When I can’t see my way out of a problem situation I often read a wonderful book written by Gordon MacKenzie entitled, “Orbiting the Giant Hairball.” It is written in a non-linear style, full of doodles and musings, it is a creative tool for visualizing how you can achieve balance with the messy influences in your life that negatively suck you in and stifle your spirit.
The Hairball represents the negative influences of corporate culture replete with stifling rules, hierarchies, systems and regulations—the forces that can kill individuality, creativity and spontaneity. Although written about corporate culture, I find that it applies to any entangled hairball situation that produces stress or suffering in my life.
“Orbiting” is responsible creativity, which is achieved by vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the cultural mind set. It is about going beyond accepted patterns, models and standards— breaking free while remaining connected to the spirit and mission of the institution.
To find Orbit, is to find a place of balance where you can benefit from the physical, intellectual, technological and philosophical resources of the organization without becoming entombed in bureaucracy. It is about breaking free of the strong pulls of cultural gravity and negative hairball tangles of your outdated perceptions that like ghosts of past outvote any original thinking and new ways of seeing your situation. The successful balance is a dynamic relationship where you must invest enough of yourself to counteract the pull of this cultural gravity to stay out of your messy Hairball, but not so much that you break free of its pull and find yourself in the nothingness of deep space.
Your challenge is to have the courage to accurately perceive the reality of the institutions and cultures in your life with all of their positive and negative influences. Then you must mentally zoom into the thin air of the stratosphere and think differently by detaching from the negative (Hairball) influences trying to suck you in. All the while, you must stay connected to the goodness of the culture by shifting your focus on its assets and opportunities.
All of us experience the gravitational pulls of people, problems and cultures in our lives through rules, expectations, norms, and traditions. These unseen forces are the Hairballs of your life, but they are not your life. It is important to remember that you are not the Hairball, nor are you powerless to detach and orbit your stressful perceptions.
There is an incredible weightlessness and peace that you can experience today. So, relax, take a deep breath and spend today Orbiting Your Giant Hairball.
Prepare for launch countdown--- T minus 10, 9, 8, 7……
Strategies: Orbit Your Giant Hairball
1. Describe a Hairball in your life. What thoughts and feelings do you have when you think of this problem? Do you see yourself entangled or separate from the Hairball?
2. Notice or reflect upon how the more you focus on the negative entanglements of a situation the bigger the Hairball grows. Notice the pattern of how investing energy increases its mass and gravitational pull and how it actually becomes stronger at sucking you in.
3. Observe whether your thinking about your Hairball leads you to a “geographic cure” about leaving rather than orbiting your problem situation. Unless you are in a dangerous or toxic situation, you are better off learning to Orbit where you are so that you don’t recreate the same situation in your new job, town or relationship.
4. Tell yourself that you are not your giant Hairball. You are not your mind and or the problems that you perceive. Contemplate the fact that you reside in a deeper place beyond your perceptions, feelings and thoughts.
5. Doodle-draw a picture of your Hairball and place yourself in the picture in a stratosphere orbiting your mass of problem thinking.
6. Visualize yourself detaching from your Hairball and feel the lightness that comes from the perspective of orbiting above your problems.
7. Throughout the day return to Orbit as you need to. Good luck and God speed!
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace
By Gordon MacKenzie
1998 Viking Press, published by Penguin Putnam, Inc
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