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Tag: generativity

Struggling with generativity?

The brilliance of psychologists

The best skill that you will learn as a student of psychology is to “operationalise” fuzzy ideas.  In plain language, we beceome brilliant at writing questionnaires.  What is an extravert? Someone likes going to parties. And so on.

Warmth is less valued

The skill that you will not learn as a student of psychology is to “encourage” or “enthuse” others.  You might have thought when you started your studies that that is what psychologists do. Sadly, warmth and connection will be beaten out of you as sin of “measurement error”.

And what of generativity?

So you may be really struggling with the idea of “generativity”.  At least know that you are in good company.  We all have to relearn what is means to help others see possibility and goodness, connection and meaning, in their lives.

Generativity step-by-step

To help you understand the meaning of generativity, as it plays out in our lives, here is a letter that seems to have entered the web via Harvard.

And as a good psychologist, note the elements:

  • The impact of chance on our lives
  • The effect of cutting away on defining who we are
  • The constant effort to broaden-and-build, nonetheless
  • The richness of connection to others to whom we are loyal and dreams we hold sufficiently dear to work at night and day
  • The vulnerability to the disloyalty and treachery of others whom we love and causes to which we have devoted the best years of our lives

And then poetically

And then read the whole.  The poetic quality of language is important.  I was never particularly poetic.  Sadly learning to operationalise didn’t particularly help.

Read the original and then take that step of thinking generatively about your lives and the lives of those you touch.

 

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Beautiful New Year Resolutions: Follow the beauty you discovered in 2009?

New goals to focus the new year

2010 is upon us.  2009 has gone fast.  I began the year overloaded.  I was stressed out in January and was working hard to limit my goals.  That’s the purpose of goal setting, right?  To reduce the number of things claiming our attention.

Do you achieve your goals?  I sincerely hope not!

In the end, I over-achieved some of my goals and under-achieved others.  Why?  Why can’t we arrive spot-on?

Because that is not our job.  Really it is not.

Events, dear boy, events!

Our job is to respond to events.  Events, dear boy, events, as British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once said.  Or as the military say, no plan survives meeting the enemy.

Our job is not to press on regardless.  Or job is to be aware of what is happening around us, to understand what is valuable, and look after that.  We’ve had a good year when we’ve attended to who and what is important.

To be ready for unfolding events, it is a good idea to plan.  Plans mean we have information at our finger-tips and we find it easier to read evolving situations and understand what we need and want to do.

A good year is when our goals unpack themselves and we discover what is ‘good and true, better and possible”

But our job is to learn.  A good year is a year in which our goals unfold.   A good year is when our goals unpack themselves.  We come to understand the richness of the world and gaze upon it with respect and more curiosity bordering on reverence, not to forgive its wrongdoings but alive to what is ‘good and true, better and possible.”

So as we open our diaries for 2010, what has changed for us during 2009?  Putting aside the farce of bailing out banks to the tune of more than half out annual GDP and politicians who rifle the petty cash, for farce is what that is, what changed for us during 2009?

Looking around the world, what do we see that we never used to see?  What poetry & song did we hear this year, yet never heard before?   Whom do we know whose style and approach to life we truly admire?

What brings us alive and takes us bubbling with enthusiasm towards 2010?

Take your first small step that may be the giant step needed by mankind

Often what brings the light to our eyes is deeply personal. We don’t want to expose what we love to the harsh glare of spotlights and public scrutiny.  What we share is not for the sake of sharing.  It is for the sake of nurturing what we feel is beautiful and it is for the sake of encouraging what we would like to see more of.

Of the many beautiful things we have discovered, which are we able to move towards?  Which are we able to do more?  Where and how can we take part and in the process make them more beautiful?

We may have the smallest role to play in their beauty.  But it may be our role in creating a beautiful world.  That small step on the edges of our existence may be a large step for mankind ~ if only we would take it.

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The greatest leaders spark curiosity about the system

Our goal had gone walkabout

On my travels, I found myself teaching systems thinking in a university which broke a large course into 25 student groups. A few people determined the curriculum and an army of people taught students who wrote a common examination.

I was shocked by the examination papers. Students rambled on tossing in whatever thoughts came to mind.

We sensibly had an interim examiners meeting and I voiced my concerns. Well, it seems that I was the one to have misunderstood the curriculum.  The curriculum designers were trying to convey the idea that there are many perspectives on any issue. They didn’t see a common goal or direction as an essential part of any system.

I am cursed with an “open mind” so I hastened to the internet to double-check and the idea has hung around my mind ever since as unfinished business does.

3 misunderstandings about system goals

I’m afraid that systems do have common goals. That is entirely the point. But it seems that this is a point that is often misunderstood.

Some people think the system’s goal is their goal

No! There are still multiple perspectives. We can add the system as a virtual person and ask what is the system’s goal! We have the boss’ goal, we have the system, goal and we have each of our goals.

Some people think there is no common goal

It is true that the organization does not have a goal. An organization cannot think! When we say that the organization’s goal is X, we must ask who says that?

But we not only want to understand the multiplicity of goals but we also want to understand how the many goals come together and how the system goal morphs in response. We cannot ignore the system goal ~ or we do as a sailor might ignore the weather ~ at our peril.

