traveling_to_Rome

All roads lead to Rome.

As the saying goes, you have the freedom to choose any road to your destination.

You can take a train to Rome.
You can take a plane to Rome.
If you are, however, in Florence, traveling by car may be preferred because of the great views.
If you lodge in Venezia, on the other hand, a ship cruise to Civita Vecchia and reaching Rome by bus can be an appealing alternative.

Perhaps you want to be in Rome tomorrow, no matter what.
Perhaps you want to be in Rome sometime this summer.
Perhaps you want to stay in Rome for a year to learn Italian.
Or perhaps you want to enjoy a break in Amsterdam and Brussels, before reaching Rome. You simply want to see as many cities as possible on your travel to Europe.

All good, yet, how would you choose to travel?

Is the travel by boat better than by plane?
It depends.
For many years my friend has been traveling by boats and trains, even though it could have taken him many days to reach the place he wanted to. Why did he do this? For the richness of experience, views to be seen and admired, people to meet and chat to, inspiration to sparkle and so on.

Is hitchhiking better than traveling by car?
It depends.
If you are tight both with money and time it makes sense to prefer a cheap flight over hitchhiking and traveling by car.

So …

What is the best way to travel to Rome?
There is no answer to it, because the answer depends on
– how fast you want to get there
– how long you want to stay there
– what you want to do there
– what is your previous/next destination
– with whom you will go
– how much money you have at your disposal
and so on.

***

The point of the above is this:

Deciding on the Way/Road (the How) before deciding on the Destination (Goal = Where/What and Circumstances) is pointless. It is a waste of time, at best, and a real pain and misery, at worst.

I know that, you will say.
Let’s see now how things are in life.

Sometimes you have just a single goal (destination) but there are usually multiple goals to attain. You may have two goals, A and B. However, reaching B is more important than reaching A. Consequently, in the worst case scenario you could sacrifice A for B.

For instance, you want to loose weight (goal A) and get fit (goal B). Although you would rather love to see yourself thin, the priority is on getting fit. In that scenario focusing on goal A, say by drinking slim-fast drinks, is a distraction if you don’t adequately address your goal B.

You may need to reach the goals A, B and C and D, but loosing on D would be acceptable. For instance, you want to loose weight (goal A), get fit (goal B), improve the condition of your liver (goal C) and start saving money (goal D).  The latter is not the main focus though.

In fact, any major decision with respect to your business, family (say, holiday, moving house, choice of schools, solving health issues), personal development or job challenges you to clarify your objectives first.

They are different roads you can choose to go to Rome. Or to any other city.

Decide what you want, your Goal/Destination, very clearly. It is not only important to decide whether you are going to Rome, but even more importantly When, How and for what purpose. Knowing that you can optimize your Way to get there.

When you ask:

  • “Is this a good house to buy?”
  • “Is this a good strategy for my business?”
  • “Is this person a good match?”
  • “Is this a good job?”

Remember to ask yourself
“Is traveling by car a good way to get to Rome?”
As you see, these are wrong questions. Why? Because they are too general. They are highly unspecific and will lead you to Distraction.

Better questions are somewhere along these lines:
“If my goals are A, B and C, but I want to avoid D, is this house/strategy/person/job a good (best) match to meet my objectives?”
It may still not be a question that is precise enough but it is a good starting point. Remember also that too many objectives are counterproductive.

If your goal is to have a family holiday in a warm climate (goal A) but save money with respect to your regular holiday spending (goal B), perhaps house swapping with another family in Spain provides the Way. Choosing an attractive holiday package from the travel agency, just because your friends do it and you want to look cool, is a Distraction.

If you run a business and want to get more clients, then focusing on the Like’s, Tweets and beautifying your Webpage may be a Distraction. (Say a break in Amsterdam instead of reaching Rome directly).

If you want to have a creative job (goal A) and with small kids (goal B) such that you possibly provide a therapeutic effect on them (goal C, minor), then following a job at a corporation, because it pays well and sets you on a good carrier path, is a Distraction.

Your family, parents, colleagues, neighbors, bosses and any other form of social pressure will encourage/push you to meet the objectives and goals you don’t have.

They will do their best to convince you that what they offer/suggest is the wisest / smartest / fastest Way to go.  However, to Rome, or to the Destination they point to.

Find out your own objectives because this is what ultimately matters.
You fall from your Way towards Distraction because you don’t clearly define your Destination.

