‘don’t walk’ growing pains

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We’re all standing, looking at the red hand. There are no cars. The road is just two lanes. Yet we stand and wait. Waiting for the ‘walk’ sign. To be told it is safe to cross.

We think that we’re grown up just because we’ve hit adulthood, have flown the nest, or because we’ve taken on a position of leadership in our organisation.

But so many of us are still looking for parents who can save us from life’s difficulty, confirm the right course of action, or who can tell us we’re doing ok.

As long as we’re looking for parents, we expect the leaders of our organisations, or others in society to know what to do, to know all the answers, to tell us what’s needed, and to rescue us. We hold back from speaking truth or acting confidently because we’re scared they’ll judge us or reject us. Meanwhile, they’re scared they will get found out; found wanting. So they are happy to parent us. To be seen as wise and all knowing.

And in this parental game, we blame them for sticking to their rigid parental ways. And, when things don’t turn out the way we want them, we blame them for failing us, instead of stepping up and taking action and responsibility ourselves. We give up our capacity for independent thought so we can keep ourselves in a dependent, child-like role.

And they, for their part, give up truly leading. Instead they parent, patronise and push change, to show they know best.

All of this is happening even at the most senior levels of multi-national organisations, because – it turns out – being senior, and being grown up, are not the same thing.

It explains much about why change can be so difficult in organisations. Why we fail to own our own change and why we have created an industry called ‘change management’ – like all that’s needed are more parents.

All of this makes the ongoing task of adult development so critical for each of us and for our organisations. Truly growing into ourselves, being ourselves and growing up is challenging work. But it means we can become self confident and genuinely be adults in the world – without relying on a saviour.

And once we can act like responsible grown ups, that allows us to take collective responsibility first for our institutions, and then for our society as a whole.

Then we can walk.

growing down

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Mostly we go through life growing up.

We get older. We learn from experience. We generally therefore get wiser. We get more aware, more tolerant, more reasoned.  We have knowledge, wisdom and experience on our side. So we can make better decisions, better choices. We can be balanced, measured, sage.

Maybe?

A A Milne’s book “Now we are six” is a wonderful collection of children’s poems that ends with this verse…

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now and forever

A child’s logic. A child’s wisdom.

The problem is we don’t stay six, now and forever. We become, seven, fifteen, twenty six, fifty one, seventy three. At each stage of ‘growing’ we take on more rigidity, more stuckness, more ‘one way’ thinking. Life experience actually binds us. We learn rules, habits, behaviours, beliefs which constrain our potential.

Take a challenge you face today. Maybe it’s about money, time, work, relationships?

How would a six year old face this? What creative, unbounded, imaginative solutions come from the naive, inexperienced, free mind of a child?

Anything is possible. Maybe adults should start growing down? Going back to the free, unencumbered wisdom of childhood.

Maybe we all need to stay six forever?

 

coned off mentally

 

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Last week we were in London. We sat near the river. In front of us was an area of grass, taped off so that it could recover from its well worn state – presumably picnickers, sunbathers and walkers like us had rendered the grass threadbare. To the side, was an area marked off by linked metal barriers – the kind that are used for crowd control. Behind this protection were some pallets of building materials, a pile of some sort of mixed aggregate, some bags of waste and general rubbish – an adjacent building site suggested its purpose. Later we saw a newly laid concrete pathway, blocked by traffic cones, linked with tape.

Cones, barriers and tape to block areas off where we shouldn’t go. Areas that are out of bounds.

Do you think it’s like that in our heads too?

Memories marked out as ‘no go’ areas. Blocked by our unconscious mind as it considers them dangerous places, where we might get hurt; just like a building site. Our subconscious taping off parts of our personal history that need to be left to recover, like a worn out lawn; vulnerable, fragile and otherwise exposed. New experiences coned off, whilst we make sense of them, give them perspective and meaning; allowing them to set into our map of the world like newly laid concrete pathways.

 

the cleansing value of sorrow

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Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.

Rumi

how do you do becoming?

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I love the phraseology that juxtaposes ‘human being’ with ‘human doing’ and also with ‘human becoming’. I don’t know who first coined it?

The ‘becoming’ piece intrigues me most.

It suggests evolving, learning, growing. It infers movement, change, desire. It implies a different state.

We say we’re becoming better, or we’re becoming a teacher (substitute any other skill/profession of your choosing). We say we’re becoming clearer, or becoming irritated. We’re becoming addicted or becoming curious. I’m becoming numb to it, or I’m becoming a recluse. And so on…

But how does one do ‘becoming’? What’s going on? What makes ‘becoming’ possible? What’s the process?

More significantly perhaps what’s my process? And what’s your process?

How do you do becoming? Is there a pattern? A recipe? A methodology? Do you have a style, a flavour, a posture for becoming?

How do you know? Know you’re becoming? Where’s the evidence? Is it tangible or is it a sense of becoming? Are there feelings, thoughts, behaviours with becoming? And when do we stop becoming and just be? When do we reach the destination?

Then does ‘being ‘ inspire us to strive, to grow, to move forward into another spate of becoming? Does ‘being’ bore us, frustrate us, drive us to more ‘becoming’?

What triggers becoming? What fuels the becoming?

Becoming curious?

‘stuff’ solutions to ‘us’ problems

In this modern technological world it seems we love to invent solutions to problems; problems that for many years had remained somehow hidden, unnoticed, unappreciated. Someone then says, “Here’s a cool solution to a real problem.” Suddenly we all want the solution. Even though we hadn’t ever struggled with the problem.

How many of us have a computer, a laptop, a tablet, a phone, maybe a mini tablet and now also use our TV to access the internet?  I don’t recall the day I said, “What I need are six devices at my fingertips from which I can do largely the same things.” Indeed, things that twenty years earlier I couldn’t do at all and didn’t know I wanted to.

The other day I was introduced to Samsung ad wash – add more clothes part way through the wash. There was a time when we sorted the clothes, put them all in the wash and got on with life. If something had missed the wash, it waited to next time. Now we have a solution to the ‘problem’.

For many years I have had hatchback cars.  It has proved to be little trouble opening the rear door; they have always been assisted with hydraulic struts, so you simply squeeze the handle, lift slightly and the tailgate lifts open.  Closing was straightforward too.  Reach up, pull down with a little tug and the door falls, slamming shut using that age old invention called gravity.  But now, my car has an automatic boot opening and closing gizmo. I can press a button in the car, or on the key fob, and the rear tailgate lifts by itself.  When I’m ready to close it, I press another button and it silently lowers and clicks shut.

What next?

It seems we have learned as a species to direct our talents to ‘stuff’. To improving ‘stuff’. We are now approaching a time in many areas, where improving ‘stuff’ is getting harder to warrant, so we’re fabricating ‘stuff’ solutions to once only imagined ‘stuff’ problems. But we stay stuck on the treadmill that is improving ‘stuff’. We know where we are with improving ‘stuff’.  We’re good at it.  It pleases us.

Meanwhile improving ‘us’ takes the back seat. ‘Us’ problems are real. ‘Us’ problems are there in our existence as individuals and there in our interactions and relationships. ‘Us’ problems cloud our thinking. ‘Us’ problems stop us maximising our potential. Our very humanity, our happiness, our fulfilment is stifled by ‘us’ problems. Yet we seem to struggle with ‘us’ solutions to our ‘us’ problems. We’re not good at it. It scares us.

Maybe we need a ‘stuff’ solution to the ‘us’ problem?  Or is that stuff and nonsense?