Adjust the Chair


Sharing a “spark” moment in my life…

I need to set the scene a little. I’m in Wellfleet, MA on Cape Cod sitting in a large conference room with 35-40 psychologists, business coaches and maybe a shaman or two. We’re deep in the hills down a dirt driveway to a small wooden building tucked into the trees. Most people milling about the entrance were a decade or three older than me. I ended up at this Gestalt weekend “happening” for a number of random reasons. Mostly someone I had just met told me it would be “perfect” for me. Apparently I give off an air that I need some “squishy time” and a nudge is all it takes for me to jump in and give it a try. Everyone was quite pleasant as we gathered and seemed friendly even if there was a subtle vibe of intense over thinking (judging from the darting eyes and occasional furrowed brows). Hmm…interesting. Tell me more about that. What energy is coming up for you? I’m not quite sure if these were my people. I felt a bit uncomfortable but I was in a weird place in life already so might as well float along.


An older woman came to the front of the room, smiled at everyone and asked people to “notice their chairs.” Quite a start. Every person was sitting in their own desk chairs - the kind you find in the back section of an Office Depot with kids riding up and down on the hydraulic lift. She continued to give us a set of instructions:

Take a moment to move the chair all the way up to the highest position. Pause. Now move it all the way down to the lowest position. Notice the difference in how they feel.

Now use the lever to recline the chair as far back as possible…now bring it forward and sit as upright as you can.

Tighten the back to as stiff as possible…now make it as loose as possible.

Swivel 360 degrees all the way around and notice the view of everything and everyone surrounding you.

I had recently started meditating, so I was silently following along and getting lost in the moment. Up. Down. Back. Front. Around and around. She stopped. Everyone slowly finished the final revolutions. She waited until everyone was still. The room grew quiet. She smiled again. She gave us one more instruction:

Now take a moment and find the position of the chair that is exactly right for you right now.


For some reason, as I sat in this conference room in the hills overlooking a thick green forest, I had a moment. I realized I always just sit down. Regardless of the position of the chair, I sit down and endure the default position. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to endure. I’ve done things in my career that were challenging and (at times) uncomfortable. I’ve been an English major in the US Army. I’ve been a Cavalryman working at a boutique winery in Napa. I’ve been a wine guy working at a law firm. In each situation I’ve been able to endure the challenges of the transition and find ways to accept the new position. I’ve done the same in life.

But any strength if overused becomes a weakness. I started to think about what happens if I endure situations that are too uncomfortable. Sometimes I’ve accepted more than I can handle. Sometimes I’ve accepted something painful. And I’ve endured a lot. I started to think about the cost of my endurance - the cost of accepting the default situation.

I’ve never stopped to look for the levers. And this woman gave me the permission to find a spot that worked best for me. It was freeing. It was powerful. I started to think about different aspects of my life as it they were the chair. I thought about my job, my career, my physical health, my family, my friends, my marriage. I realized in so many ways I was just sitting down and taking it. Minor (and major) discomforts that - over time - could have a permanent impact.

That was a spark moment for me. It was a moment when I decided I was going to start looking for the levers. I decided to find ways to make minor adjustments. They started small at first. And then they grew. And grew. And grew.

When I trace it back, the chair moment was a big one for me. As I sat in that conference room listening to the sounds of dozens of people making their adjustments, I started figuring out exactly what I wanted. Sometimes I knew the exact adjustment and sometimes I didn’t have a clue. And that’s true in many areas of my life. When I stop to think about what I want - what I exactly want, things get little scary.

And then you find it. The position that fits. I can still endure. But I don’t have to.


The question I pose to you is…where are you levers? Are you just sitting down? Are you enduring more that you need to? Are there some adjustments you might be able to make?

I’d love to hear if this resonates. I’d love to hear about your spark moments. Hit me up with a comment.

- Mike Sweeney, 

If you found this post valuable, please share it far and wide so others can benefit. If you’ve had a spark and want some oxygen to turn it into a RAGING FIRE, shoot me a note @