Do all roads lead to Rome?
Well, they do. But perhaps you are not going to Rome this time.

Does your Way lead you where you want to go?
Remember, everything else is a Distraction.

***

Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recently I’ve found my Request Box I’ve long forgotten about. It is a small cartoon box I created seven years ago. It holds my dear wishes.

Inside the box you will find a few pieces of paper, each dedicated to a single request. Different colors are meant for different types of wishes.

Each request is described only briefly, but it contains the necessary details. I explain why I want this particular event happen in my life and how I want it to happen. 

What is more important, however, is the ritual of writing. At that moment I was seeing, hearing and feeling the circumstances around the request. On the canvas of my imagination I created a short movie of how it would have been to participate in the events if the request was a reality.

How would I feel? I felt the feelings.
How would I think? I thought the thoughts.
What would I say? I said the words in my mind.
What would I be hearing around me? I heard the sounds and the silence.
I spent a day per request to remember the feelings well.

The requests are written in a form of a prayer to Holy Spirit, who is the Doer and the Performer on the Earth. The prayer is structured in a simple way but it is a free-flow within it. In fact, it is more a demand than a request. I don’t beg, but explain, ask and command.

I open and close each request in the same way. In the beginning I say “Dear Holy Spirit and my High Conscious Self“. Why do I address the request to myself as well? Because I deliberately ask my Super-conscious Self to become aware of the longings of the present down-to-earth Ela and make her prepare well for the things to come. In the end, communication is the key, even within yourself, isn’t it?

I end my prayer by saying “Holy Spirit make it so to the highest good of all involved“. My ending is meant to be open so that the request comes to life in a way which is beneficial and rewarding and perhaps still beyond my imagination.

At that time all these wishes were far beyond my reach. There were perfectly legitimate wishes, in general, but seemed impossible for me because of the real or imagined limitations and obstacles. At that time I did not believe they would come true.

Now, seven years forward and all the requests have become reality. They are fulfilled in abundance and in ways that surpass my imagination. They have not come to life neither at the time I wanted nor exactly the way I imagined. They however closely matched the feelings I created.  In fact the feelings were my guide because at some point I had to discriminate between a number of responses that seemed to fulfill my wishes, yet weren’t. I knew I had to yet wait for something different, because the feelings didn’t match. It was worth it.

Prepare and let it go

Why to wait seven years, you may ask? Well…. what else is there to do except conscious action and trust?  It has taken me less than seven years, but still a few long years. Why? Looking back I was certainly not ready at the time I wanted the requests to be fulfilled, even though I was convinced otherwise.

I was certainly motivated and excited to have the wishes granted, wanting them from all my heart, demanding them and pushing towards them as goals. Over the first two years I had made little progress by my conscious efforts. Whatever I did to move towards my goals, I was pushed away. There were always new obstacles and challenges, simply growing out of nowhere. I couldn’t grasp it. In all my self-coaching efforts, I was pushing myself forward, yet it didn’t work.

Until I have finally understood it. My over-motivation, over-determination and over-excitement were counterproductive. It was the best learning I got on goals and what is beyond them. Two years after the creation of the Request Box, I finally relaxed and let it go. And then things slowly started to happen. Not that I realized that at that time – I can only see it now.

Readiness is an intention or a state of sharp alertness, when you are prepared to do / welcome something in your life and gracefully handle the consequences that follow. Oftentimes you believe you are prepared simply because you want something deeply and desperately. Oftentimes, you are not. (For instance you may easily get kids to later find out that you were not yet prepared for compromises, sleepless nights, cuts in spending and new responsibilities.)

If there is desperation to your wish, you are not ready yet for it to come. You need to let it go and free yourself from the outcome.

What is the purpose of the Request Box?

Writing is tangible. It is a physical act that creates an anchor for our abstract thoughts. Without an anchor, our thoughts are like clouds that sometimes are there and sometimes fly away. Writing is like planting a seed.

The structure of the request and the box are there to create a ritual, a distinct form. This is to make the requests important, to mark particular thoughts and feelings as special. The box is to create the imaginary space for germination without your influence.

The feeling and imagination are the principles for characterization of what we want and the recognition when it arrives. The key is to ask yourself the question “How would I know / see / feel / hear what others are saying when my request is fulfilled?” Simple yet powerful.

