As I write this, I sit in an inspired place.
The light from the windows projects onto me.
I see greenery outside. Fields of vineyards. Trees. Fog rolling over the mountain.
I feel inspired. In spirit of life around me and within me.
It is here I met two entrepreneurs, named Alec and Nicole.
They run a non-profit and a winery in Sonoma, California.
During our conversations, I’ve heard them share how much they care.
Over a year ago, they left the only life they knew to embark on a new journey. A journey that is meaningful to them. A quest that involves them doing something they deeply care about.
This wasn’t an overnight process.
But it was intentional.
They left their careers in teaching to follow what was calling them from within.
They shared with me how much research they’ve done on responsible tourism. They shared how the current state of tourism is not sustainable to local environments, economies, and cultures. They have taught me about plastic water bottles and the impact on our planet. They have taught me about the lies we’ve been sold around recycling.
And I’m convinced. I believe in them. I support what they care about at their non-profit, World Progress Now.
And then, during vulnerable conversation, I heard about the pressure they now have to share their truth. This pressure makes it somewhat uncomfortable to speak about what they care so deeply about. (Although not paralyzing for them)
Not only is this something I heard from them, but it’s something I felt in them. It’s something I’ve felt in myself.
Many will say to “do what you love” and “follow your passion,” but few will speak about the art of caring.
The extremes of caring
Imagine caring like temperature.
Let’s use Celsius.
0 degrees Celsius is the temperature that water freezes at.
100 degrees Celsius is the temperature that water boils at.
Let's say, 0 degrees is not caring at all.
100 degrees is extreme care.
And there are different degrees between 0 and 100 degrees.
I’ll share some examples of caring to put this into context. Please understand I am not being critical or judgmental, I value everyone and I believe we’re each doing the best that we know how to. (I believe this of others because I believe this of myself) I write this distinction because I had to learn it to first help myself.
Let’s say you are doing hard drugs or physically harming yourself. Let’s say you care 5 or 10 degrees about what you're doing. Maybe you weren’t taught how to care about yourself. Or maybe you want to care about yourself but you don’t know how to because something is in your way (like a traumatic experience).
Or let’s say you’re doing work you don’t love, let’s say you care 20 degrees. The caring exists only out of necessity from a boss and a paycheck.
Or, let’s say, you’re happy and doing work that you enjoy but you care 50 degrees. You’re happy and you care only enough to get by. Let’s call this autopilot mode. It’s probably enough for the job. Some might label it mediocre. But it works.
Next, let’s say you’re doing what you’re passionate about. It’s a new passion, and you’re just getting started. You have conviction, but you don’t understand the extent of your conviction just yet. Let’s say this is 75 degrees of caring. You might feel uncomfortable at first to share what you deeply care about.
Lastly, we have 100 degrees. If you care 100 degrees, you care a lot. You overcare. You outcare all of your friends. Your caring causes you to sacrifice anything and everything to care. Your caring may even cause you your happiness or your health because you care as much as humanly possible. Lack of boundaries around caring may hold you back from being grounded and strong and powerful despite external circumstances.
None of this is good or bad, it just is. Remember, I believe self-awareness is powerful. When we have the inner sight, or the insight, to see what powers self, we can begin to create the change to live the life we want.
Without inner sight, we cannot change what we do not see.
What powers caring
The way we care can be the result of many different experiences.
It could be a perspective we hold about life. For example, if growing up, we’ve seen people care to 100 degrees, then we think that is normal, and so we experience life in such a way.
It could be our biological sensitivity. Example, when our amygdala, or the fight/flight center of the brain is overstimulated, we’re more vulnerable to external stimuli. The external stimuli we experience then becomes not just external stimuli, but it is perceived as life or death. That powerful force causes us to care so much... our life is at stake.
It could be our fear of disconnection from others. In tribal times, disconnection from the tribe meant starvation and, ultimately, death. This fear of disconnection is inherent in all humans (except sociopaths). When we don’t replace this fear with a powerful perspective, such fear forces us to care about everything we do. We do anything to avoid disconnection from others.
