flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘mytho-poetic tradition

Psychology blossomed in the noughties

Positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, and mytho-poetic tradition are well understood and taught in psychology and management classrooms in all corners of the world.

But we need a name

Paradoxically though, the technical names for these fields are relatively unintelligible to lay people. If there is anything we want to achieve in this field, it is to be intelligible to ordinary people.

Would personal leadership do as name?

Eventually, I settled on the term personal leadership.

We are concerned about styles of leadership that are personal.  What I do, for example is not strictly relevant to what you do.  And what I do today, has little bearing on what is relevant tomorrow.

And does the name contribute to our understanding?

Having described the rationale of this new field in these words, is it truly a discipline that belongs in the professions?

How can this definition of leadership generate a theory that is useful in practice? After all, if what is relevant today and is not relevant tomorrow, what use is that theory?

We have an ontological challenge

The difficulty is less in the epistemology, that is in the way we study leadership, than in the ontology, the nature of leadership.

We used to think of leadership as something we do.

Now we look at ourselves in context. Our unit of analysis, as researchers say, is “ourself in context”.

What are the practical implications of defining leadership as ourselves in context?

We don’t exist when we don’t see

David Whyte refers to attention. “When my eyes are tired the world is tired also”. We are our habits of attention. We are what we attend to. We are our capacity to pay attention.  When our way is lost, we find ourselves by paying attention. By becoming mindful and “touching and feeling” what is around us.

The big change in our understanding of leadership

Who we are is not what we do repeatedly and well.

Who we are is our frontier. Who we are is the place where we are curious about the world. Who we are is the frontier we cannot ignore.

Paradoxically, often when we feel tired, it is not because we are at our frontier, it is because we are not. We are not at a place where we are confronting the unknown carried by the energy of compulsive curiosity.

Leadership is not a spectator sport

We feel alive when we are in a place where “we want to know”. We are leaders when our curiosity about a situation leads us to ask questions. We are leaders when our compulsive curiosity asks questions which holds a mirror up to a situation.

We are leaders when our questions allow people to ask their questions.

How can we understand leadership in a way that allows us to share knowledge?

This question has two goals.

#1  What is the knowledge I can share?

There are many ways of sharing knowledge and we know stories are much more effectual than dry statistics answering questions that were unlikely from the outset to produce a practically significant answer.

We also know that knowledge is also more likely to be absorbed when people trust the presenter – when the presenter shares the journey of the students.

#2  What can I charge for my knowledge?

And probably more important is the heretical question of what can we charge for our knowledge. How can we claim and sustain status for our knowledge?

It is this question that personal leadership answers. We share knowledge not because we are right, but because we are willing to share in the gains and losses of a decision.

It is here that the field of personal leadership enters into the spirit of our age. Authority comes from being willing to share the gains and losses of a decision.

Are we so curious about the people we are with that they are willing to be changed by them ~ without notice and without guarantee?

That is knowledge to be passed on. Am I willing to act with you right now?

Where is your frontier?

Where are the places in your life where you are trying something new and where you know neither the rules and the outcome?

Why those places?  And where are the places that you don’t want to try?

One frontier at a time

I think that like good Generals we can only have one frontier at once.  By their nature, frontiers are scary and ask for all our attention.  Maybe we can have one-and-a-half frontiers – one serious one and one hobby.

Which frontiers are become possible?

More interesting are the frontiers that terrify us.  Aren’t those worth looking at again?  Maybe we can edge towards what we couldn’t contemplate last year.

What terrifies you?  Of this list, which might be quite long, which might you actually want to make your frontier for 2010?  Your frontier where you know neither the rules nor the outcome?  (Breath and breath out slowly!)

I think I will go to bed thinking about the frontiers that frighten me!

Luck – some people have it!

A few days ago, Stumbleupon quite appropriately threw up an old Telegraph article on Richard Wiseman’s work on luck, or luckiness.

Quite briefly, Wiseman showed in an experiment that unlucky people have tunnel vision. They are so focused on what they want that they miss good stuff happening under their noses.

More interestingly, Wiseman ran a ‘luck school’ and helped luckier people get luckier and unlucky people become lucky.

