Oh! The roots of postive organizational scholarship in Henry Thoreau and American transcendentalism

Sept2010 by anjanettew via FlickrWalden Pond .   .   .

I had to rummage around on Wikipedia to disentangle my memory traces.  Walden Pond is the home of Henry Thoreau, the American poet.   On Golden Pond is a Fonda movie.

Henry Thoreau .   .  .

I am sure that all well brought up Americans have read Thoreau in the original. The rest of us come to him by the way of quotations.

Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows .  .  .

Henry Thoreau was an “transcendentalist”, which Wikipedia informs me was a New England movement in reaction to the intellectualism of Harvard and the utilitarian church.  To my naïve ears, this sounds like the basic thrust of the French Revolution that rejected the supremacy of priests and their dictates,.  Once we have rejected the priests as the authority in all things, we needed a way to think about secular authority         and social sciences and psychology arose as formalized ways of describing how we each discover our own truth (Remember the Pope anyone?  Not surprisingly, he is not enthused by this venture.)

Transcendentalism underpins much of contemporary positive organizational scholarship

This is an important read.  We see here the essence of dominant aspects of American culture and at least part of the foundations of positive psychology.

Ralph Emerson, I believe, was one of the early proponents.

“So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes.

It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, — What is truth?

And of the affections, — What is good?

By yielding itself passive to the educated Will. .  .

Build, therefore, your own world.

As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions.

A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.”

As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions.

A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.

We bring about the world by what we attend to and value.  The world blossoms under the attention of what we value and love.  Whatever situation we are in (like it or not), we move in the direction of the questions we ask and so does it.

This is more appreciative inquiry (Case Western) than positive psychology (Pennsylvania).

It is the start point and as you read the now not so young Thoreau describing his life at Walden Pond, you hear the same complaints that we have about life today.  You hear the echoes of Joseph Campbell who followed a similar experiment with life. You hear British poet David Whyte who reconciled his life a marine biologist and NGO worker with is poetry.  You hear Gen Y Tim Ferris and The Four Hour Work Week.

I am enjoying this!

Do you need to say more than this poet?

Walk into the future by Suwaif via FlickrThe Awakening

Enough

A time comes in your life when you finally get it…when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out…ENOUGH!

Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on.

Your Awakening

Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.

This is your awakening.

Acceptance

You realize it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon. You realize that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you . . . and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are . . . and that’s OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.

A sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance

You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself . . . and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval. You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that everything isn’t always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself . . . and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.

Forgive

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties . . . and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

Be true to yourself and others

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with.

You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for your next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

The only cross you bear is the one you choose to carry

You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.

You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

Your body really is your temple

You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drink more water, and take more time to exercise.

You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You get what you believe you deserve

You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you believe you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You also learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.

Step right into and through your fears

You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn to build bridges when others build walls

You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people . . . and you learn not to always take it personally.

You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You explore your negative feelings rather than hang onto them

You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

And revel in your positive feelings however small

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Promise never to betray yourself and act the way you think appropriate no matter the provocation

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than your heart’s desire.

You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

You hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.

Begin to design the life you want to live as best you can

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best you can.

Author Unknown

Ingratitude is sooner or later fatal to its author

The language of morality, character and virtue is back!

And gratitude is one of the most popular concepts to be given wholehearted support by Martin Seligman and positive psychologists.

Write a gratitude diary daily (or at least weekly), we feel a positive mood more often, we detect more easily positive events in the noise of negativity, and we fell more energetic and hopeful.

Tipping our hat to the positive, not matter how bad the negative, is fun and gives us the energy to cope with whatever the world throws at us.

But this is motherhood and apple pie, as Americans would say.  What of the opposite?

The test of morality is the desirability of immorality

Positive psychologists don’t like talking about the opposite of morality, character and virtue because many of them are clinical psychologists, and they are, well, sick of that stuff.

But what will the absence of gratitude, or ingratitude, do to you?

Here is a Twi proverb, courtesy of @africanproverbs.

Ingratitude is sooner or later fatal to its author.

