Showing posts from March, 2007

rituals for ending a week

For some people, the weekend is a chance to escape from work: for some it might be a chance to escape into work. The weekend is not synonymous with time off or time to relax. Families often do more in a weekend than they do in the other five days of the week put together!

There is no necessary value in taking two days away from work each week. There is some value in noticing that weeks (unlike days, or lunar months) are made for people, and require that people make use of them. Whether or not you notice, one day ends and another begins. Whether or not you notice, the moon will go through its phases and the seasons will change. Weeks only change when we allow them to change.

We sometimes work "for weeks on end" and we all remember the endless summers of childhood, when there was no school "for weeks on end." Life flows differently when there is no difference from one day to the next, when weeks don't end and begin but blend into one another in a steady stream. A…

where do you find the best view?

Trying to understand a situation while you're in the middle of it is like trying to navigate in the heart of the city. There's no place that gives you the perspective to understand where you are in terms of where you want to be. There's no place that gives you the perspective to see who you are in terms of the system in which you find yourself.

In the city, you head for a map, or for higher ground. Anyone who has navigated an unfamiliar city with a map will tell you that it is better than trying to find your way around without a map and it is still far from a sure thing. There is something especially satisfying about climbing to higher ground and suddenly seeing relationships that were invisible from ground level.

Often our personal "higher" ground reflects a moral, ethical or disciplined perspective from which to view the particulars of who and where we are. This higher ground can look complicated to other people; to us, it as absolutely clear and complex as a m…

The value of goals

Stephanie at idealawg recently posted on debunking myths about the value of goal-setting ( It's easy to debunk a specific study that seems to have been apocryphal - it's easy to debunk almost any formula or convention. It's harder to ask questions like: why has this myth been so popular? What good has been done by this belief, whether or not it is true?

Have you worked with people who can't set goals because they are frozen or stuck or lost? Have you experienced a time in your ife when you could not look forward and see anything at all? Imagine what it means to someone to have given up on wanting, to have given up on expectation. To some people, it sounds very zen, very higher consciousness. To others, it sounds like giving up on life.

Goals do not always call people into connection and relationship and productivity. Sometimes, under some conditions, they do. It is one of the challenges of people who thi…

is it really this simple?

Today, I listened to a student give a presentation on writing correspondence to customers. He struggled through the formats suggested by his textbook, clearly having little experience on which to hang the information he was presenting to a small group. Afterwards we talked, and I asked questions. He knew that customers want to know you are listening, to feel respected, and to know what you have to say. You want, in return, for them to understand that your decisions (or product offerings) don't come out of thin air. All business is primarily a dialogue between individuals or entities with something to trade.

Why is this a difficult concept? It's quite likely that at some point today you had a business interaction where it was absolutely clear that no one was listening to you. It's quite likely that you said something that went unheard, in part because you yourself were not listening. You wanted to get the message out quickly, and you thought that meant skipping a step. W…

Erickson, psychotherapy and influence

I just finished reading a book on Milton Erickson called "An American Healer." As much as hypnosis pervades the book, it is never central to it. No one says, "Erickson is important because he was really, really good at putting people into trances. Really deep powerful trances." Everyone says some version of 'Erickson believed people were deep and powerful and capable.' Everyone says, Erickson was a genius at working with what was given, whether that meant learning through polio or using the way a client entered the room to draw conclusions about his/her state or experience.

What if hypnosis was not the point, just a tool that Erickson happened to use? What if Erickson is remembered more for the influence he had on a legion of students and thinkers than for the impact of his therapeutic practice? Would that make his work less magical or more influential?

It is as hard for someone who has been influenced by trance to see trance as a tool as it is difficult f…

attention creates self

"I would never again accept anyone's word about anything having to do with my life unless, having examined it from every angle, matched it aginst how it felt in my heart, my gut, my head, I knew it fit my own real feelings, how I viewed life and my own real experiences. I, and nobody else, would determine what my own real experiences were and had been."
Sharon Butala, The Perfection of the Morning

The Perfection of the Morning is one of those works that has lingered in the periphery of my attention. There was a time when I studied Canadian literature avidly, and felt the need to read everything, and yet this book waited for me until now. It is not so much about nature, although nature is often used to categorize it. It is a book about discovering that interest resides not in the quality of the thing observed, but in the quality with which we pay attention to it.

It is no stranger that I should end up teaching NLP than that Sharon Butala should be taught to pay attention by…

agreement: it's fun when two can play

Last night we ran a networking event in which people practiced being in agreement on multiple levels. There was a lot of laughter. People who normally dread speaking found themselves having a really good time. They discovered that interactions based on agreement are naturally energizing. Within an event, everyone wants to play.

