I recently experienced a weekend workshop at the acclaimed Esalen Institute. It's located on a remote stretch of California coast, carved between mountain and ocean, a dozen miles south of Big Sur. For 50 years, they've been a "global network of seekers devoted to the belief that we are all capable of the extraordinary."
Led by two psychologists, one of them a former Buddhist monk, the workshop was, "How We Change and Why We Don't: The Art and Science of Transformation." Because my coaching work is focused on using the principles of GSD to achieve transformation, the workshop was incredible -- until the last hour, when it became uncomfortable.
With one hour to go before leaving, one of the instructors announced, "We're heading to the art barn." The discomfort began building as we walked (uphill, naturally) to a building that looked more like a cottage than a barn.
After settling in we received our assignment: draw our transformation journey as a compelling visual recap of the weekend, using our less dominant hand.
I didn't know how or where to start. While others around me were diving right in, my first thought was making a quick escape to the nearest exit. At that point I hit the pause button, closed my eyes, and put out to the universe the question of, "How do I begin?"
Moments later I "got off the blank canvas" (literally), completing the assignment in time to enjoy lunch with my fellow workshop attendees. How did I shift from paralyzing discomfort to GSD? Here are the five actions I took:
1) I let go. As you know from my past blog posts, letting go doesn't come naturally. Unfortunately, if we don't let go we end up being dragged. Once I acknowledge I was holding on too tight, I was able to identify a starting point.
2) I visualized my starting point. What happened when I closed my eyes? I thought of Polihale beach on the island of Kauai, one of the most soul-nourishing places I know. As I visualized the waves crashing onto the beach next to the rugged cliffs of the Na Pali coast, I realized many of my own transformations have started surrounded by this beauty.
3) I got back into my swim lane. I admit I was distracted by those around me. Turns out, there were some very creative people joining me at Esalen that weekend. When I stopped focusing on what they were doing -- and I returned to what I could control -- I discovered my path.
4) I cut myself some slack. Especially for you overachievers -- and who isn't? -- give yourself permission that the process doesn't have to be pretty, and the product doesn't have to be perfect.
5) I went for it! I picked up one of my favorite colors -- orange -- and I put the first stroke on the page.
When I arrived home I placed my drawing on the dining room table. It's moved several times over the last few weeks, but it's remained visible in high-traffic areas of our home. It's a visual reminder of that Sunday morning, when the transformation of a blank canvas started by creating the conditions for change.