“When I was learning to drive,” says Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap, “I remember my instructor telling me that driving was more an art than a science. The key to the art, he said, was what he called ‘benign vigilance,’ or paying keen but relaxed attention to what your car and the other cars were doing in every moment.”
He uses this to describe the process of paying attention to one’s own personal process. He is speaking specifically of attention to the ways we sabotage our own success, but I think we could use this “keen but relaxed attention” in all areas of our personal growth. It sure is more fun than fixating, obsessing, and inflating the process. Or ignoring anything true about ourselves altogether.
A friend of mine jokes that when we see an issue that repeatedly comes up, we are often poking at the bruise from the initial injury (emotional pain). I never quite liked her analogy about that because I knew it worked differently in my own process, but I just couldn’t find the words to make it make sense.
I like to think of it more like this: I get a small shadow box in the upper right hand corner of my computer screen every time one of my Skype contacts comes online. And it annoys me, but it disappears after a few seconds and I can return to work. So, I can think of it as an analogy for my own process. When my own shadowy box pops up in front of me, I can think to myself, “What can I learn from this?” And then simply return to work. It’s an opportunity for me to see the pattern from outside myself so I can more easily and objectively change the pattern.
Sometimes it happens so quickly that I figure out the next step and move on. Easy as that. Or, if I wanted to quote the infomercials of my childhood, I could say, “It’s just that easy,” in an upbeat voice with a TV smile. And it is.
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