Maths of chaos theory

Chaos theory will predict just so.  Initial conditions predict final conditions.  In mathematical language, x at time 2 is equal to x at time 1 plus/minus or times/divide something.

When we start out ungrateful, we will continue ungrateful until something changes.  We may simply make our lives so unpleasant that we decide to mend our fences and start to say thank you.

Phase states

Sadly, chaos theory also predicts that when we are in a sufficiently sour mood, we change states from one where we can recover, and will recover, to one where we move into a narrow space that is hard to get out of.   Ultimately we might reach a third state which is a dark cell of solitary confinement of our own design.

Simply put, we cannot expect ourselves to be infinitely resilient.  Shit happens, but sufficient shit overpowers our ability to cope.  The moral of this observation is not to make life harder for ourselves.  It is hard enough already.

Kindness is not self-indulgence

There is no point in beating ourselves up, though, for being ungrateful.  Sometimes we are. We know we shouldn’t be careless or resentful but when we are irritated for some reason, we may find our generous spirit has left us.

Then the gratitude diary comes into play again. It is quite surprising what good things are happening around us while we are taken up with inconvenient, churlish and distasteful aspects of our lives.

And sadly, when a gratitude diary is not a discipline that we do whether we feel like it or not, we might go days without writing it, our mood lowering and the rubbish in our lives slowly displacing the good.

When we have got it bad, then, as poet David Whyte says, “The truth is found in a walk around the lake.”  It is time to gain perspective and we do that from getting back in touch with nature and the good in our lives.

The discipline to respect the positive in the world is an important discipline.  We cannot, and do not function without it.

Mandelbrot

And apparently off the point but not, TED has posted Mandelbrot talking about his career.  Gratitude is in the same class of phenomena as cauliflowers (yes it is!).  To get an inkling of the maths, watch the video.  To get a sense of what mathematicians do for a living, watch the video.  To get a sense of enormous gratitude and humility in a career that could have been frustrating other than for attitude, watch the video!

And then watch the second on African fractals!  Mandelbrot worked on fractals and they are seen all over Africa in design of buildings, artwork and . . . democracy.  Go on . . . watch it!

Ron Eglash

Download resources from WordPress with a download manager

Download Manager

UPDATE:  It turned out that this plugin was difficult to manage as were both “Download Monitors” and “Drain Hole”.  I am now using Downloads Manager (with an s).  It works like a dream but there is one thing I am not sure about. Files are stored within the plug-in directory.  That may be a security hole – I need to check that out.  So if you take this route to get going, back up well!

Old version:

I discovered an excelleChristmas Gift Wrap byL'Amour Olivia via Flickrnt WordPress plugin that allows readers to easily download resources from a WordPress blog.

It’s easy to download and install.  There’s just one trick – to add  “download_page” at the end of the post.  But change the ” ”  to [].  I couldn’t put the square brackets here or the download page would come in the middle of the post.

Signature Manager

Instead, I also downloaded the plugin called FT Signature Manager and I’ve added the link to the download manager in my signature so I don’t have to remember reach time I write a post.

Pdf downloads

And while I was at it, I downloaded a plugin to allow people to convert a post to pdf.   I am not a pdf fan, but pdf is better than the long messy printouts that comes with printing from a browser.

I hope you find the plugins useful.  Any comments and feedback will be useful as I learn to make my blog more functional.

The first document that I added is a 6 stop ‘itinerary for exploring the vistas of appreciative inquiry and positive psychology for people who want to explore the opportunities and challenges of this paradigm.

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.

Monday’s puzzle: When you introduce yourself to the other people in heaven, who will you be?

mirror mirror by jez' via FlickrPuzzling the conundrum of the self

So which do you believe?

  • That you have been many selves – your 3 year old self was a different person from your 7 year old self who was a different person from your 11 year old self?  And if you believe this, how many selves do you have?
  • That you have one self and when, to extend the argument, you go to heaven, God does not have to decide whether to make you your  3 year old or your 7 year old self or  you 11 year old self or your 99 year old self because they are all one?

When you introduce yourself to the other people in heaven who will you be?

How I learned to blog

What I promise

27 September 2009

I think I have kept my promise

flowing motion is approaching its 2nd birthday – well near enough for me to think about its party.

