Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Try stepping aside, observing, and letting things unfold a bit.

This past Spring, I read The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer.  I walked away with a gem that has proved invaluable to me in my work and personal life.

It’s simple, although not necessarily easy. I’m paraphrasing the process, but it entails the practice of stepping aside, taking on the role of observer, and letting things unfold for a while before getting concerned over or immediately involved in a conflict, problem, solution, or expressed need. I’m on a mission to practice taking on the role of observer versus feeling that I must immediately figure out what should or must happen, in order for outcomes and everyone to be well. I’m finding the results of this practice to be very positive and interesting.

If you’re someone who tends to provide quick solutions at work, your prompt involvement may be getting in the way of others stepping up with strong alternative ideas to resolve a conflict and/or find a solution to a problem. In my work, I’ve chosen to “step aside” for a few minutes, a couple of hours, a day, or a week, depending on the circumstances. In many of these situations I found that people have stepped up promptly in a much more significant way, or a solution naturally evolved. Or, the specific needs for my involvement were demonstrated more clearly which helped to direct how I could add the most value.

A great example of a personal application might be when we find ourselves worrying about circumstances surrounding a loved one. We intellectually know that worry is a useless activity and that worry is generally associated with circumstances where we have little to no control. Yet, it may not help our ability to stop worrying. So just reminding ourselves to let things unfold and observe—even for an afternoon—can be a powerful exercise in letting go. Even if our worry is only minimized in the short-term, it adds to our well-being in the moment. Michael Singer states it this way: “As long as you’re watching, you’re not getting lost in it.”

If you choose to try this simple practice in your work and life, the more you use it, the easier and more natural it becomes to tap into it.


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