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.

is it a mistake to avoid mistakes?

mistake learning
There has been much in the news these past few days about the Australia Scotland match in the Rugby World Cup. More specifically the refereeing ‘mistake’ which awarded Australia the match winning penalty. Not so much, was it a mistake in the heat of the game, but was it a mistake for the referee to depart the pitch with such haste after the final whistle? Was it a mistake to not ‘own’ his mistake?

Now Jose Mourinho has used the analogy of only one mistake, to comment on a football referee and his own punishment for previous comments.

Mistakes are something we generally seek to avoid. Cultural, organisational and societal norms suggest that they are not good. At school we are marked and assessed on our ability to get it right, not wrong. From an early age we are encouraged to think that mistakes are in some way a failing, something on which we can be judged, something to be steered clear of.

A wise coach I learned much from, once told me a story about a telephone coaching session. She began the call with her client when suddenly something fell off the table onto the floor. She put the phone on mute to pick it up, returning quickly to the coaching call. Her client reflected where he was at. She thought and posed a question. The client responded and spoke at some length. His take on her question surprised her, but it seemed to be creating learning so she let her curiosity go. Another question followed, again the client pursued an unexpected path. The thirty minute session was drawing to a close and her client commented that this was perhaps the best session they had had. At this moment she realised the phone was still on mute. Her client hadn’t heard her questions and had in fact done all the work himself.

Mistakes can reap real rewards. Mistakes are a learning opportunity. Many of the greatest inventions and movements forward arose from mistakes, or at least were unintended consequences or discoveries.

Maybe it’s a mistake to judge the mistake?
Maybe we should embrace it?

the truth is…

truth honesty
… we find honesty hard.

We seek it from others. We say we are honest, when challenged. We mostly value it as a good thing in others. A positive trait. Mostly, we try hard to be honest.

But we find real honesty hard.

It means facing ourselves. It means honouring who we are. It means accepting ourselves. Accepting that we are emerging, that we are growing, learning. It means accepting ourselves, for all our qualities and also for all our struggles and blind spots.

Honesty with ourselves allows honesty with others.

weighty language

visual, auditory and kinaesthetic NLP
The other evening a television news reporter began his report from Jerusalem…

“This is often a very heavy city and the weight of its history hangs over it…”

This kinaesthetic language helps you ‘feel’ the experience of being in this city steeped in history and rich with turmoil. The phrases ‘heavy’, ‘weight’ and ‘hangs over’ describe felt sensations and help the listener sense the mood in the city.

They work in much the same way as idioms such as ‘hold their feet to the fire’, ‘head over heels in love’, ‘hot under the collar’, ‘it makes your flesh crawl’, ‘ants in his pants’ or ‘the weight of expectation’. Each describes a physical sensation which brings the experience more to life.

Auditory language might talk about ‘the staccato popping of distant gunfire…’ Visual language might describe ‘the ghostly pall of smoke painting a blue grey background to the skirmish…’

How would you describe the picture on this blog post?

‘the twisted trunk and aching branches pained by years of tortured weather…’?
‘the crispy leaves and creaking branches rustling in the moaning wind…’?
‘the distant dark copse framing the monochrome tree in stark parchment sepia…’?

Be curious about your language and how it describes your inner world.