Thursday, September 29, 2005

Would you call a memory an anchor?

In neuro-linguistic programming, anchor is a term that designates a physical stimulus which comes to represent the constellation of perceptions and physiology that constitutes a particular state. Essentially, anchors are the tags we use to retrieve entire experiences rather than individual pieces of information. That makes them memories.

Is anchor a good term? Do memories weigh us down so that we do not slip away on the tides of change? What happens if someone drops anchor just as we hoist our sails? I suppose we pull the anchor back up again.

How would it be different if we replaced the word anchor with the word star? After all, for thousands of years, it was the stars that told men where they were and when they were and how to navigate the waters of change.

Instead of creating an anchor, we could give birth to stars.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Getting the best and the most

Someone asked me today, "Would you say you guys are the best at what you do?" We laughed and said of course that's what we would say. In truth, however, we would not say that unprompted because it's not the sort of proposition that serves us well.

I've been thinking about a similar concept as I begin to daydream about our family trip to Tuscany next spring. Because I am the mom in the family, I call this daydreaming "planning" and do it with guide books and file cards. I am tempted to say that I am preparing to "make the most" of the trip. Instead, I say that I am preparing to have an exciting and fun trip in which each of us picks the things we want to be part of the experience.

Like "the best", "the most" is a proposition that cannot lead to satisfaction. In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz separates "maximizers" who need to make the best choice from "satisficers" who need to make choices that satisfy their criteria. Satisficers do not need to check every alternative in order to find the "best" one; they need to find one choice that meets their criteria, however high those criteria are. When they make a choice, they do not have to worry that they have missed something; they have what they want.

What difference does it make if we are the best? We need to be great and growing and we need to provide training that allows our clients to feel great and to grow. We need to learn and stretch our models. None of this depends on what other people are doing. It is not enough to be the best of a bad lot, and there is no shame in being less than the best of an amazing field of excellent competitors.

How would I know if I got the most out of my holiday? Would I have to imaginatively test out the millions of possibilities in order to prove that the one I chose was the best? That sounds exhausting. I'd much rather spend the time finding interesting places to sample gelato or pizza. Or learning to cook, Tuscan-style, so that I can enjoy the meals there before they happen and after I get back.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Jury Selection and 2 Second Decisions

I had my first experience of jury selection this morning and was fascinated to discover that, in the Milton courthourse at least, it proceeds according to the 2 second rule. The process was this: a randomly selected juror would stand and face the accused and listen to the direction, "Juror, face the accused. Accused, face the juror." On the basis of this, either the crown or the defence attorney could "challenge" the juror, eliminating him/her from the panel. The only question was occasional clarification of a juror's occupation (e.g. where are you a manager/supervisor/executive?).

When we chunk down this process, the attorneys form their first 2 second opinion(A) based on the approach of the juror and his/her occupation. The juror and the accused form 2 second opinions of each other (B). The attorneys form a 2 second opinion of the relation between the juror and the accused (C). On the basis of their calibration of these 3 opinions (A, B, and C), the attorneys either accept or eliminate jury members.

Some patterns were obvious (the defence attorney in this case eliminated all older men with white hair). Some were less obvious (both accepted a woman who had previously expressed a concern about her own objectivity). What was absolutely clear was that this court, at least, had accepted that the judgments lawyers formed in 2 seconds were as good as those they would form after asking several questions.

If we could poll jurors before and after evidence was presented, what percentage of them would have changed the opinion they formed in those seconds they faced the accused before being selected and sworn in? Are the attorneys trying to rule out prejudice or filter for it? Is the right to a fair trial for both the accused and the community better served by picking objective people or by picking people whose biases will lead them to challenge one another by referring to the evidence presented?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What a baby means

Yesterday, I held Abby for the first time, just 38 hours old. I thought about how babies make clear the difference between what we mean to other people and what we mean in and of ourselves.

We don't know much about how babies make meaning; we make good guesses. For a long time, we assumed they were born without meaning, blank slates. Then we engaged in the nature versus nurture debate; it was a different way of looking at the blank slate. Maybe the slate only seemed blank; maybe a better metaphor would be the rock that hides a particular meaning to be uncovered by the sculptor's chisel. Later, we started to consider that learning was a process that began in the womb. Maybe the baby's own story began before she was born.

Each of us that holds a newborn holds the same baby and a different meaning. We each have different stories into which the baby comes and in which she holds different meanings. The baby is a meaning before she has a meaning: she means before she intends in any way that we understand.

When I say, "what I mean is. . . " usually I am saying "this was the intention I was articulating through those words." Or, "this is the story I am inviting you to share." Yet I am also saying that meaning is somehow inherent in me. And in you. That meaning is something we do and something we are. Sometimes those meanings line up in ways we can articulate. And sometimes they do not.

