But to me, this quote from Harold Whitman (via Workhappy) reflects a far more doable and inspiring approach.......
Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive."
What happens though, if like me (50 years old and still doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up! ;-) ), you never did find that magical niche? Are you seriously willing to postpone your own happiness until the time when/if you find the work 'you were meant to do'? Are you really willing to make fulfillment in your life, dependant on something that may or may not happen?
Sounds a risky life strategy to me, but is there an alternative? Sure there is - stop looking.... and try to enjoy what's is, here and now.
But seriously, is that a viable option? Isn't this just a defeatist attitude? And surely if we stopped seeking we could so easily to fall into disillusionment and regret having 'missed our boat'?
Well certainly that's one way of looking at it, and this is a mind game the ego would love to have us play. But there's another possibility that's ours to choose if we wish.
There's a part us that longs to come out and play to join the party that's going on right now. When we stop looking for satisfaction in some other place, time or circumstance we create a space in which this part of us, our own Beingness, can shine through. This real Self, our essence if you like, doesn't care what game we're playing or who else is at the party. It just enjoys playing for it's own sake. When we are no longer willing to wait for the right circumstances before we shine, our Beingness can shine into everything we do. And it's self-sustaining too - what we give can only grow stronger.
It's not about giving up on our dreams, it's about getting real about what we really want. It's about giving ourselves the time and space to get in touch with who we really are, not the imaginary 'ego' part but the real part ... the one that sees our future far brighter than we could ever imagine.
How how would it feel? Try to remember when there was a time,--perhaps a minute, maybe even less--when nothing came to interrupt your peace; when you were certain you were loved and safe. Then try to picture what it would be like to have that moment be extended to the end of time and to eternity. Then let the sense of quiet that you felt be multiplied a hundred times, and then be multiplied another hundred more. And now you have a hint, not more than just the faintest intimation of the state your mind will rest in when the truth has come." A Course in Miracles
This is the great paradox:- When we call off the search and give ourselves the quiet time to allow our own essence to nourish us and heal our fears and doubts, our world quite literally changes to reflect this internal shift. What we really want finds us. The Presence that shines when we create the quiet time to give it welcome acts as a magnet for all good things - including, of course, the work we were meant to do.
So here's the rub - there's no space for the love within us to transform our lives when we are busy seeking ...... but it's only seeking that hides our awareness of the true nature of the Seeker, that shines in each moment we are present.
Most people agree that the majority of meetings are a waste of valuable time and resources... and there's plenty of advice and opinion on how to eradicate or shorten them. But isn't there a way to have great meetings?... to make meetings a positive rather than a negative experience?
I am not talking about those meeting that are highly productive or where everyone agrees on what's to be done. I'm talking about those illusive meetings that actually change things - the one's where something entirely new is created, the ones where we come away feeling different.... as if the world has somehow shifted on its axis and is now a better place.
This piece isn't about the mechanics of holding meetings - you can read plenty of good advice on creating an effective agenda, structure, focus, follow-up etc. elsewhere. It is about what you can do at a more fundamental, creative level to produce meaningful experiences and positive outcomes.
Before we look at the specifics of how to do this it's as well to try to get a handle on intrinsic motivation - what really motivates us as human beings.
Abraham Maslow illustrated in his hierarchy of needs how there is a progression in the things that motivate us. One of Maslow's principles was that it is only as we satisfy our lower order needs - material things, sex, family (assuming we are already fed, clothed and sheltered) that we become motivated by higher order needs - self esteem, self actualisation, love. I don't want to cover old ground here but simply point out something interesting - the fact that as we move towards higher order needs, these needs (or motivators) become fewer and more universally applicable to all of us.
Here's the thing; - whilst the things that float our boat at a surface level are many and varied, we all have the same deep need (although sometimes unrecognised) to connect with each other, to find meaning in our lives and to express our true Self. I think it's our grasping this notion that is key to enabling us to create teams, communities and organisations that are profoundly successful and satisfying. Anyway, getting back the subject of this post, let's try to put this understanding to practical use.
So how do we host great meetings? Three steps - show up, create a container, make meaning.
Show up. No not in the literal sense, but show up in full. We don't show up in full when we have any agenda other than to be fully present and experience whatever takes place. Conventional 'wisdom' would have us prepare thoroughly and focus on the outcome we want to achieve from a meeting. What I am suggesting here is the direct opposite of this. It is leaving ourselves open to change, and trusting that there is a part of us - our intuition, that knows exactly how to respond in the most helpful and creative manner to anything that may arise. Relying on our intuition takes trust. And it also takes courage at first, until trust in our own inner-knowing has grown.
By not hiding behind any preconceived plan or set of expectations we are able to give ourselves fully and be truly effective. It allows us to not just listen to the words spoken but to feel and understanding the underlying meaning that the words convey. At some level this is always recognised and appreciated. .
Create a container For good to happen other people need to be able to show up too. Sadly, we live in a world where it's the norm to judged by our behaviour rather than by our potential. And so all of us, to some extent, hide our true Selves behind a mask of acceptability. It's a scary thing to let our masks down and just 'be ourselves' in the moment. My God, who knows what we might do or what we might slip out of our mouths if we truly relaxed!
