keep going

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It’s close to the end of the day, and the clock seems to be slowing down. I’m feeling the energy drain out of my body with every tick of the clock and can’t wait for a time close enough to quitting time for me to be able to sneak out without causing offence.

Actually, that’s not how I feel today but there have been other days when this is true. And I bet you have felt it too.

That’s probably why I love this quote from Sam Levenson.

“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.”

Its a great reminder to see the time you have as a precious gift to be invested wisely. That doesn’t mean you need to sit at my desk when you’re no longer making progress. It doesn’t mean that you need to simply make it look like you’re still working.

It means you need to find a way to keep making progress.

That might mean you need to take a break. Maybe you need to simply pack up and go home so that you can be better prepared tomorrow. Maybe you need to pick up that task which has been sitting on your desk for the past week. Maybe you need to turn off your computer, pick up a pencil and make a plan for tomorrow. Maybe you need to pick up a book and read a chapter.

There are all sorts of things you could do, so pick one!

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Listen to understand AND support

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This past weekend I led a retreat with the leadership of a local faith based charitable organisation. The main objective of the retreat was finding a way to think creatively about the challenges that the organisation faces. The goal was to figure out new ways to centre everything they are doing around the purpose of the organisation.

They are working out how to ensure what they do is shaped by why they exist.

This was going to involve some brainstorming and real out of the box thinking, so some ground work needed to be done. The hope was to move people out of the default of listening to reply, into a more open attitude of listening to understand.

We introduced an improv game which is designed to help people focus on what the other person is saying BEFORE figuring out what they are going to say.

We put people into groups of 4 or 5, and told them to have a conversation with each other. They can talk about whatever they want, with two rules:

1) They need to take turns going around the circle, so that everyone speaks in turn.

2) Every person needed to start their sentence with the last word of the previous person’s sentence.

For example:

A: “I can’t believe we are being forced to do this exercise.”

B: “Exercise is one of my least favourite things to do.”

C: “Do you think we are going to get snacks later?”

D: “Later, we should go out to Dairy Queen.”

E: Queen Latifah is highly overrated.”

A: Overrated actresses should not be paid so much.”

B: Much of what happens in Hollywood is illogical.”

Now, as I was introducing the game something very interesting happened. The members started to try and make it difficult for the next person to start a sentence. They would try to end their story on some weird word which was obscure (like I just did). This way they could have a laugh as the next person tried to make a sentence start with that word.

This doesn’t really build a sense of unity in the team, however. It also¬†forgets one of the fundamental rules of improv, “Don’t Block“. Blocking is anything you do which negates the ability of someone else to make a contribution. Blocking is basically saying, “My way is the best.” Or even, “I am the best.” It seeks the easy laugh at the expense of someone else. It pits people against each other, and makes them into rivals instead of co-creators.

Needless to say the rules were reshaped to include supporting the others in the conversation and trying NOT to make it difficult for the next person.

I’m pretty sure this particular board is not unique. I think we all need to learn how to listen to understand AND support, not just reply.

Do what you are afraid to do!

I sit down at my desk to hammer out another plan for another intervention in a system that seems to be stuck. A system that needs to be poked and prodded so that it moves into its own potential. A group of people who have become comfortable and complacent.

The plan includes turning authority over to that group.

This is scary.

Its scary because I have a pretty good idea where the system needs to move, and I am not convinced others will see it as well.

Its scary because change needs to happen, and since change is never comfortable I am worried about how much resistance to change there will be.

Its scary because it forces me to put my money where my mouth is.

See, I believe deeply in the power of community and the necessity of collaborative decision making on a large scale. I believe that each individual has a unique perspective, exceptional gifts, and uncommon talents. I believe that each of these NEED to be included in a process that leads toward change.

I believe the way we do things matters just as much as getting there.

So, now I need to be willing to relinquish control and facilitate a decision making process that includes everyone AND allows the group(s) to make the decisions.

I have also come to see that fear can be a great indicator of the work I need to do. Fear is a form of internal resistance that is seeking to stop us from doing great work. Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art says that we can use this:

We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

The question is, do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to follow the path that leads to growth and development. I don’t think we can have both, and if we want to grow we will need to push toward that calling we have been given and push through the resistance we feel.

With that in mind I will leave you with this challenge.

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