flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘action

Leaving adolescence

It’s interesting when we start to take control of our lives.  We make a plan.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.  And we resign ourselves to being powerless.

Encountering adulthood

Then we get a bit older and we resolve to make things work.  And we do. When a plan threatens to come apart, we jump around and keep it altogether.  And feel very good for it.

Muddling through middle age

It’s only much later that we realize that we weren’t really keeping things together. We were feeling better. We were exploring other stories about ourselves in the world.

Not confronting the experiences of middle age

I see the converse too.  I know people who are brilliant at retelling a story as if the world does it’s bidding.  They can’t countenance a notion that sometimes the world really is not on your side.

They’ve never made the transition from that early stage of needing to be in control.  They’ve just learned to divert their strong need to be in control to a story that convinces .  .   . well, them.  It doesn’t convince anyone else. They are still aiming to feel better and they are willing to pervert reality to regain that feeling.

Living honestly with our lack of control

I can’t believe that this self-deception is a good thing.  Misreading the world is dangerous.  The world simply doesn’t do our bidding.

Our best bet is to position ourselves in the river and go with the current, steering lightly but not fighting.   It’s tough though. I still don’t like being washed along.  I have to reverse attitudes I worked so hard to learn.

But maybe I can achieve more through inaction?

There!  I still want to achieve.  Maybe by promising myself that prize, I can experiment with inaction and simply enjoy the river in all its tumultus chaos?

I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone

enough

to truly consecrate the hour.

I am much too small in this world, yet not small

enough

to be to you just object and thing,

dark and smart.

I want my free will and want it accompanying

the path which leads to action;

and want during times that beg questions,

where something is up,

to be among those in the know,

or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,

never be blind or too old

to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.

I want to unfold.

Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;

for there I would be dishonest, untrue.

I want my conscience to be

true before you;

want to describe myself like a picture I observed

for a long time, one close up,

like a new word I learned and embraced,

like the everyday jug,

like my mother’s face,

like a ship that carried me along

through the deadliest storm.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The Power Of One

One song can spark a moment,

One flower can wake the dream.

One tree can start a forest,

One bird can herald spring.

One smile begins a friendship,

One handclasp lifts a soul.

One star can guide a ship at sea,

One word can frame the goal.

One vote can change a nation,

One sunbeam lights a room.

One candle wipes out darkness,

One laugh will conquer gloom.

One step must start each journey,

One word must start each prayer.

One hope will raise our spirits,

One touch can show you care.

One voice can speak with wisdom,

One heart can know what’s true.

One life can make the difference,

You see, IT’S UP TO YOU!

Author Unknown

A Psychologist’s View of the The Power of One

Powerlessness

Most people who consult a psychologist feel powerless, or at least overwhelmed by circumstances.  They don’t want to hear about the power of one!  First, they want simply to be heard.  They want to be acknowledged and not feel foolish for feeling powerless.  Then ideally they want the power of many.  They want the circumstances fixed ~ now!  Of course, that’s the psychologist’s job:  to help put their predicament in perspective and to stay withe them until they are willing to move forward again.

Portfolio workers

Increasingly though, work & organizational psychologists help people who run portfolio careers. Portfolio workers often consult us when they are feeling powerless, or unappreciated!  The reality though is that they have massive power.  In a sense, each person works in a niche.  In reality, they work at the nexus of a great network.  Everything they do, or don’t do, potentially makes a massive difference to the world.

Portfolio workers are the new bosses

There are many things that frustrate us and on which we voice an opinion in the pub or on a blog.  In the ‘olden days’, solving those problems would be in the gift of a ‘boss’.  In our interconnected world, we can do anything about anything.  Because we are so powerful now, we need to take the responsibility of ‘bosses’ on our shoulders.

Are we ready to change the world?

Do we really want to solve the problem in the way we say?  Have we thought about the side-effects?  Are we willing to take responsibility for the side effects?

We have become so powerful that the fun of complaining in the pub is over for us!

And use our influence wisely?

What we really have to do is to list all the changes in the world that we want to see.  Put them in order of importance.  Become sufficiently expert to understand the ripples that we will cause and the costs of our solution to other people.  And do it.

The interconnnected world is also a moral world.  Sitting around complaining when you have the power to act marks us as parasites.  But action requires moral accountability.

Are we willing to be accountable for the small things we do, and not do?

On Commitment

Goethe

Until one is committed there is always hesitancy,

the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness,

there is one elementary truth,

the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision,

Raising to one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings

And material assistance which no man could have dreamed

Would come his way.

