Philosophy Tuesday

“What do you define as success?” This a question sometimes gets posed in conversations with people of note or, perhaps somewhat bizarrely, in job interviews.  However, leaving aside the second one especially, and taking it on in a mindfulness context, this can be one of those laser focused questions that cuts through our everyday autopilot to prompt some actual reflection and thinking.

Because when we look at it, we often discover that we’ve never really chosen it for ourselves.  Often, we find we’re just living into the default view and measurements about success and what success is that we inherited from our context (including our upbringing, community, colleagues, etc).  Or if we did choose, we may have accidentally slipped back into those typical contexts after we’d suffered a setback or two while in pursuit of our desires.

So in giving it some reflection and thought, it’s common to notice that what we’ve been pursuing under those default contexts – often some variety of money, and/or status or fame, and/or control and/or some material items and/or some family/social unit or activity – isn’t actually aligned with what we truly want, such as love, connection, peace of mind, fulfillment, joy, excitement, making a difference, aliveness, beauty, gusto, wonder…

And sure, money and the like may provide some pathways towards that which we truly want.  But even beyond the long-held truth that money can’t buy happiness, when we focus on those reductive measures of success like money we can very much forget what we’re actually aiming for.  We get stuck on the default treadmill, aiming for the tool rather than the thing we want to create.  To bring back a quote from an earlier post, “It’s easy to confuse what is important with what is easy to measure.”

Which is also why when we attain those default measures of success, they rarely leave us fulfilled or satisfied.  And, rather nefariously, because we’re absentmindedly stuck on the treadmill pursuing those default measures, we fall into another pitfall of, to quote yet another previous post (one of the earliest!), “I gotta get a bigger hammer!”  In other words, we surmise that if these haven’t brought satisfaction yet (and everyone is saying they should), it must be because we haven’t gotten enough of “it” yet.

So we stay on that treadmill, our eyes firmly off the real prize.

Which brings us back to that laser-guided question we can ask ourselves “What do I define as success?”  With mindfulness and care and creation we get to choose that which will leave us delighted, radiant, and fulfilled.  And then we can align ourselves and our activities towards attaining that, including right-sizing our focus (or whether we choose to engage with them at all) on those default measures of success.

And with this clarity of success, we empower ourselves and those around us towards living the lives we want.

(And if we need a good starting point in designing our measures of success, Ben Zander’s “shining eyes” is a great foundation.)

Philosophy Tuesday

It took me a while at ILM to realize my imposter complex would show up which would be about 70% of the way through every single build at ILM.  I thought someone would come up and tap me on the shoulder and tell me to go home because clearly I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was there for about a year and a half before I realized that this was happening on every build.  And thus, after that, once it showed up I’d be like, “right, this is part of the process”.  It’s no fun, but… One of the hard parts about having a brain, is that you can know how it works, and it doesn’t help.  You can know you’re going to have this negative response to a thing and even knowing that doesn’t really assist you in getting out of that sooner.  But it does help in terms of lowering the stakes.

Because before I knew when I would have that dip I’d be looking for what is wrong.

Adam Savage

This is a great observation/share, and I especially love two big things in this quote.  First, that I have that VERY SAME concern about someone tapping me on the shoulder.  Like this time years ago when I was at a huge dance thing.  While I was out there in the midst of everyone, enjoying the awesome tunes being created and dancing away, my inner voice kept warning that someone was going to come up to me and say “Stop!  What the heck are you doing?  Ugh, get out of here!”

Sure, intellectually I “knew” that was highly unlikely someone would do that, but that concern still hung around… which leads to the second thing I love which is how the quote begins to describe how we can be mindful about it and, more importantly, simply just be with it.  Yes, there might be some transformational work to be done that will maybe have it go away, but either way it’s not necessarily a problem that it’s there.  We can just be present to it, like “oh, hey, there’s that thing.”  We can even expect it and bring humour to the situation: “About time you showed up!”

