the wisdom of the goats

GOATS

In our modern world there is much complexity. With that comes contradiction. An either or, pros and cons, do and don’t do.  We face everyday life with a heavy burden of choice. A weight of expectation, of responsibility. How to spend our time, our money, our energy? Lots of ‘what if?’ Lots of ‘if only?’.

I heard a story the other day which resonated with this world truth of contradiction and complexity.

The story teller, a young African boy at the time of the story. Living in a village in remote Nigeria.

The villagers kept goats. The goats served many purposes. They provided work, endeavour, a sense of purpose. They provided food. They provided milk. They were a currency of prosperity.

But the goats also ate things. Anything. Everything. They destroyed much of the fabric of the village.

The elders of the village met to discuss this complexity, this contradiction. In order to decide.

The young boy observed the elders meeting.  Their long discussion about the goats.

The elders sat and debated this contradiction. For days.

After a while, the young boy asked his father why they continued to discuss the goats. Why they were not deciding.

His father said, there is a wisdom in not deciding. A wisdom in living with the contradiction. And so there emerges another truth in the complexity.

Wise words.

you’re not…

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You’re not the mistake you made.
You’re not the failure of your most recent project.
You’re not the loss of your job.
You’re not that indulgence you should have resisted.
You’re not the disappointment at not having come first.
You’re not that missed deadline or average result.

You’re not your success, your fame, your glowing reputation, either.

You’re not the letters after your name, your job title, your exam results, your qualifications, your place in the organisational hierarchy.

You’re not your bank balance, your debt, your smart suit, that designer frock, your car, your house.

You’re not your ability, or your disability.
You’re not your weight, your muscles, your illness, that blemish.
You’re not your happiness, your sadness, your rage, your shame, your dream.

How could you be any of these, given that any of them are liable to change at any time?

Any of them.

These things are all a blink in the timeline of your life.

It’s a huge misunderstanding of what humans being are, and one that your inner critic can go wild upon. That voice can be demanding that you fix, or change, or hide, or be ashamed of these things.  Or that you hold on ever so tight to what you’ve got, for fear of losing it, and what it represents.

You are not your circumstance.

Perhaps there is a new kind of freedom you can find from knowing this? A new kind of acceptance of the transience of the world, and a new recognition of your own strength and constancy, a new discovery of your essence, your soul… a new kind of hope.

image by: GranitKrasniqi – deviantart.com

how little we really know

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For all we know about the world, its solar systems, its solids and gases and liquids, its states and orbits and atmospheres, its stars and planets and moons. For all we know about the Earth, its rivers and mountains and continents, its seas and oceans and lakes, its cities and people and landscapes, its cultures and societies and languages… we know nothing.

Everyone has their own world, their own reality, their own truth. Created from their own experience. Made up of patterns and meaning and connections. Motivated by values, purpose and beliefs. Driven by feelings, emotions and thoughts. Held in pictures and sounds and senses. Motivated by ego, desire and love.

Every world unique.

We struggle to understand our own personal world, let alone that of our neighbour, our colleague, our friend, our human cousin.

We know nothing.

the caveman in my passion fruit

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I have always thought of troglodytes as rather primitive cavemen.

So therefore might presume ‘troglodytes troglodytes’ to be a gang of primitive cavemen. A tribe maybe? Often in urgent combat with neighbouring gangs. Fighting to survive. Living a tough existence. Crude, hardy, simple.

Yesterday’s blog post referred to a nesting wren we have.  A sweet little bird just outside my window.

I discovered today that the scientific name for the wren is ‘troglodytes troglodytes’.

Now my understanding, my presumptions, my knowing… is blown apart. Boom.

New connections, new meaning, new awareness. Wow that’s good.

unlearning agility

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Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know; whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows, or is capable of knowing.

Albert Einstein

The world is changing at pace.

What we know today may largely be irrelevant in the future. What matters most is no longer what we know, but our ability to learn new things. To keep pace with the changing world.

I wonder if Einstein would have recognised this and modified this wisdom to emphasise ‘…is capable of knowing’ and remove ‘…what the pupil knows’?

Recent research correlates success to our learning agility – our ability to be aware of our experience, be curious, seek feedback, find meaning, learn and unlearn.

Einstein was possibly good at that?

learning blind

mylearningplan

What could you never learn?

Make a list.

It’s easy to begin with skills and knowledge – we often equate learning to what we know and what we can do. I for instance would find it hard to ski jump.  I don’t like heights, feeling out of control or physically hurting myself, which all seem to me possibilities with ski jumping.

But explore further. Maybe you could never learn to behave a certain way, or to feel certain things?  Maybe you could never learn to be calm? Or to physically strike someone for example?

Maybe you could never learn to believe something or to value something – maybe you could never learn to be envious of material wealth for example? Maybe you could never learn to love red meat?

Maybe you could never learn to be a different person in some way? Maybe being a racist is beyond your learning capability? Or to take a life?

What we are blind to learning tells us a lot.

