Before we even get into the specifics of how and what to practice, it’s important to distinguish the notion of a “practice”. For the most part, we relate to the things we take on in life like we do a TODO list. There are neat tidy boxes, and once we’ve finished or accomplished the action, we can check it off and be done with it.
This is a very human approach to managing the busy-ness that is our daily lives. By checking something off, we can say “I’ve done it” and then move on. We don’t have to mentally keep track of it, and we can get back to doing everything else that needs to be done. With just a little more time, maybe we can get it all finished and then, finally, we can have peace (or binge-watch the next season of that TV show). This approach also provides us with the opportunity to get back to “life as normal”.
“Life as normal” is the way you’ve been living life up to this point. From “life as normal”, you know what to do, you know what you’re right about, you know what you’re wrong about and you know what you don’t know. “Life as normal” includes the automaticity (and comfort) of your shadows, as well as the complaints that accompany the expression and impact of those shadows in your life.
“Life as normal” is not the path to breakthrough. The practices we offer in this book are designed to get you out of “life as normal”. Doing so will be uncomfortable. Like going to the gym and lifting weights, the practices will put stress on you, initially, as they force you to leave the comfort of your homeostasis and develop new capacities. Your comfort and safety will not want you to practice. Practising is anathema to your comfort and safety, because it moves you outside of “life as normal”, and into the scary unknown — which is what your shadows are designed to protect you from.
The upshot of this is that it’s really compelling to simply try to “get your practices done” or find shortcuts to them. You can shortcut practices any number of ways.
Rather than actually going out and taking on the practice, you could instead visualize doing them from the comfort (and safety) of your chair, and “life as normal”. You could take on a practice a single time, and then check it off your TODO list.
“There, I did it. I noticed a time I did that thing. Done.”
When given a practice to notice yourself doing something, like say, closing off from people in conversation, instead of making the effort to catch yourself in the act and notice it as its happening, you could simply scan your thoughts for the times you already know you close in conversation. Then, you could nod your head, resting secure in the fact that you “did” the practice, and move on to whatever is next.
If you’re scanning your thoughts for where you already know you do something, there can be nothing new discovered from this approach. We will come to what it means to discover something shortly. For now, it’s worth considering that all of these approaches that allow you to “get done” something you’re practising are self-defeating for someone committed to breakthrough in their lives and leadership.
These approaches are like going to the gym and lifting a weight once, then dusting your hands and patting yourself on the back. Exercise, lifting weights and practices are not a one-and-done kind of thing. They’re an ongoing, day-to-day practice. This is what distinguishes a practice from homework, tasks, chores, jobs, or anything else that can be neatly crossed off your TODO list.