Respectfully describe reality and it will respect you

Sign No.
Image via WikipediaWhere are you in your life?

Where are you in your life?

  • On a complicated English roundabout with 15 exits and cars whizzing around on all sides of you?
  • Streaming down the motorway, very happy that there is no tailback but a little bored?
  • On a country lane with hedges to the left and to the right – you feel lost because you cannot see ahead?

The situations seem very different.  Yet they are not!

  • Pay attention to what is happening around you

In your worry about where you are going (or boredom on the motorway), don’t ignore the traffic around you!

  • Don’t rush

The best thing you can do is keep moving with the flow. If you miss the exit, keep going and “turn around when possible”.

Don’t fret that you missed the exit!  I know it is annoying.  But you will get where you want to be much faster if you keep going smoothly and double back when you can.  Write the missed exit off to experience.

  • Slowly, very slowly, plot your path ahead

Impatience is not going to get you anywhere!  As you have a moment, start to imagine the road ahead.  Don’t try to do it all at once because then you will take your eye off the road.

If you are able to pull over, take a deep breath and get you bearings, good.  Do it.  Otherwise, keep going smoothly and slowly work out where you are going and what you should be anticipating.  Slowly and patiently.

How does this lesson on driving relate to what you are feeling about your career, your work, your life?

Feeling frustrated at work is not much different from feeling frustrated on the road.

  • We feel agitated because getting there on time is important to us.
  • We feel irritable because we feel out of control
  • We feel powerless because we can’t make a solution happen right now.

Yelling at reality won’t make it behave

That is the secret – we are antsy because we can’t make a solution happen right now.  Well we can’t.  And yelling at reality won’t make it behave.  Reality won’t here you (and if it does, it won’t like being shouted at).

Reality likes to be taken seriously and treated respectfully

So start describing reality. Leave your temper tantrum for later.  No one cares – least of all reality.  Just start describing reality.

  • I am driving down the motorway. To my left is .  . .  To my right is  .   .  .
  • I am on a country lane  .     .   . To my left is a hedge (I am driving in UK!).  To my right is a lane for oncoming traffic.  There is or is not a car behind me.  It is so close that if I act abruptly it will bash into me (This is England!  People tailgate like mad.) In front of me . .

Well you get the idea.

Bring your attention in and start describing reality

Be respectful.  Reality does not like being shouted at or ignored!

But it is hard to put our agitation aside

Yes, it is so hard to put our emotions aside. They clamor for attention!

OK.  So listen to them.  Say to yourself, I am feeling confused/frightened/annoyed (hey, embarrassed) to be on a road where I don’t know where I am going.

Feel better for listening to yourself?

Good.  And know I’ll tell you a secret. So is the guy to the left of you, the guy to the right of you, the (****) who is tailgating you.

You aren’t in this alone. We are all slightly confused.  We should all start paying attention to reality.

Respectfully describe reality and it will respect you!

He or she who is able to do that wins -they get to their destination and they get there in a good mood!

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The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness

This strange expression has been made popular by poet, David Whyte, who heard it first from a monk, counselling him during a bad bout of professional burnout.

It seems cruel, doesn’t it, to be told to put some elbow-grease into it, at a time we are so tired, we literally can’t think straight?

How does wholeheartedness cure exhaustion?

We feel exhausted, we become exhausted, when we pursue conflicted goals.  We become like the mouse in a maze with cheese to the left and cheese to the right. Deary me – which way to go?   It is the dithering that is exhausting.  Or being greedy and trying to get both lots of cheese at the same time.

We feel relaxed and at ease when we make up our minds about what we want to do

We have a heap of expressions for the sensation of getting moving.

  • We cross the Rubicon (from which there was no turning back as Ceasar and his troops marched on Rome).
  • The universe conspires to help us (Who said that?   It means that suddenly it is easy to do what seemed hard only moments ago.  And that people seem to go out of their way to help you.)
  • Our path opens up as we take the first step (Paulo Coelho tweeting on Saturday).  The path only becomes possible when we are totally committed to moving forward. Totally committed – with no reservations.

Clarity of goals generates energy – moving toward a goal multiplies energy

Action becomes so easy and so natural. ‘Getting things done’ is not the issue – it is never the issue.

Setting goals is the issue. Making up our minds is the hard part.

Do you know what you want?

Until we can distill our goals to a set that our smallish inefficient memories can remember (3 and at the most 5), we dither, and we wear ourselves out.

But is what you want, right?

You do know, I hope, that we become impossible when we pursue goals.  The dithering mouse turns into a juggernaut trampling over everyone and everything.

We must make sure that our goals are the right goals.

More this evening . . .

Postscript: Tuesday 15 September 2009

@paulocoelho: Cloning Confucius: a bird sings because he has a song, not because he has an answer

Do have a look at the rhyme added by Whappen in the comments.

A plan big enough to include now!

Feb 8 2009 High Street South & Steeple snow pi...
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Will your degree really take you where you want to be?

I’ve just read story in the TimesOnline about a mature student who returned to university and read psychology, very successfully, only to find that there are insufficient places for students to complete their professional qualifications.

I am sorry to hear this story. There is a breach-of-confidence here that shames us all.   When students go to university, they accept in good faith our implied promises of progression within their degree and access to their chosen profession.

Very sadly, these promises are often made lightly.  And quite often universities deliberately conceal the facts, if not by commission, then by omission.  They quite consciously don’t collect information on student destinations, and they just as consciously don’t make these facts available.  It is certainly time for regulators to insist that these facts are published on University websites and kept up-to-date!

Not only do I think publishing student pass rates and destinations should be mandatory.  I think universities should loan fees to students and recover the loans themselves!

