Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.

Listen by Marcus Q via FlickrListening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.

I’m not sure what Dan Pink was really trying to say in this post, but the last sentence is terrific: Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.

Surviving kidnapping

Earlier this morning, temporarily forgetting it is June in the northern hemisphere a long way from the equator, I thought 3.30 was morning and inadvertently spent an hour listening to stories of religious people who had been kidnapped in Colombia and held for long and (more importantly in my opinion) indeterminate periods.  It was only when I wondered why BBC thought this was breakfast viewing that I realized my error.  That said, it was an interesting program.

Despite the Stockholm syndrome, the advantage of being kidnapped is that we know who the enemy is.  Often in real life, horror emanates from people we want to like.  Not knowing how long a horror will go on for is really horrible.  It’s difficult to budget one’s energy.  We cannot use the line I read about long term jail sentences: Do your time; don’t let your time do you.

It’s in that phrase that we see the value of religion in these never ending horror situations. When we say “don’t let your time do you”, we try to go on as usual.  We try not to change ourselves.

I never comprehend religious arguments.  They seem circular to me.  But what I gathered from the people speaking to BBC was a determination not to broken by the experience.  We can be changed by it, not broken.

Religious people have within their narrative the power to ‘offer’ the horrific situation to God.  Give it back.  Secular people have to reason logically.  This situation is bad but I am not.

Whatever narrative we use, the goal is to be happy within the situation.  I wonder if the programme is available on iplayer because it is difficult to repeat what the former hostages conveyed. Maybe being logical is not helpful.

Remember rather: Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.  What is your story?  What in this story is a story you can repeat, initially to yourself?

Immoral press

The Moral Maze on BBC4 last night ‘discussed’ ostensibly the outrageous behavior of BBC and other media outlets during the Cumbria shootings.  Beginning with bad manners and utter lack of empathy, they trampled over Cumbria turning other people’s tragedies into titillating gossip for people with nothing else to watch on TV.

Immediately following trauma, we need practical help

The program veered off this point into the personal prejudices of the panelists as is the Moral Maze’s wont, but some of the brave professors who gave of their time to be ‘witnesses’ made an important point.  In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, we don’t need professional help.  Immediately, we need practical help: a blanket, a cup of tea, a working mobile phone to contact loved ones.

Professionals concentrating on emotions do more harm than good.  I know from my own lit reviews that professionals are unlikely to do better than chance (one third get better, one third get worse and one third stay the same).

Why counselors might make trauma worse

Professionals probably do harm for three reasons:

  • They distract us from the immediate needs of the situation: a blanket, a cup of tea and get in touch with loved ones
  • We rehearse the bad parts making it more likely we will remember the bad parts
  • In the immediate shock, we have no story. Our story got demolished along with the actual event and we need time to think through a coherent and positive narrative.

The last sounds as if we are making things up.  We are not.  We are making sense of what happened.  And unless we have prior experience (and a story made up in advance), it takes time to reorganize our brain just as it does when we are finding our way over any unfamiliar terrain.  We are not ready to talk because we can’t organize our thoughts coherently.  Not yet.

But to leave our story as the story written by the perpetrator, or a story written by chance and bad luck, that is madness.  To live our story as so much debris tossed around on the waves of chance and misfortune, that is madness.

Once we have had a chance to catch our breath, we remember that Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary. Being buffeted by events means we are alive.   Taking notice of events means we are sane.  Listening to our own voice is revolutionary.

Are you out of touch with the blooming of your life?

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom

Anais Nin

I wonder when that time comes?

We fret when we are not blooming

I think we always know when the blooming is about to happen just as surely as some days we wake up and know we will tear through the to do list. But we can’t bloom all the time and when we aren’t blooming, we fret.

  • Some times we are anxious to flower before our time. We are not really ready to bloom. We are just anxious that we will miss the summer. We want reassurance like a child needs to know how many nights to Christmas.

Our sense of timing has gone missing. I am sure we could get it back with a few moments quiet contemplation or a five minutes of genuine listening to a friend’s distress.

  • Other times we are reluctant to bloom and we miss the summer. Sometimes we are not paying attention or we are trying to blackmail the world.

