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Posts Tagged ‘awareness’

New Leaves, Same Roots

Core Values Venn DiagramWhat do you promise not to change this year?

No, I’m not trying to talk you out of your courageous commitment to new behaviors. As a matter of fact, I’m trying to help you. I want to see you eat better, exercise more, improve your listening skills, find time for reflection, stop driving like you’re the only important person on the road, etc. I totally support your intention to change!

And that’s why I’m asking you what you want to conserve.

Behavioral change can only stick if it’s intrinsically motivated—when we say, “I want to,” or “this matters to me,” rather than, “I should.”

Naming what matters to you will help you illuminate what you want to conserve—those core values that sustain your resolve to change. My intention to savor my food honors my values of gratitude and beauty. My determination to read more and watch less TV is grounded in values of language and intimacy.

When I work with clients to clarify their core values, we uncover gold mines of intrinsic motivators. Not all values inventories are as visually delightful as the one you see here, which so cheerfully embodies the client’s values of creativity and design (he told me I could share it with you). But however you format it, this is the kind of list that provides a solid foundation for choosing the life you want.

Victor Hugo advised: “Change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” What would happen if you started your year with a galvanizing look at your values? Please get in touch if you want some help with that.

Happy New Year!

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Don’t Fence Me In

September 9, 2011 1 comment

fence, Brewster, MAThere was no shortage of guffaws and looks of incredulity when presidential candidate Ron Paul absurdly suggested during a recent debate that a border fence with Mexico might well be used—in some grimly imagined future police state—as much to “keep us in” as to keep “all those bad people” out. But isn’t there just a tiny grain of truth in that? No, I don’t mean that we physically would be constrained from leaving the country. But, doesn’t a fence of any kind “keep us in”?

That is, after all, exactly one-half the point of a fence. It delineates what’s us and what’s them, what’s mine and what’s yours, what’s here and what’s there. And once we’ve gone to the trouble of defining space like that, at least part of our awareness shifts to preserving our “in-ness.”

And I’m not just talking about politics. We build fences around ourselves all the time, at home and at work, in our communities, and across the globe.  Maybe it’s wise to pause and listen to the speaker in Robert Frost’s Mending Wall who considers tweaking his tradition-bound neighbor:

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.”

Can you think of a fence you’ve made in your life to keep others out? What’s it like inside the fence?

The Words We Use

Word cloud of dream languageA recent item in The Boston Globe entitled Fighting Words described how social media and marketing commentator Crystal Smith leveraged simple technology to illuminate the gender stereotypes that dominate television toy commercials.

Using the free online tool Wordle, Smith generated comparative word clouds of the nouns and verbs she heard most frequently in toy ads targeted to boys and girls.

I have to admit feeling dismayed by the stark picture of gender bias that her informal experiment revealed (although an interesting range of opinion is evident in the comments associated with Smith’s original post). But, at the same time, I was reminded about how useful a tool like Wordle can be in raising our awareness about the language that we use.

Have you tried using Wordle to uncover any hidden emphasis in your resume, or in your online bio, or in your marketing copy?

For example, I generated the word cloud above out of excerpts from my dream journal. I was not at all surprised to see water, car, or my son Matt’s name cropping up with some frequency. But look at how the words “going” and “back” stand out. Until I looked at this image, I hadn’t realized how often my dreams have a theme of travel; how often in my dreams I have the sense that I have gone someplace and I have to get back.

I loved discovering this thread of meaning in my dreams. I have followed it to some fruitful reflections about where I am in my life’s journey.

If you haven’t yet tried Wordle or another word cloud generator, I recommend that you do. You might be surprised to discover what pops out at you from your own words.

Let’s Talk About Food

Endless tables conversationThe dreary weather conditions in the Boston area this past weekend did not discourage thousands of people from attending an innovative outdoor festival at the Museum of Science celebrating and exploring our relationship with food and food systems.

As one of several volunteer facilitators, I had the privilege of engaging in conversations at an “endless table” where festival attendees dropped in to discuss various aspects of food production, distribution, consumption, and regulation.