The requests are closed in a box and left for germination. No, please don’t open the box every hour or every day to remember what is there. You will remember it anyway. Your seed will be disturbed or perhaps even die if you are going to constantly dig in the soil. Open your box, say, once or twice a year (unless you want to add a new request, of course).

The best strategy is to plant the seed consciously and let it grow. Forget the box. Really, forget it. Forget the box until one day the feelings will make it clear to you. There is your seed which has grown into a tree :).

***

I am going to fill in my Request Box this month. What about You?

***

Photo courtesy Fe 108Aums, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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change_is_difficult

Most people are afraid of conscious change. They would rather stay in their comfort zone than take steps into the unknown. As a result, life controls them.

Things happen to them and they respond to the circumstances. They become reactive instead of proactive and they become victims of the circumstances instead of their co-creators.

Yet the world keeps changing all the time. Both the employment of ideas and development of technology have been very fast nowadays. And we, as individuals, change every day.

We are bombarded with new information, new knowledge, new structures, new technology as well as the new challenges they pose. We collect new experiences, we learn new things and we change our minds. We evolve and change in response to the changing world.

Conscious change is often difficult. It may also be easy, if we encourage the right circumstances and apply the right strategy. An effective change can be implemented by simple and manageable steps. Change does not need to be a painful process, either. On the contrary, it can be pleasurable when we are enjoying the process.

Most people fear change and consider the fear of unknown as the major obstacle. I don’t think it makes change that difficult though.

Why is change difficult?

In my opinion there are two reasons:

  1. we don’t want it badly enough (motivation) or
  2. we don’t know how to make it happen  (techniques).

We don’t want to change

How many times did I want to become an early riser? Countless, I have to say. Have I been successful? No.

There were many times I committed to getting up at 4:30am or 5am and although I succeeded in a short term, I’ve never made it a habit. Why? I can give you various more or less valid explanations, but the truth is simple. I didn’t really want to.

I thought I wanted it because there was a logical explanation, a social pressure and a strong evidence of an organized and successful life from the early risers I knew. I understood all the benefits of becoming an early riser, too. But such a change required a major shift to happen – going to bed early to get enough sleep.

I simply loved the quiet atmosphere of the night and the focus I could get in the evening hours. The morning hours were unattractive to me because they kept introducing the pressure of the tasks to be handled in the day. I failed because I couldn’t sustain both processes: working late at night and starting fresh and energized early morning. I simply did not want to become an early riser if I had to give up my quiet evening hours (this is my secondary gain). So, I ultimately chose not to become one.

How many times did you want to loose weight, stop smoking, get fit, become debt-free or earn extra money aside? Even if you initially succeeded, have you been back to the old patterns?

It is quite common to be excited for a change, seemingly commit to it to get the short term result, only to find yourself back where you started some time ago. At the moment we take conscious action we are likely to stick to the process for a while. The moment we stop paying attention we are back on the old tracks.

Going against homeostasis and a staying both feet in the stretch zone requires much more than the initial intention and enthusiasm. It requires a conscious shift to happen.

Coaching

I love coaching because we get to know ourselves and we grow enormously through asking the right questions, committing to right action and evolving through experimentation. Through self-coaching and coaching others it has become crystal clear that most people don’t really want to change. They want a magic button instead so that the change will miraculously manifest at the door. But there is no one like that, I’m afraid.

We say we want to change and we may even think or believe so with our hearts. In reality, however, this is often untrue. When you dig deep enough, you will often want the result but not the cost to be paid, learning to go through nor the shifts required for this change to happen. We want the result, the magic pill, but not the process. As if being fit or wealthy, having an interesting job or great family was a one-time event that could have been extrapolated to a lifetime.

Change is about learning new skills or forming new habits that have to be managed and maintained.

There are three main reasons why we don’t welcome change:

  1. We lack understanding.
  2. We are not ready.
  3. We want the result but not the process.

We lack understanding

Forced change or lack of communication. This usually happens when a change is forced upon us, in a company, between peers or friends, or by some forms of social pressure.

For instance, the company has to go through a process of structural changes that will affect employers on all levels. Perhaps some positions will be threatened, new tasks introduced and new teams created. Everything is uncertain.

The lack of honest and effective communication from the CEO to the leaders, from the leaders to the managers and later co-workers will provide a fertile ground for false ideas, assumptions and speculations. This leads to the lack of trust, and ultimately creates resistance.

