A poet tells us how to be goal-oriented AND mindful at the same time

Can we be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time?

Goals and mindfulness are two of the most powerful concepts in contemporary psychology.

No doubt, when we are pursuing a goal, we pay attention to what we are doing.  But at a cost. We also neglect what is going on around us.

When we pursue a goal, we are often “in flow”.  It’s wonderful!  We are fully engaged with what we are doing.

Yet, the surest sign that we are “in flow” is that we run late for the next meeting.  We remember our flow experiences as much for the anger they arouse in other people as the joy we experience when we are fully engrossed in what we are doing!

This post is a cerebral account.  I am trying to understand the issues.

  • How can I be goal-oriented and focused on what is going on around me?
  • How can I pursue goals of the future yet be ‘fully present’.

Poets often solve our conundrums!

The poets have often already asked and answered what we want to know. Today I found a poem from Rainer Marie Rilke: A Walk and I hope it will help me understand how to be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time.

So often when an ideas in psychology is unsatisfactory, western ideas about time seem to be the root cause of the problem. Rilke’s poem recasts the ideas from temporal space to physical space and helps us imagine alternative ways of understanding the world.

Rilke suggests that that when we see a goal “on our horizon”, we draw it into our present. The present and future are merged and there is no difference between them.

When we look at the horizon we are energized to get up and walk.  And motivated perhaps to ignore the glorious flowers right near us.

The world exists because we pay attention to it and it takes its form because of our attention!

Equally, another person standing right next to us is in another world because they are paying attention to different things. They are even on a different time plane because their future changes their present!

The future and the present are not two different places ~ nor is one better than the other

Rilke talks in the poem about the pleasure of dreams.  He is not saying, though, that dreams are better than the present.  He is saying the future and the present are one place.  And whatever we believe about the future, changes the present.  Our dreams change the present moment.

How the future can fix the present

Sometimes, in those moments when we don’t like the present moment, we could look again at our horizon.

When we don’t like the present, before we complain, maybe we could run an exercise of looking at three different horizons?  If one of the versions of the present becomes more enjoyable ~ could we live from there?

Here is Rainer Marie Rilke’s poem, The Walk, translated by Robert Bly.

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,

into something else, which, hardly sensing it,

we already are; a gesture waves us on

answering our own wave…

but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Translated by Robert Bly

Rainer Maria Rilke

PS What is the copyright on this poem and if someone wanted to by a copy, what would they buy? Is there an Amazon link I could add here?

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The crystal clarity found in the bitterly cold winter of our lives

Cold Poem

Cold now.
Close to the edge. Almost
unbearable. Clouds
bunch up and boil down
from the north of the white bear.
This tree-splitting morning
I dream of his fat tracks,
the lifesaving suet.

I think of summer with its luminous fruit,
blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,
handfuls of grain.

Maybe what cold is, is the time
we measure the love we have always had, secretly,
for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love
for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe

that is what it means the beauty
of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.

In the season of snow,
in the immeasurable cold,
we grow cruel but honest; we keep
ourselves alive,
if we can, taking one after another
the necessary bodies of others, the many
crushed red flowers.

Mary Oliver

I had been thinking about the giving up of dreams in late middle age and the possibility of giving them a decent burial complete with eloquent eulogy.

Tonight, England is cold and my apartment is cold and Google threw up this poem about cold, or the winter season of our lives, or growing older.  It is in the winter of our lives, that we think hard about what we really want and in strange way, feed on dreams of our youth.  That is an alternative metaphor to a burial.  Dreams of our youth are stored in the barn as fodder to be consumed before summer comes around again with a new harvest?

Be prepared! Tips for driving in snow?

Were you a Brownie, Cub, Scout or Guide?

As a girl, I was a ‘Brownie’.  I love the “Be Prepared’ part.  I like thinking up a plan and making it happen.

