Have you ever set a goal for yourself that left you feeling less than fulfilled when you actually achieved it?
Maybe it was a target you wanted to meet, a possession you longed to acquire, or a promotion you were hoping to receive. You kept your eye on the ball and hunkered down to do whatever it took to get there. When obstacles presented themselves, you busted through them and may have felt as though you were repeatedly banging your head against a wall. “The reward for your exhaustion would be the sweet taste of victory in the end,” you may have told yourself.
I did. And when I got to the top of the hill I was climbing I realized the mountain I was scaling was not mine, but someone else’s.
What if it didn’t have to be that hard?
Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect to be carried around on a stretcher, nor would I want to be. But I do think it’s possible to enjoy the journey a little more. And if we didn’t insist on having to blaze the trail in front of us, we might find that off in the distance a lovely path is being revealed – if only we would stop long enough to pay attention.
When I take on new clients, they are often in the same state I have often found myself in. They have worked hard to get somewhere, but they know in their hearts there is something greater available to them. Perhaps they haven’t been getting the results they wanted, have been experiencing a great deal of stress or even burnout, or are just ready for a change. During times like these often the best thing we can do is not to speed up, but to slow down – way down.
If the path you’re running on isn’t getting you where you want to go, moving faster won’t do you any favors.
I have found over the years that the best leaders are not those who have all the answers, but rather those who ask the best questions. What are the possibilities? What are the opportunities? How are we uniquely positioned to make the most of them? In what ways can we leverage our strengths to rise up to our challenges? In asking such questions, these leaders bring to the surface answers, insights and knowledge people hold inside that allow great things to happen. Rather than imposing a vision on others, they allow it to develop collectively, with the knowledge that they can’t possibly see and accomplish everything singlehandedly.
Before these great leaders can do this for others, they must do it for themselves. So I challenge you (and myself as well) to focus on asking the important questions and to be still long enough to hear the answers.
In Native American cultures, young adults are sent on vision quests. These rituals involve sending the youth on a journey, packed with provisions that allow basic needs to be met. Instructions are simply to wander around and find a place that calls to them. Upon doing so, further direction is simply to sit and reflect. The belief behind this is that we do not necessarily need to actively find our vision. When we quiet ourselves and pay attention, our visions find us.
In our complex society, few of us have the time to go wander around the desert and sit for indefinite periods of time. So we need to make the time in our busy schedules to connect the dots. This may be a few minutes here and there. You may find yourself repeatedly daydreaming about something, or playfully entertaining an idea or possibility that will not allow itself to be dismissed.
These are critical pieces of information that, like pieces of a puzzle, will eventually come together to reveal a bigger picture. Pay attention to them, and do whatever is necessary to nurture and protect them. Capture these thoughts on paper or in your computer and add to them as new ideas continue to emerge. Some of these nuggets will become more valuable to you than others – like gold in the miner’s pan, they will begin to shine amongst the grains of sand.
Notice also the synchronicities that occur all around you that help make your visions real – chance encounters with people uniquely connected or qualified to help you, valuable information that effortlessly comes your way, and little serendipities that allow you to feel as though you are in the flow of something bigger than yourself. Chances are, you will be.
Enjoy the ride!
This article contains an exerpt from my new book The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
For more on Finding Your Way:
Businessman picture by Nikola Hristovski from Dreamstime.com.
Jigsaw picture by Jasenka from Dreamstime.com.
My last post, A Story About Signs, Synchronicities and Meaningful Coincidences, featured a video about a series of seemingly random events that gave me needed encouragement while I was writing my book, The Pinocchio Principle. If you didn’t catch the video, you can watch it below or click here for the last post. I know it seems somewhat unlikely that these things actually happened, but they did. And after talking with many others about their own experiences of this sort, I have come to believe that signs and synchronicities such as these are not all that uncommon.
Many of us simply dismiss them as random and insignificant coincidences, which is completely understandable. It’s not all that different than having bought a car only to finally notice other cars on the road just like yours. They were always there, but you didn’t really notice them before. Is that a meaningful coincidence? Well, it depends on how you look at it. Those cars hold meaning for you after you’ve bought yours because now you identify with them. They are no longer just other cars on the road; they are cars that are identical to the one that you most likely went through a very long process to procure for yourself. And after buying that same model, you now have an affinity for it. It jumps out at you because it feels good.
So when other things repeatedly catch our attention, they probably hold some kind of meaning for us as well. We just may not realize what that meaning is. Like my experience with finding Pinocchio memorabilia, what repeatedly catches your attention could be an object. But it could also be a person, or a phrase. It might be an image, or a song or even a movie that recurs. What is most important is not so much the objects or experiences but rather what we associate with them and how these things make us feel.
Often we are so busy or preoccupied that we don’t slow down long enough to realize what these things are trying to tell us. But when we do, we are often surprised and delighted to discover that they give credence to our deepest longings, most inspiring visions and grandest dreams — you know, the ones that beckon to us and attempt to break through all our doubt and mental chatter to show us a whole new field of possibility. Every time I see a sign like that, I like to think of it as something or someone gently encouraging me to go stop questioning my ability and instead begin to question and move beyond my doubts.
In the next few days, pay attention to what jumps out at you. See if there are recurring themes. Slow down long enough to inquire into what these experiences are trying to tell you. Move into it. Feel it. Even if you don’t immediately know the answer, the act of paying attention and asking the question will get you closer to finding it. And it could be the beginning of something really big and wonderful.
Here’s that video, in case you missed it: (if you don’t see it below, click here)
In my next post, I’ll share another series of signs, synchronicities and meaningful coincidences I had that gave me the courage to finally take action toward my lifelong dream of having my own business. If you’d like to read more on deciphering signs, synchronicities and meaningful coincidences, I’ve written a whole chapter called Navigational Tools in my new book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, now available on Amazon. You can find out more at http://www.PinocchioPrinciple.com.