In my work, I have the privilege of working with thousands of successful, highly motivated, ethical and well-rounded leaders every year. One of the most important issues we cover, no matter what the industry or type of organization, is context. Why? Simply put: Because if you’re not able to purposefully create and sustain one context and not another, your ability to be successful and fulfilled – and sustain that success or fulfillment – diminishes dramatically.
I invite you to think about context in 3 dimensions: 1) for yourself, as an individual, as you live your life; 2) for your most important conversations, and 3) for your organization as a whole.
This newsletter is Part 1 of 3 and will focus on context for you, as an individual. Parts 2 and 3 will cover the context you establish for your most important conversations, as well as that which you create and sustain for your organization.
So what, exactly, is context?
Webster defines context this way: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning; the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs; environment or setting in which something takes place.
Without disagreeing with Webster in any way, we also say that context can be understood as “that which goes with the text… and gives it meaning.” And we human beings are apparently addicted to meaning.
The older I get, the more important context is. It’s not physical, but it’s utterly real. And it has everything to do with some of the most important Results we produce in our lives – at home, at work and everywhere in between.
As an individual, your personal context – your personal “come from” – is literally declared into being, spoken into being, thought into being… by your most important “I am…” statements. Think about it. Your beliefs (which are private or public declarations) have the effect of creating this non-physical but very real space from which you take action and interact and produce results in the world. As parents, we intuitively understand the power of these declarations, especially in situations when we see our children saying things like “I’m stupid” or “I’ll never be able to…” or “I’m hopeless.” We could go on and on. We speak ourselves into being, whether we’re aware of this or not, because language creates and generates – it does not simply describe.
Remember the Big Eye metaphor? The overall objective of increasing our levels of self-awareness? Becoming aware of the personal context you have created – and are now still creating – for yourself is a fundamental first step in being able to purposefully make the most important changes you may be seeking to make in your life.
I invite you to consider declaring for yourself a personal context of Abundance (vs. Scarcity); that is, to purposefully “come from” a place of knowing that you are fundamentally already enough. You are fundamentally worthwhile and worthy and valuable as a human being, no matter what you may be doing or not doing. Yes, you are still learning and growing and becoming… and at the same time, you are enough just as you are.
I offer the following 3 context-related activities below for those interested in moving from learning “about” into learning “to do” and learning “to be.”
I would love to hear from any of you who undertake these activities and would like to share your learning, your observations, your Results with me!
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Application 1: Personal Philosophy / Personal Context
Sit quietly for 2-3 minutes, breathing rhythmically and slowly as you get centered, grounded and present.
Reflect and fill in the blanks in the 4 statements below:
· Life is __________________________________________________________
· I am ___________________________________________________________
· Other people are ________________________________________________
· In the end, _____________________________________________________
Whether we are aware of it or not, each of us already operates with a “personal philosophy” or “personal context” in our lives. And whether we are aware of it or not, we are already operating with some version of these 4 declarations already in place. This activity is intended to make explicit what is already implicit. It is to bring into view what is already there, what is already creating our particular “come from” and already shaping our Way of Being… already influencing how we “see things” and take Action and produce Results in our lives.
Once you’ve completed filling in the blanks, look backwards: see if you can identify situations that could’ve and would’ve turned out differently… if you had been operating with different declarations in place.
Also, think ahead: see if you can identify situations in which the Results you most desire can be and will be impacted by “where you’re coming from” in these areas.
If you’d like, do this exercise with your significant other / spouse / life partner. If you do so, you will be opening avenues for extremely rich conversation – as well as for more conscious design of your own personal context.
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Application 2: Reflect and answer – in any way you’d like – both of the following questions:
· Who am I?
· Who do I say I am?
Next, reflect and write your answer to the following question:
What’s the difference between these two questions?
That is, are they basically the same question, with just some semantic differences? Or are they two profoundly different questions? What is your reasoning, your thinking, that has you answer the way you do?
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Application 3: Here is an activity you may try out that absolutely rests on – and can bring forth – a context of Abundance:
“Whatever you want for yourself, cause someone else to have it. Whatever you want for yourself, give it to someone else.”
So if you want to be prosperous, cause someone else to prosper. If you want to be appreciated, give appreciation to someone else. If you want to be loved, demonstrate and give love to another. If you want happiness, cause someone else to be happy. You get the picture.
Think about it: You can’t give away something you don’t already have.
Try this for a month and see what happens.
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Application 4: Declaring (creating a context of) gratitude.
Here I offer another Abundance-related practice.
Every day, preferably in the morning before you get into your workday activities, give yourself 1 minute to sit quietly, breathe deeply… and bring to mind 1 thing you are truly grateful for.
Maybe it’s your health, or your relationship with your spouse or partner. Maybe it’s your children or other family members and the gifts that they are in your life. Possibly it’s a work-related achievement or opportunity or interaction. Maybe you’re grateful that you live where you live, or that you had the parents or early childhood that you had. Possibly it’s simply the abundance of flowers, the warmth of the sun, the gentle rain – or the thunderstorm!
Every day, simply pause and reflect and declare gratitude for something. With just a little thinking, it’s very clear that there are a lot of human beings currently experiencing conditions far worse than those we are experiencing now. Notice that no matter what, you have something for which to be grateful. And declare it.
Try this for a month and see what happens.
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I wish you only continued success, fulfillment and contribution – on all fronts. And I look forward to hearing from any of you, especially those who are doing the real-world Application exercises…
… and remember: Never Stop Learning!