Being Grey & Setting Terms

Being Grey & Setting Terms

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”
- Brene Brown

We all have belief systems.

These systems are developed through our upbringing.

We mainly get them from our family, our friends, and our religious/community affiliations.

Simply put, if your parents are Democrats, it’s highly likely you’ll be a Democrat too.

These belief systems are at the core of who we become. They’re like our operating system, a set of rules and biases on which everything we do is built. Think about it like a decision tree, each decision bringing you closer to manifesting a particular version of yourself. Am I going to be Alan 1.0 or Alan 2.0? That will be determined by my beliefs and how I manifest them through my decisions.

As life becomes more complex, our beliefs tend to get us into trouble. That happens because, on one side, life becomes more complicated and grey, and on the other, our beliefs become more firmly held, more black and white. While that’s a challenge, like all challenges, it also presents an opportunity.

If you’re able to limit your firmly held beliefs to a short list—five or less—you can open yourself up to a world of possibility and connection. On one hand, you don’t want to be a person without strong beliefs, which are crucial to your becoming a differentiated, purpose-driven individual of substance. To be that type of person is highly regarded and highly rewarding. With that said, unless you’re able to limit those beliefs to a select few, you’ll be eliminating your ability to connect with and understand a diverse set of individuals who may deeply enrich your life.

For example, I grew up in a wealthy suburb outside New York City, Great Neck. For the most part, it’s a homogenous town with people from similar backgrounds and religious beliefs. I was extremely comfortable living in that town, being friendly with the same group of people I had been friendly with since I was a child. That was the way I existed for the first thirty years of my life; things were black and white. I often judged or shunned people and things I felt were different or didn’t fit in with what I was used to.

When I met my future wife and matured in my life experiences, I began to open myself to new and different people and experiences; I became grey. My life experience since has been exponentially richer. I’m constantly learning from people, whether it be at work, through travel experiences, or just happening upon new connections while walking on the beach or playing with my kids. I still have my old friends—the good ones, at least—but the wisdom I’ve gained by being more open has been invaluable.

Having said that, I’m still very much me. And I won’t and shouldn’t ever lose the core of what makes me who I am. To do that, I must be aware of my purpose and my terms.

Your purpose, which we’ve discussed often, is the why behind everything you do. What drives you, what makes you different, your essence. Your terms are your firmly held beliefs, your nonnegotiables, the five simple points from which you’ll never waver.

My purpose is to guide and inspire individuals and organizations to discover their purpose and unlock their potential. My terms are:

  1. Family is first; nothing can get in the way of family.
  2. Sharing and manifesting my purpose is second, creating and communicating is crucial for me to be fulfilled.
  3. I put the needs of others, specifically those I love, ahead of my own, unless I feel taken advantage of.
  4. Money must never be the primary motivator of my decisions.
  5. Nothing and nobody can get in the way of me being healthy and strong, because it enables everything else in my life.

Everything beyond those five terms is up for grabs; everything else can change; everything else is grey. That allows me to be open to new ideas and experiences, while never feeling compromised in my choices. Knowing my terms helps positive relationships flourish, gives me a clear reason to walk away from negative experiences, and helps me allow the journey of life to ensue, to take me on a ride.

What are your firmly held beliefs? What are your terms? When you uncover the correct balance between the two you can preserve what makes you exceptional without limiting what is possible.

Start your journey today


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