- On September 13, 2016
I have found a question that really helps me when navigating in difficult situations. It is a question I first came across as part of a very powerful transformation-discernment process developed and facilitated by my friend Jane Lovas.
The question is, “What is mine to do?”
I have recently been using the question alone as a mindful exercise when I’m in complex situations where there is no easy answer and no quick fix. “What is mine to do?”
Sometimes we are faced with overwhelming situations where there are no easy answers. Poverty, AIDS, hunger, global warming. I’m just one person, what can I do?
Sometimes it is a situation that puts someone we know in a lot of fear, pain, or disappointment. I want to throw myself in and fix it. But it is not in my power to make it right. I want to help, what can I do?
“What is mine to do?” What little thing can I do to move the situation into a more positive place, to take some action, however small, that has meaning?
I have used “What is mine to do?” in situations where some decision is needed. As a leader, it is easy for me to take charge, decide the answer, direct the result. It certainly will get things done. And, it may not be the most effective way to handle that circumstance.
When I take the lead, then there is little opportunity for growth and development in my team. I take the ‘easy’ way out by defaulting to a behavior I already know (taking charge) and they take the ‘easy’ way out by letting me.
The question “What is mine to do?” causes me to pause and reflect before diving in with my default reaction.
Maybe what is mine to do is not leading the charge myself and allowing someone else to take the lead.
Maybe it is asking some probing questions.
Maybe it is making sure the resources are available.
Maybe it is removing myself from the discussions.
Maybe it is giving acceptance to mistakes.
“What is mine to do?”opens the way for choices about the way I can contribute best.
“What is mine to do?” was my guiding force in a recent weekend home visiting family. Family dynamics can be complex and deeply rooted. There can be patterns of pain, disappointment, resentment, and unmet expectations, as well as great love and intentions for change, joy, and understanding.
This visit, instead of just wishing for better and berating myself for so easily falling into old patterns of behavior, I mindfully thought, “What is mine to do?” That little question helped me accept that while I can’t fix old patterns all in one weekend, I can still make a positive difference and leave feeling that I have done what I could to create a good visit.
“What is mine to do” now? Offering to do dinner prep. Giving a big hug for no reason. Fixing little things around the house. Listening to a long story with attentiveness. Being present. Working from an intention of kindness. Remembering we are all doing the best we can.
I lost it a few times. I moved into old reactive patterns. By keeping “What is mine to do?” firmly in mind, I did catch myself more often and it gave me the pause I needed to choose behaviors that would return the situation to more positive outcomes. It felt vulnerable and uncomfortable, and it was mine to do.
What is YOURS to do?
Photo credit: JMaliszewski, 2015.