When a recipe calls for marinating in the fridge for a few hours or overnight we follow the instructions. The process cannot be rushed. Slowly and naturally, the food absorbs whatever concoction in which we immerse it. But that step takes time, and it is simply time to be. The very same process applies to our own marinating when we allow ourselves to be. All too frequently this is overlooked or rushed. Immediate responses and feedback are often requested by others, or of ourselves, in order to get going on the doing machine.
I’ve learned to value and honor what is possible when I let incomplete thoughts, bits of inspiration, or a big hairball of a project roll around in my head. No need to pick at or check on them. They just need to be. After proper marinating, I often land on something with such clarity, or make a connection that I hadn’t seen before. Frequently, these moments occur while I’m running. I welcome these reflections when they naturally ease in to my head space. I don’t venture out on a run to solve something. Yet, so often the pieces of the puzzle that have been allowed to swirl around start to click together. Thoughts build on each other, as everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent, whether we acknowledge that or not (Pollyanna Principles #3).
Earlier this month I was asked to meet with community members I got to know and partner with while they served on the Board of Directors of two different community benefits organizations I had worked with in recent years. They want to do something different, and feel that the time, energy and all forms of assets they have generously shared with individual organizations is not changing the community as a whole. When asked what will be different in our community if they are 100% successful with everything they want to do there was silence. This is a very normal and common response as we are conditioned to want progress, moving forward with the doing. We take off with our heads down as we look at our feet, assuming checking things off the list will get us there. But where is there? What will all of the doing add up to? What will be different, and for whom?
They agreed to hit pause. They agreed to take time to marinate. I asked questions they never considered before, but in that singular conversation they felt how changing the questions we ask changes everything.
My follow-up email provided the framework to my approach, shared what I heard from them, and served up questions to marinate in over the holidays. At their request, I gave them a due date to respond with their reflections. Their specific assignment follows:
“Several times the desire to ‘fix something’ came up.
– Instead of fixing what we don’t like, how about aiming for what success will look and feel like for you, and for our community?
– If _________________ is bad what will good look and feel like? (Fill in the blank with whatever frustrates you in your community.)
– What excites you about our community?
– We will ask: What do we want to accomplish? NOT What is the problem and what will we do to solve it?”
This conversation will continue in January. I will continue to ask questions that help them look up to the mountains and away from their feet. What happens when you honor and value taking the time to marinate?