In addition, we also lack understanding when we have an inaccurate perception of who we are, what we want and what is our reality. This actually challenges us to dig deep to know ourselves.

Secondary gain. When we have a negative habit or a habit we would like to change, there is usually something beneath the habit that serves us well. It is called the secondary gain. We may perfectly understand the reasons and circumstances for a change to occur. We may clearly see the benefits, yet resist change from our heart.

Why?

Because deep beneath there is an additional gain for this habit to function. It may even be completely illogical.

For instance, a child may start wetting in bed simply because his secondary gain is to attract attention from the busy parents who (by default) dedicate majority of their attention to the younger siblings. Stopping this habit will withdraw the attention back to the sibling, something a child doesn’t want. And in some cases, any dedicated attention is better than no attention.

You may choose to smoke because you seek acceptance from the peers and you get it by joining the smoking circles at school or work. There are usually some interesting conversations going on. Quitting smoking would mean staying outside these circles and becoming “less cool”. You don’t want that, hence you will sabotage your approach to stopping smoking.

You may choose to over-eat because you don’t feel lonely during eating. With cooking, cleaning and eating there is always an activity to be done, so your mind (or stomach) is occupied.

We are not ready yet

Any change to happen needs to be accepted on the emotional level. In order to change we need to leave the comfort zone and taking steps into the unknown. And this bring forward our basic fear – the fear of the unknown. We are born to maintain the homeostasis, the status quo, and resist those things that we cannot easily predict the outcome. Change is uncertain and will lead us through new avenues and new learning. It invites tension and requires extra attention and focus for the new learning to occur.  It also requires new energy levels for maintaining the process.

For a change to happen we need to accept it. Not only by logical reasons, but also through the act of facing our fears that will surface on the way. We also need to give ourselves permission to make errors, choose suboptimal strategies and solve problems inefficiently. This means we grant ourselves permission to learn even if these are baby steps. Such an emotional preparation will allow us to embrace the change together with the underlying process.

We want the result but not the process

We want a quick fix without hard work. We want to become fit, healthy or wealthy overnight or in to weeks, (let it be a month but no more, ok?) without taking the necessary actions or establishing long term habits. This is again related to our inborn difficulty to think and predict trends long term. We are good at short term perspectives choosing an immediate gain (oversleeping, eating cakes, drinking coffee, buying stuff, etc) over the delayed gratification. And for these reasons, we will succumb to marketers who offer us shortcuts: one click to become a millionaire, a pill to a perfect body or a car for a perfect self-esteem.

Yet, change is a process. And we need to understand this fact.

We don’t know how to change

Change is difficult because we focus on the negative aspects of the change. We follow a wrong strategy. We want to stop habits or patterns and focus on what we don’t want. Effectively, we want to uncreate the very thing we have, but instead we usually add more features.

As we know from experience, when we have a poor product or a computer program then adding more features or creating fixes will usually not lead to a better product as a result.We will only get a complex solution, overcomplicated for the tasks to be done, counterintuitive, having too many preferences and unclear choices to be made. And perhaps even conflicts between the existing features.

It is much easier to create a new product from the scratch with the essential features only. It is then well-thought and optimized for the task, hence simple, fast and working like a charm.

The same applies to a change. If you focus on uncreating your unwanted habits by introducing fixes, you are likely opening yourself to pain and frustration.You need to replace one habit with another. But this is often difficult too. The right approach is to focus on creating a new product – the New You.

It is much easier to imagine the person you want to become and set up the conscious habits from the scratch that correspond to the You 2.0 :). This requires a cultivation of an ideal self-image, setting up right values and right beliefs, and starting small with right actions in order to built habits that serve us.

Finally

The truth is this:

If we don’t manage change, change will mismanage us.

If we don’t take the responsibility for change to happen we will become shaped by the external circumstances. Not to our liking :(.

Obviously, we can’t manage every change possible, but the essential ones. It is our task to choose the changes that matter and make a difference.

Make a choice to change. Understand the why’s and the circumstances. Get ready. Implement!

***

Photo credit Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

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the-letter-to-the-king

It is a deep night, long time ago. Five young men are keeping vigil in a chapel. There are on their knees, lost in darkness with some shadows cast by a pale flame. They are not allowed to talk, neither to react to any noise from outside. They must not open the door.

