Making sense of the time between stories
Many of you know that I take time off during solstices and equinoxes to recharge. In anticipation of my solstice break June 16th to July 5th, I wanted to bring the spirit of Summer -- the growth and warmth and joy of the season into this post. But with so much going on in the world (yes I am continuing my practice of not naming the multiple, existential threats facing us), I have found myself struggling to stay motivated and optimistic.
So what's up for this Dear Reader edition? I decided to talk about the process of becoming; the deeply emotional and at times existential nature of actualizing ourselves (and our organizations) during times of social collapse and how dreaming can save us.
In this old story, mechanistic and linear thinking have paved the way for capitalism and a sick society where individualism, competition, and over consumption are celebrated.
In my explorations of what it means to become, I've found myself re-visiting the new/old story discourse popularized by author, speaker, and cultural pioneer Charles Eisenstein. Eisenstein talks openly about how much of humanity's current struggles are based on an ideological attachment to the "old story", an outdated depiction of a human race that is separate from and superior to nature and the Living World. In this old story, mechanistic and linear thinking have paved the way for capitalism and a sick society where individualism, competition, and over consumption are celebrated and rewarded.
But in the last twenty years, that story is increasingly being questioned and re-imagined. Quantum physics tells us that matter is 99.99% space, we've learned that trees can communicate with one another, and regenerative agriculture (and culture) alongside a reckoning with the wisdom of traditional ecological knowledge and Indigenous ways of knowing is entering mainstream society. A new story, one built on interbeing, cooperation, de-growth, and a radical re-imagining of our political and socio-economic systems is emerging.
We are now in the time between stories - striving to make sense of clashing ideologies, collapsing systems and the resulting emotional, political, and ecological fallout.
We are now in the time between stories - striving to make sense of clashing ideologies, collapsing systems and the emotional, political, and ecological fallout that ensues as a result. It is a time of complexity and grief marked by higher levels of anxiety, depression, and for the first time in U.S. history, a lower life expectancy than previously reported years. But it is also a time of great opportunity, curiosity, and excitement. People are waking up from Eurocentric views and extractive economic systems and ways of living. From the great resignation, to efforts to dismantle white supremacy, and huge gains in labor efforts to unionize, times are-a-changing!
I find myself deeply in touch with this space between stories lately. In the past couple weeks, I've been reflecting on the roller-coaster and whiplash I experienced over the last two years. In the beginning of the pandemic I felt hyper focused. The height of the pandemic was marked by fear and seclusion, but work felt easy. I had bounds of anxious energy that I poured into work projects- partly because I had just returned from 6 months of travel abroad and felt a desire to settle, and also because my work life (being 100% remote before Covid times) was largely undisturbed. But I also felt that continuing on with work as usual felt like the best way to stay grounded during so much uncertainty.
Fast forward two years and the pangs of the pandemic, the political parade happening in Congress and the ongoing conflicts and ecological devastation has caught up with me. What was once a deep desire, energy, and excitement for change has been replaced with sadness, frustration, and at times a shameful apathy for the state of the world. Peopling just feels harder and my patience grows thinner by the minute. Everything takes more effort and my heart is full of longing.
I wonder how can we move at the speed of trust when the speed of catastrophes continue to clobber us?
I wonder how can we move at the speed of trust when the speed of catastrophes continue to clobber us? How can we make time to develop reflective practices and life affirming ways of working together when multiple catastrophes rage on and the clock to prevent a 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures ticks away? How can we continue grinding our spirits away in the non-profit industrial complex; crossing off to do's and checking boxes to stay afloat when collapse is upon us? When we barely have time to dream or wonder and experiment-- the very things we need to imagineer ourselves out of the old story?
But those moments aren't forever. Sometimes I get small bursts of energy or experience a deep belly laugh that wakes me up from my stupor. When these moments come I feel a softening, an opportunity to transmute my anger and frustration and apathy into curiosity for what might, could be. I begin to wonder how I might orient my life towards something completely different, something invigorating. In this space between my own personal stories, and my consulting work, I give myself permission to dream about what I may become.
When these moments come I feel a softening, an opportunity to transmute my anger and frustration and apathy into curiosity for what might, could be.
