Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part Three)

Are you sleep walking through your life?

Well are you alive? Do you have pulse? At best, are you sleep walking through life? Are you wandering from one thing to another not particularly enthused by anything, maybe grumbling when you have a chance, spreading your vague dissatisfaction but wishing you weren’t?

Are you keeping company with people who are dull and dusty? Do you work in an industry or a company which is really a zombie? Slowly dying, but not aware of their slow decay and certainly not in the market for anything lively or exciting?

Deteriorating as slowly as possible is not a life. Denying that we are just deteriorating as slowly as possible is not a life either.

6 symptoms of stagnation and deteriorating as slowly as possible

John Olgbert listed 6 symptoms of a community that is “slowly deteriorating”, stagnating in self-satisfaction and lack of urgency.

1. “Phoning-it in”

We go through the motions. We take short-cuts. We do our second-best work in the belief that we are so good that 2nd best is good enough. When we are challenged, we even argue that no one will notice – and probably laugh.

Assessment: What task will take the longest this week – either in one go or when you do it repeatedly? Are we going to try a new way of doing it or are we going to use the same methods and words that we have recycled for years?

5 If you will add a completely fresh and flourishing look

3 If you are making an improvement

1 If you are following a script written by you or by any one else.

2. Cynicism

When other people do better than us, are we are jealous or envious or admiring and curious. Do we find some way to diminish the successes of others so that we don’t have to take any action ourselves, either to catch up, or to advance our own dreams?

Assessment: Who does what we do so much better than we do? What do they do that we would like to do just as well? Or are we able to dismiss our dreams readily with “don’t have time”, “not important”, “not my priority”? Of course not, :), that’s why we noticed in the first place.

5 I know someone who does a better job than I do and I watch what they do with curiosity

3 I am jealous of someone but I do try to find out how they do what they do

1 I don’t care!

3. Nostlagia

We spend more time describing what used to be and how good it was than talking about what we are doing now and the people we are with now.

Assessment: What were the best conversations that we had during the week. How many were about the past and how many are about now!

5 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 5:1

3 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 3:1

1 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 2:1 or less

4. Few volunteer

We don’t volunteer to lead and no one else does either! Fewer and fewer people want to be part of this game!

Assessment: How many young people are banging on you door to be taken on as an apprentice? How many tasks did you volunteer to do with a spring in your step knowing that this is a community that you really want to be part of?

5 We have more good volunteers for leadership positions and they volunteer without cajoling

3 We have enough good volunteers for leadership positions but we have to put some effort into attracting them and rewarding them

1 We have not been able to find enough people to take on leadership positions

5. Dull tasks don’t get done

The little things that make the difference don’t get done and feel like drudgery.

Assessment: Do you spend all day chasing people to do what no one wants to do?

5 Everything is shipshape here and I wonder how and when all this work gets done

3 Work gets done but I do have to make a list and double check

1 There are small tasks everywhere that are yet to be completed

6. Self-importance

Even though the celebration is over and we are in a new race with new people and new priorities, we are still introducing ourselves as winners of the last race.

Assessment: We are rightly proud of what we achieve and so is every one else. Everyone admires us and we rarely hear any negative feedback. Of course, everything is perfect around here 🙂

5 We are alive to differences in opinions and interests and when we agree to differ we do so respectfully expecting to join forces on other projects

3 We do have goal but we expect to be respected by our rivals

1 Rivals? What rivals?

Rate your life and your involvement with our community and company!

I’ve used this to rate the various places I have worked. It provides a good summary of when we should be thinking of “recrafting” our jobs. A rating less than 25 and we should we listening to Dr Rao on Googletalk (YouTube) and doing some career housekeeping!

Of course, if you have rated 18 or below, you will be feeling so energy less, you will click away and look for another diversion.   Do you yourself a big favor and right this minute, right a short summary of your day, figure out what you could do better.  Then right away, write down Why you did so well. Do that now.  Recover your life.  Fall back in love with life again.  Even if it seems the most impossible thing to do.  Begin.

