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Tag: mindfulness

Psychologists: Eyes and Ears To Spot Opportunties

Time is never wasted in reconnaissance

An old military friend of mine said: “Time is never wasted in reconnaissance.” It surely isn’t, though in ordinary life the word has unpleasant connotations. We don’t want to spy on people.  Nor do we want to get into the habit of thinking we can know what the future holds. When we think we know what will happen, we stop paying attention.

But whether we are going to party or to a war, it is useful prepare. It is very helpful to know what questions to ask about a place. It is useful to learn what we can to free up time to pay attention to more important things. Most of all, it is useful to learn about other people’s intent.

My mission is to understand the world they are trying to create

If I creep up to the crest of the brow to spy on my enemy, I want to know how many there are and how they are armed.

I also want to know what they are going to do, or rather try to do.

My mission is to understand the future that they are trying to create!

After all, I might prefer that future to one that I am going to make myself!  Sitting and watching them might be a very good choice for me!

Our mission is always to understand other people’s intent.  That’s why you hire psychologists!

What can psychologists do that you can’t do?

We often claim to be able to read intent with some magic tests and potions!  What we are good at is reading the other person’s intent and not confusing it with yours.

  • We are more accurate, just because we are less involved in the situation.
  • We also like reading intent. We are happy to do it all day long. We don’t get bored and impatient with people who are unclear about what they are going to do. And many people fit that category. They really have no idea what they will do in the morning. We’ll wait and watch and tell you when they have made up their minds.
  • Because this is our job, we will be mindful of ethics. There is spying and spying. And when you go too far in your spying, we’ll tell you to stop. We’ll tell you when you really have no right to information. We’ll tell you when it’s best that you don’t know because knowing will damage the give-and-take that is essential to forming a good relationship with other people. We’ll tell you when it is easy for the other person to fool you and when you should look away, lest you fall for the scam.
  • We will also teach you. What are the right questions to be asking? What can be asked and answered? If you are looking for conflict, what is the potential for negotiation? If you thought you have to divide the spoils, could you not multiple the spoils?  We ask what might happen to intent on both sides when you understand each other.

Intent is organic ~ it responds to understanding

Intent is not fixed. Intent morphs as action unfolds and people perceive or misperceive what is going on. Our job is to help you understand the dynamics of intent.  How can  we influence a situation to avoid worst case scenarios and improve the possibilities for surprising and delightful outcomes? We can’t make anyone else do what we want.

But we can look at the world through their eyes and let them see the world through our eyes. 

Together we might see a world that neither of us has seen before

That’s what psychologists do

  • They lend you eyes and ears to help you sense the unfolding of intent.
  • They show you ways of displaying the world so that you see more of it and others see what you see.
  • And they help capture incipient mutual intent so that we can do better things together.

Let me give you an example of psychologists at work

Let’s imagine that we are hiring engineers from around the world. We ask them to do the Myers-Briggs online. They may even know their Myers-Briggs profile by heart.

We find an engineer who has the skills and know-how that we want and to our surprise, he is an ISFJ.  We could say that is very un-engineer like, or we could engage defensively.  We can ask, for example, whether they will not get bored buy the “feelingless” nature of our business.  Or we can sense opportunity.

Our eyes might light up at the idea of someone who has the high level skills we need and who is helpful, supportive and pleasant. Together we might be able to re-jig the structure of jobs to give them a central supportive coordinating role which we’ve never made before because we thought we couldn’t fill it.

What has the psychologist contributed here?

1.  We knew what questions could be asked and answered in an economical way.

2.  We profiled intent.

3.  We respected and privileged the ethics of information about other people. We let them see what we did with the information about them and we let them influence what we did with it.

4.  In the process, we broadened our repertoire of intent. We found new things that we hadn’t known we could do or which had been too improbable to plan for.

5.  We saved you time, confusion and missed opportunities.

That’s what psychologists do. We lend you eyes and ears to spot mutual intent that you may miss.

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3 quotations on mindfulness and action

A good year ago I jotted down these three quotations.  Then I abandoned the draft. Now I am tidying up my blog, I wonder, what was going through my mind that day.

