Saturday, January 30, 2010

Units of thought and explanation

In the world of literature, it has often been said that good writing is the best words in the best order, and that good poetry uses the language of the common man. In other words, say what you have to say simply and you may also say it powerfully.

I have been thinking about the meta-model in NLP, for which I have a rather natural distaste (given the presuppositions above). The meta-model is full of grammatical terms and made-up jargon. It jumps and jags uneasily between straight-forward sensory experience and hugely complicated "chunking" of different layers of "abstraction." Like an onion, the meta-model has layers that cause tears.

Tears is not a meta-model violation, although there should certainly be a separate category for ambiguity. Do I mean tears that accompanying weeping or tears like those in a piece of paper or cloth?

I will throw no stones here (are all metaphors complex equivalencies?) but I will say this: there are other ways of training the instinct to recognize and respond to language with considerable acuity. They involve units of thought and patterns that do not exist in the meta-model - and yet which are demonstrably doing the same things that the meta-model wants to do.

I could give you a model with complicated terminology. But I'd rather engage you in a story. . .


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Waiting for growth

There's a metaphor that makes its way through NLP circles about not pulling up your plants to check on their growth. It makes people laugh, sometimes a little nervously.

We all want to see that the roots are getting deeper. It's not enough to know. We want to know for sure.

I work in a growth business. Over and over again, I offer seeds to people and encourage them to plant those seeds, to nurture them, to expect them to grow. I tell them they can trust the process. I know they have to trust the process - the process demands it.

You would think it would be easier for me to trust the process myself. To plant a seed and wait for it to grow with some confidence.

It's not easier. I see all the signs of growth and still - I want to know for sure. I want to see the roots growing stronger and deeper. Self management does not mean escaping from the deep, wide desire for certainty. Self management means telling myself, firmly and gently and with a little bit of humour, that plants do not do well if you keep pulling them out to look at their roots.

And then I go looking for the people who will make the wait more comfortable.

Monday, January 25, 2010

And all the way back. . . now



That's what we say when we end an exercise that has led people into their own thoughts. We call them back to the room so that they can shake off the intensity of the experience and become aware that they are still connected to a physical context.

Chris and I are struggling today to come all the way back, now. It's a combination of the intensity of a very full four days and of flying the red eye back to Toronto. The mind has trouble coming all the way back when it is a little foggy with distance and missed sleep.

One of my first memories of Chris's training is of the story of St. Francis that he used to use (as his mentor, Derek Balmer did before him) to close a programme. It seemed fitting that we took a course in San Francisco over the weekend, near the place where NLP began and very much under the influence of the saint who knew that presence is a gift we give the people around us.

It's one of our key messages as trainers: we experience the presence and attention of someone else as a gift, an opening of possibility and an affirmation of our connection to a world outside our minds. This is especially true when we manage to be physically present with the person or people to whom we are giving attention.

Our bodies have travelled. Our minds have stretched, with new contexts and new training and with the effort of being mindful of our people while our bodies moved across a continent. Tonight, we are working to pull attention and body into one place again. To come all the way back, now.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The magic of sort-of knowing what you want

Yesterday, I co-trained a course on Change that Sticks. We wanted to explore the conditions that make change sustainable and their implications for coaches, trainers and other people who need change (in other people) to stick. Our group ranged from people with substantial experience in business coaching and training to people working in more therapeutic settings, to teachers. We had a really good time.

Much of the fun was generated because we began with a presupposition that we all know what we want, and it's hard for us all to know exactly what we want. While we agree with everyone else that knowing precisely what you want makes it easier to get precisely what you said you wanted - we all know that human beings are as bad at predicting our own responses as we are at predicting the way the environment might or might not shift around us. We do know what we want - and we do not always know exactly what shape it will take or what steps we need to take to get there.

That's normal. The book I am writing has a working title: "Taking a Chance." It's not about gambling - except in that most of our significant life choices involve choosing something we don't know enough about to make an informed choice. Even when we have lots of information about what something is like for someone else, we don't have enough information about what it will be for us. There's no way to know for sure what it will be like to move to a new country, to get married, to have a child or to remain childless. Other people have done all these things and we know a little about what it was like for them. But it's no guarantee of what it will be like for us.

So yesterday we said things like "you may know exactly what change you want to make, or you may just know that there's an area in your life where you would like to make a positive change."

And. . . no one got stuck. No one didn't know. No one felt overwhelmed.

Instead, we had a room of really smart, interesting, lovely people who became thoroughly engaged in listening to the parts of themselves that knew what to do next. They were relaxed and optimistic and sometimes thoroughly excited by the prospect of change. Not having to know exactly freed them to explore and appreciate what they did know. And to find out that they knew enough.

You do know enough. You're smart and directed and responsive. You may not have the answer in a neat package. But you can quiet the questions and gather the energy to know the one thing you need to do next to move forward.

Go do it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dreams, outcomes, chores

We are, a little tentatively, beginning the long hard work of renovating the kitchen. I understand that some people actually enjoy doing things like a kitchen reno, despite the money and the costs. Some of them are installing a 'dream' kitchen.

Even in a different space, I wouldn't spend much time dreaming about my kitchen.

In fact, my outcome is for my kitchen to become so functional that I don't notice it at all. I just notice what I'm cooking.

