Last week I lead the Come Alive program at the Haven Institute. When I arrived on the property and discovered the group was significantly smaller than I had thought, I found myself disappointed. I imagined the week was going to be challenging because sometimes, with smaller groups, there isn’t the same level of energy, and if there is any degree of resistance among participants, it can become even greater because one person’s engagement or disengagement has a greater impact. Plus, I wanted to cover my travel expenses and though I hate to make leading programs about the money, it is a factor.
However, once I got to know the folks in the room everything changed. I loved the week. Yes, Carole and I were called to be more creative in offering experiences that engaged everyone. We could not rely on the usual structure to fill the week. But this was great and I think we both liked the challenge. Also, with a larger group, there is less demand for my own vulnerability and personal connections, assistants and interns becoming far more connected to folks than I. So again, this past week offered me the chance to connect on a deeper personal level with each member of the group. In the end I realized it wasn’t really the numbers that mattered at all. The group was special because they were engaged, committed and willing to step forward throughout the week.
This brings me to the next piece for discussion. What measures a successful, fulfilling life? This question surfaces for me as a result of an article forwarded to me by a colleague. The article is the most emailed article this year from HBR (Harvard Business Review). Here is the link in case you want to read the article yourself: http://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life/ar/1.
I enjoyed reading the article and quickly realized that the way I measure my life is by my level of aliveness. Aliveness to me means engagement, commitment and willingness. When these three conditions are high I have a felt sense of fulfillment, joy and success. In thinking about these three conditions, I realize they are each something I have a choice in creating in the context of anything my life presents. Sure there are activities that naturally invite these elements because of my own likes and dislikes. But really, even is life is presenting some stuff that is not to my fancy, I have found that attitude adjustments related to these areas can make all the difference. The Come Alive was a relatively easy example. Because I love and am generally always curious about people, I knew that once I engaged, the rest would follow.
There are other areas and situations in my life that are far more difficult. I have been in groups where I have disliked the path we were taking or found members of the team or group very difficult to deal with. In those situations, my level of engagement has declined. I become less committed to outcomes, and I suspect others in the room might call me willful and not at all willing. The degree to which I let these barometers slide without notice or attention becomes a key driver in aliveness. For me, the worst is not cranky or willful, no, the low of lows is when I become disengaged and apathetic. When that occurs I can go without oxygen and there is a numbness and deadness that, once set in, becomes very hard to shake.
So in the end, how I measure my life becomes a daily opportunity—a moment to moment invitation. Am I engaged? Am I committed? Am I willing? If not, what can I do to adjust? Generally speaking, the answer involves a revealing of myself. There is something I need to say that I am withholding or there is something I am feeling that I wish not to expose or reveal. Once I take care of that, my aliveness returns and though things around me might not change, I see and experience the world quite differently. I am curious, I am able to connect, and I am deeply in touch with loving myself and others in the world around me. That, to me, is success!