David Whyte on the willfulness of the world

And I thought this is the good day you could meet your love, this is the black day someone close to you could die.

~ David Whyte from The House of Belonging in River Flow, p. 7.

Was I thinking about the essential unknow-ability of the world and importance of living in the world as it unfolds and both tempts us and taunts us?

Goethe on the universe conspiring to help us

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

~ Goethe

Was I thinking about the need to be active and the magic that happens when we cross the Rubicon and move towards irrevocably towards what we want?

Isaac Newton on following our dreams in the large world around us

I don’t know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

~ Isaac Newton

Was I thinking about the impossibility of understanding the universe yet finding a corner within it where we live our lives heroically and magnificently?

What sense was I making about mindfulness and action?

Did I come to the conclusion that world likes us to engage quite forthrightly following our interests yet understanding that others will be doing so too? Did I come to the conclusion that life promises us nothing yet demands our full attention?  Did I come to the conclusion that we will always be significant yet what we do is important?

Did I come to the conclusion that is OK to ask and the world loves us for it? Did I come to the conclusion that it is OK to be small ~ we all are?

What was I thinking that day?

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3 must-knows of leadership that I learned from Gerald Durrell

Durrell in his final years, with Cottontop Tamarin
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In My Friends and Other Animals, 10 year old Gerald Durrell taught me the most important trick of leadership.

He wrote a list of everything he wanted for his birthday, divided it up, and sent everyone to their favorite shops – his sister to buy cotton wool and pins for his butterfly collection, his author brother to a book shop, and his outdoorsy brother for supplies like formalin.

In all the years that I have spent teaching and consulting, I don’t think I have come across a better description of leadership.

There are three questions to remember about leadership.  That’s all, three questions

1 What brings us alive?

What lifts my soul? And what lifts the spirits of my companions?

What do they like to do, and what brings the light to their eyes?

2 What excites me about my companions?

What do I find fantastically good about the people I am with?

What do they do with ease and grace?  What do I love to watch?  What do I think they do magnificently well?

What brings out my smile and an impulse to applaud?

Even when they have been irritating me horribly, I must bring myself back to their story and their attributes that bring so much pleasure and opportunity to my life.

What makes me want to clap my hands in pleasure?  What can I say about this person to someone else?

What am I so confident that they will do so well because they always have.

3 Is this collective project sufficiently important for me to give it my full attention?

Will I be watching as events unfold?  Do I care enough – or was I just ranting?

And what will be watching? Can I play it through in detail in my mind and will it hold my attention as events unfold?

What information can I pass on to each person that will help them do better what they do so well?  How can I keep the light in our eyes?

Is this the most important project for me right now?

“. . . this is all, this is perfect, this is it . . .”

Does my project raise my compassion and my ease with the world?

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The deep challenge for an ethical positive psychologist

.  .  .  this is all, this is perfect, this is it .  .  .

Words from my friend Anand Raj .  .  .

I had a great sense of relief when I read those words.  But in other times and other places these words would have driven me to suicide.  They would have heightened my panic.  I found the place unacceptable and any conversation I had with anyone needed to begin from that sentiment.

Positive psychology and despair

Because I’ve had these soul-destroying moments in past lives, I have deep doubts about some aspects of positive psychology.

I suspect the best that a positive psychologist can do when someone is deeply miserable is to AVOID theorizing.

I suspect our theory is little more than our distaste for someone else’s misery.  So our garrulous ways add to the alienation and horror felt by our companion.  And thus, is unethical if not immoral.

We need to walk-the-talk and keep the conversation on every aspect of the situation that is positive.   Gradually, we might be able to help a person out of their dark place.

Leading when life is dark

And when life is dark for us too, maybe the best we can do is to exercise leadership.

It is not helpful, IMHO, to deny that we are in a dark place.  We need to walk-the-talk, pay active attention to real threats, and take active steps to protect ourselves.  We need to focus on positive aspects – not to cheer people up but because of the genuine merits of those things – and highlight whatever is under our control.

From that appreciation, we may be able to move forward.

But leadership must be active and sincere – even from a psychologist working for money.  It’s not enough to talk about the people we lead.  We must share the journey.

