We had just spent two days with a very diverse group of participants facilitating a Future Search process and had asked for closing comments. I was struck by two of them:
“I am excited by what we have created and feel hope for our future.”
“If you all follow through on the projects we identified, things might change.”
The second comment struck me as somewhat cynical and it got me thinking about what distinguishes hope from cynicism. As I reflected on how these two people had participated in the two days and thought about other situations, four themes emerged:
Own your part – Hopeful people own their role in situations, both the good and the bad, and don’t look to others to “fix things.” Cynical people only own the good, are oblivious to the bad, and expect others to “fix things” for them.
Assume good intent – Hopeful people trust that others are doing the best they can, while cynical people assume others are out to make their lives miserable.
Accept reality – Hopeful people don’t sugarcoat or assume doom and gloom, they accept current circumstances and don’t wish they were different. Cynical people are always searching for some perfect condition that is different from the current one.
Give – Hopeful people give their time, energy and resources to others without condition. Cynical people wait for others to give to them.
As we approach the holiday season, are you hopeful or cynical? Which of these four areas might hold insight for you?
Today’s blog is inspired by a recent book, The Best Advice in Six Words, an inspiring and provocative book full of advice from famous and not so famous authors.
The holiday season can be full of unpleasant memories, high expectations and emotional stress. Take a break from that backpack.
Embrace what is possible from there. (Second 6 word advice 😉
In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) work environment, the potential for pain can be high despite the best intentions of good leaders and the actions of misguided or unprepared leaders. Stuff happens, it’s not addressed and people start to carry around a heavy load of pain and frustration.
For me the way through that is an inner journey of forgiveness which sets us free and is completely in our control. Forgiveness is a choice to recognize that those who have hurt us are human, they make mistakes, and that hanging onto our anger and sense of “what’s fair” just keeps us stuck.
Reconciliation, while powerful, is a nice to have but because it involves communication between people is messy and complicated. Often it’s simply not possible because one party isn’t willing to do so. And if you reconcile without forgiveness you live in anticipation of the next “hurt”, an uneasy and fragile space to occupy.
Waiting for an I’m sorry or for someone to hold the offender accountable, or to reconcile with someone who’s not willing or able sucks the life out of us. Forgiveness, while indeed challenging, breathes life into us.
And it is a choice we can make at any time.
Earlier this year I wrote about what it took to say yes to writing a book. Well the day has arrived when that book is actually published! I have let go of many fears – that I have nothing to say, that I can’t write, that I will expose myself too much, that no one is interested in this topic and, in particular, that people might think bosses already have too much power … why should we forgive them?
Much like letting go of fear, forgiveness helps you let go of pain, suffering and angst.
It doesn’t mean you agree with or condone someone’s behavior. It just lets you get your life back.
If there is someone occupying space in your head and you’re tired of carrying that negative energy around, you may find my book, How to Forgive Your Boss (or anyone who has done you wrong), a useful read. And for those in Victoria on December 1, please join me at the book launch.
And watch this space for more as I will be sharing tidbits from the book in future blogs.
“But I have no time,” is something I hear myself and my clients often say in relation to expressed desires about what we’d rather be doing. What I have learned from my 30-day blogging challenge is that by not prioritizing our creativity and making time for it, we just drift through our weeks, and one day jumbles into the next.
When we make time, however, things come together, they fall into place, we complete puzzles. And, according to Amabile and Kramer of The Progress Principle, engagement relates to our ability to see progress everyday.
For people who work on complex, long term projects with lots of moving pieces, doing something tangible every day that nurtures you and your creativity is not a nice to have, it’s a need to have.
For those readers who may have been counting, today is day 30 of my 30-day challenge to blog everyday. While I am planning to write much more about what I learned, today I am reflecting on the interesting connection between time and creativity.
A lot of days I struggled to blog. I was too busy with “real work”, tired and uninspired. I said on many days, “I can’t do this.” Ordinarily I would have stopped there and waited for another day.
But the challenge to blog everyday got me pushing through the confusion, anxiety and insecurity that I have nothing to say and am not capable of drawing anything. While praying might be too strong a word, being truly open and receptive to inspiration is something I hope to remember moving forward.
That, and pushing through when it seems like I can’t.
When it comes to building or rebuilding trust, there comes a point when someone needs to have the courage to go first, let down their guard and defense mechanisms and be vulnerable. Revealing what is REALLY happening for us creates the opening for trust to be built.
We often get asked “why should I go first?” Because if you don’t, your world becomes smaller and smaller and the one who suffers is you.
Learning to manage anxiety in the presence of silence is another insight from the work of Weisbord and Janoff. As they suggest, “We are mindful that each time we break the silence, we deprive someone of a chance to make a valuable observation.” Waiting even 10 seconds will seem like an eternity, but it allows people to experience whatever is happening and come up with insights about what’s next.
I am a big fan of Weisbord and Janoff, creators of Future Search, and learned much about facilitation when I took their training. Their new book Lead More, Control Less applies their years of experience to leadership, and offers great insights.
One of their concepts is how to handle one’s anxiety when leading meetings. Often we try to rush to solution or tell people what to think. Stating the obvious signals you’ve heard people and actually eases your own anxiety. It also eases anxiety for others. State the obvious and pause. In my experience someone will come up with the next step for the meeting.
I have had the honour of working with many talented leaders who are so people oriented that they drive themselves crazy trying to ensure people are happy. These leaders often have to make tough decisions, though, and it’s not possible for everyone to be happy all the time.
Even though intellectually I think most of these leaders know this, they still keep thinking that if they had done something different, people would be happy.
They won’t be – there is no one right way. That’s the reality of work and life – there is pain at times. Helping everyone accept this might just start to ease people’s suffering.