Some people think goals are constant

They are ~ for a second. Goals morph as situations change. When we ignore the dynamic quality of goals, then we get mission creep. Conditions change and if we don’t stop to think about what we want, what we all want, we find ourselves doing too much of one thing and too little of another. A mess in other words. Goals are infinitely variable.

Articulating the morphing of goals in any group is what makes a leader

A leader understand the multiplicity of goals in a community and sees how are contradictions and conflicts, agreements and alliances come together to make us what we are – how the whole comes from the parts and affects them in turn.

A leader is a person who is able to articulate this dynamic mix so that we feel supported by the whole and essential to its well being. This is a tough call when a group is determined to quarrel or terrified by its destiny. The hall mark of a leader is that he or she looks for the common ground where we all belong and keeps looking.

Facilitating the agreement is the hallmark of the greatest leaders

Helping us find that common ground is the hallmark of the greatest leaders. We often doff our caps to leaders who were in the right place at the right time. They represent what is the best about ourselves and we throw them into the limelight to remind us of who we are and where we are going. In time, we choose a new leader because our direction has changed and we need new icon on our bows.

We remember these leaders because these were times that we felt great. The greatest leaders, though, help us identify the right questions. They know how to “bound” the group. They know how to focus our attention on the question that we must answer if we are to find the way forward and the place where we feel great.

That’s why it seems as if great leaders set goals. They set a boundary which focuses our attention on question-asking.

It is not the goal that is important, but our compulsion to find out how we should reach the goal.

Colin Powell once said “Leadership is about ‘Follow Me!. Even if it is only out of curiosity.”

Leadership is the art of engaging the imagination in the search for collective answers.

The system is important. With good leadership, we accept the system as a virtual person ~ a popular virtual person who we all want to look after and please.

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1001 things we learn from live performers

#1  my career is a journey to find my people

A good performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “Here I am!”
A great performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “There you are!”

Steve Rapson from Art of the Solo Performer
contributed by DW from Connecticut, USA

and for #2 thru #1001 visit Music Thoughts

 

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Positive psychology in Barack Obama’s words

US Senator Barack Obama campaigning in New Ham...
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“As an African-American, I will never forget that I would not be here today without the steady pursuit of a more perfect union in my country. That guides my belief that, no matter how dark the day may seem, transformative change can be forged by those who choose the side of justice.

And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights—for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

Barack Obama addressing the United Nations Wednesday 23 September 2009

“for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

The mission and values of psychologists

In these words, Barack Obama has summed up the mission and purpose of psychologists all over the world most eloquently.

These goals are not just our goals.  They are the mission and purpose of other people too. After all, Obama is a lawyer, a college professor and a politician.

But if in what we do, we do not pursue these goals, then we do nothing at all.

The heart of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship

Barack Obama has said what positive psychologists and positive organizational scholars struggle to say simply.

It is the student who seeks to learn (not the teacher who intends to teach).

It is the voter who demands to be heard (not the politician who intends to tell).

It is the innocent who longs to be free (not the hypocritical who intends to justify).

It is the oppressed who yearns to be equal (not the the powerful who intends to explain).

It matters so much whose perspective we take.

It matters so much who is the subject of the sentence.

It matters so much whose intent we seek to buttress.

It matters so much that we choose the side of justice.

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A big crunch and a big bang

I managed Newtonian physics OK, the stuff you do in high school, but I gave it up before I got to quantum mechanics. I rather suspect that is the same for most psychologists. Around us, our understanding of the world is changing and I wonder whether psychology is keeping up.

Neil Turok, of Cambridge University, won a TED prize this week for his work in mathematical physics and his parallel work setting up the Africa Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town. Neil was born in South Africa and grew up in exile (is that fair) in East Africa and the UK. So I am motivated to ‘have a go’ and see how much I understand of what he has to say and how it relates to us.

The beginning

Most of us have heard of the big bang. But the problem with the big bang is, what happened before the big bang. Where did the big bang come from?

No beginning

The new theory is that big bangs happen cyclically. They come and go like growth and contraction in an economy. And the big bang is the good part, the part where we expand and be different.

Big bangs are preceded by big crunches, the part signally the end of a phase of contraction in the universe.

Our beginning

So how does this affect us? Is a big crunch imminent? Not as far as I know. As I understand it, we are living in phase when things will go on much as we know them, at least in the grand order of things.

But we may think differently perhaps about our own lives.

A cyclical view of the world considers it quite normal to have good stages in life and bad. To have seasons which are not associated simply with good when you are young and bad when your are old. Bad necessarily precedes good and is therefore one and the same thing. If you want to know how new that idea is in the west, try writing it down in your own words and citing movies and books that illustrate the idea.

A cyclical view of the world suggests that there are many possible futures. We know that. But in psychology we have been trained to predict, in a Newtonian way. If we have these conditions at this time, that is NOW, then this will happen in a few minutes, in an hour, or NEXT. We’ve predicated a whole industry on making these predictions, and possibly a second on promising the world we make them a lot better than we do.

That we have many possible futures means that from HERE and NOW, there are many different routes that we can follow to many different places. Yes, says the classically trained psychologist, but to which one and which one is ‘best’.

To exploit the new model, we don’t ask that question. We ask what are the routes we can follow. Lets just write down the possible routes. Let’s just do that task of showing all the possible ways forward.

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