It’s snowing in UK

This morning I set off for London knowing that snow was expected.  I left London earlier than usual and found I rather like driving in snow.   Cars slow down and observe a decent stopping distance!

And I had prepares, a little.  I had a sleeping bag and a flask of hot water just in case!

What are the tricks of driving in light snow?

But what I hadn’t expected was losing my brakes.  A car in front of me slowed down and I tried to as well.  Aha!  Judder judder.  Nothing but judder.

I pumped the brakes thinking I could dislodge some ice.  Nothing happened.  I just closed on the car in the front of me.

So I hastily started to change down (we have manual shifts here) and looked left and right to pick a snow bank to skid into if the gears didn’t slow me down.

I did slow down, thankfully. And this happened again several times.

So much for being prepared!  I realized that I know nothing about driving in snow.  I need to find out!

Competence matters in this world.  It really does!

PS  I took 1 hour 50 minutes to get back in snow driving most of the way at 25 miles an hour.  Going down to London in fine weather this morning took 2 hours 15 minutes much of it at 5 miles an hour.   Snow has led to efficiency!  I just need to develop a good mental model of safe driving.

Any tips?

“drawing out from two strings but one voice”

Love Song

How shall I hold on to my soul, so that

it does not touch yours? How shall I lift

it gently up over you on to other things?

I would so very much like to tuck it away

among long lost objects in the dark

in some quiet unknown place, somewhere

which remains motionless when your depths resound.

And yet everything which touches us, you and me,

takes us together like a single bow,

drawing out from two strings but one voice.

On which instrument are we strung?

And which violinist holds us in the hand?

O sweetest of songs.

Rainer Maria Rilke

New Poems: c. 1907

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Where is the bottle neck in your career? Worship that!

Do you remember the Theory of Constraints?

A system is only as good as its slowest part!

And because slow sections are a fact of life, we rally around the slow section part, not the fastest part, or the most talented!

Basically, the slowly part must never be left with nothing to do!

A faster section needs to be standing by to deliver their work just as they need it.  No sooner – there is no point as they cannot do it.  And no later because their downtime will hold everyone back.

We also need a signal to tell us that slow section is nearly finished what they are doing, and the signal should arrive just in time for the buffer to release the next lot of work.  Again there is no point in sending it sooner because they cannot do it and while work sits around, it costs us money.

So we won’t start our piece until we are reasonably confident that the slow section can receive it!  Remembering that they will sometimes take longer and sometimes take a shorter time, we must be ready to change our plans accordingly.

There are a lot of practical applications for the Theory of Constraints

  • Put the slowest child in the front of the line not at the back.  Everyone has to walk behind lest they leave the child behind completely!
  • Add resources to the slowest part of work until they are the slowest part no more!  And then work with the new slowest part.
  • Don’t bother to take on more work than the slowest part can do.  It cannot be completed no matter how hard others work.
  • And of course never be the slowest unit in a team because you will have to work non-stop while others watch you!

The Theory of Constraints and your Career

Tell me, where are the critical links in your career?  Where is the point through which everything else flows at least once?

Where is the point which holds everything else up?

Now focus on that point, and get it as efficient as you can.  Don’t hurry it and create a long “to do” list.  It does not help the work speed up.

Just find a way to make it more efficient and effective.

Rinse and repeat.

P.S.  Theory of Constraints is not inconsistent with a strengths based approach to psychology.  When we focus on what the slowest part does well and do more of it, the system runs better.  When we treat the slowest part as a nuisance and start harassing it with a back load of work – do this, do that! – then it will just get slower and the system slows down more.  Look at the strengths of the slowest part and we will all get along a lot quicker.   Quick people?  Wait.  We can’t go faster than our slowest teammate but we can have what they need at their finger tips just when they need it!