What changes when we look at someone the way we look at a newborn and try to comprehend not what they intent, but what they mean?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Chris and Michelle have a new baby daughter

Chris and Michelle welcomed Abby Lee Keeler into the world at 9:40 last night. She was 7 lbs 7 oz, has dark hair and bright eyes and is absolutely lovely. Everyone is fine and healthy and glowing with the joy of the moment.

Look at someone today and imagine that person as a newborn, freshly come into the world and completely miraculous. Hold that picture and the person as s/he is today in your thoughts at the same time without trying to make sense (or a moral!) out of the differences. Then look at the person again, this time as if you were newborn yourself, learning for the first time what faces mean.

We all know that we learn through patterns, by noticing what is the same as what we already know and adding something to that. How do we learn the first thing, that one thing that allows the chain to begin and every new bit of learning to be added to that?

Baby questions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Relaxed and Ready

Can you think of a time when you were relaxed and ready? Go back to that moment and thoroughly live it. Notice your breathing and allow your attention to move through your body with your breath. Notice the way you hold your head and your shoulders, the tilt of your body, the tension in your thighs or the weight on your feet. Become aware of the energy patterns that move through you as you are relaxed and ready. Thoroughly enjoy this moment.

Now think of a situation where the ideal state for you would be relaxed and ready. Allow your attention to focus on that particular situation. As you think about it, allow your breathing to become deep and regular and comfortable. Notice the sounds and sights and feelings of being in this moment as you think about the situation where you would like to be relaxed and ready. Ask yourself, "do I have the resources and skills to be relaxed and ready in this situation?" Let your breathing settle. Ask yourself, "are there skills or resources outside my awareness that I can drawn on now to be relaxed and ready?" Let your breathing settle. Ask yourself, "is there anything stopping me from being relaxed and ready."

If something is stopping you, let your breathing settle and your awareness notice the sights and sound and feelings you have as your eyes close and you generate dozens of alternatives to answer the need that is stopping you and allow you to become relaxed and ready. Continue to breath steadily and comfortably. Take as long as you need to find an acceptable path to being relaxed and ready.

Notice how easy it is to smile now.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Waiting, Timing and Holding On

My training partner, Chris, and his wife are expecting a baby any day now. Everyone who knows them is waiting with them: all the appointments I schedule with Chris have been "baby permitting" for weeks. It's a good time for me to think about what happens when we wait.

Chris has always been a master at counselling patience (and often a master a practicing it himself!). Timing, he reminds me often, is everything. YWe do not stop moving forward even when it feels like the world is holding its breath. Or worse, when it feels like the world is pushing us backward.

Have you experienced those days of death by a thousand paper cuts, the days when so many insignificant things work against you that it seems they must have significance after all?

Two things help me on those days. The first is what I think of as "going back to first principles," that mathematical concept that leads me back to re-imagining my outcomes and testing them. Yes, I will think. That's good. That's what I want. That's worth waiting for. All the trials and tribulations are just the part of the story that comes before achievement. Resistance is what we meet when we move forward.

The other thing that helps me maintain perspective and wait productively is that I seek out connections to other people. These connections provide moral support, it's true; but practically speaking, they provide something more. Their perspectives balance and stabilize mine and the stability that comes from multiple points of view strengthens my focus on my outcomes. Put another way, they change my perception of the horizon represented by the outcome towards which I'm moving. Through multiple perspectives, I know I'm on the right path and not moving towards a mirage.

Waiting is a time for stabilizing, for perspective, for commitment. It is a discipline that is served just as well by laughing with other people as it is by sitting nervously and focusing on what we do not have or cannot do now. What are you waiting for?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Practical Intentions

I have been thinking today about the difference between being practical and being effective. Often, we assume that they are the same thing. Maybe they are the same when we notice what actually makes us effective instead of what we think should be practical.

On a rainy fall day, it is practical to ignore the weather and get to work on some of the many things we need to do that have nothing at all to do with the weather. It is practical to do our chores, whether they are high-level management chores or the laundry. It is easy to fill all the hours in the day with chores: the nature of work is that there is always something left to do.

I wonder if that is effective. I comfort myself with being practical when I tell myself I cannot be inspired. The truth is that I could think of dozens of things to do on a rainy day that would be fun, be relaxing, be dreamy, be different. That does not seem very practical. Yet it might be very effective. Every major innovation comes from seeing the patterns of our daily lives in a different way. Perhaps the most effective thing I could do would be the one that changed the way I looked at the world, the one that allowed me to see difference where I had seen only more of the same.

