Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Achievement of any significance requires a commitment to a purpose, creativity, effective and timely help from other people, and luck. All of these challenge the self, requiring endurance, courage, patience, hope and again patience; because sometimes it takes a long time.
Commitment to Purpose enables us to keep continuously improving. For example, what is it that distinguishes good and great music in a particular genre from other music in that same category? It has both technical and expressive components and form and content that together create a distinctive and articulate voice. It’s not about convincing others, but about breaking through our internal barriers to reach that authentic expression. When we get there, others will also be able to hear it.
To get there we must continually face that blank page that can be a doorway past boredom and frustration to a new world of ideas. Or even better, it can be a tunnel or bridge to your destination, when all paths in the physical world are blocked. Sometimes it seems that our brain cells get lazy, and can’t find any new ways of connecting. Despite our hundred billion neurons, and their almost infinite possible combinations, we keep repeating the same patterns that have not been able to get us past this point. We have to break out of the patterns of rational thinking, and enter the realm of creativity and imagination; where we reestablish the mindset of a child, and allow any combination of images, sounds and sensations, and any train of thought, no matter how fantastic.
Music and the other arts are helpful in this process of engaging the non-rational mind. It’s curious since music is structurally quite rational and mathematical, that it can induce emotional and mental states so different from linear thinking. There is an inner freedom that is possible; where self-imposed constraints and inhibitions that limit our creative potential can be released. We can discover new patterns of conceptualizing that contribute to our overall understanding of life and existence. Each person is thus his or her own intrepid explorer, with a unique entry way into this new unknown continent; an inner space as vast as outer space.
The SOPPHIA model provides a tool, an internal geographical positioning system (GPS) to guide us as we explore this inner space, using The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom. SOPPHIA, which is the Greek word for wisdom, represents seven sets of skills or competencies shown by research to enhance leadership performance: S - for self; O - for Others; P - for Purpose; P - for Presence; H - for Health; I - for Innovation; and A - for Assurance or faith.
The sensations of inner tension and release can also guide us. It’s important to continue on, past the point where we feel stuck, because that is when we really reach new territory. Like a runner getting a second wind, we reach a more efficient level of functioning, where breathing and oxygenation of cells are synchronized, and we get a natural high; a sense of excitement at possibilities unfolding.
When the dam breaks, thoughts and images flow in a jumbled chaotic mass, more like lava than water; including jagged boulders, as well as liquefied rock. Let it come out as it does. Don’t worry about shaping it. That can come later. Don’t reject any thought or image as unworthy of expression. Don’t be cowed by fear. Don’t be afraid either to stand alone, or to be open to others. The biggest challenge you face is the power of your own emotions. Don’t be overwhelmed by what you feel.
The realization of our ideas and vision requires the help of other people and involves a random element of luck or chance. This can in turn become a test of our resilience. How do we avoid being stuck in feelings of helplessness and frustration, when we have to rely on other people, and wait for opportunity? We can induce the comfort of Assurance or faith by practicing being Present; through meditation, contemplation, prayer or whatever method is most workable for each of us. We can’t force opportunity. We can prepare for it and we can position ourselves to receive it, but we can’t make it happen when we want it to. Opportunity usually comes through other people’s recognition of the value that we have to offer. But don’t let lack of that recognition cause you to devalue yourself. Let it motivate you to get better: to become clearer about your purpose, and to hone your expression of that purpose.
Be courageous. Know that you are not alone. Others can benefit from the fruits of your struggle, just as you benefit from the work of others. Eventually the joy and excitement of teams or masses of people moving in a common direction with come. Meanwhile, you must find that joy and excitement in yourself in relation to the activities involved in your purpose. You must be able to do this, because it is a necessary precursor to getting other people excited about what you are doing. Get past the negative defeatist thinking and feelings. The joy is there in you. Uncover it. Believe in it. Fear begins to subside when faced. Once fear declines, joy will surface. It also helps to enjoy and celebrate other people’s victories. Your turn will come.
This is actually a process of rediscovery of the Self, and in it you may feel like a stranger to yourself. This is because the Self you are becoming is different from the one you have been. With knowledge from positive and cognitive psychology, we can look at internal experiences with greater objectivity by seeing that feelings and thoughts or cognitions are tied together. We can change one by changing the other. With practice, we can learn to maintain a positive mental and emotional state, which enables the development and implementation of creative ideas; resulting in innovation, value creation and success.