Maybe we need to “go out” and get in touch with the world to see if we notice the seasons changing. Maybe our friend needs a brief of fresh air or a change of scenery.

  • Other times we need to blossom but the weather is foul and we don’t want our fine petals to be cast into the wind.  We fret because we also know that there is no time other than now. “Conduct you blooming in the noise and crack of the whirlwind.” says Gwendolyn Brooks.

Maybe we stopping through vanity. Yes, we will be ragged and have no idea where our petals will fly. Maybe they will just lie unnoticed.

But it is time to bloom. And we can’t remain in a tight bud out of vanity.  It is time to burst into flower.

We always know when we are about to bloom

We will know when we are going to bloom anyway. Though we may have no applause.

No need to be vain. Bloom.

Autumn will come soon and we will be in another season of our lives.

3 steps when goals seem out of our reach

I think back to the most frustrating times of my life and I felt exactly like David Whyte standing in front of a ravine, desperate to be the other side and with palpitations because it seems impossible.

Whenever we feel frightened it helps to visualize the ravine.  And draw the ravine on a piece of paper.

  1. What is on the other side that we want so deeply?
  2. What is the gap and the frayed rope bridge that seems too dangerous to use?
  3. And where are we now?

I want to be clear: when we are really frightened, we forget to do this.  And we chide ourselves for forgetting!  But we shouldn’t – we are anxious because our dream is important!

When we remember, our task is to imagine the ravine and draw, or jot down, our answers to all 3 questions.

Then we concentrate on question 3 and write down everything we can think about where we are now.  We might want to concentrate on the other two questions.  That is understandable but we should write down point after point about HERE & NOW.  Set a goal – write 1, then write 2 more, then write 2 more, until we are on a roll.

Lastly we underline the parts that work well. This is important.  We go through our list of HERE & NOW and underline what works well.

And if you don’t think of something that will move you forward, write to me and complain!

But I guess you will write to me to say how well this method works.

Come with me!

  • Think of your biggest dream that you have put aside to attend to your obligations or because you think you have to be cautious during the recession.
  • Feel your fear and honor it!  You only feel fear because this goal is important to you.
  • Then draw the diagram and remember to write down in detail where are now  Finally, underline what works well.

Are you feeling better?  Can you see a way forward?

Prepare for a winning week!

Poets advice for surviving the financial crisis

In the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in the dark wood where the true way was wholly lost.

Dante in the Inferno

Mid-life crises, sudden loss, tragedies, and world-wide financial crises are certainly different in degree, and different in content.  But they have one thing in common.

They are unpleasant to experience.  We feel that we have lost our way.  And we have a vague yet pervasive feeling that there isn’t a way and that we were mistaken to believe that there is.

David Whyte, British corporate poet, explores this experience in poetry and prose, and uses stories and poems about his own life to illustrate the rediscovery of our sense of direction, meaning and control.

Using his ideas and the ideas of philosophers and poets before him, we are able to refind our balance, and live through the financial crisis, meaningfully and constructively.

Come with me!

David Whyte has a 2 disk CD, MidLife and the Great Unknown.

If you get a copy of his CD, I will listen to it with you.  And we can discuss it online?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Positive psychology and the credit crunch: some people got it sorted ages ago

Greater London

 

Image via Wikipedia

What’s morale like where you live?

During the last week, I have seen person-after-person say they are exhausted, catch a cold, and just slump, sometimes close to tears.

My favorite radio programme, Any Questions, (here on Fridays 1900 GMT) is normally my laughter medicine for the week.  This week it was sombre.  Jokes ran to not moving the capital because we don’t want to live with banker, politicians and the press.

What is the most cheerful story you heard this week?

But all is not sombre.  On Twitter, one lively entrepreneur opened two new businesses in the last month.  This being the beginning of the academic year in UK, people are starting new courses, making new friends and enjoying themselves.

On another erratically running train, overfull with two lots of passengers (those for our service and the previous service that had also broken down), I opened a conversation with someone carrying a book on classical music.  He has an interesting story.

So what has opera singing to do with hands-on farming?

