When Gerald began work on building our barn, it took a l-o-n-g time before “progress” was evident. The first thing he did was move a fence and then remove a tree.
This was followed by moving load after load of rock mined from the creek bed, to create a solid, well-packed foundation, ultimately over 2 feet higher than it had been originally.
It was demanding work.
Somehow, even though I knew how much work was going into the project, it was not until the first boards were raised to frame the walls that it felt like real, substantive “progress.”
The long hours spent moving, packing, leveling the rock fill took much longer (and was far more back-breaking) than framing the walls, but those first few 2X4’s – put up with less time and effort – were what made it finally feel “real” to me.
This points to a bias resulting from an outdated Cultural narrative telling us:
What counts as “progress” or “success” must look a certain way.
Some of the hardest work I’ve done in this lifetime has been internal…not obvious to the casual observer and definitely not validated by Yesterday’s Culture.
Surfacing the unseen influences hidden in the shadows, below conscious awareness, can be challenging, especially when what we’re excavating is an outdated (and possibly crumbling) foundation that formed that basis for who we think we’re supposed to be, how we’re supposed to show up, and how Life is supposed to look.
Here’s the thing: Those old Cultural mandates about success and progress are so deeply ingrained that we may not always be aware when they set us up to make decisions and pursue accomplishments driven by their shadowed influences.
The result? Goals and success built on unsound foundations. Unsatisfying jobs and careers. Unfulfilling relationships. Compromised health and happiness. Chronically unattainable peace and contentment.
And: The boatload of frustration, self-doubt and exhaustion that come along for the ride.
On our farm today, we have a barn that is really solid, anchored firmly above the spring flood levels, and well-draining. Both the animals and hay housed there remain dry and sheltered year-round.
Not only is this satisfying, but it also means bandwidth that was once allocated to storing hay and housing animals is now available to invest elsewhere. It means housing and feeding sheep and goats through the winter months is a matter of details vs. an issue to resolve.
None of this would be possible – or not for long – without the initial foundation work: All that un-sexy, did-not-look-like-progress, hard work that made erecting solid walls and a sturdy roof possible
Here’s the thing:
We have not been taught how to establish the foundations needed for sustainable, life-affirming accomplishments.
Instead, Yesterday’s Culture told us:
- Look for the shortest path from where you are now to where you (think) you need to be.
Taking time to reflect and question is not valued, or even, allowed. And heaven help you if you think your personal values matter. Bulldoze first, clean-up after and only to the degree strictly required.
- Only Culturally recognized (and validated) outcomes will be acceptable.
Never mind the foundation work; gives us what we’re looking for. Anything else, no matter how brilliant, or needed, will not be valued. (As a result, neither will you.)
So why does all this matter?
- The ways we’ve been taught to achieve, accomplish and succeed are breaking down in the face of today’s challenges, and –
- They are breaking us down as well .
The traditional ways of building a successful outcome have been based in old Control-Conquer-Dominate narratives that place priority only on deliverables and outcomes.
This outdated perspective is based in a power-over approach, and disregards what is needed for desirable outcomes over the long term.
The externalized focus and emphasis on speedy outcomes mean:
- People and processes are considered disposable.
- Any of the “unseen” work, the below-the-surface and behind-the-scenes work required to build a solid foundation will be overlooked and under-valued.
- The resulting false starts and the “hurry up and wait” patterns will lead to unnecessary and expensive scrambling to accomplish with costly do-overs and, at times, dangerous corner-cutting.
Scale this up to a massive construction project or scale it down to your personal goals for the year: Either way, if the foundation is not in place and solid, moving ahead with appropriate action can be harder than it would otherwise be.
This even shows up in communication.
When working with a leader on how to address behavior / performance issues, what I often find is the leader needs to slow down and create a foundation for any conversation related to the desired behavior changes.
What I tell these leaders: Yes, I know it feels counter-intuitive to slow down and take time for these foundational pieces in the conversation BUT if you will invest the time and energy up front, you’ll see incredible savings on time and energy moving forward.
In real estate, success gurus tell you: Location, location, location.
With regard to accomplishments (and the goals required to support them), I’m telling you:
Foundation, Foundation, Foundation (!!)
My wish for you: May all your metaphorical barns – all of the outcomes from your goals / dreams / intentions – stand long and strong, bringing you joy in process of achieving, and lasting contentment.
** ** ** ** **
After watching so many people wrestle with this – trying to conform to Cultural mandates while not getting the outcomes desired, and (often) hurting themselves along the way – I’ve spent the past several decades developing tools and approaches for creating the foundations required in turning goals / intentions / dreams into lived realities (with far less wear and tear).
My aim in this: To support anyone who so desires, with adding more ease, grace and joy to the journey.
Interested? One quick and easy way you can begin to access this work is here
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