In the “Untethered Soul,” Michael Singer brings up the following concept: Picture a blind person with a red tipped white cane walking down the street. They move the cane back and forth tapping. They are not trying to find where to walk, they know where to walk. They are determining where not to walk. By staying on the middle path of their trajectory, they are staying safely between any obstacles.
We have a terrible tendency as humans to swing between extremes as we make our way. We hit obstacles at the edges and swing back the other way until we find an obstacle at the other extreme. These obstacles tend to be the sharp rocks of our own fears, biases, neuroses and perceptions. You find gossip, disrespect, paranoia, rejection and bullying there. Do you want to know why people get hysterical at work? They are out on one of the edges.
We’ve all known co-workers who are addicted to drama. Well, that drama is found at the edges. As they are getting scraped up by immovable objects, they are also doing all they can to drag others there as well. Before long, they will soon careen to the other extreme and beckon you there also. Left to these swings, a effective, energetic workplace can soon turn toxic.
There are many workplaces that will mistake this for progress. It’s not progress, it’s reactive, needless activity that in and of itself is wasted energy. It pushes people out or burns them out.
I’m not talking about the strenuous and rewarding action of forward momentum. I’m talking about impediments to forward momentum. A person on the edge is moving side to side, not forward or backward.
It’s most easily seen in our political climate. The polarization is this endless careening from side to side. One side holding their position on the edge against the other at the other edge. When administrations change sides, so do the parties. It creates intractability and stasis and it’s the people who lose. Where there is no middle, no progressives, there is no progress.
I think everyone, in every workplace, on every crew, has the best intentions of acting in the best interest of helping the endeavor be the best it can be. But, we’re human. Our natural tendency is to serve our self interest first. Once we do that, we’re headed towards the edge.
So, the trick to moving forward is to walk past the drama on either side of you and remain focused on progress. Check your own drama and correct course when necessary. In this sense, the middle way becomes the only way. If you stay in the calm middle, you can keep moving forward, even if in your peripheral vision you can see someone thrashing about on the edge. It doesn’t mean you have to join them there.
If you want work effectively and you want to get things done, take the middle path. Beckon others there also. Take the middle path.