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.

nesting values

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We have a wren nesting right outside our living room window. It’s a bay window and there is a climber running up the side of it – a passion fruit, glorious in flower. The nest is in the climber. We can watch the wren, from barely 18 inches away, entering and emerging, singing as it goes. Oblivious and care free.

I think the wren is my favourite bird. Discreet, unobtrusive, inconspicuous. Busy in its own life, flitting, industrious, always moving. Its perky little tail its only nod to ‘look at me’, here I am’.

Maybe these are qualities I value in other human beings? Maybe I value them in myself? Maybe these are things I aspire to, or respect, or admire?

How do we decide these things and why do they matter so? Who knows? Something to be curious about though? Maybe a little birdie can tell you?

Thank you little wren.

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?

buildings wear hats now

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There are many new buildings being erected nearby.  It’s interesting to see the construction and in particular one common feature I have noticed. They all have an ‘add on’ on the roof, to house, I presume, the heating and ventilation equipment.

I guess many years ago, such ‘hats’ on our buildings weren’t required?

It’s possible to see the pipe work and cabling in the guts of the building, criss crossing the currently naked ceilings. An infrastructure to support the future comforts, efficiency and effectiveness of the eventual inhabitants. Of course once they take up their positions, this wiring and plumbing will remain invisible and only the fruits of its work will be in evidence to the people interacting and achieving inside this house of work.

Many of the things which enable us to work as individual human beings are equally set up thus.

Much, created as we were being built. Now invisible. Sometimes keeping us comfortable and enabling us to be at our best. Sometimes having the reverse effect, limiting us and making us in some way uncomfortable.

We don’t have the luxury of simply removing the ceiling tiles and being able to maintain or improve this infrastructure. Well, not easily. In truth much remains hidden to us.

Maybe time to check under your hat?

 

is the SatNav of life working?

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Driving a car is purposeful. It would seem strange not to have a destination.

Maybe it is home, work, friends, relatives or a visit to somewhere new? Wherever we are going, we normally know the end point before we set out. Indeed we may plan a route. Maps, Sat Nav or simply a route in our heads, recalled from previous journeys perhaps? Or maybe we simply know the key roads and towns and follow the strategically positioned, helpful road signs?

Along the journey, we speed up, slow down, to match the traffic and conditions around us. We indicate turns so that others on different and similar journeys know our intention. We illuminate the way ahead at dusk when we need to see the road to our destination. We may pause en route to resource and replenish ourselves before setting out again to our destination.

Life isn’t like this.

In one, somewhat morbid, sense we know our destination. But in another we don’t. At birth we don’t know our purpose. We don’t know where we’re going. We have no idea of the route our life will take, or of the turns or stops along the way. We can even be half way, or three quarters of the way through our life journey and still not know where we are headed. Sadly some complete the trip and still never knew.

The drive of our lives doesn’t come with maps in the glove box or a Sat Nav on the dashboard. Sometimes we will swerve without indicating, avoiding collisions or steering away from, or towards something. Sometimes we will slow down, or stop, without brake lights for those around us. Life temporarily on hold, or simply crawling in traffic. Sometimes we will make up the route along the way. Sometimes we will turn back. Sometimes we will find a detour. And what if we pause, but don’t like the place we have stopped? What if our way becomes dimly lit, how will we shine a light on the way ahead? What if our vehicle breaks down and we cannot travel to where we wish to be, in the manner or time frame we would want? What if we don’t have the resources, the capabilities, the fuel to reach our destination? Fill up?

We take journeys and driving for granted. Route, provisions, stopovers, movement, fellow travellers, destination.

We have one life journey, yet many of us meander through it.

No aim. No plan. No route. Accepting places we don’t like. Being and doing something, because we don’t know any different, other than to accept it’s just where we are at the moment, on this somewhat aimless journey. Reacting. Swerving. Braking. Turning. Accelerating.

You wouldn’t drive aimlessly. Don’t drive your life that way.

Pay attention to who you are, where you are going, why you are going there and why that matters. Be authentically you. Be purposeful. Be sure when you get to the end, you haven’t gone the wrong way. Relish the journey. Appreciate the views. Value the experience. Enjoy those you meet along the way.

Time to program your SatNav?

 

just what is unacceptable?

