The 4 Practices to Fill 2021 With Magic
How many of us, in the turn of the year anticipated that 2020 was going to be our best year… the year… our year? Very few people expected the amount of disruption, loss, uncertainty, and overwhelm we experienced over the last few months. So much happened, and a lot has been written about it. As the year is coming to an end, and we start reflecting back and envisioning forward, we can all assess what’s under our control and how we intend to move forward towards a brighter, healthier Future.
We believe that the Future we, not only hope but intend to build is set upon a foundation of practices. What we mean by this, is that the era of big shiny values and aspirational goals that don’t translate into visible behavior is over. We are now, more than ever, called to walk our talk, to focus on the how-to, to direct our efforts, and to give our energy where it best serves us and those we aim to benefit. We are all called to focus on the things we can control, our efforts, the actions we persist in day-in, and day-out for the betterment of our lives and those we care about, our Future. Our practices.
First What is a Practice
Look up practice in the dictionary and you’ll find the following description: the act of doing something regularly or repeatedly to improve your skill at it; to do something regularly; action rather than thoughts or ideas. Just like an athlete has a practice of training in his modality, and a writer is anyone who has the practice of sitting down to write daily or at least very regularly, a practice is what leads to excellence, to creativity, to states of flow, and to what we very often call talent or genius. Our practices are under our control, our practices keep us both grounded and evolving, they give us a structure and remove the motivation factor away...we do them whether or not we feel like doing them because that’s what we do.
And while each of us will have our own practices when it comes to our craft, we believe that the following practices are what the Future is all about.
The Practice of Curiosity
One of our core values and one of the abilities we frequently train people in, even though it’s very often thought of as a quality, you can actually harness and nurture curiosity….if you practice it. The practice of curiosity is about being a student, someone who is exploring and learning rather than someone who has all the answers, it’s about asking open questions, digging deeper, questioning the way things are usually done, looking and listening beyond the obvious… it’s about not knowing but wanting to know so much about so many things, or a few things, or that particular thing. It’s about wonder, possibilities, being fascinated and it expands the way we think and feel. Not to mention there is extensive research linking curiosity to satisfying relationships, better health, intelligence, and overall life satisfaction. We wrote about it here.
The Case For Curiosity Now
But why do we need curiosity now, specifically now? Here’s why. In the midst of so much uncertainty curiosity can be a powerful buffer against anxiety and analysis paralysis. It helps us adapt and focus on possibilities rather than limitations, it opens our perceptions to question our beliefs of what’s possible and imagine new ways of being and doing. It excites us, rather than paralyze us, helping us take small but mighty steps to make positive and meaningful changes. It allows for creative solutions to challenges and problems, which we all need right now.
Curiosity is also the key ingredient for empathy and conflict solving, research shows that it encourages members of a group to put on other people’s shoes and really consider their perspectives rather than solely focusing on their own. Which allows for true collaboration and better results. Instead of letting different views isolate us in separate corners, curiosity can integrate those views to produce creative ideas.
A shot of curiosity - ask yourself the following questions:
What is it that fascinates you?
What are you naturally curious about?
How are you curious about that?
What would you be doing if you were paid for being curious?
What is the smallest change you could make right now, that would have the greatest impact on your life?
What questions help you do and be your best?
The Practice of Generosity
Generosity is defined as a willingness to give help or support, more than is usual or expected. It’s thought of as an act of altruism, but it’s usually deeply fulfilling for the person doing the giving. We refer to it here as anything we do that offers a service and a benefit to someone else. The work we do can be out of our generosity, of wanting to do good for good reasons. Therefore, generosity is not necessarily what we do for free. But what we do because we know it will serve others. To be generous in our work, we are diligent in improving our skillset and in putting it out into the world so that it can reach those who will be impacted by it the most. If we fail, we look and listen for what didn’t work, and we continue getting better because we’re doing it, not solely for our own interest, but for the effects, it will have in the lives of others.
The Case for Generosity Now
The world was collectively impacted in so many different ways by the pandemic. Some people lost loved ones, jobs, incomes, access to their families. All of us are somewhat restricted in our habitual coping mechanisms. And we know that mental health has globally taken a hit. The practice of generosity doesn’t just help the ones on the receiving end, by infusing meaning into the work that we do, we are propelled to keep moving forward, despite the challenges and setbacks. It is highly contagious, inspiring, and uplifting those around, and directly supporting those who truly need it. And in times as demanding as these, there are so many ways to be generous right now. Take your curiosity, pair it with generosity, and see where it takes you.