Caveat emptor

Until the day that regulations are tightened up, then I afraid it is a matter of caveat emptor, buyer beware.  Students need to be wary of making large investments in services that have no warranty!  Should they discover that the university’s promises are inflated, they will be able to recover neither their money nor, more importantly, their time.

Craft a life plan that is far bigger than uni and the professions

So what can students do to avoid this trap?

The advice from contemporary positive psychologists is this.  Don’t plan your university studies around a specific job and employment route! Neither is guaranteed.  Indeed, we have seen from the banking crisis that nothing in this world is guaranteed.

Rather, see your university education as a supplement to your life plan.  Let me give you this example.

Young Nick Cochiarella from my village of Olney has already launched his first social network, SpeakLife while he is at college.  He’s a hardworking guy and he also has a job at the local Coop.  He is taking a slightly circuituous route doing technical training before he goes to university.  But he is not waiting for anyone.  It is true that his hard work still guarantees him nothing.  But he is not deferring his dreams, and his university training supports, rather than defines, his life’s purpose.

But I need a job now!

It can be tough to start living our dreams.  We often get into an enormous tangle.

The biggest distractor is the desperate belief that we will somehow be safe when we follow a road carved out by others.  But it is not safe, as we have seen.

And even if it were safe, why do we think that other people’s dreams will be enough for us?

Wouldn’t it be better to have our own dreams and to work with others to find where we can temporarily work together to make the path easier and broader for both of us?

A plan big enough to include now

Ned Lawrence has been challenging me to refocus this site on the needs of the ordinary person – the person who lives these dilemmas.

What do you think?

Is it possible to make a plan that is big enough to include now?

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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.

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President Mwanawasa, thank you

The Flame Lily, national flower of ZimbabweImage via Wikipedia

 

The eminent social scientist Karl Weick once said that social problems are often defined in ways that prevent us doing anything about them.

I have been watching the Zimbabwean elections closely.  As facts emerge, I have been listing them on a “secondary” blog.

The situation in Zimbabwe is as dire any conflict in history.  Can we move here?  Can we move there?  It seems the ultimate Catch 22.  Whatever we do may create more damage.

I believe however that much of our hopelessness comes from our own representation of what is happening.  Could we not, instead, look at difficult objective conditions that require resolution?

Today, people are starting close in, as the poet David Whyte would say.

Today, we are going to do something positive.  Today we are going to say thank you.  Today we are going to say we are with you.  Today we are going to send emails to the President of Zambia who is the current chairman of SADC.  Today, we are going to take 3 minutes to write a short, brief, courteous email saying,

Dear President Mwanawasa,

I write to thank you and the leaders of  SADC sincerely for convening the extraordinary meeting concerning Zimbabwe and to extend my support and goodwill for a resolution that is satisfactory to all the people of Zimbabwe and her neighbours.

Sincerely,

I am patching in a long excerpt of a post from Sokwanele that gives the email addresses of SADC.   Zimbabwe for a positive future.

TAKE ACTION

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has called an emergency meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to discuss the Zimbabwean presidential poll delay. This is the first move by Zimbabwe’s regional neighbours to intervene since the elections on 29th March 2008. President Mwanawasa is the current Chairman of the 14-nation South African Development Community. This is what he said yesterday:

I wish to take this opportunity to commend the people of Zimbabwe for the calm and peaceful manner in which the elections were conducted.

Similarly, I appeal to them to maintain the same spirit of calmness which they exhibited during the elections as they await the results of the presidential elections.

However, given developments immediately following the elections, I have decided, as Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to call an extraordinary summit on Saturday 12th April, 2008 to discuss ways and means of assisting the people of Zimbabwe with the current impasse as well as adopt a co-ordinated approach to the situation in that country.

Both President Morgan Tsvangirai and opposition leader Robert Mugabe will be attending the emergency meeting.

Support our democratically elected leader and take action.

What YOU can do

You can voice your feelings and SHOUT OUT for FREEDOM. Communicate with key SADC people attending the meeting.

Tell them that Zimbabweans have the right to live in a democratic, free and peaceful country. Tell them your personal experiences and why you want change. Make them understand what it is like to be in Zimbabwe today. Tell them we voted for change, we got change, and we want change now. Speak the TRUTH.

HOW you can do it

Email, fax or phone using the details provided below. Keep your messages real and honest but also short and to the point. Remember: thousands of us will be doing this so they will have a lot to read. Let’s make sure they can read and hear it all!

Be polite at all times. People don’t pay attention to angry messages (look at us: Mugabe has been angry with the people for many years now and we just ignored him and voted him out anyway). Anger does not work.

1. Call or fax or email the Zambian State House with a message for President Levy Mwanawasa:

  • Tel: +260 1 266147 or 262094
  • Fax: +260 1 266092
  • Send an email to Mr John Musukuma, Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations: johnmu@nkwazi.gov.zm

2. Call or fax a message to President Thabo Mbeki – President of South Africa

  • Tel: +27 (0)12 300 5200 and +27 (0)21 464 2100
  • Fax: +27 (0)12 323 8246 and +27 (0)21 462 2838
  • Send an email to Mr Mukoni Ratshitanga Thabo Mbeki’s Presidential Spokesperson: mukoni@po.gov.za

3. Call or email Lieutenant Colonel Tanki Mothae – Director of Politics, Defence and Security Affairs at SADC

4. Copy all your emails to this general SADC email address:

5. If you want to attach images to your emails, you can download copies of the photographs at the top of this mailing from the Sokwanele flickr account here:

6. Forward this email to everyone you know and ask them to take action too.

7. Be positive, stay strong, and never forget that we have won.

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?