(NonsenseAtWork MindShift #11)
Are you walking your path? (Or should I say, your path?) Does your path have heart?
Surely you know that your life is not just a life. It’s a journey. Or maybe it is a series of lessons you must learn while you are here. Or maybe you must find your life’s purpose so that you can make the meaningful contribution only you can make. Or maybe being here is some form of punishment because Earth is another planet’s hell. Or maybe none of the above because a life is just a life. Or maybe life is just another life.
Even though I stumble from one life-description to another, as I get older without even trying, I seem to totter back more often to life as a path with heart.
Does it matter which life-description you like? I think so. After all, your preference colors your perception of the world; your perceptions determine how you react daily to your-little-world events; and your cumulative reactions shape the life you actually end up living.
It’s a bit like living with the weather. The weather just is. It does not care how you react to it or whether you prefer a different weather to the weather you have today. Actually, your weather preference does not change the weather one iota. But how you interact with the weather determines whether the rest of your day will feel dry or damp.
Such is life. It just is. But how you interact with life . . . I think you get the picture. (If you don’t, keep on living. Life has a way of bringing the picture into sharp focus.)
Enough with the heavy stuff! Let’s get back to your path, my path, any path, and the nonsense (sense?) that trips us up along the way, even when we feel stuck . . .
How to see much more when you feel stuck
Some of us feel stuck and some of us feel ‘is this all?’ Yes, I’m sorry to say, you will be stuck on ‘this is all’ unless you learn to see more.
Your path itself matters less than what you see and experience on your path. So if you feel stuck, then it is because you are seeing and experiencing the same stuff over and over again. It is time to see something more, and to experience something different, even on the same path.
The trick to seeing more is to know that feeling stuck is simply the result of a way of thinking. It is the outcome of a mind-set because the feeling of stuck-ness is in your mind and not ‘out there.’
You can prove it to yourself, and get yourself unstuck, by tweaking your mind with these silly steps:
- Get lost (take a different path to work and back once a week).
- Get uncomfortable (meet some truly weird people once a month).
- Get to wondering (watch the movie Ground Hog Day once a year).
- Then get wandering (explore other paths, just for the hell of it).
Remember, the trick to seeing more, to experiencing more and to being more is to know that feeling trapped, stuck, picked on, a victim, and/or a failure is in your mind first, before it happens out there. What is in your mind is just a way of thinking. It is a mind-set.
Above all, it is all relative. And related to context. Your context. With, of course, a helping of history thrown in . . .
Same path, different expectations
I once walked in fading light along a river trail somewhere in the USA. In the gathering gloom I pushed passed bushes, ducked under branches, and broke free of clinging cobwebs.
(How does this description make you feel, amused or apprehensive? Yes, it depends on your past experiences, on your history, doesn’t it?)
At one stage during the walk I turned to my daughter and asked, ‘What if elephants suddenly come charging through?’ Even though she was born in Africa, she rolled her eyes.
Why did I think elephants in the USA? Because I had once stumbled onto a herd of elephants in the African bush. (On the same day I was charged by a lioness, but that’s another story.) Which is why, to this day, I imagine lions and elephants where none are to be expected.
My history means I imagine very different outcomes from the endings my daughter expects, even though we often walk the same path.
And often, for good reason, many of us may choose to walk the same path . . .
Sometimes leaders should step aside for followers to show the way
Mahatma Ghandi once said, “I must go now, for there go my people and I am their leader.” No doubt, Ghandi was a great leader and he had many followers.
Yet, a leader following his followers? I admit that the so-called wisdom of crowds makes me nervous. Can the multitude really know better than one wise guy?
But then the story told by designer Christopher Williams reminds me that, yes, the many can know more. The story is of an architect who waited for the people to lead. He had designed and built a cluster of office buildings. Now the landscaper was ready to connect the buildings with sidewalks. “Not yet,” said the architect. “Plant grass.” The landscaper did so.
Within months there were clear pathways between the buildings. Although not straight, these pathways were the most efficient lines of connection. All the landscaper had to do was to pave where the users had shown their need, had walked their preferred paths.
Indeed, sometimes leaders should simply get out of the way so that we the people can show our crowd-chosen path. But for any leader, knowing when to get out of the way is always tricky.
And it is even trickier if we don’t know where we are supposed to going . . .
Be here to tell yourself where to go
Consider this truism. If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there. (At least, that’s what the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland believed.)
Well, our modern reliance on GPS and internet maps highlight something that should be equally obvious. If you don’t know where you are, then it is impossible to map a path to somewhere specific.
Think about it. No interactive map can give you directions unless you know where you are. We understand this, don’t we?
Then why do so many of us plan our future and our goals without first being clear on where we are today?
Maybe because we have no easy way to describe where we are. We have no obvious internal mental GPS.
Try this instead. Tell your story. (To your family. To your friends. Tell yourself. I don’t care. Just tell it!)
Here’s why it works. To tell it, you must organize your thoughts. In telling it, you will remember what you have already achieved. Best of all, you will realize that you are still writing it, that you are creating your story today, that you have not yet stopped walking your path.
That is, if you can overcome the obstacles in your path . . .
Obstacles are mere lines in the sand or paint on your path
As kids we used to draw a line in the sand and say, “Step over this line and I’ll biff you.” If the other kid was bigger and dared to put his foot over the line, then we simply drew a new line and said firmly, “Step over this line and I’ll biff you.”
Sooner or later we had to biff up or back down – we had to make our stand in the sand.
Newspaper columnist Ralph Whitlock once wrote of a squirrel confronted by the yellow line painted on a road. Two mornings in a row the squirrel approached the line, hesitated, turned back and disappeared up a tree. On the third morning the same routine, except that this time the squirrel backed away, charged and launched himself over the line.
Yes, indeed, obstacles are often of our own making or interpretation, mere lines in the sand or paint on your path.
May the nonsense be with you.