It deserves a party.  Blogging has been fun – more fun than I thought it would be.

From the outset, flowing motion was my miscellaneous blog.  I had purposeful projects elsewhere.

This is where I posted notes on books I was reading, and things I was thinking about, as they came up and without much of a plan.

flowing motion rapidly became my best blog.  It blossomed as I followed what I love.  And as I followed what I love, it blossomed too.

Two years’ ago, my preoccupations were

1.  What is positive psychology and how will working positively change my core trade – work & organizational psychology? (I can’t say occupational psychology because that is a protected label now in the UK).

2.  What is the mytho-poetic of management and can a strait-laced work & organizational psychologists wander around the corporate world talking about poetry?

3.  What is social media?  What are the hacks for using it efficiently?  How will social media change the way we work and in turn, the work of work & organizational psychologists?

4.  Why hasn’t the thinking of complexity theorists made great inroads into management practice?  Or, have I been missing something?

These themes may feel disparate but I knew enough about psychology and management to know that they have a common core.  What was missing was some plain-language renditions.

So, I read. And I wrote

And I wrote often.  It is so much fun writing knowing that occasionally somebody reads what we write – voluntarily – not because I told them to.

And I watched my stats and I set goals.  I was reminded of the variability of performance metrics.  It is good to apply our psychology to our own ventures.  And I noticed myself become more fluent.  Gradually, I began to explain the complicated notions of my field in simpler language.

After two years

I have well over 1000 pages.  Some are badly written.  Some repeat what I said in earlier posts.  I have enough material for a book or two – if I cared to write one.

Next

Because blogs are basically a chronicle record – organized by dates (despite pages, categories and tags), it is time to organize the work of the last two years and see what might emerge from the effort.

I’ve created a server on my desktop, downloaded a copy of WordPress, and ‘slurped’ my old posts.  I have an index in an excel file and I need to start printing, discarding, organizing and rewriting.

I think I will experiment with a magazine format or wiki, in lieu of a an ebook.  We’ll see.  Content first.

Will the effort produce worthwhile insight and clarity for a noobe to the field?

Carrying on

And in the meantime, I write on.  I chase my metrics, and set new goals for my content.

My blog leads me.  It shows me the path.   It allows me to truly achieve that terrifying feat suggested by positive organizational scholars:

build  a bridge while I walk on it!

Hopes

Next for me is carving out the work & organizational psychology of  social mediated business and business in social media companies.  Next for me is thinking of work & organizational psychology as design.  Next for me is integrating the new world of psychology with sound principles but at the same time jettisoning the ridiculous adherence to positivism – not to be confused with positive scholarship.

Time for a new world.   Time for another exciting two years.

Original Manifesto

I love working. I love doing my work. I like the idea of work. I like what we do with work. I love our audaciousness in flying aeroplanes and operating on hearts. I love our gritty planting of crops each season. I love the optimism of a youngster looking for her first job. I love the depth of knowledge of a person who has tended his craft for decade after decade.

I’ve made working my living. Not only do I put in the hours, as a work psychologist, that’s all I do. I think, live and breathe work.

This blog is not going to be organized. There is nothing in particular that I want to achieve. I am just going to blog useful tidbits that I find out about work from day-to-day. Or that I remember in response to something that I read, hear or do. I hope you find it useful. Use what you like. Give me a shout if anything is wrong. Offer a guest post if you have something to say.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

26 June 2008

I’ve been running this blog now for just over 7 months.  I am thinking now to focus it a little around a simple project

“what it means to train yourself as a positive psychologist to work in the 21st century with managers and organizations who developed in the 20th century”

  • What are the challenges of the positive psychology?
  • How do we do positive psychology at work?
  • Is there a positive HR?
  • Is there a positive management?
  • What are the challenges of the 21st century?
  • How is positive psychology influenced by these changes?
  • How does positive psychology contribute to a positive 21st century?

I may re-jig this as I go and I would be happy for comments – on the blog and on the journey to become a positive work psychologists in the 21st century.

