This is the first of five articles in the Give Birth to Your Visionary Business series, originally delivered as an email series starting on Martin Luther King Day of 2017. I've ported it here to the blog without changing the original content – which is just as relevant as it was a year ago. Learn more about the entire series here.
I want to wish you a meaningful Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. I say “meaningful” and not “happy” because I know you’re not the type to simply find MLK Day to be happy because it’s a federal holiday and you don’t have to work…
No, it’s a day of mixed emotions. Perhaps you’re celebrating the historic stand that Mr. King took for equal rights. Perhaps you’re feeling the grief and pain about how many lives were lost in the struggle, and how our country’s path to justice seems to take two steps forward and one step backwards (or are we taking three steps back this month?).
Whatever your politics, let’s take a moment of silence to honor the visionary legacy of Mr. King and all those who stood beside him, for no man creates change alone.
There Are Two Types of Struggle
The first type of struggle is resistance against ignorance or evil for the sake of a worthy cause. This type of struggle is noble, and an expression of our values, and a lifelong pursuit that we can and should all engage in. Related is the struggle towards mastery, and being willing to commit ourselves and persevere even when it’s not easy.
The type of struggle I’m less fond of is the struggle against ourselves – the ways we beat ourselves up, diminish our own value, put unnecessary pressure on ourselves, make ourselves bad and wrong, and otherwise turn against ourselves for the sake of what… Success? Enlightenment?
In one of my favorite books by Zen Master Cheri Huber, There’s Nothing Wrong With You, she says in no uncertain terms that one process does not lead to another. Self-hate does not lead to self-love, or success, or happiness. We know this. But why do we keep doing this? Why do we continue to attempt to obliterate parts of ourselves for the sake of the rest of ourselves? It makes no sense, yet we keep on committing emotional suicide…
The New Years Harakiri Ritual
Here’s how New Years seems to go, for me and most people I know:
First, the holidays aren’t especially relaxing. I’m tired.
Then, I carve out some quiet time to create a vision for the new year, with may go well or may be a challenge. By the end of this process I’ve set some big audacious goals.
By mid-January, I’m f’ing exhausted as a result of a) it being the dead of winter, and b) putting tons of pressure on myself to not fail my goals right out of the gate.
Continuing this behavior, I would kill myself.
If you too have already set goals and feel behind, or you stress out and beat yourself in any way for not being where you want to be, here’s a quirky little exercise that will help you appreciate how profoundly useless it is to be at war with yourself. (I learned it from NLP Marin, where I’m currently completing my NLP Masters training.)
- Place two pieces of paper on the ground, one to represent where you are (Present State), another a few feet ahead to represent where you want to be (Desired State).
- Conjure up a sense of what the Present State is like for you, and what the Desired State is like as well…
- Stand on the Present State and notice how much you yearn to be at your Desired State. Without moving your feet, resist as much as possible. Throw a tantrum if you’d like. Feel how miserable it is being where you are and how miserable it is to be where you're not.
- Step off the Present State and notice how profoundly useless it is to resist what is so.
If that doesn’t work, I have two words for you.
Yes, this means you’re not allowed to beat yourself up, ever. (Or beat yourself up if you break the zero-tolerance policy for self-beatings). The poet Hafiz always says it best.
The True Purpose(s) of This Month
First, slow down and rest. It’s a time to take really good care of yourself and gather strength for what’s to come.
Second, find your truest place within yourself and your world. Take nothing for granted and feel everything freshly.
- Reflect on how far you’ve come and where you truly long to go and to become.
- Reflect on your superpowers – those qualities that, as my mentor Michael Tertes says – you do naturally and effortlessly that others are mystified by.
- Reflect on your relationships and which ones serve you and which ones don’t. For the ones that don’t, do you need to re-design them or let them go?
- Check with your values, your vision, and your purpose from last year and see if they’re still relevant or need tweaking or overhauling.
This process of reflecting, re-focusing, and re-committing is something that Visionary Leaders are doing all the time, but especially when they’re in a transitional phase. This process becomes exceedingly uncomfortable as you realize that your vision requires so much more of you than you are currently capable of. Which leads us to…
Visionary Leadership Capacity #1 – Hold a high bar for what’s possible, while being fully appreciative of what is so.
If You Find Yourself Struggling Again…
I’d like to offer a few reframes I use when I’m on the verge of self-flagellation. May they be useful for you in such times:
- Remember how far you’ve come since 5 years ago. Notice how much more capable and conscious you are, even in the face of adversity.
- Instead of judging your “bad habits,” appreciate the younger version of you who created them as an elegant solution to a situation that threatened your safety or belonging. (Even if you don’t know what that situation is exactly, feel the truth of this statement.)
- Trust that the resistance you are feeling right now is equal and opposite to the magnitude of your vision for the year ahead. Without a big dream, you wouldn’t be so daunted. You’re doing it! You’re in The Gap.
- And finally, remember that the current problems you’re facing and pain you’re in won’t last forever. If you write down a list of all your problems and look at it again in a month, 70% of them will have self-resolved, and you’ll have newer and better problems in their place.
And on that note, I want to thank you for receiving this chiropractic adjustment so willingly, and hope you proceed in full appreciation of yourself as you pursue great things to come.
Read on to next article in the series:
Lightyears Beyond a Vision Board