“To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom” — Andre Gide
In earlier blog posts, I looked at how trust and engagement shifts depending on the issue that is foremost in your mind. With today’s post, I want to look at the impetus for shifting; that is, how our ability to shift focus gives us greater flexibility.
Let’s look at an example:
George is working up his courage to ask for a raise. He has gone over it a thousand times. His boss informed everyone: raises were not in the offing this year. The company was struggling. George’s work is excellent; he feels he deserves a raise. But he also feels he has no leverage. Any raise looks impossible.
Clearly, George is stuck in a bind. There is an immovable fact that keeps him unsatisfied and blocks all his options. George cannot shift the focus of his attention.
The impetus for making a shift comes from four different skills:
- An ability to let go of pre-conceptions. (creative imagination)
- An awareness that we can self-determine what we want. (independent will)
- A personal and unique invitation to step into that awareness. (conscience)
- A sustained belief that “enough” is genuinely possible. (self-awareness)
The first skill is the hardest. Most of us are trapped in established modes of thinking. If thoughts are like automobiles, the traffic jam of repetitive thinking would equal (if not surpass) our worst 5 o’clock rush hour. Nobody moves (and it takes all of our energy just to get off the highway).
The key to letting go of perceptions is to re-envision them – find a way to “live yourself into a new image.” It almost doesn’t matter what the image is; plausibility is less critical than movement. Find something that releases energy. Invent a couple of images; having choice is important here.
The second skill is driven by the first. Whatever new perspective you select has to feel self-determined. It cannot be determined by anyone else. It also has to feel like a viable and livable option. There must be some trigger of self-interest – a kind of “why not” that whets our appetite for more. The new image must better than the old one. It must feel right. Finding the image that we can self-determine makes the next step possible for it is our wish to self-determine which invites us back into relationship.
The third skill is tricky. This skill is not about self-determination. This skill is about finding the call that is bigger than us. The invitation that is both personal and unique brings us to a place of equality and relationship. We stand on a par with others. Here, we must find the “outside … other-interest” that wills us into the new state. The invitation has to be a “calling” that triggers a craving for self-acknowledgement, one that allows us to re-invent trust and engage in some new and exciting way.
The last skill is really an exercise in moderation. It is also an exercise in fulfillment. We don’t need to reach beyond our capacity to find fulfillment. “Enough” is a step in the right direction, a move that can followed by yet another move. “Enough” is a genuine possibility. Not a certainty. Not a slam-dunk. But a bona fide possibility. You see, self-awareness is not entirely about the past. It is also about the future. This fourth skill builds on the other three. It creates a future seems plausible, livable, and compelling.
So what about George? He got over the lack of leverage, by inventing the image that he could ask for a wage commitment which could be implemented in six months. Immediate cash was not the critical variable — acknowledgement was. He also invented the image of asking for a new title, rather than a wage hike, or asking to take a development class (at company expense), or asking to be reassigned to a project that he really wanted to be a part of.
Once he got over the wage freeze idea, he saw a whole variety of options. And his wish to self-determine enabled him select the development class and the new project. He felt a unique and personal invitation to be bigger than his current role. Co-workers had noticed his performance improvement and his self-assurance. He thought he was doing this for them to be a bigger player. And he also felt that his request was genuinely possible. It was not pie-in-the-sky. There was genuine plausibility here.
To free oneself is really nothing, the arduous part is knowing what you want to do.
Thanks for listening!