WOOP your Intention

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Our last blog post tried to get you in touch the sweeping changes and improvements in our world.  

But that raised for us a personal question framed by the Greek concept of entelechy.  

The impulse to become better, something more, to become all that you can be, is that impulse the Greeks, most notably Aristotle, challenges us to ask what are we working on?

What gets attention grows and what gets attention gets invested with intention.

I posed the question what are you giving attention to?

Let’s break it down. How does this principle of attention and intention work?

If you decide to act on the quiet background desire (the attention that has finally “gotten your attention”) that you've always had to paint, or learn a new foreign language, or even to become the best in your industry, this is where “when you act” you are moving from the idea your attention has fiddled with, to genuinely acting on it, to actually do something. 

The more you think about this (attention) and the more “excited” you get to engage this new territory, the more energy is invested in making it so (intention).

What often happens though is we never move from attention to intention.  From something hitting our awareness horizon to us giving it focused energy.  

What thing has been floating around vying for your attention in the background muzak of our life that should really get focused energy?  

Because I am spending lots of my coaching practice time with clients wanting to optimize their health this is a ready illustration for me.

It is not enough to say, “it has hit my attention that sugar is the best host site for cancer and that sugar might be the most addictive everyday drug in 90% of all products on grocery store shelves.”  Great information.  Correct information.  Carbohydrate/sugar addiction is responsible for 2/3 of all Americans being terribly overweight and 1/3 morbidly so.  But until attention gets coupled with focused energy to act, plot, plan and execute, that fact will remain part of the swirling mass of information in your head.  

So what is in your attentional field of awareness?  

That you need to dial in your health?

That you need to join the 5 am club, go to bed earlier and cut out TV to increase your learning inputs?

That you need to carve out more time for relationships and invest in those that matter most?

That you need to get a grip on your temper, or your stress level, or anxiety?

What do you need to focus intention on?

Let me give you a little memory trick from one of the great researchers of our day, Gabrielle Oettingen, from her book Rethinking Positive Thinking (an incredibly important book even for parents teaching their childrend!)  It is called the WOOP method.

W - Then what is the wish

O - What does the outcome feel like? What does the desired future look like in high definition color? What would be happening if this outcome occurred

O - What are the possible obstacles? - This is an important and counterintuitive step.  And this is the big contribution of her research.  If all we do is focus on the outcome we will miss the crucial preparation necessary to overcome the challenge when it presents itself.  People that engage this step are vastly more successful achieving their intended outcome because they have anticipated that things will not go off pain or glitch free!

P- And last, what is the plan as those obstacles crop up you will use to step over, around, under or through them.  You can see why the “plan” comes last after the “obstacle.” You build into your execution plan the steps necessary to overcome the potential glitches you have anticipated.

You will hit lack of motivation when the verbs get too complicated in learning the new language.  You will have evenings when reverting to eating a whole row of Oreos just sounds good. You will have times that you would rather veg in front of the TV at 9:00 pm instead of going to bed so you can get up at 5 am and crush a workout so BDNF sets up your brain to be sharper and smarter than those around you. No one should be surprised that these thing WILL happen. 

But when you WOOP your intention… the game changes and you change…and you move from being average toward being a “A” player!

Why We Get Stuck

Over the last several years I have had the opportunity to work in a couple different countries, interact with non-profits, NGO’s, churches, high tech communications companies and coaching clients with even more diversity of background.  I say all that to frame what I am about to say…

...when an organization is stuck, it is usually                        

because the leader of the organization is stuck. 

I realize, in looking back that often I was the guy that didn’t know that I didn’t know…you know what I mean? 

Remember the old Arabic proverb you heard sometime in college?

He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool-shun him.
He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple-teach him.
He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep-wake him.
He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise-follow him.

This is why I have to  check in with those in my life and my coach so they can help me see what I can’t see, and help me find out what I don’t know I don’t know.

As long as we constantly identify being stuck as a dynamic out there we can point at, then we will continue to chase our tail never ever getting resolution on the very things we claim we are trying to solve. 

