(For more about entrepreneurial pivoting, check out The Art of the Pivot in the May/June 2014 issue of Inc. Magazine.)
We rarely seek enlightenment and the things we want from it — peace, meaning, fulfillment, and all the rest — for their own sake. We’re not in the habit of doing nice things like that for ourselves. Instead, we justify our quest by embracing some noble and idealistic and altruistic vision. We’ll make life better for ourselves, but we’ll also help someone else while we’re at it. Thinking that way gets us off the dime, makes us willing to defy the odds and the gods.
It’s a good way to start, but it won’t sustain us, especially when the resistance we meet makes it obvious why we haven’t done this before, or why we failed when we tried. Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to make an impact in the world, but those ambitions take their cues from outside ourselves: we’re focused on changing something, instead of changing someone — namely the person who lives inside our own skin. As long as we maintain that external orientation, our status-quo-loving and change-resistant brains will be quick to turn tail when things turn tough.
And they will turn tough. Enlightenment is an inside job that’s harshly unsympathetic to whether the externals are lining up to support our grand visions. In fact, it’s usually the case that we’ve barely taken a few baby steps when the path to Paradise plunges us into the cavernous muck where ruined dreams rot.
We need to pivot in order to move on from that place. In physical terms, pivoting is rotating around a still central axis. In entrepreneurial terms, pivoting is what we do when we find out the market doesn’t want our brilliant ideas. In enlightenment terms, pivoting is what we do when we find ourselves wallowing in the mess we created in the name of doing something awesome with our lives. Entrepreneurial and enlightened pivoting rotate around the center of what we’re really after and who we really are. The externals spin and blur, but not the core.
Our enlightenment quest takes us to that core. Along the way, we detach from ego, which is necessary because, if truth be told, our plans to save the world were probably just a spiffed-up version of ego. Ego is immobilized down in that creepy chasm; it becomes dead weight we need to jettison if we’re going to make it through. And often, when we get rid of ego, the vision goes with it.
That doesn’t mean our grand visions won’t ever come to fruition. They might, but you can bet it won’t be the way we originally envisioned, or because ego wrangled them into being. If they come to pass at all, it will be because they resonate deeply with our core selves. Find that core, and pivoting is both possible and powerful: execute that one swift, nifty move, and suddenly we’re unstuck and unleashing whole new worlds of creativity that make surprising things happen.
Then another wonderful thing happens: enlightenment hands us our bag of swag, full of peace, freedom, and all the rest. And we find ourselves living the truth of that inspirational saying that it’s not about making change happen, it’s about becoming the change we wish to make.
And by the way, was that a paraphrase just now of something Gandhi said? Or was it Thoreau? Or maybe Nelson Mandela? If you’re wondering, you’ll enjoy this article about what they really said, and where those inspirational sayings really come from.