trick or treat?

trick or treat memory
Tonight is All Hallows’ Evening, or Halloween.

To most it signifies dressing up, makeup, trick or treat. Probably pumpkins, with cut outs illuminated by candle, casting an eerie visage? Maybe a party, maybe a bonfire and fireworks?

I wonder how many revellers realise that many believe it is a night to remember the dead? Those martyrs, saints and believers who have passed on. Lighting candles is thought to attract their souls.

Of course, as with much that is ritualistic and ancient, there are other theories too. We simply cannot be sure.

We don’t need religious or historic events though to carry with us to the present day a misnomer or false interpretation of reality. Many of us do it with our own memories … and we were actually there when they happened!

Often a childhood memory lives with us. But often it is distorted, mis-remembered. It carries the understanding of the child. Parts of the actual occurrence are deleted, parts twisted to fit our childhood emotional need, parts simply forgotten in the story. Yet we run this edited inaccurate story throughout our adult lives. It holds us, trapped in a mythical past, caught in a story of fiction and we behave today as if it were true. We carry the remnants of the experience in the form of a broken relationship or a belief about ourselves that no longer serves. It was probably never true, but we made it so, and now we have run it as a video, or heard it as a story in our heads, so many times that we hold it to be a reality. It now controls us. Limits us. Makes us smaller.

Maybe we would be well served to honour it as dead? Just like the souls Halloween remembers? Maybe we would be well served to think of it as a myth, a fable, a misinterpreted story of long ago? Maybe we should move on and pay more attention to now?

Treat yourself, don’t trick yourself.

Look after your soul, not that of a long dead memory.

banging the tribal drum…

tribal belonging
You may have read about the Twitter wager between two airlines over the result of the Rugby World Cup this weekend.

Quantas and Air New Zealand have suggested each other that the losers change the colour scheme of their planes, but now seem to have settled on the idea that Quantas pilots will wear All Black jerseys if the Kiwis win and Air New Zealand pilots will announce Australia’s victory on their aircraft.

It’s a bit of banter. A bit of fun.

But tribal belonging is deeply in our psyche as human beings.

It appears in our sport of course, supporters partisan to their team, chants such as the haka to intimidate the opposition, colours and songs to mark our tribal belonging. It appears also in organisations; departments and divisions having a sense of identity and creating competitive tensions. Members of merged organisations still secretly belonging to their original tribe, sometimes overtly. It happens in families and our language reinforces it with phrases such as ‘Beryl’s side of the family’, or in church at a wedding, sitting on the side of the bride or groom. Our family of birth is often our strongest tribal connection. Tribes appear in music tastes too – think Mods and Rockers. Even in such matters as car ownership – the MG drivers club etc. We wear uniforms, shirts, badges, fly flags, sing songs all to reflect the tribe we belong to.

There is a tension here of course. The up side is the sense of belonging that the tribe creates. The potential downside the sense of conflict and competition it engenders.

We need to belong. Our tribal belonging is an indication of who we are.

are you sure you want to read this?

are you sure reflection
The “Are you sure?” button can be annoying.

You’ve done your preparation, made your decision and having pressed ‘send’ or ‘ok’, ‘cancel’ or ‘order’ the screen provides another pop-up asking the “Are you sure?” question.


This week I have had to cancel a holiday. Flights, hotels the lot. Each step I have been asked the “are you sure?” prompt. It has given me a moment to honour the importance of reflection, to honour a sadness, but also to honour the decision, other values that matter to me, people that matter to me.

I wonder, what if that button existed within us? What if when we were feeling fed up, the “are you sure?” prompt encouraged us to check in, calibrate and consider what is good in our lives?

What if when we were about to be overtaken by anger, the “are you sure?” prompt offered us the opportunity to pause, breathe and get some perspective?

What if when we were about to say something inappropriate in the midst of an argument, something that we might later regret, the “are you sure?” prompt held the words in the departure lounge of our minds and mouths, giving us a moment to re-think and consider the consequences?

What if when we felt a wave of emotion and our heads stepped in to prevent that showing to the outside world, the “are you sure?” prompt gave us the chance to be? The chance to show vulnerability and our truth? To be real?

Last week I might have signed a petition to ban the concept of “are you sure?” but now I’m asking myself “are you sure?”

if you don’t know, how do you know?

pass the parcel self awareness
I’m a convert to the notion of self awareness.

I have seen evidence and experienced personally the value of knowing who you are, knowing why you’re here, knowing what matters to you, what consciously and unconsciously drives your behaviour. I have seen people liberated through discovering and working on a limiting belief. I have seen people find peace, happiness, fulfilment through understanding their purpose and finding a way to congruence with it.

But I’m lucky. I had the opportunity to discover this, in others and for myself. Self awareness is a bit like a pass the parcel game; each layer you rip off reveals a new gift, a new sense of excitement, a new possibility and a sense of knowing that you are a step closer to a bigger prize within.

But what if you don’t know? What if you aren’t in the circle of the pass the parcel game? What if you aren’t aware of the party even existing?

How do you know how to start? How to be curious about yourself? How do you move on from the philosophy of that’s just how it is, my lot is my lot, some just get a bum deal. How do you even know that behaviour is purposeful, that it can be changed? How do you know that purpose, identity, values and beliefs exist and drive how you are, who you are, what is possible for you?

if you don’t know, how do you know?

when silence is the most perfect form of speaking

silence time to think listen
Nancy Kline’s book ‘Time to Think’ advocates a model of human interaction that honours the individual’s time to think.

