“Derive happiness in oneself from a good day’s work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.”
– Henri Matisse
To some degree, we regard fog in our work and developments as a bad thing.
Fog means non-clarity: of what is coming together (or not); of what is working (or not); of what the end result will be (or not).
We hate not knowing, and will often avoid times when it’s all happening “in the mix” without certainty.
Yet, if we look throughout history, did anyone in the crucible of bringing something about know that the messiness and confusion surrounding them would eventually result in world-impacting change?
In 1928, did research scientist Alexander Fleming, who sometimes left a messy lab at the end of the day — failing to sterilize his plates and leaving the window open — know that mold would form, enabling him to invent penicillin?
In the early 30’s, did 10 drunks all but living together and struggling to stay sober know that they were forming a fellowship which would grow to over 2 million members in 170 countries?
I’m inspired by these and other stories which demonstrate that “in the moment” is rarely the time when we know what we’re actually creating.
In the midst of investing time into the bookstore version of “The Back Forty: 7 Critical Embraces for Life’s Radical Second Half” (the first manuscript was far too dense for bookstores)…
all while building some very powerful and fruitful alliances with players and organizations that jibe with our message…
all while building out a content base of online and live programs in which people can experience the transformative effects of this message…
all while embracing and learning new forms delivering the message (social media) and streamlined systems of communication…
all while maintaining the bread-and-butter support of these initiatives through the coaching, consulting and corporate-employment playgrounds that fund our activities…
Alexandra and I can sometimes feel that we’re swimming in wide-open ocean with no site of land.
So, the inspiration of stories that show how a willingness to stay the course in the unknown can, years later, be the source of statements of amazement – “Who would have known!?” – make all the difference in our world…and, hopefully, the world.
By embracing the Good Fog of creativity, you can empower yourself to, as Thoreau says, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined”.
If you subscribe to The Back Forty conviction that “you have yet to do what you came here to do” and are committed that your second half of life be your best half, what fog of your own creativity can you embrace today for the sake of posterity?
“It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.”
– Joseph Conrad
It’s bad, right? After all, the definition of crisis is a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. How could something dangerous or intensely difficult possibly be good?
What if I told you that a crisis can actually be a great thing and that you should be thankful for all of the crises in your life that you have endured?
Take a moment to read this quote:
Now, take some time to really think about it. All of the crises you have ever gone through have brought you where you stand today. Think about all of those crises as experiments used to learn new things about yourself and your life. What have you learned?
Maybe you learned about what you value in a life partner through a particularly nasty breakup. Or maybe you learned that a particular field of work just isn’t for you after losing a job that you were too scared to leave. Whatever crises you have gone through, I believe that they have all been for the best.
When you think about it, really think about it, would you take back any of those crises if you could? Would you take back the knowledge that you gained or the opportunities that your crises have brought you? I know that I wouldn’t.
So that is my challenge to you this week:
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
In our Back Forty, the second half/best half of life, it’s easy to make statements like “this is just the way I am”, “been there, done that” or “I see where this is going”…because, face it, we’ve been around the block a few times, yes?
However, when we come from all the infinite “wisdom” that we’ve amassed, it can actually restrict us because we rest on fixed and immovable opinions about ourselves, our world and what we perceive (from our also amassed and very logical interpretations) as possible and what’s not.
I recently began to explore my “mood of being” in the world as I play my Big Game Back Forty Future and noticed that, even as the pieces of my game puzzle are falling into place in wonderful ways, I was carrying around a resident mood of hard work and struggle.
It showed up like this: no matter that more and more manifestations of good were showing up with ease and grace according to my game, I was using other outside venues to be “frustrated”: traffic on the freeway, customer service issues with vendors, and various other so-minor-they’re-laughable problems.
A friend in my Back Forty Community suggested that I take the time to actually be “present” to all the good happening, to actually drive in peace as I focus on how good life is becoming, and to watch my tendency to bring old patterns into my life just because I’m used to them (e.g., venting when various issues arise with phone, internet, services, etc.).
I saw that I was in a new place, where life is really good and getting better and better. Yet, I hadn’t let go of old, perhaps subconscious, patterns I adopted when working to “get there.”
It had me realize that I’m probably not the only one who – coming into what can be “the best is yet to come” part of life – might be carrying forward certain undistinguished ways of being adopted from past situations and circumstances of life.
