We've become fascinated with our emotions, and why we have them. "Why am I so angry right?", we ask ourselves after being confronted with something we don't like. Underneath this question are two assumptions:
First, that we should not be experiencing that anger. There's something wrong about the level of anger that we're currently experiencing.
Second, that it matters why we are so angry. It really doesn't. The first step in dealing with any emotion, is actually allowing ourselves to have it. We don't gain a facility with our emotions by holding them in or thinking our way through them. Our head sits on top of our heart, but we operate in a culture where we've flipped that upside down.
Maybe if I understand my emotions a little better, I'll be able to control them. It's not your job to control your emotions. It's your job to be a human being that has emotions.
I'm not advocating that you start spewing bile and anger on everyone around you as soon as you experience it. When we get angry, or sad, or scared, it is our job to express and experience those emotions responsibly. Responsibility might mean that we need to leave the room for a few minutes and allow our anger. Or it might mean asking for a few minutes so we can simply let our sadness wash through us.
There is a cleansing power to allowing our emotions. Every time you try to think your way through them, you lose the opportunity, and cost yourself some authenticity.
Instead of asking yourself why you are experiencing your emotions, start experiencing them.
2. Trying to get it perfect, instead of just practicing
"I wish I could just figure out how to...". This is the death knell of possibility. The thing that people who say this often don't realize is that there isn't a right way to do something. All there is to do is actually practice doing the thing, in the moment.
High performers often fall victim to this particular trap. They develop a way of being that relies on using their proficient brains to figure out all of the possible paths that can occur, and then act from that place. Since they've identified all of the possible risks, and how to address them, it is now safe to proceed.
While this serves these people very well in their careers, it gets in the way of living lives filled with freedom, possibility and expansion. As long as you can figure out and identify all of the contingencies, there isn't any room for anything new. As long as you have to do this before you can proceed, things will pretty much stay the same.
If you're a brilliant strategist, the way forward for you does not look like more strategy. It requires you to actually take steps that put you outside of where you are capable of strategizing. That is the work.
3. Focusing on the specific rather than the general
The specific typically relates to what you are doing. I will often ask someone a question like "How do you keep people from getting in and creating connection with you", and get an answer back like "Well, I don't think I do, I mean, last week I ...".
This person has gone to a specific instance where they did create connection. That isn't an answer to my question - it's an answer to a different question. Transformational work and breakthrough results don't lie in addressing the specific — they lie in addressing your underlying being, which is something that pervades most of your behaviour.
Your real growth doesn't lie in the specific, it lies in your underlying patterns. The specific is only valuable in as much as it reveals the patterns underneath. Spend more time focusing on the underlying pattern and you can change the way everything goes.
Everything feels uncomfortable when we start trying something new. Patterns and habits are built out of comfort. If you feel comfortable doing something, you are not operating in the realm of possibility and the unknown.
Ultimately, you may practice outside of your comfort zone and in the realm of discomfort, only to decide later on that that is not something you want to continue doing. that's a fine choice to make — what matters is first actually expanding your capacity and practicing in that area. Only after you've done that can you make the decision from a fully-informed place.
In transformational work, the road less travelled and less comfortable is the way forward.
5. Arguing with these (and other) suggestions, instead of taking them on
So basically whatever you do, I'm right.
Instead of picking out arguments and reasons you can prove a particular suggestion wrong, spend some time looking inward at how you can benefit from this and other pieces of feedback, and how it applies to yourself. If your default is to critique and approach something with a skeptical bent, you will likely benefit more from practicing something different. You've already developed the muscle of critical thinking. Now it's time to practice something else.
Transformative work and exponential growth are about expanding your range and your capacity, rather than improving what you're already good at (that leads to incremental gains at best). Whether or not you agree with something is irrelevant. Use information to help you transform, rather than to reinforce your existing patterns.
Never be afraid to give up who you are today, in order to become who you could be tomorrow.
[Tweet "Never be afraid to give up who you are today, in order to become who you could be tomorrow."]
I've typically put calls to action or questions at the bottom of these posts with the intent of generating discussion or people taking on their lives. Today, instead, I just want to practice authenticity and share that I'm discouraged we've been unable to generate any discussion from that place. With that, I'm practicing outside of my comfort zone. What's next is to look at other ways to create engagement. Stay tuned.