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Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part Two)

Decline, deterioration, loss & reversal are part of life

What did President Bush do the day after he left the White House? What do US Presidents do the day after they leave the White House? What does an Olympic Champion do the day after winning a gold medal? What do we do the day after climbing Mount Everest?

Coping with the sudden gap of purpose & connection is a tough task

Well, we come down the mountain again and actually the descent is more dangerous than the assent. But at least when we are coming down a mountain, we are physically busy. In normal affairs, the sudden removal of busyness, status, purpose, connections and toys, is devastating. The loss of a job, the loss of ‘pole position’, just plain getting older is a loss at so many levels – not least, our sense of identify. How do we cope with it?

Deteriorating as slowly as possible often becomes a shadow mission

John Orteg, describing church leadership in the States, used a good phrase. Deteriorating as slowly as possible is often our shadow mission. We’ve lost our purpose and we are hanging onto old ways. Stagnation makes us bitter and it is awful to watch in others. We oscillate from pity to contempt.

Sadly, some people don’t even have to lose a job or come to the end of an exciting project, to slip into “deteriorating as slowly as possible.” They sleepwalk through life in deadly early retirement, going through the motions and not even terribly aware that they are slipping away.

To fall in love with life again

Dylan Thomas wrote a poem for his father who was growing blind “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Professor Kay Jamieson’s husband gave her this encouragement on his deathbed: “You will fall in love with life again.”

Hope has little to do with external success. It has everything to do with loving life

None of us can live without hope and a sense that growth in is possible. But sometimes we confuse hope with trappings of success.

Hope does not mean controlling outcomes. Hope does not mean having status, control and perquisites of our past life (though we may miss them dreadfully).

Hope is a growth in our spirit. It is a sense that what we are doing now is an important task that only we can do for our communities at this time and in this place. It is sense that life will blossom in new ways taking us by surprise and delighting us.

Psychologists help people fall back in love with life again

When we have suffered a hard jolt, psychologists play an important role in helping us find our life’s purpose again.  So do good religious ministers, good teachers and respected mentors.  Even the smallest child can help us find our way again.

Sadly, though, we have had successful lives, or just live in rich countries or work in successful countries, we can begin to drift.  Before long, we are sleep walking. We are not in love with life any more.  We have become zombies, without hope – without the sense that life will still surprise us.

Are you living a zombie life :  I’ve put John Orteg’s Symptoms of Deterioating as Slowly as Possible in Part Three.

Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part One)

My Saturday mornings are zombie time and this week I have been pondering zombie-lives

How do you spend your Saturday mornings? Some people race around. I find that the best review programmes tend to be on radio and TV on Saturday mornings and I like to let the world wash over me, get up late, and spend some time reflecting on how the week went before I go out to do the shopping and join friends for a meal.

During the week I tend to push observations that are not particularly practical to the back of my mind. In my Saturday morning time, I pull them to the front and tidy them up – make sense of them.

This week I kept brushing up against full-scale denials

In quite unrelated incidents I remembered and noticed a peculiar habit that some people have ~ that we must all have ~ of denying reality.

Of course, it is absurd to think we ever have a completely accurate grasp of the world around us. And we know that there is nothing more delightful and shocking than the view of the world from a completely different perspective. But sometimes we actively deny reality.

Mother of an abused child syndrome

  • I once lived and worked with people who had what I called “mother of the abused child look.” Whenever anything difficult came up, they looked past your left ear.

No one else lives here syndrome

  • I lived previously in a place with quite shocking art. It had no depth perception and the background was often blurred. The background certainly never had people in it except as a silhouette on the horizon.

We are invented the moon, we really did

  • I’ve known communities who live a perfectly Walter Mitty life. They have quite grandiose ideas about their contribution to the world matched only by shocking squalor of their physical circumstances and sparseness of their professional knowledge.

Denial in the big bad West

In the big bad West of the developed world, there is another phenomena. This is not necessarily an individual phenomena, I might add. We all do the things I describe, so it is a cultural phenomena – a collective way that we experience our collective life and express our collective purpose.

