All of us are seeking a change for the better in some realm. It’s helpful to consider our effort in light of the good-feeding metaphor.
When we reflect on what makes for positive changes in our lives, we notice patterns. Certain elements come into play in each successful story of accomplishment. Generally, it’s a matter of feeding the positive change we seek. Whether it's a relationship - the penultimate skill - or good personal health, the pattern is similar. When we feed the good, the bad begins to dissipate. It’s a way of crowding out the less desirable with the better good.
It all starts when we focus our attention. Our brains have this marvelous ability to look for and find patterns. As we deliberately direct our attention, we begin to detect what’s not working well, and what needs to change. Like using a magnifying lens to channel the sun’s rays, we are able to concentrate our attention in powerful ways. What we pay attention to, tends to get addressed. Our attention is always aimed somewhere. The challenge here is to narrow the aim.
The next step is to engage. We cannot just observe, shake our heads and “tsk tsk” from a distance, we have to step into the mess. We can decide it’s worth getting messy to get better. This may mean listening to someone for the third time in order to decipher the thoughts and beliefs behind the emotional words. Or, it could mean running the numbers once more, or doing the research necessary to establish domain knowledge. Here again, our minds are surprisingly capable once we engage them, but our tendency is to play small. To trivialize our offering. The force in us that wants to put our good gifts out into the world is much stronger than the force that opposes us, but we must face into that opposition. It’s the enemy guarding the treasure.
While the steps above will provide a framework for coming to grips with the scope and characteristics of the good change we’re after, we do our best work when we enroll others. If it’s only for ourselves, our work will be much less than it could be.
Finally, foundational to all of all this effort is the doing. The plod is part of the plot. The over and over again of hammering out the new story, the new direction. It’s a way of settling in and wearing down a new path. Just as the old path was established with day after day habits and activities, so the new one has to be formed.
This diligent doing is not mindless. It’s not just a matter of slogging through, but a clear-eyed mindfulness of the good we’re feeding, adjusting our focus, monitoring our engagement, seeking enrollment. It includes constant checking up by asking ourselves:
Are we walking in the right direction?
Alone on what was supposed to be a walk together?
Are we avoiding the hard parts of enrolling others?
What are we paying attention to?
This method may seem overly simple, but based on my own experience, I can look at just about any new or ongoing problem and see leverage to be gained in one or more of the categories above.
For instance, my attention may be scattered and in need of focus. Or I may be poking at the problem or challenge from a distance, and inadequately engaged.
Perhaps I’m not clear on the curriculum for positive change for myself because I need to enroll the necessary others.
Finally, it’s vital that I look at the situation “on the ground” (to use the military term). What does my day to day look like? Am I doing the doing? Is it in line with where I want to go? Or, am I reverting to the old familiar, easier ways?
Perhaps I can boil it all down to an immediate example. Take the process of working out this post. I began with more than one idea, but eventually had to narrow my focus to one. It was then a matter of thrashing through the thoughts and discarding, rewriting, Stopping. Starting. Restarting. Engaging with the material. I then asked for the perspective of others and it opened exciting new possibilities for the invitation I wanted to extend to the reader.
Woven through all of the above, and foundational to all of it, was the doing. The finding out part. Absent the activity of my fingers on the keyboard, the whole enterprise was pure conjecture. Without the words on the page to work with, I was left with only a nebulous idea of what the writing was for, and who it was for.
The world needs the good you have to offer. We are not just here to help ourselves to the good. When we begin to help others to it, we notice over time that meaning has joined the effort. I’d encourage you to take a look at the current challenges you face and see if you can apply this approach and begin to F.E.E.D. the good.
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