A tsunami is on its way but we are sleeping through it

I’ve done that actually, slept through a tsunami warning, but I am not talking about waves here. I am talking about the massive changes taking place in the world.  The financial crisis is just the beginning.  The financial crisis is the tremor under deep water that sets off a tsunami of social change.

Intuitive people “get it” first

I have a good intuitive brain.  Many times in my life, I’ve realized that something is all wrong.  But I have stopped to persuade others rather than just “get out”.  I am happy that I am a team player and I am happy that I am loyal and generous.  Sometimes in this life though, patient explanations are not going to “do it”.

There are two important reasons why people don’t listen to warnings from *N**

  • When we stop to explain, we signal to people that we don’t mean what wesay.  People read body language more than they listen to words.  When we stay, they stay.  Sadly, they don’t read our actions as solidarity.  They hear our words as hot air.
  • People who are *S**, rather than *N** [Myers-Briggs], attend to “what is” not “what may be”.  They look around and they don’t see that their comfortable life is about to disappear.  They see a comfortable life.   Our sense of the future is contradicted by tangible facts and frankly we look like fools.  To communicate with *S**, who usually outnumber *N**, we must show concrete proof.  We must find a way of turning out intuitions into something they can smell, feel, touch, taste.

What to do when a tsunami is approaching

When we sense a tsunami is approaching, I’m afraid there is no point in hanging about the beach telling people to get dressed and head for the hills.  What we have to do is

  • Get up
  • Pack up very visibly
  • Head to the hills

We mustn’t slink off.  We must be visible.  But we mustn’t stop to debate or explain.  We must simply walk the talk.  Say briefly and clearly, “A tsunami is coming.  I am going to high ground.”  If they look interested, say “Carry this!”  Whatever you do, don’t give them something essential.  Give them something useful that you could leave behind if they dither and don’t start walking.   Don’t stop.  Don’t look back!   If your best friends stay to continue the party, that’s a shame, but ultimately their choice.  Walk, and keep walking.  Now!

Why I am talking? The tsunami is coming!

Head for higher ground!

As a rule of thumb, if the place you are in is all too easy, all too lazy, all “too right”,  and most importantly “all too exclusive”, you are on the beach!  Head for higher ground!

Imagine the place where the tsunami will not reach.  Imagine who and what is not going to move.  That will be beach.  Leave that beach, now!

Imagine the higher ground, pack up visibly and walk.  Don’t look back.

Hat-tip:  This post was inspired by this very long post by Graeme Codrington.  It is dedicated to all the *N** of the world and particularly those who work as strategic planners for large corporations.

A good year ago I jotted down these three quotations.  Then I abandoned the draft. Now I am tidying up my blog, I wonder, what was going through my mind that day.

David Whyte on the willfulness of the world

“And I thought this is the good day you could meet your love, this is the black day someone close to you could die”.

~ David Whyte from The House of Belonging in River Flow, p. 7.

Was I thinking about the essential unknow-ability of the world and importance of living in the world as it unfolds and both tempts us and taunts us?

Goethe on the universe conspiring to help us

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

~ Goethe

Was I thinking about the need to be active and the magic that happens when we cross the Rubicon and move towards irrevocably towards what we want?

Isaac Newton on following our dreams in the large world around us

I don’t know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

~ Isaac Newton

Was I thinking about the impossibility of understanding the universe yet finding a corner within it where we live our lives heroicly and magnificently?

What sense was I making about mindfulness and action?

Did I come to the conclusion that world likes us to engage quite forthrightly following our interests yet understanding that others will be doing so too? Did I come to the conclusion that life promises us nothing yet demands our full attention?  Did I come to the conclusion that we will always be significant yet what we do is important?

Did I come to the conclusion that is OK to ask and the world loves us for it? Did I come to the conclusion that it is OK to be small ~ we all are?

What was I thinking that day?

Some days we wake up determined

Today, I woke up with things to do – all the things that somehow never made it on to today’s to do list.  Do you ever have one of those days?

Crossing the Rubicon

In psychology, we call it “crossing the Rubicon”.  The Rubicon is a river in north Italy.  Ceasar sat the wrong side of it with his troops and knew that the day he crossed over, he would be declaring war on Rome and that there would be no going back.

Rubicons in our lives

We have many Rubicons in our lives.  Going to university, getting married, buying a house.  We have many “once only actions” through which we are changed forever.

The public and the personal

Some of these are obvious and we often mark them with a public celebration. Some are personal.  We know that we personally have crossed a Rubicon.

The everyday

And some are just everyday ~ we go from wish to intent and get on with action.

Crossing the Rubicon is not all good

We can be a little bit of a menace in the “crossing the Rubicon” mood ~ because we are so determined to get something done.  We might also be short-tempered and impatient with others.

