An optimistic poem for a New Year

Moving Forward

The deep parts of my life pour onward,

as if the river shores were opening out.

It seems that things are more like me now,

That I can see farther into paintings.

I feel closer to what language can’t reach.

With my senses, as with birds,

I climb

into the windy heaven, out of the oak,

in the ponds broken off from the sky

my falling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Gratitude Diary and Appreciative Inquiry

I’m not entirely sure what the last line of the poem means.  Other than that, this poem illustrates the process of writing a gratitude diary or being appreciative during organizational change.

We look for those parts of the day where were feel as if we are pouring onward like a great river or soaring in the sky like a wild bird.  As we focus on those parts “things seem more like me now”.

Happy 2010!

Shift gears before Christmas with Inpowr

New beginnings and getting going

I’m shifting gear a little with projects. Some tasks are moving to the perfunctory box ~ get them done and get them done fast.  And I have new tasks that aren’t hard but they aren’t habits yet.  I could easily founder simply because I haven’t done them often enough to slide into them without thinking.

Getting over dithering

As I dithered, just a little, in the normal way we do when we settle to something big, I came across a post that I wrote about Inpowr, the Montreal based web2.0 platform where you rate areas of  your life and set goals.

A digital reminder

Inpowr has some good looking interfaces.  Moreover, it pings you every day at your chosen (Montreal) time and reminds you to review your goals.  That makes it great.  To develop some good habits, it helps to have someone to nudge you!

Choose between your positive and negative versions of events

A tip though: Inpowr will ask you to rate your achievement of each goal on a 1-5 scale.  Don’t just rate and move along.  Expand the task a little. Describe how the day went.  Rate 1 and answer the question.  Change your rating to 3 and answer your question.  And then change your rating to 5 and answer the question again.

Answering all three questions helps you to see your negative and positive thinking and choose between them.  Which is most useful to you?  The negative or the positive version?

Privacy

Oh, and do watch the privacy settings.  It is possible to make your goal setting open to the world.  Maybe you would prefer your exercise to be private.  Check your settings!

21 days on Inpower

Inpowr runs on 21 day cycles.  What can you accomplish by Christmas?

 

MyersBriggs *SF* vs *NT*

The great distinction between the *SF* and the *NT* of the our world!

Overheard in a “period” novel on BBC Radio 4 from one sister to another who is more of a blue stocking:  Things remain the same even when we think them out!  And so we hear the great distinction between the *SF* and the *NT* of the world!

*SF*

.  .  .  say the facts don’t change when we understand how they come about.

*NT*

.  .  . say we will generate opportunities when we understand how the facts came to be.

And herein lies the paradox and limits of psychology

If I had to bet on who was an “optimist”, I would bet on the *SF*.  They are are usually more worldly and easier to get along with.

Yet the *NT* are more likely to be the innovators of the world and what is innovation if not optimism – faith in human nature for a start!

As a good *NT*, I agree with Kurt Lewin that there is nothing so practical as a good theory.  The explanatory power of old fashioned psychology has well-been reached.  We really should encourage psychology students to study literature too and celebrate and enjoy paradox!

Gloom-and-doom is catchy! Ask 3 questions to find a positive spot in the recession

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

Back on February 6, when it was snowing, I made a list of 5 “recession speeds”.  In February, people were angry but not really doing anything constructive about restructuring their businesses.

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous.  I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries.  I’ll see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I’ll wait and see.  I am optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

Mid-October, 8 months on, people are much clearer about how the recession will effect them.  At least, that uncertainty has resolved.

But few people seem to have any idea how to restructure.  They are just “hanging-in” or “working harder”.  The odd firm is booming but is not quite clear why!

Social networks affect on our attitude to the recession

In February, I also asked 3 questions about our social networks.

I want to ask these questions again because in the last 8 months, the media have publicized the network effects of happiness.  We all now know that we are more likely to be happy or sad, fat or slim, if our friends are.

And if our friends’ friends are -even if we don’t know them!

How much is your attitude to the recession affected by your friends?

  • Who are the 3 people on whom you most depend?
  • What is their recession speed?
  • How much does your recession speed help them, and how much does their recession speed help you?

I know I am positive because the business associates on whom I depend most are thriving.  Others are being resolute.  And I can avoid negative people with relative ease.

I’d love to know you situation and if these questions help you clarify any of your plans?

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Quickly tell an internet optimist from an internet pessimist

LOGO2.0 part I
Image by Stabilo Boss via Flickr

20 questions: which do you agree with?