The ‘luck school’ is hard to find

I’ve searched and searched but I cannot find the Wiseman’s exercises Nor has the work developed much traction under Google Scholar. It seems that Wiseman is breaking his first principle of luck – get out there.

Firewalls, copyright, hopes for a bob or two from a book sale, consigns interesting work to oblivion.

Failing in my search for what Wiseman actually did, I reverted to first principles – in plain language, worked it out for myself. Reinvented the wheel!

Luck & positive psychology

Since Wiseman did his work, positive psychology, positive organizational scholarship and the mytho-poetic tradition in management have burst into bloom. So I’ll start there. Does Wiseman’s work add to what we know about having a good life?

#1 Wiseman talks about self-fulfilling prophecies, which are devastatingly powerful ,as we know from Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. When you are treated like a lady, you act like a lady. We are immensely influenced by 0ther people’s expectations of us. And we are also influenced by our expectations, when we believe them.

Simply put, it’s a good idea to work on our story and to write down the best one that we can believe in. And then write it again, and again. As we live out the best one that we believe in, we’ll create opportunities that allow us to imagine another, and then another!

#2 Psychologists are wizards at ‘reframing’. That’s what most psychologists do for you when you have a bad case of the blues. You can teach yourself to reframe too. That’s what a gratitude diary does. I stumbled over a permutation of the conventional gratitude by playing with the Montreal app Inpowr.

This is what you do. Jot down what happened in your ghastly day and ask what went wrong – just as you normally do.  Remonstrate with yourself – why did I . . . etc. etc. etc. When you are done beating yourself up, ask yourself what you will do better next time. Great. That’s where most coaches take you.

Now fly! Ask yourself this: why did I do so well? You are not saying you did well, but why did you do  well? And then you notice the positive mechanisms that were jumbled up in the mess. You’ll feel better immediately andsee your ‘pushing off’ points in a flash. A good night’s sleep, and you approach the next day positively.

#3 Psychologists, and even more so positive organizational scholars and mytho-poetic practitioners, also encourage us to think through our story.  What brought us to this place?  What is the road we are travelling?  What is our journey?  We are often in tizz because we feel rejected. Bad events challenge our sense of self-worth.  When we recall our journey and see the hazards as part of that journey, then we put them in perspective. Yes, the situation is bad. The situation is bad. We are not. If we have done bad things, we can make amends. But we should never, ever confuse the bad situation with ourselves. We should also watch out for people who try to confuse us with the situation. People who are insecure in themselves think because we are confronting bad situations that we are unlucky and edge away from us.   Reassure them. Then, see if they come to help. If they don’t, fine. Every journey includes people who help and people who obtruct!

In short, we chose the story we live. Something brought us to this place. We must own our story that led us to encounter the bad stuff, but not the bad stuff itself.  That’s just bad.

#4 And then get out there! We can’t win the lottery if we aren’t in it. If we meet the same people every week, we cannot meet anyone new. The trick in life is to add a little variety and chance to our daily comings-and-goings. We can take a different route home. Or, sit in a different carriage. Or, travel at a different time. We can talk to people in a queue or to our neighbours on the street. We can take a walk at lunchtime or do something uncharacteristic – go to a museum, buy lunch for a homeless person. Mix it up, a little.

This too is a feature of the positive approach to psychology in this way. Just as we are not bad because the situation is bad, we are not good in and of ourselves either. We are our interactions with the world. Our life is situated in those interactions. If our relationship with the world has got stale and boring, then we can give it a quick fluff up as we might a cushion. Now remember, don’t give the world a fluff up, and don’t give yourself a fluff up – give your interactions with the world a fluff up!. That is why makeovers are so cheap and easy to do. A smile rather than a frown. A different route to work. A quick polish of the glass after you washed it. Little acknowledgements that the world is there.

Poet David Whyte says: when our eyes are tired, no part of the world can find us. Relax your eyes and let them wander. You will be amazed at who & what says hello.

Luck is more than positive psychology

What does seem to be different about the work on luck is its attention to variation.

So much of western psychology tries to remove variation from life. We are expected to walk in lock-step like soldiers on parade. We are taught that mistakes are bad. We demand punctuality (yet we have inefficient transport and we lose data on trains).

