Last weekend, I ran a challenge on the # breakthrouhabits Facebook groupwhere we explored what members believed they needed in order to have more breakthroughs in their lives.
This heart is a beautiful snapshot of our collective needs.
PATIENCE, TIME, SELF-BELIEF, EMPATHY, MENTORS, HONESTY, FUN, OPENNESS, ENERGY, SUPPORT, LUCK, TRUST, SOLITUDE were the shortlisted attributes.
The three candidates in the running for our top prerequisites, however, were: Self-belief, Patience & Time. Today, I’d like to invite you to explore these in more detail.
The fact that self-belief is perceived to be a prerequisite means that on some level, we believe that breakthroughs are reserved mainly for confident people.
Invariably, self-belief is important. How many things have we not done or tried because we lacked belief in ourselves? But what is self-belief? What are the emotions, the energies that fuel self-belief? Isn’t it a feeling of being in our power? We’re in our power when we are confident and we are not in our power when we lack self-belief.
So at the core, “self-belief” or lack thereof, is synonymous with feeling empowered or feeling powerless.
To believe therefore that to have more breakthroughs in our lives we need more self-belief is akin to saying, that we need to first feel in our power (aka empowered) before we can have a breakthrough. Being in our power does have a lot to do with breakthroughs. Only, not in the way we think it does.
I’d like to invite you to reverse that construct. What if told you that:
Having a breakthrough brings you into alignment with your power and not the other way around.
I remember the day I was invited to give a lecture at the Rotary club. (For those of you who are not familiar with Rotary — imagine giving a presentation to a scientific peer-review panel made up of Einsteins and Freuds.) At once, I was thrust into self-paralysis. Doubts such as, “ Who am I to be speaking to such an esteemed audience?” “What on Earth could I possibly say that would interest them? “ started to mushroom in the darkest corners of my mind. I felt I had one shot, one opportunity to make it or break it, but that I lacked the ammunition to seize this opportunity. And just like Peter Pan had warned: “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” My lack of self-belief had started to render me powerless; Unable to “fly”.
Until I had a breakthrough. I had an insight into what the core message of my talk was going to be. The way to tell an insight from a regular thought is by the way it feels. For me, these moments feel like clouds parting to let the sunshine through on a stormy day. Exhilarating. Thrilling. Tantalising. That feeling was sufficient to make me drop everything and roll up my sleeves to get the speech crafted and the i’s dotted. I felt in my power. The breakthrough empowered me. And just like that, my lack of self-belief vacated my awareness.
We treat self-belief as a chore. As something that must be worked on. Accomplished. Found, or developed. I would like to challenge that perception.
Self-belief is not the fuel, but the byproduct of breakthroughs.
So now the question we get to, is: How do we get more breakthroughs in our lives?
A number of members mentioned “patience” as their core need. “Good things come to those who wait.” This saying sums up our relationship with “patience”. When we tune into the word “patience” we get a quality of passiveness, of resignation. A polar opposite of “passion”.
When we’re passionate about something, we’re eager, we’re active, we’re frisky, we’re in our power. When we are patient, we resign our power (and all the other positive emotions along with it) to circumstance.
To be patient may sound as an invitation to stand by the sidelines in enduring anticipation of things — or in this case, breakthroughs, to come; That we have no power, or role in shaping events, or in creating breakthroughs in our lives.
But where should these “things” or “breakthroughs” be coming from? Who should be shaping the events in our lives if we don’t? Breakthroughs, like harvest, are a deliberate process. First, we sow. Then we reap. If we haven’t deliberately and actively sown seeds, what harvest should we expect to reap?
Patience is not necessary when you come to understand that you are the reaper; The harvester; The creator. A harvester understands the laws of nature. He understands that harvest is the result of cultivation — not patience. He doesn’t stand by his sown seeds waiting in resignation, or patience for them to magically thrive. He sows, hoes, mulches, adds manure, fertilizes, irrigates and so on. It’s an active process. And he also understands that there comes a time when you need to let nature do its work.
The same stands for breakthroughs.
In my article “ It’s All Been Done Before: How to Turn Unoriginal Ideas Into Breakthroughs” I wrote that:
Innovation = An old point of reference + your unique angle.
Applied to breakthroughs, what this means is that we first need to have a “point of reference” (the seed) — be it something we’re interested in, a research or someone else’s idea — to which we can add our unique angle (the sowing). These two are all about active and deliberate participation and have very little to do with patience. “A former point of reference” requires that we acquire some form of knowledge or skill. To add to that your unique angle then is the part where we let nature weave its magic.
And this is where TIME comes into the equation.
The process of breakthroughs is already naturally facilitated by our brain. This is an infrastructure of neural pathways that activate and do all the work for us. (Isn’t that great?!)
WHEN WE LET IT! And this is the caveat. We rarely do.
This neural infrastructure only activates when we take the time to do nothing. When we make time to close our eyes, remove any distractions and let our mind wander.
- NOT meditating, where the focus is on having no thoughts.
- NOT practising mindfulness, where the focus is on observing thoughts.
- NOT focusing, where the attention is on something outside ourselves.
But the opposite of focus. Surrender! Don’t focus on anything at all. Let your mind wander. And TA-DA! Just watch what happens. Your brain is making breakthroughs. Welcome to Wonderland!
Patience and self-belief are overrated. Believe you can “fly” and you will. I am not using the word “fly” in the metaphorical sense. If you look at flying from the restricted, technical point of view — as the act of wing flapping that is — you will never take off. Seek out the feelings that come from it, however, and you will soar.
- Self-belief is not the fuel but the byproduct of breakthroughs. You will have more self-belief if you have more breakthroughs. Focus on the latter. Not on the former.
- You have control over your breakthroughs. You can deliberately create them. Rather than being patient in waiting for them, become eager in your creation of them.
- Time is a friend of breakthroughs, but as it stands for all things in life — the important thing is what we do with the time that’s given us. When it comes to breakthroughs time is best spent on doing nothing at all.
What thoughts are triggered within you as you read this? What are the things you believe you NEED to be more creative and have more breakthroughs in your life?