He introduced himself as an opera singer.  I found it interesting that he l lived so far from London.  Oh, he said I am also a farmer.  And my father sang well, but for fun.  I sing professionally and run my farm of 150 acres.  By day, I work the farm, and then I go by train to London (2.5 hour journey) to sing and return home to midnight (another 2.5 hours).  Often the only sleep I get is on the train.

He had a shock of immaculately coiffered gray hair as you expect from someone appearing on the stage.  And with a happy smile on his face, he said, his son also sang, but he was a dancer.  His son was off working professionally in Europe. (This is Britain – country undefined – just vaguely over there!)

My happy informant was both proud and embarrassed by his double career.   He is lucky to have two jobs he loves but he is not sure which supports which.

I readily reassured him a business school would say he has a wise portfolio of investments.  When one business is down, the other business is up – which is true it seems.

What is your most outrageous combination?

So remembering that the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness, what are your passions?  What interesting passions are you combining?

And PS What do farming and opera singing have in common?

Apparently, you must be calm in both – calm to sing and calm to handle livestock.

What’s your brand of magic?

Enhanced by Zemanta

The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness

I am very very tired after a hard weekend cranking out lecture notes.  Rather than go into the details of why that is so tiring, I would like to take another tack.  How do we recover from exhaustion?

David Whyte, corporate poet, has popularized the saying: the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.  So should I tackle another set of notes?  No, not quite.  I should spend the few hours of the evening moving towards the “channel in which my life flows” (Thoreau).

One way positive psychologists use to take us closer to our ‘natural element’ is to express gratitude.  So I thought I would mention one person who I think represents what is good and true, better and possible in contemporary UK.

Chris Hambly, musician, helicopter technician, social media guru, tertiary educator is one of the extraordinary connectors of the emerging internet-based creative industries in the UK.  He is the prime mover behind the Social Media Mafia, he sponsors media camps in High Wycombe & London, he runs conventional conferences on Social Media in Business, he advises on the use of social media in business and he manages online education for organizations such as SAE (sound and audio engineering).

Chris represents the best of up-and-coming Brits.  He represents what is emerging, what is hopeful, what is helpful, and what represents real value.  Check him out as an antidote to the credit crunch and bailout blues.

And it works.  I feel better.  Wholeheartedness is the antidote to exhausation.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Priest, Knight or Gentleman? And your character strengths . . .

Character Strengths & Virtues as Classical Roles

This is one of the times when I am blown away by the depth and elegance of something on the internet(hat-tip to dubhlainn)

Micheldaw has recast the character strengths & virtues of Peterson & Seligman into the three classical roles of

  • Priest/Scholar
  • Knight Errant and
  • Renaissance man.

(Girls, women, females, don’t worry, it works for us too!)

His document is on Googledocs.  I”ve also linked to it on my positive vocabulary wiki.  If you would like to contribute to that wiki, BTW, the password is “thankyou”.

Which are you?

And for the pundits:

  • What do you think of the expansion of his list?
  • Has he left anything out?
  • What do you feel about the ancient 3 way grouping?
    • I think it has overtones of McClellands three needs for achievement, power and affection?
  • Does this list flesh out Bijoy Goswami’s three types: Maven, Evangelist and Relator?
  • Which is linked to Malcolm Gladwell‘s Maven, Salesman and Connector?
  • And of course the three themes in the Bhagavad Gita: Intellect (jnana), Action (karma) and Emotion (bhakti) – have I got that right?

Does Micheldaw’s work add value to your personal sense?  And to your ability to help others?

PS Micheldaw, I didn’t comment on your post because you make us login!


Enhanced by Zemanta

5 point comparison of Hero’s Journey, Appreciative Inquiry, and Positive Psychology

Starting with a simple framework

For the last year, I’ve been systematically reading around appreciative inquiry, positive psychology and the mytho-poetic tradition of leadership and I’m at a point where I can see commonalities in the way management, psychology and literature approach leadership.

Corporate poet, David Whyte, makes a good argument that life cannot be reduced to a 7 point plan. I don’t want this to be the end of my exploration. Positive psychology is a paradigm shift, though. And paradigm shift’s are dizzy-making. People starting out in this area might find this five point schema a useful set of “hand-holds” as they orient themselves to a new way of thinking. I would be interested in your comments.

