Today, in our section on untranslatable sentences, we´ll talk about a very popular colloquial expression from Spain: ser muy echao p’alante.
The Collins Dictionary provides three translation examples for es muy echado p’alante, I hope they make sense to those of you reading this in English:
- He’s very pushy
- He’s very forward
- He’s not backward in coming forward (informal)
To me, being echao p’alante means being brave, in the sense of daring to take the initiative and taking action when faced with certain situations, without fearing ridicule (or maybe fearing it a bit, but without letting that condition them).
My friend Bárbara comes to mind; she served as chairperson of our primary school's Parents' Association for several years, and I remember her one day explaining to me how, every time there was a call for volunteers to organize an event for the school, there were always certain people who threw themselves forward (echar literally means throw), and others who threw themselves back.
I was one of those parents who signed up to help in whichever way I could, but mainly to help, not to lead. I was not the one taking the initiative, I was happy following somebody else's lead. And that's a pattern that's been repeating year after year in many aspects of my life.
So in short, I am not (and never was) particularly echá p’alante... The good news is that now I know that that's part of my personality, more specifically part of my instinctual biases, as opposed to a weakness of character that I have to get over.
According to Mario Sikora's instinctual biases theory, which is taught in conjunction with the Enneagram, our natural instincts as human beings can be grouped in three main domains, the preserving domain (striving for survival, looking after our basic needs, looking after our close ones), the navigating domain (sense of belonging to a group, social relationships with our peers), and transmitting domain (reproduction, spreading our message, leaving a legacy in this world).
Each person tends to have the instincts from one of the three domains a lot more developed than the others, with a secondary domain, and then a third domain that's far less developed. And broadly speaking, we could say that individuals who are strongest in the transmitting domain tend to push forward, given their instinctive desire to transmit, to convince, to make progress. In contrast, individuals who are strongest in the preserving domain tend to pull back more, to try and protect ourselves by keeping a low profile. Individuals who are strongest at the navigating (or social) domain tend to seek balance between what they give and what they receive, expecting reciprocity.
An important point I would like to highlight is that no instinctual bias is better than any other: we need them all, because each of them relates to a particular set of capabilities and strengths, and they all balance each other within the group. We need preservers, navigators and transmitters in our tribe.
For me personally, learning about instinctual biases is helping me a lot to understand my own reactions and behaviours, as well as those of others. But that doesn't mean we can use them as an excuse to continue with our same old ways. On the contrary, it makes us realize that instead of forcing ourselves to do things that are radically against our instincts, we can work with them to our advantage, designing strategies that get us the results we want in a more natural and adaptive way.
In my case, given that my instinctual bias is in the preserving domain, I know I have to pay special attention to the topic of taking the initiative and stepping into action, because those things don't tend to come naturally to me. I use tricks to motivate myself and make progress step by step, without getting exhausted or overwhelmed. And what helps me the most? Phrases like these:
What about you? Are you one of those who throw themselves forward, or back? What motivation would be strong enough to push you forward?