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Journalism hasn’t lost its business model. It has lost its purpose

A New Age of Media

Like half-popped corn grown soggy overnight in a forgotten bowl

Blither and drivel

No promise or invitation

Structure long decayed

Indolence becomes insult to the morning

And dirties the memories of the night

Put away the dregs of the party

Even use the recycling bins

Sweep the floor

Let us begin the new day with freshly baked bread

On shining new plates

With rich smelling coffee

Lets begin with the work of craftsman

Let’s begin the day mindfully

With what we need to hear

Wisdom having cleared yesterday’s issues

To celebrate the new day

Crisp, fresh, sweet smelling

Celebrating the people at our table

I was right! I feel so much better now

Surprised by your dislike

Have you ever had a situation where someone heard the exact opposite of what you said?  And accused you of lack of faith?

It’s wildly disconcerting.  Your mind races as you try to understand what is happening and your heart sinks when you release how much the other person dislikes you.

Sometimes the situation is less clear cut.  You are distressed by a situation and think someone should be making an effort.  They think you should have acted in some way to sidestep the distress and that your lack of action has brought threat to them.  What a slap in the face with a wet fish!

Do we ever see the facts in the same way?

Where am I going on this?  Simply, it is astounding how different two people’s views can be of the same situation.

And it follows to me that there is not much point in worrying about other people think. They will think what they will and sometimes what they think seems to be a fabrication, utterly devoid of any factual accuracy.

What other people think is so distracting

The trouble is that most of us do worry what other people think.  And quite often we aren’t released from the hurt of someone expressing their dislike and their distrust until our side of the story is confirmed.

It is a dreadful waste of time and effort, but ‘there we go’.  We hate being excluded.  We hate being rejected.  That is why so many people put a  lot of effort into being rich and powerful.  To have “f+++ off” houses and cars as one of my former students put it rather pithily. They don’t want ever to be bothered by other people’s power to put them down.

We feel awful until our status is restored

The emotional release comes when our status is restored, at least in our eyes.  And of course, it is in our eyes.  The other party probably does care . . . or is plotting revenge!

But release there is. Silly isn’t it?  It is like going up a ladder in ‘snakes n ladders’ and feeling important because the roll of the dice was in your favor.

But ‘there we are’.  It is the human condition to be silly. It comes with the ‘box’ in which we were delivered.

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Take the first step, don’t look back, and the universe will conspire to help you

On Commitment

Goethe

Until one is committed there is always hesitancy,

the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness,

there is one elementary truth,

the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision,

Raising to one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings

And material assistance which no man could have dreamed

Would come his way.

Multiplicator effects – key to the economy, key to our business success

Multiplicator effect

I sat down this morning to ponder the multiplicater effect and what it tells us about management in the new age of knowledge and information.

This is how I look at it.

In the 1900’s

In the olden days, business was like a household budget. Money came in and money went out.

The way to get a bit richer was to take the job you did and get someone to do parts of it more cheaply than you could do yourself.

Let’s imagine I was a cobbler. If I could get you to stand in a line and one of you put on the soles, one thread the laces, and so on.  I could pay you each less than I could pay myself. And I could keep the profit that each would make if he worked for himself.

We used simple arithmetic and success was mainly about keeping the change.

Confusing housekeeping with economics

This business model leads to weird behaviour. Everyone believes that a one pound coin is indivisible. Either I have it, or you have it. And we fight to the death over it.

National wealth does not work like that. Indeed, company wealth doesn’t work like that.

Stock turn is important in shops. I don’t want to buy stock and having it sit on the shelves. I want it in and I want it out and the money banked. Circulation is the key. Not hoarding.

In a town, the same applies. When we fight over the one pound coin, we are wasting time and energy. Let me buy something from you with the coin. Then let you buy something from the next person and they from the next and ultimately someone buys from me. That one pound serves many of us. The more people served by the same one pound coin, the healthier the economy.

Installation art

I keep threatening to put an GPS device in a pound coin to follow it as it moves in the wild. If you would like to collaborate in that project, do get in touch.