But get things done, we do!

Crossing the Rubicon – that moment when vague wish becomes determined intent.

This week, The Economist said something shocking: Departing bank bosses weren’t venal, they were useless.

My thoughts exploded like a box of fireworks meeting an accidental match.

Why do the English smirk quietly at the “cock up” theory of management?

Why is it that the English assume that it is better to be an incompetent boss than a competent thief?

I think – I may be wrong – that we think incompetence does not imply disloyalty. “He is really on our side after all”.

But, is “cocked up” management loyal?

But, is rubbish management loyal – to you and me?  I want you to follow this argument.

“Bank bosses” aren’t “the boss.” They have bosses above them, who in English law are called the Board of Directors. The Bank bosses are employees. So why did the boss’ boss allow him (or her) to be incompetent, consistently, over a long period of time.

The inescapable conclusion, sadly, is that they don’t care about managers do to us.  That is why I prefer a competent thief.  They were never on my side.  They didn’t pretend to be.

An incompetent manager, and worse a whole chain of incompetent managers from bottom to the very top, hurts me 3x over.

#1  I suffer from their bad management. The company loses money and we lose our jobs.

#2  I am bullied into following bad working practices on their say-so.

#3  Everything I do is tainted by their incompetence.  Instead of working on what works, we work on what doesn’t work and it backwashes through the system distorting promotions, training, selection, recruitment, education.  The end point is that we have nothing to show for our efforts and we detest each other.

When the boss’ boss says incompetence is OK, provided you are a mate of mine, there is loyalty, but it is not to us.  We should be shocked.  Deeply.

Do you trust your employer any more?

The Economist might be vaguely amused by it all, but fortunately, the people have noticed.  Elsewhere, in the same issue or within a week, The Economist reported that the tables have turned and fewer than 1 in 4 people trust their employers.

I am heartened.

Rants are pointless.  What are we going to do?

I hate ranting.  When I am irritated,  I like to work through it and come up with a plan of action.

This is what I am going to do.

#1  Stop relying on chains-of-command to know best

Writer, Paolo Coelho, tweets.  If you are on Twitter, follow him.  It is him, not a ghost writer. Yesterday, he put out a Confucious Clone:  Only a fool follows the crowd.  Wise people make up their own minds.  If I am involved in something, I want to know what is going on.  I want to see the accounts.  I want to know that I can ask questions.  And I want answers.  Or, I depart.

#2  Audit my filters

I will never know or understand everything and like everyone else, when I am a “noobe”, I rely on my friends’ judgements.  But the more filters I understand, the better.  Each month, I will take one filter that is important to me, and systematically research the questions I should be asking about say, the fuel that goes in my car, the milk I drink, or the way the local town council is elected.  I won’t wait for a crisis before I start to think.  I’ll do my upgrades systematically.

#3  Celebrate trust

And then I will celebrate trust.

Not mindlessly.  I’ll actively recommend what works and tell people the criteria I use.  They’ll gain from my filters and I’ll gain from their feedback.  (I’ve found when I tell people why I trust someone, they tell me why they do, or don’t, as the case may be.)

I’ll learn more – but that goes under #2.  My real goal will be to spread trust – to celebrate that we have something to trust and to learn to trust trust again.

What I want from The Economist

And from The Economist, I would like to see some better reporting.  I appreciate the writing, but for wit I can go to Radio 4.  From The Economist, I want information that leads to action.

I don’t want to hear gossip about the ‘good and the famous’.  I really don’t care.  I don’t do the celebrity thing.

Having lived in a country that was prone to bragging to the point they would brag about being modest, I learned an important distinction between bragging and celebration.  Bragging says look at me – but when you try to join in, you get knocked back.  Celebration is an invitation.

I want my news organized for action.  Tell me something I can do something about.  Don’t erode my trust further by pretending something is OK when it darned well isn’t!

The lottery of Stumbleupon may have delivered an article on “luckiness”. Today, my fingers typed zero zero instead of OO and Launchy retrieved something dubious from the depths of my computer – a post modernist view of management.

Rants that pretend to have substance

Yes, I read that sort of thing, so you don’t have to – and just in case the author knows something we don’t.

I read a little of the article as I tried to figure out what I was looking at and how it came to be on my screen. I found a rant.

In short, Nike pays Tiger Woods as much per day as you or I earn in a year. And more than one of their workers earns in a lifetime. The writer was disgusted. I am sure the writer is correct – factually and morally.

But, when I looked more closely, I thought the pot was calling the kettle black. First, there was the rant. Then, there was some obscure theorizing. The author plainly didn’t see the his argument could be applied to him.  He lives in the West very well.   How many people around the world support his lifestyle with their poverty?