Everyone who has studied stats knows that we look at two numbers : the average (or mid-point) and the spread.

If we just attend to the average, we would be like an army that buys the average size boots and asks every soldier to wear them whether they are much too big or much too small.

There is an old joke too that armies line up the recruits on the first day and send away the tallest and the shortest – because they didn’t buy uniforms in those sizes.

When an army does that they have recognised that they have variation – but they are still trying to make variation go away.

There is an alternative. To ask how variety will work for us. That is what we can learn from the work on luck.

Our personal goals and stories should embrace the richness of the world, and the variety out there. Our personal goals and stories should embrace what we don’t know and the way other people can surprise us.

A colleague of mine, a British/Norwegian psychologist, trained executives to listen to presentations and to hold back their reactions until they had asked these questions:

  • What surprised me about what you just said?
  • What would I like to know more about?

Once they’d explored disconcerting events or requests, then they could make decision.

Slow down, and put your finger on the luck, before you rush off again?

It’s barely daylight

Today, my mobile phone woke me rudely “It is time to get up: it is 5.30”.  Groan.  Another commute.  Another day.

But I didn’t get up.  I’ve stopped doing that.

I don’t want to stagger through life making someone else’s dreams come true.  I want to make my own dreams come true!

Ah, dreams  . .

Is it possible?  For dreams to be not dreams?

Perhaps not in the blink of an eye.  And certainly not if I panic when I look at the gap between where I am now and where I want to be.

But I can ask myself this question:

Who would like to support me in my quest?  Who would take the greatest of pleasure in helping me along the way?

I smile.  And I hope you do too!

In the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in the dark wood where the true way was wholly lost.

Dante in the Inferno

Mid-life crises, sudden loss, tragedies, and world-wide financial crises are certainly different in degree, and different in content.  But they have one thing in common.

They are unpleasant to experience.  We feel that we have lost our way.  And we have a vague yet pervasive feeling that there isn’t a way and that we were mistaken to believe that there is.

David Whyte, British corporate poet, explores this experience in poetry and prose, and uses stories and poems about his own life to illustrate the rediscovery of our sense of direction, meaning and control.

Using his ideas and the ideas of philosophers and poets before him, we are able to refind our balance, and live through the financial crisis, meaningfully and constructively.

Come with me!

David Whyte has a 2 disk CD, MidLife and the Great Unknown.

If you get a copy of his CD, I will listen to it with you.  And we can discuss it online?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance & the financial crisis

Over the last one -and-a-quarter years, since the run on Northern Rock, I’ve been making a concerted effort to understand the credit crunch, the financial crisis and the recession.  The nature of understanding big, bad events is that we are so busy trying to understand them that we have little time to reflect.

Typically, we follow a five stage process.

  • First, we deny the crisis either saying “I’m OK – it doesn’t affect me” or conversely ranting “This can’t be happening.”
  • Then we move on to anger, when we are quite clear we are not to blame and that someone else such as politicians and bankers should be punished for getting us in to our mess.
  • When we are a bit further along, we work out what will stay the same in our lives and what we can can cut out.
  • The next stage is to resign ourselves to our mess dragging on for twenty years or so,  and we are actually secretly relieved because if the mess is that big, there is nothing you and I, ordinary Joe citizen, can do about it.
  • And eventually we begin to dig beneath the surface of the crisis and, in this case, set about upgrading our financial know-how and skills.

Where are you?  And where are the people around you?

My job as a psychologist

I have a page where I store good, accessible explanations of how we got into the financial crisis and I will expand it to include the financial know-how that you and I should have.

Being a psychologist though, I think it is my job to bring to your attention key psychological ideas that equip you for understanding the recession and the ways we react to it.

  • The first psychological idea in this post is described in the at the beginning.  We often respond to bad news in five rough stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  We go through these stages when we hear of the sudden death of a loved one.  And we are going through similar stages as we get our heads around the idea that our financial system has been subject to a the equivalent of a major earthquake.
  • The second psychological idea in this post is that objective knowledge matters.  Positive psychology emphasizes that our attitude to a problem makes a big difference.  It does, and I will return to that in other posts.   But objective information matters too.  It is foolish to pretend that a large box isn’t heavy.  We are much better off when we understand the principle of levers.  We do need to take charge of our education about the financial system.  We clearly did not understand it well enough to play our role as informed voters, wise buyers and sellers of stocks and shares, and savvy consumers of mortgages and credit cards.
  • The third psychological idea is the one I wanted to highlight today because I think it will be key to the mental housekeeping required to come to terms with the recession.

