You know what it’s like…
When the workload feels too high, the to-do list too long, the income too low, the client too challenging, the contractor too unreliable, the project too overwhelming…
It’s pretty natural to feel hopeless and helpless when circumstances outside of your control are frustrating the projects that are closest to your heart…
It happens to the best of us… (but there is a way through!)
I was hanging out with my five year old friend, Sally. A beautiful and intelligent kid. She was building a model airport out of cardboard biscuit boxes, and I was amazed at her ingenuity and attention to detail…
A cracker packet cut in half longwise formed the walls of the building. The same piece was then cut in half again, and joined loosely with a thread of stickytape in the middle, so the two wall pieces could open and close to ‘let the planes in’. Another square biscuit box was cut in half to form the roof. Because it was both wider and shorter than the cracker packet, it sat precariously on the walls.
The masterpiece was complete with a paper runway and business-card sized squares arranged as a carpark. It was, undoubtedly, a work of art.
Your business is also a work of art… But does it work?
Sometimes, when we are so absorbed in the detail of a project, we can lose sight of the larger context… and the fundamental pieces that help it function.
Without considering the implications, Sally had set up her airport in the middle of the living room. As my two year old, Erin, stepped over the airport, lightly brushing her foot over the roof, it fell off. Sally was upset, but okay… She carefully mounted the roof back on its delicate frame.
Being two, and poor at taking orders, Erin did it again… and again… And the roof fell of again… and again. Sally’s frustration grew as again and again, she carefully balanced the roof in place.
Later, when Sally tried to show us her ingenious design, but as she opened the ‘gates’ (the walls)… you guessed it – the roof fell off.
She was devastated! It really seemed like the world had it in for her. No matter what she did, something kept ruining her masterpiece.
The Power of Presence…
So often, a problem that seems to be “out of control” (clients, income, workload, etc…) starts to take up a huge amount of mental energy and psychic space. It nags at you. You worry… then get overwhelmed, swamped, even devastated.
Surprisingly, the way out of devastation is not to pay the problem less attention.
Every perceived problem, no matter how big, has a solution. Even in the face of the most complex conflicts – in which the ultimate resolution may take years to reach – it is possible to find a “right action” for this moment. A resolution for this week, or this month. A path out of the frustration.
And the only way to find peace and clarity with a situation that has gotten out of control is to bring your attention to it.
Not the worried, wheel-spinning kind of attention.
What it really needs is the I-know-this-is-not-my-favourite-situation-but-I’m-going-to-take-a-deep-breath-and-look-it-in-the-face-anyway kind of attention.
Courageous, present-moment attention.
Sally’s model was so delicate that you could breathe, and the roof would fall off.
The problem was not the wind… The problem was that the roof wasn’t secured properly in the first place.
When a caring adult finally sat down with Sally and gave her some relaxed, quality attention, she realised that she had the power to change her situation. With perspective, she could move the airport out of the main thoroughfare, and put some more stickytape around the walls… She did so, and her roof problems were solved. No two year old, or careless sneezing, could destroy her airport now.
How to move from victim to empowerment using the Power of Presence…
The world didn’t have it in for Sally. And it doesn’t have it in for your business either.
But if you’re caught up (like she was) feeling frustrated by external circumstances, here’s what you can do:
- Start by stopping. Take some time out to relax and breathe.
- Notice all the feelings, emotions and needs you have around the situation that has been bugging you, and just accept them as they are.
- Be willing to see the ways in which you have not been present to the area of your business where this problem has occurred… Notice any ways you have been avoiding this whole area… perhaps fearing it, devaluing it, or just not paying it enough attention (… Is it any wonder the situation got out of hand?)
- Be gentle with yourself. It’s confronting to realise that your own lack of attention may have co-created this problem that you are supposedly a ‘victim’ too. On the other hand, it’s also empowering. Once you realise this, you can begin to bring a more relaxed presence to the issue.
- From that place of relaxation and presence, you can ask: “What needs to happen in order for me to move this situation forward?”
The key here is to be patient and stay present, so the path forward can reveal itself.
You have to relax, listen carefully, and be willing to be surprised by the answer…
… Does this make sense to you? Does it strike a chord or do you disagree?
What helps you out of victim and into empowerment around business problems?