As it happens, as it does, a good description of this phenomenon arrived in my Google Alerts in a post on leadership from by John Ortberg, whom I don’t know, but I take it from the details is a Christian minister in the USA. Sadly there is no comment box to leave a note appreciating his work. It you are running an Alert on yourself, thank you.

Deteriorate as slowly as possible

John makes the point that many people seem to live by a motto “Deteriorate as slowly as possible.”

When you have been big, rich and powerful, inevitably there is some decline ~ at least in bigness, richness and power.  Inevitably when you live in a country that is big, rich and powerful, then you have, say, a 66% chance of not really being big, rich or powerful yourself and you live in the reflected glory of people who make your country big, rich and powerful.

The flip side of success then is deterioration. That is is just reality.  It is not a psychological phenomenon.

It becomes sad, it becomes a denial or reality, when we aren’t aware of our deterioration, or we are stuck in deterioration ~ moaning, complaining and whinging such as the English are prone to do. Deterioration is part of our life. It has to be as the shadow of success.  But we must live well within it.

How should we deal with deterioration?

How should we deal with deterioration? Gracefully? That is one option. Gluttonously – that is another option – I know someone who said she enjoyed living in decadent societies. But why not exuberantly? Why can’t we enjoy the morphing and regeneration that is a natural part of life as a snake changing its skin? Why can’t we celebrate the cyclical shriving? Why can’t we celebrate newcomers and mourn the departure of old ways in dignity?

I’ll list John Orteg’s questions for recognising communities who are deteriorating in an unhealthy way in Part Three: Questions to Recognise Cultural Deterioration and What To Do About IT

Part Two: Deny Deterioration at the Cost of Your Love of Life

Part Three: 6 Symptoms of Deteriorating as Slowly as Possible

From anger to effective action

Anger: Stage Two of the Banking Crisis

Today, senior bankers fronted up to a Select Committee to make their apologies.  Shortly afterward, BBC ran a chat show and asked the public whether apologies were enough.  The public had a lot to say and the BBC presenter was clearly testing the depth of our anger.

Anger is Stage Two in the FIVE stage process of receiving bad news: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

So what does acceptance look like and how do we get there?

David Whyte, corporate poet, tells a good story that helps us understand the beginning and end of the five stage process, what we have to do to move from start to finish,  and why it is so difficult to take the first steps.

Whyte was trekking in Nepal.  He had left his friends and came, alone, on a ravine with a rope bridge in poor state of repair.  He was horrified.  It was too dangerous to use the bridge and too late to turn back and rejoin his companions.

So many situations are similar. We are stuck. It is too dangerous to do what we want to do and we cannot immediately see a way out of our predicament.  We are overcome by a mix of frustration, anxiety, shame and fear, and are in Stage One and Stage Two.  We are ‘all emotion’, and reasonably so.  After all, we are in trouble.

But in that funk, we cannot think clearly and cannot find a way out of our dilemma.

Tomorrow, I’ll break the situation into psychological terms and point out what we have to do if we are ever to move on.

Come with me!

5 speed gears for the recession

A sheepdog taking a break in some wool, Victor...
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As energetic as a sheepdog!

On another one of my many international flights, a hyperactive attendant was running up-and-down barking orders like a sheepdog as one of my fellow passengers put it. Hyper-energetic people can be tiresome!

Initiative

For a few days now, I’ve been writing about initiative because I’ve become irritated with people sitting around complaining about the recession and ‘all the bad people’ who brought it about.  These complaints claim no responsiblity and worse, promise no contribution to getting us out of this mess.  Before I became too irritated and bossy like a diligent sheepdog, I decided to use a week to review the essence of initiaiive.  Why is it that sometimes we get on with things, and other times we do not?

3 types of initiative

Michael Frese of Giessen University divides initiative into self-starting (jumping in and making tasks our own), proactivity (mentally preparing ourselves and learning about the world) and persistence (dealing with distractions on their own terms and coming back to our own goals).  Self-starters may seem the opposite of planners and persistent people may lack flexibility.

