We just finished our last Lift Off Retreat this weekend. As I expected, I found myself both spent from facilitating it and about sad that it was ending. While I’ve felt this about the last 5 of the retreats, the sadness on this last one was amplified; it wasn’t the end of just a retreat, but an amazing chapter of our lives.
It’s always fascinating to observe what we as facilitators bring with us on each iteration of a program. The theme that I simultaneously brought with me and had surface time and time again was the power of environment.
Lift Off worked largely because we intentionally designed it to be an environment where creativity, exploration, compassion, community, and purpose flourished. It started with the facilities we chose, how we chose to market and tell the story of Lift Off, how we did our assessment calls, and how we designed the programs. Even the breaks were designed to foster those desiderata. It made the work onsite so much easier; in many ways, it was much more like a baker tending rising dough rather than us having to make something happen.
Of the many modules we taught, two were dedicated specifically to the different types of environments we find ourselves in to do our great work. The over-arching theme was to intentionally design the environments that will work for you rather than fight environments that don’t work or make do with what you have.
It’s rather simple: for any outcome, there are conditions that either catalyze those outcomes or make those outcomes more likely to happen. If you surround yourself with supportive and successful people, you’re more likely to be successful. If you put yourself in the conditions in which your strengths and affinities are both fostered and relied on, you’re more likely to be both hyper-effective and happy. If you build a business that plays to your strengths at the same time that it serves a market need, you’re more likely to find business success. And since environment is more powerful than willpower, a change in environment can largely make motivation and inspiration a non-issue.
Of all the things that we can’t change – our past; our race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation; the financial circumstances we were brought into; and so on – the simplest thing to change is our environment. While simple≠easy, the truth of it is that it’s impossible for us not influence our environments, because to accept the environment you’re in is to preserve those conditions and to keep them from becoming what they might. Since you influence your environment one way or the other, you might as well influence it in a way that enhances flourishing.
I’ll be eternally grateful to our Lift Off alumni for trusting us and the environment we created for them, because, as I have said from Day 1, it hasn’t just been about them. It’s been a transformative event for us, too, given that the very same environment has enabled us to grow and thrive. As I’ve written in the past about ubuntu, we are who we are because our communities are what they are.
Look at your social, professional, and physical environment. What small thing might you change that would help the beings around you thrive? Even something as simple as moving a plant to a place where it gets the right amount of sun can have a profound effect on the environment, including you. Environments definitely exhibit the two dynamics of change: they change in steps, then they tip.
So, how are you changing your environment?