The Pivoting Pyramid: A Model for Individual Thriving During Times of Flux

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

I wonder if you are like me. I wake up most mornings and spend most days cycling between two states of being:

  • Contraction, often induced by a feeling of existential angst and dread, and
  • Expansion, often inspired by a feeling of positive possibility and excitement.

My response to these states of being has generally cycled between two kinds of action:

  • Inner Focus, which for me includes things like journaling, yoga, biking, nature walks, etc., and
  • Outer Focus, which for me includes things like organizational consulting, childcare, giving and receiving peer support, etc.

Cycling among contraction, expansion, inner focus, and outer focus has been working well enough, more or less, in keeping me sane and engaged during these trying times, but I do sometimes get a feeling of being whipped about and not entirely in control of where it is I am targeting my energy.

One day I was telling a friend that I was bouncing around between states of hopped up creativity (expansion), grounded self-care (inner focus), and existential angst (contraction), and that none of them were particularly serving. It didn’t take me long to realize that the fourth state I was needing more of in that particular moment was social engagement (outer focus). I needed to channel more of my creative energies in service to others.

As I thought about that moment when I was feeling hemmed in by three states of being and in search of a fourth, I visualized a pyramid with four points. At that time, my stable base, all on one plane, were the three points of contraction, expansion, and inner focus. It was a fourth point, outer focus, that I was yearning for that would move me from a flat plane into a third dimension and literally make me feel less flat.

Here’s a simple drawing I made of the pyramid:

And here’s the model I keep on my desk, made from toothpicks and putty:

I then started to think about how this pyramid can be pivoted in space. Any three points can form a stable plane of habitual practice from which a person can stretch and yearn for a fourth point that will transform them:

Depending on your needs or circumstances, your stable base of three points will shift. Maybe you are struggling in a cycle of contraction, expansion, and outer focus. You’re meaningfully engaged with a social change community, you’re energized and engaged, yet you often wake up with a feeling of dread that it’s all for naught. You might need to incorporate more inner focus into your day. A little time taken away to reflect, move your body, or notice how nature recharges you will help you in the long haul fight for social change.

Or maybe you’ve been both inner focused, practicing a great deal of self-care, as well outer focused, productively engaged. You generate “product” like crazy, are expansive. But you have a nagging feeling about the social value and meaning of what you are producing. It’s time for you to sit still for a moment, contract, perhaps even contemplate an existential abyss, so that you can move forward in a way that is more useful to the world.

Try playing with the model and let me know what you think.

Interested in a model for thriving organizational life? The pivoting pyramid model for individual thriving during times of flux is a sibling to theĀ torus model for thriving organizational life during times of flux that you can read about here.

Looking for more ways to ensure your organization is thriving? Check out the Complequity Organizational Assessment ToolTM


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