On Wednesday, we began our exploration into the ten core elements of radical discernment! To read about skills one through four, click here.

Before we go on, I invite you to take a moment to practice what you’ve been learning so far:

  1. Pause and notice your body.
  2. Offer yourself some soothing self-touch.
  3. See if you can find a sensation or emotion word to name what you feel.
  4. Find a glimmer.

Today, we’ll continue the conversation by discussing the next four core elements. Let’s dive in!

Skill Five: Identifying What You Need

When I ask you what you need and want, ’m inviting you to tune into the life energy coursing through your veins and tell me about your deep-bellied yeses, the callings that summon you to act in solidarity with yourself, humanity, and the planet.

Each time we choose to honor our needs in the little moments—eating when we’re hungry, sleeping when we’re tired, moving our bodies when we feel sore or stressed—we strengthen our ability to make bigger decisions that honor our values and grow our joy.

But what if you’re thinking—Who am I to have needs? Do I have the right to want or need this?

If that’s you, I invite you to consider the words of Lilla Watson—Murri artist, activist, and academic:

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.[1]

To act from a place of solidarity rather than saviorism, each of us has a responsibility to work toward our own liberation as well as each other’s.

In the face of a dominant culture that denies our agency and makes it so hard to meet our needs, honoring our needs is a radical act.

The heart of radical discernment is acknowledging our needs—both personal and collective—and choosing steps to honor them.

I invite you to reflect on your own needs by printing out my Priority Needs Wheel now. Most people find it a fun and simple way to get clear about their priority needs.

Skill Six: Story-Shifting 

One thing that can make it really hard to even understand what we need are the stories we tell ourselves.

Each of us is viewing life through channels of perception that contain all the stories we’ve gathered about who we are, what is possible, and how the world works.

Like debris on a car windshield accumulating over decades, our belief patterns can make it hard to see our path forward.

These patterns build up so gradually that we mistake our filtered views for reality itself and don’t realize that we’re looking through a lens in the first place.

To clear our lens, we don’t need to get rid of our stories (that can be really hard to do). Instead, we need to bring awareness to our stories and separate them from what is actually happening.

A practice that can be super helpful for separating fact from fiction is called The Bare Bones. I invite you to try this now:

  1. Choose a recent situation to work with where you felt emotionally activated. Choose a moment that’s not deeply shaming but that you feel kind of embarrassed to talk about—aim for about a 3 on a 0-to-10 scale on which 0 is not at all emotionally activated and 10 is extremely activated. Write it down.
  2. Take a blank piece of computer paper and draw a line vertically down the middle. Label the left column Bare Bones and the right column Story.
  3. In the left column, write the bare bones: What actually happened? What are the observable facts of the situation?
  4. In the right column, write down the story: What are you telling yourself this situation means? About you? About other people? About the world?
  5. Go back and forth between the two columns, writing down what actually happened on the left and your interpretations of what happened on the right until you feel complete.

Granted, there is more to this practice than I can share in this quick email, so if you start to feel worse when practicing, please stop and know that you can always return when you have more support.

That said, this practice can help us quickly gain the observational distance to see our situations clearly and choose our next steps.

And each time we choose a new action, we live into a new story. With repeated practice, the new story becomes more prominent than the old one, and the old story becomes hardly detectable.

Skill Seven: Getting the Outside View

Whereas the inside view is what we feel, need, want, and think, the outside view is information from outside of ourselves, including what others need and what has worked for people pursuing similar paths and facing similar challenges.

Most people either overdo or underdo it when it comes to the outside view.

Sometimes, people over-rely on other peoples’ opinions, not pausing to listen to or follow their inner guidance about a situation.

Other times, people don’t even realize they would benefit from asking others’ thoughts about a situation and make quick decisions before first gathering adequate information or listening for how their actions impact others.

When we don’t ask questions of people who might have an important perspective, we can end up expending energy unnecessarily, needing to backtrack later, or having worse unintended consequences. To make decisions that are more likely to meet our needs and serve the best interest of the whole, we need to get the outside view.

From now on, when you’re facing a decision, especially one that impacts others, I invite you to get curious about what situation needs and ask questions to help you get clear.

Three guiding questions that I find particularly helpful for getting the outside view are:

  1. Who might know something about this issue?
  2. Who else has had success facing a challenge such as mine?
  3. What is in the best interest of the whole?

I invite you to write these down and refer to them when facing a big decision.

Skill Eight: Reaching Out for Support

In great stories across time and place, after the adventurer accepts their call, they are greeted by allies—magical helpers, fairy godmothers, secret agents, protective amulets of all sorts.

Our ancestors knew that our success hinged upon receiving support.

But as imperialism, settler colonialism, industrialization, and racialized globalized capitalism uprooted most people from the land and their ancestral ways over the last several centuries, the broad-scale separation from land and place-based communities bred isolation, loneliness, and toxic individualism.

The myth of the self-made man proliferated.

So Skill #8 of Radical Discernment is all about learning to reach out for support and make effective requests for support.

One framework that can help us identify the support we need is Social Support Theory, which posits that there are four types of support—instrumental support, informational support, appraisal support, and emotional support.

I invite you to grab your journal and a pen and reflect on what support you might want to reach out for in each category.

One: Instrumental Support

Instrumental support is tangible aid and service, hands-on support getting stuff done. Examples of instrumental support include support at home—cooking food, cleaning the house, fixing the car; support with work—sending out a newsletter, posting to social media; or support with a campaign—collecting signatures, knocking on doors, or making phone calls. 

What instrumental support do you need/want/long for? Who might you reach out to for instrumental support? 

Two: Informational Support 

Informational support is Guidance, mentorship, instruction, information, suggestions, and advice. It can be really hard to learn something new from a book. It’s usually so much easier to learn with support from guides who know the terrain well and instructors who can show us the moves.

What informational support do you need/want/long for? Who might you reach out to for informational support? 

Three: Appraisal Support

Appraisal support is feedback from others that is useful for evaluating and understanding ourselves. Appraisal support comes from trustworthy observers—therapists, coaches, mentors, accountability partners, trusted friends, or others in our inner circle—who help us stay accountable to ourselves, call us in with grace and honesty when they see us acting out of alignment with our values, offer truthful feedback and observations with warmth and kindness, and gently push us to become who we are called to be.

What appraisal support do you need/want/long for? Who might you reach out to for appraisal support?

Four: Emotional Support

Emotional support is warmth, care, attunement, resonance, and love. We might access emotional support from good friends, close family members, therapists, coaches, support groups, other skilled space-holders, and other trusted people with whom we can talk ourselves into emotional settledness and insight.

What emotional support do you need/want/long for? Who might you reach out to for emotional support?

I am wishing you all the clarity and support you long for.

[1] Watson was heard delivering this quote at the 1985 United Nations Decade for Women Conference in Nairobi. “Etiquette for Activists by Michael F. Leonen – YES! Magazine”. 7 August 2011. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2020.

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