I am not Atlas, nor was meant to be

The New Year forces us to do a reality check. Accomplishments. Failures. Expectations. Sage books. Bad politics. Mistletoe. The CO2 from sparkling wine hitting you in the nose. Deep breaths and realisations. Shy wishes for the future.

The light and exciting feeling of starting something big pushes me on.

Coming to conclusions reminds me of herding cats. In a big dark room.

Conclusions lead to learning. I want to learn. Learning means order and understanding. Sometimes, stormy randomness prevents linear learning. What was it all for then I wonder? Just to be lived?

A sarky friend of mine calls this “the syndrome of searching for deeper meaning”, a disorder more prevalent in women. One step away from calling me a conspiracy theorist, the sneaky fk!

Why do I want to learn? To feel less pain by stepping on the same rake, as the Russians would say? I prefer the more subtle term, adaptation.

I resolve this by looking for ways to tame uncertainty. Work around it. Turn anxiety into excitement. Think probabilistically. Find people who have the same thoughts and dreams. Remember that I can always rely on myself.

My temptation to justify, to over-explain, to over-plan and catch that finer insight comes from a heightened, unhealthy sense of personal responsibility.

Aged 5, I fell and hurt myself during play. Nothing major. My grandmother came over. I expected her to help me up and console me. Hold me and tell me it’s all ok. She lifted me alright, but then gave out to me for not looking where I was going.

I think I am still running on that software. I always look for ways in which I caused what happened to me.

In some ways, it’s helpful. In others, I am Atlas with the weight of the world on my shoulders. Why haven’t I given up that horrible mentality?

Personal responsibility motivates like nothing else. It’s the fuel of making dreams come true, so it’s hard to give it up.

My learning from this is that feeling like Atlas is frighteningly egocentric. I am not Atlas, nor was meant to be. The world will keep on turning without my help.

What makes me want to bang my head against the wall is the obviousness of it all. Again and again, I arrive at these thoughts. However, it seems that understanding what is within my control is a daily exercise. Thinking about it every day is vital to being productive and at peace.

Meanwhile, I am building up my progress report from September to the end of November. Be ready with yours for 1 December 😉

Mood: T.S. Eliot

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

Do we really need women role models?

I have never bought in to the radical feminism that is all around us. However, today, for the first time, I realised something: we do actually specifically need women role models – for a particular reason.

women-role-models-mindfulness

The way we learn seems to come from our ability to mimic. From Aristotle to Kurt Vonnegut, to the modern self-help industry, they all agree that we learn by modelling people. I think that toddlers learn to walk at least in part because they want to be like everyone else abound them. So it doesn’t matter to them how many times they fell on their a*s. Same thing with language. Monkey see – monkey do. That’s what learning is about. That’s why doctors in training shadow more experienced doctors. However, as is the case with toddlers, we learn just by being close to something – without necessarily having chosen to do so. It’s like walking into a room full of people who are laughing at something – it is hard to stop yourself from smiling, even though you have no reason to laugh and feel really awkward now! That’s why we become the average of the five people around us.

The clincher is in the fact that it is much easier to learn from someone who you can relate to more easily. When I heard Arianna Huffington speak about her career, it just made so much more sense to me than when I heard countless other men. It’s not that I didn’t learning anything from men – far from it. However, seeing women in business is life-affirming and whatever it is that my brain saw in this woman that I am not even aware of – I feel that it really made a difference. It added certainty. It’s not that I don’t get inspired by male role models, but there was this added “if she can do it – I can do it too.”