Sunday, July 30, 2006

how fast can you learn?

The answer is trickier than you might think. First of all, it has very little to do with the way you are being taught. You will learn, on average, at exactly the pace at which you are ready to make congruent changes in the way you think and act. When you are entirely ready for something new, you can slip into it as easily as though it had long been familiar to you. When you are trying to convince yourself to want a change that feels wrong or dangerous, your learning slows way down.

Typically, we make the complaint that a course is light in material, or slow in pace, when we ourselves are less ready to engage the material. There is nothing so simple that it cannot trigger our explorations or change our understanding of the world. Think of Newton under the apple tree. If we are coasting along the surface of material, it is usually because we are reluctant to engage it. We go through the motions.

Going through the motions is a bit like swimming upstream - you'll get where you're going but it feels awfully slow. If you seem to be moving more slowly than you think you would like, take another look at what you would like. Is it a change that is safe and ecological? Do you really want to be able to move more quickly in the wrong direction?

Going with the flow is great - as long as the flow is moving in a direction you want to go.

Friday, July 28, 2006

the embodied brain

People often ask me what I teach. I teach people to understand thinking as the process of an embodied brain. Their minds are what happens when their bodies and brains work seamlessly together.

Why is this useful? How often have you had "a feeling" you should make a particular decision or turn in one direction instead of another? You knew that one choice meant not having other choices, that it would have an impact. Maybe you went with your feeling, or maybe you talked yourself out of it.

There is a growing amount of science that suggests our brains depend on our bodies in order to function optimally. Information flows between brain and body in an endless stream, and that stream provides the flexible, dynamic response necessary to keep us functioning in a world of continuous change. When we understand that thinking involves our whole selves - not just a small section of the brain - we change the way we make choices. We become more responsive, more engaged, and more precise in our interaction with the rest of the world.

If you had access to more of the best thinking more of the time, would you take it? You do have access to more of your own best thinking. You can recognize the interaction of mind and body that produces that best thinking and the most effective action.

That's what I teach.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

getting a shift

It seems to me it might have been the word "shift" that caused riots in Dublin early in the 20th century. The word was enough to have a play condemned as indecent. "Shift" has more power than you might think.

Most people no longer shift gears - their cars do it for them. As long as shifts are automatic, you don't have to think about them. They just naturally align the pace your capabilities with the pace you want to go. If, like me, you drive a standard, then you need to be more aware of shifts (although you can drive automatically even with a manual transmission).

In our training, getting a shift means reaching peaceful coexistence with a person, quality or circumnstance that once had control of your feelings (and maybe even your behaviours). Getting a shift might mean looking back without wincing; it might mean looking forward with enthusiasm. We can achieve shifts where we could not achieve dramatic changes.

What will you shift tomorrow? How will a small movement change your direction and point you where you want to go next?

Monday, July 24, 2006

the best summer holiday

How will you make the most of your time away this summer? If you focus entirely on enjoying yourself, on walking into the moment and engaging it will all your attention, you are likely to have a very good time.

If you want to get even a little more from the break, spend a few minutes before you go thinking of a situation where you want fresh choice when you step back into the mainstream of your life. Write it down if you like. Then step thoroughly into your holiday with the intention of being as relaxed and playful and energized as you can be. Let your awareness of everything else fall away as you focus on being in a state of deep enjoyment for every minute of your holiday.

Then step back into your life, consider that situation again, and notice what has changed. Do you now have an abundance of choice? Or do you have that one choice you have been waiting for?

Friday, July 21, 2006

the benefit of confusion

The benefit of confusion is that stuff gets shaken up and rearranged and unstuck. As long as things remain orderly, there is a chance that they will also seem inevitable and unchangeable. Nothing is orderly in confusion so nothing is inevitable.

The benefit of confusion is that nutrients get spread around. It's confusing for the worms when the dirt turns in the spring.

The benefit of confusion is that things seem to come to light randomly, so that you find little things you might have forgotten were there.

The benefit of confusion is that it makes it hard to label things right or wrong, and so we have to really look at things to find out what they are.

The benefit of confusion is that it often turns out better than you think it will.

