When I created The Porch, now almost two decades ago, I wanted it to be a place to gather for a meaningful pause from all of our busyness. It was simply a tiny attempt to bring more clarity to the deeper issues of business and life.
Little did I know, 20 years later, that the greatest opportunity for clarity would come when all of business and life would pause for us. And little did I know the irony would be that this opportunity for 20/20 clarity would come in a year named for it. I mean, after all, don’t you think we should have seen that one coming?
In some ways I did, without even knowing it. As we prepared to launch my new book in 2019, Return On Integrity: The Individual’s Journey to the One Essential Thing, we produced a 2-minute promo trailer for the book. About two-thirds of the way through the trailer there is an image that appears that simply says: 2020 is the perfect year for elevating your clarity. I’m not smart enough to insert subliminal messages, but it would have been a good one! You might want to CLICK HERE to actually check it out.
Yet, there is a part of me that thinks it was off by a year! Often, it’s hard to gain clarity in the midst of a chaotic storm.
Could it be 2021 is the better opportunity for clarity?
It was exactly a year ago, this month, that we unknowingly were preparing to enter the unimaginable. Almost, by design, we had no way to begin to conceive it. It would have been too much to absorb all in one image. In one thought. In one knowing.
It would take time to absorb what was actually happening to us, among us, inside of us – individually, collectively, nationally and globally. Simultaneously.
The pandemic has tilled the soil of our activity-packed souls.
While we are still on this journey, it may be worth a pause, as our planet rotates back into the position where it all began a year ago. Perhaps this is literally the perfect place to harvest some 20/20 hindsight. (I know, obviously, I just had to say it!) Yet, many other things aren’t so obvious – so precariously waiting to be discovered.
We find ourselves with few if any answers. Answers would likely only lead us to more deeply seeded, yet ungrounded opinions and beliefs. I have learned from great friends, who continue to nurture me, that great questions lead to deeper insights and wisdom than a plethora of answers that ultimately take our precious energy to defend.
It may be more helpful to brainstorm questions of a depth deserving of our self-reflection — questions from an “I” perspective. Alternatively asking questions using “we” instead of “me” can quickly drift into a sea of distracting convictions and judgements. I am certain of this “we” factor from my own variety of personal experiences in doing so. Maybe you can relate. Keeping an “I” perspective, not only reduces the temptation to drift away from reflecting on my own experience, but it also more importantly brings me closer to a healing truth.
In the spirit of brainstorming, here might be a few examples:
- How was I helpful to myself and/or to others as the pandemic began?
- What kindness did I express where it was needed the most?
- What joy did I experience because of the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic?
- What surprised me in how I responded to various conditions of the pandemic? What was the most surprising?
- What disappointed me in how I responded at specific times throughout the year?
- What was revealed … exposed … within me as the weeks turned into months?
- What pus oozed from my disappointments, discouragement, and fatigue from time to time?
- What did I come to find that mattered the most? What did I discover that I had come to let matter too much?
- What is the one question, I’d prefer not to ask myself?
We may still be in a slow crawl to the finish line of this experience, and every fragile fiber within us may be impatiently waiting. It just seems to me that arriving at the grand opening of a new normal, without a deeply grounded intentional reflection, could prove (other than death itself) to be the greatest and most long-term loss – if I could be so bold to say – to each of us and to all of us. On the other hand, individual and eventually collective reflection may prove to be our greatest long-term benefit of a year that will be talked about for decades, if not centuries, to come.
What insightful “I” questions come to mind for you? We could all benefit, if you would be so kind to pose that question below!
John, your comments in your “Opportunity for Clarity” is reminiscent of Rumi’s 13th century poem “The Guest House”. Were he alive today, Rumi would see the pandemic as ‘an unexpected visitor’, or an uninvited guest. For him, the pandemic would be viewed as an opportunity to delve more deeply into ourselves as well as the world around us. The brainstorming questions you list is the door opening to a greater understanding of ourselves and and the possibility of clarity in our lives. Thank you for this gift. You have a knack for clarifying through your writing.
George … thanks so much for so thoughtfully sitting on “the porch” with us and pointing us to the ancient wisdom of Rumi’s beautiful poetry. I will be sure to look-up “The Guest House.” While it is such a tragic season for so many, I have frequently said throughout the year … we have been walking on holy ground. I hope you are doing well and have recovered fully!
As you share in your short video introduction of ROI, this 2020 experience has served to fuel my potential to a richer state of being – beyond my own wants and needs. What weaknesses did I discover through this period of time that were strengthened – and that I now perceive as qualities I want to hone even more…this is a question I’ve discovered that I need to answer. Thank you, John, for stirring within me the truths that have emerged.
IdaLynn … grateful for your great words and reflection. I love your thought on “qualities I want to hone even more.” It will be so easy to some day leave this whole experience in the past rather that transcend and include in our journey going forward! Thanks again for sharing!
John, of course you would know that I very much appreciated the powerful questions you posed to us on the Porch. Thank you.
Another one might be: how did my core values deepen and enlighten this pandemic time for me and what was the impact of that on others?
Mary Jo … I KNEW you would be able to bring wisdom to the list of questions with one of your own. THANK YOU for being one of those wonderful friends that I was referring to who continue to nurture me and invite me into the wisdom of questions. And, of course, ANY question that includes the words “core values” has to be a great question! :))
John, you write “Often, it’s hard to gain clarity in the midst of a chaotic storm.” Personally, it is usually after my personal chaos passes that I can find clarity. During a chaotic storm, the chaos crowds out most rational analysis, and you just use all your resources to plow through it.
Repeating to myself “this too shall pass” gets me through the storm and then I can reach the 20/20 clarity. I am beginning to see light at the end of this Covid tunnel, and I hope and pray it is real and lasting.
Gina … thank you for sharing and bringing great insight into this difference of the difficulty of seeing in the storm and the clarity that can follow. I know that you personally know how true this can be. Your are an amazing example of resilience in your own journey.
Very tough but constructive questions! Thanks. A question I have for myself – how can I maintain some of the simplicity that evolved for me in 2020? There are things I don’t want to go back to “normal” such as busy-ness.
Donna … thanks for sharing! Great point. Pondering what I don’t want certainly helps make room for inviting new and meaningful content into my life!