(Reprinted with permission from Leadership Columbus.)
2021 was the most trying year of my life. It was also my most rewarding year personally and professionally.
My mind looks for understanding when there is such a dynamic disparity of emotion and lived experience. As I have aged, I began to really lean into intention and commitment. As I started to write my commitments for 2022, I realized that some of 2021’s learnings were essential to process before I could commit to anything. In this article, I will share some of my most precious learnings from 2021 and also share my commitments for 2022.
My writing and creative process is rooted in the practice of grounded theory. I look at what data exists and try to make an inductive sense of what is occurring. The practice of grounded theory has allowed me to compile all my awareness and practices and compile them for you. I want to share with you a few concepts, shared language, and an approach that I find extremely relevant moving into the new year. In action, all of these concepts and this approach have truly amplified my relationships with people and consequently positively benefited my work and my aliveness as a whole. These concepts and this approach are the proverbial groundwork for my commitments for 2022. I hope they contribute to your life in a generative way as well.
The Practice of Right Relationship:
The first concept is the idea of ‘right relationship’. Sonya Renee Taylor and Adrienne Maree Brown discuss this in their works and vlogs and it is the crux of my work in diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging. Relationship is what is occurring between two people, a group, an organization with its constituents, a government with its people, etc. Right relationship is when there is a relationship that allows for support, empowerment, collaboration, calling in, calling out, feedback, and change. There is an idea of reciprocity and mutual care in right relationship. The only intent present is for both or all of us to thrive. Our values are aligned and we are in integrity, hopefully trying to advance ‘the people’ forward.
When we are in right relationship, we are able to hold each other accountable to the altruistic higher good. I believe not being in right relationship is the current cause for a lot of fractures in the world. When corruption is present, right relationship is nearly impossible. As an emergent strategist believer myself, I subscribe to the notion that sustainable change is possible, but only if we get in right relationship with ourselves, with our planet, with spirit (however you acknowledge), and with each other. Emergent strategy is based in love, possibility, transformation and sustainability. I choose daily to live in the practice of right relationship with myself and with those I am connected to. This practice is key in stating my intentions and honoring my commitments. I am responsible for this practice and it allows for individual and collective accountability.
Understanding and Applying Boundaries
The next key concept is boundaries. I promise this section will be brief and painful. As children we are taught to share. We are told that if someone wants something that is in our possession, if they ask nicely, it is our responsibility to share. We are taught to be giving, kind, and fair and ultimately benevolent to those less fortunate. Unfortunately we are taught these concepts, even to the detriment of ourselves and our own wants and desires. The word boundaries is quite arguably the most used word of 2020 and 2021. If you have been socialized all your life as many of us have, boundaries are actually quite challenging, particularly given the varying family dynamics that we come from. This is where you first learn consent and if your boundaries are even respected in the first place before heading out into the world. The challenge with boundaries is becoming aware of what yours are and then implementing them unapologetically.
Often when people implement boundaries, they find out a lot of things. They find out who is supportive and who is just there to gain something from them. They find out who will not support their newfound voice and independence. I am grateful for boundaries, they teach me to find and understand my inner voice and to honor it. Boundaries show me who in my life will respect and support me in times when I can not offer a service. Lastly, the boundary process asks me to create boundaries, knowing myself and what my needs are; and asks me to be accountable as well as hold others accountable to my boundaries. All of this under the positive assumption that my intent is health, community building and service. The conversation changes when the intent is corrupt.
The reason I discuss boundaries is because this is a form of self care that we often don’t discuss thoroughly. It is important to know when various boundaries have been violated and we often don’t know they existed until they are violated. I am intentional about creating clear communication and expectations around my boundaries. It is also our personal responsibility to regulate accountability around those boundaries within ourselves and with others. Understanding and applying my boundaries will play a significant role in being able to fulfill my commitments in 2022 and beyond.
The Point of Loss ™ Framework
This brings me to my approach around Point of Loss™. This is a grounded theory induction based on my work in diversity management. I have come to find that this approach works in all arenas of life and is incredibly applicable to relationships, work partnerships, and anywhere that relationship is involved. This approach is represented visually by an inequality. The Point of Loss™ or (PL) is the moment when you know a change has to occur. Something has to shift. This occurs when the impact (of whatever is occurring) is greater than the tolerance of harm. The point of loss is a moment when awareness becomes prevalent and the cost of not doing something outweighs the cost of what doing something could mean.