If we’re to really fulfill on this second half/best half of “what we came here to do”, then being able to play in the PRESENT is critical.
Perhaps “presence” has three aspects we can consider.
One is our actually being “present”, which means not only staying out of the past and future so as to be in this moment with the people we’re with right now…but also being present to our internal state of thoughts, feelings and emotions vs. projecting them.
Another is the “presence” we bring of our Self into any situation. The small s “self” rarely brings the same value that our big S “Self” affords.
Yet one more is the “Presence” which we allow to move through and guide us, whatever we consider that bigger-than-us intelligence to be. It’s actually one of the “7 Critical Embraces for a Radical Second Half”, the tag line of our upcoming book, “The Back Forty”, and the content of our INFUSE Program.
Your Big Game Back Forty Future will require all of YOU just as it will require all of me. If we consider that the first half of life was just R&D, research and development, to only DISCOVER who we really are and what we came here to do, a renewed relationship with presence is required.
“Presence is more than just being there.”
– Malcolm Forbes
I’ve been called a good sport, agreeable, and easy-going. All good things, right?
Wrong. For me, they are not.
I have been accommodating my entire life, starting when I was 2 or 3. I was a good girl – in fact the best behaved child around (my mom’s friends always told her so). Being a “good girl” became my instrument for being liked by others, and getting my family’s approval and love.
I’ve been a people pleaser. With a smile. Happy to oblige. I’ve thought others know better, are smarter, and that I should just do what is wanted of me. To keep this thinking in place, I’ve subconsciously surrounded myself with plenty of people to accommodate.
One example is my ex-husband of 15 years, who was scary-smart, headstrong, and had a temper. It was much easier to say “yes” and do things his way than to say “no” and stand my ground. So I went the easy route. Except it only looked easy.
The very hard costs were my respect for myself, my self-expression, and the absence of a stand for who I am and what I believe. I was lost to my Self. In the end, the marriage ended and I decided that the only way to break that accommodation pattern and allow for my self-expression was to stay away from relationships. That changed when another way of thinking and being came along, called The Back Forty.
In my Back Forty, I have no interest in being an accommodating, people-pleasing, agreeable good girl.
Change is not easy after being a people-pleaser and accommodator for 48 years. It is still much easier for me to agree (with you, them or whomever) than to stand my ground for my perspective, values and desires. Patterns of behaving and thinking are deep and well-established.
My brain has been trained for a lifetime to perceive failure to accommodate as a threat to my survival. The temptation to agree and accommodate is high. Yet I am learning to stand for my Self and my full Self-expression.
It can be messy, like a child first learning to feed herself. And while it can be easier to err on the side of continuing to accommodate and agree, I choose to err on the side of my stand, even if disagreeable. I’m ready, willing and fully able to make mistakes, clean up the mess, and move on. Change can and will only come this way.
I do this because being accommodating is deadly. It kills who I am, it kills my joy, and it kills my relationships and, interestingly, it kills other people… because it doesn’t require them to learn and deal with what they need to figure out or improve about themselves.
I choose to be a stand for my Self, as a way to honor those I love, those I care about, those relationships I treasure, and what is possible for me when I am fully Self-expressed. I choose to be disagreeable and unaccommodating when my Self is at stake and to risk argument and disapproval.
After many years of first-half-of-life research, I’ve learned that being a good girl is overrated. For my Back Forty, I choose ME – and the difference I can make – when I am true to my Self.
Beyond the parochial lessons we learned in childhood about doing good deeds — still valid, and yet perhaps needing more umpfh as an adult — we can consider what we are seeding in our deeding.
How we go into a meeting, a negotiation, a sales call, a group project, or our very day can be shaped by the little and perhaps inconsequential tidbits of blessings we put out just before.
Letting someone climb into traffic in front of us, picking up trash as we walk down the sidewalk, leaving a voicemail for someone saying we’re thinking about them, paying for the customer behind us in the fast food lane, give away an eBook…all of these have the potential for feeling good, generous and overall better about ourselves and, perhaps, more worthy to receive our own good.
We’ve heard these acts carry even more power when done with nobody watching.
Where can you plant deed seeds in your experience of life being good for yourself and others today?
Got deed seeds?
“Thinking good thoughts is not enough, doing good deeds is not enough, seeing others follow your good examples is enough.”
– Douglas Horton