The secret to agreement is that most people want to play. Almost everyone you meet will be more comfortable when connected and will be willing to stay connected given the opportunity to connect without violating their outcomes, beliefs or values. Almost everyone is willing to find common ground.

A few people will want you to do all the work. They will tolerate interchanges only as long as they do not have to make any effort to find common ground. They will let you know that your agreement can never be precise enough to meet their criteria. They are in hiding - from you, and probably from themselves.

Outside the training room, just one person can make agreemen…

Influence and .....

Linda and I were sitting down for dinner with one of our corporate clients the other day. Our client mentioned that they were reading the blog and loving it and had begun to notice that I have not made any entries on it.

It is true that I have not. However I found myself considering how that meeting has begun to influence me. Our clients observation came at a time where I had been starting to draft blog entries and getting ready to enter some here. Also I have been been preparing a short 40 minute keynote on Influence. Linda and I were talking about it.

When we begin planning our courses it often begins with a starting point that is in a form of a question. Like what is influence? (I know rocket science eh)

So I have been conducting a personal study by asking people that question. I have had all kinds of responses like influence is kindness, influence is making people do things, influence is motivating people to your way of thinking. All of these things sound correct even may…

The paradox of role models

There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of most processes using role models: the people who serve as models are unlikely to be people who followed models. High achievers in most fields do not follow in someone's footsteps. They carve their own path. They want to do something with such powerful integrity that they make it happen. All the energy, passion and focus they have works toward achievement. They are explorers, not followers.

Many of our models come from athletics. Athletics is interesting because the high performer is usually separate from the person who creates the model of achievement. Somewhere in the background (and sometimes in the foreground), a master coach sets the path to success. The relationship between coach and athlete is quite different than the relationship between a role model and a follower: it is rare for a high-performing athlete to become a coach of high performers. In the world of athletics, they are understood to be separate functions.

In other…

Balance versus Passion - and Compassion

I confess to being fascinated with the modern interest in balance. Balance is the current cure for all ills: everything not only in moderation, but kept within limits by equal and oppositie pressure.

It reminds me of my response to labels that proudly proclaim "all natural." So is ragweed. So are mosquitos. So is the plague.

Recently, I left a comment on a Fast Company blog that suggested that balance is not the answer to BS or bad behaviour: focus on values is better than focus on balance as a value. Someone else wrote back, incensed. She did not understand my insistence that the answer to bad behaviour is to focus on positive outcomes. She is one of a world of people who spend their time resisting problems.

If your model of the world involves resisting problems, then balance is an ideal: the whole idea of balance is that of equal and opposite forces. Of course, this means that If your ideal is balance, you need all the bad stuff to continue so that there is something agai…

Another disclosure: We do details, not formulas

Technically, I know that the word is formulae not formulas. That is probably changing. Language, like many human elements, evolves and changes over time. What was once absolutely right becomes recommended and then remembered and then archaic. The way to use language most effectively is to be aware of context and change. The way to use language most effectively is to develop a good ear.

That's true of most of the formulas that people use to take shortcuts in communication. Whether you read body language by the book or categorize people according to personality tests, you risk replacing accurate perception with a shortcut that will only be right some of the time.

We have evolved to understand one another and learn from one another in very precise ways. Multiple systems within our neurology work effortlessly and simultaneously to give us entry into another person's experience of the world. Multiple systems exist only so that we can communicate effectively with the people around us…

Full Disclosure on Balance

While it's true that some of the practices we teach give some people a better sense of balance, the balance we offer is a quality of movement - like walking across a balance beam - not a quality of standing still. Moving forward does not require balance - it requires the ability to be out of balance in useful ways - to shift ad move and respond to changes in ourselves and our environment. We teach people to find the strength and flexibility to move easily in and out of balance so that they can move easily.

Being stopped is a state of balance. Balance is easy when you're not moving.

Flow states are highly productive. They seem like states of balance because they hold the attention on just one thing or activity. The trick for most people is not to enter the flow state or to stay there, but to step in and out of flow without irritation. Balance draws us out of flow, reminding us that we have multiple priorities. Can you be interrupted while in a flow state and get back to it when…

Full disclosure on work/life balance

Chris and I don't believe in work/life balance. We believe that people are meant to be fully awake and alive at work, at home, and out in the world. We do not believe that work is one thing and life is another. We like to work with people who are vibrantly alive.

We do believe in honouring our connections and our goals and our sense of direction. Notice that this is not the same as honouring our commitments: it is more than that. It means finding value in our connectedness with other people and acknowledging our influence within those connections. We do not balance our goals with our connections anymore than we balance our life with our work. We strive to be alive in all of our connections, and to shape appropriate connections that allow us to move toward our goals and be aware of our role in helping others move towards their goals.

We honour our connectedness sometimes by writing work emails late into the night, and sometimes by leaving work to be with family. When we do, we are mo…