5 January 2009

I am looking at what I said 6 months ago and I think I have answered many of these questions.  I’ve been feeling for a long time that I need to organize my posts and my good friend and web solutions provider, Paul Imre, agrees.

In the last few weeks, I’ve got into the numbers game wanting to drive my hit rate up.  Oddly, at the same time I achieved a little more interest in my positive posts which have gradually overtaken ‘law of attraction’, ‘batman’, “am I good looking” [a lesson in SEO for me’ and the recession.  I’m pleased about that.  And I am pleased to be gettting a lot more comments.  Oddly my page rank has dropped though that might be because I cleaned up some old blogs.

So where to next? Ned, loyal writing coach, thinks I should concentrate on what ordinary people want from work.  He makes the point that ordinary people don’t associate positive with work.  Yes, that is why the positive movement in management and psychology is growing.  We like our work and we don’t see why you shouldn’t too.  In fact I am outraged that isn’t the case.  I believe it should be possible for everyone to carve out a career they love and any unhappines should both strictly temporary.   So maybe that is what I should write about.  The question will be whether I can shuck the habits of academic and bureaucratic writing.

There is also the question of the recession.  It seems that more and more people think it will be “deep”.  The jury is out on its length.  Probably only a minority believe that it really challenges the economic system as we know it.  They are outweighed right now by people who have faith in Obama’s ability to lead us to a fairer world order.  Navigating our way as individuals will  be very hard without a good grasp of what is going on and how it is reshaped the opportunities we had and offering new opportunities we had never imagined.

So maybe I am going with Ned.  Then, I will need a much better layout and even a forum.  Hmm, don’t want to abandon the page rank that I’ve got.

And should I remain anonymous?  I know that is frowned on but there were reasons at the beginning and really people should read for content!  But if I am am offering advice rather than hust sorting out my thoughts, then people should know who I am.

Nothing like writing to clarify ideas.  So decision made.  I am going with Ned. I probably need an elementary game plan.  It won’t be much, but it will be more than I had when I started 14 months ago.  And people who stop by, thanks. Today, first working day of 2009 was a record day for hits here.  Really, thanks.

The give-and-take between us as we follow our dreams strengthens us as individuals and as a group

Thoughts on stray cards on my desk

I confess just to tidying up my desk and wanting somewhere to put a sentence I wrote on the back of one my business cards.  Looking at the card, I must have written this 18 months to 2 years ago.

“The give-and-take between us as we follow our dreams strengthens us as individuals and as a group.”

A touchy-feely sentiment perhaps but also a profound statement of the essence of business.

Give-and-take is the heart of business

The heart of any business is the give-and-take between us.  Give-and-take is not something we add as a layer of style or a way of resolving tension. Give-and-take is the heart.  Our business exists only to give-and-take.

We have give-and-take with our customers. We have give-and-take with our suppliers.  We have give-and-take among ourselves.

Too many businesses, though, set the process of give-and-take in stone.  The give-and-take evolves and it is the ability to build a business the grows the give-and-take that is genius.

Losing the give-and-take

Let me give you examples of misunderstandings of give-and-take.

Some Terms & Conditions on the internet put all the responsibility on the user.  Totally back to front.  The Terms & Conditions should phrase the responsibility and limits on the person who offers them.   In plain English, the T&C should state what I bring to the table and how I will honour you.

A standard role play in assessment centers sets up a “customer” as a bit of buffoon.  Managers, particularly those with accounting and legal training, often try to put the customer in the wrong and wring out of them monetary concessions based on the letter of their contract.  The smart manager judges the situation and looks at it as a way to deepen the relationship with the customer and the customer’s reference group.   A bad situation is simply an opportunity to grow the relationship and do more and better business.

How many times do employees tell managers that something is going wrong only to have their “heads bitten off”?   It is usually productive to ask for more details of the “symptoms” and to find out what the employee proposes.  Both are likely to be interesting.

Open-ended interaction is not always right nor is it predictable

It’s tough to interact with people and just to “see what comes of it”.  I don’t want to do that all the time, of course.  I am not really interested in “generative moments” with an immigration officer at the airport.  Beyond being as cheerful as possible, I just want to have my passport stamped quickly.  On a short haul flight, I also have no interest in manufacturing social moments, though I might do it to lessen the pain of standing in those ridiculous queues.

