I’ll admit I felt a bit down this weekend. We had plans to go camping, but wildfires raged through our surrounding communities. My kids were annoying me, and I just had trouble motivating. Can you relate? But as I took time to regroup, I understood that hope was not a condition, but a process. A process that, depending on the week, may require a daily commitment.
I spoke to a woman last week who’s had a series of miscarriages recently. She realized that she hadn’t allowed herself to take a moment and feel grief – thinking that it would diminish her real hope that being a parent was possible.
Taking a moment to recognize what has been lost is required before we can radically embrace the possibilities for ourselves and our businesses. No big in person conference. Loss of a client project or job. No reliable place to drop off my children so that they can learn and I can work. And some of us have lost the unthinkable – the death of a loved one due to Covid or other health issues.
Lament is different than cynicism. Cynicism is tempting. It tricks our brains into thinking we are taking action – when we complain our brains will tell us we’ve done something – that we’ve resisted, we’ve spoken truth to power. Accountability is important, but that is different than cynicism. If you’re feeling tempted to linger in the rock of cynicism, roll that rock over and poke a stick at the underbelly of dirt beneath. There you’ll find grief.
Moving to hope requires a brief stop in lament.
2. Take Inventory.
But lament, like any emotion, can swallow us whole if we let it. My college roommate read a children’s book that says emotions have the word “motion” in them – we’re meant to move through them, not get stuck.
Today I’m stuck at home. The sun outside is blood red from the raging wildfires that are devastating so many communities. Yet I have a body that is strong. An air filter. A fridge full of food. Two teenage boys who might consent to a family game later. Friends and colleagues and clients connected by stable internet. A new project to work on. Excitement about solving a problem for a great organization. And a dog who wags his tail when I walk into the room.
Taking inventory will help us move through lament. What do I have in this moment, for myself, my business, or my team? The skills, the assets, the relationships. Write them down. Start and end each day with a recitation for yourself.
3. Link Arms.
Even so, at least once a week in pandemic time, I have to lay down in a dark room and it’s hard to get back up. It can all just feel too much. (And in some cases it’s best to bring in a professional: focused therapy has gotten me through many such moments before – for my self, for my parenting, for my work, for my marriage.) In those moments, once I’ve moved through a stop in lament, and taken inventory, I need a spurt of energy.
Energy that can only come from linking arms with others who are committed to growth – not in spite of the pandemic – but growth that is uniquely part of this time. When I least feel like calling a friend, or showing up to that peer business group, is when I most benefit by actually showing up!
When I’m starting a new initiative – like a new product for my business, or ahem, homeschooling my 7th grader – having just one other person to link arms with and commit to encouraging each other makes all the difference. I’ve started gathering intentional groups around various initiatives I’m a part of – including the twice monthly coaching calls we have for my Be a Profitable Salesforce consultant course members. I leave charged up and ready to take tangible steps toward my goals.
4. Stop and Listen.
That dog I mentioned? He has the annoying habit to stop and insist upon sniffing wildly and listening intently each late evening as I’m taking him out and just want to get back inside to get ready for bed.
Last week a local political leader on a zoom call I was on said something interesting – that urgency was a sign of white supremacy. I had to stop and think about that for a long time. Even hearing the term white supremacy can feel radical and aggressive. I’ve tried to embrace it as a term that means, particularly if we are white, being centered on our own experience and the structures that we know.
Right now I’ve seen this play out in an organization I’m affiliated with. There’s been initiatives announced to help the black community in the ecosystem, yet they haven’t been informed by voices from the black community already operating in those spaces. Of course slowing down to take the time to seek out those voices can be burdensome.
I understand this temptation. I see a need and I want to do something, and take action. Put things in motion. This is one of my personal strengths. In fact I suspect I deal with much of my anxiety by spinning into action. I achieve much, but what do I miss?
Is urgency in our own lives or businesses causing us to be less present to the opportunity in front of us? In our quest for urgency are we missing key voices to inform our work, or a huge opportunity that is percolating under the surface?
5. Hope. Act.
2020 may not be done with us yet. We likely will have more hurdles to face. It will be tempting to pin our hopes on the decision of a school district, or the outcome of an election. Or a hope based on order, or comfort.
But that is a false hope, subject to the whim of circumstances.
Radical hope is the conviction that a basic holiness permeates all things and people, and that it is by standing together with a view toward the long arc of time, taking tangible steps to improve our current reality and the common good, that we can show up and take care of our families and each other.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
This week I connected with a local community group and participated on a call with a local legislator. It was a small step but one that I understood revealed the power each of us have to influence the corners where we live. In a social media world that rewards outrage, a moment of connection and conviction can be fuel for the pilgrimage.
And hope, in our businesses, in our families and in our communities, is contagious.
More hopeful when I’m linking arms with you,
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