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Spitting shells of nuts out on a packed train?
Breaking wind in a lift?
Stealing food so you can eat?
Wishing ill of someone?
Swearing in a public place?
Eating with your mouth open?
Undertaking on a motorway?
Borrowing a book and not returning it?
Sex in a public place?
Judging someone’s dress sense?
Judging someone’s accent?
Drinking too much?
Dressing your dog in clothes?
Not being able to spell?
Wearing double denim?
Getting into debt?
Certain tattoos?
Not sharing a gift of chocolates?
Talking about someone behind their back?
Not visiting your old, lonely relative?
Speeding?
Wearing the same socks twice?
Claiming expenses you aren’t owed?
Not washing your hands in the bathroom?
Rude fruit and vegetables?
Cleaning your ear and then eating the wax?
Not sending Christmas cards?
Not showering in the morning?
Taking the last malteser?
Not letting the wine breathe?
Not looking both ways before crossing the road?
Thinking you’re better than someone?
Wishing you had a better life?
Blaming others that you don’t?
Accepting your lot?
Not knowing who you are?
Not caring?
Giving up?
Judging the woman spitting shells of nuts out on a packed train?

the things we provide to keep us safe…

safe vulnerable
Much in our world is provided to keep us safe.

Black and white stripes on a road just one mechanism to make crossing a road safer. “Beware of the dog”. Safety shoes to prevent damaged toes. Safety glasses to prevent damaged eyes. Policies to ensure we don’t get sued, laws to allow us to sue. Use by dates to alert us to the dangers of eating food that might harm us. Bans on games of conkers to avoid bruised hands or worse. Maximum dose eight tablets in 24 hours. Road signs warning of adverse camber, liability of freezing, low bridge or simply to ‘give way’. “Don’t run”. “Slippery when wet”. Barriers at the end of footpaths to ensure we don’t inadvertently run out into the road. Safety belts. Medical screening for illness and disease. No standing upstairs on the bus. ‘Safety’ matches. Fire extinguishers, expensive sprinkler systems and fire drills. Warnings for children on who to talk to and who not to. Fire guards, safety catches, automatic cut-offs. “Eat five a day”. Jabs for our holidays. Pinhole glasses for solar eclipses. Masks to filter our breathing. Catalytic converters to trap pollutants. Helmets for bike riders and sportsmen. “Contains 20% of daily saturated fat”. Life jackets. “Smoking kills”. The list is endless.

Yet when we engage with the world as a human being, put ourselves at emotional and psychological risk. When we show ourselves. When we face judgement. When we risk belonging. When we make mistakes. When we face fear. When we feel lonely. When we show vulnerability …

… then we are on our own.

We have to work it out for ourselves. Try things. Get hurt. Learn quickly. We have to look after our own wellbeing. We work out our own policies and rules. We build our own safety mechanisms. Tell ourselves what is acceptable and what isn’t. Build our own beliefs, values and behaviours to act as barriers to keep us safe. Talk to ourselves, reassure ourselves, beat ourselves up.

Where is the support really needed? I wonder if we have the right balance, the right focus?

where is your career going?

career life journey
We are encouraged to think about our career, constantly. It starts from an early age. Parents, teachers, school and further education all refer to career, as we make choices about schools, subjects, classes, areas of study, qualifications… We are encouraged to aspire. Aspiration often measured by the grades we get, the university or college we go to, the job we get, the seniority we attain, the pay level we reach…

How will we spend our working lives? In a profession, as a manager, owning our own business, with a portfolio career, following a vocation…? What kind of work do we want to do? What expertise, qualifications, skills, learning do we need for that?

Then when we start work, chances are we have a performance review or a discussion with a line manager, exploring how we might develop our career. We are encouraged to seek new challenges, new opportunities, new skills, new experiences. Maybe we get bored with our job, or learn what satisfies us or motivates us, and so seek to move our career to a different path?

Career seems almost to have become a synonym for life at work, for progression, recorded by the job sequence captured on our CV, our roles, our employers, our promotions, our job titles…

The origin of words is fascinating, especially in the context of how they are understood and used today.

Career comes from the Latin Carrus – a wheeled vehicle. Taking us on a journey. Adopted in French as Carrière and Italian as Carriera, it referred to the road we take. One Oxford English Dictionary definition of career is a person’s “course or progress through life”. Life’s journey if you will.

It doesn’t specify work, job, promotion, pay, skills, grade or profession.

So, maybe the question “Where is your career going?” is in itself limiting? Perhaps a better question would be “How do you plan to progress through life?”

This bigger perspective widens our choices. I might, for example, respond to this question, ‘being kind to other human beings’ or ‘being at peace with myself’ or ‘learning forever’ or ‘having fun’ or ‘being exhilarated by new challenges’.

This opens up possibilities. My choices are more rounded, more whole life. I can still occupy myself and earn a living in the context of these responses, but equally I can pursue them in all parts of my life. Home, hobbies, pastimes, leisure. With family, friends, alone or with like-minded individuals.

