Let’s talk about ‘You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time’. Because I’m going to bet that if you look at your five, you’ve got a Sesame Street “One of these things is not like the other” situation. In pursuit of Mastery, our lives are University studies, and to graduate (expand, which is a progression or step on the path, not a static place) we are required to take classes that aren’t our favorites. In the school of life, we call these lessons to us in the form of experiences, and the most profound of these are relationships. I took a look at my fives through the years. I was often holier than thou because I populated them with amazing people. However, some of those people were wrestling with the same conundrums that plagued me, so we weren’t growing each other. In high school I was friends with a woman whose sister had been called to become a nun at the Vatican. We met early in the morning before school to go to Mass. How very devout. Yet on the weekends it didn’t take much convincing for me to put my pre-school aged sister in the back of my parents’ car and head over to the liquor store that sold beer to minors.
Later, this becomes more subtle. As a mom, I was righteously convinced I was doing everything right and didn’t deserve children who misbehaved. I am snorting typing that because it sounds so ludicrous now, but I really did think it back when my junior high school aged daughter started her walk on the Wild Side. How could she? It made no sense to me. Her contrary behavior and tuning out of my ‘wisdom’ frustrated and embarrassed me, and with my nose deep in it, I could not see that she was one of my five, and that I was indeed the average in that set, which included a mix of high and low relationships, per usual. Her challenges brought me, slowly, into the experience of growing more authentic and integrated. As a single parent, I was often overwhelmed and stressed. I managed my stress by compartmentalizing life, escaping one reality for another to reward myself. I slipped away from single parenting into intense yoga retreats, or escapist partying.
Do you see the paradox? Escaping wasn’t nourishing or replenishing; it was depleting. Escaping didn't feed me anything, it just got me out of something. I yearned for authenticity, and mistakenly thought I could create it by feeding my soul with disparate experiences.
Our children can be our greatest teachers, because they are on their own paths, so there’s a lot of contrast.
Working relationships also bring us contrast, as what draws us into jobs, partnerships, and businesses is often unconscious, with the true patterns revealed only months or years into the journey. I’ve talked a lot about “The Peter Principle” which is a teaching from a classic management text. “The Peter Principle” states that people rise to their level of incompetence. For years I’d state this as a brick wall kind of fact. People rise to their level of incompetence, and there they stop. I felt this was true of my husband in my marriage; that our marriage had ‘Peter Principled’ him. But the Peter Principle is an outdated view; it has no space for a growth mindset. Given the right tools and resources, people promoted to positions where they are incompetent will grow in those positions or they will recognize that they are not a fit for the positions and they will find new paths, new opportunities.
What does this have to do with your ‘five’? Look at your five. The ones that don’t fit with your desired vision of yourself—that’s your lesson.
You’ve upgraded your five over the years and now have intelligent, nurturing, challenging people around you, encouraging you and fueling you. And you have a weak spot, a kryptonite. And that one is your current Soul Lesson. The lesson can be tricky to spot. Is it the lesson of valuing your time, or being accountable? Or the lesson of self-discipline, of not gossiping, or engaging in high-level self-care?
These are all pretty obvious. The more subtle are the deep lessons, the lessons that run like veins in a mine. Lessons you unconsciously absorbed on a cellular level from your parents or grandparents. Lessons about understanding and speaking up about your core value, or the role of pleasure and play in life. Lessons about self-punishment as a constant form of keeping a lid on, lessons about never being loved quite enough.
Whatever your current lesson is, it’s right in front of you and it is also very much in your blind spot. If you sit for a few minutes with the ‘one of these things is not like the other’ theory, you will start to see it.
It's just a lesson. Excavate it. Release it. Expand.