A hallmark of our time is so many people are realizing that to change their life experience all that is needed is to change their mind. I’m not talking about positive thinking and affirmations. What I’m saying is we have the power to literally change the nature and quality of our mind and doing that changes our actual reality (not just our perceived reality). The corollary is our life situation mirrors us, and most specifically, our minds.
I’m getting this at a new level, myself, right here and right now. I’d like to share how I’m seeing ever more clearly that two problems I’m facing are problems of my own mind, manifestations of, mirrors of, my mind. Of my own making. And how utterly empowering it is when we can see this, know this, and not just intellectually believe it to be so.
The Nature of Mind
Does it strike you as interesting that we don’t actually know what the mind is? Google it. What you will see consistently is that people talk around it and hope you don’t notice that they have not actually defined it. Yet, here it is, and we all know from our own intensely practical experience that different minds see the same reality differently, and further, experience the same reality differently, and make meaning of the same reality differently. We can send spacecraft to Mars, but scientists don’t know what the mind is. Or even where it is.
Our lot in life and our experience of that lot is profoundly impacted by our mind. Yet no one can give us the owner’s manual. We are left to map it out ourselves. And, in a way, that is refreshing, don’t you think? I’m finding it so.
Up Against New Limits
Here’s how I am bumping up against the current limits of my own mind. I’m trying to move forward in two very practical ways: 1) rediscovering what it means to be a leader, and 2) creating an online course on personal development that is the culmination of all I’ve learned. I have been stuck, and feeling stuck, in my failed attempts to move both forward. And I’ve been frustrated.
Yet, I’m more clear than I’ve ever been that the primary constraints I’m up against aren’t outside of me. As I’m working with trying to move both things forward, something is pushing both backward. Ah. I know this feeling. I’m reaching the limits of my mind, the limits of its ability to assemble and navigate in a new reality. And action alone will not fix it. What will? How do we get unstuck? How will I get unstuck?
I wonder if you’ve ever experienced this? Where you just feel utterly stuck. You push forward and it feels like some invisible hand pushes right back. Or like your shoe is nailed to the floor, and you can’t untie that darn shoe. You just can’t quite reach what you want or can sense. Because there’s that foot. Stuck to the floor. You can’t release it. It won’t move with you. And you can’t move any further without it moving.
You end up in this limbo land where the old isn’t tolerable any longer, and yet you can’t quite touch or move into the new. It’s the messy middle, the in-between. And it can feel like a living hell. Depending on our mind.
Current Problem, Old Issue
The last leadership position I had I was fired from. Since then, I’ve thought of myself as a consultant. I’ve stayed with that thought — that mindset — for about five years too long.
Now I must become a leader again. I finally can see it. I can see how people around me are suffering as a result of me not doing it, not seeing it sooner. I can see how it constrains our business from growing. I can see how it keeps what I think we have to offer from many people who could benefit from it. I can see how it is keeping me small. I can see how it worries Sara.
I’m scared. Firstly, there’s the fact that the last time around it didn’t go so well. I tanked. Secondly, this is a totally different situation, time, place, and a different me. The honest-to-gosh truth is I don’t know how to do it here because I’ve never done it here. This triggers all sorts of anxiety for me.
It is distressing. Yet I am excited. I’m ready for this. Maybe even born for it.
Knowledge is Power
What helps me is knowing, at a very deep level, that all of this is a projection of my mind. Distortions and obscurations of and in my mind kept me from seeing what I needed to do five years ago. They keep me doing what I’ve been doing instead. They give rise to the fear, worry, and anxiety that keep me stuck today.
I find solace in knowing my current frustration and worry and inability to move forward are all from my mind. I can clear the distortion or obscuration, my perception will inch open, and options and possibilities and ideas that were unimaginable can be imagined.
Knowing this, I’m not looking for the solution outside, and there isn’t anyone to blame. I could look outside. And blame is always an option. We human beings excel at it, and then not calling it that so we don’t see it as such. I’m as good as anyone at it. Have perfected it, really.
The solace comes from knowing where the battlefront is: in here. In me. Not out there. Not with the people around me. There is such freedom and joy that comes with knowing where I must go with this. Because I know how to work with my own mind. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again. I’m up to the task, though this time around it feels more daunting. At stake is how the rest of my years will unfold.
“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”
–Leonardo da Vinci
Solace is Not a Solution
Such insight may give solace but it is in no way a solution. Insight without action is worthless. So what to do? What is the action?
Take a first step. Any step. My best-guess next-step. Sometimes the next step is setting the intent to see the next step, to have it revealed.
It is essential to see the purpose of taking the small step for what it is. What is that purpose?
The primary purpose of my next action isn’t to become a leader or to move forward with the course. The primary purpose of action — of taking the next step — is to bang up against the clanky, fragile limits of my mind. Like in the movie The Truman Show, where Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) set sail through the storm to find out the reality of and the limits of his life… sensing it was limited… and sailed right through the storm and to the limits of life as he knew it. And, bang. All of a sudden his old world ended and a new life began… And the new life was a lot bigger.