I'm Dr. Bernard Brookes. For coaching, contact me at http://www.sopphia.com
Thursday, March 18, 2010
At one time or another, each of us has faced, is facing or will face a situation in which we hit a wall and don’t see how to get past it. It could be a challenge in business or career, or it could be a challenge in personal life. For example, you have what you think is a great service or product concept, but have not yet been able to generate the revenue or other financial support to build it into a viable business; and time and resources are running out. Or you’re unable to solve a technical, quality, customer service, or staffing problem and the situation has become critical. Or you have lost your job or business and have been unemployed for many months. It’s at such times that we need to reach beyond the evidence from logic and our senses, and find the strength to persevere, and to open our minds to creative new possibilities.
It requires belief that such options are possible even though you can’t perceive them logically or with your senses. A suspension of disbelief is needed. All of the negative emotions and attitudes that have accumulated as a result of frustration with the problem or problems must be overcome. You overcome these by looking closely at them; observing them; sensing them fully. As you do this, their sense of inevitability will dissolve, and you’ll realize that though the facts may not change, your emotional reactions to those facts are not inevitable. You can cling to those emotions and accept them as uncontrollable forces that imprison you, or you can let them enter your awareness and then pass on. With practice, it becomes a matter of your choice.
These emotions such as frustration, helplessness, anger, hopelessness, are actually the seeds of the solution to your problem. They are your internal representation of the external challenge that you face. Getting a handle on that internal representation can give you leverage to solve the external problem. I recognize that the natural tendency is to want to continue to obsess about the external problem, and to think that the way to make these negative feelings go away is to first solve the external challenge. But it’s more likely to work in the reverse order.
In the SOPPHIA coaching model, there are 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven areas of skills or competencies that lead to success. The last of these, represented by the ‘A’ in SOPPHIA, is Assurance or faith. It’s the ability to seemingly reach beyond yourself when your resources are exhausted, and find the motivation to continue and to achieve success. This assurance or faith may be religious or non-religious, and can be defined and experienced in any number of ways; but it has a quality that defies logic and the evidence of the senses.
You may have a particular activity that helps you to call on this additional resource. It may be meditation, prayer, a walk in the woods, exercise or something else. For me it can be all of those things, but the primary activity is writing; a process of finding, bringing into awareness and articulating, things of which I was previously unaware. Find what works for you.
There are three main aspects to this process of activating assurance or faith. The first is to change your emotional and mental state. As you engage in this process through your particular activity, you’ll become calmer, less anxious, and begin to feel more at peace, or assured. Your external situation hasn’t changed, but your emotional reaction to it has changed. Once you enter this more peaceful state, the second aspect of the process is activated. This is the generation of new ideas. You’ll begin to see possible options of which you were previously unaware. These may involve small steps towards solving your external problem, or they may be more dramatic. This leads to the third step of assurance; which is to pursue the ideas while retaining a positive emotional state. Some of these ideas will bear fruit, and some will wither. The key is to not allow this winnowing process to push you back into your previous negative emotional state.
You’ll win in spirit and ultimately in your life situation if your continue to engage in this process of activating assurance or faith; to change to a positive emotional state, to generate new ideas, and to pursue these ideas through trial and error while retaining a positive emotional state.
I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes, you can contact me for business of life coaching at www.sopphia.com
Monday, March 8, 2010
Two of the most important domains in life are love and work. Based on how we spend our time and what we sing and make movies about, this certainly seems to be the case. In work as in love, it is the element of unselfishness or giving of oneself that leads to a higher experience; to a sense of being part of something greater than yourself; what some might call self-actualization or transcendence.
Love can be seen in various contexts such as romantic love, love of a child, a parent, sibling or friend; or love of all humanity. The common element is genuine unselfishness or self-sacrifice, in which you place the interest of the loved person(s) above your own; sometimes to the point of not just inconvenience, but actual deprivation, pain and even death. This is certainly different from being passionately interested in another person primarily as a means of satisfying your own desires. While there are certainly self-serving aspects of any close relationship, we would probably not call it love if there wasn’t some element of unselfishness or self-sacrifice.
In work, this giving of oneself occurs in at least two ways. One is commitment to excellence in a particular kind of activity. To become very good at any complex activity requires a high degree of self-sacrifice. For example, to become a great musician or athlete requires giving up some social activities and dedicating yourself to practicing. This also means overcoming the barriers of physical and emotional discomfort that are involved in this kind of discipline. A similar thing is true of other professions.
