Dear Q&A friends,
This week's edition is somewhat different. Because the entire Q&A team and editorial office had a 'workation' in Sweden, we decided to share some insight into the reflection process that was part of our various exercises. Fully energized, we're on our way back. Enjoy!
Apart from enjoying beautiful scenery ánd weather in Sweden, Q&A got together to revisit their joint and personal plans. During several brainstorming sessions and discussions, we laid bare our current status. Are we happy with what we're doing? What things do we want to change? Which sliders do we want to move and to what position? What activities do we really enjoy doing?
Our education and professional lives have been such that we tend to use these kinds of sessions to define future goals and ambitions. Ambitions that are driven by a sense to do some good, both for ourselves and loved ones as the broader world. Goals that give sense to our being, a purpose.
During one of our sessions, our eyes were drawn to a quote hanging on the wall:
Philosopher and theologian Howard Thurman had (re-)enlightened us. Rather than trying to define goals and a point to reach in the future, we shifted our brainstorming towards activities we really enjoy and are talented in (or want to be talented in). Immediately, the outcomes of our sessions became very practical and more importantly, our energy levels were elevated. Let's start!
What makes you come alive?
Building on the piece 'Alive' above, we discussed habits and tools to convert it into a navigation strategy. Our approach was that correcting a course calls for a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down approach. If only to complement or balance our tendency to think in terms of goals and destinations.
Annie Dillard once wrote: "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
This resonated with me, since we have a tendency to spend much attention to our past and the future while ignoring what's right in front of us, the present. Zooming in on the quote, how we spend our days is how we spend our time right now. Which begs the question we set out to answer; what to spend my time on? Identifying the activities that make you come alive is not a trivial task.
In many coaching exercises, the question comes up of recalling your favourite activities when you were a child. Unbothered by grandiose life goals and self programming, children are much better at listening to their inner voice, the sparks of joy that certain activities bring them. I remember having a hard time coming up with these memories on the spot, but writing them down as they came up during several conversations over the past years, I can now paint quite a vivid picture.
Another set of clues are to be found in observing our daily activities. The titles of manager, developer or parent don't summarize the activities that we truly enjoy. Solving a business problem in front of a whiteboard with a group, having a conversation to further another persons' insights, playing a game of chess or football with your kids, cooking a meal for friends or taking a walk with your significant other; those are the building blocks that eventually build into an energetic life.
Having stunningly beautiful nature around me this past week, I remembered how plants and trees grow. Without any blueprint of what they aspire to be, they just grow to where the light is. Adding mass where energy is abundant, they turn into grandiose organisms.
Building on this, a compass might be a better tool than a map. Frameworks like Design your Life and Nat Eliason's review we discussed recently can help seeing your current activities with new perspective, as we tend to clutter our own views. These views will shed new light on your compass.
Both frameworks are intended to get a clear view of your activities across a few dimensions, and decide what to increase and what to decrease. Nat expanded on that by also thinking of increase in terms of 'adding to the mix'; having your kids join you in the kitchen to cook a meal can increase joy (or decrease, depending on your cooking habits...).
The element missing from this approach, we found, is the addition of totally new ingredients. Thankfully, we noticed from our own and others experience, that opportunities to engage in new activities automatically arise from doing what makes you come alive. The people, environment and mindset that come with it, have a way of opening up new possibility. Only when walking down the road will you come to a juncture and see a new left and right. The trick then is to say yes.
For someone who is used to doing an occasional review, this exercise provided me two big insights. One big takeaway was the importance of action bias, of being on the move. Only when you move, do you stumble on new material to build with. The second one was the importance of noticing. Noticing activities that make you come alive and then keeping a record. Like the stones you gather along the way, that eventually get turned into a building. Collect the evidence while travelling, before you sit down to evaluate your course.
As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and tips. Just reply to this e-mail to get in touch with us.
Have a great week!
Quinten & Alphons