The post I had planned for this morning is more cheerful.  I’ll post that this evening!

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A Plan Big Enough To Include Now: We Call It Mindfulness

I am tidying up my blog and I like this post that I wrote in January about Obama’s arrival at the White House.  Obama’s worldwind activity foreshadows how we will all work in future. Fast, decisive and above all, very dependent on our colleagues.

I am an Obama-fan.  You may not be.  But then it is all the more important to study the effectiveness of ‘his machinery’.  Read carefully!

For psychologists, coaches and aspiring leaders, I’d be interested in your comments on the four points of effective living in the networked age the summaries that I added in italics and how life has changed.

I’ve also highlighted in red the work of leading a huge immensely talented team. Since I wrote this in January, I have become convinced that management and leadership will not change much in the networked age.  It will just rest less on command-and-control and more on orientation, synthesis and coordination.  I’d love your thoughts.

Learning from Barack

Day Two, Barack Obama continues with his extraordinary pace.  With Hillary Clinton, on her first day, he appoints experienced Special Envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan.  His Communications Director gives the first press briefing, and he tours the Press Room personally in a surprise visit.  He signs Executive Orders, closing Guatanamo, and reinforcing the Freedom of Information Act (or US equivalent).

Importantly, he has done all of this in public view.  For many of us, this is a welcome inclusion in the process of government.  For others, this is a useful preview of work, leadership and management in the decades ahead.

Networking our work

We are seeing networked government in action.

Obama’s Blackberry is its symbol.  He uses rapid, brief electronic communication, but his communications are neither thoughtless nor ephemeral.  Indeed, as President, all his communications are recorded.

Everyone in the network was invited in for their experience and professionalism.  They are able to assimilate new information quickly, point out what they don’t know, and act accordingly.  Not everyone is old.  His Director of Speech Writing is 27 and has acquired experience, confidence and judgment through successive elections.

The network moves with dazzling speed.  Though they were able to prepare for these two days, they have been moving office, moving house, and waiting for confirmation of some senior people.

Networking our work

All work is going the same way, and we have questions.

How do young people get experience to join in at this level?  How do we work with a leader whose vision is different to ours?

There seem to be 4 rules to this new way of living and working.

#1  Find our own vision

We have to find our own vision, build our own networks, and develop the mindful working skills to work with very skilled people in networks that are forever reforming and reshaping as they responding to world events.

Even the youngest among us needs to adopt a posture of leadership.  We all need to be bold enough to work out our vision and identify the best people to take us there.

#2  Act

Dreaming is not enough.  We need to reach out and be the bridge between people who are part of our vision.

#3  Be present

Personally and electronically, monitoring and nurturing involvement and direction.

#4  And because we need to be present, we can only pursue “one vision at a time”.

Whatever we pursue should be big enough and important enough for us to spend all our time with it.

Learning from the master

I am glad we can watch the President at work.  He helps me pinpoint 3 challenges to ask myself at any moment.

#1 Those of us who grew up in hierarchical systems at home, school and work, may find it difficult to imagine a system where we are all leaders and that we are actually guiding an entire network at the moment when ‘the ball passes to us’.

At this moment, I am holding the ball.  I am mistress of the universe. Quick!  What is my vision?  What do want for the world and what am I promising to work at with all my heart and all my might?

#2 Before the internet, we were able to compartmentalize our lives, putting on a mask as we went to work, and taking it off again on the way home.  In this interconnected world, like the President in the gold fish bowl of the White House, we need to live as we mean to live, wherever we are, and whatever we are doing.

Is what I am doing ‘so together’ that I am happy for everyone to see it?  If not, why am I wasting time and energy on it?

#3 And hardest of all, the old systems allowed us to ‘sleepwalk’ and blame the inadequacies of our lives on the ‘owners of the vision’.  There was no need to be fully present, and it was probably better not to be.

Networked work requires us to be mindful.  Just as we are part of a large fast moving network, today is part of a seamless stream of yesterday, today and tomorrow, and for today to play its part, we need to revere today and live it fully.

If this place that I have come to is not where I want to be,  what must I attend to fully to take me on my way?

