Tuesday, February 27, 2007

in the interest of full disclosure

This will be the first in a short series that will let you know something about how we conduct ourselves and where it differs from what we teach or what you might expect us to teach. This first is about goal-setting and state management.

Chris and I begin our processes for both goal-setting and managing our states with prayer, often supplemented with reading our Bibles. We do not teach this: we teach processes that offer some of the benefits of prayer within a completely secular model. We know that the processes we teach are highly effective. They work for people of many different beliefs.

We define our own strengths and integrity around our Christian faith. For us, the process of gathering ourselves and our resources is a process of connecting with God through Christ and through Scripture. Typically, when faced with a choice point, I will open my Bible, then pray, then check to see what has shifted. Typically, I will use states of focus to quiet my mind so that I can be open in prayer. Chris prays differently than I do, yet we both use prayer to gather resources and perspective.

What I do personally uses the processes I teach and integrates them with my own sense of faith and purpose. The goals I set depend on an integration of what I want and what I believe God wants from me. I call on resources within and outside me in ways that are similar to those I teach in a secular context.

Chris and I believe that people who want to use integrated thinking to deepen their faith experiences will find it helpful without any explicit "teaching" or even modeling. The states of quiet, intense focus that are produced by several of the processes we teach lend themselves readily to religious meditation or prayer.

The practices of focus, attention and communication that we teach are extraordinarily effective in many contexts. We share only the process of dealing with states and goals: the content of those remains private. It would not be useful for me to know how many people combine integrated thinking with prayer. It may be useful for clients to be aware that the two different models can be integrated effectively and ecologically.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Being what you want to be

Are you the things you have or the things you do? Or are you something more - is the person who acquires things and experiences things somehow more than the things that person wants?

Knowing yourself is a lifelong endeavour. Most of us get glimpses of who we want to be - sometimes in an achievement and sometimes in a quiet moment alone and sometimes in the reflection we see when someone looks at us. I have been blessed with someone who frequently holds a mirror up so that I can see things I would otherwise have missed about myself. Those things do not always make me comfortable. They are always the beginning of making me stronger.

The poet Yeats once said that people have to choose between creating perfect lives and creating perfect work. Most of us do not make that kind of choice. We choose imperfection in who we are, in what we acquire, and in what we do. We choose imperfection because it is inevitable and because it sometimes surprises us. It sometimes offers us the view in the mirror we would otherwise have missed.

Imagine you acquire all the things you want to acquire. Imagine you achieve the things you want to achieve. If you do not also imagine the person you are shaping through those experiences, what will be missing from the life you shape through intention and attention?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

reality checks

What if you can attract whatever you want just by believing that you can have it? How precise is the universe in handing you what you want? There are lots of stories, in lots of cultures, that whisper "be careful what you ask for."

Imagine that a large cheque arrives in the mail. Sounds great, doesn't it? Now imagine that the cheque is part of settling an estate for someone you loved dearly. Or maybe it's a critical illness insurance cheque. That doesn't sound nearly as great. Be careful what you wish for.

Imagine that you move into your dream house. It's the right size, the right location, the furniture you have always wanted. Imagine that you move into it alone. Be careful what you wish for.

Imagine that you shift it up several notches and acquire the taste, the luxuries and the status you have always wanted. You are suddenly exactly where you knew you should be - and everyone who was once important in your life is back where you left them. Be careful what you wish for.

Be careful of the people who tell you that you can have whatever you believe you can have. They are right - and wrong. There are thousands of years of stories from cultures around the world that tell you wishes are powerful. Focus is powerful. You can have what you can see.

What will you have left in your blind spot?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Scientifically proven

What happens in your mind when you read a phrase like "scientifically proven?" This morning, I was reading a book that is currently the subject of lots of buzz (yes - it made it to Oprah). It contained a statement that it has been 'scientifically' proven that an affirmative thought is hundreds of times more powerful than a negative thought. No reference was given to the study or studies that "proved" this hypothesis.

I wonder when the notions of affirmation and negation were operationalized so that they could be tested experimentally.

I wonder what units of power were used in quantifying.

I wonder how many hundreds of times more powerful. Since this is science, I assume quantity matters.

The book made it to Oprah. The people involved with it are going to realize their own affirmations - they are going to make lots of money. Probably not as much as a the quiet single mom who wrote a children's book while sitting in coffee shops with her baby. But still. Lots of money. Wealth is a word that figures frequently in their affirmations.

I am aware of science that will show that more parts of one's brain are active in a positive thought (positive in that it represents something that can be perceived) than are active in a negative thought (negative in that it is a "not" thought - a trick of language that allows us to talk about something that is opposite to what can be perceived). In this model, the mushroom cloud after a nuclear explosion is a "positive" while "not smoking" is a negative. This is not quite the same as saying the brain supports thoughts about what we want.

What happens in your mind when you are fed bits of information that are related to truth and which correspond your experience and then a bit of information that you would never accept out of context? Do you notice how many words have been twisted just a little to make the point?

Monday, February 12, 2007

sad old songs

Driving home from work last night, I listened to Jann Arden talking about the songs she had chosen for her new album. Many of them were songs that I remembered from the back seat of the car, or the radio in the living room. Not the songs of my teens, but the songs from that desperate, confusing time in between, the days of middle school.

Thanks to iTunes, I was able to download both Arden's covers and a collection of the Carpenters' Greatest Hits. I was too young to have anything but sideways memories of Karen Carpenter, a too-thin presence with a rich and wonderful voice. Tragic and perky at the same time. The songs pull me back so strongly I couldn't do much except to listen to them this morning. Pulled back, not into a particular time and state, but into the psyche of a twelve year old singing Rainy Days and Mondays with a voice that caught on the edges of childhood.

As I listen to those songs again, I notice the shadows under the baby boom myth. Very young, boomers (like generations before them) wished for love they did not believe they would find. Very young, they sang along to sad songs and pulled disappointment deep within, forgotten and powerful. Beautiful girls singing about how unlovely they were, and how unloved. Where did that come from?

and yet. . . underneath the lyrics. . . strong voices, strong beat. Connection with all the girls who did not know that they were lovely and that they would be loved. Affirmation that makes the songs irresistible, even thirty years later.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Attention, Attraction, Achievement

Have you heard about The Secret? I will confess that I have not yet read the book or watched the DVD but I did sneak a peak today in the bookstore. The Secret is, apparently, that we can attract things into our life by paying attention to them. This is not quite as big a "secret" as how they get the caramel into a Caramilk bar. Some people attract success by knowing what they want, paying attention to opportunities, and working hard to make their vision real.

The advantage of a secret that is well-known is that there is considerable evidence that it works (which is not quite the same as it being true). The disadvantage is that you have probably already heard some version of this secret without becoming as wildly successful as you would like.

I have been reading a book about a different kind of secret. It's a book by Milton Erickson's family and friends about the "secret" to Erickson's success. That secret is apparently that Erickson was able to be intensely curious, intensely present, and absolutely confident that people had within themselves the resources they needed to heal and help themselves.

The secret to influence is to pay attention to the unique experience of each person you want to influence. The secret to paying attention? That's still under wraps. We have good guesses, but no proof. Milton Erickson would have been fine with that: he believed that the will to do something positive was more important than the ability to understand.

How will you know that you are ready to pay attention to attracting those things you need for achievement?