You might have come across the black dot metaphor before. It’s origin has not been firmly established, however many teachers, speakers and leaders use it. The exercise is based on drawing a black dot in the middle of a clean sheet of white paper and asking people what they see. Most of the time, the black dot catches everyone’s attention. The big white space surrounding the dot can be completely ignored. Makes sense right? Why comment on an empty white space when there’s a clearly defined object right in the middle. It’s a black dot on a plain white sheet of paper, it’s unmissable.
This exercise is meaningful in many ways. For instance, ask someone about their strengths and weaknesses and they are likely to name more weaknesses than they do strengths. We tend to be our own worst critics. We see the black dot first, the weaknesses. Unmissable, reminding us of how we are not good enough. While missing everything that is good, like our strengths, even though there are so many. Social learning plays a significant role in this, where most of our lives the good that we’ve done has gone unacknowledged or even when it was, we were told that it could be better. At times mistakes are punished more than the good is rewarded.
Since going into lockdown because of the novel coronavirus, there’s been a lot of pressure to stay productive, active and use this time wisely. However let’s not forget that all of this is also novel – it’s a whole new experience for everyone. So instead of feeling guilty for taking some time off every now and then, or not coming up with some grand business idea (seeing the black dot), how about you start acknowledging the rest of the page?
Recognise the fact that you have been able to cope and that you’re doing your best everyday. If you’re with your family during this time, acknowledge how you’ve been able to take care and support one another and possibly even others outside of your immediate family.
This does not mean that you should not strive for excellence and self-actualisation – however, that will only be possible when the basics are taken care of. So for now, strive for little everyday victories. At the end of each day, record at least one little victory for yourself. Anything that you feel is an achievement for that day. Acknowledge yourself for it! Some days will have more victories than others and that’s okay.
As long as you remind yourself to see beyond the black dot.
By Puleng Rathebe