How are you? In a hurry, scanning this text for news? Are you hunting for stimuli? Do you notice restlessness when you’re already tired? Maybe you live by a schedule that doesn’t leave space to slow down and to be mindfully aware of what happens. But why would you bother to be mindfully present? Because you’ll waste your precious energy if you don’t…
Well – I can’t speak for you. But I know that I need some time for silence – to be my best self again when I work with clients. When I don’t – I am less present in the moment. That means I might miss subtle but important clues that I only notice when I’m mindfully aware, with my presence in the here and now. Missing clues from the situation means being less effective in whatever I try to do, whether it’s connecting with a client or finding the intervention to help their organizational system change.
The process is Now
Whenever I’m not in the here and now, awake with all my senses, I’m elsewhere. I might linger on what happened earlier this morning. Or I’ve already checked out because I’m in a hurry to finish my next task. Wherever I am, I am not here, and now, giving my undivided attention and energy to the task, situation or person in front of me.
Are you present? People notice your absence Click To Tweet
The task will take longer to accomplish – and may not be my best. I won’t experience “flow” as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described: losing myself in a daunting task and experiencing happiness while I fix it.
I could misjudge the situation, for instance when I hastily decide: “Aha, here’s another team that… [fill in the blank with a projection from the past].”
I won’t go beyond what Otto Scharmer calls “downloading” – confirming what I already know. I won’t be open to subtle, new clues and information, or small shifts in energy.
The person in front of me will feel my absence and may disengage, too, thinking: “We don’t have a connection. I don’t trust her. She’s pushing for a fast solution.”
In all cases above, I’m wasting time and energy. I won’t be as happy (in “flow”) as I can be – nor as effective.
Only in the present moment do we find the information and energy to connect with others and engage in a process – to co-create real change or real outcomes.
But our schedules and clocks are merciless. Meetings are not allowed to take as long as necessary to reach an acceptable decision for all participants. Meetings are scheduled for 2 until 5 P.M. Likewise, when I’m working on culture change, some client organizations would like me to lead the executive team towards deciding on a new culture by the end of the day. Understandable – everyone runs to other appointments according to schedule. But completely undoable.
Pushing for outcomes
Processes take time. Only processes that include all participants yield sustainable outcomes, be it “real change” or a consensus decision that people will implement.
All other behaviors are merely role play. Going through the motions and confirming what we already know or pushing for our goals – without taking in new information and energy. Adhering to the plan and the schedule. “We’ve had a meeting and voted just before 5 P.M. – so here’s the decision. Now, go do it.”
There’s no time to reconsider this decision. The clock ticks. The egos hurt. The boss and the other departments will judge if we don’t act fast.
That’s why we just witnessed the birth of another paper tiger – that will last until the ink fades away.
Personally, I would rather spend my priceless time on earth on making a difference. But for that to happen, I need to be present and open to the process.
We lose a lot of energy by being ruled by the clock and hanging on to plans. We miss information and energy when we’re in a hurry in a situation – or thinking of yesterday’s problem – and we’re not here, in the moment. We waste energy when we feel like doing something else: for instance, we need to go outside to clear our minds but we stay stuck at our desks because this was the allotted time to write this piece, according to schedule. When next, I get a better idea of an article angle – it’s too late. I’m in a 4-hour department meeting, and I can’t get out. I let go of the urge to write, trying to focus on our strategy discussion, but feeling pressured because I need to change my article, and I’m thinking of how to reschedule my work week to get more done. Well, you get the picture.
We lose energy being ruled by the clock and sticking to plans Click To Tweet Of course, we need clocks and appointments to operate society, to run trains to commute, to rely on our next appointment and organize our team’s goals with coworkers. But we don’t need time pressure and the slavery of too-fast-paced-and-overpacked schedules to get things done.
We don’t need form without process. Like a formal meeting when there’s only time to vote yes – that’s a formality, a ritual. What we need for things to happen, is a real process. Processes can’t be planned for exactly. They are journeys. They take as long as they take. They will get you to a destiny or an outcome – but you won’t know exactly what or where until you arrive there.
Sure, you can trick yourself and others. Meetings look like real decision making, and paper tigers look like serious implementation plans. But if you want to make a difference in your work, you have to open up and engage in processes.
Presence for process
Processes are energy in motion, within yourself, and between people, in your team. Processes take as long as they take to reach an outcome. Processes can surprise you. Processes challenge you to let go of attachment to outcomes and schedules (“we must arrive at A or B before 5 PM”).
Processes invite you to be present in the moment, to be mindfully aware and to create a sustainable outcome – something that people will actually do as they said they would.
If you take the time to find the energy – the decision that makes everyone who’s present lean forward and eager to do it – you’ve got a Yes. That’s an afternoon well spent, or a day, or however long it took.
(It will save you hours of frustration, sabotage, resistance, mistakes, role play – because you pushed, you missed clues, people faked and you overruled objections because time was running out).
A true process can’t be planned for Click To Tweet I’ve started an experiment myself. My intention is to follow my energy even more than I already did as a self-employed consultant – what do I feel like doing now? Of course, you can rely on me when we made an appointment. But I plan more time in between appointments. I schedule open spaces to see what I like to work on. I don’t schedule another activity after an important meeting – so there’s more time if necessary.
I don’t micro-manage my week with planning activities back-to-back – giving myself space to be most effective with my energy.
I’m not going to force reality into a pre-designed mould – I know my intention, the direction I want to go. But I’m not going to determine up front that my journey will have 7 steps before this date and that it must lead to outcome X. I give myself and others more space. Be present, curious and open: what will happen next…? Are you open to play with this process, too?
I think we need more open spaces in our schedules. We need to balance appointments and activities with our own needs and energy. So we can be really present when we have an appointment or meeting – or experience flow when we work on our activity. This way, we can better follow our energy and make a difference.
- What’s your energy at this moment – what do you need or like to do right now?
- How can you give yourself more space to follow your energy?
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Copyright © Marcella Bremer 2015. All rights reserved.