  1. The internet allows me to reach out and meet people I would never otherwise meet.
  2. The internet allows me to find what I want and organize it the way I like it.
  3. I love the way I have internet friends all over the world.
  4. I am amazed by the diversity of opinion that I encounter on the net.
  5. The beauty of the web is that I can hear the opinions of less powerful people before we make a decision.
  6. We can make our voices heard on the internet.
  7. It’s great the way that so much on the internet is free.
  8. I love the way people reward each other with gifts on the internet.
  9. It’s incredible the way we put together Wikipedia by donating whatever knowledge we each had.
  10. I love the way that my little contribution makes something bigger like Flickr work.
  11. It terrible the way people only talk to their own friends on the net.
  12. The information on the internet is so disjointed.
  13. I fear that people on the internet follow their own interests and disregard the views of others.
  14. I get so tired of the same opinions being voiced over and over again.
  15. It’s too easy on the internet to manipulate the opinions of vulnerable people
  16. It is too easy to bully someone on the internet.
  17. Valuable industries like newspapers will die because of the internet.
  18. If we don’t have property rights, then there will be no reason to compose good music or write good books.
  19. Wikipedia will drop to the “lowest common denominator”.
  20. At the end of the day, great works are accomplished by talented people who have worked hard and practiced long.

Are you an internet optimist or internet pessimist?

Scoring. The top 10 questions describe internet optimists and the bottom 10 describe internet pessimists.

The original list, in much more academic language, was written by Adam Thierer He is looking for a publisher, btw.

Your score? Are you an optimist or pessimist about life with the internet?

With my psychologist’s hat on

I ask:

  • What are the defensive positions that we want covered by the pessimists?
  • And would we trust them, anyway, to cover the weak spots?

It’s funny how the difference between optimists and pessimists is a canyon of trust.

  • How can pessimists lay out an approach to the internet that makes optimists trust them?
  • How can optimists lay out the internet so pessimists can trust it?

Have I got the questions right?

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First step to setting my goals for the recession

manchester airport
Image by rogerbarker2 via Flickr

The recession is like a plane journey

When I lived in New Zealand, I flew a lot.  Thirty-six hour journeys in the main.  After a while, it was possible to get it down to a fine art.  Everything was just where I needed it.  I knew the oddities of the airports en route, and the vagaries of a chain of flights through countries with their own distinctive cultures.

I walked into an aircraft, put my hand-luggage overhead, and sat down with exactly what I needed – book, hard case to protect my glasses, pen and passport if I anticipated filling in forms before we touched down.

And then someone sat down next to me and started bobbing up-and-down. First, they had forgotten this. Then they had forgotten that!  My heart would sink!

What can psychologists tell us about being cool, calm and collected?

Why is that some people cannot get their act together?  Why are others cool, calm, collected, and seemingly in control of every thing going on around them?

Action theory

Yesterday I listed three types of initiative described by Michael Frese of Giessen University.

Self-starters are quick to action and equally quick to figure out what works and what doesn’t. In an aircraft, they get their junk into an overhead locker quickly, clear the aisle, help other people, hold up no one, yet are comfortable and ready to go.

Proactive people think ahead.  They have what they need in the outer pockets of their hand luggage.  They are dressed for a wide range of cabin temperatures and take off a jacket or put on one without a fuss.  They know that alcohol will worsen the cabin-induced dehydration and they claim all the water they can see.

Persistent people are amazingly flexible.  They know that they are not in control and ‘read’ what is happening around them, less to join in, and more to help everyone else get settled.  They know they can get back to enjoying a quiet and peaceful flight when every one else is settled.

Can we be self-starting, proactive and persistent all at once?

Of course, we would like to be!  We all like to be in control, calm and dignified!  But can we be prompt to act, yet planful?  Can we be flexible, yet persistent?

The three styles of initiative are brought together with three key psychological concepts: goals, plans and feedback.

Goals are amazing.  When we decide what we really want to do, we become self-starters.   We jump into tasks and nothing can stop us.  Oddly everything becomes very easy too – or as we say, ‘the universe conspires to help us’!

Plans allow us to anticipate the various ways something can pan out.  So we learn to allow for other people’s needs and we budget a little time and energy to help them out.

Feedback tells us if we are on track.  If we have a realistic mental model of what will unfold, we can say to ourselves – my long term goal is to have a restful flight and my short term goal is to help my neighours get settled.  Then we can follow both plans simultaneously.

