Staying Centered

When I started the Enfactor Podcast in 2019, my goal was to capture and share stories of entrepreneurs that could inspire nascent and practicing entrepreneurs.  Specifically, I wanted to help them build their resiliency muscle so that they would be better prepared to deal with the challenges they would inevitably face in their entrepreneurial journey. I had observed that many of my students struggled with moving forward in the face of challenges and I also knew that, for me and my students, stories have been and continue to be powerful teachers.  My hope was that entrepreneurs, students and educators could find some value in this collection of interviews with entrepreneurs.

What I certainly didn’t expect was that only a few months into the production of Enfactor, our entire planet would be stripped of many of the activities and customs that were commonplace in our lives and that most of humanity would be called upon to rely on their resilience to move forward into an entirely new way of life.  Today, some business owners are just starting to return to their stores, restaurants and beauty salons and customers are making decisions regarding what they are willing to do to get a haircut or to enjoy a meal out.  The entire economy worldwide is dependent upon our collective resilience.  Today, I believe the mission of the Enfactor podcast is even more important than ever before. 

The past few months of isolation have enabled me to spend a bit more time in reflection and study, and given my passion for the importance of resilience, much of my study has been focused on better understanding the elements necessary for resilience.  One such element that has emerged is the concept of being centered. 

I have used this phrase myself and heard it used many times but as I reflected on the concept, I realized that I really didn’t have a clear definition.  When I dug more deeply into the idea of staying centered, I found that most describe staying centered as having a reference point to come back to when life’s challenges and emotions push us off balance.  As I thought more about this concept I realized that we usually consider resilience as something only required when life deals us undesirable outcomes or situations.  However, with further reflection, I have come to believe that even positive outcomes and situations can take us away from that reference point required for staying centered.  Let me explain.

As humans we are constantly confronted with opportunities and experiences that can push us off center.  You may have heard the phase “chasing the shiny new penny” before.  For those of us who are optimistic and enthusiastic about opportunities (like many entrepreneurs), it can be a challenge not to follow after every exciting idea and thought that enters our minds.  For others, who are more pessimistic as a rule, it can be easy to go down the rabbit hole of negativity which can render us immobile and unable to take needed action.  Whether these are thoughts we generate in our own mind or thoughts that get triggered by some other person or stimulus in the environment, the tendency to chase after thoughts and hold them close cannot only be exhausting, it can also get in the way of our greatest destiny.

I recall reading a book many years ago entitled Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers.  This was a time in my life when I was newly divorced, a single mom of two very young children and working on a PhD.  Her book was a gift to me at the time when everything was feeling pretty scary.  Decision making was especially hard for me at that time.  As a single parent, I missed having someone to talk to about even the small day to day decisions with my children.  And, in other areas of my life, there was a lot of uncertainty.  What would I do when I soon completed my PhD? Where would I work and live?  Jeffers book helped me develop a model for decision making that I have used throughout the rest of my life. 

In her book, Jeffers draws from Stewart Emery’s book, Actualizations, where he shares a model for changing your life.  He developed this model while he was on the flight deck of an airplane on the way to Hawaii where he noticed a console and inquired about its purpose. The pilot informed Emery that this was an inertial guidance system for the airplane.  The purpose of the system, he further explained, was to get the plane to its destination within 5 minutes of the planned arrival time.  The system worked by correcting the path of the aircraft each time it went off course.  Furthermore, the pilot explained that although they would arrive as planned, the plane would only be on the actual course about 10% of the time! As Emery considered this fact, he realized that life is the same.  The path to where we want to go starts with an error, which we then correct toward another error, which we then correct to the next error and so on.  The only time we are truly on course  is that moment when we zigzag across the path.  Jeffers and Emery taught me that “the trick to life is not to worry about making a wrong decision, its learning when to correct.”   

Adopting this notion of decision making came as a tremendous relief to me at a time when so much was changing in my life. For me, this meant I could embrace the decisions that were facing me with a lighter, less restrictive approach.  It meant I could actually enjoy my life more because I wasn’t so afraid that any one decision I made would mean that I had done irreparable damage to my children’s lives or my own life. It meant I could make mistakes and still survive.  I could let go and surrender a bit more to life and the bounty being offered to me.

Last night, as I sat with my husband looking out at a waterfront restaurant across the harbor from our home in Florida, I considered the current environment and realized there were many parallels with that time in my life and what many business owners are facing right now.  This weekend, our governor announced that beauty salons could open and my hair stylist promptly called me yesterday to set up my very much needed appointment for a haircut.  I asked her if she was ready to go back to work and she said she was but that she was scared.  Many business owners are scared right now.  They want to get their businesses back up and running but they know that it will be anything but business as usual.  How will they keep employees and customers safe?  Will they be sued if someone gets sick while they are working or shopping?  Will customers even come back?  How long will this last?  So much is uncertain right now.  

At times like these when we have a great deal of uncertainty, we dive in and we correct.  But how do we know when to correct? Life gives us lessons and the opportunity to grow every day. Those lessons come in the form of energy.  Energy is neither good nor bad.  We may process it as positive (a new opportunity) or negative (fear caused by a pandemic that closes down the economy for months), but in the end, it is neither good nor bad because both can bring important transformation. I would suggest that how we respond to those life lessons, to both the positive and negative, reflects the degree to which we are centered.  Are we able to stay focused on what is most important and not get carried too far off our path by either the positive or the negative energy? That is the test of being centered.  And, when we are unclear on the end goal, as Sid Morgan suggested in his opening quote in his Enfactor episode, we stay focused on excellence and doing our best.  That will naturally take us to where we need to be. 

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