I dream about closing my business and becoming a screenwriter, or going back to school and becoming a doctor. I imagine that I start a home renovation business or buy a bunch of land and start a farm or open up a drive-in movie theatre that shows Alan Watts talks and classics. I dream that I win the lottery and pay off debt for everyone I know, give clients money to fund their dream work, donate money to organizations doing radical work, and retire in a home off the grid surrounded by books, records, and huge trees. I dream so many things.
I've learned that living should be conducive to life and that when our life force is compromised, the human spirit rebels. Sometimes rebellion happens before we know what comes next.
I've always been a dreamer, but it was only recently that I realized dreaming can be medicine. With so much anger and rage, I realize that my mind needs space to experience joy and liberation from oppressive systems. I've learned that when I am stressed and overwhelmed I feel disconnected from myself and life, which makes me restless. I've learned that living should be conducive to life and that when our life force is compromised, the human spirit rebels. Sometimes this rebellion happens even before we know what comes next.
Dreaming is the latent superpower we need to expand our collective imaginations and what we believe is possible for ourselves, our organizations, and our society.
Maybe that is the power of dreaming. Dreaming gives us a break from trying to fix, or decide, or commit while we grapple with fear, sadness, and the enormity of possibility. Dreaming lets us connect with our humanity when society and oppressive systems do not. It gives the mind and spirit the space to explore the possibilities that exist in the time between stories. It helps us disentangle ourselves from the old story so we can co-create a new (better, regenerative, sustainable, just, joyous, conscious) one. Dreaming is the latent superpower needed to expand our collective imaginations and what we believe is possible for ourselves, our organizations, and our society. Dreaming allows us to become whatever the future begs of us. Maybe dreaming is what will save us.
So while I pause work for a couple of weeks, I won't be planning or scheming for what comes next. Instead, I will be spending my time dreaming about what might could be for me, and what might become of our world. And for the time being, this is my work. This is my medicine.
Alexis Goggans, PCC (she/her/hers)
Founder & President of Be Bold Services
Want to chat? Schedule a meeting with me
P.S. Check out the next section for updates on Be Bold happenings, tips to up your intentional work, opportunities to be in community with me, & cool resources!
Tip for Bold Impact
Some tips to help individuals and organizations set intentions that stick
Starting a new habit, setting an intention, or working towards a new goal can feel like a daunting task. When I work 1:1 with clients or with leaders of an organization there is always a sincere desire to make a change, yet often little progress after making a concerted effort. Below are some tips individuals and organizations can use to successfully develop a new habit or intention that can stick.
Be clear about the benefit of the behavior change and name all the potential challenges (including negative self talk) that will prevent you from achieving your goal. Be sure to also identify strategies you might use to overcome any potential challenges in advance. For best results, write your goals and obstacles down (on a sticky note or anywhere you or staff regularly gaze). I highly recommend the top of google documents and notes pages or bathroom sticky notes and places like the fridge where you will be reminded of the goal when you are not in work mode.
Break you intentions or goals into small, achievable stages or steps. One of the most important parts of goal setting is creating momentum by achieving small goals that will increase your sense of accomplishment early. If you find yourself struggling to get to step or stage two, break your goal into smaller chunks or find a way to simplify.
Operationalize your intended behavior change or goal. Spend some time reflecting on when and how you will take action on this goal. It can be helpful to identify cues, or triggers for when the desired action or goal should be completed. And they should be in the context of your daily/weekly rhythm. So if your workplace is full of urgency, you can set the intention to foster a calmer workplace by asking your staff to start each team meeting off with 60 seconds of silence to intentionally slow down your pace. You can also set a timer halfway through meetings to create a 1 minute cool down period.
Make your goals and progress visible. Research shows that having a visible chart where you can see progress can help you develop intrinsic motivation to achieve your goals. If you are part of a team, create a dashboard to show progress and provide regular updates to boost motivation and confidence.
Get others involved by asking trusted individuals or key staff to act as accountability partners, goal leaders or cheerleaders. Be sure to identify what support you need and what support looks like if you fall short or your motivation wavers.
Celebrate when you achieve your goals. This goes without saying, but anytime you achieve a goal, celebrating your achievement is key! Celebrating releases feel good neuro-transmitters that reduce stress, support team comradery, and build positive memories that reinforce the new neuro-connections created from the new behavior. It also increases your willingness to take on new goals in the future.
