Saturday, January 14, 2017

A picture can remind you who you want to be


This is a picture of Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It reminds me of who I want to be when I am tired or stressed or muddled. As I look at it, I begin to feel the sand under my shoes (it's too cold for bare feet) and hear the waves and to breath with the movement of the water and the mist. When I want my thinking to be cool and clear and full of movement, this picture reminds me that I know how to think that way.

It's easy to connect what we see to what we feel because that's how we experience vision. We look at something outside us and the feeling lands in our bones and our breath. If I looked at a picture of me on the beach, I would see the self on the beach as different than the self looking at the picture. When I was on the beach, I wasn't seeing me so seeing me doesn't take me back into the moment as clearly as this picture does. This is what I was seeing when my breath was deep and my stride was comfortable and curious.

The same thing is true of the pictures we draw with our words. We are seldom able to move into a memory by describing ourselves in the way a picture describes us. Instead, we move back into an experience by describing what we were noticing when it happened. Our attention leads us back into the perceptions and feelings of that earlier self. When we you want to recapture an experience from your past, describe it to yourself the way you lived it, not the way you labelled yourself later.

When you need clarity, don't tell yourself to be clear. Tell yourself the story of the time you walked on a cool, windy beach, curious about the way the mist moved to the water.

Monday, January 09, 2017

January: Fresh Start or Tired, Cold and Grumpy?


Sometimes you wake from a deep sleep and for a moment, you don't know where or when you are. If you woke up that way today, what clues in your thoughts and perceptions would let you know that it is January?

As much as we talk as if the holidays leave us energized and eager for the new year, I suspect that's not what most of us experience. I suspect that many of us wake from the holidays feeling a little tired, a little scattered, and ready to be more persistent than inspired. We've probably been through some emotional ups and downs and if we live in Canada (where I'm writing this), it's cold outside and we go to work and return from work in the dark. Even if you love winter sports, winter work is a bit of a hard sell.

If you want fresh energy for a new year, you'll have to work for it. We worked for it this weekend when we sat at the tables above to explore how to learn and adapt. Here are some of the things that made it easier to generate fresh thoughts for this fresh new year:

  • a structured process for thinking (that's what is contained in those handouts)
  • a connection to other people who are ready to work for a fresh start (all those chairs)
  • windows for observing what is real without being defined by it.
Our training room looks across traffic to a park. We always know what the weather is doing and we know how much natural light is available to lift our spirits. The windows ground us in what is real and assure us that what goes on in the room is also real. By acknowledging January, we are able to shift what it means: it's not cold and dark in our room. There's lots of movement and companionship and optimism inside and it's as real as the weather.

But no one landed in our room by accident. We have to choose fresh ideas and fresh energy. They don't come with the calendar.




Friday, December 23, 2016

Give the gift of curious attention

Are you celebrating a holiday that involves the giving of presents?  If you're not, you're still surrounded by the decorations and the advertising and the events.  It's a good time to think about what it takes to give a good gift.

Is a good gift the thing you that someone asks you to give, the thing that they want but won't ask you to give, the surprise they might not know they want until you give it?

Photo Credit: Asenat29, Flickr

Here's the gift that grows all the other good gifts, the gift that changes a hit-and-miss process into a sure thing. It's the gift of curious attention. Giving a present begins in being present. This should be automatic, but we often go a very long time without being curious about the people we love.  We make a lot of assumptions based on how things have always been.

This year, be present to someone and be curious about what they feel and how they think and what matters to them. Think of a time you first met someone who later became a friend or lover. Remember how interesting it was to find out how they saw the world? Hold that feeling while you're talking to an old friend or a parent or child. Wonder about them. Let your curiosity guide them to memories they love but haven't visited for a long time.

Being present to someone in a way that makes them feel strong and interesting and loved is the best present of all.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Begin with the End in Mind

Setting goals is supposed to be a way to begin with the end in mind. But for many people, setting goals is an exercise in making a wish list or taking whatever they did last year and adding a few percent. That's more like ending with the beginning in mind.
Photo credit: Jaynneandd, Flickr
What does "the end" mean to  you? Here are some possibilities:
  • the final part of something
  • a death or termination
  • a goal, purpose or mission
When you begin with the end in mind, you begin by getting to know the future you want to create. Just as you don't know a person just because you know their name, you don't know your future unless you spend some time knowing how it looks and sounds and feels, who it hangs around with, and what actions it inspires you to take.

You don't plan the perfect wedding by hiring the perfect wedding planner. You plan it by knowing how the people, promises and celebration you include will be an ongoing part of your life. A wedding is the beginning of a relationship, not a piece of fine china that you will use only on very special occasions. When you understand that you are using the wedding to build something ongoing, you will have a different checklist for what you need to include.

The same thing is true with career goals. High performers often have a number in mind when it's time to set goals. The number is set with the beginning in mind: it's just a multiple of what they have already achieved. Beginning with the end in mind means knowing what you will be doing and how you will be feeling when you are serving your purpose with better skills or better efforts. Stepping into a full engagement with the future you are building will lead you to set more effective goals because they will be steps on the way to something you want, not steps away from something you already have.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

You're not writing to a computer; you're writing to a person

From time to time, we are all writers. We all post and email and some of us prepare documents to communicate ideas or information. Writing can be a lonely activity: it feels like it's just you and the computer screen. As you try to wrestle your information into words, your vision might close in until there is nothing but you and the screen you are filling with your words.

This is a terrible way to think about writing. Even your personal journal will make a better contribution to your well-being if you look up and around. You are not writing alone: you are writing because you are not alone. Even if the person who will read your writing is another version of you, you are writing so that someone can read what you have written and make sense of the world differently because of it.


If you were writing code for a computer, the computer would carry out your instructions. The interchange might get ugly if you wrote ugly code, but there would be no escalation of bad feelings and bad feelings would not lead to bad judgment. Human readers are very different. Your words inspire a mood or attitude, and that attitude colours their response to the information you present and to whatever response is required of them.

Good writers remember that the mood they inspire in the reader is likely to generate the response they get. They don't wrestle with words: they wrestle with the responses that words or strategies are likely to get from the human readers who will receive them. Their communication is not a flow of words; it's an unfolding interaction where words trigger perceptions and perceptions trigger responses.

There is no content so simple that it cannot alter the mood of the person who reads it. Remembering that your words will trigger a response and that response will trigger the way your ideas are interpreted is the first step towards writing that works better for you.