The urge to chase presents itself at a young age. First, we chase the attention of our parents and teachers. We chase grades, awards, accolades, educations. After that come the status careers and promotions, fancy cars and homes, and other markers of success.
Most of us, at one point or another, are chasing something. We chase dreams, callings, passions. We chase money and security. We chase soulmates. I’ve been chasing recognition and some minor fame for years. What are you chasing?
And what exactly do I mean by “chase”? It’s the quest for fulfillment through something outside ourselves. We expect our pursuits to feed and energize us, to invigorate our lives with excitement and joy. It’s when we are looking outside ourselves to fill a void. We expect the world to fulfill us.
Every time I do this, I let my joy, excitement, and inspiration depend on external conditions and situations. I’d rather not let them be contingent upon circumstances, but on intrinsic habits of being within myself. I would rather get energized from the inside out.
Every now and then, I run an inventory of my internal sources of energy, and here’s what usually comes up:
- Courage – making that scary phone call. Putting myself out there. Asking for help.
- Connection – great conversations. Listening to and learning from others. Quality time with family and friends.
- Community – neighbors, church, clubs. Professional groups. Activities with other people.
- Contribution – doing something to make a difference for anyone close and far, however small.
- Effort – hard work. Trying new things, striving for something, working on goals, giving it my best.
- Embodiment – exercise, being in nature, being in my body.
These things fuel me regardless of outcomes or results. They are my real food. Nothing needs to happen – I still feel fed and nourished.
What’s your fuel? And how often do you tap into it? As for me, I continually forget that what I’m looking for is usually inside me, somewhere. I guess that’s part of the comedy and tragedy of the human condition.
It seems the urge to seek answers outside ourselves is universal. It’s easier than digging into our own depths – for who knows what we might find there? It is alluring to chase knowledge, experiences, circles, and other people’s expertise. They’re like shiny, gleaming medallions that we collect and polish and display on the shelves of our lives. Going on the inside – what do we have to show for that? How dull, boring.
Organizations do this chasing too. We pay shocking amounts of money towards leadership development, management trainings, culture assessments, engagement surveys, change management frameworks… We believe strengths and personality assessments will bring special insights and boost team performance. We hire outside consultants (like me) to bring special expertise missing on the inside. We seek ever more initials and acronyms after our names. Everywhere, we are in perpetual search of the next hot tool, assessment, training, best-seller, and concept du jour to help us with our productivity, accountability, relationships, toxicity, burnout, morale, or [insert your issue here].
Don’t get me wrong. I love great tools and great books and great assessments. Some of these things are extraordinary and do catalyze change. After all, we don’t have allthe answers on our own. We do need to venture outside ourselves.
At the same time, organizations would resolve many of their challenges if they harnessed the deep knowledge, insights, and experience of their employees. Like individuals, organizations ignore their vast reserves of tremendous potential energy within. They’re chasing specialists, niches, and the latest innovations. My real role as a consultant is not to bring expertise or knowledge, but to hold space for the wisdom of the people on the inside to emerge and be seen. I try to cultivate the ground for that wisdom to germinate and sprout seeds of change.
Before hiring a person like me, first talk with your colleagues, bosses, partners, customers. What do you all have to learn from each other? Instead of sending someone to a management training program, apprentice that person to a top supervisor. Make time to let folks mentor each other, laterally and vertically. Allow people to pursue their own ideas and try out new ways of doing things. Chase the treasures within yourselves.
As for me, I will continue to read my books, attend webinars, and seek knowledge from whatever sources I can find in the world. I need that stuff – we all do. But I know transfiguration comes when I fuel myself from the inside, not the other way around. When I remember – more often – to be courageous, make a difference for others, cultivate community, connect with my heart and body…it will be enough.