Gait, Gait, Do Tell Me

Two sisters (religious order, not biological relation, as far as I know) live in one of the condos across from us. They are very nice, older ladies, warm and pleasant, always ready with a kind word and a smile as they see others in the complex come and go. They seem, at least on casual observation, to lead very busy lives. They rise early, heading out to do whatever it is sisters do in the world nowadays. One drives a minivan, one a small nondescript sedan. All pretty ordinary, I suppose, except for one thing that always strikes me about one of them.

Sister gets up early most mornings. She almost always beats me out of the parking lot, and I’m an early riser and starter myself. When she exits her front door she heads for her minivan, parked about fifty feet away if that, with the speed of a sprinter and the determination and conviction (again, at least as I perceive it) of a person who is going to change the world. She is diminutive, casually dressed, doesn’t stand out, but she is driven to get to her vehicle and start the day. She walks determined, rapidly, not wasting a moment of her early morning time. If I am leaving at the same time and she sees me, she will offer a cheery hello and a wave. Then she is off.

Now, come with me to my office a little later in the morning. We walk up the clinic hallway to the waiting room up front, open the door, and call out a name. The patient is in her mid-twenties, somewhat disheveled, is chewing gum, and has earphones in her ears connected to an oversized phone. She saunters to the door from the couch on the far side of the room. She is wearing dark sunglasses, which she does not remove.

I have never met this young woman, so I welcome her, introduce myself, and thank her for coming to see me. She makes no eye contact, looks straight past me, does not acknowledge my greeting, and continues her slow roll through the door and into the hallway. We stroll, no other word for it, down the hall to my office at the far end of the building. As I begin my usual interview questions, she looks at me blankly, shades still hiding her eyes, offers one word answers, and looks quite bored. This young lady does not appear to be the least bit interested in being here, in acknowledging me, or in moving the process along toward any definable goal.

What would you say about these two women, knowing only what I have told you? Granted, we acknowledge that there is  lot more about both of them, their stories, their motivations, that we do not know. However, I am being intentionally superficial in my description of them for the purpose of this post.

What does physical gait, movement, and apparent drive tell us about each other?

Of these two women, who do you feel is most likely to have set a goal, or multiple goals, for herself for the day? Which of them is more likely looking towards accomplishing something measurable before lunchtime? Of the two, which one knows what she is trying to achieve by being in the physical place she occupies this morning?

We telegraph our demeanor, our intentions, our plans, our desires, and our energy levels  to others all the time. Without saying a word, we look motivated, driven and highly focused on whatever is coming next, or we appear tired, bored, lackadaisical and aimless.

How will you present yourself to your coworkers, your boss, your spouse, your friends and to strangers today?

Will they see you as leaning into the day, full of energy and vigor, ready to accept whatever challenge comes your way?

Or, will they see you as someone who has no plans, no energy, no spark, and no reason to move any faster?

 

 

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Clarity

Sometimes we writers struggle to find things to write about.

Sometimes we sit, an uncompromisingly blank piece of paper in front of us, twirling the Montblanc or the Mirado Black Warrior #2, waiting for the Muse to arrive with the coffee and wisdom that only she can bring. Sometimes she comes, right on time. Sometimes she makes us wait. Sometimes she stands us up.

Today, she came straight at me, holding out a bright orange Jittery Joe’s large Crackacino with three Equals, dark, strong, and good. She made no bones about what I was to write today.

I want to talk to you about clarity.

To be clear, I want to talk to you about three aspects of clarity.

The first is clarity of thought.

We live in a world of too many choices, too many stimuli, too many rules, too many loopholes. We are confronted with ambiguity at every turn. We could do this, or we could do that. We could believe this, or not. We could value this, or not.

We watch screens, three inch, five inch, seven inch, eleven inch, thirteen inch, fifteen inch, seventeen inch, twenty-one inch, twenty-seven inch, God, up to six feet across. They tell us what to think, how to dress, what to buy, how to eat, what to read, and what is popular. They tell us who is rich, who is poor, who is beautiful, who is ugly, who is smart and who is powerful.

We are bombarded with cues, clues, and mandates. We are told what to do and how to process. The result is, of course, that we are nothing more than confused. Horribly confused. Awash in what ifs and how tos and maybes and somedays and if onlys.

We have forgotten how to think.

We all need to sit with ourselves, just with ourselves, and think. We need to be clear and honest with ourselves about what we think. Why we think the way we do. What we believe to be true and why. We need to do this today more than we ever have before.

The second is clarity of action.

Any good practitioner of cognitive behavioral therapy knows that one may not change actions before one changes thoughts. Clear thoughts lead to clear actions.

Be honest with yourself today. Why do you do what you do?

Is it to feel good? Is it to impress someone? Is it to provide for your family? Is to achieve fame or notoriety? Is it to become rich? Is it to manipulate someone else, or to make them suffer? Is it to become more in touch with yourself, your own emotions and feelings and aspirations?

My friends, I don’t care what you do. I would never offer advice about what you should do. It’s simply not my place to do that. The choice to take an action or not, to follow through on something or to let it go, to seize an opportunity or to let it slip by is completely up to you. To each of us. You must make that decision for yourself.

I would just ask that even as you try to think more clearly, that you also act out of a sense of clarity as well. Know what you are doing. Choose it, actively. Decide that it is the right thing, the right path, the right direction for you. Don’t let anyone or anything make that choice for you. Act from a position of strength.

The third is clarity of motive.

We all fool ourselves. We do it every day. We tell ourselves that we think this way and act that way because of our religious beliefs or our upbringing or our sense of responsibility to the greater good.

Bullshit.

We know exactly why we do the things we do and what drives us. We are just too embarrassed or afraid to be honest with ourselves and own our own thoughts and actions. I see it every day in my professional work. Patients want me to validate and sanction and explain their thoughts and actions away.

A large part of my day to day work is helping people to see that they are not victims, they are not powerless and they are not doomed to the present state of affairs. They can change.

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you stay in a job that you hate? Why do you live with someone who abuses you? Why do you repeatedly make poor choices? Why do you drink or use drugs? Why do you see yourself as a victim? Why do you let others have so much control over your life? Why do you resist making the changes that will alter your life in profound ways, mind-blowing ways?

Let’s be clear.

Your thoughts are your own. Sit down and be honest about them. Hash them out. Explore them. Flesh them out. Let them expand. Own them.

Your actions are your own. You decide to do something. Or not. You make the choices, every day of your life. Own them.

Your motives are yours alone. You know exactly why you think and feel the way you do. You know exactly why you act the way you do. Are you brave enough to be honest with yourself and own that, too?

Clarity of thought.

Clarity of action.

Clarity of motive.

Think, do, and understand exactly why.

Your life will be much simpler and much richer for it.