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Last year, I spent several days in the cold country of Illinois and then the mountains of Idaho. I slept outdoors one night when the thermometer read minus 2 below zero. My son had given me a warm sleeping bag that he bought in Nepal. I wanted to try it out. So I did. The next morning I was warm inside my bag. Everything outside was frozen and frosty. I was happy to step into the warmth of the house where the thermostat controlled the heat at 72 degrees.
Thermometers simply reflect the temperature of the environment. In Arizona, thermometers reflect the temperature of unbearable heat in the summer while indicating deep freeze temperatures in the Idaho mountains in the winter. A thermostat has the power to regulate the temperature in both summer and winter. It is connected to both heating and cooling systems. Even though very hot or cold, the thermostat can regulate the temperature to a constant 72 degrees when set.
Each of us has the opportunity to be a thermostat and set the atmosphere in the environment of the world we live in. Leadership at every level has this responsibility. When I enter a 12-step meeting room, immediately I recognize the influence of leadership in the room. I sense who it is who has influence by the tone that is set during the meeting by those who lead the group. This is true of every organization in which I have participated.
In my world as a professional therapist I have been involved with many organizations throughout the various years of service. Leaders of organizations have demonstrated charisma, various levels of skills, and different degrees of ability in public speaking. Some people just dress and look like a leader. However, that does not make them one. Most leaders of the organizations I have participated and worked for were thermometers, reflecting the atmosphere and attitudes of the people around them. There have been few leaders who have played the role of being a thermostat. Here is what being a thermostat means to me in recovery and leadership in life.
1. Be true to your heart. Leaders who have influence and make a difference tend to follow the convictions of their heart. Easier said than done. Most cave into peer pressure. This is true whether observing a politician’s voting record, a partner wanting to please a spouse, or a business owner living by his/her convictions, ethics, and personal standards. Most designated leaders pander to please others and do not fight for principles. Long-term recovery and growth require that you exchange your thermometer for a thermostat. Be true to your heart.
2. Be willing to stand alone. True leaders don’t look like leaders, they act as leaders. They are willing to go against popular opinion to do the next right thing. Frequently people look like they are playing the role of leadership. However, statesmanship and persona are hollow unless accompanied with congruency to ethical standards and principles. Recovery teaches one to be true to the fundamentals of healing no matter what. To do otherwise sacrifices sobriety. Countless numbers of addicts have given up sobriety to please someone. Be willing to stand alone.
3. Thermostat recovery people walk the walk and don’t settle with talking the talk. Sometimes in 12-step groups I hear a lot of talking the talk. Some old timers are genuine about their recovery from addiction, but their home life is crap! They have never translated the axioms of recovery lingo into reality at home. They only know how to not act out with their addiction. Be a thermostat and walk the walk at home not just at 12-step meetings.
4. Thermostat recovery people don’t settle for sobriety but anchor themselves in serenity. When you become a thermometer in recovery you simply act on the feelings you have inside. As a thermometer your life becomes dominated by how you feel each day which can be very unpredictable. Being dominated by your feelings will set you up to medicate and escape through addictive behavior. You will stutter and get stuck in Step 4 because you have surrendered your power to your feelings of dread, despair, and discouragement. To be a thermostat means that you take yourself by the nape of the neck with determination to complete step work. You engage the 4th step regardless of fear and anxiety. You do not let those feelings dominate. In the doing you will anchor yourself in serenity.
5. Thermostat recovery people live to give the message of strength and hope to others. The mentality of being a thermometer hovers around the glow and warmth of a recovery group that is safe and reassuring. Thermostat recovery people push out to share hope and strength to others. They make an impact on the community in which they live. Living the 12-principles and working the 12-Steps in all that you do, with the people you engage, in all areas of life, is a true testament to being a thermostat in your world.
This new VELVET STEEL post was written by Ken Wells. In Dare to be Average, Ken’s new book, you can embrace healing, peace, and self-acceptance through meaningful insights to discover purpose and fulfillment in everyday life.
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