A Fish Doesn’t Know It’s in Water is attributed to David Foster Wallace, and is most likely a play on the Chinese proverb If you want a definition of water, don’t ask a fish.  What it means is that we can rarely see – objectively, at least – that of which we are a part, for example, ourselves, our families, our communities, where we work, our society, especially what we would rather not see about any of these.  Our beliefs about ourselves and that of which we are a part are incredibly potent, and it is important to note that beliefs seek reinforcement and so are reinforce-able, by way of simply learning that others believe in a similar way or being presented with even false evidence of what fits with what we believe.  Our beliefs will hold sway even in the face of reality that contradicts it.  This is known as cognitive dissonance.  I have noticed that we often react with negative emotion to reality presented that threatens to distort or nullify belief, while we react with positive emotion to that which bolsters existing belief.

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  Emotion is full of information to which we need to be giving our attention.  The problem is that emotion is messy and difficult to understand, so in US society in particular, and in our organizations especially, we have taken to ignoring its worth and as a result, our ability to work with it, to hear what it is trying to tell us.  As a result, we remain vulnerable to being manipulated by emotion in reaction to single source sound bites and quippy memes that support our beliefs, whether based in reality or not.

So what can we do?  Well, we can start by simply asking ourselves the question, what is true?  Then, take time to check our sources.  Is it a source we prefer because it makes us feel right?  Does the source provide a variety of viewpoints or only one, one we already accept as true?  Acknowledging another viewpoint does not require us to believe that viewpoint, but it should at very least pique our curiosity to ask, what is true?  If something we read or hear supports existing belief to the point of an emotional response, like “yeah, that’s right!”, it might just be too good to be true.

 

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I awoke this morning with the thought: let go of all that does not serve your purpose.

Upon pondering this thought and in the context of my own experience and in the experiences that I witness being played out by others, I came upon a realization that although we are always who we are at our core (where our purpose resides), we are either living in awareness of what that is or have it hidden from us based on whether we were molded to be, in myriad ways, or whether we were guided through our choices. This is, of course, nothing new. I am simply catching up more deeply to something discovered in a series of workshops back in 2007-2008.

Like many, perhaps most, children, I was required to behave in a manner conforming to societal expectations. This has been the acceptable mode for generations. Some of us are lucky enough to at some point, usually later in life, begin shedding that behavioral programming. One of the simplest examples I can give of this programming is the expectation of altruism, the concept of doing for others. I still witness this, this programming our children to think of others first. Now, don’t get me wrong, the concept is a good one, just not when it is programmed through typical behavior modification. The concept is best applied and most effective for all concerned when we arrive at it by choice. And, it is sad, really, because children can be very altruistic. There are, in fact, plenty of opportunities to nurture this tendency, but we seem to miss those and, instead, force the behavior in situations where it is not naturally present. Or, we miss asking the right questions to invite the choice.

As a result, we end up with many of our adult society begrudgingly living life for everyone else, self-molding to external expectations. This was my experience, and one that I witness now as fairly common, perhaps because I am on my journey of breaking free from it. I find it sad that so many are living a life of conforming to others’ expectations and suffering in the process. This has led to a great victimization cycle in society – meeting expectations then subconsciously begrudging and blaming everyone else for programmed choices. The rules have changed, and are changing, and those programmed to the old rules are struggling, simply because we have not learned how to make choices based in our own (guided) experience and wisdom.

Now maybe, if you’re following me on this, some have less programming to shed than others, but this has been the norm, subconscious in many ways, for all this time. There is hope, though. Recent generations are revealing a shift, generally speaking. The problem is that it is a shift to extreme, so that many are confounded by what is happening, and younger generations appear a bit lost because, as usual, parents come with good intentions but a lack of know-how. We haven’t developed the most effective process for nurturing our children to choose wisely and within the context of existing societal rules. The result seems to be a generation of rebellion against those societal norms. I remain hopeful, though, because the problem has been so changed up that we are looking at it differently, and it provides us opportunity to affect a more effective solution.

In the current climate of “freedom of conscience”, I have been pondering what freedom means.  I can’t help but return again and again to words of Byron Katie in Loving What Is: “There is my business, your business and God’s business.”  For the less religiously or spiritually inclined, it might read, “There is my business, your business and nobody’s business.”  And, as George Constanza so eloquently bellows, “You know, we’re living in a society!!”

Living in a society, how do we preserve “my business” or the freedom of the individual?  When it comes to “freedom of conscience”, have we the freedom to apply our conscience to the actions of others?  The answer for me is, quite simply, no.  I apply my conscience to my choices and allow others their conscience and their choices.  This is the freedom to be legislated and what I believe our forefathers were after, a freedom of individual conscience and choice within a societal context despite the conscience of others.

Add to this the application of pragmatism, which has been suggested to be the  foundation for our context of freedom. Pragmatism, as I understand it, recognizes the individual experience.  When individual experience is common to the majority, i.e. killing each other is not acceptable, then laws are made to address the killing of one another.  However, even within these laws, experiential allowances are included.  For instance, the determination of intent is broken down into degrees of murder and manslaughter.  We are allowed to be angry, we just aren’t allowed to infringe on the being of another with our actions.

I hear the cry that conscience is being infringed upon if I have to support the choices of others.  To me, supporting the choices of others has everything to do with living in a society.  We preserve individual choice, mine and yours.  I choose to make a wrong turn on a one-way road and get into an accident.  I have insurance that helps amend that mistaken choice.  Universal healthcare is the preservation of societal finances and well-being by allowing each other our choices while pooling our resources to amend individual mistakes in the least financially detrimental way for both the individual and society.

