WHEN I’M NOT BUILDING STRATEGIC PLANNING MUSCLE IN INNOVATIVE ENTERPRISES, EXTREME ADVENTURING WITH MY HUSBAND THOMAS, OR ENGAGING KIWIS IN POLITICAL SOLUTION-FINDING, I TEACH TEAMS AND INDIVIDUALS TO FUNCTION AT A HYPER-AWARE LEVEL THROUGH #ACUITYHACKS.
The thirst for new experiences is as fundamental to human life as is our discomfort with instability. Logically this is a contradiction. But logic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…
There’s a time and a place for everything. Logic being one of the things. But even staunchly conservative branches of science have come to acknowledge that there’s more going on in the universe than the simplistic linearity of rational absolutism.
So what does this have to do with acuity?
Whenever you pay attention to your experiences in the moment you’ll notice you’re in one of two modes: growth (engaged in something that expands your experience of life) or safety (doing something that preserves your sense of security).
Neither is intrinsically better than the other, except as called for by a particular situation. (If a gun is pointed at you, growth is not the mode that’ll best serve you.)
So there’s no problem until you *want* expansion, but act instead in a manner that’s designed to preserve your sense of security.
Acuity enables you to see these dynamics clearly. It’s the faculty by which we distinguish our wants and needs, unravel our underlying motivations, objectively assess our options and their likely consequences.
Acuity hack No. 2: stop resisting.
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell reveals the formula that underlies most popular myths. It all starts with the hero being coaxed to escape the “ordinary world” by the siren call of adventure. But before the inevitable escape is made, the hero resists the call.
You’ve heard that siren call — we all have; this tension between the allure of the new and the comfort of the known is as old as humankind.
The call is an invitation toward growth. But if you’ve become habitually resistant to it, it’s likely only perceptible to you now as a muted, but persistent, sense of things not quite being right. Discontent.
The most popular approach is to focus on breath. Don’t try to control your breathing, just observe your inhalations and exhalations, and let your mind follow your breath in and out. Despite it being so simple (or perhaps because it is), you’ll find this to be extremely calming in times of emotional stress.
Still, there’s no problem here. But habituation and acuity are opposite ends of a spectrum (this is a whole other topic that I’ll be addressing), so you only get to choose one. Neither choice is wrong, but each will deliver the perfect consequence.
The consequence of resisting the call to growth (or the whisperings of discontent): a textbook case of cognitive dissonance, the psychological condition in which we simultaneously hold two conflicting notions, or behave in a way that conflicts with our world view.
Our emotional wellbeing requires us to resolve this dissonance, and in the absence of acuity the default is to manufacture an illusion that bridges or masks the conflicting beliefs, or justifies the misaligned behavior.
This is why we convince ourselves – often others, too – that we don’t like global travel/working for ourself/insert-your-own-belief-here, all the while knowing deep down that we’d love to do that thing, but don’t have the time or money/are too afraid of failure/insert-your-own-conflict-here.
The call won’t go away though. It generally gets louder, even as we become more proficient at blocking it out.
And the other thing about the illusions we manufacture: they’re Kryptonite to acuity.
So what if you stopped resisting? Cut off the energy you expend to maintain the illusion of a comfort zone? What if you choose growth, and followed the urgings of whatever siren it is that’s calling to you?
Down that route awaits the unknown. And all you have to sustain you, as you step off the beaten track, is faith that things will turn out okay.
Fortunately, that’s all you need, because that’s also the path to greater acuity – the very quality that enables you to design and implement a life that best serves you.