In the west, we have a weird idea that time is linear

Of course, we ‘know’ that yesterday was before today and today comes before tomorrow.  Unfortunately our separation of time into yesterday, today and tomorrow, has some peculiar side effects.   This works in two ways.

  • In good times, we spend like mad and rack up debt.   We take ‘Carpe Diem‘ or ‘seize the day’ far too far.   Tomorrow features insufficiently in our thinking about today, and when tomorrow comes, we are in a mess.
  • Equally, in bad times, we look ahead, see a diminished tomorrow, and we feel dejected.  In short, we bring tomorrow far too much into today.

This inability to act appropriately in time is an inability to ‘give unto Ceasar’ or to accept that ‘for everything there is a season’.  The net effect is that we enjoy life a lot less.  We also rack up unhealthy deficits and one day we wake up very disappointed with our lives and where we have taken ourselves.

And then we are into the five stage process I described at the outset. This cannot be happening. It is not my fault.  OK, I will compromise.  Oh, this is impossible.  And then ultimately: OK, I’d better get on and understand this.

Are you acquainted with philosopher Alan Watts?

At the end of this post is a video presentation, about 3 minutes long, that accompanies the late English philosopher, Alan Watts, talking about the way we confuse time.

He begins “you get into kindegarten, then you get into first grade  .  .   .”  And ends, life “was a musical thing and you were supposed to dance or sing while the music was being played”.

Do watch it!

I grew up in a competitive culture so this resonated with me.  I have long protested that we should let 3 year olds be 3, and 18 years olds be 18.  Preparing for the next year is part of a 3 year old’s experience but it is not all of their task.  And being 3 should never be dreary.  Nor should being 84!

Recessions are simply part of life

Like preparing for a test or examination, they are there to be enjoyed (!) along with all the other activities that come at the same stage.

It takes time to work through the five stages of our reaction to bad news.  And we work through at different paces.  So we need to be patient with ourselves and each other.  But we also do need to resolve not to become stuck at any stage.

We may be in for a long and difficult time in this financial crisis.  What I am suggesting is that we sing and dance to the music nonetheless!

Come with me!

Here is the link to this great presentation accompanying Alan Watts.  Do enjoy it and have a good weekend!  There is a season for everything!

Enhanced by Zemanta
Map of Botswana
Image via Wikipedia

Have you read The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency?  Or did you see its premiere on BBC1 last Easter Sunday?

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is that – the first detective agency run by a woman – and its novelty is that this series of detective stories is set in contemporary Botswana.

The star of the series, Patience Ramotswe is a heroine, with a large heart, but she is no superwoman.   She is famously ‘traditionally built’ and has few pretensions.  She runs her detective agency on the basis of one “how to” book, and has no particularly skills.   She dislikes telephones, and drives with her handbrake on.

Jill Scott’s  plays Patience Ramotswe in the BBC series.  Ian Wylie quotes Scott’s description of her character:

“She believes in justice and she loves her country.   . . She’s a real woman who has experienced the loss of a child, being heartbroken with her first marriage, but decided that life is so much better, that there’s so much more than those particular heartaches.”

The series of books are written by Alexander McCall Snith and are available from a library or book shop near you!  Fabulous reading but do read them in order as the lives of the characters unfold.  No 1 Ladies . .  is the first in the series.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Пробка на Космодомианской набережной в Москве.

Catch 22! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Have you ever been caught in a situation where you cannot move forwards and you cannot move backwards? It is like getting caught in a traffic jam. If you barge forward, you won’t be popular, and you won’t succeed. If you do nothing, nothing will change.

Chill?

Now sometimes, we do have to ‘sit tight’. The police are on their way and they will clear the jam bit by bit. It is best to chill.

Or change one thing at a time ~ strategically?

But sometimes that isn’t the choice. Sometimes if we sit and do nothing, that is where we will stay.

