Have you noticed that as turbulent as the world is, some things are slowing down? Listening to friends and colleagues, I notice a definite shift to being more thoughtful instead of being on autopilot. It sounds like this, " I'm thinking twice about things before I decide." I'm asking myself, do I really need this before I make a purchase." I attended a business club meeting the other day and I heard similar comments from small business owners: "I'm open to and looking at new ways of approaching my business." It's amazing and somewhat paradoxical that in the midst of turbulence we can find a space to be calm and reflective. Maybe the silver lining in these difficult times is that we are taking time to reflect and reassess what matters and what is important.
I believe that taking time, reflecting and reassessing should apply to not only what we buy and how we do business, but also to our approach to leading and the work you want to do. A good question to get you started is, "How did I get to this point in my life and career; is it really where I want to be?" Not having a job is very uncomfortable. Being in a job that is unrewarding can be just has uncomfortable.
One perspective is to look at these turbulent times as if they were a major illness, such as a heart attach, which typically forces you to reflect on your life and work. This is not only a time to reassess your retirement investment strategy - it is also a time to reassess if your investing your time, energy and talent in work that is meaningful and mentally and emotionally fulfilling. This is a time to ask, "Am I the leader I want to be?" "Am I leading in way that is creating value for those I lead as well as for my business?" This may be the time to uncover the Vision Splendid.
In the 1800's William Wordsworth wrote:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison house begin to close
Upon the growing boy.
In his new book, The Three Marriages (Relationships, Work and Self), David Whyte invites us to explore these lines through the lens of our youth and adult experiences. As adolescents we are filled with the passions and dreams of loving relationships, meaningful work and of who we'll become and what our legacy will be. But as we step over the threshold into our adult world we experience the shades of the prison house stealing our youthful exuberance, vitality and dreams and settle into the marriages with bouts of reluctance, resignation and regret. Were those youthful dreams and passions the products of a body not fully capable of regulating our endocrine system? Or have we been co-conspirators in a scheme to trade current joy and fulfillment for future rewards? Maybe it's not as black and white as these questions suggest; maybe it's the shades of the prison house that have co-opted us. In part it is the realization that we participated in a life plan that others crafted for us, stealing our dreams and subduing our youthful passions.
Awakening to this reality is like awaking from a disturbing dream. And as we awaken and read today's headlines we realize that our co-conspirators didn't have our dreams as their priority. Instead of looking inward we project the energy our anger onto our co-conspirators.
In the turbulence of 2009, Wordsworth's lines are even more sobering and meaningful. Have I really put up with years of marginally fulfilling work, increasing debt and delaying my joy in the hopes that upon retirement I would be able to rekindle the flames of my youth? Have I sacrificed years of my life doing the work of others with the hopes of getting to "my life" sometime down the road? In the lines that follow, Wordsworth tells us that in order to escape the prison house we must never dim the light within us.
But He beholds the light and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily from the East
Must travel, still is nature's priest
And by the vision splendid,
Is on his way attended.
There is no time like the present, in the midst of the turbulence and unknowing, to allow your questions to unfold and provide you with the wisdom of their longevity. They have been inside waiting for you to pay attention. Those early passions were the real you; don't allow your current circumstance and the noises of your co-conspirators to distract you once again. This is a time of transformation; it is a time to use the energy of turbulence to break out of the prison house and pursue your true calling. Throughout your life you were called to the vision splendid, yet ignored it for many reasons. Let its light emerge once again, experience it through your heart and eyes only, and let it guide you through the turbulence with the wisdom and grace of experience.
Tips and Advice on how to uncover the Vision Splendid in Turbulent Times
Plan to take a day off. Use a personal or vacation day and find a place where you can be alone. If at all possible turn off all communication devices, and no TV or Radio, but take a notebook and a couple of pens. Go to a park or some other comfortable location, pack snacks or a favorite lunch, and only listen to your heart and head. If you happen to be in a park or other location where there are other people, spend sometime watching from a distance and notice how they are going about life; try to guess how they are feeling. What do they have that you don't?
Now turn inward and reflect on all that you have. The prevailing noise from Wall Street and Main Street, aimed at your ego, is to have you focus on what you don't have. Their goal is for you to see your glass as less than half empty.
Create a list:
Of all of your achievements: personal, family and professional.
Of the achievements of others in which you played a part in. e.g. mentoring a younger worker who gets a promotion they wanted.
Of all the meaningful relationships you have had in the past and have now.
And if you must, the possessions you have acquired that have meaning to you. Write next to each one what meaning does it represent to you? e.g. new car = status
Now go back and underline the most meaningful and important items on your list: The one's when you think about them, give you a sense of appreciation, gratitude, and or love. Notice how you glass fills up! How can you use this energy to make decisions that will create more satisfaction and meaning in your live and career?
Download and read the poem Sometimes by David Whyte from my website: This is a great poem to take with you on your day of reflection. After slowly reading it a few times, write down the questions that are stirring in you. Don't focus on answers just get the questions out and write them down. If you are having difficulty forming the questions, here are two to get you started: "Why I am I pursuing the life and work I am? and, "Where is it that I feel most energetic, positively challenged, and fulfilled?"
Keep a journal for the next week (7 Days) and write in it 3 times a day; once in the morning, mid-day and evening. Note your energy level, what you're thinking about and how you are feeling. Make special note of what activities gave you a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, contentment and confidence. At the end of the week review your entries and see if there are any patterns. What's the message if you note a pattern(s)?
Complete the Annual Purpose Check-Up by Richard Leider on my website.
Craft a Plan that moves you towards your Vision Splendid. Once you have a plan on how and what you want to change, identify 3 Purpose and Accountability partners. Choose people who you know well and who will give you feedback and encouragement. Commit to checking in and updating them on your progress. Ask for feedback.
Remember once this recession is over and the turbulence subsides, we will be right back to where we started - this is the time to make those shifts and changes you've been thinking about and wanting to make.