External Circumstances Matter

If you’ve worked with me as a coach, or if you are in the Personal Development community, you’ll often hear how you can empower yourself by working on your limiting beliefs, and how you can create your work and your life from the Inside-Out. If you’re not familiar with that, or need an important reminder, check out my article on Responsibility, Leadership and Integrity in Challenging times.

Yet, there is a powerful reality:

No matter how much inner work you already did, your external circumstances matter.

They matter a lot.

In fact, if you use the Quadrants model (more on quadrants here) to look at your life right now, you can see that the whole lower-right quadrant comprises your environment, and the whole lower-left quadrant comprises the culture you’re in, and the relationships you have:

Quadrants, based on Ken Wilber’s work

Are they nourishing you?

Are they draining you of your energy?

Do you feel that they support you?

Or do you experience cognitive dissonance, or that you have to battle, resist a lot, and block out a lot of the noise from your environment to move towards your goals?

The Place

When you are in a challenging outside environment, that can be an invitation of doing your inner work and focusing inwards (on the Upper-Left quadrant). I view it as if you’re in jail:

That’s a good time to work on your goals, meditate, read, write, and work out (check out these 10 routines that changed my life). You’ll also want to create an escape plan. If you feel trapped, that’s OK. Will you wait till your sentence is over? Or will you start digging your own hole?

Being in jail doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time there. It doesn’t mean you can’t empathize & sympathize with your fellow inmates. It’s just recognizing reality as it is: you’re in jail. Once you come to peace with that realization, you can enjoy the small things.

You can also ask yourself:

How did I get here?

Why did I create this situation for myself?

What would I do if I was free?

Make a list.

You’ll see that part of the things on your list, you can start doing them even though you’re in jail.

For the rest, preciously keep a list of things you’ll do once you’re “out and free”.

Remember that Jail time is learning time too.

First, you need to learn which mistakes you made and how to make different choices for your future.

Which mistakes did you make that brought you here?

What are your learnings from being here that you couldn’t have learned/enjoyed if you were elsewhere?

Getting out or getting through

Will you get out or will you get through?

What would that look like?

Once you worked out on a plan, start executing !

Remember to take breaks (as resting is part of the training) !

You can also spice things up a bit.

I remember when I was in a certain job, I felt trapped and bored (although most people admired what I was doing, which had it’s dose of prestige). So I did things “on the side”, such as sleep in a tent in the park near my office one night (I was experimenting and learning about survival techniques at the time), or even sleep in the office under my desk, hoping security would not find me… I was ready to do anything to break from monotony and boredom, and that was a way to reconnect with the adventurer in me, which wasn’t really awake at that period of my life.

How could you spice things up?

What would make you feel more alive and connected?

The People

When you walk out, do you see people who energize you / inspire you, or do you feel depressed while seeing people’s faces?

I noticed the difference of attitude between people in different cities and different countries.

For example, in France, in Paris or Grenoble, I rarely see people smile. In contrast, in the South, in Nice for instance, people seem to smile more, even for no reason. Studies on Happiness show that some countries are much happier than others, and it is not always correlated with the material wealth.

Look at your circle of friends, and your peers and colleagues: do they energize you, or do they drain you of energy?

Do you feel stimulated and inspired in their presence, or not?

The people in your life matter a lot. Choose who to spend time with wisely.

It doesn’t mean you should never see your aunt Annie again, or some of your friends from the past. It means that if you spend most of your time with people who do not contribute to your happiness, you risk staying stuck right where you are.

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

If you had to make 1 radical choice for your own growth in 2022, relating to the Place you are living or the People you are with, what would that be?

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