Thursday, December 18, 2014

Are You Flowing or Forcing?

One of the key principles for living life in the divine flow is letting go of your attachment to a specific outcome. Sometimes that is fairly easy to do, especially if you can envision other outcomes that would be equally acceptable.

But what if—to your mind—there is only one acceptable outcome? And what if it would be really easy for you to achieve that outcome? What if, in fact, you only had to say, “Yes, that is what I want,” and you would probably get exactly what you wanted? Should you say it? Would you still be “in the flow,” or would you have moved into the forceful world of manipulation and control?

Quite often, the point where flowing turns into forcing is very subtle, and it can take a fair amount of self-awareness to determine if you are at that point. Here’s an example:

In my former career as an advertising writer, I was once asked to create a magazine campaign that would feature both American Airlines and American Express in the same ads. At that time, those two companies had entered into a partnership to offer special benefits to travelers who used their American Express cards to purchase flights on American Airlines. Because we always offered the client a choice, I developed two different campaigns:

The first campaign I created featured couples enjoying activities in various vacation destinations. One ad, for instance, showed a man and a woman riding a tandem bicycle near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The headline read:

The Best Way To See The West
Is In Tandem.

The phrase, “in tandem,” of course, was referring to the partnership between American Airlines and American Express.

The second campaign I developed featured famous American duos, and how they expanded our horizons. For example, one ad depicted two famous explorers of the 19th Century looking out over a vast landscape. The headline read:

Not Since Lewis And Clark
Have Two Americans Opened Up
So Much New Territory.

You get the idea, right? As is usually the case, I preferred one of my ideas over the other. I thought that the Two Americans idea was more unique than the Vacationing Couples idea, and I would be much happier if that was the campaign that was produced. So that was the one I wanted to recommend to the client.

The trouble was, I wasn’t invited to the meeting where my work would be presented. For a variety of reasons, only my Creative Director, Dave, would be attending. So Dave asked me, “Steve, which campaign do you think I should recommend?”

“The Two Americans,” I quickly answered.

“Hmmm,” Dave responded. “I think I should recommend the Vacationing Couples.”

“What?” I questioned. “No! The Two Americans is much more unique! I really think you should recommend that one.”

“I’m sorry, Steve,” Dave replied. “I’m the Creative Director, and I want to recommend the Couples idea.”

“Please, Dave,” I pleaded. “Please recommend the Two Americans.”

Dave paused for a moment, and finally said, “Steve, if that is what you really want me do to, I’ll do it. Is that what you really want?”

And there it was: The decision point—that point where I had to discern if saying “Yes, that is what I want” was in the flow . . . or, instead, if I was trying to force something to go the way I wanted it to go.

It turned out to be an easy decision to make. Because right then, something deep within me warned me to be careful. It was like driving down the road and suddenly coming upon a big, yellow “Caution” sign. I wasn’t ordered to “Stop,” but the tension I was feeling was telling me to slow down and consider my choice very carefully.

So I did. And in that moment of reflection, I realized several things: One, I didn’t know with 100% certainty that the Two Americans idea would truly be the most effective campaign for the client. Two, the Creative Director had the absolute right to decide what to recommend, not me. And three, for all I knew, the client might choose the Two Americans campaign anyway!

So I decided to pay attention to my inner warning, and I let go of my rigid attachment to the specific outcome I wanted. “Dave,” I said, “On second thought, go ahead and recommend the Vacationing Couples idea if you think that’s the best campaign.”

Well, that’s exactly what Dave did, and the client agreed with his recommendation. And it was a good thing, too. Why? Because a few days after choosing the Vacationing Couples idea, the client called with a list of specific things they needed this campaign to communicate. And you know what? My preferred idea—the Two Americans—wasn’t flexible enough to accommodate any of their needs at all. But the Couples idea could handle every single one of their requirements with ease. Whew!

Friends, there will be plenty of times in life when you are headed down the stream toward your dream, and you will reach a point where you inadvertently begin to row against the flow, rather than with it. I hope the example I just shared will remind you to pay keen attention to sudden feelings of tension or anxiety, instead of ease and grace. Because there’s a good chance that is your inner sense of wisdom—your Divine Self—warning you that you are about to leave the peaceful world of the divine flow, and enter the willful world of force. And friends, in my experience, nothing ever turns out well in that world.


© 2014 by Steven Lane Taylor
Steven Lane Taylor, LLC

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