Sitting at my computer, racking my brains: “Where did I put that content?” …scrolling through files… “Oh, it’s not there… I can’t find it.” New strategy:.. “Can I remember it? How did it go again? Arghh! Think, think. I still can’t remember!”
Three hours later in the shower, without even trying, I suddenly remember the 10 year old content I was looking for. That’s the value of space.
Space is not square-footage. Space is not time. Neither of these got me the answers I was looking for. Space is emptiness – no energy, no matter, and especially no thought. In the past few decades, time has been the scarcest commodity in our lives. Now space has surreptitiously taken over that important position. That change is primarily caused by the rapid disappearance of a particular kind of space – mental space.
My client is grooming his successor to think more strategically in preparation for promotion. He complained to me that his successor is always focused only on getting things done. She is paying attention to immediate actions rather than planning ahead. In a flash of insight. he realized that his successor needs more space in order to think and reflect. Therefore he can best help by supporting her to delegate, prioritize and make more space.
Another client is looking for a career change and is feeling a lot of uncertainty about which direction to take. In order to avoid feeling stuck, she is filling up her time with activities: language lessons, workplace projects, online classes, filling her head with more information when what she needs is less. Open space can feel quite uncomfortable. Space allows us to be with ourselves. To find yourself you need open space — a few hours or days to let things be and notice what’s going on inside. Only then can the answers emerge from inside you.
I have several clients these days who are developing to be more conscious leaders. They aim to stop the unproductive reactive habits that limit their ability to positively motivate their staff. They want to stop acting with impatience, micro-managing. pleasing the boss and criticizing. Their reactions happen constantly in a split second, and once done, they cannot be completely retracted. Their influence instills fear and reactivity in everyone around them. At the extreme they cease to listen which leads to severe misunderstandings. Impatience fuelled by mistakes can even lead to panic. Somehow they need to find the space to wait within a doing-addicted organization where excessive focus on action and results leads to fatigue and dis-empowerment, the opposite of what they intend.
The only way to stop these habits is to find a space between our thoughts and our actions. We need to insert a split second of time between each impulse and our responses. It takes practice. Mindfulness training helps a lot by exercising the brain’s ability to choose and maintain a focus of attention.
How much space do you have in your life? When you have free time, how do you use it? Do you fill it? Do you savour it?
Can I suggest that you take one minute now? Just listen to your breath and notice that you are alive!