In the 2000’s

In the modern business world, few of us are like the cobbler with a skill which can be broken into parts, each of which can be done by someone less skilled than us for less money than we would do it ourselves.

Adam Smith and the division of labor

In this day and age, that model of division of labour is a nonsense. Yes, it made perfect sense in the 1800 hundreds in Scotland when Adam Smith said that we can make more pins when we each made part of the pin. And maybe this rule-of-thumb is still true when we are making pins.

Today’s products are more complicated than pins

But in today’s world, we are often making something a lot more complicated than a pin. We’ve moved on. There isn’t any one person who has made the whole of what we are making. There isn’t any person who knows how to do everything. In truth, if we put a 1000 elves in with Santa we wouldn’t be able to draw or visualize exactly what we are making

We are like the blind men describing the elephant. I think the elephant is his trunk. You think it is his tail.

The elephant knows he is an elephant, of course. But he has no way of communicating with the blind men We have to wait until the blind men get the concept of a possible elephant and start communicating with each other. Then they can work out there is an elephant and what it looks like.

You cannot fool all of the people all of the time but there is no end to the people who will try

Now there are plenty of people out there trying to pretend that they know how to make a pin and hoping to delegate part of it to you. Notice well though, that they will be reluctant to give you a good contract that goes beyond chance.   They have no market for that pin. (Sorry people who make real pins ~ I know you are real.)

Before you part with an hour of your time, ask them for their sales report

The point is not that the heaven has finally fallen on Chicken Licken. The point is that the world is making bigger things than pins. When you hear someone claim that they understand the whole elephant and you should play a small part at the trunk for a pittance, ask sweetly to see the sales reports. They won’t show the report to you because it doesn’t exist.

Listen to those who want genuinely to collaborate

But when someone says, hey, I feel something interesting in front of me. What do you feel? Do you think there is any connection between what you feel and I feel? THEN, we have a show.

When we network our skills together, then we can make something that we cannot see alone.

This is not the age of division of labor

Division of labour aimed to do things faster and cheaper. Today’s world is about networking specialist labour to do something no one person or company can do alone.

This is the age of connecting with other skilled people

This is not the age of division of labour and making smaller and smaller things. This is the age of networking skill and making bigger and bigger things.

To be practical

As a career coach and work psychologist, I put my practical cap on and ask: what does this mean in practice?

  • The essential career tool of today is a set of modular pieces of work which have the potential to link up with others. I say potential because other people may not have work ready to link up.  We do our work anyway but rather than just do it, we do it in a way that has potential to link up with others so they can see where they could join in.
  • The essential career management tool of today is to be adaptable and do whatever work is available without losing sight of our skill base. The test of any task is not whether we are paid for it but whether we are willing to put it on our website for others to link up to.
  • The essential selection criteria for inclusion in a permanent team will be
    • number of modules we have available for others to use
    • the diversity of modules (are we able to clean the floor and do the accounts as readily as paint a Picasso)
    • the readiness at which we create modules in new situations (rate and diversity)
    • the connections we make with the team and importantly are now possible between other team members without our presence!
  • The ethics of selection come down to whether a person’s connections will be richer by working with us (do they become more creative and are they involved in richer sets of connections?)
  • Pay is likely to be more equal with money paid into development funds to pay for capital when it is needed and the opening up new opportunities. Where there are differentials they are likely to come from being central to a network because the pound moves through us more often (we buy and we sell). People who only sell should receive less.
  • Ranks of professions might change. Lets imagine we paid a toll to a receptionist each time we walked through the door. We might be come reluctant to have a receptionist. Indeed, this is a test of a division of labour philosophy operating. We may not need the service if we had to pay more for it. Let’s imagine the hospital workers mentioned in a paper today who create a lot more value than they take home. What if they decided to run a hospital and just hire the doctors and nurses around them. That makes sort of sense to me!
  • In the olden days, training meant starting with a small task and growing into the ‘owner’. Obviously the tasks in our early career will be small.  But what if the goal was to move increasingly into the centre of a network where we are able to work with a wider number of people?  Have the pound coin pass through us more often? What if the goal was to increase whom we are able to work with on a project of value?  What if I took a person into a room and said: take two people, figure out what they can do and figure out, not what you can sell to each of them, but what you can take/buy from one, transform and pass on to the next. It’s what entrepreneurs do, of course. But what if the entire training process was geared to the capacity to detect and executive collaboration?
  • Jane McGonigle lists the qualities of projects that have this magical capacity which I restated here I would look for these multiplicator competencies in someone’s portfolio and help them find opportunities to broaden their experience in new ways of working.