Day Three

So today is Day Three.  The President will have another tight schedule.  He relies on the many competent people he has brought in to play their part without minute direction, but with minute coordination.

His role and contribution is to keep the common vision alive, to acknowledge and value the smallest contributions, and to ensure that the network gets rapid feedback about the way the world receives our actions, so we are able to respond effectively and appropriately in real time.

Our Day Three

Networked times have come and take some readjustment of our thinking.  It is good to watch Obama in a White House that seems to have developed a glass front.

Our role is to start to take part.  And our first step is to work on a personal vision, which is important enough to pursue with all our heart and all our mind, beginning in the situation in which we find ourselves today.

It is a big task.  I am on to it.  Are you?

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Mindfully in the recession

Exploration as holiday

Two days before Christmas, all the younger generation in our family are away, exploring new parts of the world, as we often do in early adulthood.  The “grand tour”, or what Kiwis call “OE”, is a venerated tradition to see the world and to cope with unfamiliarity and surprise.  Some people travel “to find themselves”.  Others are drawn by challenge & adventure.

Exploration as necessity

Real challenges, though, when there is no safety net, and lasting, damaging failure is possible, are altogether different.  We are often paralysed by fear, and we come to know too well the phrase ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’.  This really means, there is everything to fear, so much so that we cannot afford to indulge emotions that distract us from dealing with threat.

Am I suggesting that we “get hard”, or be Polyanna, and smile?

Julian Carron, a professor of theology at the University of Milan suggests we are all beggars and that to live our lives purposefully, in good times and bad, we must be conscious of our needs, aware of reality, and aware of our needs in our reality, whatever it is.

“The beggar has only one option: asking.”

“So the beggar is not the one who is most naive, but who is most realistic.  And, consequently, as we begin to defeat the confusion that surrounds and penetrates us, nothing can hinder us from become aware of ourselves in the the present moment.”

Like monsters in the dark, what is the unspoken need that panics you to name?

Is there not comfort in saying  “I ask for  .  .  .”?

Does not compassion for yourself awake in you compassion for others, whoever they are, and whatever their circumstances?

UPDATE:  The message that is delivered again and again by poets, philosophers and priests is that we must be able to talk to ourselves about our vulnerabilities; and it is only when we do that we can calm down pay attention.  When we refuse to acknowledge our predicaments, we become very anxious and cannot think straight.  Oddly, when we have not choice but to confront the threats against us, we often calm done and start to deal with them.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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5 years’ time: where will we be?

Skate to where the puck will be

“She’ll be alright”. “Manyana, manyana”. We may not wear this attitude on our sleeves but we English are notorious short-term thinkers.  Not for us, saving for a rainy day or a stitch in time.

Is it healthy though, to plan ahead? Isn’t planning ahead exactly the opposite of what is recommended by positive psychologists: be mindful and attentive to what is going on around us?

The difficulty with living in the present seems to me that we can be living in the past. Just as the ice hockey player skates to where the puck will be, we have to interpret the present in terms of the energy and dynamism that it represents. One of the beautiful phrases asked by positive organizational scholars emerging in the business schools in the US is: what is trying to emerge here?

What will the UK look like in 5 years’ time?

In some respects, I am sure the UK will not have changed muchin 5 years’ time. An endearing quality of the UK is that it piles layer over layer. A scratch below the surface is always interesting.

Demographic change

There will also be some trends that will stretch out linearly. For the most part, those people who already here will still be here. 5 year olds will be 10. 40 year olds will be 45. 75 year olds will be 80. Some people will be off exploring the world, but we will mostly be here. Even in Zimbabwe, most people are still there!

Structural changes

But some things will change qualitatively, fundamentally, or definitively.

I have just read a prediction that IN FIVE YEARS, Africa will overtake China as the supplier of low cost labor.

On line virtual laboratory

Being linked to universities, another prediction that caught my eye is that new ideas will no longer come out of US business schools. Nor will they come out of Chinese or Indian business schools. They will come out of ‘on line virtual laboratories’. There are obvious implications for universities who carry on treating the value chain as the long 7 year process of thinking up ideas, testing them, and publishing them.