So, I wondered, what is a morally acceptable position?

I think we have to put our money where our mouth is.

Shouldn’t we be honest about what we will fight for and what we are trying to win – at least to ourselves?  Don’t we have to fight for the right we talk about?  Don’t we have to get out there and fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the people we champion?  Don’t we have to risk as much as they do?

Isn’t anything less hypocritical?

My 4 rules of a honest life

#1 It seems to me that as I cannot do everything with everyone, I should choose what I will do with whom, and join them, winning with them and losing with them.

#2 I think I have to tell the story from our own side.  Who did this post-modernist represent as he stood in his Western classroom?  I don’t know.  But I’d better know whom I am representing when I stand there!

#3 I need a clear goal.  And I prefer to be able to say it aloud in other people’s hearing.  I like to think through what the people who pay for my goal will have to say about it.  Not the people who pay me – the people who pay for my good fortune.  Will I be fleeing with them at my heels?  I don’t say this out of cowardice.  I am happy to annoy people if I believe in what I am doing.  But I am not going to pretend that my goals have no impact on other people.  Let me be clear about the inconvenience and upset that I cause.

#4 And not least, I need to respect that other people will pursue their goals equally vigorously.  To expect them to do anything less is crazy.  I may need to defend my projects from theirs.  If I find their projects totally unacceptable, I might feel compelled to stop them.  And I might get hurt in my efforts.   That’s why diplomacy is the preferred first strategy.   Perverting Clausewitz- war is just diplomacy continued through other means.

Player or spectator?

But just to rant?  Not for me.  I talk and write to figure out what I think, so that I can act.  I prefer to be a player.  Always have.

I very consciously chose to teach in Universities and to do consultancy because in these roles I am a line manager. I know that neither look like action to you!  But I am a psychologist, so it is in these roles that I run a business. I set the direction. I allocate resources. I solve problems. I am accountable for the outcomes. I couldn’t bear a role with no responsibility.

But that is my preference. What is yours? Are you a player?

Front-loading washer machine.
Image via Wikipedia

I’ll be the last person so say that setting goals is easy – my life over the last 10 years has been as tumultuous as the life of a sock in a half-empty washing machine.

When we have to take a major turn in life – when we leave school, when we change career midstream, when we move countries – it is easy to feel utterly disoriented.

But it is undeniable that the day we stop dithering, the day we stop saying “I could do this, or I could do that”, when the humming and hawing ends, we lurch forward, taking ourselves, most of all, by surprise.

So how do we get from confusion to this state of goal clarity?

Shame – bad news – by hard work.

But take heart from my story of setting goals which dovetails oddly with positive psychology.

A long time ago, in my university lecturing days, in more stable and optimistic times, I was asked by a major multinational, whom you all make profitable on a regular basis, to be on a panel interviewing students for scholarships.

The company executive, who chaired the panel, asked every applicant the same question: what are the three things that you want out of life?

After the 10th candidate or so, I answered the question for myself:

  • I like to achieve.
  • I like to belong to something bigger than myself.
  • I like to have some comfort and style but I will sacrifice this for the other two.

So, I was somewhat amazed, some twenty years later, when my life had taken on the semblance of a sock in a half-empty washing machine, to learn that this is the scaffolding Martin Seligman suggests for positive psychology.

  • An engaged life.
  • A meaningful life.
  • A pleasurable life.

Seligman seems to think that most people waste too much time pursuing a surfeit of pleasure. I am not sure we do. I am not sure we spend most of our time pursuing pleasure, or do it very well.   But that is another story.

When we need to shrug off goal confusion and achieve goal clarity

It’s best to cut our goals down to 3, or at most 5, because that is all we can remember without looking up a list.

This three-fold schema is a good starting point.

  • The order of importance will be yours – there are 6 possible orders.
  • The weighting you give to each ‘life’ will vary – whether you go stark raving mad without it, or you would give it up for the others.
  • And the content will vary.

I’ve had to do some hard work rethinking what I want out of life in entirely new circumstances.

  • The order changed for me.  Meaning went up to No 1.  Pleasure went up to No 2.  And Engagement came in at No 3.
  • The weighting changed for each too. Order and weighting are intertwined a little.
  • The content changed slightly.  More on finding your content another day.

Achieving goal clarity for yourself

If you find yourself ‘humming and hawing’ and don’t have that sense of forward movement that comes of goal clarity, begin here.

  • What do you think about the three types of life?

And help me out a little:  Is it possible to think about these three lives beginning from the abstract principle?

That would be helpful for me to know, as I already thought that way before I heard the abstract principles.

More another day – probably on Wednesday!

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