My name is Tom O’Leary and this is the Time Academy podcast. Today we are talking about Making the World Too Small.
This idea of making the world too small is inspired by the wonderful poet David Whyte whose poem Sweet Darkness ends with this line:
“….anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”
To my mind this cuts to the heart of the human condition, inviting us to leave our psychological comfort zones and start asking bigger questions. The poet is in essence reminding us that there is always a bigger picture, more exciting work we might be doing, bigger stages we might be playing on.
In the busyness of life and work there can be a tendency to get stuck in Tunnel Thinking where our vision to limited to a small band of light and we give ourselves little opportunity to see those bigger pictures. Unless we slow down long enough to leave the Tunnel and get different perspectives, how do we even know if what we’re doing actually matters or if we’re answering the right questions?
Indeed, if we’re spending most of our time in the Tunnel:
- What else aren’t we seeing?
- What opportunities are being missed?
- What conversations aren’t being had?
Many of the conversations I have with clients and indeed often friends and family are around how they are making their worlds too small. In some cases this may be due to some misplaced sense of humility and seeking to hide one’s light. I’ll put my hand up on this one – I’ve definitely been affected by that as a legacy of the values with which I was raised. As if the world cares that much about any of us or about me!
In most cases, however, it is simply that we’re not asking ourselves the right questions or looking in the right places. And yet there are events in life that bring us face to face with the smallness of our worlds – recurring examples are bereavement, sickness and indeed retirement.
Take the case of Maria who worked in a very senior role in her organisation – over decades she put her life and soul into her job to the detriment of her relationships with herself and with those close to her. And when the question of “What does retirement look like?” was raised it was clear that retirement didn’t exist in Maria’s world. That was a conversation she wasn’t willing to have. Shortly afterwards she got news that she was effectively being forced into retirement. Her world imploded because she had been making it too small! Had her work been one part of her world, balanced by ever-deepening relationships and conversations with those around her she may well not have felt so alone, so bereft, so betrayed. Instead, work had filled her world, a world that was now empty.
In a sense it is not only about conversations we have with others but also the conversations we have with ourselves. It isn’t always easy to find the right psychological mirror that will unlock our thinking but these questions may illuminate that search:
- Where am I hiding?
- Where am I refusing to look?
- What questions do I not want to ask?
- What conversations am I avoiding?
These are big questions so if you feel tempted to pause the podcast to consider them please go ahead.
And there is no doubt that it can be scary asking ourselves these questions because questions tend to lead to other questions and perhaps more troublingly to answers we may not like. And yet the wonderful thing about having a conversation with yourself is that you can dip in and out. You don’t even have to finish the conversation. You can walk away whenever you want – whenever you feel you’re not ready. Just being mindful that we are always being invited to have such bigger conversations is helpful in itself. So, as you go through your day, the invitation is to ask yourself:
“How might I make my world bigger?”
Thanks for listening to the Time Academy podcast. I hope this has offered you a slightly different perspective. If you find it helpful please share! I’d also love to get your feedback and hear your stories so please feel free to email me.