Monday, October 17, 2011

Congruence and integrity

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know.  If we take a concept like integrity, epistemology would ask: how do we know integrity when we experience it in ourselves or encounter it in others?

What do you think?  When in your life have you known that you had integrity, or that integrity was part of who you are?  When in your life have you known integrity in someone else?  These are difficult questions.

It's easier to ask: who comes to mind when you think of integrity? Is it someone who has it or someone who lacks it?

I like to think of integrity as having the strength and flexibility to withstand external force and stay yourself.  It means that sometimes you resist and sometimes you bend so that you can bounce back. It means that the main part of you stays the same no matter how your circumstances change.

It's hard to know yourself well enough to be sure that you are staying the same when strong external forces are pressuring you.  It's hard to know that the "you" you are experiencing now is substantially the same as the "you" that existed a minute or a month or a decade ago.  We value integrity not because it is easy to have or to know but because our brains are always occupied in giving us the impression that something in us stays the same while everything else changes.

Congruence is a concept in NLP that means that all your awareness is wrapped around just one thing. It means that mind and body, consciousness and unconscious process are part of just one self moving in just one direction.  Congruence is not the same as integrity, but integrity is very difficult without it.

Without congruence, integrity depends on maintaining the tenuous relationship between the you that you know and the you that you don't know, that self that runs below the surface and offers you words and behaviours and choices. There could, arguably, be integrity in maintaining a separation or a tension between those two selves.  But it is unlikely that it is a very human integrity.

When human beings are fighting themselves, they tend to change.  The conscious mind and the unconscious awareness react differently to external pressures.  One shifts more than the other, the balance is lost, the integrity fails.  It is every bit as scary as it sounds. This is the state in which one surprises oneself, and the surprise is not good.  This is the state when you find yourself capable of things you thought you would never say or never do.

Lasting integrity is not about being the self you choose to acknowledge: it is about acknowledging the whole of the self you are.  It demands that the conscious self make peace with the unknowable within you, and that the unconscious self be respectful of the limits and role of consciousness.  It means continually returning to a state of congruence, especially when external forces seem to be pushing you off track and out of sync with yourself.

You don't have to think about how to find that state of congruence.  You know it.  You do have to think about wanting it and owning it and living with who you are congruently.  That's the sign that conscious and unconscious process are willing to work together.  It's the intention to be all of one piece that allows you to find the you that withstands change, the you that has integrity.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gratitude on grumpy days

What do you do on Thanksgiving Day when you are overwhelmed by worry or stress or you're grieving for people who were part of your life last year and are gone now?

Holidays arrive when they arrive; they don't always fit the circumstances of our lives at the moment when they arrive.  And that is precisely why they are useful.  The time we need to remember to say thank you is the time when we feel least like saying thank you.

In NLP, we have a concept that you may have heard of other places.  We call it "fake it till you make it."  We mean that sometimes it is useful to act like you feel the way you want to feel.  If you want to feel like someone who is genuinely grateful today, then act like that person would act.  Let your feelings catch up.

What would someone who felt thankful today see in your life that you are missing?  What would they value that you are allowing to fade into the wallpaper?  What would someone with a thankful heart appreciate about being inside your skin?

You don't have to feel good on holidays.  But if you'd like to feel better, then begin by focusing on the things that people who feel good focus on.  We know that gratitude journals help people facing depression or difficult transitions.  Why not start small?

Imagine what someone else would like about your life.  Then say thank you - to people, to the universe, to God if you believe.  Say it over and over. Eventually it will feel more natural.  And you'll feel better about the circumstances that made it hard to be thankful.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Values, Thanks and Innovation

Here's something you might not have thought about Thanksgiving: it's a great time for innovation.

Harvest is often seen as an ending and thanks are something we give after something has happened. It is easy to stop with that recognition and miss the bigger one.  Innovation starts in the middle: it takes something that already exists and changes it to make it better.  The things and people for which we are thankful are exactly the best place to look for innovations.

Think of the people for whom you are thankful.  Now think of some part of your work and ask: What can I change that would give something to these people who have given something to me? What could I do more or differently to support their values or make it easier for them to take action they want to take? What one thing will they say when I have developed to the next stage?

Then think of things for which you are thankful.  Line them up with your values and ask: how could I use this thing differently to support a different value or to deepen my experience of value?  Ask: if I didn't have this thing, how could I replace the value it represents for me?

The best way to show that you are thankful for the good things in your life is to appreciate them actively. Innovation is one way to be active in your appreciation and to ensure that there will be lots for which to say thank you again next year.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

What do you want?

I think this is the second most confrontational question one can ask. (The first is: who are you?). It is not less difficult for being said in warm, supportive tones.  It is a question I am asking myself these days, aware that the answer is probably simple and living with it will probably be complicated.

What do you want?

What happens in you when you look at the question.  Is there a rush of energy? Does you mind fill with swirling possibilities or empty to a stark vision of one thing now out of reach?  Do you feel inspired or discouraged? How is your breath different now?

What do you want?

I am pushing now - pushing you and pushing me.  Because I've played this game before, I can run quickly through the easy things - the bills paid off, the trip, the change in the house.  I can run through the "I know what I don't want" and counter it appropriately.  I can make a list of the areas where I need useful outcomes: health, home, work, relationships.  We can talk and talk and talk.  It's a way of working around or towards or into the question.

What do you want?

I want to answer the question differently, to answer the question in a way that makes this very moment richer and this very day more full of life.  I want to ask myself to find that moment when I have already experienced what I want, and to hold that feeling far from the voice that challenges and makes exceptions. I want to wonder at that feeling that will let me know I have what I want.

And then I want to grow the space around that intention that I have kept separate from words and simply hold the thought itself.