In truth, we need to understand how the world works so we can make an adequate set of plans.  If we do that, we can distinguish between distractions that call for our attention right now, and our own goals that we will get back to soon.  Then we find that our work rate goes up, and we feel goal oriented and on top of our to do list (and the world).

When is it time to chill?

But do we want to be hyperactive all the time – like the flight attendant who behaved like an a collie dog herding sheep?

  • Sometimes we are on a learning curve.  When we’ve had bad news – and what else is the recession than bad news? – then we also have to go through an emotional curve of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  That is our goal and our task immediately – to be patient with ourselves and to work through the curve.
  • Sometimes it is time for a rest.  We want to be like the collie in the picture who is taking a rest in the wool!  There is time for everything and recreation is important.
  • Sometimes it is time to wait.  On these long-distance flights, the worst thing we can do is look at the screen telling we how far we still have to go.  12 hours, 11 hours – it will drive you mad.  Sometimes our task is to wait.

Can we afford to wait?

That doesn’t mean we are doing nothing though!

  • The pilot is driving the plane.  Everything is in hand.
  • We are allowing a well understood process to unfold.  Should we be required to help out, in an evacuation for example, having listened to the safety instructions, we’ll act promptly and decisively.
  • We understand that people around us may be restless, disorganized, agitated or confused.  We make a comfortable social bubble where they can settle down and relax for the ‘long haul’.
  • We relax ourselves knowing that we will need energy for sorting out hassles at the other end.
  • And we enjoy the flight – the movies, our book, a bit of day dreaming, the life stories of our neighbours.

Sometimes initiative means chilling because initiative means letting a process unfold the way it should!

The right speed and the recession

Having lived through an economic melt-down before, I’ve learned we can predict ahead how people react.  These are my estimates.

  • A lot of people will ‘hold their breath’ for another year hoping that the recession will just go away.  They are ‘happy’ to be in the denial or anger stages.
  • Many people will ‘bargain‘ and try to cope individually.  They will trim expenditure and try to be extra-sweet at work to avoid redundancy.
  • Some will lapse into nostalgia and talk endlessly about better days.
  • A handful will find opportunities and be working on them regardless.

What will the first four groups do in a years’ time when the world has moved on?  I think the fifth group needs to think ahead to how to incorporate people who will not have made much preparation for 2010.

Come with me!

What is your feeling about the speed at which we will adjust to the crisis?

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Sing and dance to the music of the recession!

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

Over the last one -and-a-quarter years, since the run on Northern Rock, I’ve been making a concerted effort to understand the credit crunch, the financial crisis and the recession.  The nature of understanding big, bad events is that we are so busy trying to understand them that we have little time to reflect.

Typically, we follow a five stage process.

  • First, we deny the crisis either saying “I’m OK – it doesn’t affect me” or conversely ranting “This can’t be happening.”
  • Then we move on to anger, when we are quite clear we are not to blame and that someone else such as politicians and bankers should be punished for getting us in to our mess.
  • When we are a bit further along, we work out what will stay the same in our lives and what we can can cut out.
  • The next stage is to resign ourselves to our mess dragging on for twenty years or so,  and we are actually secretly relieved because if the mess is that big, there is nothing you and I, ordinary Joe citizen, can do about it.
  • And eventually we begin to dig beneath the surface of the crisis and, in this case, set about upgrading our financial know-how and skills.

Where are you?  And where are the people around you?

My job as a psychologist

I have a page where I store good, accessible explanations of how we got into the financial crisis and I will expand it to include the financial know-how that you and I should have.

Being a psychologist though, I think it is my job to bring to your attention key psychological ideas that equip you for understanding the recession and the ways we react to it.