Be Bold Happenings Check out this section for updates on my coaching and consulting work
I just signed a contract with the Michigan Environmental Action Council to support RE-AMP's Empower Michigan State Table conduct a two part strategic planning effort. I've been a part of RE-AMP for 4 years, in fact they were my first client so I am very glad to be offering my meeting facilitation skills to this group and being deeper in community with Network members.
I also signed a contract with Earthjustice, and will be providing agenda-setting services to support internal training on relationship-building and engagement. What's cool about this project is that I will not be facilitating the training, but helping the organization develop long-term capacity to manage activities internally.
I delivered a training on Equity & Government Accountability on June 14th to 22 municipal leaders participating in the United States Green Building Council's LEED for Cities & Communities Leadership Program. I will be offering 1:1 equity coaching as part of the Equity Accelerator I co-designed to their participants in the coming months and look forward to our next 3 trainings. I will also be continuing my never-ending quest to pair down my training materials so they are digestible!
I was quoted in a Zine on Climate Conversations. This is part of a postdoc research project from Dr. Julia Fine on effective climate conversations. Check out the zine for some high level research findings on effective engagement tactics and see pages 29 and 95 for some quotes from me.
Here are some interesting and inspiring things I have digested recently
I am watching (and celebrating) this TedX on the case for a four day work week. So excited to see employers across the U.S., Iceland, and Australia who are re-imagining the world of work - and seeing carbon emission reductions and gains in productivity, wellness, and profit (if that's your thing) because of it.
I am reading about the EPA's push for tighter Water Quality Standards for Forever Chemicals. As many environmental justice advocates have stated, there is really no safe level of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFA's). The EPA also released a press advisory noting a bi-partisan program that will provide $1 billion in grants for low income communities to upgrade critical water infrastructure.
I read about Finland's attempts to end Homelessness with their Housing First policy, which provides individuals experiencing homelessness counseling services and a small apartment upfront. Thanks to this remarkable (and pretty obvious solution) Finland now boasts the only declining homeless population in Europe and 4 out of 5 people secured long term housing.
I also read about a community in Minneapolis that rallied to buy a home for an individual who was about to be evicted and felt a lot better about humanity. This and the above articles have me thinking deeply about the housing crisis and how radical occupation and community organizing are much needed interventions. It's also mindboggling to think how much our society has made evictions and homelessness (along side hunger and lack of access to clean water) acceptable social problems.
I'm (still and will likely never stop) listening to the Chasing Consciousness Podcast. I was fascinated by a September interview on Fear, Emotions and the Evolution of Consciousness which explored the role that social interaction plays in emotion regulation. It turns out we need each other to experience health and psychological safety. Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux discusses his groundbreaking research on the role the vagus nerve and human connection play in regulating our nervous systems and promoting health and well being. It's petty fascinating stuff that challenges previous understandings about the role the limbic system plays in modulating fear responses. He also had some pretty illuminating things to say about the influence of fear on auto-immune conditions and the impact of the pandemic on community and individual health.
Let's Be In Community
Here are some opportunities to engage me & other folks doing bold work
PowerSwitch Action (formerly Partnership for Working Families) just submitted an RFQ for a consultant or team to turn their utility research into political education tools. I've consulted with them in the past and they are one of my fav orgs to work with! I highly recommend you share this opportunity with any graphic designers and media specialists working at the intersection of environmental, climate, and labor justice. Check out the LinkedIn post for more information.
The Center for Othering & Belonging launched the Democracy and Belonging Forum. This first ever, transatlantic initiative between the United States and Europe, provides a space for leaders working to counter political polarization, advance democracy, and support marginalized communities. They are also hosting a weekly open space on belonging and just announced dates for their (Un)Common Threads: Co-creating Societies of Belonging series, which kicks off June 28th. Their research has informed a lot of my equity and inclusion work and I highly recommend you check them out.
Jill, a certified mindfulness teacher, has launched her Mindful Renaissance newsletter and will also be offering a series of day long Mindfulness Practicums for coaches and consultants who want to build mindfulness into their practice. If you need to rest and recharge or want re-focus your work during these trying times, I highly recommend you reach out to learn more about her offerings.
Appreciating those of you who are still here for the journey. Since I am going out on break I will only be submitting one post this month, but look forward to diving deeper into matters of the heart with you in July. In the meantime, I invite you to follow Be Bold on LinkedIn where I share tons of resources, webinars, and consulting and coaching tips. It's a little more business forward if that's your thing.