In our society we are expected to have an opinion, and to voice that opinion. To disagree or to agree with your perspective. Our language, our organisational culture, our very democracy is imbued with debate, dialogue, challenge. The great debates are forefront in the news and on social media… The USA right to guns or not? Is removing tax credits unethical? Can the Labour party survive its leadership choice? Will Jose get the sack at Chelsea? We are encouraged to debate them, to have a perspective, even to take a side.

At a coaching supervision group discussion today we were talking about silence. One coach spoke of the sheer joy of not having to hold a view in their coaching work. The freedom and release that gave them. As a coach we can be objective. Focus merely on the client’s story, their way of being. We don’t need a view as to the rights and wrongs of that. We don’t need a view as to the way forward, the solution for the client.

We can just be present. Listen at the deepest level. Give them time to think.

Nancy asks “what makes you think the question you are about to ask is more valuable than the client’s next thought?”

I wonder if in organisations, in society, in life we need to learn to be silent more. To honour other people’s time to think and to speak their truth. To not hold a view, but just to accept what is true for them. To intervene solely with the purpose of helping them to develop their thinking. Not for our understanding, not to share our opinion, not to demonstrate our value giving contribution of solution … but just to help them to develop their thinking.

Maybe there would be more understanding, more compassion, more truth?

life as a pot of numbered balls

random happenstance life
I’ve just watched the FA Cup first round draw.

Clubs matched randomly. Balls with numbers on, drawn blind from a perspex receptacle.

Imagine if our lives were determined this way. Our relationships determined by the number on the drawn ball. Our life longevity similarly. Our quality of life. Our ails and illnesses drawn randomly from the pot.

What if there were no choice? If this random selective ‘fate’ determined every twist and turn. The grabbing of a numbered ball swirling around in the pot of life deciding our future. The school we went to. The friends we made. The job we secured. Our performance and pay in that job. What if the balls determined our future, our choices at every stage? What if there was in fact no free will?

Ironically much is in fact determined by happenstance. Either because certain life choices determine subsequent choices, or because we are ‘run automatically’ by our beliefs, our values, our early life experiences coding all our subsequent behaviour.

Maybe we are more like the first round draw than we think?

the balance of both?

change routine balance
A change is as good as a rest, so the saying goes. But we are creatures of habit, so says another familiar saying.

So which?

Most of us like to experience something new from time to time. Something different. The first time experience is life affirming. It is growth. It is learning. It brings excitement. Anticipation. We holiday in new locations, learn a new skill, see a new band live, buy a new outfit, change our job. Change injects adrenaline. Gives us a buzz. We seek it to bring interest, to force movement, to drive personal growth.

Yet we also like routine. We like the familiar. Something predictable. Solid. Grounded. There is great joy in revisiting a memorable place again, enjoying a favourite meal, wearing that familiar shirt, replaying that special album track. In fact routine structures our lives. We rise at the same hour, dress, shower and breakfast in the familiar sequence. We travel to work the same route at the same time. Regular meetings. Story time, bath time, bed time.

Change and consistency. New and familiar. Spontaneity and routine.

Maybe we are creatures of contrast? Maybe that’s the habit?

hold out your umbrella and act randomly

Random acts of kindness
It is world random acts of kindness day on November 13th. It seems as though we need a day for everything these days. Maybe we could try it without a special day?

There was a story the other week about two guys who spend their time topping up expired car park tickets using their own money. They spend £60 of their own money each week.

Doing something kind for someone makes you feel good.

But it seems there’s a science to it.

Scientists have long known that the hormone oxytocin plays essential physiological roles during birth and lactation with mother and baby bonding. Animal studies have shown that oxytocin can influence behavior too, prompting voles to cuddle up with their mates, for example, or to clean and comfort their pups. Now a raft of new research in humans suggests that oxytocin underlies the twin emotional pillars of civilized life, our capacity to feel empathy and trust.

I held my umbrella over someone’s head whilst the drizzle fell earlier today.
Kind, I thought.

So give it a go. Don’t wait for the official day, do something randomly kind now. Get a shot of warmth. Hormonally dose up on your oxytocin.

we come to the world in two ways

two world views
On the one hand, we experience the world as a kind of predictable system. We seek to gather data and knowledge so that we might better understand the world. Science, maths, economics and other such disciplines, attempt to use this way of engaging with our world to bring clarity, definition, understanding to the structure of this system. Over perhaps millennia, this approach to engaging with our world, and the knowledge we gain from that, has given us the technologies and advances we often take for granted; medicines, transport, food production, computers, drugs etc.

The key posture, when we approach the world as an empirical system, is that of objectivity; the ability to investigate the world without letting our own prior prejudices, opinions or beliefs cloud the discovery. Neutrality, detachedness are what are required. Evaluation.

On the other hand, we also experience the world as a kind of community, a network of connection. As a community, we find ourselves members of the family, group, team, organisation, country etc. This community has other members. We are all participant members of the human community. We see things from within the community, from a certain committed, somewhat bias, perspective. This posture involves us knowing things, such as whether we belong, whether our partner loves us. We do this, not by putting them in test tubes and analysing them as a scientist might do, but through a kind of knowing, gleaned from feeling, experiencing, sharing, intuition. This kind of knowing is very different from the ‘evaluative’ kind of knowing.

I have just eaten lunch. Eating lunch in a space where many are gathered to dine, you are likely to notice a background hum of chattering human beings. Much of the dialogue will be about weekends, lunch choices, hobbies, work priorities, colleagues and friends use of time, choices, decisions, activities etc. Groups of diners gather in communities.

How much of this chatter is about the ‘science’ of gathering through our senses what appears to be objectively true, and how much is intuited as a means to affirm place, belonging, connection, beliefs, values, who we are?

Both are valuable. Notice how much of your time is spent gathering perceived proven data and how much is spent making meaning and connection.