So maybe ask yourself not “Where is my career going?”

Instead ask yourself “How am I going to progress through life?” Or “What life course do I want?” Or “What will my life journey be?”

This may afford you more possibility, more freedom, more balance, more happiness.

to run or not to run…?

tube run steve
The other week I posted something about my NLP training in Hammersmith and the coffee experience. I attended the training with a friend, and at the end of each day we would go to the tube station – the Hammersmith and City line rather than the Piccadilly. It’s a terminus, so trains are usually ready in the station, waiting patiently at a platform for their fresh cargo.

Each and every day we would stroll up to the ticket barrier, move through and see the display board signalling which platform the next train departed from. Most days there would be a train at that platform.

Then something strange would happen.

My friend would quicken his pace and often break into a run. Sometimes a sprint. I would be left to saunter down the platform and find him in his chosen carriage.

After a few experiences of this we began to ‘unpack’ these two contrasting behaviours. Initially I mocked him, because I had never missed the train, but we were curious about what lay deeper in this behaviour.

There was superficial evidence that might support certain theories. My friend was a runner. He ran for pleasure regularly. I did not. He was, and probably still is, much fitter than me – so he had more capability to behave that way and running was a familiar activity. Typically I don’t run for anything.

At a deeper level though, time isn’t important to me. So the possibility of missing a train wasn’t a significant issue, but more than that, it presented an opportunity. I would have time to watch the world and the people in it. I would have time to sit quietly and ‘be’. My friend’s map of the world was different – he had many things to do, things to get done, so missing a train would deny him possibilities.

We still see this pattern today, not with trains, but elsewhere. He tries to fit a lot into his life. I’m more content to see what life offers in this moment.

There will of course be more depth, more detail in explaining our run/saunter behaviour at Hammersmith, but the joy is discovering that.

So be curious about what you do … every little thing, from choosing what to eat for lunch, to buying new shoes, to how you plan your weekend or even how you live your life.

It’s not about running or not running. It’s about knowing or not knowing.

If you don’t take time to know yourself, who else is going to?

if you think you think, think again…

Chocolate behaviour

We are at the top of the food chain. Our ability to think, to cognitively assess, decide and act is unparalleled.

Or is it?

Yesterday afternoon I ate a large chocolate bar.
I wasn’t hungry. I know it’s not good for my waistline. Only the other day I was reading about the hidden threat of too much sugar in our diet. I had a banana on my desk, which, despite its curvaceous yellow appeal, remained ignored.

Human behavior is complex and rarely, if ever, purely rational. In fact our rational internal dialogue almost always loses out to a deeper, hidden, irrational, impulsive, unconscious drive to act.

But, behavior doesn’t happen by chance or out of the blue. It has a structure – trigger, behaviour, reward. In one real sense we are machines: input, action, output. Mechanistic rather than thinking.

Behaviour can be conscious or subconscious, mental or physical, learned or inherited, voluntary or involuntary… some behaviour is genetically and biologically underpinned – we all withdraw our hand from the hot saucepan handle, from pain, without thinking. Some behaviour is influenced by social and cultural norms. Some by persuasion or even coercion.

That doesn’t however explain my chocolate addiction.
Nor does it explain much of our behaviour day to day.

I’m not genetically coded, socially expected or forced to curse that driver sat in the middle lane of the motorway. Nor to stop working on what I should be doing to do something more interesting. Nor to be late for that meeting. Nor to run for the bus. Nor to buy those trousers I don’t need.

No, these behaviours are motivated internally, by our beliefs, values and biases. By hidden patterns developed and evolved by our life story.

I regularly curse middle lane drivers. I’ve examined this behaviour closely. It’s not that I’m a stickler for the Highway Code – I confess I don’t always follow it. It’s not that I’m in the habit of moaning at people. It’s not that I’m often late and they’re simply in my way. For me, it’s because they aren’t honouring, recognising, making space for a fellow human being. They’re self absorbed. That value drives other behaviours in me; some I’m not proud of and that just happen before I can rationally think. So the unfortunate motorist is merely the trigger. My reward is I can honour a personal value – yet the irony of my own behaviour contradicting that very value is not lost on me and therein lies another behaviour puzzle. What remains true is that in that moment, the behaviour is unthinking, subconscious, mechanistic, programmed … out of my control.

Or is it?

You see, consciously understanding my internal motivation, beliefs, values and world map gives me choice. Noticing the triggers and the rewards of my behaviour gives me choice. So be curious about you.

If you think you think, think again…