Don’t Just Talk About What Matters, Structure it In

outhouseLast night I attended a gathering with an author I’ve admired and followed for over 20 years. I’ll call her Claire. I walked away with many gems, one of which was the difference between talking about what matters and structuring it into a process.

The theme was self-care. Claire urged us to take care of ourselves so we could support our wounded community (the effects of the Waldo Canyon Fire) without coming from a position of need. However, the gathering was structured in a way that discouraged self-care then and there. After about two and a half hours of facilitated dialog, “Nancy” asked if she was the only one who wanted to pee but also didn’t want to miss anything. Claire told her to go ahead and take care of her need. That required Nancy to crawl over other participants to step out, since the chairs were set in a circle with no easy way to get in or out. As Nancy left, Claire introduced a fascinating topic, which fed Nancy’s concern about missing something.

This meeting was scheduled for three hours. I left after four and a half hours because it was past dinner time and I was hungry. I was feeling great and wanted to keep it that way, which meant missing the close. I had to choose between self-care of experiencing the gathering in the entirity and the self-care of eating when I was hungry.

The talk and discussion were excellent, and yet, with all the emphasis on self-care, Claire sent a mega-message that negated her words. If self-care is so important, why did she make it challenging to practice it then and there? If self-care is so important, why didn’t Claire structure creature comforts into the process of telling us about self-care? She could have:

  • Told us upfront if we would have breaks so we wouldn’t wonder if one was coming
  • Had healthy snacks and structured that into the event
  • Made it easier to step out without disrupting the intimate dialog that was happening

I watch how people are and aren’t practicing what they advocate. We all do, whether we know it or not. I noticed Claire didn’t take a single sip of water the whole time we were there. We learn from hearing information, but seeing it applied sends a much bigger message. An environment that facilitates us applying it sends the biggest, most effective message of all.

Are you walking your talk? And are you making it easy for others to walk the talk you teach?

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