Leaving my career in TV news a little more than a decade ago changed how I make decisions. The big ones especially. I've learned to trust those actions that come from a place of deep knowing.
The big issue for me is figuring out how to access that deep inner knowing more often. My days and weeks are filled with so many decisions—big and small—and it's not easy for me to operate from a place of clarity all the time.
A couple of weeks ago, Carin sent me a link to a podcast. It was an hour long, but she encouraged me to make the time listen. So, I did. The podcast was from Koren Motekaitis's radio show, How She Really Does It, and Koren was interviewing communications expert Nancy Duarte. The big question Koren had for Nancy: "How does a girl from Chico, CA and a difficult childhood build an incredible career and life for herself?"
It was a thoughtful and fascinating conversation, and if you want to listen to the podcast, you can find it here.
There were so many takeaways for me personally, but the biggest one was how Nancy creates white space in her life. She says that when she was younger, running cross country and taking long bike rides was a coping mechanism, a way to escape a troubled home.
This coping mechanism became a form of meditation, and still, today, on weekend mornings she goes on long three-hour bike rides or hikes. "I just go up to a mountain," she says, "and about an hour and a half in something shifts."
“My brain is just processing, processing, processing, fixing, figuring things out…I’m a systems thinker… and about an hour and a half in I’ve processed everything, and my mind just gets quiet and all the voices stop."
"I have to get to the bottom of everything my brain wanted to solve so that my brain turns off and my heart can speak to God."~Nancy Duarte
She goes on to say, "I have to get into this state of emptiness where I don’t use my mind and I start to think from my heart. And the answers are different when you think from your heart than when you think from your brain. It comes from a more empathetic place. Most of the more counterintuitive moves I’ve made personally and professionally have come from this counterintuitive place in my heart, when I let my brain quiet down, and I let my heart speak to me."
Her words made me realize that I need to be more intentional about creating that type of white space in my own life. Rather than trying to dial into wisdom in the midst of the crisis, haphazardly, at the exact moment I need it, I felt the desire to make it a more of a practice. I decided I could aim for 45 minutes, three times a week.
On two of those days, I push Cate in the stroller. On the other day, usually Saturday or Sunday, it's all me.
Before I head out the door, I set an intention. I think about the most pressing unresolved issues going on at the moment and pick one or two.
I set the timer and spend half the time having a conversation with myself. It's kind of like talking to myself on the phone. I am me, and the person on the other end of the line is the curious, wiser me. The wiser me is really listening and asking amazing questions.
When the timer goes off, I turn around and head back. During the walk back home, I stop thinking, processing and sorting, and I listen for what comes up.
I never return home from these walks with the answer to everything. But I do have at least one clear, authentic next step.
And that's all I really need.
This practice has motivated me to create space in other areas of my day. For example, if I'm headed somewhere that's 20 minutes away, I try to allow myself 30 minutes to get there (instead of 10, which is what I normally do).
I've only done this for a couple of weeks, but long enough to understand that it feels essential and connected to every other thing.
So, what do you think about white space? If you have it, how do you create it? If you don't, do you need it? Does creating more white space feel possible?