Written by Paresh and Dr. Eliza Mountcastle Shah, Co-owners of Lifter Leadership
“harness a shared purpose to deepen our connections as we all experience a holiday season unlike any before”.
I pulled into a parking space in downtown Manhattan Beach to pick up take out and take in the lights on the Pier. So much has changed this year. Some of my favorite businesses are gone. We will not be having the fireworks I love so much over the ocean. No dancing elves with jingling bells on their feet in the Manhattan Beach Village parade. No Friday nights at Pancho’s, singing and dancing to live rock music and an impromptu Led Zepplin-ized version of a familiar holiday song.
Normally, I would be at the MBMS Winter Concert this time of year, listening as the next song was announced by a middle schooler, dressed in a suit charmingly too small. I loved scanning the bleachers for the announcer’s proud parents. I smiled with them when their child stepped away from the microphone, returned to their instrument, and got a thumbs-up from their friend half-hidden behind a saxophone.
So much is different. So many people have been affected profoundly this year, in so many ways.
As I got out of my car and reached for my wallet, I noticed something that put a smile on my face. There was a red bag on my meter reminding me that some things in our town are still the same. Compliments of the City of Manhattan Beach and the Chamber of Commerce, my meter was paid, as are all meters this month. The Red Bag program was designed to both support local businesses and serve as a gift from the city.
The amount I would have paid for parking was only a fraction of the cost of my dessert, but the sentiment meant everything to me. This surprise kindness reminded me that I still have choices about how I can show up for myself and others this year, especially over the holidays.
When asked to share mindfulness techniques to overcome stress and tap into this mindset of presence, I often share breathing techniques or yoga poses. Today, I hope to offer a technique in the spirit of the Red Bag program -- one that allows us to harness a shared purpose to deepen our connections as we all experience a holiday season unlike any before.
We call this variety of being in the moment “being within purpose.” Shared purpose, moving in concert with others towards a chosen outcome, goal, or creation, opens up a special kind of moment. It is a moment that cannot be measured on a clock or calendar. It opens space for psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” state. This kind of moment could extend across a day, a weekend, or even years. The purpose itself draws the group close together as they contribute to achieving it through intention and action. A unique bond forms among people who share a purpose that has a quality that stands apart in time, like the holidays.
In this time when so many of our plans and dreams for the holidays have been disrupted, many of us are feeling adrift. Under stress, some of us may even find ourselves reverting to old patterns that do not serve us anymore but somehow give us comfort in their familiarity. In lock-down, sometimes our old patterns make our homes feel like close quarters.
Try this on: if you are a person who often sets the agenda, try waiting for the suggestion of another family member or co-worker. In finding the worthiness in someone else’s initiative and making their purpose your own for an hour or an afternoon, you may be delighted to discover a Red Bag moment. If you are a person who, instead, tends to let others take the wheel, invite those around you to join you in a project of your choosing. If you are a person who is feeling lost without the usual outlets for holiday spirit, listen to the stirrings of new little dreams and desires in your loved ones and yourself.
A few weeks ago, I came home from a productive day at our shared office space at Unita (an amazing workspace away from the house) feeling energized from not working over the Thanksgiving holidays (actually practicing what I teach my clients and students about taking mindful breaks to rest and be productive.) As I walked into the house, I was thinking of suggesting having some ice cream and watching It’s a Wonderful Life or Die Hard after dinner (the Christmas classics).
At the kitchen table, my youngest daughter was playing a song on her iPad by her favorite band of the moment, BTS. My middle child, just home from college, was undertaking a massive reorganization of the post-Thanksgiving refrigerator and cupboards. For them, everything needs to be in its right place, at all times. Others in the house, including me, are not as detail-oriented and sometimes feel that level of intensity around organization is overboard. At times, I dismiss this way of being as unnecessary.
Instead, to practice being within purpose, I stepped back from my usual suggestions and leaned into what mattered to them. As our youngest child played DJ with K-Pop songs, we bopped in the kitchen together like never before and played “3D Tetris” with leftovers in various sizes and shapes of Tupperwares to find a way to get everything to fit in the refrigerator. Within 20 minutes, we had everything perfectly put away and organized like none of us could have had the vision to see, nor the patience to implement alone.
Like seeing the 7th-grade musician conquer stage fright, the speed-fridge-makeover, or the BTS-fest, being within purpose with others creates moments that cannot be measured on a clock -- “Red-Bag” moments.
Afterward, emotionally energized rather than drained from tolerating others’ ways, I fired up my computer and decided to offer this practice for you to consider applying mindfulness this holiday season.
Being within purpose has many of the same mindfulness benefits of being in the moment AND it is actively engaged with the “real” world, allowing us to find connection even when the present moment is hard. Rather than being a moment defined by a clock, it is a moment defined by purpose. This is why in the vortex of shared-purpose, time can appear to bend, extend, stretch, or slip by very quickly.
So, this holiday season, in addition to taking time for some deep breaths of gratitude for the old and the new, consider going all-in on someone else’s hopes, dreams, and ways to show up. Or, if you are well-practiced in this, consider being the dreamer. Marvel at how your shared purpose can pull everything necessary towards it and can be a gift to you all. Release old patterns and ways of seeing others. Rather than getting lost in “my way” or “your way,” find “our way.”
In a year like no other, it is a timeless gift you can give to whoever you are with AND to yourself. In allowing for the moment that is within purpose to emerge, you may well find newness, re-invention, discovery, and fun!
“Being within purpose has many of the same mindfulness benefits of being in the moment AND it is actively engaged with the “real” world.”
When you can mindfully be within shared purpose, you will feel the equivalent of my child beaming with satisfaction when that last pint of Ben and Jerry’s is placed in the perfect (and only remaining) spot in the freezer as the door closes to the beat of Dynamite by BTS.
Yippee Ki Yay! Have a safe, peaceful, and stress-free holiday season.
About Lifter Leadership:
LIfter Leadership focuses on helping evolved leaders lift their coworkers, customers, communities, and companies, on purpose. Centered on leading people as whole humans, Lifter Leadership is a teachable, learnable, methodology that lifts employee engagement, customer loyalty, real-time innovation, and workplace inclusion from the executive suite right through the tips of your organization.
Individuals trained as Lifters can create a work-life weave of passion and performance with ease, joy, and flow.
How are you a Lifter? Watch the TedX talk at www.liftersrising.com.
By Paresh and Dr. Eliza Mountcastle Shah Co-owners of Lifter Leadership
About the Authors:
Paresh and Dr. Eliza Mountcastle Shah are local residents and co-founders of Lifter Leadership, a global organizational training, mindfulness, and executive coaching firm.
As active members of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Shah’s give back and lift our community through their positive spirits, volunteerism and civic service. During the Pandemic, to help our community manage stress, Mr. Shah is offering his Kundalini yoga and meditation class (for all levels) via Zoom, on Wednesdays from 830-930 AM. Register here for more information: https://bit.ly/3mM1nBt