This or Something Better

It’s back to the discussion about Angeles Arrien’s work – one last piece on it, after a hiatus for end of the decade thoughts. BUT the fourth step in the pattern of behavior found in leaders and change agents across cultures (The Four Fold Way; Angeles Arrien; Harper Collins, 1993) is extremely relevant to beginning of the year thinking.

The fourth step of the Four-fold Way is to “Be open, not attached to outcome”.  How does this jibe with all of the advice we hear about setting SMART goals, setting up accountability and support and then applying fierce discipline to achieve the ends in mind? 

It actually jibes pretty well in action.  This is what I have observed about goal setting with clients for over 20 years.  We set our goals, we make them specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable and time bound.  We break down all the actions needed into big milestones and smaller action steps and then we fling ourselves at it.

And then we go, go, go.  And grit our teeth and thrash around when things don’t go the way we want.

And then what happens?  Well, some people describe it as God laughing.  And sometimes it does feel as if a great spirit somewhere is mocking us.  But what really happens is that we get information.  Data.  That informs us of what is real somewhere on the continuum between “STOP YOU IDIOT THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA” and “YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS; THIS IS YOUR DESTINY”.

This is what is meant by being open to outcome – you can decide what you want to create, but nothing is going to work properly if your desire is out of alignment with what God, or fate or the universe or whatever you call it has in mind for you.   So you have to listen and look for signs.  They are always there.  Then you have to decide – is this a test to see how much I want it?  Is the cost to high?  Is this the right thing?  (More on this later)

An old friend and colleague Cheryl Richardson had  a wonderful way to stay open to outcome and signal to the ‘universe’ just how willing she was to listen.  She would set her goal, and state it proudly.  And then she would add:  “this or something better.”

Isn’t that grand?

2 thoughts on “This or Something Better

  1. Great post. I work with athletes occasionally and one thing I remind them of after a loss is that their concern should be on their level of performance, not on the outcome. The only thing you CAN control is yourself.

  2. David’s comment reminds me of Coach John Wooden’s axioms. His advice is to focus on the effort not the achievement. You can control your effort, but sometimes the achievement or outcomes are not always what we expected. The other guy might just win but we can still feel good about our performance if we gave it 100%.

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