For regular WWA readers, some context. I’ve been working as one of the Faculty at the brilliant Escape School, in particular an amazing Tribe of 50 people who have been on a 3 month journey to get unstuck and do something more meaningful with their careers. It was so enjoyable and moving that I wanted to write them a short letter…and I’m sharing it here because it is hopefully a good example of ACT being used in coaching (and getting into the water supply).
Dear Escape Tribe,
I can’t tell you my admiration for your courage to stand for something in your lives, even in the presence of your fears. It feels like a privilege to watch you and work with you; in many ways one of the highlights of my career. So I wanted to write you my own letter, perhaps because I was so moved by those you wrote to yourselves…
Get out of your mind and into your life
This is a great book with a cheesy title, yet which captures a critical idea in psychology.
Society teaches us to think that if we can only get more confident, certain, less anxious etc, then all will be well. But it’s really the other way round. Thinking follows behaviour. From another great book:
“We think that the key to successful career change is knowing what we want to do next and then using that knowledge to guide our actions. But change usually happens the other way round. Doing comes first, knowing second”.
Herminia Ibarra, Working Identity
Remember the anemone
When stuck, our minds often tell us that the action we must take has to be big and bold.
If that works for you then great, go for it. But if it doesn’t, think of an anemone.
If you aren’t willing to open your whole self up to some big change, see if you can be willing to start by opening one tentacle out into the ocean; exploring and experimenting.
Experiential avoidance will always be an option….
Our minds can always find an excuse not to do difficult things. And that is normal.
But if avoidance becomes our objective, then it narrows our lives. And over a lifetime this can lead us to feel trapped – trapped in prisons made only by the words in our minds.
Values are about the here and now
Instead of seeing values as ‘out there’, a remote and distant pipe dream, remember that they are accessible to you right now.
You have a choice to tune into them and show up to them, right now. What will you stand for in this moment? Put enough of these moments together and you become a different person.
‘The road less travelled’ is less travelled for a reason
The irony of human existence is that if something feels important to us then it will have a flipside which feels scary.
If you dare greatly, you will feel fear. If you commit to love then you risk rejection.
Happiness and sadness are not exclusive, but intimately connected. They grow weak together, or strong together.
Acceptance changes everything
Once you start those first few steps out in the real world, the feedback you receive may be mixed. If avoiding pain is your objective then it is tempting to retreat into the narrow repertoires of behaviour that have trapped you.
But if you are willing to accept yourself – that is, the whole of yourself – then you will have pain and joy, anxiety and meaning.
Only if you can accept the thorn, do you get to keep the rose.
Don’t forget; the world needs you
Don’t be fooled into thinking there is nothing for you to do. The world is full of challenges which need you – your skills, talent and energy.
This may not be fighting great battles of justice or injustice, but contributing to the world in the best, most vital version of your self.
That is really what the world needs more than ever.
Therefore, for yourselves, but not only for yourselves, may you all find the courage to keep going.
And in so doing, may you all be ignited.
with huge thanks, admiration and hope for all of you,
What I have Learned So Far
Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world?
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, the holy and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.
All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
The gospel of light is the crossroads of indolence, or action.
Be ignited, or be gone.