Insert the issue you are wrestling with right now. Repeated efforts to deal with that issue by continual focus on changing something out there first without acknowledging your role, how your level of consciousness impacts it, how your design/contribution to its existence sustains it, will fail.  And those efforts will frustratingly fail over and over and over again.  You know not that you know not that you are the system. 

Changing the system comes first by changing you. 

Blaming is more fun.  Pointing the finger easier.  Scapegoating others reflexive. But owning that I am the system and that a shift in my consciousness and awareness actually changes the system?... that is too powerful for most of us.  But that is the reality of the quantum world we live in. 

When our consciousness changes, a system changes and when I change I can “be” with a system in a different way and hence change it by changing me. 

It applies to parenting, relationships, companies, and churches.  It applies to Home Owner Associations, political parties, church boards, and city councils.

It is one of the most profound learnings I have had in the last several years and it is why personal mastery has become part of the transformational architecture I am developing for those that I coach and the systems I have been invited to help. 

“Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.  It goes beyond competence and skills, although it involves them. It goes beyond spiritual opening, although it involves spiritual growth. Personal Mastery is a never-ending process.  People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode. They never ‘arrive’. Sometimes, language, such as the term ‘personal mastery’ creates a misleading sense of definiteness, of black and white. But personal mastery is not something you possess. It is a process. It is a lifelong discipline. People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas. And they are deeply self-confident. Paradoxical? Only for those who do not see the ‘journey is the reward’.” (Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer)

Those that engage in personal mastery know that they don’t know and so engage in the life long process of awareness. I want to be that person and help others into that journey because it is there you find deep reward and life long satisfaction.

 

New Remedies

New Remedies

Why is change so hard?  Why are organizational paradigm shifts well near impossible?  One line of conversation could go down the road of the neurobiological challenges that come with habit formation and the of breaking old ones.  We will need to leave that for another day, though it is a fascinating and research rich area. It is the other line of conversation that interests me; peoples unwillingness.

Quantum Connectedness

Quantum connectedness is more practical than you might think. We live in the extraordinary time when science is making observations that shatter any myth that spirituality and science are miles apart. While some of these seem academic the practical implications are nothing short of profound.

TYIR

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Every year about this time I set my sights on the year in review trip that I plan in the 2nd quarter each year. Over the last half a dozen years this trip has had me in 6 different countries from the hot summer mountains of South Africa to icy cold snowy but beautiful Finland. While these trips have always been solo events, this year it will be with my son among the salt surf and palm trees of the Baja peninsula. The focus of the trip has been and is always two things…how was this last year and what about the upcoming one?

Socrates said:  ὁ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ. "The unexamined life is not worth living."

One of the themes of Wildly Better this past year has been the danger of skimming through life, of getting caught on cruise control and autopilot only to awake well beyond your exit and then realize 4 years had passed. Many people miss much of life sleepwalking through it.

Part of development, part of the expansion of our awareness horizon, part of the ability to take in wider swatches of life, is by simply being mindful: aware of what is arising within and around you in real time.

And that is the key: real time. Monday morning quarterbacking is always welcome to learn where we misstepped or missed cues. The real juice of development is to live awake and aware in real time and to act in accordance with the big goals in front of you that are laid out and clear.

Enter TYIR.

The Year In Review is an exercise done by most top performers seeking to learn from yesterday with the express purpose of integrating that into action plans of the the next year! I have placed for your download the TYIR exercise I hope you will take some reflective time and do. I suggest doing some silence meditation and then blocking an hour or so to really think about this past year. Only then will you be able to progress to dreaming, ideating and planning the next.

Here's the download:

2017:  TYIR

 

The Real Benefits of Travel

                                                                                                                        Doha Qatar skyline

                                                                                                                       Doha Qatar skyline

I have wanted to do a post/video for a while on the important role that travel has played in my life.  So as I prepare for a trip to the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and Qatar, I thought this might be an ideal time to invite into your curiosity some reflections.