German and American psychology

The big difference between German and American psychology is the recognition of these three concepts.  American psychologists talk a lot about goals and to a lesser degree about feedback.  Germans place a lot more emphasis on plans.

We are able to make plans when we understand how the world works.  Hence, education is important.   So too is experience.  So is a good attitude to errors.  An error simply alerts us to the possibility that something needs to be understood.

For example, on several occasions as I stood exhausted and bleary-eyed in Australian passport queues, something went wrong with their computers and it took over an hour and a manager to sort it out.  The third time it happened, I stepped round the counter and watched how they resolved the problem.  To cut a long story short, it seemed that the clerk had entered the country code for my passport incorrectly.  I could see that this would happen again.  Thereafter, my passport proudly carried yellow stickies with the message “The code for xxxxx is yy!”  Understanding the objective world and the priorities of others is so important to maintaining our own bearings.

When I understand the “noise and whip of the whirlwind”, I find it so much easier to deal with the “noise and whip”, or to use another metaphor, to give unto Ceasar.  Dealing with distractions, interruptions and errors may take a little time, but I don’t muddle them up with a commentary on what I am doing.  I deal with the distractions on their own terms, and register as feedback solely whether or not I am free to pursue my own goals!

When I am aware of what is going on around me and I have dealt with the odd things that come up, then at last I can act more like a self-starter – pursuing goals, doing what needs to be done immediately, being more mindful, and finding flow.

All three – goals, plans and feedback – work together.  Sometimes I am on a learning curve.  And I need to get through up that curve to arrive at a point where I am self-starting, proactive and persistent – or to anyone else – cool, calm and collected!

So what should I do about my disorganized neighbours?

Well, neigbours on long-distance flights, as in life, can be interesting or dull.  They can genuinely require help, or just be the most feckless, disorganized wretches that it is possible to imagine.

It doesn’t matter which they are. They are. They simply ‘are’.  We take them as we find them.  I’ve found myself reading for hours to an 8 year old travelling alone and on another flight, moving seats to allow an engineer travelling from Melbourne to Rwanda to use my seat to sleep.  I’ve shared a beer with a fireman from 9/11 and translated for seamen determined to drink the bar dry as they flew from Cape Town to Beijing.

They each had their goals, their plans based on their understanding of their world, and their judgement of the situation.  They’ll settle soonest if they can explore the situation they find themselves in, learn what works, and balance up alternative plans.  The sooner they can do that without distraction from me, the sooner they will settle.

And talking about the recession?

Like most people, I am exasperated by the mess made by the banks.  I am not even sure why we continue to pay people who are manifestly not competent in the business they have chosen.

I am also looking forward to the point where more people around me are ‘up to speed’ on what is happening in the world of international finance.  I’ll even be happy when more people around me are actively trying to find out what is happening.

I would like to see people setting positive goals.   Too many goals seem to be persistent in the wrong way  – hanging on to what we thought would happen – and no longer relevant to what is happening.  As we learn about this new world, we must find goals that are attractive in spite or even because of the mess. We will still have to deal with the mess, but it won’t bother us half as much if we have our own goals on the horizon.

And then we will find ourselves more active – less inclined to groan when the alarm clock goes off.

The truth is achieving goals is simple – the universe really seems to help us.  Deciding on our goals is the hard part.


Come with me!

So I’ve begun.  Today, I flicked open my SEO notebook at the back and started jotting down key figures on the British economy as I found them in various articles.

How are you learning more about the financial system and the economy?

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3 conflicting views of management and the recession

RECESS RECORDS

 

Image via Wikipedia

1

Hmm, my little survey of our reactions to the credit crunch show surprising optimism.  Briefly we haven’t been hit yet, we are doing little planning and we expect to use the recession to leap ahead.

2

Management gurus such as Henry Mintzberg believe that we have less of an economic crisis and a massive management crisis – our structures don’t allow good decision making.  Very much in the lap of HR?

3

And Watson Wyatt report HR responses to the crunch/recession.  Cut back on costs including training.

Is that all that is necessary, and possible?  Tidy up a little and slow the economy by spending less?

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

UPDATE:  Best to carry on living, but with verve and vigor!  Step into your dream and make it happen in spite of the recession!

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Recession-beating plans

What is your plan for beating the recession?

Here is a short 5 question poll for the weekend.  I’ll post the results next week!

Survey sampling

 

Image via Wikipedia

PS If you tick Other, and you have another 30 seconds to spare, could you leave a comment saying what you have in mind?

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