This is their last challenge before the important event that awaits them. Tomorrow they are to be knighted! It is such a longing of these young souls. It is the greatest honor to be a knight in the empire of the King Dragonaut.

Tiuri is especially excited. He is the youngest among them, with perhaps the biggest hopes. His father, Tiuri the Brave, is going to become proud of him. Greatly.

But then…

In the penetrating silence, a knock at the door. A voice from out of the darkness: “Open up in God’s name!”

Tiruri hears the voice, but others in the chapel seem to be unaffected. “Are they also hearing the same noise?”, he wonders. Or, is this his imagination, oversensitive in these circumstances?

Tiuri wants to neglect the noise. It is the safest thing to do. Just to pretend he doesn’t hear anything. In the end, it may be a servant of the king to check upon the young men.

But then …. again…. a strong whisper “Open up in God’s name!”

“What to do now?”, Turi wonders.

Tiuri is not allowed to open the door. “But what if it is an emergency, someone in need, being pursued and seeking a place to hide?” Tiuri is hesitative.

But it doesn’t take long. Turi makes a fast decision. He opens up the door….

***

For sure, the life of Tiuri is not going to be the same now. He broke the rule, so even if there is a real emergency he cannot become a knight tomorrow. And it is a true shame.

Even worse, if nobody is out there, but the voice in his imagination, he will still break the rule. There is no way he can lie about it as knighthood and honesty go hand in hand together. His decision creates a conflict.

How would he explain to his father and his king that he failed the final test? Perhaps it is the biggest failure in his life. But perhaps it is not.

What if it leads to adventures and transformation that only few can aspire? His decision is a turning point. And there is a story of development he can now tell to himself….

You tell yourself a story of your life

You also tell yourself a story of your life. It can be an encouraging story or a disempowering one. Everything depends on your interpretation. The same event can be interpreted differently depending on the context or circumstances. Even a simple event such as rain.

Heavy rain may make you unhappy if this is your wedding day and your party is planned in the fresh air. Or, the same heavy rain may make you relieved if you are a farmer and this is the first serious rain after many days of draught.

There is what happens, an event in your life, and there is what you tell yourself about it. And these two things can be totally different.

What you tell yourself usually focusses on a few aspects of the event intertwined with some emotions. And this is all taken from a particular point of view. It strongly depends on your interpretation which, in turn, depends on your perception, mood at that time, overall well-being and many other factors.

Your story is about the meaning you attach to the event or its characteristics.

If you doubt that, you can easily check how facts trigger a story to emerge. Just ask two different people taking part in the same event to tell you what happened. Even views on a movie watched together by the same people may differ greatly. The more complex or emotional the event, the bigger variety of interpretation.

And there is one thing even more appealing.

You believe in a story of your life

You believe in a story of your life as if it is the only and ultimate truth. But, in fact, what you tell yourself is an interpretation, a point of view from a particular angle. There exist many other interpretations depending on your criteria, point of focus or a time scale. Your life story is just a way to look at the events. You can have another look.

There are things that happened in your life that have been very touchy or emotional. And it colored your life. There were habits of your parents, teachers and authorities who influenced you deeply. There were circles of peers that shaped you accordingly. There were rebels who inspired you to explore beyond the rules.

There were songs, stories, books, games or movies, which helped you built your identity.

What has been impressed on you as a child has often been carried with you for years in adulthood, sometimes a lifetime. And these early experiences and conditioning, often through the means of simplification (omitting facts and some details) and generalization made you believe in the story about yourself you developed at that time. It is a story of the past.

Your story can change

Yes, there is a story of your life. But there are many other stories at the same time. You are the one who attaches meaning to the events and chooses which ones to emphasize and how.

The way we tell ourselves a story is in fact not in the telling. It is more in a mixture of our imagination, hearing or feeling, depending on our preferred processing and learning styles. We mostly see the events, hear the accompanying words or feel the related emotions. And these events become like glimpses of a story we have built for ourselves.

For example, you may tell yourself a story about being a looser or incapable of learning. And this story is being reinforced by the memories you hold about your father’s harsh criticism or your mother’s reprimands. And you remember the tone of the voice with the bitter words “You’ll never learn anything” after you have broken their favorite tool / blender / cooker / washing machine, etc, remove the plants instead of the weeds in the garden, or spoiled a meal. And this made you feel like a child, indeed incapable of doing anything well.