But what if there are cars to the left of us and cars to the right of us; cars ahead and cars behind. What can we do?

Obviously, we have to start just like the police will: with one car at a time. And we have to be strategic.

Remember those kids games?

Did you have one of those games when you were a kid ~ they had 8 squares in a 9 square space and you had to move them around? And at first it looked as if there was no solution?

That is what we have to do: unravel the situation like those games.  Move one square at a time. Patiently, and strategically.

This is easier said than done though, particularly when our emotions are involved.

Kids’ games prepared us for life

Corporate poet, David Whyte writes about a cyclical pattern in our lives where we come periodically to a place which is ‘a traffic jam’. Our task, in such times, is to find the smallest possible thing to ease, not just ourselves, but everyone around us, out of the impasse.

I have picked FIVE quotations from David Whyte’s poems to illustrate the process.

1. The beginning. “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you” (Sweet Darkness)


2. The call. “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)


3. Reawakening. “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)

4. The departure. “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)


5. Begin the conversation. “”Your great mistake is to act the dream as it you were alone . . . Everybody is waiting for you.” (Everybody Is Waiting For You)

How long will we delay the first step – recognizing that there is a situation to be dealt with?


In more prosaic terms, our first step is always to notice we are in a jam, and rather than bluster and curse, consider the best thing to do about it. It is amazing how often we delay this simple first step.

How long will we take to recognize that the situation is not going away just because we don’t like it?

Our second step is equally as hard. We chose after all to be on the road at that time. We didn’t want this result, but after all, we chose to be here, and when think about it, the jam chose to happen when we were there. The jam is an integral part of us and we are integral part of it. We are part of its story, and it is part of ours.

How long will we take to signal to people around us that we would like the situation resolved?

And it doesn’t get any easier. Are we communicating? Or have we taken it for granted that everyone knows that we want the traffic to flow again? Do they think we are just trying to push in? Are we alert to other people who want the traffic to flow again. And can they recognize us? What is it that we do, or notice, that alerts them to our sense of what is possible?

How long before we imagine in our minds what the resolution would look like?

And are we holding back because it all seems too big? If the traffic were to flow again, what would we all be doing in unison, and what would be our part?

How long before we realize that nothing is moving because everyone is waiting for us?

And who is really holding everything up? Is it us? Is everyone waiting for us, to pay attention?

Is everyone waiting for us, to start the conversation?

Burning out?

Advice from an ‘old hand’ to a ‘new teacher’ whose class got the better of him: in Goodbye Mr Chips, which I watched over the weekend.

“You have some hours before prep starts. Go out. Out there under the sky. Look around. What is the saying? Distance lends enchantment to the view. Go out. Come back refreshed.”

Paulo Coelho offers the same advice. Don’t spend the day looking down. Look to the horizon.

David Whyte has the same advice. Sometimes the answer depends upon a walk around the lake.

Then go out, look out, reach out

Whenever life is bad, look to the horizon. Close your eyes and listen to the furthest sounds that you can hear.

And if you can, do it when you first awake in the morning.  Do it in short 1 minute break at work.  Do it commuting on the way home.

Is that why you pay so much for a house or office with a view?

Enhanced by Zemanta

I discovered Paulo Coelho this year. I am amazed I spent this long on this earth without finding his books.

His stories have mystical settings. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is about a woman and her childhood sweetheart who meet up again in their twenties to make a hard decision: should they get together or should he follow his vocation into a Catholic seminary and a life as charismatic and healer?

All Coelho’s books (I think) have a happy ending, but not a silly ending.   After many trials, the protagonists resolve to take the high road: living in solidarity with this world. These may be mystical stories, but they are neither fantasies nor escapist.

And the trials faced by the characters are never gratuitous. Each in itself offers a perspective on relating to the world and, I think, the tension between commitment and uncertainty.

They are a remarkably “open” read too. He has a light style that draws you into the story. And then releases you from time to time to ponder what he or one of his characters has just said.

Wikipedia describes the book as “a week in the life of someone ordinary to whom something extraordinary happens”. Read it at the end of a long week to ponder extraordinary people who live ordinary lives.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Categories

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Last Twitter

Creative Commons License
All work on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.