Saturday, November 26, 2011

Integration and Integrity

I am fascinated by words, and fascinated most of all by familiar words that are unexpectedly difficult to bring into focus.  We know what they mean right up to that moment when someone asks us to explain. They are clear and then less clear.

Integrity is a word like this.  What do you think it means?

Most people will say there is a relationship between integrity and honesty, but if you ask them if honesty is the only measure of integrity, they will stop and reflect.  It doesn't seem enough. Three year olds may be honest, but do they have integrity?  If they do, how is that integrity the same as the integrity we expect from a CEO or government leader?

In training, I describe integrity as the quality that allows a person to withstand external force. If a person were a building, that would take equal measures of strength and flexibility. If a person were a building, it would be easier to define what stays standing when integrity is maintained.

Integration is a word that is obviously (if not clearly) related to integrity.  Integration happens when change happens in a person or system. It's a process by which the change becomes permanent.  This may or may not involve a testing of the change to see whether it seems to be worth keeping.  It's difficult to know if change is rejected because it is not useful enough or because the process of integration itself lacks something.

If I say we live in a world that threatens our integrity, most people will assume that I mean the world offers challenges and temptations to our moral code (whatever that may be).  That is part of what I mean.  More of what I mean, I suspect, is that it is so difficult to know ourselves that it becomes very difficult to know when we are changing in ways consistent with growth and identity.  If people fear change, it may be because they really, really want to know who they will be when they wake up tomorrow.

When I was twenty, these were easier questions.  Now I am fifty (and thirty five and twenty two and sometimes five) it is harder to be sure.  I am not even certain that being sure would build integrity.  Integrity seems to come from a willingness to face change with courage and to pretend with all our might that we can know the difference that we are making.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The miracle question

My friends in Solution Focused coaching often use the miracle question to uncover resourcefulness in their clients. They ask: "If a miracle happened overnight, while you were asleep, and the problem was solved. . ."

This fall, there are babies in my life for the first time in a long time.  When I think of a miracle, I think of a tiny fist wrapped around just one of my fingers, of the perfection of each tiny fingernail and each perfectly formed little finger.  I think of the unexpected strength in that grip, and the strength of the pull in my heart that responds to it.  The miracles that come to mind for me are tiny and complicated and hugely influential.

I wonder if there are miracles in your life that are so small and vulnerable you hardly notice them at all. Miracles that you have welcomed or ignored until they hardly seem like miracles at all.  Yet if you did pay attention, if you let them connect with you, you might be overwhelmed by the power of that connection. You might find that it changed everything in precisely the same way that a tiny fist closed around your finger changes everything although it changes nothing.

Could you notice a miracle that is already happening?  You might notice a miracle that is more complicated than you could consciously unwind, that pulls a little at your heart, that changes your direction a fraction of a degree or heightens your perceptions just a little bit. You might notice that already have a little more of what you need than you thought you did.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Which book will you pick?

It's very late, and you are tired.  You find yourself in a large bookstore, and as you move down an aisle, you hear a door shut.  You know, suddenly, that the store has just closed for the evening and you will be locked inside until morning.

Now you have a choice.  There are rows and rows of books, and you have enough time to read one, cover to cover.  You know that one of these books holds a message that will be the key to the next part of your life. But there are thousands of books on the shelves.

Where will you go first?  You know the way that books are organized in bookstores.  There are shelves of books for business and psychology and self-development.  There are books on nature, and on health, and on computers.  There are books on photography and the performing arts.  There are books on the social sciences and on spirituality and on cooking. And then there are shelves of poetry and drama (not many - but there are some), and shelves of novels of different kinds.  There are even children's books.

Where are you walking now?  Which shelves are you exploring. And what will tell you that you have found that one book that holds precisely the message you need before the doors open in the morning?


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Natural learning patterns (NLP)

What's in a name?

If the name in question is neuro-linguistic programming, the name has held equal amounts of mystification and misunderstanding.  Brains cannot be programmed in the way that computers can, and neurology and linguistics are two very different models.  Whatever the original intent, the terminology often becomes an obstacle between an interested mind and a model of thinking that is otherwise very effective.

What if I said, instead, that NLP means "natural learning patterns" and it is a set of practices designed to allow you to exchange ideas and behaviours more effectively with other people? Would you begin to understand that it's possible to get better at working with the natural structure of your thinking so that you notice more, understand better and communicate more precisely? NLP is the practice of natural learning patterns.

When you visit the NLP Encyclopedia at Robert Dilt's website, you discover that NLP is "a behavioural model, and a set of explicit techniques, founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in early 1976. Defined as the study of the structure of subjective experience, NLP studies the patterns or programming created by the intersection between the brain ("neuro"),  language ("linguistic") and the body.

Are you confused yet?

For a long time, western culture has separated mind and body.  Science and philosophy mostly constructed realities where thinking could be separated from physiology.  To paraphrase Ken Robinson, most people believed that bodies were just the vehicles that moved our brains from place to place. The only way to maintain this belief is to deliberately not observe the way people actually think, behave and change.

When we observe people who are learning naturally, we see that the body and the brain have always formed a wonderfully complex system of deep, wide connectedness.  Minds and bodies communicate, sometimes through language (which puts ideas into a form that is physically present). Scientists now are beginning to understand that saying something does make it so (at least to some of the neurons in our brain) and that grasping something with our hands can help us grasp it with our minds, too (read I is an Other).


NLP was founded by two men who were brilliant at paying attention to all of what they could observe about how other people created, discovered, supported and changed their learning patterns. People who learn NLP now have the opportunity to combine those observations with the best of the arts and the sciences.  Together, they can make us endlessly curious about what it is that happens within us and around us.

At the heart of NLP, at the heart of all natural, learning patterns, there is a restless, joyful curiosity about how much we can notice.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Would you take a walk with me?

I began this morning by reading these thoughts on the new biography of Steve Jobs: http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/2011/10/thoughts-on-steve-jobs-the-book.html

Two observations in that blog post are that Steve Jobs was half of a number of brilliant collaborations and that Steve Jobs took a lot of walks.  It started me thinking.

When my partner left the business last spring, I lost the opportunity to go for walks.  During the eight years that we worked together, we often headed to the park or the boardwalk to solve problems, resolve conflicts or search for innovations.  Walking was part of how we worked.  It was so much a part of how we worked, that I didn't realize that I had stopped walking when he left.

In my courses, I often talk about the power of going for a walk with someone, but it took someone else's blog post to make me realize that it's been a long time since I went for a walk. My love of walks goes back long before I started in this business. I used to go for walks to get fresh air and exercise.  I even acquired a dog as an excuse to walk with my teenage sons and a reminder to walk for myself.

Now the dog doesn't much like walking and I head for the yoga studio to stretch my body and my my mind. I walk whenever there's an obvious opportunity (I'd much rather walk than move my car in the city), but I haven't headed out just to move and think and be present in my environment for a long time.

It's time for me to move past some problem solving and do some serious innovating.

It's time for a walk.