is it really all in the numbers?


There seems a relatively new phenomena in our media to describe things through the medium of numbers. Newspaper articles are written around small colour panels, gleefully pronouncing ‘In numbers…’; these are summaries to draw in those who seemingly cannot be bothered to read and understand the depth of the article. It’s as if by providing a statistic, plucked from the vast expanse of a complicated subject, we can understand. Examples in the newspaper today include…

422 million people have diabetes;
1 in 5 people say social media makes them depressed;
124 refugees were taken to Turkey from Lesbos yesterday;

It mirrors the growth in need to know small snippets of many people’s lives in social media – glimpses on Facebook, 144 characters on Twitter. We are time poor, so we’re told, and so we need to pack a lot in. Scan rather then delve. Skim rather than comprehend.

The world seems to have developed into a place of ‘know a little, about a lot’.

This crosses over into what we know about ourselves.  Small amounts of knowledge used as labels to describe extraordinarily complex unique human beings. “I’m a completer finisher”, “my type is INTP”,  “I’m a big picture person”…

Let’s start reading the entire article.  Let’s start taking a deep dive into who we are.  Let’s be curious about other people and their glorious uniqueness…

You are not just a number.


Our monochrome contradictions

Foreign policy is a balancing act. Lines are never clear. Neatly drawn. It’s a grey world rather than a monochrome extreme one.

Reading recently about the struggles in the Middle East highlights this clearly. Alliances between unlikely bedfellows; either battling against IS, resisting Iran’s regional dominance, seeking to create new states, or to destroy existing ones. Lines drawn between old enemies, new enemies, enemies for a reason, enemies for a season, enemies for a lifetime. Nation states trying to balance their contradictions. Not able to totally support one cause, because of complex overlapping interests in other causes.

It reminds me of our own human struggles. Our internal contradictions of self. That sense that a part of us wants something whilst another part wants something else, something contrary. That experience of being a certain way at times, then being a very different way, in a different place or time.

We have contradictions.

We are muted monochrome shade, rarely black, rarely white.

In my coaching work I sometimes encourage clients to explore their contradictions. The edges of themselves. I, for example, would describe myself as an “extrovert loner”. Sometimes gregarious, social, with a view to express. Sometimes seeking to be alone, silent. I need both parts. My ‘foreign policy’ needs to play both hands.

Naming these seemingly opposite, contrary, elements of self allows us to honour them, respect them, work with them all. I encourage an “I am… ” construct. I often find the choice of sequence my clients make is revealing. Usually the first part of the contradiction describes how they are, the second, who they are. Here are some examples…

I am an open secret
I am a tidy mess
I am hopelessly hopeful
I am an enthusiastic couch potato
I am an away from futurist
I am a responsible rebel
I am a leading follower
I am an unplanned achiever
I am an independent team player
I am deliberately informal
I am a selfish altruist

Foreign policy is laced with politics and self interest. But perhaps so are our parts?  Just like the politicians we are trying to balance multiple interests. Just like the politicians we don’t reveal our full hand, even to ourselves. Just like the politicians, that ‘mishonesty’ can bite us.

The question is, do we need to go to war? Does that serve us?

Be curious about your contradictions. Explore what each part seeks and offers you. Recognise their intent for you. Embrace them all.