We all have a an environment to consider when it comes to setting up our work and getting it done; the surrounding people, problems and processes that we deal with when addressing our efforts to the goals that we want to achieve form a confluence of forces that impact our efforts. These forces form a context that is also a coherent system with energies that have intensity of condition, concentration and motion. In other words, there’s a weather of work that we have to consider comprised of the dynamics that we encounter and with which we interact anytime that we are choosing what piece of our projects to perform.
There are tasks whose success requires that we have a certain degree of spaciousness internally and externally; a quiet place in which to concentrate on concepts, creativity, numbers or plans. The extent to which schedules, physical space and the allocation of other resources is suited to our preferred work is not always completely within our control. BUT- we CAN influence these to some extent through the consistent use of a comprehensive system whose design helps us to get as close as is possible to the ideal workspace! Calm, clear skies within and without provide the margin that we need in order to really dig in and be productive!
There are some things to ponder ahead that may help to set the scene. The first is that EVERYONE works! Every single human being from conception to death is engaged in the work of living. The conditions under which we labor are often appalling. Lack of access to relationships, skills, space, supports and other tools is almost universal. Everyone of us, in our individual and collective humanity, contends with these areas of challenge. Sometimes these areas become our primary work as we seek to remediate them for ourselves and others. We embody our own wisdom and then we try to extend that to other people.
I remember working in Big City some twenty years ago with two infant twins whose bedroom faced the outer wall of Great Apartment. These infants had an utter paucity of quiet and I frankly never understood the reasoning that placed their room on the outer wall when there was abundant space for them elsewhere. Their work conditions included the clash and rush of city sounds such as loud chatter, parades, pedestrians, traffic and the unpredictable ambient vomitus of verbal violence.
These twins ate organic baby food that was home prepared, had comfortable and clean clothing in mostly natural fibers and had educators, nannies and professionals supporting their development. But that noise? That was the ONE BIG THING. And it wasn’t going away. It disrupted their sleep, especially in the daytime. For very young infants like these who needed access to quiet for rest and decompression during the early afternoon and overnight, the impact to their experience of daily life was obviously huge.
Most of us have at least ONE BIG THING to contend with that we might be able to mitigate but that we cannot wholly control, at least in the moment. The impacts of those things that we cannot control to our felt experience can seem overwhelming. Parents who constantly argue or who play favorites, peers who bully, ignore or ostracize and people in any of our circles who sit in key positions relative to our own wield an enormous potential impact on our felt experience of daily life.
My own ONE BIG THING has changed quite a few times. Feeling out of place and somewhat disconnected from the flow of what is “normal” has been a common denominator for most of those BIG THINGS across my lifetime. Resolution consists of the body of personal work that I’ve done through coaching, learning, mentoring and volunteering- all dynamics that have fostered my own growth and development in addition to allowing me to contribute in significant ways to others who were similarly engaged.
What I’ve discerned along the way is that our own engagement with all of the elements that make up our daily lives is as determinative of the prospect of optimal outcomes as access to appropriately supported environments is. In other words, the actions that we take in consequence of our experience are as important as the raw elements that precipitated them. This is an area where we absolutely have some real control and are in possession of the ability to shift outcomes by virtue of the simple cognizance of our own agency.
Reactive people generally have a great many unresolved points of stress, whether they’ve accumulated through a single day or across an entire lifetime. There’s wisdom in the simple admonition to “never let yourself get too angry, too hungry, too lonely or too tired”. It’s in attending to the needs generated by stressors that induce anxiety or anger, hunger, isolation and fatigue that we recover our balance, our margin and our consequent capacity to make better choices that effect better outcomes. But- we often procrastinate attending to one of more of these signals. Or we attend to them in unhelpful ways that perpetuate unhealthy patterns of being and doing. The discriminator here is a combination of habit and consciousness.
Let’s take a couple of examples as archetypes to ponder. There’s me ten years ago, recovering from supporting a VERY high demand client with multiple cognitive, physical and relational special needs while superintending my mother’s care during the last few months of her cancer, which had progressed to stage four. I was NOT caring well for myself at all during those days. I was overextended, in denial of my own perspective, needs and agency and was doing my best to simply execute all of my responsibilities as well as I could. I was surviving in a difficult environment, but I was not thriving. Emotionally, I was off balance, overextended and reactive without realizing it. While it could be said that I was a compassionate and generally effective support for my client and my mother, I really sucked at the task of supporting myself.
My blood pressure was through the roof, I was forty pounds heavier than I am now AND I had a host of personal trauma left over from a childhood that included several forms of neglect, emotional and physical abuse. Ironically, my mom reached a point where she did not want to see doctors for simple matters. I remember going to see one myself in a misguided effort to reason with her and convince her of the benefits of regular care. To say that the nurse practitioner had some things to say to me about my own self care is an understatement! Let’s just say that, eventually, I began to engage in some personal habits that effected better outcomes. I eat better, sleep better, move better and live much better than I did ten years ago.
My work is still stressful. I still have difficult and complex clients in my life. My days are still too long and I don’t exercise enough, though that’s on my list and I’m making some strides there, too. Me, today? I feel good about my life, about being me and living in my own skin. I’m more aware of where I tolerate negative or unsustainable patterns and more strategic about where I focus my energy whether it’s attending to my own needs, client needs or community needs. The habit of responding to needs in a consciously determined way didn’t arise overnight, or even in a few months. It’s been a journey of growth. But- the outcomes that I’ve experienced and the shifting of my own timeline in terms of potential outcomes in every sphere is real and so valuable to me.
Sometimes, the beginning of the shift in habits and attitudes doesn’t seem to amount to much. Over time and with the regular investment of connection to the self, engaged energy and focus on the mission- new and better opportunities and possibilities open up! Living life consciously is a habit. It’s an easier one to develop with support, which is why connection to the self can be enhanced with coaching. The goal is to engage the energy of living consciously and to direct it with clarity, charity and constancy. Doing so pays enormous dividends and is a prospect well worth exploring. Mindfully, of course.