It’s the third week of January. Reported daily new COVID-19 cases continue sporadic increases, currently hovering in the 30,000 range. Four days after the January 16 massive underwater volcano explosion threw a blanket of ash and sent a tsunami roaring towards the island nation of Tonga, communication lines remain down and the extent of casualties or property loss remains undetermined. Current tennis world number one Novak Djokovik, who was deported from Australia for violating border rules, will be unable to defend his title in the Australian Tennis Open, which commenced on January 17. Djokovic, who remains unvaccinated againstCOVID-19, runs the risk of being banned from future international tournaments.
For me the theme of the week continues to be about transition and, more specifically, the question of what comes next. Also, strangely, it has been a week about the number 7.
There is a scene in the NetFlix series The Queen’s Gambit when protagonist Beth Harmon plays with 13-year-old player Georgi from Russia. The intense young man speaks of his career trajectory and declares that he aims to be world champion in three years. Beth asks him what happens next. It is a reasonable question. If you become world champion of chess at the age of 16, what is next? Young Georgi stares at Beth and simply mutters, “I don’t understand.”
It is always a difficult question, what do you do next? Whether it is after failure or after success, there is still a question of what to do next. For many of us during this pandemic, the question of what to do next is often focused on after the pandemic. However, this question applies today. What do we do next? What do we do today?
Much like business strategy, the answer to this must be crafted based on at least three things. What is our current external situation? What is our current internal or personal situation? What are our goals? In the language of strategy, what is our personal mission and vision?
Coincidentally, I ran across an article on emotional intelligence and the seven selves by Stu Sjouwerman. Sjouwerman explains that developing emotional intelligence begins with exploration of the seven selves: self-image, self- and social awareness, self-reflection, self-discipline, self-management, self-disclosure and self-development. I thought this was an interesting take on exploring emotional intelligence.
Generally, in studies of emotional intelligence, four dimensions are studied: self-management of emotions (which includes self-awareness), social skills, empathy and utilization of emotions.
I think Sjouwerman’s approach, which is intensely personal would be very helpful in the early stages of the exploration of emotional intelligence, and would certainly have been helpful to young Georgi, who seems to have defined his entire self solely in terms of the game of chess. In fact, for anyone grappling with choices, exploring the self is the first step.
Seven selves is also the title of a poem by Kahlil Gibran. In the poem, Gibran imagines a quiet moment between awake and asleep when his seven selves converse about the challenges of their lives. Each of the six selves lament the sameness of their lives, being tasked with a single task: the first self with pain and sorrow; the second self with joy and laughter which seem to pale in unending sameness; the third self with the blaze of passion; the fourth with hatred and loathing; the fifth with curiosity, thinking and fancy; and the sixth self with labor and creation. Whether filled with joy or pain, tasked with fancy or labor, unending sameness is lamented. At the end of the poem, the seventh self expresses envy of the six with tasks to fulfill and compares their pain to his own life, “the one who sits in the dumb, empty nowhere and nowhen, while you are busy re-creating life.” Thus ends the discussion, with the six selves looking with pity on the “do-nothing” self.
The literature on happiness reflects this reality, that people who are engaged in something are far happier than those who are not engaged. And this, in fact, is the desperation of the “what next?” question posed to Georgi. If you have focused on a single thing all your life and you achieve that, what is next?
So much of human reality revolves around what we do. Gibran’s poem even uses the analogy of work for the different facets of existence. And certainly, at the end, it is shown that doing nothing is the worst lot.
However, it is also true that focusing on a single thing to the exclusion of all others is rarely the best choice. Most of us have different roles, parent, child, sibling, worker, employer. Our lives are more than just work, and more than just raising children, no matter how noble those endeavors are.
One of my favorite mentors once explained that once we begin to go to school and especially when we begin to work, we become human doings instead of human beings. The great danger of this is we can lose touch of our true selves. So much of what we do is dictated by others, our employers, our co-workers, society, even our family and friends. It is so easy to lose track of our own voice.
This week, when you find yourself in that most quiet time of the night, in the stillness of you own self, that is something worth asking. Not what do you want to do but what do you want to be.
Readers can email Maya at email@example.com. Or visit her site at http://integrations.tumblr.com.