Long haul flights are quite different.  Being cooped up for 12 hours is a recipe for climbing the walls.  But the nature and quality of the interaction depends on my neighbor as much as me.

I’ve moved out my seat to allow someone two seats and the possibility of a nap.  I’ve asked the airline to find me a bank of seats so I can sleep. I’ve baby sat.  I’ve had people help me.

The story unfolds in a an unpredictable way and the flight is always better for flexibility rather than rigidity.  Of course, I hope there has been no vagueness about the fuel or the engineering.  But most of the human side is generative.  And we are more likely to chose an airline again when the interaction went well.

Give-and-take and management theory

Give-and-take is a difficult concept though.  Too often, in the management sciences we treat organizations as if they are the sum of individuals.  It is true that the interactions between individuals depends on the individuals.  I doubt Professor Stephen Hawking would find my thoughts on physics very stimulating, for example.

But after, all if the interaction of physicists wasn’t stimulating, then it wouldn’t really matter who was around him.

As it is much harder to stimulate and manage generative interactions than it is to find and hire people (buy their time), firms who understand interaction are likely to be the winners.  Brilliant people are probably better off in the company of less brilliant people who interact well than with other brilliant people who interact badly.

The practice of give-and-take

This is all theory though.  I didn’t want to lose my pithy little statement and this blog is my filing cabinet.  What I want to keep goes here.

Hope you find it food for thought.

If nothing else treasure the interactions you have with others.  Guided by their dreams, we grow stronger together.

If. . . We wouldn’t be We

If

If freckles were lovely, and day was night,

And measles were nice and a lie warn’t a lie,

Life would be delight,–

But things couldn’t go right

For in such a sad plight

I wouldn’t be I.

 

If earth was heaven and now was hence,

And past was present, and false was true,

There might be some sense

But I’d be in suspense

For on such a pretense

You wouldn’t be you.

 

If fear was plucky, and globes were square,

And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee

Things would seem fair,–

Yet they’d all despair,

For if here was there

We wouldn’t be we.

E.E. Cummings

Teaching the challenges of morality

I’ve spent a lot of my life teaching young adults.  Every subject begins with teaching “declarative knowledge”, the labels for things, the things that can be tested with multiple choice.  Then we move on to “procedural knowledge”, getting our hands dirty, and the things you can only know if you have done the job yourself.  It is here that morality arrives.  We have to consider consequences.  And we have to consider that we will not always be “right”.

Let me explain with two extreme moral positions

At school, a friend of mine didn’t  like putting sulphuric acid on zinc chips  She was convinced that she could hear them squeal with pain.  That is one extreme.  She saw consequences which others did not see.

In social sciences, we are required to fill in forms in lieu of considering ethics.  We even go to great lengths to remove the effects of what we do from experiments. That is the other extreme.  We pretend, indeed we are required to pretend that we are not acting in our self-interest and that our actions have no impact on the world.

The world in flowing motion

Of course, all this is a nonsense. Everything we do affects the people we do it with.  And we are affected in turn.

This is the lesson that students should learn.  They need to learn to listen and to understand how other people are affected by their even seemingly innocuous actions.

And yet moral choices are not ‘pc’ or paralysing

And then they must decide. The students must decide.  Are they going to act anyway, and why?

Students find it hard to accept that moral choices don’t leave us feeling good

Somewhere buried in there is a hard lesson of life – that are our actions and circumstances don’t always reflect well on us ~ and that we are never comfortable with that.  But that is a good thing.  The day that we are uncomfortable with the uncomfortable,  then we have lost it.  We should feel bad about bad stuff.

But we also have to make choices despite the fact we are not going to feel good.

But feeling bad is shared and it important to recognize that the bad feelings are both valid and shared

I like that Cummings ends with We wouldn’t be we.  Because the journey that brought us together into this uncomfortable place is our shared journey.  Our discomfort is a product of our shared journey.

