How often do we get lost in other people’s stories, into comparison, fear and “What if” living? At the moment we are listening to the chronicles of Narnia with our children. Aslan, the champion of these books, the bold Lion, has finally appeared, and in one exchange says “Child, I am telling you your story. No one is told any story but their own”. I find I am regularly only a social media click away from getting caught up in everyone else’s story and then feeling the sensation of unworthiness and crippling comparison. Here is some stuff I do to keep this monster at bay and stay present in who I am.
1) Simon Sinek says that our brain has 3 square feet of conscious and 12 acres of subconscious. That is where our story is lurking, waiting to be discovered. When asked how he remained creative, he said that a writing day for him can often involve going for a long walk, taking a note pad, thinking of nothing, writing down thoughts when they come to him and allowing the subconscious to do its work (question asked and answered at The Leadership Conference, Royal Albert Hall, 2017). We can’t all take long walks but I bet that when we go for a toilet break we get our phones out, on the way to work we plug our headphones in or catch up on Whattsapp/Instagram/LinkedIn …. None of this is bad if we are allowing space for our subconscious, our full human to breathe. But if we are not, if we are stuck in the habit of killing space, we are on a dangerous path to addiction to other’s stories. If you have space, growth and a sense of life near you, take advantage of this and allow yourself to slow down. The best ideas and inventions in history have come from this place. It’s how our brain works, but it’s not where society is leading us.
2) When you stop you have to come face to face with yourself — sometimes that self needs to rest, remember and re-boot. My very good friend Steve runs Sozo in South Africa. What started as a dream four years ago is now a full time educational centre, cafe, bakery and much more. Where there was once barren land and low school attendance now life, health, hope and future is springing up and abounding for the youth in this part of Cape Town. One of the huge successes is Steve’s ability to be disciplined with his time. Once a week he sits for a half an hour in silence, to check in with himself and make sure he is not running in the wrong direction. Steve, like me, comes from a Christian background, so in this half an hour he simply sits quietly before God, lays his soul and agenda out and lets the crowded voice of activity be silenced. I have started to do this recently and whilst terrifying, it is so powerful. For me, it feels like I am coming into land, takes me off the adrenaline drive of work and business and reminds me why I do what I do.
So, here are some thoughts to put these two disciplines into practise:
The next time a client/colleague/partner goes to the toilet, just sit where you are and be. Allow yourself space to breathe.
Take 10 minutes to sit in a chair in your home and focus on what is in front of you. If you can see bricks, pay attention to the bricks. Train your brain to be still. When 10 minutes is up, see how you feel. Next week take this up to 15 minutes.
In the words of Aslan “No one is told any story but their own”. Allow your story to be told and see what it feels like to be living in it, not commenting on it. Let me know how it goes, what your struggles were with these exercises and where you felt success.