  • The first psychological idea in this post is described in the at the beginning.  We often respond to bad news in five rough stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  We go through these stages when we hear of the sudden death of a loved one.  And we are going through similar stages as we get our heads around the idea that our financial system has been subject to a the equivalent of a major earthquake.
  • The second psychological idea in this post is that objective knowledge matters.  Positive psychology emphasizes that our attitude to a problem makes a big difference.  It does, and I will return to that in other posts.   But objective information matters too.  It is foolish to pretend that a large box isn’t heavy.  We are much better off when we understand the principle of levers.  We do need to take charge of our education about the financial system.  We clearly did not understand it well enough to play our role as informed voters, wise buyers and sellers of stocks and shares, and savvy consumers of mortgages and credit cards.
  • The third psychological idea is the one I wanted to highlight today because I think it will be key to the mental housekeeping required to come to terms with the recession.

In the west, we have a weird idea that time is linear

Of course, we ‘know’ that yesterday was before today and today comes before tomorrow.  Unfortunately our separation of time into yesterday, today and tomorrow, has some peculiar side effects.   This works in two ways.

  • In good times, we spend like mad and rack up debt.   We take ‘Carpe Diem‘ or ‘seize the day’ far too far.   Tomorrow features insufficiently in our thinking about today, and when tomorrow comes, we are in a mess.
  • Equally, in bad times, we look ahead, see a diminished tomorrow, and we feel dejected.  In short, we bring tomorrow far too much into today.

This inability to act appropriately in time is an inability to ‘give unto Ceasar’ or to accept that ‘for everything there is a season’.  The net effect is that we enjoy life a lot less.  We also rack up unhealthy deficits and one day we wake up very disappointed with our lives and where we have taken ourselves.

And then we are into the five stage process I described at the outset. This cannot be happening. It is not my fault.  OK, I will compromise.  Oh, this is impossible.  And then ultimately: OK, I’d better get on and understand this.

Are you acquainted with philosopher Alan Watts?

At the end of this post is a video presentation, about 3 minutes long, that accompanies the late English philosopher, Alan Watts, talking about the way we confuse time.

He begins “you get into kindegarten, then you get into first grade  .  .   .”  And ends, life “was a musical thing and you were supposed to dance or sing while the music was being played”.

Do watch it!

I grew up in a competitive culture so this resonated with me.  I have long protested that we should let 3 year olds be 3, and 18 years olds be 18.  Preparing for the next year is part of a 3 year old’s experience but it is not all of their task.  And being 3 should never be dreary.  Nor should being 84!

Recessions are simply part of life

Like preparing for a test or examination, they are there to be enjoyed (!) along with all the other activities that come at the same stage.

It takes time to work through the five stages of our reaction to bad news.  And we work through at different paces.  So we need to be patient with ourselves and each other.  But we also do need to resolve not to become stuck at any stage.

We may be in for a long and difficult time in this financial crisis.  What I am suggesting is that we sing and dance to the music nonetheless!

Come with me!

Here is the link to this great presentation accompanying Alan Watts.  Do enjoy it and have a good weekend!  There is a season for everything!

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Poll: our plans for beating the recession

Survey sampling

 

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UPDATE:  This poll was in October 2008.  We couldn’t decide whether we were in a recession or not!  That is a good takeaway!  Remember for future downturns how long it takes for people to decide that there is a situation that requires their attention!

Possibly also take note that few people see the economy as something that operates despite our good intentions. It is not enough to tell politicians to do something.  We all have to do something more than just hope for the best.

 

Thanks for dropping in.

Two days ago hopes rose that the ‘fever had broken’ and that we were on the mend, if slowly.  Today, hopes blurred again.

Many firms have been engaged in active scenario planning and have established how they are going to approach what may be a long and difficult economic period.
Would you like to share your experience of the planning process?  Polls on WordPress are new and these are  little untidy.  Do feel free to comment on the questions you think I should be asking in the comments section.

And perhaps bookmark the page so you can check back easily on Monday to see the results.  Have a delicious weekend!

PS If you tick Other, and you have another 30 seconds to spare, could you leave a comment saying what you have in mind?  Fascinating so far!  I hope to invite another 1000 people from various networks to respond over the weekend.  Thanks so much for participating!

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