The beginning is the ability to do modular work that has capacity for collaboration. To be potentiated, so to speak, to collaborate. A change of focus but an important one. Learn to be a multiplier rather than a taker.

Are we done ‘bargaining’ about the financial crisis? I wish, but I don’t think so.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, action & the financial crisis

This time last year we were definitely in the first of the five stages of grief.  Denial: we couldn’t quite believe that the bankers had blown a hole below our a waterline.

A year later, economists at least, have moved on.

The Governor of the Bank of England said

The sheer scale of support to the banking sector is breathtaking. In the UK, in the form of direct or guaranteed loans and equity investment, it is not far short of a trillion (that is, one thousand billion) pounds, close to two-thirds of the annual output of the entire economy.

To paraphrase a great wartime leader, never in the field of financial endeavour has so much money been owed by so few to so many. And, one might add, so far with little real reform.” (Governor of the Bank of England, in a speech, 20 October, 2009. )

Yes.  One trillion pounds sterling, 66% of the UK’s annual GDP of 1,4 trillion pounds has been put aside to mend the hole, lest it sinks the entire ship of state.

I don’t think the man and woman in the street quite grasps the size of the hole.  If they did, they would have stormed thelife-boats.

Professional economist are beginning to look at alternatives

The economists are beginning to debate seriously though.

Do we cut back hard to pay down our national debt – for which you and I must read – government debt?  Should the government stop spending like we might when we’ve just had an overseas holiday and put too much on the credit card?  Cut out all the luxuries till we have paid off our excesses?

Or do we need Keynesian economics to get out of this?  That is, should we spend money from the center to create a ripple effect?  For example, should the government spends 100 pounds on a new school, who pays the builder who pays the suppliers and who pays their suppliers who pay the supermarkets and who ultimately pays me.  All of us take part and we all pay tax and don’t claim benefits?

Ann Pettifor’s talk on Keynesian economics is 20 pages long.  If you are not an economist, put aside a couple of hours to get through it. It is worth the time.  First, it is clearly written.  You will understand the issues. Second, it is well written. It is nice to know that someone in England can still write a great speech (though she appears to live and work out of the States now).

Where are economists on the grief cycle?

So the economists are beginning to look at the facts.  What stage of grief are they in?  We need to know this so that we have a sense of how long the dilly-dallying will go on.

  • None are really proposing action.  The actions of others, yes, but not their own.  But they are along the track.  I would say the independent economists are around the bargaining stage – if we do this, it will be alright!
  • The Governor of the Bank of England, though admirably witty, seems to be further along around the depression stage. I do hate writing that.  It feels like tempting fate.  It’s relevance is this. It’s important to have a sense of when we will move collectively out of the state of shock and deliberation.  And it is important for younger psychologists reading this to store away a sense of how long community’s take to recover psychologically from extreme shocks so they are better able to lead when shocks happen in the future as they surely will.

We are gathering ourselves for action

We are still waiting for the leaders whose plans are not contingent.  We are still waiting for the leaders who say this is what I am going to do. This is what I am wholly committed to doing ~ so much so that I don’t have to say I am committed.  You see it in my eyes. You see it in my focused attention.  You see it in my invitation to join me.

We have a way to go.

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