The obvious benefits of travel are recreative, rejuvenating and restful.  Yes of course all of those.  But I am on a slightly different glide slope for this one

Let me set the stage with a few lines from a book I read in 2004 that has been pulled off the shelf for a read on the plane some 13 yrs later…

“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.” 
― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

If you have never read de Botton this is an excellent start.  

                             I.M. Pei Islamic Museum of Art Doha Qatar

                            I.M. Pei Islamic Museum of Art Doha Qatar

I had the opportunity to travel to remote parts of India when I was 17, the first of what would be many trips to that part of the world. I can’t calculate the impact of the trip on my entire life but I can say that even then I knew I would never be quite the same.  

Some 30 countries later, on train, boat, helicopter, plane, horse, rickshaw, and tuktuk my entire interior world has been rearranged, tweaked, enlightened, and infused because of the places, spaces and faces I have had the privilege to encounter.

When we travel we are jolted out of routinized thinking, movement, interaction and eating.  We are arrested by new surroundings, smells, souks and stations.

All of these have a way of getting us out of our little dinky world, but more importantly out of our little dinky thinking that often has us unconsciously assuming my way, my world is surely the way most people live and breathe, right?  It is one of the reasons we made a commitment to give our kids, while they were still young, travel opportunities in different parts of the world: expanding their outer world meant inevitably expanding their inner world. 

You can’t help but think differently in different parts of the country let alone different parts of the world. 

                                                    Taj Mahal Agra

                                                   Taj Mahal Agra

We are told we have between 70,000-90,000 thoughts a day but about 90-95% of them are the same thoughts as yesterday.  Nothing jolts you out of that rut better then a change of scenery. 

de Botton again…

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains.”

 

So, can I offer a few things I have tried to engage in my travels?

First, GO PLACES!  - there are 196 identified countries in the world.  If you only stay in one or two it is like reading only a page or two of a book.  Places change us, expand us, infuse us. Sure we have to save, plot and plan.  But read de Botton, part of the trip is the planning and anticipation; that alone has a molding force.

Second, SEE SPACES! - architecture posesses one of the most acute powers for arresting our minds.  Whether is it the Taj Mahal in India, the I.M. Pei designed Dallas Symphony Hall or the Islamic Museum of Art in Qatar, be it St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, or the 46m long Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok, the magnitude of these spaces expand what can be, give you a portal into an entirely different world and open you to possibilities you can’t get from a flat page or computer screen. 

                                                                                                                                                                                      Redwoods California

                                                                                                                                                                                     Redwoods California

Third, EXPERIENCE TRACES of the Divine evolving in creation.  The French vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape, the red dunes in Nambia, the majesty of the Nepalese terrain heading to Namche Bazaar, or the towering Redwoods of northern California. Terrain changes reorient our bodies and spirits in ways nothing else does in the same way. Natural wonders abound in every landscape, mountains, desert, plains and sea.  And when those wonders lodge in us they provoke wonder and curiosity and take us to new creative vistas. I have always returned from a trip more curious, and more creative. And for those of you that gravitate toward water/sea?  There is a reason!

 

                                                 Red Dunes Namibia

                                                Red Dunes Namibia

 

 

Last, MEET FACES - My kids have always been half embarrassed because I talk to total strangers a lot.  This is really an important practice in other lands where their world is so vastly different than mine.  Get good at asking questions, peer into their world, their life, their thoughts their routine.  I had an exercise in a class I took where I had to go spend two hours with someone very much UNLIKE me.  It could have been different in any number of ways.  But the idea was I had to get comfortable with "other." This was valuable simply because you can often have that experience near your home.  Even local travel can change, challenge or invade your current worldview. One of the reccurring thoughts that hits me almost every time I get into conversations with people in a different context is “this is their life, this is really who they are, they are not on vacation..how interesting.”  