Because, here’s the thing, though we each have an experience of God’s intent, we are not any one of us God or, in secular terms, all-knowing.  There is enough discrepancy of experience of life and its meaning that we have not entered a common experience of it, so how can we be to a point of legislating it?  In fact, it begs the question, is not life and its meaning fully in the hands of God, or certainly outside the realm of human understanding and no one person’s business?  Does any one of us truly have our mind around life and its meaning?  Seems to me that cannot be the case in as much as the meaning of life is the ultimate human inquiry.

In support,

~ Jacqueline

Do you feel it?  Do you sense it?  Do you see it?  There is a paradigm shift of great proportion occurring in our society, the world.  Sound research over the years has led us to better information about parenting, propelling us – finally – out of the “behaviorist era”.  We are discovering that behaviorism is unsuitable, in and of itself, to bestowing on our children the hopes and dreams we have always wished for them – self-worth and self-esteem, an innate sense of direction, loving values.

So, the dawn of the “Millennials” feels disturbing.  It is my observation that “Millennials” represent the extreme pendulum swing encountered in rebellion of out dated tradition and action, though this is the beginning.  As these “Millennials” enter our workforce, they do not respond to the behaviorist ideals of management traditionally effective with a population raised in this way.  We are left feeling uneasy, disturbed, fearful even.  Add to the “Millennials” the general “enlightenment” of the older workforce.  We no longer want our buttons pushed.  We want something to believe in.  Many of those values we held dear as children – because we never lose our life’s essence so evident in childhood – of fairness, of individuality, of self-directed fulfillment, of choice – play out throughout our years, no matter how hard we try to continue “parenting them out”.

“Be efficient with things; be effective with people.”  Popular quote, bound to become even more so, as it reveals everything about this paradigm shift we are experiencing.  To be the most effective in a global economy, we need to take the time and effort necessary to create the awareness and relationship skills required to support successful individuals to be successful teams to be successful organizations, to be a successful market… to be a successful society.   There is something to everything.  There is value to everything under the sun and moon, though no one thing has the market cornered.  Funny though, how it seems to be our human nature to constantly seek that “one thing”.  Ok, so there is “one thing”, but it is not at the level we wish to find it.  It is a global thing, not a detail.

There is enough awareness that the fulcrum is tipping away from the effectiveness of fear mongering, a fundamental aspect of the “behaviorist era”.  Trust, work/life integration, nurturing of our strengths, synergistic teams are future themes of the human asset equation.  They will prove most effective, and they will mean us taking the time.  Truly, if we have efficient process and system tools in place, the time is there.  We just need to consciously make the distinction to focus on educating and elevating the human spirit, and success will come, in more forms than currency.

Give someone a hug, it is so much more than a handshake…

~ Jacqueline

I recently finished reading Marcus Buckingham’s latest success, Find Your Strongest Life.  Ever since I was introduced to his perspective on Strengths when he was with the team at Gallup, I have been absolutely sold on the concept.  Check it out.

That being said, I waited until I’d finished the book because an alternative perspective occured to me early on based on research points he shared in deriving his own material.  I wanted to see whether he happened upon it at some point in the book, which he did not, so here I am.

The research points Marcus reported that had an impact on my thought process were as follows:

  • As a result of having better education, better jobs, and better pay, women today are [not] happier and more fulfilled than [we] were forty years ago.  In fact, surveys of more than 1.3 million men and women reveal that women today are less happy relative to where [we] were forty years ago, and relative to men.
  • Most men (and women for that matter) [actually do not] think that men should be the primary breadwinner and women…the primary caretake of home and family.  In fact, opinion of which roles are most appropriate for men and women to play is not now determined by…sex.
  • Women would [not] prefer to work for other women.  Almost twice as many women want to work for men rather than women; 40 percent compared to 26 percent, with the remainder saying they wouldn’t care one way or the other.

In addition to these, I take into consideration these other observations:

  • In matriarchal societies and in current diversity studies, women are typically seen to tend toward collaboration and an equality of power vs men who tend toward hierarchy and a structured allocation of power.  This is well illustrated where men will typically set up a room for a meeting with a head table vs. women who will typically set up a meeting room “in the round”.
  • Our business practices coming out of the industrial age are highly influenced by what worked for those coming out of the military and starting businesses, which was a considerably great majority of men returning from two major wars occuring within decades of each other.  Quite simply, what resulted is a hierarchical structure to ensure compliance to the goals and tasks at hand.

I do not discount Marcus’ conclusion that women are overwhelmed with choices in life, more to juggle and balance, as this is my experience.  It just also occurs to me how we, as women, with a generally different way of working, in our quest for equality, have been molding ourselves into a primarily male construct, as it were.  Not that this is right or wrong, mind you, it just is what it is.  I submit that our choice to plug in to something less natural for us has left us, generally speaking, much less than satisfied even though our quest for freedom to contribute to society is being addressed.  This likely explains why so many businesses are being started by women in our more current day and age as a way to more freely do as we do.

I like to believe that now that women are in the workforce in force, we are having an affect on the overall construct of the workplace and how we do business in general.  It is my belief that by businesses actively appreciating what women and myriad points of our diverse population bring, will our US of A meet with true success in leading the global economy.