Other posts in the series:
- What's Obvious to You? by Ann Handley
- With Great Challenge Comes Great Adaptability, by Michelle (Chel) Wolverton
- 4 Steps To Awaken Your Superhero Power, by DJ Waldow
- The power of realization or Superheros are where you find them, by Helena Bouchez
- Making the Jump, by Tamsen Webster
- We All Have It In Us, by C.C. Chapman
- Teaching the Pebbles, by Bryce Moore
- Stop Being the Green Lantern of Business, by Justin Kownacki
- Taking The Vow of Super Heroism, by Whitney Hoffman
- Crisis and Motivation, by John Wall
When I saw human resources’ number come up on my phone display, I knew I’d gotten it, too. After the brief and awkward meeting and requisite paper signing, I headed back to my office, packed up my stuff and took one last look out the 38th floor window at a deserted Burnham Harbor. It was a good run, I thought. Great people. Visible position. Nice paycheck, good benefits. I’ll miss this view. Who will adopt my orchids? I’ll miss this office chair. Then – choking back tears – What now?
I sought refuge at my then boyfriend’s rustic West Loop loft, assuaging my sorrows with old movies, bologna sandwiches (a symbol of my new pauperism) and a fair number of tears, while my beau, Tom, worked away in the other room.
While Tom (not his real name), a musician, had been employed by others on and off over the years, he made his main living by hustling clients for a half dozen different concerns ranging from website development to graphic design to sound engineering, seasoned with a smattering of paying music gigs.
Tom was not particularly organized or ambitious, but he usually managed to keep enough dough rolling in to keep the lights on and food in the refrigerator. Sometimes just barely. And sometimes the lights got turned off. Inconvenient and uncomfortable? Yes. But somehow, he lived.
While ruminating on my situation during the movie marathon, I realized something. Not only did Tom always seem to always figure out a way make things work, by my definition at least, he also was free. As were many of my other creative, self-employed friends. They all were in control of their own destiny. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that’s not how they saw it, but at the time that’s what I perceived. And I realized I wanted that. I wanted to be free and in control. More than anything.
I half-heartedly scanned ads looking to replace or maybe even upgrade my lost gig. A small severance provided some financial cushion, but my pride had hit the floor, hard. And the recent awareness of my deep desire to be free and in control made the idea of going back to work for someone else pretty repulsive. I was screwed.
Classic movie number 37 playing in the background and my ego still smarting, I thought again about Tom and company. I was 100 times more organized and ambitious than almost all of them. Then this thought: “Hmmh. You know, if they can make it on their own, I bet I can, too.”
Holy eureka-beam-of-light-streaming-through-the-clouds-angels-singing moment. I bet I can, too.
I shifted my focus from looking for a job to spinning up skills I’d honed at the agency as a business offering. The result was my first business, Lenalinks, which provided tech writing and project management for some big corporate clients. It was lucrative work but unfortunately it also was (to me) excruciatingly boring, which is what led me back to the marketing industry. But that’s another story, titled something like, “Why an arguably sane person would close a perfectly profitable business, take a 60 percent pay cut and agree to go captive again to hone another craft.” But I digress.
Actually, the thought – I can, too – was not as important as what came immediate after it, which was the realization. Dictionary definition: An act of becoming fully aware of something as a fact. Also known as an “Ah-ha!”
Realizations differ from understanding. You can totally understand something intellectually, but still not really understand viscerally the truth of it – what “it” means. To me, “I can, too” meant that there was a completely new set of choices available to me. Bear in mind, nothing in my external world had changed. The realization caused my perception of what was available to me in the external world to change. Same world, yet different world. (Hello, M.C. Escher.)
Often, one realization sets off a chain reaction that leads to a series of realizations. For instance, the realization that I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny freed my mind to reshuffle my worldview and deliver the realization that it was completely within my power to make it so.
Realizations can seem to occur completely randomly, but there are ways to condition yourself to have them more reliably. Here are three:
- Make being present a priority. Awareness cannot exist in the past or future. Unless you become aware that you’re thinking about the past or future, in which case, you’re actually back in the present. (M.C. Escher reprise.) Some ways to practice being present and strengthen awareness are meditation, yoga and martial arts. The objective of all these disciplines is to get you back in your body, to bring you back to now because now is where all the power is.
- Be open to changing your mind. Because I was open to believing something new, or in this case, at least not opposed to the idea of having my own business, my subconscious was free to serve up the realizations I needed to move forward.
- Demand insight from discomfort. Being present can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re in a tight spot. It’s natural to want kill the pain. But if you always give into the impulse to drown your sorrows, you may be missing an opportunity to experience a big shift. If instead you can manage to stay present and stare down pain such as fear, embarrassment or grief, you usually will be rewarded with insight. In fact, you should demand that it be so. Said writer, lecturer and mythologist Joseph Campbell, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
The point of this story is (actually, there are three): 1. Sometimes SuperHeros are unwitting, and thus, are where you find them. Don’t be snobbish about who delivers the catalyst message or models a new paradigm. 2. A single shift in your internal world can change your perception of the available choices even if nothing in your external world has changed. Be open to new thoughts. 3. Rather than waiting around for realizations, create the conditions that will allow your mind to more easily present you with them. A hidden pathway to your bold new future may be revealed.
Helena Bouchez is a writer, artist, connector and alchemist who makes a living as a purveyor of public relations and communications for marketing and marketing technology firms. To connect with Helena, follow her on Twitter @helenabouchez or email her at helena at helenabouchez dot com.