Be curious.  What does it say about you?

a fog clearing clarity of attention

the beauty of silence

Sometimes we can use words to say nothing at all, and silence to explain everything.

adapted from Raine Cooper

The fog of words, a cloak of noise, distracting, attention seeking, truth masking. Sometimes said for our benefit, not the listener’s. Sometimes said to distort, excuse, replay well-worn stories.

The purity of silence, a state of being, wordless knowing, inviting connection and togetherness, honest communication, total attention, a deeper knowing.

 

what is your psychological contract of self?

psychological_contract self
Psychological contracts are often referred to in the context of the employer and the employee – what is the expectation, commitment of both?

It sometimes explores qualities of trust, honesty, respect, fairness, compassion. It will often cover the visible expectations and agreements, such as pay, hours, work, training, but more usefully might look under the waterline, beneath the visible iceberg, so to speak. Here might be give and take, inputs and outputs, responsibilities and rewards which are less clearly in play. Concepts such as control, power, innovation, recognition, commitment, respect, loyalty, tolerance and much much more.

At a meeting the other day we were discussing psychological contracts. We were to be a team, so the question posed was, ‘How did we want to be with each other?’

We were to discuss what we were looking for from other members of the team, what we were seeking from the team leader and what we would bring to the team. What our commitments would be in terms of contribution and what we were seeking in return.

As I reflected, I wondered how I could even begin to answer this, as my thoughts and feelings were initially directed inwards, at me. I wondered what my psychological contract with myself was?

Did I respect myself? Did I have compassion for myself? Did I have faith in myself? Was I in control of myself? Did I fully trust myself? Did I appreciate my own being? Did I own my own power?

What are my perceptions of myself, what do I believe about myself?

How am I getting in my own way, either unaware of, or maybe breaking, my own psychological contract even before I entered the room. Surely this is where I should start before considering any team working agreements?

What is my psychological contract of self?

what do you know and how do you know it?

knowing NLP filters truth map
Do you know what you know because you read it? Maybe in a text book, an academic study, a newspaper report, on-line in a blog or on social media?

Do you know what you know because someone told you it was true?

These are both verbal exchanges. Auditory. They are spoken, written, heard or read. Stories if you will. The exchange of knowledge through written or spoken communication. Someone else provides their knowing and we hear or read it and accept it as knowledge we will also hold to be true. It is, in a sense, second or third hand knowledge. Knowing we agree to add to our own knowing. Or not.

Our acceptance of this knowing involves an unseen process of convincing. Maybe I accept it because I trust the author. Maybe I trust the method by which their knowledge was acquired? Maybe I trust the method of conveying the knowledge to me?

Do you know what you know because that’s the widely accepted truth?

It’s the word of the society, culture, religion, community, organisation… the word of the system if you will. In a sense, story, tale, myth, evidence become fact, truth, reality through the weight or volume of saying it. If enough people speak something, it tends to absorb a validity or truth amongst others. This is how customs and culture are formed.

Maybe I am convinced of this knowing because I have heard it many times from different sources within the system? Maybe I accept it because doing so affirms my belonging to the group? Maybe the groups I belong to therefore narrow my ability to know?

Do you know what you know because you have assembled a truth, through collecting, filing, connecting new data, new knowing, into your own existing knowing?

I know for example that many people see images in their heads. I know this because I have read about it, I have heard about it in training sessions, I have experienced it through coaching many people who can vividly describe the videos or stills in their mind’s eye, I have personally seen pictures in my own head. I have experimented with this knowing to extend, broaden, widen and deepen it. I have purposefully sought out additional knowing, making sense, making patterns and making new neural connections to create an enriched personal knowing.

Maybe I readily accept this knowing? Convinced because it fits with other knowing I already have?

Maybe what I know already, informs what I seek to know? I am, in a sense, blind to new knowing because my existing knowledge guides and channels me to seek knowing which corroborates knowing I already have.

Do you know what you know because you have experienced it and therefore know it to be true? Do you know what you know because you have seen it? Seen it with your own eyes? Tasted it with your own tongue?

I have tried coriander, and I know I don’t like the taste. I have in a sense created my own personal knowing. Others may also have this knowing; but a hundred, or a thousand people not liking coriander doesn’t make coriander something nobody eats, a poisonous food. We are happy to create our own version of knowing, a personal truth.

In fact through all of these methods, we create our own version of truth, our own subset of knowing.

Whether our knowing comes from historic sages, from trusted texts, from reliable friends, from assembled self knowing, from tasted, smelled or observed personal experience, our knowing comes through a hidden process of filtering, selection and trust which makes our knowing personally true. Often this process makes others’ knowing false as a result. That’s how arguments, wars start.

We should be curious about our own personal process of knowing.

How we know what we know. Our hidden process of validation and acceptance. Our process of exploring knowing to expand and develop it. Learning, if you will. This matters, because if our personal process is flawed, broken in some way; if we are blind to certain pieces of knowing, closed to experiencing certain knowing or inexperienced in different ways of assembling knowing… then we are limited.

If we are limited, we are not fulfilling our human potential.

… and that’s worth knowing.