Your story of being a looser lives on such events. And instead of perceiving this particular story as an example among many others, you take it as the only story and the only interpretation of who you are.

It is the time now to re-evaluate the story of your life, who you are and how you are with respect to people, money, skills or achievements. Recognize that a story is just a way of looking at your past, perhaps even a childhood. This story is not an ultimate description of you. You are a conscious being ever developing and growing. Anything about the past is only a static glimpse. You are much more than that.

The challenge is to perceive yourself as a Process, capable of making choices, being who you are and becoming a better conscious Self.

Use another story

How to change your story into a process? I believe that another influential story can help us to do it.

Strong stories move us, both emotionally and to action, shape us and inspire us for growth. These are the stories of the past but they are based on universal struggles and confrontations. We can recognize these universal patterns and relate them to our lives. In addition, stories carry seeds of values that can be transferred and implemented in our lives, as well.

Stories speak to us in indirect, metaphorical ways, and allow us for multiple interpretations. They allow us to subconsciously recognize what is important and what is not. They speak to us in images and emotions and allow us to grasp new meanings. Stories and, especially, life stories make us grow.

The letter for the king

This time I want to encourage you to follow the story of Tiuri, who will be given a task of delivering a very important letter to the king. This children’s book, “The letter for the king” (De brief voor de konig, or Der brief für den Köning) is written by the Dutch author Tonke Dragt, and is is truly captivating. It was voted as the best youth book in the second half of the XX century. It really means something!

The English version is currently hard to find, unless you search Ebay or second hands books such as AbeBooks. I expect a new edition soon, so stay alert.

***

With the opening of the chapel’s door, Tiuri begins a secret and dangerous mission. He has to deliver a letter of the utterest importance to the king of Unauwen, from the neighboring empire. This is a story of dark forests and high mountains, filled with secrets and spies, treason, friendship and love. All attributes of a great story!

And the story is captivating, indeed. The plot is developing fast. There is little analysis of emotion, but yet, at the same time you feel the tension of the turning points and the moments the choices have to be made.

It is a book where the characters face dilemma, are forced to make choices and follow the consequences, and constantly seek who they are and what they are up to.

It is a book which shows you that friendship is not a candy-sweet, but lives on discussions, disagreements and bonding.

It is a book which shows you that good and evil are not necessarily what they seem to be and that events can be interpreted differently from a different context.

It is a book which tells you that transformation and development is the only path in life. That is, an interesting life 🙂

Overall, what is so permanent on all levels in this book, it is the issue of trust. Many times, at the moment of conflicts, Tiuri shows trust or is being trusted. Sometimes it leads to dangers, but overall it shapes Tiuri to become a man. And this is one of the multiple messages of this book: trust is necessary for a conscious development.

Tiuri develops as a conscious person and his adventures can be metaphorically related to our lives, where trust and honesty are ones of the most important principles to live by.

Read the book

Read the book. And if there are insufficient reasons for you to read this book, consider the issue of trust as being the important one!

It is a great book that can help you to see your life’s dilemma or struggles from a different perspective. It can help you to find a new motivation. It can help you to develop trust. Obviously, I recommend it for children. But it reads so well for adults! I read it originally dutch, only before my 30.

Stories and metaphors touch us more than facts, arguments and any type of reasoning. Read “The letter for the king”. If not, choose another inspiring book for youth. There is no substitution for becoming who you desire to be.

***
The book is 50 years old as of 2012.  Amazing!

There is a sequel to this book, “Secrets of the Wild Forest” (“Geheimen van het Wilde Woud“).

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Other inspirational or educational posts:

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This post is inspired by The Acorn Principle book.

“This above all: To thine own self be true, and it must follow –
as the night the day – thou cans’t not be false to any man.”

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

acorn

You are an acorn

The acorn principle tells you to look inside and discover what is the seed of your being. The metaphor is for you being an acorn who is going to develop into an oak tree. If you provide the right conditions and circumstances that fulfill and exceed the needs of an acorn, you are going to become a magnificent oak tree. Or in other words, your fastest, easiest and most enjoyable growth comes from your natural talents and skills.

The challenge however is that we do not appreciate this little acorn seed inside us as we feel attracted by the skills and features of other trees. We usually think they are better equipped, more talented or more successful than we are. Other trees look much more impressive than we, more flexible, much stronger, or better rooted. We look at other trees and want to be like them. So, we struggle.

