them as a developing child and youth, and is also unhealthy, as we’ve discussed, for them later in life.
What is healthy?
Proper education about sensitivity. For instance, positive reinforcement and education about what sensitivity means; and, knowledge about how to cope with emotions. All. Important.
Bottom line? Sure. Here we go.
We all have sensitivities. We have to. Why? Because we are all human, and all humans have senses. And, these senses are, at times, maybe all the time, sensitive. And?
That is perfectly okay. More, as we’ve discussed, it is a gift.
Embracing our sensitivity creates more possibility. More possibilities about ourselves and our lives, and more possibilities for those around us.
When we model acceptance of our sensitivity, we remove the stigma about sensitivity and create spaces that are more inclusive and loving.
And, I for one, think that acceptance, inclusivity, and love are needed in this world. Nay, they are very much needed in this world. Today, yep, and, well, tomorrow too. And, for all time.