(If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve not watched the movie, where’ve you been? It’s a must-see.)
Acting to Map the Mind
When you view action related to moving from stuckness this way — as a probing of where the limits of your mind are — you aren’t so attached to whether the action works. That’s a huge advantage. When you actually know you are feeling your way around in the dark even though it appears to be daylight outside of you, that you are trying to map out a part of a room you’ve never seen and you are doing it in the dark… you just don’t take your actions so seriously. After all, you are in the dark, just doing your best. Feeling your way around, and doing your best not to knock over any lamps and stub your toe on the furniture.
The other thing I like about this is I don’t need a plan. All I have to do is to take a small step that I’ve never tried, watching what happens in my mind… and watching what tangible results arise from the action on the physical plane. I don’t need a plan. I need to sense the next action, act, and do it with the purpose of learning about my self… about how my basic instincts, fears, and thought processes work.
This is important because I overcomplicate things. So my plans are complicated. They reflect my mind, and the fact that as an Enneagram Seven, I think a lot but I don’t actually know how to think but I think I do. Let me give you an example of this.
Seeing the Light
This online course I want to write will take people step-by-step through how to get started with personal development that works. I’ve got the framework written down. Modules mapped out. It is a course that an individual, a small group of friends or co-workers or a family, or a team could use to move forward individually and collectively. To truly change. It’s the culmination of years now of experience, of seeing what works and what doesn’t with hundreds of real people, over time.
I was reviewing this course outline with Sara just yesterday, getting her input. After I walked her through it, she got the expression on her face that translates to this: “You aren’t going to like what I’m going to say, but I know and you know I’m going to say it anyway. Here goes, the Good Lord help you that you take this okay and that your world doesn’t fall apart.”
(She has lots of prior experience with me NOT taking things okay, LOL. Just ask her.)
“Cut it down. A lot. Simplify it. You make things overly complicated.” Ouch. But, in a short while, I knew she was right. Where I sometimes feel deflated, I actually felt excited. Hopeful.
Here was my first step. To follow the feeling of hope that this conversation gave me.
I’m not writing the course for me or someone like me, yet that is what I was doing. Probably 20% of what I could put in the course will give 80% of the result. The course is, of course, a reflection of my mind. So, no wonder I was stuck. I didn’t even know why I was going around in circles and not able to move it forward. I had drafted the framework more than six months ago. Yet a truly creative project requires a transformation of the creator. I’d forgotten that. I thought I knew.
And that is a limitation of my mind. There was no invisible hand pushing me back… there was me.
The Penny Drops
As I’m going to bed each night, I journal one line. If you haven’t done this, I recommend it. Powerful. I literally write exactly one line capturing the essence of the day. My one line crosses two facing pages in the back of my 6 x 9 inch journal. I get one month on a two-page spread. Want to appreciate your life? Capture a month on two facing pages. You’ll see some stuff. Especially if you recap an entire quarter. One line a night. Try it.
After I journaled my one line last night — which included a notation of this interaction with Sara — I closed my little journal and turned off the light. And a light came on. I could see so clearly how to actually create this course backward. Starting with the end result I want for the person who completes it, the transformation I want for them to enjoy… and then working back through the minimum steps and information required to get to that transformation. The bedside light went back on, and I write my notes about how I might proceed.
Here was my next step. I’ve never thought this way.
It’s One Thing
And this connects to leadership. These two things are one thing.
I smile as I go to bed, realizing this. I get a two-fer. I take this next action on the course, break a six-month knot, and I’m leading myself forward. I don’t know if it will work. And I don’t really care. I’m just feeling my way in the dark. And while that is scary, it is also a joy. Exhilarating, even. Do you know why?
Because my foot is no longer nailed from the floor. (By Sara’s grace.) I can dance a wider arc. Reach a bit farther. And so it will go for the rest of my life, I hope.
To me, this is part of the joy of personal development, of making it my life’s work and of using what I know to make my life work. To change my reality by changing my mind, which requires action and an openness to all of life. For example, openness to Sara and the message I really didn’t want to hear.
It is so simple, isn’t it?
Personal development that actually works isn’t really anything other than...
- Learning about and mapping out our human nature.
- Learning to work with the forces inherent in our nature.
- And doing this in the context of solving the problems and working on the practical matters of our lives.
I hope that if you are stuck right now, in some small or big way, that something in the above might help you. It’s helping me to write to you about it. And, therefore, I thank you so much for giving me the reason to write.
There really isn’t any problem we cannot solve. So long as we are not confused where the battle actually lies. So long as we don’t limit ourselves to our thoughts. So long as we can also feel and sense. So long as we can summon the courage to take a small step. So long as we remember the reason we are stepping. So long as we have a willingness to learn. So long as we remember our love of and for and from the invisible forces of life just waiting for our invitation to come and join us in this incredible dance.
Send the invitation.
And dance knowing the invitation will be answered once you start.
First, small step?
Over to you.
I’ll meet you there.