When we stop resisting it, that “it” loses its grip.  (Remember that resistance equals persistence.)  The phrase “lowering the stakes” is also a very apt description.  “Thank you for sharing,” we can say to our inner voice, “and I’m going to go and do it anyway.”

Which is what I did that night all those years ago.  I let that concern be just that – a concern – and didn’t become it.  Instead, I got into the groove and danced with (mostly) abandon into the night.

(The humorous coda to this story is that a year later, in nearly the same place, I was once again dancing away, this time with full abandon, as that concern had indeed lost its grip and wasn’t there at all.  And then… someone did come up to me and said, “Stop!”  Uh oh…

But they continued:  “I just wanted to say that your mixing of dancing with kung fu is f’n amazing!”  “Really?”  “Yeah, not too many people would recognize it, but I do and it’s totally awesome!”

And with that gave me a high five and danced off into the crowd.)

Philosophy Tuesday

I’ve spoken many a time about apologies and the amazing power they can have.  .  But I’m not sure I’ve ever succinctly highlighted the very important distinction that there exists between an apology and an excuse.  They are so much not the same thing!

An excuse not only doesn’t take any ownership it actually and actively denies both ownership and self-agency.  In some ways it’s even a subtle DARVO, at the very least implying the upset ought to be ratcheted down so your apology can be minimal.  More often it goes full bore and implies other party is in the wrong for even being upset with you.

It is not the stuff of a genuine apology.

If moving to make a genuine apology, including an excuse (or, worse, multiple excuses) is even less productive than trying to include an explanation in the apology.  At least an explanation can indicate some desire to do better in the future, in a kind of “hey, I know that caused this and hopefully I will know better in the future” kind of way.*  An excuse however demonstrates no empathy, no care, no concern, and no chance in heck anything’ll be different in the future.  It’s pure avoidance and blame throwing.

So an important pair of distinctions to be mindful of!  As we often have few good role models when it comes to apologies**  we default/resort to that what we have seen and know, which is usually explanations and excuses.  As opposed to acknowledging what we’ve done, really getting the impact of what we’ve done, genuinely indicating we recognize it and regret it, apologizing without reservation, and taking what we get.

 

*  Though this kind of knowing rarely makes a difference

** This is a good one!

Philosophy Tuesday

There is great beauty in the simple* act of bearing witness.  To just be, and be there, for another in what they are going through in that moment.  Not to fix.  Not to provide advice.  Not to agree.  Not to negate.  Not to do something.  But to just be and acknowledge and honour the emotions and feelings and thoughts and to honour each other in our shared humanity.

In that there is also a great power in the simple act of bearing witness.  To allow what is there to pass, to open, to become a clearing, to allow love and beauty and empathy and verve and whole heartedness to arise once more.

It is a beautiful moment of generosity, of empathy, of connectedness, and of who we all are together.

(I was fortunate to be able to provide this once, to a lone person crying within a large crowd.  A few of us were drawn to them, crouching down and reaching out with a single hand, wordlessly lending our presence and our attention.  Bearing witness to and honouring their anguish, and in so doing honouring that for what or whom they were anguishing for.  As their storm subsided we began to leave, one by one, still silent, leaving with them as they returned to the present, serene and smiling.)

 

* Simple in that it consists only of being present and attentive and for the other.  Not-so-simple if we are not used to being present, or not facile with being vulnerable, or become distracted by our inner chatter or judgement or make it about ourselves or anything of that sort.  But when we practice mindfulness and work to transform and self-cultivate and remove our own baggage and barriers we are not only more available for ourselves but for others as well.

Philosophy Tuesday

Very little in our lives resolves itself perfectly like math.

Including, as it turns out, math instruction or even math itself.

It’s all to easy to get caught in a binary/one-right-answer thinking for many of the things we face in our lives, and fail to recognize that not only is there a gradient but also multiple answers that can be ‘correct’ at the same time.

Being mindful and willing to dance in that space opens up many new possibilities, peace of mind, and, ultimately, paths forward.