The Five Principles of Appreciative Inquiry

I’ve organised the schema around the five principles of appreciative inquiry. Other authors have expanded this list. I’ll stick, for now, to the initial five points. To those, I’ve added five stages of the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey, too, can be expanded to much greater levels of detail. And then I have added five quotations from David Whyte’s poetry to illustrate each principle.

The result, I hope, will be to show you the parallels in the different strands of positive thinking and give you a starting point for deeper and more elaborate understanding.

1. The positive principle

The principle of positivity is simply that we want to know what we do well, and then do more of it.

The first stage of the Hero’s Journey begins with The Call – our perception of the world which underlies our personality and our sense of the contribution that we and only we make to our community, and the people around us. This is a personal view. It is not a matter of being extraverted or conscientious or whatever. It is a sense of our unique story, and who we are and how we contribute to any story unfolding around us.

David Whyte speaks eloquently to our sense of who we are, which we often notice in its absence: “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you” (Sweet Darkness). We are very attuned to the loss of our story and we are brought alive when we make our story salient for ourselves again.

The first stage of any intervention, whether it is searching for what we do well and will do more of, whether it is finding vocabulary for strengths and virtues, whether it is our sense of our own narrative: the first stage is to bring back that sense of a personally unique story and to feel the flush of well being which observers see immediately as the light being restored to our eyes.

2. The social constructionist principle

The social constructionist principle is this simple. We all have a slightly different perspective of events. We want to hear the diverse versions of reality from as many people as possible in their own words, or voices, to be technical.

In the Hero’s Journey, the first stage of The Call is often followed, or accompanied by, The Refusal of the Call. We are usually clear about what needs to be done, and our part in the story – indeed I have never met anyone who is not – but we also persuade ourselves that we believe is not needed, not possible, and not wanted.

What we are really doing is bargaining with the world. David Whyte might say we are living contingently. We are saying, I will listen to my voice if you do. We don’t trust our own voice.

Group interventions are very often concerned with recognizing multiple voices. Interventions in workplaces are often to do with listening to employees. Interventions in the family are to do with listening to everyone.

Individual interventions are usually to do with trusting ourselves. We express the starting point as other people not trusting us or being unsure of our place in the world. To move beyond this point is something we all need to learn, though we find it much easier when someone somewhere trusts us first.

I like David Whyte’s line: “You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents, you were invited . . .” (What To Remember When Wakening). Having a sense that no matter how bad our uncertainty or predicament, that we are in the right place, and that our very journey brought us to this place, that we belong: this sense helps us have the courage to engage in the conversation and add our voice to others.

3. The anticipatory principle

The anticipatory principle is well known by anyone who uses goal setting effectively. A fuller envisioning, involving a very comprehensive vision of what we will be in the future, is far more motivating. NLP uses this principle to imagine even what other people around us will be thinking and feeling. Certainly, visions compete, and a fuller positive vision will engage our attention and draw us towards it.

In the Hero’s Journey, the corresponding phase is probably meeting the Goddess.  In this stage we are inspired by a story that is larger than ourselves.  We sense an emerging story, or the field around us, and are able to articulate the frontier between ourselves and circumstances in ways that our compelling to us all.  Ben Zander, conductor and teacher, uses this technique brilliantly in “Everyone gets an A”.

 

David Whyte also stresses how much our own vision converges with our sense of the world and how we are what we can envision.   “When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also. When your vision is gone, no part of the world can find you” (Sweet Darkness).

At this stage of any intervention we encourage imagination, the fuller and the more comprehensive the better.

4. The simultaneity principle

The simultaneity principle is illustrated with this catchy phrase: we move in the direction of the questions we ask.  The future is now.

In the Hero’s Journey, the corresponding phase is atonement with the father.  At this stage, we stop waiting for the world to recognize our inspiration.  We “cross the Rubicon” and take full responsibility for driving our plans forward.

“Crossing the Rubicon” is difficult though.  And it begins with attempting to formulate the question.  It begins with small actions in our immediate surroundings.  In times of severe stress, it begins by looking at the horizons, by looking at what is close up, and becoming more aware and more present.