Journalism collapsing

Similar changes are being predicted in journalism. Jeff Jarvis predicts changes even deeper than those predicted for academia. Editors will no longer drive news policy. They will encourage the creation of better news.

So what is my time line?

From time-to-time, I play with Curriculum Illusione in which you input what you think will happen between now and the year you die (chosen by yourself). It is interesting how hard it is, particularly when you have to back up your ideas with photos.

So where are we exactly?

Or maybe, the question for today is what do we need to know?

Is it sufficient to get up and go to work and just hope for the best?

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What they say when we are gone . . .

An old, dear friend passed away this weekend living in his third country having been displaced by war & politics twice in his life time.  I’ve just received a eulogy from his daughter-in-law.

Bob was one of those rare parents who loved his children as they were. What they were was interesting but not essential: how they were was vital.

Bob, go well.  RIP

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The art of living in the present

Does the value of gratitude and forgiveness come from living in the present?

I think much of the value of gratitude and forgiveness is in ability to live in the present: to be clear what is happening now, to listen to the “voices” or essential nature of what is happening, to list our choices for action, to take action.  When we ruminate, we are anywhere but here.

Why do we “mentally travel” away from where we are right now?

aaron(at)todayisthatday(dot)com describes the ho’oponopono that treats self and other and past, present and future holistically – a central idea in quantum physics and in many indigenous cultures such as Hawaii (what is the adjective) and their relatives the Maori of New Zealand.

Can we accept a challenge just to accept things like the weather, just the way they are?

Here is the challenge.  Can we can accept responsibility for bad weather? In our hands, that question smacks of superstition.    Of course, we did not make the weather.  Of course,  we cannot change the weather.  Of course, we may have predicted it better.  And of course, it is so silly to complain about the weather.  What we can do is note the weather, understand the weather, review what we want from the day, list our choices, and act.

Our emotions are part of now.  We see that when we grieve.

There are times, though, when hardship is severe.  Acting during a tsunami under the influence of adrenalin is probably easier than coping with loss and devastation after wards.  Maybe then to grieve, and to grieve fully,  is the correct action.

The New Zealand Maori concept of mana is an example of holistic thinking

I always  felt so silly in New Zealand teaching western ideas of management and leadership.  My apologies for the curriculum were always met with knowing nods from Maori and Pacific Island students.  The concept of mana, schizophrenically adopted by New Zealanders of recent arrivals but not included in the management curriculum, includes status and influence as a bundled idea, leadership and followership in one.  You have mana as teacher and you acquire mana from being a good teacher. So if something is going wrong in the classroom, one does not get emotional. One acts in appropriate ways to restore the  dignity of the classroom for all concerned.  That’s all.

Why do we separate ourselves from society and the present from the past and the future?

I wonder the philosophical origins of our need to separate self from society and the present from the past and the future.

Why not just accept the ground beneath our feet as what is there and what is right to be there?

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How our training as psychologists inhibits our ability to understand generative, positive and appreciative psychology

The way psychologists were taught to think

I suspect that the most interesting concept in positive psychology, if you are a psychologist, is the relationship between the past, the present, and the future.

Our training is based predominantly on on linear models. We are trained to think that if we are X today, we will be Y tomorrow. Most of our tuition taught us to define and measure X’s and Y’s and took for granted that today and tomorrow are independent.

The way psychologists will be taught to think

Positive psychology is based on recursive models. The past does not predict the future; it is part of the future. Mathematically, we predict the value of X in the future, rather than the value of Y in the future.

Is the future a separate place?

David Whyte’s Midlife and the Great Unknown begins by addressing the relationship between future, present and past. To feel well, to feel vital, to feel alive, we need to be active, to be acting our future in the context of the present. In other words, always to be doing now what we want for the future, without the future being a separate place.

Everyone’s story is unique

I particularly like David Whyte’s idea that we are all unique – well of course we know that, but do we act that way? Do we look at all our relationships with people, with events, with places and even with things and see a unique story that is unfolding and interesting in itself?

Mindfulness as experiencing being present

Related is the concept of mindfulness – to be fully present in events, not to experience their beauty or their ghastliness (ghastliness is real) but to experience being present.

It is a hard concept for we psychologists!

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