What Would Odysseus Do?
We continue our BE-coming journey by tuning into our default modes and identifying potential guardrails, both critical keys to the process. In doing so, we’re going to tap into another famous journey: the Odyssey. Written by Homer in the 7th or 8th century BC, it remains one of the oldest pieces of literature still widely read. The story (poem) follows Odysseus, king of Ithaca, as he makes a ten-year journey home (and you thought flight delays were a big deal!) after the Trojan War. Along the way, he steps into shoes quite familiar to each one of us: the irresistible enticement.
For Odysseus, it takes the form of Sirens, mythical creatures whose songs, apparent beauty and false promises of love, fame, wisdom and happiness draw unsuspecting crews into the rocks, where their boats are smashed into pieces and their lives lost. For us, it may not be quite so dramatic, but the theme holds true. If our default mode is “DO” then our Sirens might be the promise of a promotion in exchange for more work hours… making a financial or athletic commitment that requires even more time and effort than is reasonable… or pushing back sleep, exercise or time with friends & family to “focus in” on a pursuit. If our default leans into “BE” then perhaps our Sirens diminish elevated efforts in some area, leaving us with wonderful internal clarity but a lack of external stability or impact.
Odysseus had been warned about the Sirens so he set up guardrails. He engaged his crew to insulate him and provide accountability, making it impossible for him to fall prey to the Sirens promising song. Interestingly, he provided his crew with beeswax to allow them to live (BE) outside the influence of the Sirens and directed them to row forward (DO) at full speed. The beeswax silence also allowed the crew to see the Sirens for what they really were – monsters – perhaps another lesson for those of us caught up in the continuous noise of nonstop DOing.
Do you naturally lean toward DO or BE? What are the Sirens that most often draw you into the rocks? What guardrails (people, processes, plans) might provide you with the most effective path forward?