Sustainable Prosperity
Aligning Spirit and the World of Form

Your Choice-Calm or Stormy Learning


Imagine you don’t know how to swim. You are given the choice of learning in calm water or learning in stormy water. Which would you pick?

This is one of those “duh” questions I ask to get people to focus on life learning—whether in crisis or in calm moments.

The feeling that drowning is imminent creates a chaotic mind. A chaotic mind has a litany of unconscious responses, none of them conducive to learning to swim. In fact, most drownings occur because of panic.

It’s like this in crisis mode, too: You are impaired. Research suggests your normal cognitive capacity is impaired up to 60 percent during crisis. I don’t know about you, but in a crisis, I’d prefer to have 110 percent of my cognitive capacity. Test this for yourself. Reflect on your last crisis. Besides the problem itself, was a major issue your inability to think?

In junior lifeguard classes, we learned that even in the roughest of waters, you can float on your back. Think about how counterintuitive floating on your back appears to a drowning person. On my junior lifeguard testing day, the seas were sufficiently rough to put the theory to the test. Intellectually, I knew I could float. Forcing my body to comply was an entirely different matter.

In crisis moments, you need to develop the spiritual equivalent to floating on your back: accepting what’s happening so you can deal with it.

On the other hand, making the choice to learn when the learning isn’t imperative for survival adds an element of ease and grace to life. It’s kindness and compassion for self put into action.

When is the best time to talk about your wishes should you become ill?

When you are well.

The best time to talk about how you’d like life to look in five years?

When you are happy.

The best time to talk about your marriage/business/partnership?

When there is harmony.

We’re conditioned to do the opposite. We wait to “work” on problems that appear, but never make time to prevent the problems.

While this may be normal, it isn’t natural. Anything that takes us out of harmony with life is unnatural.

The sacred cows and tender spots of our relationships with others are often cited as reasons for not working in calm moments. “They’ll get upset if I talk about ___ ,” the ego warns.

I’m not referring to picking the scab of a healing wound—not that kind of disruptive talking. I’m saying I’ve never, ever witnessed a crisis as the optimal time to have a talk on which any sustainable change can be built.

“How” is ego’s roadblock to most things, including how to work with ease and grace.

Try these maneuvers around the roadblock:

1.    First, affirm your intentions and goals, then state a specific time parameter. Here’s a money example: “Husband, I’d like both of us to be comfortable and knowledgeable about our income and expenses. Can we spend an hour later today discussing our budget?”

2.    Set ground rules you both agree to. Suggestions:

  • Ask open, curious questions (not pointed, accusing, putting-words-in-another’s mouth questions).
  • Take a breath when you stray from the intention.
  • Disagree kindly.
  • Table what seems “hard” to agree to. (You’ll come back to it later.)
  • Focus on areas of agreement.

3.    If you encounter a terse response, reaffirm your intentions and ask if your partner has difficulty with the intentions. Ask for feedback about your intentions.

4.    Be persistent and consistent. If your partner hears, “You don’t make enough money to suit me,” or, “I hate how you spend money,” in your request for budget discussions—and that’s not what you are saying—don’t let that get in the way. Acknowledge that your partner isn’t hearing what you’re saying and reaffirm your intention. “I want both of us to feel good about this budget discussion. Can you give it a chance and see how it goes?”

5.    Praise, praise, praise. Acknowledge how good it feels to make a start on a budget discussion, how good it feels to work as a team.

6.    What’s next? Agree what the next step is and, again, set a time parameter. (Hint: More than 1.5 hours on any subject is counterproductive.)

Whatever you want to achieve in life, you can use the calm moments to grow with ease and grace. Letting days slip by without allocating time for moments of calm is a choice. Learning during times of crisis is a choice, too, and while it might be your default setting, you can change it.

Take a moment to write down two things you’d like to learn in the calm. Carry them around with you for a day. Then knock on doors, and keep knocking until you’ve learned what you set out to learn.

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