David Whyte captures our emotional paralysis:  “Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take” (Start Close In)

So many interventions begin with “the beginning”: doing something small that is un-threatening.

5. The hopeful principle

The hopeful principle is is concerned with language.  It is concerned with narrative and rhythm.  David Cooperrider, who has led much of the work on Appreciative Inquiry, uses the principle often: “the good and the better”.  Martin Luther King’s well known speech “I have a dream” illustrates it too.  As does, the oratory of Presidential nominee, Barack Obama.

In the Hero’s Journey, I see the corresponding stage as the Return.  It is the time when you bring your dream and the transformation of yourself home.  It is a testing time, as anyone knows who has lived abroad and returned home.  It is time of integration and communicating as a leader with people around us.

 

David Whyte reminds us that our journeys are undertaken together: “Your great mistake is to act the dream as it you were alone . . . Everybody is waiting for you.” (Everybody Is Waiting For You)

The final stage of any intervention is working through relationships with people around us.

Taking it to the people

I am going to post this now.  It needs some more links but WordPress is driving me mad with its arbitary editing while I am typing.  So up it goes and I will add some links tomorrow.

I would love your comments!  I see positive psychology as ready now to pass on coherent frameworks that could be applied by people in various walks of life. I have outlined some basic courses for people who are interested in approaching the filed systematically.  I would be grateful if you would have a look and let me know what you think.

CHECK OUT RELATED POSTS

Law of attraction, positive thinking . . . how old is it?

A long back story

I took out Goodbye Mr Chips from my local library thinking it would be nice to relax for a couple of hours with this gentle, slightly sentimental, very inspirational movie. For non-Brits, this is a classic pygmalion, teacher story with romance thrown in. Think To Sir With Love, History Boys and Freedom Writers. I think when Yanks write pygmalion stories they are typically about basketball coaches. Britain has teacher stories.

Goodbye Mr Chips is a double-pygmalion story. Mr Chipping is an awkward “Latin master” in a “public school”.  If you are non-Brit, read exclusive private school (or prep school in Americanese – a prep school here preps you to go to public school which takes you to the army academy or university).

Mr Chipping has two mentors. A charming relaxed fellow teacher and his wife. They are the catalysts in allowing Mr Chipping, or Chips as he comes to be called, to incorporate the softer side of his nature in his teaching style, reform the rugged-masculine-bullying culture of the school, and to encourage boy-after-boy, and their sons after them, to blend the feminine sides of their nature with the masculine demands of their school and obligations to country.

I thought I was borrowing the musical version with Peter O’Toole from the library.   When I got home, I discovered I a new version with Martin Clunes, the star of the TV show, Doc Martin. He makes a marvellous Mr Chips with the mixture of clumsiness and kindness that we also see in Doc Martin. (He doesn’t sing btw, and nor do we hear the boys singing which we did in the earlier version).

The story seems slightly different too – but so be it. After this long back story, this is the quote I wanted to give you.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Positive psychology is more than positive thinking

This is the concept which takes positive psychology far beyond positive thinking. It has echoes of the pygmalion effect, popularized in the musical My Fair Lady in which a flower girl becomes a lady. It includes the Galatea effect, ably researched by Dov Eden, who also researches the pygmalion effect in work settings. Basically, the Pygmalion effect is the effect of other people’s expectations on us. So a teacher creates clever pupils by expecting more of them. A teacher creates dull pupils by expecting failure and subtly communicating doubts and restricting the resources and time we need to learn. The Galatea effect works the other way around. It is the effect of our own self-perception.  It is not that seeing is believing. But that, believing is seeing.

Is this new?

George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion 100 years ago. 150 years ago Goethe wrote:

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

The idea that we shape the future is so new to us in the west. The idea that the universe comes to us sounds a little new age.

Of course, we cannot do anything. We don’t want to do anything.

But there are some things, we want to do. And if we can imagine those things, if we believe in them deeply without effort, if they make sense, if they seem right in themselves, if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

then the universe conspires to help us.

Skeptical?

This is tautological, of course. It will work because it is right and it is right because it works.

Ask only whether what you want is right, and why you would want anything that doesn’t work!