Monday, July 17, 2006

banana bread and getting what you want

This morning I bought a piece of banana bread at a cafe. It was dry. Later this morning, several people made charming comments about the fabulous banana bread I often make for the classes I train. Now it is nearly 10 and I am deciding how best to bake banana bread while catching enough sleep to guide my class tomorrow.

The banana bread is clearly an opportunity. For members of the class, it will be an opportunity to eat banana bread; for me it is now an opportunity to make a point about how outcomes get set and processed and turn into fresh baked goods; and to add some fun to the class, and to anchor yet another set of happy states to my banana bread.

The happy states are not in the recipe. They come after baking. And they change the taste and texture considerably. After I serve the banana bread, all the inexplicably happy people will shake their heads about how I do too much - and then they'll reach for seconds.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

spin, feelings, and value

Someone asked me last night if I was aware of a technique for 'spinning' emotions in order to change them. The answer was no and yes.

No, I was not familiar with the particular kind of spin he referenced.

Yes, I know how to spin feelings. And points of view. And problems. I know how to spin things so that they look different and sometimes better. Like Michelangelo, I prefer communications that are suitable for viewing from a variety of angles: not just 360 degrees, but a full sphere of reference. Or, to put it another way, I like to turn communications on their heads (avoiding the challenge to my own balance) and see how they look different upside down.

Spin implies movement, and spinning things separates out different kinds of particles. Unless what you are spinning is yarn. I do like to spin a good yarn.

Spinning makes you dizzy and often induces travel sickness. Doesn't it?

Monday, July 10, 2006

find your lodestar

It's summer. It's warm enough to stand outside and stargaze. Even in the hazy urban sky, there are stars. Constant. Distant. Light in the dark.

A lodestar is a star that can be used for navigating; a point of reference so true that you can use it to find out where you are and to get where you are going. You can only use it at night, when the world is dark and your normal points of reference are hard to see. You can only use it because you have studied it and made it familiar.

Go outside tonight as the sun goes down and it begins to get dark. Practice knowing that darkness brings its own way of clearing out noise and haziness. Practice knowing that you will find your lodestar in the dark.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

knowing when better means success

We all know that "if you build it they will come" works best in the movies. If you build a better mousetrap, you will have a better mousetrap. Possibly you will have lots of them if you have mass-produced in the conviction that a better mousetrap will be a big-seller.

In a world of limited resources, how do you know what needs to be better if you are to be more successful? The only presupposition that is useful here is the presupposition that you do know - you have had times when you have made improvements and been more successful as a result. You can go back to those situations and learn from them.

Let go of the answers you think you have. Commit to success. Be prepared to change your focus. Then go back to a time when making improvements allowed you to achieve what you wanted. Notice what was different then. Move your awareness from the product or idea, outwards in ripples. Notice your own state at the time, your market, your context. Notice your timing.

Learn what you need. Then make the right changes. So that better will mean success.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

summer tunes

When was the last time you found a new favourite song?

I have learned to do the people around me a kindness and listen to music whenever I am feeling stuck or restless. It is an accessible, effective way to nudge a mood in the right direction. The rhythm, the tempo and the mood of the music can all strike a chord with me and get me walking to the beat of a different drummer. I try to find enough new music so that I always have a range of choice between what has worked before and what I might need next.

If you think you do not like music, or that music is for kids, it might be time for you to find a new song. Summer is full of festivals, concerts, and time to play with new technologies. Before Labour Day, you can find music that focuses you, lifts you, soothes you, and stirs you into movement.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

challenge for the week

We all know that there are things you just cannot get done in July. People are on holidays; people are on the golf course; people are longing for a tall drink on a hot evening. All of Canada seems to be in maintenance mode, concentrating on our brief fling with heat and sunshine.

If you look around your house or cottage, you will immediately notice a whole list of things that can only be done in summer. Gardening, window washing, and some kinds of painting are all made possible (or necessary!) while the sun in shining and the days are long. Space feels and looks different to us, and that opens up new possibilities.

What one thing will you notice in your working life this week that is only possible because it is summer? The more you focus your attention on that one thing that you will only be able to think or do because it is now July, the more other opportunities will open up as you look around and notice the business of summer.