Mar 2011: Getting What You Want … With Grace

by Brad on March 1, 2011

“To be in touch with your self requires great sensitivity
to everything that’s going on here and now.” –Deepak Chopra 

Life’s too precious not to enjoy what we want most, and it’s certainly too precious to waste fighting to get it. When we stop to look, however, we often find more evidence of fight than of enjoyment. Why are we so often stuck in this place? Why is it all so difficult? It seems to me three factors keep us from having what we want:

  • We don’t know what we want. We think we know, yet in order to make it happen, we need a level of clarity uncommon in everyday thinking, clarity we simply don’t have.
  • We don’t know how to get it. We think we know, but evidence (which we often miss) says that we lack the skill to have conversations constructive enough so everyone is satisfied.
  • We fail to make the distinction that what we want and how we get it are two things, not one. The conversation we need to have is personal, but what we want is not personal. Confused, we make both personal, then get neither.

This phenomenon shows up everywhere in life, whether with employees at work, your manager at work, your friends, your children, or even the conversations you have with yourself about your biggest dreams. Yet in the confusion of making everything personal, the mind creates a conflict, one that lives only in your head. To ‘manage’ the made-up conflict, you unknowingly adopt one of two common conflict-avoidance tactics: silence or violence. If you choose silence, you quietly “expect” results; yet if any results happen, it’s by chance or guilt, for you made no request. If you choose violence, you not-so-quietly “demand” results; yet if any results happen, it’s through fear or resentment, for your request was lost in the emotion. 

Neither of these choices leaves anyone satisfied, and neither is effective in creating what you want. What’s the alternative? It’s not compromise, but a “high ground,” reached by a new way of seeing. The new way of seeing involves keeping separate things separate. Let’s look at the model above in this new way:

  • What you want is not personal. The what can always be described with “conditions of satisfaction” (a work order fully completed, a kid’s bedroom being cleaned, your own dreams manifested). “It looks like this when it’s right.”
  • How you get what you want is always personal, but your conversation is now about the conditions, not the person. That’s dialogue, not fear. It’s freedom, not constraint. The standard decides the answer, not emotion or power.

Exercise #1: Clarity: if you don’t know what you want, how do you think it will happen? This is true whether others are doing things for you, you’re doing things for others, or you’re doing things for yourself. Without clarity, what you want most is left to chance. Exercise: At the end of each day, replay the day’s events in your mind, with specific focus on those that didn’t turn out as you wanted. For each event, name what you wanted to have happen; i.e., define the “conditions of satisfaction.” When you think you’re clear, ask yourself, “If things actually happened just the way I’ve named, would I have been satisfied?” If no, keep refining the conditions until you gain the clarity needed to know just what you want. As you get used to this replay process, start doing the same exercise in the midst of ongoing conversations, with others, with yourself. Eventually, your growing sense of clarity will touch every aspect of your life.

Exercise #2: Conversation: when you are 100% clear on “what it looks like when it works,” conversation is easy. It’s about the conditions, not the person. If the conditions aren’t met, (1) you know it (from the clarity exercise), and (2) the next step is the simple question, “what can we do now?” The conditions may be wrong, but the person need not be. If you find yourself either raising your voice (or going quiet), you’ve chosen violence (or silence),  by making things personal. You might “win,” but you didn’t succeed. People are responsible to the standard, not your power. Shift the way you see, and free yourself from fear. Eventually, you’ll have every conversation with grace. 

A River Runs Through It  [Life lessons offered by nature]

I’ve collected several quotes, from naturalists, philosophers, and poets; from modern days and ancient past. Collectively, they offer a nice companion to this month’s article. All speak to the simple yet elegant wonder of nature’s way.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”   — Lao Tzu

“Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails.”   — Henry David Thoreau

“Every moment Nature starts on the longest journey, and every moment she reaches her goal.”   — Goethe

“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.”   — John Muir

“Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.”   — Winston Churchill

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.”   — Henry David Thoreau

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, we would see everything as it truly is: infinite.”— William Blake

“If you want to see birds, you must have birds in your heart.”   —John Burroughs

“How strange that Nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude!”   — Emily Dickinson

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”   — John Muir

 “Language is a wonderful thing. It can be used to express thoughts, to conceal thoughts, but more often to replace thinking.”   — Kelly Fordyce  

OK, the last one isn’t a nature quote. Noted.

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