The second kind of giving involved in work is being of service to others. This includes both serving or supporting team members, and serving the customers or users of our products or services. In business, the highest form of this servanthood may be exemplified in excellent customer service, team work and leadership. In the public sector, the highest form is probably the self-sacrifice and heroism of the soldier and other public servants.
It is, however, important to distinguish the commitment and self-sacrifice of love and servanthood from the martyrdom seen in fanaticism and obsession. Possibly the best concept to distinguish the two is compassion. In fanaticism and obsession, a person is blinded by ideology or passion and has become unbalanced in themselves; almost mechanical and inhuman, and lacking in compassion. In love and servanthood, the person is self-aware, emotionally self-disciplined and compassionate; and acts unselfishly or self-sacrificially while remaining in touch with their own humanity.
In a broad sense, one could say that there are really two kinds of work and two kinds of love relationships. The first kind of work is what we do out of the necessity of making a living, and the second kind is how we pursue our purpose or calling and in doing so express who we are, and make our imprint on the world. Love similarly can be a pragmatic relationship in which we get sexual gratification, raise children, and provide financial support, or it can be something the poets and song writers commemorate as a joining of souls, minds and bodies. In both love and work, we seek both to meet basic needs and to reach higher ground.
I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes, you can contact me for life and business coaching at www.sopphia.com.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Just like the plant is able to turn sunlight, water, carbon monoxide and soil nutrients into leaves, fruit and grain; by engaging in that creative activity that is our purpose, we turn a confused jumble of life experiences into something that is energizing and mentally and emotionally nutritious; and even something that could change our physical lives and the lives of others for the better. Purpose is one of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom. Presence is another Dimension of Wisdom that is particularly involved in settling into that place in ourselves where ideas and images flow. We can sometimes forget that our main challenge is with our emotions rather than with what is happening in the world. It is through feeling and refining our emotional reactions to our situations that we find the most effective ways to act in the world.
Instead of doing this, we sometimes tense up, push buttons, and take actions driven by impatience and apprehension. Some of these actions appear to produce results, while others do not. But overall, we feel frustrated by the constraints that we are under. We’ve gone past fear and now are dealing more with impatience, frustration and anger. The anger can be energizing, but can also radiate in raw and undeveloped forms that are unproductive; such as hitting something out of frustration. It certainly feels better than being paralyzed by fear and anxiety, but it can be just as deadly.
In dealing with the frustration, it’s important to acknowledge the areas where we need to get better in the quality and depth of what we produce out of my creative ideas and energies. We must remember that the grace of the dancer reflects freedom wrung from discipline and constraint. We haven’t had as much patience with applying the discipline and working through the constraint as we need to. A bit more emotional honesty is the balm that must be applied to the bruise of impatience. Impatience is essentially us saying that we have produced more than reality says that we have. So which is correct, our perception that we should be further along, or the reality of where we are?
If wisdom is more about being than knowing, then it’s essential to become present in whatever is our current reality; in a sense to accept it; to settle into it; even to feel its painful, rough edges. As we do so, we find that we make external adjustments. For a simple example, we may drink more water, because we had really become dehydrated, and that was one source of our impatience and discomfort. There’s something in us that seeks a way of avoiding having to go through our current experiences and feel the accompanying emotions. It’s actually another kind of fear; an internal shrinking away from the work of coming to terms with ourselves; a bit of internal cowardice that must be overcome.
We can only teach others what we are ourselves willing to learn. That takes us back to the Self, another Dimension of Wisdom; to Shakespeare’s “to thine own self be true” and Michael Jackson’s “man in the mirror”. No one else can do the work for us. In fact, no one may even know whether or not we’re doing the work, or just pretending. But we will each know, and ultimately, it will be reflected in the quality of the work we produce.
Freedom begins with unlocking our own mental prisons as the bard Bob Marley sang. Personally, this has been one of the most difficult challenges I have faced so far. It’s much more subtle and treacherous than outright terror. We may not always be able to manipulate our situation in the world, but there is never an excuse for not doing something with ourselves; for not using the time to be present, and by being present, to become a little better at being authentically ourselves; and thus being able to hear and to tap into that creative source that flows through each of us; ultimately also producing something that is of value to others.
I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. For life and business coaching, you can reach me at www.sopphia.com.