Festival organizers set the conditions for lively dialogue by providing dry-erase placemats that offered provocative data points and questions relating to six topic areas: Nutrition, Food Access, Seafood, Farming, Food Safety, and Labels and Marketing. Experts on hand to field questions and share their opinions included farmers, wholesale buyers, food scientists, academics, public health officials, and consumer and community advocates. The reflections and suggestions generated in the conversations were captured by museum staff for later publication on the web.

I don’t know which I enjoyed more, picking up a lot of new insights about how “what we eat affects our bodies, our planet, our economy, and our future,” or marveling at our capacity for constructive public discourse when we design the process effectively. A spirit of collective curiosity and good will was palpable throughout the event.

After the festival I found myself appreciating how the simple act of eating connects us to so many other human beings through unseen threads of interdependence. I thought of Thich Nhat Hanh’s good counsel to savor our food and his observation that an “…apple is not simply a quick snack to quiet a grumbling stomach. It is something more complex, something part of a greater whole.”

Like the apple, we are each a complex part of a greater whole. Thanks to the Museum of Science and its sponsors for helping us stay mindful of that delicious complexity.

Dream, Not Dread

When fear dominates our awareness“Fearless,” is how his collaborators described Neil Patrick Harris for being willing to deliver an exuberant, on-the-fly rap to end the 2011 Tony Awards broadcast. A quick scan of recent news stories finds the word fearless applied—with notably different shades of meaning—to other performers, film directors, journalists, athletes, explorers, soldiers, activists, and even politicians.

Whether we’re talking about life-or-death situations or simply the possibility of embarrassment, we admire people who are willing to take a risk when the stakes are high.

But, are these people really fearless? Surely not. Some measure of fear is essential to our survival and to escape it completely would be folly. On the other hand, to let fear dominate our awareness is equally dangerous because it erodes our capacity to create and produce—in fact, to live.

What we can learn from the risk-takers around us is that it’s possible to make fear the footnote instead of the headline. Grounded in clarity about their values and purpose, risk-takers choose to pay more attention to what they want than what they fear. And that makes for a richer, more meaningful life.

Watch and share this one-minute animation to remind yourself to tune in to the channels that energize you rather than the ones that frighten you.

Shifting Vistas

For all my friends and clients who fret about feeling guilty or lazy when doing “nothing,” here’s a guest reflection from my wise sister Clare, reminding us all of the necessity for gazing…

NYC Skyline from Long Island CityGazing at eternity in skyscraper and pond

I guess I’ve always been a gazer. For as long as I remember, I’ve loved  to take time in the midst of my busy life to sit quietly and gaze, resting my eyes on vista—grand, simple, natural, human-made, moving, or still. The sights on which my eyes rest are portals to inner vistas; as I gaze out, I also gaze in, my consciousness free to wander in comfortable silence. This feels passive—but is it really a form of active inner learning?

I remember the last time I gazed out at the New York skyline. As I sat on my terrace on the East River’s east bank, bidding goodbye to my New York life, I felt the poignant turn of my own personal tide. The skyline show was a visual symphony of memory and feeling, and my emotions rose and fell with the surge of my shifting inner experience. This visual play allowed me to cement my inner understanding of my years there and to surf forward to what would come next.

And here I am now, in what came next. My newest vista is the small pond in my Virginia garden, with its cascading waterfall, graceful Japanese cherry tree, and ever-patient statue of a girl reading. When I first arrived, I was afraid my inner vista would shrink in this smaller life-view. But in fact, I think the opposite has happened. My reveries at the rock-edge of this pond have helped my awareness shift to the turning cycles of life, not just my own but the planet’s organic thrust and pull. Here, I feel the pulse of my consciousness as a member of the human community—dangling my feet in the water, I understand that we all recede and we all pour forth in an endless dance of connection and separation, growth and diminishment, life and its final cycle out.

And so, I realize that gazing is not just a passive rest from activity, but a necessary activity in itself, a practice of recharging of my inner eye to better equip me for my busy days. I wonder what my next vista will be?