As a professional, as a teacher, as a mom, I like practicality. I like the sense of wrestling the world into order and moving forward in measured steps. I like things that do work and I like to do work that feels productive. There is much to be said for being practical: it results in a great deal of what makes us comfortable and compassionate and even successful.

What happens if we collapse the two states and let whatever makes us most effective be what we see as being most practical? Maybe it is practical to eat ice cream or watch a silly movie or go for a walk in the rain. The proof is not in the logical connection between the activity and the work, but in what really happens. If breaking free of expectations allows me to see new connections or develop new ideas, it might be the most practical of activities.

What if I form an intent to be intensely practical and effective and then let myself pick an activity to support that intention, trusting that whatever I choose will give me the skills or strengths or perspective that is required to fulfill my intention?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Outcomes and ecology checks


Chris took this picture on the road between Calgary and Banff last winter. We were in Calgary to train police trainers. The picture represents the outcome formation that got us there and began to point us towards our next "mountain-top" experiences.

There are many ways to form outcomes; fewer to do it with precision. When I look back to Calgary, I hear Chris at one of our first meetings, two years earlier, talking about his passion for training police to practice integrated thinking so that they could connect more effectively and more safely. I look back to the outcome I formed in my practitioner training for learning to work together, and remember precisely what that meant to me then and what it means to me now. When I think about it, I did know that true collaborations involve intensity and deep commitment and marathon-like endurance. All of those were as much a part of our experience in Calgary as Chris's outcome of making a difference for police officers and the people they serve.

What amazes me is how exactly the experience came to us that would give us the chance to learn and practice what we most wanted. It was not necessarily the experience that best fit our little outcomes (the ones our conscious minds spend 90% of their time worrying about): it was the experience that most exactly fit the deep, wide outcomes we chose to stretch ourselves. The road to the mountain-top curves: we cannot always see exactly where we are going. When our outcomes are so finely tuned to who we really want to be, we need to be on the right road more than we need to see what comes next. Because the view when we get there more than makes up for the blind spots along the way.

We often talk about measurable results and sensory evidence for success. If we are both wise and lucky, our deepest outcomes are mapped with more precision than this: we know we have reached our outcomes not by what we see, but by the eyes with which we see it. From the top of the mountain, we see that the road curves around obstacles and works with the flow of the landscape. The point is not that the road curves but that it and we keep going until we wind our way to the top.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Change is like breathing

It was a turning point for me when I realized that our trainings do not help people change: people change continuously and naturally. Change is like breathing: we do it while we are alive, and if we do it then we know we are alive.

We also do not help people manage change. I'm not even sure what that would mean, although if I ask myself what change is like I find myself imagining a force of nature -- rain that does not fall or falls too hard, a toddler at a candy stand, days that get shorter just as I want them to get longer. I'm not convinced that "management" is a good paradigm for such forces.

We do teach people that change can be directed: outcomes matter. Forming an intent effectively changes the way change flows through your life. It's like the moment when you decide to catch the wave. Sometimes it brings you to shore in a rush, and sometimes it carries you just far enough so that you can catch the next wave. Your choice is in catching the wave and working with it; the wave comes without your intent and moves you whether or not you choose to play with it. Choosing to play gives you more options. And more fun.

Have you noticed that by the time you notice that you have changed your mind, the change has already happened?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Welcome to NLP Canada Training Inc.'s Blog

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Welcome to the blog of NLP Canada Training Inc.

I chose this picture to open our blog because it represents so much of what it means to use integrated thinking to perceive our integrated lives. At the time the picture was taken, Chris and I were not particularly aware of being in synch; to the casual eye, there might be a general impression of connection or even an impression of some difference. It takes a more careful eye to notice how many gestures and lines in one of us are mirrored in the other. Although the conversation may have been about difference (in approach, in perception, or in what we wanted for lunch), our body language emphasizes our connection. The truth is in the integration of the two impressions; we were different enough so that communication was useful and the communication was directed toward the tighter connection that is reflected in the picture.

This is the value of thinking with our whole selves. The whole relationship includes both the truth told by words and the truth told by the picture. Conscious attention (often expressed through language) provides us with an extremely useful direction; unconscious attention (the processes that run at the back of the mind) are multi-layered, multi-dimensional patterns that unfold with speed and precision. When individuals improve the way they integrate conscious, front-of-mind direction with back-of-mind processing, they achieve more and are more satisfied with what they achieve.

In the coming days, I will be writing about how good it feels to pull different aspects of ourselves into integration, and to pull ourselves into tighter integration with our families, communities, coworkers, and organizations. Working with all of our talents, passions, reason, and senses feels terrific, builds health and welfare, and creates amazing results.