I was talking to my friend Janeen a couple weeks ago about the fact that Mala and I are taking a month right now of what I’m ostentatiously calling a “sabbatical.” We are on a mission to move some projects along and get some writing done. And Janeen wondered aloud what practices I would put in place for myself to ensure that I “honor my intent” and indeed do what I said I would. And she used a metaphor that’s not uncommon in self-improvement circles, “the propeller to give you the airlift.”
For some reason, uncommon though that metaphor is not, her use of it that day cut through something. It excavated a deeply-buried and, quite honestly, random memory of visiting a couple dear cousins of mine, probably more than a decade ago at this point, after they’d acquired a remote control helicopter.
If you’ve ever operated a remote control helicopter, you know how infuriatingly sensitive it can be.
Too little force and it doesn’t lift off the floor; just a touch too much force, and it CRASHES into the ceiling. You need to sense the exact amount of force to apply to lift it off the floor without causing it to spiral out of control and crash and burn. It takes a light touch, a delicate hand, keen sensitivity. Vigilance, even. Recalibration at the slightest sign of fluctuation.
What did I need in order to fly the remote control helicopter?
Do you see where I’m going with this? I feel like there’s a lesson here for “honoring our intent.” (If you’ve got the words “habit change” in your head, please know that I will not be induced to reduce a soaring (get it?) metaphor to a two-bit b-school catchphrase. But OK yes, basically what I mean is “habit change.”)
Consider a totally made-up, hypothetical, completely fabricated possible new practice that someone I have no acquaintance with might want to incorporate—say, writing on a daily basis. What would that hypothetical person have to do, if they were going to apply this metaphor?
What if you called forth a time when you were successful in an endeavor? When you think back on that time, how did that happen? What were your steps in that process?
In thinking about that time, what metaphor comes to mind?
And finally, when you reflect on a new practice you intend to build into your life, how can this metaphor help?
When you have an answer, please share! What’s your practice? What’s your metaphor?
And now, to help you honor your intention, I leave you with a Scribble from Sarah.