It could be internal pressure created by beliefs. I had one introspective call with a CEO who shared what her business meant for her. It was the golden ticket. It was the thing that was going to set her, and her family, and her young son, financially free. She believed her business was the golden ticket and that forced a high degree of caring. (Months after our call, she has since adopted a powerful perspective and seen the effects it’s had on her life.)
It could be upbringing by parents or guardians, or certain life experiences, too.
It is not necessary to understand what powers the caring to change it.
What is important is respecting and honoring whatever powers the caring in each human being, starting with ourselves.
The pros and cons of caring
Let’s break this down further. Let’s start with not caring at all.
The pros and cons of not caring at all (0 degrees)...
No stress (who cares!)
Poor quality of work
The pros and cons of caring a lot (100 degrees)...
High quality of work
When we don’t understand our intensity of caring, we may not understand how we get in our own way. Again, this is why I believe self-awareness is powerful.
My 100 degrees of caring led me to craving stability, and personal power, and less stress. Until I examined what I was doing, I did not understand how I was creating the reality that held me back.
The patterns of specific human labels
In worldwide experiences and my own observation, certain patterns have become obvious.
The creative creates what is within. Doing this, creates a strong connection to whatever is being created. The creative creates music, food, dance, design, code, words, photography, videography, etc. When we overcare, it is natural because we created it.
Similar to the creative, the artist creates their art. Such creative work often is done with great care. Tell me, do you know an artist who seems oversensitive? Yes, that’s because they care. A lot. You aren’t just judging their art, you can be judging them. Assuming the artist holds no personal boundaries...
The entrepreneur often cares a lot. Their art is on-going, involves money, many other people, sometimes employees, or even family and friends. The power of an idea manifested in reality requires great care on multiple levels. There is a reason the failure rate is so high. Overcaring about something that may not survive requires great awareness, of self, and environment.
If you’re a perfectionist, you are a perfectionist because you care. Things have to be perfect. Little do you know as the perfectionist, why do you care? What do you get from your care? Similar to the artist, the (extreme?) perfectionist identifies with their work. It is not something you're even in control of. Lack of boundaries and protection of self creates this scenario. The perfectionist creates perfect work because you overcare, yes. But beyond that, it’s because you want to be identified with perfect. You want to be perfect. What do you get from being identified with perfect? (If you’re the perfectionist, that is)
What is caring enough?
So, you get it.
You understand the different types of caring.
You understand why we can care the way we do.
You see the pros and cons of caring.
You understand the types of people and how we care.
This brings forth the question, what is enough?
Enough to get the job done?
Enough to be satisfied?
Enough to please someone else?
Depending on the work, how much will you care? At the expense of what?
Is that what you want?
When you don’t build your boundaries to preserve who you are, you can lose sight and become something unintended.
The art of caring
The art of caring is about caring enough.
It is about having boundaries to get the task done while respecting and honoring the boundaries.
Powerful boundaries help you protect self.
What are your boundaries?
The art of caring is not something we are taught in school. This is why we often don’t understand this... it can seem abstract, or complex. But when you value inner sight, and your growth, you can learn.
Caring is also, often, an external act. We care about events, or clients, or a project, or a dream. People who are great at caring (closer to 100 degrees) often care more about other people. I’ve seen where this happens and self is sacrificed in the interest of others. While this can be powerful, I ask, what will it take? What will it take to change? I'm assuming change is desired.
We have indicators in airplanes to remind us to put our own oxygen masks on in case of emergency. Yet, if we lack the insight to see how we care, we won’t understand this concept.
What boundaries do you hold to protect who you are?
The art of caring is about being in control over how you care.
This is when you have mastered the art.
It is when you are in control of how you allow yourself to care.
This starts with awareness. What you cannot see you cannot change.
Honor them, day by day.