Last year, a colleague told about an annual, reflexive exercise she participates in that involves both introspection as well as external processing/writing/meditation to help get in touch with ourselves. It is based on the long-standing notion that writing helps us process our thoughts, while often revealing our deepest interests and passions as the process of writing helps us make sense of our thoughts. This is the essence of journaling, though in this situation the exercise had somewhat spiritual and transformative energy about it.
In many ways, this focus on connecting with our internal power is oriented toward personal transition, moving from wherever we are to a better place for ourselves. While very internal and personal, we don’t live alone on islands, and as a result, any self-improvement we do has the benefit of positively affecting those around us.
What opportunity is there in self-improvement if we do not also help others?
This seven-part reflective opportunity was called the #7MagicWords Challenge, and it seems to run yearly as an online project in December. It is facilitated by an amazing coach and teacher, Marisa Goudy. For full transparency, I have never met nor spoken to Marisa outside of the various Facebook posts and the like she used to work through this event, and as a result, I do not have any conflict of interest or financial gain from writing about my experience in this event that occurred last month.
The Beginning of Reflection
In this process, we were invited to think about a different word each day in reaction to some thoughtful and encouraging prompts. In many ways, this sounds simple, though, like many opportunities to pause in a hectic world, things that seem most simple are often those that are most profound when we take the time to work through them.
Simple concepts, such as joy, truth, or love may be batted around all day as we move about our lives, and being intentional about our thoughts on them, coming to terms with how we make sense of them, leads us to live into them in our lives.
Focusing on ideal notions and allowing them to shower us with their energies is something many try for, yet the pulls of challenges in our lives often preclude our really living them. However, this reflective opportunity happened just when I needed it and it allowed me to privately and personally try it on as if a new skin that we surrounded ourselves with for the benefit of a reflexive diet of thoughts.
This had the possibility of being a profound experience, one I really want to share.
The First Word
The initial prompt did not send us on our way, but rather came about through scaffolding our thoughts and feelings. This is similar to the notions of joy, truth, or love — they are not only there as common words connected with our thoughts and experiences, but rather as a potential of what could make us better shadows of ourselves.
These terms we were invited to consider were not given to us on a plate, like a guru mystically uttering a term and our going away like compliant novices to consider what came to us.
Just the opposite — we were invited to consider a word that comes to us or even one that appears to us as we intentionally focused on the living of our lives. We discovered, assigned, and selected different words amongst us, and in so doing made the words our own, made them an anchor for our lives that day, ones about which assimilate into our very souls and as a result exemplify all that is us at that moment.
My word was, and remains, LEARN.
Learning is a conscious and intentional action, something that empowers us, or rather something we do and in so doing we empower ourselves.
Learning acknowledges we don’t know everything. We are not filled with endless skills. Our beliefs are somehow not fully developed, as we can still learn more that will change us. This is what makes this an endless opportunity for us, and by extension, those around us.
Learning as a Magical Act
There are few things as sure as death and taxes, yet I want to add a third that is just as sure — learning is transformative.
Whenever something new enters us, especially when we face trial and tribulation, we have an opportunity to renew ourselves, to become something that was not as it was before as learning changes us. When we do our lives in a way that opens us up to wonder and peace, we open ourselves to the magic of the moment.
What better time is there to consider these things than now? When else can an opportunity for a better tomorrow be exactly what we need?
This does not mean the magic may happen, my life will be transformed, my work and connections improved, or really anything beyond the process of reflective writing itself, but in our opening ourselves to something beyond that routine in front of us, we are positioned for all sorts of amazing things to happening.
Notice how I am approaching this — through these actions, we are open to amazing things. Nothing is ever guaranteed, though I can say that NOT taking action of any sort is an almost certain way to not have amazing things happen. I mean, life is not a deus ex machina; we have to take action for good things to happen. They may not need to be grand things by any stretch, as even a morning meditation or gratitude practice is some action.
We need to be intentional about expanding ourselves, for without being open to something new, we cannot make or receive good things.
Take, for example, the beginning of this challenge. When I started it, I was doing it alone and planning to possibly — yes, only possibly at the time — share it with those within the challenge itself, and once I started writing, processing, experiencing this I realized a short post would not do this justice.
That is something I learned! I learned that the notion of gaining knowledge, skills, or beliefs that I developed over this time was the essence of learning itself.
What exactly is this essence? Change.
Learning always involves change, and while change can be minor — I learned that I really do not like sun-dried tomatoes in pasta dishes, or major— I learned that when the evening news really upsets me or evokes strong emotions within me, that I should turn it off and read something light or engaging before going to bed as it helps me sleep more soundly and thus awake more refreshed.
A short post or brief image would not have been sufficient for communicating the impact this had on me during this challenge. If anything, it would have minimized if for me and would have been counter to what it means to learn at all.
Tell me, would you rather have a momentary aha moment that is only a fleeting sense of satisfaction, or would you rather be open to a more lasting experience? The core of Learning is Change, and while we do not know what will necessarily trigger it in our lives, we know what won’t:
- Being around a group of people who always agree with you.
- Following a routine that is safe, yet oddly unfulfilling.
- Not reading, writing, or listening with an eye toward wonder and awe at the possibilities that surround us.
- Losing patience with those not as well-off, not as educated, and not as stunning as we are.
- Judging and blaming others for their own failures.
All of these are counter to learning. Why? Because they all propose we know things and accept they are as they are. In many ways, this is so sad, as we . . . each one of us . . . have nearly endless opportunity, and as such can choose if we want to leave it as potential or learn into a new self.
I have worked in educational capacities all my life, in part as I have experienced the transformative nature of what it means to learn. I do not have all the answers, yet I do have a single concept that will make them all real — the more we learn, the more we become ourselves. There is no greater opportunity we all have.
What will you seek to learn, and how do you imagine it will help you reach your potential? Chances are, you are not even close!!