What does it take to ride the wave of transformative times? Once we thought that we could ensure our financial security by scoring a corporate job with a great pension benefit and a drawer full of insurance policies. That worked well for the WWII generation, but if you haven’t been living in a cave for the past year, you are seeing the limitations of that model as megalithic businesses – and even state governments – teeter on the edge of collapse and retirement savings evaporate in the volatile financial marketplace.
Without engaging in a debate about the specific causes – or solutions – of our current situation, let’s take a look at what we can do very close to home to begin to take control of our own destinies in an era which promises to be turbulent and exciting.
One main precept that can help us stay calm is the idea that our security does not exist outside of our own consciousness (indeed it never has). This is a sort of advanced spiritual principle, but in fact everyone knows it to be true. We all have, in our own personal circle of acquaintances, someone who never stops worrying, or never stops being unhappy, or never feels good enough, or never has enough money or time, or never has enough education, or never gets any lucky breaks.
You know whom I’m talking about. Perhaps you have found yourself engaging in this person’s favorite game, yes, but. The rules of the game are that you are supposed to point out a long list of examples that disprove your friend’s doom and gloom outlook, and your friend is to contradict each of your points by saying, “Yes, but… ” and counter your points with more worry or unhappiness or inadequacy or lack or bad luck stories.
Where does this person’s unhappiness (inadequacy, lack, worry, etc) come from? Everyone who knows this person knows that it does not actually exist in the “real” world. The troubles only exist in his or her mind, in the point of view that (s)he chooses to hold, in the story (s)he tells him or herself about the world. We can see this person create increasing amounts of drama and difficulty.
It’s a bit of a leap for most people, but it follows that we can create the experiences of safety and security in our consciousnesses in the same manner that our unhappy acquaintance creates fear, worry, lack and bad luck in his or her consciousness. It comes down to where we choose to put our attention, what we choose to think and talk about on a daily basis, the type of story that we tell ourselves day in and day out.
Most of us have some work to do before we are able to easily create what we want in our consciousness. We don’t just wake up one day and tell ourselves, “Now I am safe and secure, abundant and vibrantly healthy” and instantaneously begin creating an abundant and fulfilling life. We find ourselves having to confront a snarled network of limiting beliefs, a forest of emotional wounds and a shocking lack of awareness about our minds and how they work – all of which need to be cleared before we can build the life of our dreams.
And yet – to thrive in interesting times, this is exactly the work we need to do. It seems clear that we are not going to find solutions in the places we have historically looked for them – outside of ourselves. I used to tell my kids, when they were searching high and low for a book or key or toy, “If you’ve looked everywhere it could possibly be, and still haven’t found it, you have to start looking in places where it could not possibly be.” Sure enough, thinking outside the box almost always worked and the lost objects were found in all kinds of crazy places (like the baseball in the freezer – a story for another time).
So, even though if seems that we could not possibly find safety or security inside our own consciousness, maybe it’s time to look there.
We need to transform our way of thinking, our ability to process our emotional energy, our perspective on the world. We need to transcend our limiting ideas and the mini concerns of our personalities and begin to step up and see ourselves as more powerful that we ever imagined.
There are three areas of development that need to be addressed in any transformation – whether we are talking about a personal transformation, the transformation of a business, or a global transformation. The first area of development is awareness. The next is the area of connections. Finally we need to develop in our ability to use our personal power effectively.
Heightened awareness is critical. We need to keep pulling back to a wider and wider view. We all too often get caught in a narrow point of view, perhaps one that sees things only in black and white, right and wrong. But like for our yes, but friend, there is always another point of view, another bit of information, another angle, another possibility. In order to transform ourselves, we need to train ourselves to always look more deeply. We are not even close to knowing all there is to know about money, about ourselves, about how a government can operate, etc.
The connections we make with others are also important. No one person is going to change the world. And it seems increasingly obvious that not even one nation can do it alone. Most people give very little thought to their connections with others beyond trying to make sure that at least one relationship stays solid enough to be supportive in times of need. Whether we have dozens of friends or only one, we are usually content to let our relationships glide along in established, predictable patterns.
We don’t normally ask ourselves deeper questions about our friends. How can I get to know this person better? How can I teach the people in my life more about how I work and how best to show me love? How can I support my friends at a deeper, more intimate level, perhaps help them to grow and evolve? Twenty-first century western social protocol calls for very strict limits to how much and how deeply we share ourselves even with our most intimate partners. Emotional sharing often causes deep discomfort and awkwardness between people. We sometimes laugh and joke about “too much information” in an attempt to bring things back to our normal surfacy level.
At the same time most of us are terribly lonely. We long for connection even if it is a fight. We look for fulfillment in churches and support groups. Humans have an innate drive to connect deeply with others. We just don’t know how. For a variety of reasons, we don’t know how to maintain our sense of inner safety and reveal ourselves to another at the same time. Yet, in those rare moments when we do, for example, in a weekend workshop, the experience is exhilarating and we find ourselves hungry for more.
In order to navigate successfully through times of change, we need to be able to connect with others more deeply than we have ever imagined doing. We need relationships that are based on more than convention or shared interest in concerns of the outer world. We need connections in which we can reveal our vulnerabilities and in which we feel confidence about offering our gifts to support others. A new world will be formed out of such relationships, such giving and receiving. How can we expect to transcend the need for war if we are skittish about giving and receiving love in our personal lives?
Finally, we need to figure out how to optimally empower ourselves and each other so that we can act boldly. Personal power is a mysterious quality that we can all recognize but have difficulty describing. When we encounter someone who has a lot of it – and uses it well – we feel reassured and the best within us is ignited. We feel hopeful and confident and generous and optimistic. When we encounter someone who demonstrates little personal power, we tend towards judgment and our pettiness comes out.
We have become suspicious of the idea of personal power because we have confused it with aggressiveness. But, power is not just about acting aggressively. In fact much aggressive behavior emanates from fear rather than from a true sense of personal power. Nor is personal power simply a form of charisma. A truly powerful person has no need to control or persuade others. Rather, a person of power knows that strength arises from mutual empowerment and collaboration. And as true power increases, so do love and compassion in the heart of the powerful.
Increasing personal power is a matter of managing energy. We have a great deal to learn about how we use and abuse our life energy. New sciences and ancient teachings are helping us find the answers we need to be able to use our energies to transcend our limitations and evolve.
Transformation is possible only with attention to all three areas of development, awareness, connections and personal power. And the great thing is that as we pay attention to growing in these areas, our potential for success even in turbulent times, increases.