M O R E
G E N U I N E
A R T I C L E s
As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Seth Godin and how he has articulated mindfulness in action for corporations, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. One of my favorite quotations of his is,
“…working in anticipation of the outcome actually degrades the thing you were making.”
How perfectly this illlustrates our attachments to outcomes derailing our intentions, processes, and relationships. Imagine being on the phone with a potential customer and all you can think about it crossing the finish line and getting their business. You rush the conversation, hardly hear the nuance of their concerns and questions. Your attachment to the outcome corrodes the conversation and the relationship with the customer, should they ultimately choose to do business with you.
I often ask clients to identify how they feel when they are stuck in attachment to outcomes versus how they feel when they are present and mindful, and a common contrast has been “clutching the ropes/reigns” versus “holding open the door.” I particularly love this second description because it’s not as if by being present we are doing nothing: We are actively listening, being attentive and inviting. Holding open the door requires a fraction of the effort needed to clutch the ropes. It is respectful, unassuming, kind, and results in more long-term clients, increased sales or contributions, and more referrals to new clients down the road.
So how do we know if we’re clutching the ropes or holding open the door? Here are some telltale signs:
CLUTCHING THE ROPES
· A sense of urgency or hyper-vigilance.
· Knowing the specifics of how you want this to play out or how the story goes.
· A feeling of pinned hopes/wishing/expectation/attachment to a specific future narrative and outcome.
· Fast-tracking the conversation or relationship.
· Making assumptions about who the other person/people are and what they are going to do or say.
· A power/tension/attention struggle
· Feeling relief instead of joy when you accomplish the goal.
· A “hungry ghost” appetite – the sense that it’s “never enough,” jumping quickly to the next task/objective.
· Showing off only a part of yourself or playing a part, not authentic or all of you.
· Willingness to sacrifice commitments or integrity to impress or placate someone in order to “seal the deal” or keep the relationship.
HOLDING OPEN THE DOOR
· Feeling at ease and grounded.
· Conversations and client relationships feel open, improvisational, and agenda-less. We do have an intention for how we will be of service but don’t assume we know the details of how it will evolve.
· We hear what the client is saying and allow for our own natural response.
· Conversations and relationships are imperfect, fluid, honest, and have room for pauses.
· We value our own services and products and the client’s business and values.
· Disappointment is less personal and more easily accepted.
· Success is shared with others, given space to be celebrated, and mostly ego-less
· Willingness to let go of a possible transaction or relationship if it doesn’t align with what our business offers and the integrity of the company.
· A feeling of strength that is not rigid, patience that isn’t a door mat, and connection with the client supported by appropriate boundaries.
· Trusting that the sale will happen or the relationship will continue only if the client’s current interests and needs match our current skills, services, and products.
Getting Out the Gunk
How best to work with contemporary toxicity? We're burdened, not just by noise, water, light, and ground pollution, but also by the inner toxicity of self-judgement, anxiety, doubt, insatiable cravings, and aversion. In my coaching and artistic practice, I see the invisible connection between how we clear up the toxicity inside and how we clear up the toxicity outside. Our ability to pick up the gauntlet to contribute significant benefit to other people and the health of the planet is directly correlated to our ability to be compassionate and ease-ful with ourselves.
Recently a client wrote to me and asked me if I had any “magic wand” for the barriers she was consistently crashing into; doubt and second-guessing what next step to take, an inability to take forward action (actually sending the email, making the phone call, taking the next step, etc.), and feeling paralyzed by challenging tasks that feel daunting, overwhelming, or just plain cringeworthy! While I don’t have a magic wand, per se, I do rely on three main tools to help clients and myself work with doubt and “stuckness,” the most important of which is self-compassion. But first, the other two:
#1. Relational accountability & support. A coach or mentor who is both in your corner and yet unbiased about your goals can help you to clarify next steps, keep you accountable, mirror the best parts of you, and cheer you on. Neurobiologically, this witnessing forms a positive feedback loop making forward action easier and easier and more and more rewarding. (And it feels more and more “real.”) A coach or mentor can also help release tension by hold the long view of your life’s contributions as a context in which you are working with the micro-task or short term barrier at hand. (S)he can root you in the context of your biggest vision and brightest future with reverence and with…
#2. Humor and playful experimentation. This tool is so underrated, and our current business models are just now starting to incorporate these tools. (Startups and smaller companies seem to understand the value the most.) Especially if you are trying to free up “stuckness” on your own, bringing in a sense of the ridiculous, playful, or funny can help create traction when you’re in the muddy rut of doubt, fear, or inaction. I had a client who was absolutely frozen over what to write to his stakeholders to ask them for money to reach their end of year goals. As he approached the deadline to send out the e-blast and the tension and paralysis grew, he called to ask me about detailed word choices and expressed his dissatisfaction with the tone and message of the entire drafted email. I asked him to step away from that draft and to write a whole new letter. I wanted him to write the WORST possible message ever, saying everything he shouldn’t say, tactless, blunt, perhaps even offensive, including everything he could think of that absolutely shouldn’t be communicated to his stakeholders. I also asked him to write the most joking, ridiculous, insane email he could muster and lastly to write one that was just one sentence long saying what he needed. This kind of creative play dispelled the need to write the perfect email, created clarity about the heart of the message, and most powerfully, brought levity back to his relationship with his stakeholders and the task at hand.
#3. Pragmatic Compassion. Often we approach “stuckness,” doubt, and fear with analytical techniques, strategies, and rationalizations, but time and time again, I see these tools (while useful in other areas) leading to more deeply ingrained ruts of inaction and layers of self-judgement on top of the initial barrier. The more we bulldog and push (or the more someone else pushes us), the more resistance grows. By employing compassion practices with a coach or by oneself, instead of the knot getting tighter and more tangled, it begins to loosen and sometimes even fray or disappear. imagine the difference of working on untying a knot versus pouring a solution on it that dissolves the rope and reveals the gem at the center. Given our conditioning to work harder instead of easer at a problem, practicing compassion as a way to resolve issues may be a swimming-upstream approach, but it is absolutely the most effective given what we know now about how the mind works. I’ve also seen in my clients and myself that as self-compassion practices are strengthened, so too does integrity and time management, satisfaction with the goals we accomplish, and true ownership of everything we achieve.
Compassion is a pragmatic approach: Most of my clients come to me with a significant amount of their psychic RAM being allocated to self-beratement, and by freeing up mental space through alleviation of the self-critic, they are simply able to accomplish more and to take more satisfaction with their accomplishments.
So that’s my “magic wand.” It takes relational support, playfulness, and compassion to wave it and is a life-long practice, but it's worth the results.