I'd like that. But it's not likely either. As creative and dynamic as I am, without a dream to drive me, I accept limitations.

The limitations of this kitchen in this house mean that it's not going to be entirely functional. Not even if I do everything right, have great design advice, and really good contractors. Which is a lot of "ifs."

If I do the best job possible of renovating this kitchen, I will have the satisfaction of a chore well-done and a more functional kitchen.

I do not underestimate the value of chores well done. As I contemplate marking and laundry and vacuuming, I appreciate that I enjoy the results of chores well done.

But they are chores. Not dreams. Not even outcomes.

A contractor today told me I would be "inspired" by a shiny new kitchen to get rid of clutter.

I sure hope she's better at renovations than she is at predicting influence.

I will be pleased and maybe even a little excited by a kitchen that works better. But not inspired to change.

Change requires a dream - or at least, an outcome.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The effects of doing what you can

I didn't make it to the gym yesterday. Well, I didn't make it to the gym yesterday AND I didn't make it on the weekend. But yesterday, when I looked at the way my day was filling up, I did clear a space in the living room, and find the video of the abs workout I had once watched on Chatelaine.

Then - I did the workout.

It took maybe 15 or 20 minutes.

Today, my abs can testify that I exercised yesterday.

If you're like me, you have an idea of how things should be and what things you should be doing. You know what the ideal situation would be and you know when you just can't get there from here.

Then what?

Giving up makes a difference. Doing what you can makes a difference.

Which difference do you want to make now?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Connecting through closed doors

One of the curious things I have learned about leading a group is that they move faster if I am willing to step out and let them focus entirely on what they are doing. As much as I want to support and guide, they will do better if I do it intermittently. To have their own experience, I need to let them have their own experience.

To learn this, I have had to give up certain compulsions. I could call them beliefs or values. They feel more like compulsions. The compulsion to be right. The compulsion to know that the group is following. The compulsion to be look good. The compulsion to be involved.

I am writing this, in part, because I have given up those compulsions and am genuinely willing to loosen the grip of my attention on my group. I am writing this, in part, because my sense of leadership continues even when I am not physically present or engaged in the details.

We are rightfully suspicious of leaders who spend too much time behind closed doors.

We need to be equally suspicious of leaders who cannot close a door.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Off and running in 2010

Do you ever feel like you're running through life? I don't mean feel that you are in a race: it's not about the competition. It's more like deciding on your own power to set off at a good crisp pace. You get used to it. You feel the air differently; you hear sounds differently; your balance is different. After a while, standing still feels unnatural.

So you run till you drop. Then you sleep, at least a little, then you run some more.

It's good as long as your mind is free while your body is moving. I know runners and their minds are precise and relaxed while their bodies are moving.

If you're running with your mind, you need to work a little to separate the movement from the need to ramble and the need to be still. You want to find a runner's high that you can support, day after day, week after week.

Because your mind is made for movement and it doesn't tire the way your muscles do. But it does get ramped up and stuck on particulary intense patterns. It does need space in which running and stillness might be the same thing.

You know what I mean. You can find the stillness in your racing mind. And you can know that you can race and you can rest and both are good.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Just a quick break

Today I've been working on some recordings designed to give someone a quick break, a pattern interrupt, almost - to quote Jon Stewart - a moment of zen. The idea is not to cure or resolve something, but simply to explore what changes when a state that seems to be stuck to us is gently loosened, even for a few minutes.

We know that, in person, a pattern interrupt creates an opportunity to let go of an unwanted state and shift gears. I want to explore how a short audio intervention can allow someone to have more choice about states like confusion, anxiety, headache or fatigue. All of these states land on us and feel as though they are steady and unmovable.

I wonder what would change for people who could listen to a short recording (three to five minutes) at their workplace or in a parking lot (with the car safely parked) that provided a new way to use their attention while they were feeling rotten in one way or another. I wonder if their unconscious minds would notice that they had more control than they thought over how they were feeling.

I wonder if they would notice that even very small breaks, even very small changes, can make a real difference in the quality of our experience.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

And now it's over

We always talk as though life happens gradually, and sometimes it does. More often, it bumps and startles. We plan and prepare, work hard, get really busy and then suddenly it is very still. There's a moment when we are caught off balance. It's over.

That's how it feels the day that it's finally time to take down the Christmas tree. You put the lights on one last time, and think about how quickly it all went. The full house is quiet. There is no more. Every year, the same readiness to get back to normal - until it happens.

You think - it's silly to be sad. I knew this would happen. It always does. But we are creatures who come with an end date, and every ending reminds us that time is one thing we can't hold and can't increase and can't replace.

It's always a little shock when it's over.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

People like windows

There are some people in your life who are like windows. You don't even see them, but they give shape and perspective to what you do see.

We look at windows when they are dirty or broken, or when we are thinking about building or replacing them.

People like windows are people whose point of view we trust so much that we stop thinking about it as a point of view and think of it as the way things are. Until the trust breaks - because we change or our window does - we believe what we see and what we see is shaped by the window through which we are seeing.

It's hard to see a window until it breaks. Look back, and you will find the people in your past who were windows for you - windows into how friendships work, or how things should be, or windows into a particular job or field. At the time, you thought they were the whole of the picture.

Look around you now. Maybe - in your peripheral vision - you will catch a glimpse of an edge and know that you are looking through a window.