Get Creative With Your Generosity
There are so many people working shifts and long hours, for example, supermarket cashiers, grab an extra sandwich and ensure they have something nice to eat on their next break.
Are you expecting an item to be delivered? Meet the person delivering with a small surprise Christmas gift…
If you know a single mom, offer to go over and help with house chores for 2 hours so she can take a break, or to hold her baby while she takes an extra long shower.
Are there elders in your neighborhood who look lonely and struggling? Tell them you want your child to get used to people of different ages and that they are welcomed to come over and read a story. Make them feel useful and helpful, and serve them a nice meal.
If you keep your eyes and your heart open, you’ll notice that there are endless small and mighty ways that each one of us can act on our good thoughts, and spark a chain of kindness, empathy, and generosity that can ripple out way beyond what we can imagine.
The Practice of Caring (Self-Care, Connection)
Worrying might be one of the most common practices nowadays, and it requires little explanation or elaboration because we’re all too familiar with it. Worrying is feeling tension and concern about a given problem or situation, constantly focusing on what might happen. Worrying usually places our attention on things we have little to no control over, thus, it often evolves into anxiety, and sometimes panic. A little worry can nudge us to take the appropriate steps to drive the situation towards a positive outcome. Too much of it can use all of our mental space and energy and leave us depleted and unable to respond in adaptive ways.
The practice of caring, in the case we’re making here, is on the opposite spectrum. Knowing what (and who) it is that we profoundly care about drives us to act in ways that uplift our lives and the lives of others. It’s because we care enough about a certain issue that we’re willing to do hard things, and that we keep learning, evolving, and finding new or improved ways of doing what we do. It’s because we care enough that we speak up, that we work out our differences, that act on our values, gifts, and contributions. It makes us do what we otherwise wouldn’t do because we wouldn’t risk rejection, failure, and judgment.
In the given context, if we’re to, not only survive but thrive, our practice of caring has to include self-care and connection.
The practice of Self-Care
If you care enough about your health because you want to live to see your grandchildren graduate from college, then you’ll likely have some sort of movement practice, you’ll eat a balanced, nourishing diet and you’ll make sure you take regular check-ups.
If you care enough about your mental and emotional health, you’ll also engage in a set of practices to ensure that your self-care tank is fueled. Those are your self-care set of actions or your go-to kit for stressful or demanding times. It can include saying no when you really want to say no, going to bed early and sleeping 8 hours, taking a break to go for a walk, asking for help, doing therapy or coaching, taking a break from technology or social media, engaging in creative activities, or eating a healthy meal. Some things can give us a quick hit of relief or distraction, like shopping or watching tv, but aren’t likely to provide sustained well-being, here knowing the difference is the key. That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in those activities once in a while, as long as you don’t rely on them to give you what they cannot give you. But when the going gets tough you need to double up on the things that really add joy, energy, hope, and vitality to your life.
When we neglect our self-care for too long we end up depleted, burned out, and struggling to make it through the days. In that state, we are less resourceful, patient, creative, and, in general, less able to live rather than just survive. We need to make self-care a priority because if we don’t we risk not enduring the tough season we’re in, but also not being able to support those that need and rely on us. That is a risk we simply cannot take right now.
The Practice of Connection
We could have easily included connection in our self-care practice, but it’s so vital that it deserves its own section.
None of us stand a chance of living a fulfilled life if we don’t consider connection an important or even the most part of it. Maybe you’re familiar with the longitudinal study that showed that the key factor to long-term happiness is satisfying relationships. And it’s not just romantic relationships, any mutually satisfying relationship adds value and meaning to our lives. But just like any of the other practices, connection requires a set of actions and intentions. Listening, showing up with empathy and compassion, giving and receiving support and help, speaking sincerely and gently, asking questions, being interested and present, building bridges, playing, and having fun. All of the things that make us better human beings, and that add magic to our lives we find in connection. Knowing that we have each other’s backs, that we’ll hold each other’s heart kindly, and that together we’ll carve our way to a brighter Future is part of the magic.
Will you come and practice with us?
May your Christmas and year be filled with the magic that you most long for.