Others make you believe you are a pine

Parents, teachers, managers, supervisors and other authorities often project on us what they believe is good for us. They see us through their own perception filters, ideas, unfulfilled dreams or ambitions. They want to shape us accordingly. So, they often get it backwards.

They look at the little acorn that they see inside you and say “Oh, I see a great potential in you. You are already knowledgeable and can learn fast. If you learn more of the pine trade, follow the pine courses, with some hard work you can become a fantastic pine tree. And yes, we need more pine trees around. They make a good living.”

The truth is that an acorn can only become an oak tree no matter what you want it to become. If you focus on modelling the pine approach and learning the pine skills, even if they serve you well, they will not help you identify with the oakness in you. You will become a hugely underdeveloped oak tree with a great set of pine skills, perhaps.

But …

you will miss a mark as you will neither become a pine tree nor a satisfied oak tree. This may lead you to chaos, confusion or even identity crisis. You may hope to look like a pine tree but since you hold an oak consciousness inside, you may become a hybrid tree at best, feeling alien both with pines and with oaks.

Now, the manager / teacher / parent / supervisor will say, “So, you need to become a giant pine tree. There is a great future for pine trees indeed. I am going to help you to develop your pine skills.” A parent may say “Pine trees are evergreen and have such an easy life. You need to go to this school as it is the best in town for pine trees. You also need to polish your pine tree language so that you can communicate better with pine trees. And you need tutoring from pine math to optimize the position and growth of your branches. We will help you to become the most beautiful pine tree in the area.”

A manager may say “You need to start networking with pine trees. Start modelling their skills and approaches to problem solving. Take a successful Pine tree to a lunch and learn the secrets. And here is the training, The Tricks and Techniques of the Pine Trees, that you need to go through. And here is a book with short biographies of the greatest Pine Trees ever. Please study also The Power of Positive Pine thinking by Albert Pine.”

You are going to become an oak tree

But the truth is pretty obvious. Inside, you are going to be an oak tree, no matter the conditioning, affirmations, training, hanging out with pine trees around and so on. The training into the secrets of pine trees may be valuable and widen your horizons broadly. I don’t want you to discard this. Learning the skills of other trees will only help you to become a wise, knwoledgable and strong tree. But you need to develop your oakness first! This is your foundation.

If you are pushed in a direction of pineness without being aware of the oakness inside you, you may end up dissatisfied and confused at least, or deeply unhappy and depressed at worst. And as a result you will become an insecure, weak and weird oak tree.

Nurture your oakness

A better question of a parent / teacher/ manager is “What is the true nature of your being?” or “How can I cultivate this nature into the best potential?”. The parent may say “Oh, I recognize a little acorn seed in you. How great it is! Let’s sign up for an acorn development course and see how you like it.” The manager may say then “I see an acorn seed in you. Let’s investigate how to make your acorn skills stronger.”

Now parents, teachers, managers, supervisors or authorities can perfectly use the same techniques as before to encourage the development of our seed. But now with the focus on an acorn. This is going to be a great journey because the nature is nurtured in the best way.

In reality we have many seeds inside us. It takes time to recognize who we are and what we aspire for. It takes time to accept ourselves and know ourselves. It takes courage to look behind the veil of conditioning, society and cultural norms, pleasing family and others and so on. It takes courage to accept who we are: our consciousness, our past, our deeds, our ideas, our purpose and our vision.

Through self-retrospection and quieting of mind, being alone in the nature, you can start to listen to a little voice inside you. You, who wants to emerge from the shells of an acorn into a powerful oak tree. Let it happen.

The moral

The moral of this story is twofold. First, it is about knowing oneself and being authentic. Secondly, it is appreciating the authenticy of others. So, the challenges are to:

1. Know yourself. Appreciate who you are. Be authentic.
Grow into a magnificent oak tree.

  • Take the time to find out who you are. Every journey begins with questions.

Who are you?
What do you want from life?
What are your desires?
What are your ambitions?
What do you want to experience?
What do you want to develop?
How do you want to see yourself in one year time, 5-year time and 10-year time?

2. Value yourself as you are. Value others as they are. We are all God’s seeds in development.

It is your task to help yourself and others grow along the natural talents and gifts so that we can all become the most magnificent trees ever, having their own places in the Forest.

Remember this is the Forest we all live in.

Let it be a great place.

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Photo courtesy Happy Days Photos and Art, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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