it’s intentional

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Have you ever been driving somewhere and needed to get there on time, or you’re simply in a hurry, keen to arrive?

Ahead of you on the motorway, vehicles slow. Hazard lights are pulsed to warn you of rapid deceleration. Stretching into the distance is a long line of red dots; blinking illuminations signalling stationary or slowing modes of supposed transport. A queue.

How do you respond? Maybe your mind turns to being late? Maybe to the impact of that? Maybe you feel frustrated? Maybe annoyed? Maybe you sense a loss of control, your destiny in the hands of circumstance? Maybe that creates anger? Maybe your thoughts turn to those you are driving to? Maybe you worry? Maybe you begin switching lanes in an attempt to get some advantage over your fellow car crawlers, telling yourself you are winning and outsmarting those around you? Thereby generating a somewhat false sense of progress and movement. Maybe that makes you feel good?

Once your thoughts lead to a state change. Once the thoughts and feelings are connected in dubious harmony, you have set your intent. You will be anxious. You will be frustrated. You will be angry. Whether you want to or not, it will happen. It won’t get you what you want of course. It won’t move you forward. And not just literally.

If instead you were able to think about enjoying the scenery, or listening to some stirring music, or calling a friend to catch up. If you were able to set a positive, productive, happy intent. Leading to a positive, productive, enjoyable state. How would that queue be different?

Our thinking creates our state.  Our state determines our thinking.

Setting your intent, for how you want it to be, can make it so. On the motorway and elsewhere.

Today I co-facilitated a learning session with 50 people. As facilitators, we both set our intent to learn everyone’s name … and we did.

The act of setting intent, directs our attention to where we want it. We have choice, rather than simply being at the beck and call of our thoughts and feelings. We are driving ourselves, rather than being driven. Intentionally.

short human platforms

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A number of station platforms on my journey are too short for the train.

Each evening the train manager announces which carriages will fit. Passengers in carriages unable to alight are advised to make their way through to an alternative carriage.

The infrastructure is no longer fit for purpose. Stations and platforms built many years ago, now insufficient for the train lengths demanded by busy commuters. Worse, I suspect the train operators might like to add more carriages, as traffic grows and so infrastructure becomes increasingly inadequate.

Having infrastructure unable to cope with growing needs is a problem elsewhere. You only have to own a phone to know that. Or drive around the M25.

Our world is changing fast. The military use a phrase, now prevalent in business and leadership. VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It describes the rapidly changing, unpredictable, uncertain world we live in. The inexorable expansion of stimulus, the pace of change, the ‘always on’ information flow, the societal pressures to perform, to excel, to achieve, to compete. All add to the stresses on our own human infrastructure. Sometimes it too comes up short. Unable to accommodate the sheer volume and inordinate complexity of the experiences we have, travelling on our own train of modern life.

Anxiety and mental illness is on the increase. Reported happiness increasing in some quarters but decreasing in others. Loneliness in the young growing. Society across the globe increasingly fractious, disruptive, searching for something absent.

Maybe our human infrastructure is struggling too with the modern demands of our busy world? Maybe our platforms are too short, our carriageways not wide enough, our bandwidth clogged?

Time perhaps to invest in self?

who do we talk to?

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In today’s busy world, who is there to listen?

It seems all around the world ordinary people don’t feel heard by their politicians. The people they elect to listen and respond to concerns, to basic social needs, seem not to be listening. For large groups, the church might historically have offered an ear, but many no longer look that way.

There seems to be a void.

In extreme cases it seems terrorism and extremism offer a solution  but what about the masses? The everyday struggling human being seeking something more mainstream? Who will listen to them?

I wonder what new roles might emerge to fill the gap?

Is there a role for business? A role for health professionals? A role for charity? A role for new forms of social collective? A role for individuals?

Someone needs to listen. Society needs to listen.

We all need to be heard.

is society collapsing?

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You could be forgiven for perhaps thinking so.

The ramifications of the vote a few days ago have generated some dramatic activity. Financial markets wavering, Prime Ministers resigning, political parties in disarray, arguments beginning across the channel, countries in our United Kingdom expressing a view, again, that they do not wish to be united. Yet…

I’ve just mown my grass. I’m sitting outside now with a cup of tea. My mower started, water spewed from the tap in order for me to brew my tea, the sun is shining, my neighbour said ‘hello’, a fly wants to share my biscuit, an aircraft passes overhead…

What is society?

One dictionary definition is…

the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.

another…

an organised group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.

On that basis the society that is the road I live in, is fine. We are, more or less, operating as an ordered aggregate of people living in a community for a variety of purposes. A local society, I grant you, so let’s look bigger, much bigger.

As a species, we live on a planet. We have little choice really than to live together. We do so for pragmatic purposes, to breathe, to survive, to reproduce as a human race. It’s more or less organised, more or less ordered.

Much is wrong with it though. Some groups fight, for political or religious reasons. Some groups have little, others arguably too much. Some prosper, some starve. Some believe in one set of values or world order, some another. Our cultural histories are significantly different. We speak a multitude of languages. We raise our children and operate in our communities differently. We come together for a variety of reasons beyond survival. In some respects we are organised, ordered. In many we are not.

But even this massively faulty, culturally disparate, often blind society works, more or less. It does so because fundamentally human beings are social animals. We want to ge in groups, to be together, to belong. We have a deep need to connect and to be accepted. Even the terrorist suicide bomber seeks to belong. To his or her faith and to the community or society or afterlife they believe in. We live in relationship systems.

I passed a man sitting in the street on Friday. He had a dog, a blanket, a cardboard mat and was begging. This is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and he was begging. I can’t rescue him, I can’t take him in or solve his problems, but I can acknowledge him. Acknowledge his existence. His humanity. So I spoke to him. I said hello and asked him how he was. Maybe I should have given him money. Maybe that would have been more important. But money is transient. Money isn’t what makes society. If anything money destroys it.

For me society has at its core, humanity. Human recognising human. Not necessarily agreeing, not necessarily believing the same things, not necessarily speaking the same language, not necessarily living in the same way, not necessarily having the same choices, past, present or future, not necessarily wanting the same things. But human beings nonetheless. It seems to me as long as we have that, society will survive. Hopefully it will blossom and grow.

Say ‘hello’ to someone today.
Maybe offer them something.
Maybe perform a random act of kindness.
Maybe say sorry.
Maybe just smile.

just one day later…

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There was a sombre mood around yesterday. Whatever your perspective, whatever your vote, it seemed to me the nation was reflective. A realisation dawning. Not so much of the implications, because those are still unclear. Instead, a realisation that something significant has happened. Something historic. Some were sad, some shocked, some pleased, but many seemed quiet, reflective.

And so it should be. Reflection is an important human activity. It’s the process by which we recreate our experience and mull it over. We exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about our fundamental human nature, purpose and essence. We explore our emotions, our thinking, our actions, our options… and from this reflection of our experience comes deep fundamental learning. Wisdom and awareness.

Taking time to reflect is important. The learning crucial. The time to be with and assimilate our thoughts and feelings vital. The Ancient Greeks, like many wise ancient civilisations, valued reflection as a form of contemplation by which our personal truth could be found.

It disappoints me that some seek to act immediately. Seemingly unable to internalise and reflect, instead they hit out, they strike forward, they speak out their emotions and thoughts in an antagonistic, blaming manner. They rush to take sides, to point fingers, to exert power, to make claims, to advise, to draw attention to themselves.

Maybe if some of our politicians, media and activists were able to reflect, to pause, to be still, they might find their own truth, rather than live a life constrained by rhetoric, by sides, by division, by debate, by ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, by blame.

Let’s pause people.