You know, the way life falls into place when you least expect it to? A chain of events that, in retrospect, seem so clearly set out for you, but you could have never predicted. Yet, everything happened like a beautifully choreographed ballet - like it was meant to happen that way all along.
Someone told me that it was a secret, but it's no secret. It's pretty damned apparent. Only, for some reason - and I think it's tightly tied to Dan Gilmore's thesis in Stumbling on Happiness - we refuse to see it because we are so caught up in wanting to control the future/predict the future/own the future.
Ten ways to this type of success. Eight ways to that positive outcome (warning: irony ahead). Never do this. Always do that. Business plans. Prospectuses. Plan. Control. Shape. Bend. Stomp. Everything you've always wanted is just a carefully measured plan away.
But you can't stand still, right? If you stand still, the world will pass you by. Right?*
I wrote a couple of weeks back on how our client, Scrapblog, embraced the chaos and benefited from it. We had another client, who shall remain nameless, who totally lacked the ability to embrace the chaos. They needed answers, numbers, results, some sort of movement somewhere NOW. What they didn't realize is, that by doing that, they almost blew any chance they had to get that movement. Their anxiety level made my head hurt.
Recognizing everyday magic is also what Scott Berkun talks about in his forthcoming book, The Myths of Innovation - the fact that we miss all of the everyday magic that goes on long before that 'eureka' moment arrives. And, in not recognizing those everyday moments, much is lost and true opportunities for innovation are missed.
I've talked at length about the benefits of embracing the chaos, but I haven't talked a great deal about how. I used to just think, "Well, d'uh, you just do it." But it isn't that simple. There is a total shift in perspective that needs to occur. Here are some ways you can start to re-condition yourself:
- Stop moving and look around you until you see everything clearly.
It isn't a coincidence that 'wise people' and 'sages' are portrayed as sitting silently in meditation about the world. That they talk slower. That they don't want to be rushed. Reflection takes time.
- Swallow your ego (it isn't about you!) and stop worrying about what everyone thinks.
When we spend so much time worrying about how we are doing, we miss opportunities to recognize what others are doing. Swallowing your ego includes swallowing your pride as well. Asking for help is necessary.
- Transfer the knowledge.
Be transparent. In the old days, people held their cards to their chests, built fortresses and secret walls around what they were doing so nobody on the outside could see in. Problem is that, when you do that, you can't see out, either. Plus, what about those people who could possibly see in and offer great ideas?
- Every time you feel anxiety, acknowledge it.
Try this at home: "I feel [fill in emotion here]" Put it out there. Toss it around. Share it with someone you trust. Look at it objectively. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen? Death? Dismemberment? Losing your house? Your car? Those who have lost 'it all' (according to Gilbert's book) actually report that it ain't that bad. The anticipation is actually much worse.
- Define your own measure of success.
Don't listen to what everyone else says is successful. Stop answering questions that call for big numbers, name dropping and anything else that makes you feel inadequate. Define your own success. Maybe it's 4 day work weeks. Maybe it's being able to see the world. Maybe it's saving up for your kid's education and your early retirement. Think about what would make you truly happy if you had nothing to worry about and do it. I know it sounds hokey, but it's necessary. When you have a different goal to measure yourself by...one that is worth fighting for, getting there will be SO much more enjoyable.
- Get outside of your personal circle.
Attend events and gatherings you don't know anyone at. I'm constantly amazed at who I meet when I go places I've never been before. It also gives you that feeling of shyness again, challenging your fear of the unfamiliar.
- Realize that everything is out of your control anyway.
This may be the most freeing of all of the changes. You only have control over what you put out into the universe. Your actions. What you do. How you present yourself. You can't control all of the other factors and you can definitely never control other people. So, only be concerned about what you are doing. Are you standing still yet?
- Have patience.
You may have to do all of the above for a very long time and over and over again.
I've started doing pilates again after a long break and the instructor at the end of every class makes us do some sort of "stop and smell the flowers" type of exercise. It's amazing how many people pack up their mats and leave at that point. For me, it's my favourite part. While reflecting on the pain + accomplishment of getting through another killer class (and, thus, closer to my own goal of losing that 20 lbs), I also get to ground myself for the afternoon. And since I've started doing this, I've had so many everyday magical things happen to me.
Like putting the message out to the universe (by talking about it with Chris and then being still) that I wanted time and $$ to do my research, then getting contacted by the literary agent. Now it is up to me to control how that proceeds. As well as being inspired years ago by a book by Marilyn Waring, followed by my recent chattering about GPI (rekindled by another discussion at another happenstance event) and then taking time out from work the other night to chat with a stranger at Net Tuesday, and discovering that he's one of the people who actually put together the GPI, then discussing Marilyn Waring with him and, subsequently, being asked to come to New Zealand next month to speak, giving me the opportunity to drop Marilyn a note and even close the loop by having a coffee with her to talk about the book that started it all.
Coincidence? Maybe. I'd like to think it happened because I'm ready for it to happen. I've opened my eyes to discovering everyday magic.
* I'm reminded of the time that my Mom and my Oma were supposed to meet outside of a specific shop. When my Mom was late, my Oma panicked, "What if I got the shop wrong?" And proceeded to search the lengths of the mall. Meanwhile, my Mom was about 10 minutes late and arrived at the planned destination to meet my Oma, who was gone. After waiting for another 10 minutes, my Mom panicked, "What if I got the shop wrong?" And proceeded to search the lengths of the mall. My Oma, who returned to the designated spot about 5 minutes after my Mom had wandered off decided that my Mom must have just forgotten her and left the mall altogether to take a bus home. My Mom frantically paced the mall, concerned that something awful had happened to my Oma. After checking with every security guard and every shop keeper, she left the mall to scout the hospitals.
Four hours later, my Mom arrived to find my Oma at home, reading her book and listening to classical music. My Mom was furious. My Oma was perplexed. It was a gross comedy of errors that would have been avoided if one or the other had the patience to wait for more than 10 minutes in one spot. Both of them needed an answer. I think the cell phone exists today for the relief of this type of anxiety.