I may not like that I am in this bad place with you, but I am.   That cannot be denied.  And I have to act anyway.  Just as you do.  I just try to act thoughftully, knowledgeably, fairly.  Often I don’t even achieve that, but I try.

And that I act does not deny that all this is bad.  It’s bad.  I act.  That is.

And that it is bad does not change that tomorrow may not be bad.  With you or without you.  That is, too.  It just is.

And to pretend that we don’t have agonizing choices to make denies that We are We. That is bad.  Very bad.  That is much worse than the lousy circumstances and awful decisions.  The worst thing we can do is deny that We are We.

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Management theory is reconsidering is philosophical rots

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I am not religious, and if they haven’t clicked away already, my friends who are ‘evangelical atheists’ will think I’ve taken leave of my senses

Management theory is reconsidering its philosophical rots

[Yes, I did mean roots but the typo is apt.]

I heard the idea of presenting one’s problems to God from a Rabbi on Radio 4 today and it is an idea that has been forgotten by management theorists for a long, long time.  It is being actively and vigorously revived though, and if you want to be involved in modern management education, “opening yourself to the imagination of the universe” is an idea that you have to get you head around.

Old school management sucked the life juices out of us

“Old school” management is goal-oriented, and fundamentally arrogant and negative.  It goes like this. “I define the goal and until you have completed it, you are not up to scratch.”

We might even say that old school management is evil. It is even evil even when we are setting our goals for ourselves and not others.  It’s  arrogant to believe that we know what is right, not only for today, but for tomorrow whose shape we barely know.  It is very arrogant to believe that we know and the other does not.  It is evil to undermine the worth of other people and to daily put ourselves and others in situations where we are not up to scratch.

But how do we open ourselves to the imagination of the universe?

For all my exploration of modern management theory, I am still a psychologist and I want to know “what am I going to DO?

“offering a problem to God”, as I understand it, does not mean letting go.  It means beginning where we are, with our sense that the present does not meet our sense of what is right and wrong.   We begin by accepting our negative evaluation, our arrogant assertion that on this matter we believe we are right,  and our overbearing willingness to judge others.  We accept that this is ground we stand on at this moment.  This is our reality at the minut.

Then, we put this evaluation on the table, probably privately, it is offensive after all.  And at last,  we listen to what the universe has to say.    What does the universe have to say about this problem?

We’ve raised the flag.  We’ve said we will hear.   Now we listen!

But are we predisposed to listen?

The difficulty is though, that in this mood, when we feel the world is wrong, and we are right and that we are allowed to tell others they are wrong, in this mood, listening to anyone is far from our minds.

Positive psychology, an overlapping school of positive organizational scholarship, kicks in now and has a lot to say on how to reach a point that we can listen and hear.

We begin by reminding ourselves that it is quite natural, housed in a human body, to feel alarmed when we notice something is wrong.   Our biology is programmed that way.  It is natural .  .  .  well .  .  . to exaggerate.  When times are rough, and we reel from trauma to trauma, or just from hassle to hassle, it is not long before we begin to shut down and focus solely on what threatens us, or simply annoys us.

Positive psychologists help us stay out of this zone of despair, cynicism and negativity.  We look to them to keep us in that positive space where we can notice that something is wrong (or a least not to our taste) and listen to the universe.  It is a tough balancing act.

Positive psychologists are not our only resource, though. Most world religions have rituals to manage this emotional housekeeping.   Balancing our ‘alarm systems’ and listening to others is such an important skill that all cultures have ways of explaining the challenge.    What is saying a brief prayer before a meal but a momentary regaining of balance where we take stock in an appreciative not panicky way?

In our secular world, we explain every thing more wordily but we are not necessarily wrong.  Just ploddy.   Two other very important factors in maintaining ’emotional tone’ are exercise and friends.

The contribution of positive psychologists

Positive psychologists advocate a simple ritual of a gratitude diary.  A few brief notes at the end of each day makes the difference between believing that we have to solve every problem ourselves and “hearing” what the universe has to offer.

Offer your problems to the universe and allow yourself to be delighted by opportunities you never imagined.

And to my evangelical atheist friends, if you are such an objective scientist, try it before you knock it.