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Traveling helps me remember how ethnocentric I am, how unenlightened and clumsy I am, how narrow and uninformed I am.  I am sure that will happen again as I venture into a totally different world this week.  But a world of unbelievable vision, architecture, cultural uniqueness and beauty.  There is no doubt my next several weeks have #wildlybetter written all over them.  I hope you are thinking about your next trek… that alone heightens our senses!

The Pull of Innovation or the Pain to Shift Paradigms

 

Live Now!

 

“The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally unsolvable.They can only be outgrown.” 

Carl Jung

Attachments hold us in yesterday and prevent us from experiencing what is happening right here right now. 

Our meaning-maker, called the ego in psychology, is what gives me my me-ness.  My history, geography, genealogy, education, etc… is what funds the narrative I tell myself about who I am. 

What is fascinating about how we story-tell to ourselves is that most of it is tacit…it is happening under the radar of our awareness most of the time. 

The impetus from minus to plus never ends. The urge from below to above never ceases: whatever premises all our philosophers and psychologists dream of—self-preservation, pleasure principle, equalization—all these are but vague representations, attempts to express the great upward drive.
Göethe - Letter to Lavater

Goethe is speaking here of what the Greeks called Eros.  While usually equated with the erotic and sexuality, eros, according to the Greeks, was the human drive to connect to the divine, to truth, beauty and goodness.

What gets attention grows… certainly makes sense doesn’t it.  Whether it is the ache in your neck, your irritation with a colleague, paranoia about tomorrow’s meeting or… that living right now in the moment and experiencing what is around you right this second is really the only place you can really live!  All of these grow with attention.

We skim life…

When we live most of our lives in the top nine inches of our body we often give attention to nothing and live our lives trapped in daydreams.  Such “captured attention” with constantly looping thoughts in our minds gives us little margin to “give attention.”

I am a daydreamer. 

I prefer to frame it as, brilliant thinker, problem solver or creative genius, but when you strip away all the bologna I am a daydreamer.  But here is the problem when we live our life on the inside of our head we automatically become “blind” to what is happening around us. 

You have had it happen.  You are carrying on a conversation…with yourself….and you miss the exit? There it is!  Daydreaming that leads to blindness and it happens everyday for hours and hours.  When we are giving attention to those thoughts our “sight” goes on autopilot.  We are generally safe driving down the road but we miss details, even big ones.

That is a picture of our lives.  We skim through life hypnotized and blind. 

Here are some ways to try and stay awake.

  1. Start the day with some mindfulness practice.  

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present that is arising around you. When you’re mindful, you are able to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance.  This enables you to be more proactive rather than reactive and to choose your course. There are a number of ways to go here but if you want to get out of the rut of sleepwalking the only way to do it is to cultivate a practice that will assist that goal. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. 

One word about “practice.”  The whole point of mindfulness practice is to enable you to be present in real life.  The practice itself isn’t enlightening, or somehow insightful.  It is a practice because as you leave your time of practice you have gotten under your belt a little more “mindfulness exercise” which will enable you in life to be more present and mindful due to your training.  Practice for the express purpose of accomplishing through training what you simply could not do by trying.

       2. Consciously “Do.” 

The foregoing might come off like daydreaming is bad.  It isn’t, but anything we do unconsciously (eating, web surfing, etc…) is still unconscious. Start noting when you are bored, seem to have nothing to do and when you are susceptible to clicking on to mindless autopilot. Choose to dream, problem solve or nap but in in the absence of that choice choose something else.

       3. Ask yourself how much you really experienced your “yesterday.” 

What was your pace like?  How much did you notice?  Did you feel others' heart? Did you notice your surroundings?  Was your food tasty?  Did you really hear others when they spoke? Often we get our day done but we don’t fully experience what the day actually offered.  That requires attention.


Let’s look for ways to taste life.  Let’s be attentive to where we direct our intention.  And let’s help our kids and families do the same.  Experiences around the holidays get piled up on each other.  One after another after another.  The compaction and compression of events leaves little option but to skim…unless we are aware and attentive.