Leaning to Action Self-Awareness

Trapped in the Tactical

Image by Christopher Windus on Unsplash

Recently I wrote some thoughts stimulated by my reading of Matthew Kelly’s The Dream Manager. I wrote about the importance of reconnecting with our dreams:

Most of us are foolish with our future, saying things like, I have too… or I must…, or this won’t work, it never does. This is the language of the crowd-followers, of foolish victims. Sometimes we are disappointed, so we would rather not dream than be disappointed.
Instead, we wake up and realise that we have choices.

Essentially this is about living in hope and exercising our freedom to realise our dreams.

A member of my family reflected on how they felt trapped by the tactical moves in life, always seeming to repeat patterns. How could they live more strategically? And was this even a legitimate question? Like me, they are what Marianne Cantwell would describe as a “free-range human,” with a large discretion over how they use their time. One of the burdens of this is that we now need to consider what are our goals. We do not have a corporate employer who decides our working goals for us. We need to lead ourselves. There is a danger in the near-horizon survival routine. We work on our routine, simplifying it, optimising it. This is how we wake up to find ourselves in a rut. 

If you will, we shorten ROUTINE into RUT.

We need to dream. Daring to dream is giving ourselves permission to think the outrageously wonderful as if it were a possibility. Slaves do not need imagination. We do. We need to imagine a better future, better outcomes, for ourselves and those we care about. Suddenly, it begins to galvanise us, motivating us to achieve great things.

We need to dream. Yet dreams do not come instantly. For some of us, dreaming comes relatively easily. The world is full of possibilities for us. 

A friend of mine wanted to take a college course as an adult. She started with a night school course that lasted ten weeks. Towards the end of this course,t she found herself dreaming of going back to college and taking a full Bachelors course at University. She allowed herself to ask, “What if…?”

She went on to take a degree with the UK’s Open University, thoroughly enjoyed it and graduated. It opened up more possibilities and dreams for her. Now she is enjoying a fulfilling career as a teacher. 
Did my friend leap to that dream in one go? No. Dream bred dreams. Achievement bred ambition.  

She started small. It didn’t seem small to her. With hindsight, it was.

My recommendation is to start with more modest outcomes and work towards them. Think about a good outcome, that might be different, but better, more desirable.  Then take the first step towards that. Then, take the next one.

Don’t be surprised if you find your dream too small as you begin to realise it. You might very well find that you want to go for a bigger dream. Here’s the clue: moving towards a dream begins to multiply our dreaming. This is healthy self-leadership.

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Leaning to Action Leaning to People Positive Outliers Self-Awareness

“No, I don’t get it ….”

“No, I’m still not getting it …”

Can you run that by me one more time?

Have you heard someone say that to you recently?

Maybe not. 

Maybe they are thinking it. 

It requires someone to trust you, feel safe around you, confident enough to speak their mind, to be brave enough to say that they don’t get it. Maybe they are just faking it, and nod in agreement. Maybe you are from an oriental culture, saying I’m not getting it to someone is perceived as rude and a sign of disrespect. So, you continue assuming your job is done.

And then there is a deeper level of not getting it. This is where their brain says, Yes, I understand, but it is purely cognitive. They recognise the idea, they might remember the words, but do they understand it? Do they experience what you are saying, by meeting someone living it, for example, or practising it themselves? 

Cultural biases to getting it

How our culture can impede our deep understanding

Some eastern cultures can limit honest confirmation of someone understanding you. This has happened to me in India, and with people from China and Japan.  

But western cultures have a different problem. In the West, we have a linear, progressive, informational understanding of knowledge and wisdom. Compare this to the Hebrew mindset, for example. Truth and wisdom is something rather more circular, something we assimilate by returning to it again and again. Whereas in the West, we want something novel, some new information; so, going over the same ground repeatedly is a real challenge for us because most of us are impatient to move on. After all, time’s short.


Run that by me again

I have been reviewing some of the maps in my Leader’s Map Room and adding a new one from Robert Fritz on the dynamic tension that leaders should create. I say a new one, but I came across this particular map or model some thirty years ago. And the dynamic tension map is still not tired or out-of-date for me.

In this map, the leader needs to create tension by clarifying and communicating the current position and the desired outcome. I heard one very successful leader once say,

“I cast the vision until I think people are sick of hearing it … and then they are just about getting it.”

When we lead people in change, the bias to under-communicate is huge. We feel we have been understood, but we need to check.

A Sounding Board

Get a fool to replay it back

One way is to ask someone to replay what you said. 

A story, probably apocryphal but I love it, was when Napoleon was told about a man who had a severe social impediment, which was that whenever there was any ambiguity, this man would take the wrong interpretation. It would intensely annoy people around him. But to Bonaparte, this was a great gift, such that he employed this man to come on campaigns with him as an aide, so that whenever he wrote out a command to one of his marshals in the heat of battle, he would give it to “Napoleon’s Fool” first, to tell the Emperor what he thought it meant. If the “Fool” responded with the wrong interpretation, Napoleon would rewrite the command until it was crystal clear.

And what about us? How much of what we think we understand is still only a superficial, surface understanding? Sometimes, it is in adversity that we dig deep and grow in our understanding of deep truths. 

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