Aligning your inner motivations to your external expressions
By ELISA DASS AVIN
Lost. A series that intrigued many and got us hooked on the screen for a long time, even when we don’t understand what’s really going on. Looking back now, I wonder why I sacrificed an hour a week watching a show that made no sense to me at that time, and in most parts I still don’t.
One of the more interesting parts of the show is watching how different characters took on roles in the group at different times, willingly or unwillingly; and sometimes, the need to do things that are foreign to them, or one that they don’t fully agree with or understand.
As a leader, I feel the same – the need to do something that is not in sync with who I am. At times, this happens because I presume that circumstances or people corner us with few choices.
At other times, I choose such actions because they are the right thing to do. Occasionally, I am simply lost. That being said, when you are at a crossroad, decisions still must be made.
And it is times like these that I find myself doing some deep soul-searching to make sure the decisions I make bring much peace, although it may be a bumpy road ahead.
Just last week, I stumbled upon an old journal entry that has helped me during these times. As I read my journal again, I found the questions and principles that guided my decision-making then that still holds true right now as I enter an exciting year of change in 2016.
Do what I do externally reflect what I care about internally? Is it in sync?
1. What burdens my heart?
When we talk about what burdens us, it’s really about us feeling that we need to do something that is not for ourselves, our image, or our comfort. It’s about others.
When we reach a point in our journey and we need to make some hard decisions, a good question to start with could be, “What weighs my heart down when I hear or think about it?” or “If money is not a concern, what would I spend my days doing that will benefit others?”
For some, this comes easily. At some point, we will all know what’s truly close to our hearts. We will know what causes we would fight for willingly.
Why is this important? It keeps us on track and truly contented. When we know what matters to us internally and we can express it in our work and in our lives, that’s when I find people are most happy. As seasoned leaders, some of us may have spent many years building ourselves up, but is it in an area that matters to us? Or perhaps we can now use the skills we have developed in a different space?
For the rest, perhaps the drive back home during this Chinese New Year will be a good time to reflect. If you’re stuck, ask someone close to you what they think matters to you. We are never too old to discover what’s close to our hearts.
2. What’s dried up within me?
I was reading an excerpt from the prophet Ezekiel. He shares about seeing a valley of dry bones as far as the eyes could see and there was no life. Yet at the end of the passage, he shares that these bones came to life after an intervention.
As we dig deep, don’t forget to get a dipstick test of where we currently are. Baggage, hurts and burnouts from past years can stop us from giving our best in the next phase.
Is an intervention needed? It could be wrongs that need to be right, hurts that need to be forgiven, apologies that need to be made, irrelevant lessons that need to be unlearnt, habits to be broken or simply a joy that needs to be renewed.
As a leader, it’s not uncommon to walk away from hurts at the end of your role. It could be a betrayal of a trusted co-worker, goals unachieved, hurtful words spoken, appreciation not shown, unfair practices, being stretched too thin or a bad job fit. The list is too long to spell it out.
But from experience, holding on to these will only deter us from moving forward as a leader who truly cares for his people and cause.
3. Dream big because life is big
Now that you know what matters to you and what’s been slowing you down, it’s time to look ahead and dream!
Some of us are afraid to dream big because it means a lot of work and more pain if we don’t achieve it.
Personally, I ask two questions when the big dreams scare me. What is the worst that can happen if I dream big but fall short? And what will I miss out if I don’t try at all? The thought of being mediocre and not maximising my potential scares me a little, truth be told.
Yet I am reminded time and again, that we should not copy another person’s success. So in our dreams, it should look back to what burdens our hearts, because the motivation behind that is what will keep us going through tough times.
So, write out your dream. Draw it. Have a dream board! I was skeptical previously about dream boards as I was under the impression that the lesson taught is that if you look at it long enough it will come to you.
What I learnt from having my own dream board is that the more I see it, the more decisions I make are linked to it. This brings me closer to the dream and it feels good being able to put a star on one of the pictures on my dream board!
4. Wait for clarity before talking about it
Once you are clear what your burdens and dreams are, there usually would be a lot of excitement in telling people about it. That may become a topic of conversation during your Chinese New Year visits. But hold your horses, or monkeys!
Before you rush in, make sure you see it clearly. Speak to people closest to you. Hear yourself as you talk about it. Do you believe it? Are you at peace? Is it clear to you?
We wouldn’t want to be caught in a place where we start announcing something we are excited about at the spur of the moment only to change our minds later. Clarity is important. So take your time!
5. Implementation takes time
I will not mislead you. Dreaming is hard work! Trying to get your life in sync is harder work! Once you are clear on your dreams and your decisions, be patient. Implementation takes time and effort.
Being aware of this helps us make decisions on how to spend our time, money and resources.
When we are at the crossroads, big decisions are not usually an event. List down what needs to be done. Put it somewhere you can remember so when you get impatient, you’ll remember the steps that you have completed. And go get yourself an ice cream for a job well done.
6. Let it come to life!
It may take time – months or years. And sometimes your dreams are achieved in different phases.
But let it take its natural course. On your end, just keep making the right decision that helps you sync your external expressions with your internal motivations!
All the best! Happy “sync-ing” and Gong Xi Fa Cai!
If you are at a crossroads, what can you do?
1. Travel with your journal – digital or hardcopy.
2. Write down one to three things that you feel you “need to do something’”about, that will benefit others in the short or long-term.
3. Think about what’s holding you back right now. Plan how to solve that.
4. Put up your dream board. Make sure at least one of the items are aligned to what you feel strongly about.
5. Plan for implementation and be patient.
6. Enjoy your life to the fullest as you live in sync.
Some useful quotes:
“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” –Tony Robbins
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” – Amelia Earhart
“This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live.” – Omar N. Bradley
“My life used to be like that game of freeze tag we played as kids. Once tagged, you had to freeze in the position you were in. Whenever something happened, I’d freeze like a statue, too afraid of moving the wrong way, too afraid of making the wrong decision. The problem is, if you stand still too long, that’s your decision.” – Regina Brett