We have multiple points of loss in our lives. These are normally defining moments in our relationships, in our careers, in our service, in our greatness. These are the moments we stand up for our beliefs. The moments we set boundaries. When we decide to make positive sustainable shifts for ourselves for mental health and well being. There are so many factors present when applying the Point of Loss™ approach. For the purpose of this discussion, I am referring to it as we lead and build community, especially in servant leadership. I think it is important to get clear on your Point(s) of Loss and also your teammates and organizations Point(s) of Loss around racism, sexism, ableism, capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other isms and phobias plaguing society. The Point of Loss™ approach asks us to audit our circles and get very clear on what our tolerance of harm is. It will also reveal non-negotiables and intent for yourself and others. I encourage you to be unapologetically honest with yourself about this. Explore with care.
Once you have discovered your Point(s) of Loss (they are ever changing, especially as you grow and transform), it is important to know there is a cost. There is always a cost. There is a cost for speaking up and there is a cost for staying silent. There is a cost for holding true to your non negotiables. There is a cost to giving in and allowing your boundaries to be disregarded. There is a cost to staying and enduring.
Throughout my life, I hope to move through Points of Loss with grace, conviction, integrity and intention. I look back on past decisions and can understand why I allowed what I did. I also can see what the cost was to me. Which is why I stand strong in my convictions and integrity now. I realize that I could lose income, friends, community, respect, for believing and operating how I do. There will be some that will pull their support and resources for my work if I become seen as too radical. These are the moments where I have to get clear on what I am willing to sacrifice to be in right relationship with myself and with my community. I will gladly accept the cost of staying true to my values and to my community.
There is no conclusion around this approach other than the reality that people make choices daily. They choose their courses of action based on their survival and basic needs, their personal loyalties, what can benefit them financially, emotionally, spiritually, and choose what is best for them at that time. It is not always for their higher good or sustainable good, however, we choose daily. That is the thing with character and integrity: I am the only one in control of what I do and how I operate 24/7. Ideally, I am empowered and aware enough to be conscious in my decisions around my actions and how I navigate advocacy for my own dignity in various relationships.
This approach heavily relies on transparency and self awareness. Some action will speak for itself, but unless you are very clear what your Point(s) of Loss are or when you are coming up against one; you can constantly be stuck in making choices that go against your values and integrity. This too has a cost and that is directly to you.
This theory requires quite a bit of self reflection. It shows itself in tension. I have been known to say in a meeting to a colleague or co-facilitator, “there seems to be a tension here, I think they are coming up on their Point of Loss™.” What that means is there is an ethical or moral tension occurring within and it is showing up as resistance or tension within the group. This is normally when I get curious as a facilitator because we need to work these problems out externally. If left to our own devices these dilemmas can devour us from the inside out. Getting clear on Points of Loss and navigating our behaviors in these times of impact is integral in carrying out commitments.
In centering right relationships, boundaries and Point(s) of Loss™, it is my hope that we all commit to things that are generative and make our hearts full in the years to come. With that goal in mind, here are my commitments for 2022:
- Center underrepresented people, ideas, systems and processes- The solutions already exist. It is my hope in listening and creating platforms for underrepresented folx to speak, I can listen and center their knowing and apply new and logical strategies to current issues.
- Center the harm and the harmed– I am working on this as it pertains to when I experience harm and also when I witness harm or am made aware of harm. It is my personal commitment to interrupt and disrupt harm, even when it is uncomfortable. In your circles, define harm so that everyone has shared language around what harm looks like. Harm is serious and should be treated as such. Harm occurs when boundaries are broached and when Point(s) of Loss are realized. When people are physically injured, we make sure they are okay. We don’t seek the person who harmed them to make it right. We sustain their injuries and see what they need first. Then we seek repair and justice. I am committed to acknowledging harm and centering the needs of the harm when it does occur. I am a proponent of Transformative Justice where this Indigenous and Black, Queer practice of centering the harm and harmed already exists and is practiced.
- Get in right relationship with myself and those I encounter- This requires awareness and clarity and intention. I need to understand and know my own personal values. If I know these, I will not place myself in situations where I know my values are not aligned. I will get clear on expectations of relationships professionally and personally. When expectations are clear, it is much easier to be in right relationship. I will call in and be open to being called in. I always have room to grow and I want relationships that challenge my integrity and think expansively with me. I will get curious around intention and thought processes. I want to be educated in cultures I do not understand yet. This cultural humility and intention in relationship will create solid infrastructures that allow me to wrestle with socialization and my purpose.
Ultimately, I am committed to expansion in 2022. I am intentional about right relationship in community and service. I am committed to being a joyful conduit for truth. I am committed to embracing the unknown. I am intentionally curious. I am intentional about sustainability.
What are your intentions and commitments in 2022? 🔥