If you want full power to the engines: drop your shields

space-ship-shields

When we’re being sincere and authentic, we’ve got access to all our most powerful functions.

Authenticity allows our truest feelings and intentions to come to the front and have the benefit of our full focus and attention.

But this focus and power comes at the expense of our defences.

When we’re authentic and sincere, our shields are down. We’ve put all our energy into the engines and we’re not draining our batteries by powering defensive systems concerned with worrying about what others will think.

We can certainly feel exposed when we do this, but it comes with 2 massive upsides:

  1. We get the primary benefit of the authentic action. Authenticity springs from purpose, so when we’re being authentic and sincere, we’re fulfilling a purpose. And there is huge value in this.
  2. The more we operate in this mode, the more we realise just how unnecessary the shields are in the first place. The more authentic we are, the more we see that nothing that our shields appear to stop, can actually harm us anyway.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“We do not recognize any injury that does not harm virtue. If I deserve these names there is no insult, it is justice; if I don’t deserve them, it is he who does the injustice that deserves to blush. Where is the insult? That I am bald or have weak eyes or thin legs? Can it be an insult to be told what is evident?”

– Seneca

Both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca illustrate how much of the injury we experience comes from our “sense” of being hurt. That we can only be harmed by others when we chose to feel harmed – when we acknowledge that they have done us harm.

So turn your your shields off and power your engines up.

Don’t worry about what the others think, they won’t be able to catch you anyway.

Bravery and sincerity

Someone in the office started a weekly, drop-in, mindfulness session.

She booked a room for 20 minutes, and once a week, anyone who is interested can go over and listen to a simple, guided meditation.

It’s a great idea, was well framed and perfectly executed. Most of the people who turned up to the first session hadn’t done any meditation before, and the group seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience.

One of the things which I liked most about her idea, is that it was offered with compete sincerity – which means that she left herself vulnerable to social ridicule for backing an idea which might not work.

You might read that and think “social ridicule? What kind of work place is that?”

As it happens, it’s a great workplace, with lots of genuine, caring people. But there is still vulnerability in presenting an offer like this sincerely. When you first suggest it to a group of people, you do so not knowing if it will be accepted and you open the door especially to the very English dismissal/ridicule/discrediting arriving in the form of “banter”.

This kind of dismissal doesn’t have to be malicious in order to be effective or painful to receive. It’s often not even intended to actually discredit the idea, but is just a sniping observation, played for laughs.

This is especially true if the idea presented is more like “let’s meditate together” as opposed to something socially safer like “let’s get a burrito.”

The fact that I find this sincerity brave, probably says more about my own sensitivity to being undercut socially than being any great comment on how we interact with each other. I’ve been burned by comments like this in the past and I’ve certainly been responsible for dishing out my fair share. But I still think there is something powerful in this sincerity and worth calling out.

Brene Brown has spoken and written about the power and value of making ourselves vulnerable and Seth Godin stands firmly behind putting things out there which might not work.

Elsewhere, Godin had said that bravery is over-rated, because we tend to elevate it to a status which means that we tend to make it unattainable for most people on a daily basis. But I think that the opposite is true. I don’t think that it’s given enough emphasis, but we need to show where it exists in the small gestures, not just the large ones. We need to celebrate and promote the acts of everyday bravery in everyday situations, as they potentially open up a whole spectrum of choices which might not otherwise be available to us.

This might just be a case of calling out and supporting sincere offers when we see them. Probably more helpful is to ensure that we defend sincere offers when they are at risk of being undercut socially by someone who pokes the vulnerability for laughs.

It might not be the easiest position to take in the world, but if it were easy, then the stoics wouldn’t have bothered to make courage one of their core virtues.

Either way, I’m all for a little more sincerity and social vulnerability. They might be occasionally painful, but I suspect they contain a lot of value that we ignore on a daily basis.

In the meantime, if you need me between 11.40 & 12.00 on a Wednesday, I’ll in chilling out in Christine’s mindfulness session.