Recently I spoke at a workshop about breaking through stress and burnout in order to more deeply connect with our purpose and take action to live out that purpose. It was an uplifting and energizing experience for me (fortunately, feedback showed it was for the participants too!). Together we discussed this powerful revelation: we each have within us all that we need to live with purpose, meaning, deep connection and joy. The strength and knowledge we need to go from surviving to thriving already lies within us and we can learn to tap our inner resilience to take positive action in our lives.
We live in a world that is crazy and chaotic, and deeply beautiful and moving at the same time. However, it seems that unless we are intentional and cultivate awareness, the crazy-chaotic is likely to win the day while the beautiful and moving waits quietly to be noticed. We live our daily lives under the tyranny of the urgent and without attention to potential awe amidst the routine. Our devices ping and “yell at us” all day and night, the news exhausts us with stories of war, failed leadership and human indignity, and our own internal voices sometimes reinforce the chaos with negativity and false, limiting beliefs.
So, how to break free? Pay attention and listen. Take action and make progress. It is a paradox that the way I have learned to break free from the crazy of our world is to embrace BOTH stillness and action. It is challenging, frustrating even, to feel confident about the best way forward when current cultural self-improvement messages about “how to be successful and happy” are rife with contradiction. How can we “follow” the best advice when we are told to “live in the moment” and “have a long-term plan,” to “let go” and “take charge,” to “trust ourselves” and “find a mentor,” and the contradictions continue… yet there is truth to be found in juxtaposition.
Here I am, offering you yet another duality to ponder – that we create our breakthroughs in stillness and action. The key factor in this seemingly contradictory change paradigm is sequence. The stillness comes first, and from the stillness comes the clarity to take action with courage, confidence and trust (granted, this is not always easy). When stillness, listening and awareness precede decision, action, and progress then we develop trust in our own intuition, connect deeply to our core values, and respond from wisdom instead of fear. We are more able to respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively and we can know if our decisions will align with what is most important to us.
Much has been written about mindfulness and its impact on many spheres of our life and work. When it comes to decision-making (required before taking action) mindfulness – stillness, awareness and openness to possibility – can allow us to make decisions based on the present conditions of a situation. This releases us from being unduly influenced by unchecked emotions, patterns of limiting beliefs, past experiences that whisper fearful but often inaccurate warnings, or earlier “sunk costs” that have already been invested and push us toward an unexamined solution. Mindfulness helps you take inventory of your own thoughts and emotions, the external factors that may be influencing your choices (such as fear of a confrontation or worry about being judged,) and help you more clearly understand the options that are available to you.
If this stillness precedes your actions, you will be much more likely to find creative options that honor your own values, goals and sense of purpose. When we have mindfully observed the options at hand and taken our inventory, we can set aside those internal limits and tap our capacity to act courageously (in big and little ways). This is no small feat when seeking a significant change or in situations that require you to lead others, but taking courageous action is essential to progress. The courage and confidence that grows from “stillness-informed decision making” is, I assert, a hallmark of resilience. Resilience is buoyed by reflection and restorative stillness and is enacted in a resourceful persistence to take action despite obstacles. If we stay always in the crazy-chaotic, if we unknowingly allow ourselves to be driven by an unchecked internal landscape, or if we dismiss the wisdom that whispers from within, we are bound to take ineffective action, or no action at all. We are bound to be held back from our truly resilient selves and all the potential waiting to be tapped.
To resiliently take action that is aligned with our purpose and not prompted by negative emotion, limiting beliefs, or pressures that may mislead us, we must embrace stillness then take action – It’s all about the sequence.
November 22, 2017