Mindful Leaders Begin with the End

I read a lot of criticism over season seven of Game of Thrones. Many people seemed frustrated with the way the whole season was paced. Everything was sped up. Sometimes whole groups of characters would disappear from one place only to reappear in another. There were critiques over the way characters behaved and acted.

Many of these same criticisms were/are used when talking about another show: Lost.  For many years, Lost was must-see TV. Wednesday nights were Lost nights. There were podcasts, blogs, and books all dedicated to Lost. It created this entire subculture of people trying to figure out every mystery contained on this strange island. Yet something happened towards the end. There was a great deal of frustration and consternation over how they were going to manage to end this story. The writers had put together so many mysteries that it seemed impossible to resolve them all. The critics were correct. Even after the finale and an after finale special, there are still mysteries of Lost that are just simply unresolved.

The one criticism that I heard consistently through Lost was the fear that the writers didn’t really know how to end this juggernaut. It had gotten too massive for there to be any type of satisfactory resolution for these characters that we had come to care about over the course of six seasons. People were worried that the creators and writers didn’t have an end in mind when they started writing the show.

This happens time and time again with art. Creators start to create something and don’t know where something will take them. They are on a journey with the creation. They don’t know how the story will play out. Writers often write in a three-act structure.

  • Act One – This is the setup. The beginning. It introduces the problem.
  • Act Two – This is the confrontation. The middle. The hero’s journey.
  • Act Three – This is the resolution. The end. The conclusion to the story.

The problem with the three-act structure is that it can often have a really good Act One, a decent Act Two, and a bad Act Three. I believe it is because most people (including myself a lot of the time) get stuck in Act Two. We just don’t know how to get out of it. We become bogged down in the confrontation of the problem and we allow the confrontation to dictate our next steps.

Mindful leaders see the three-act structure differently. They see the setup and know the problem, but instead of going straight into the confrontation they think about the outcome. They imagine what the end will be like. They think about the outcomes of each action. They chart a course knowing the destination. This happens through a process called visualization and anyone can learn how to do this.

  1. Think about something going on in your life right now. This could be a problem you are working through, an ongoing issue that has been bugging you, an upcoming test, or just how this day is going to go. (Act One)
  2. When thinking about this problem, what do you see as the best possible outcome? What is the resolution that brings the most good? How is this issue best reconciled? If you are just looking at your day, how do you want your day to go? (Act Three)
  3. Visualize the conversations that you need to have in order to resolve the problem. Focus on the what solutions are necessary to correct the ongoing issue. What things would be most effective for you to study for the upcoming test? What needs to happen this day to make this day go the way you want it to go. (Act Two)