For people to show up we need to make it safe to do so. We need to create a 'container of acceptance and appreciation' around our meetings so that everyone knows that what is thought and expressed is done so in a safe place without judgement or fear of exposure. As a pretty young woman once whispered in my ear on a foreign business trip, 'what goes on tour stays on tour'. But that's another story and I digress! .
welcome dissent Expressed dissatisfaction with the status quo is our rocket fuel - no progress is ever made until someone wants something better. So welcome dissent.... it's the ones who are afraid to speak their truth that we need to concern ourselves with. It is so easy to redirect dissent - "So what do you think we should do to solve this?", "So what's the best way forward for us now." But before we attempt to do this we must remember that what people express on the surface is usually only the tip of the iceberg. So, we first need to dig deep because it's only in addressing root causes that profound change happens. .
go after root causes What prevents us from seeing root causes are the assumptions we make. But assumptions are not simply lazy thinking. Assumptions are usually a subtle form of self denial - a subconscious technique we use to avoid seeing the underlying truth when the that truth might be a challenging or scary thing.
One of my favourite bloggers Kathy Sierra wrote recently on the importance of challenging assumptions. But we have to be very careful here. We have a very human tendency to wrap up our self-identity with our beliefs; and so when our assumptions are challenged directly we tend to withdraw, get angry or just loose focus as our mind 'wanders' onto pleasanter things.
Bringing to light assumptions requires stealth, seduction and VERY gentle questioning. "I never thought of it like that, what's the train of thought that leads you to see it that way?", "Can you help me to understand why that is?" This is where the strength and safety of your 'container' will be tested. .
discover what people really want. Q. "What is it that you want?" A. "More money" Q. "And if you had more money what would that give you?" A. "Security and the opportunity to do other things" Q. "if you felt secure and could do other things what would you want to do?" A. "Blah blah ....."
You get the idea. As Margaret Wheatley succinctly observed, "There's nothing so powerful as a group of people coming together to discover what it is that's important to them".
So there you have it. If you try these principles out please let me know how you get on. Universal principals are universally applicable and so the context, scale or type of meeting is largely irrelevant. To give you an idea of what I mean I'll briefly tell you about an incident that happened to me quite a few years ago.
I had to finish someone who worked for me. It was not that the person had done anything particularly wrong, it was just that try as we might, he just didn't seem capable of performing to a satisfactory level. Even though at that time I was well versed in the 'J.R.Ewing' school of management principles, I still found it very unpleasant to have to let someone go when they had not really done anything wrong. With a heavy heart I explained the situation, listened to what they had to do say, had a brief conversation and then carried out the dastardly deed.
But something strange happened in the conversation between us that Friday afternoon. Maybe it was because both of us had giving up trying to work things out and were able to be more honest with each other.... maybe not. All I know is that I felt somehow different, somehow lighter. As he stood up to leave I saw tears welling in his eyes and braced myself for an awkward goodbye. That is, until I recognised a genuine smile appearing and recognised that the tears were actually tears of joy. He then reached out to shake my hand and thanked me. He told me that he had never talked with anyone like this before and he could now see where his true strengths lie.
I guess I had just tried to be helpful and constructive but it was obvious that our brief conversation had a profound effect on him too. The story went on to have a very happy ending.
I'll leave the final words to Maya Angelou, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
Notes:  By intrinsic motivation I mean the motivation that comes from within as opposed to extrinsic motivation - enticements or threats that come from outside... the 'carrot and stick' approach. In Truth only intrinsic motivation actually works. When we act on external pressure it is always a response based on fear - a fear of something unwanted happening or something wanted not happening. Fear begets fear and has only negative consequences. This is not motivation but enslavement.  Another thing I find really interesting, but perhaps not so relevant here, is that in our progress through life (and from lower to higher order needs) we seem to move through three distinct stages: having --> doing --> being. I'll probably post about this later but I just thought it appropriate to mention it here. These three stages seem to be characterised by the questions we ask ourselves: stage 1: Having.- "How can I be successful?" stage 2: Doing .- "Where is my genius", "How can I find the work I was meant to do?" stage 3: Being: - "How can I express my innate creativity (in everything I do), - express who I really am?"
Bonus link: Although he may not agree with the thoughts expressed here, Johnnie Moore has probably forgotten more than I will ever know about how to facilitate memorable meetings. Apart from his weblog you might enjoy, as I did,.this article of his on Improv .
This photo was taken by researchers at the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya and reveals the depth of compassion that creatures feel for each other in their moments of need. It shows Grace trying to help another elephant - Eleanor, after she had fallen to the ground, having been bitten by a snake.
Grace was heard calling out in distress and making desperate attempts to get the stricken elephant on to her feet. The two elephants were from completely different families and yet Grace still came to the dying elephant's aid and persisted even though her efforts were in vain.... Eleanor's great weight compressed her internal organs and by the following morning she was dead.
This report reminded me of another from Jim France of the Pavilion Hotel Group in Bangkok, in the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami:
At a resort on Phuket, one of the most popular attractions was the elephant ride. As many as eight people would sit atop one elephant, who would escort the tourists into the surrounding forest, down to the beach, to lunch at a fresh water lagoon, and then back to the hotel. A team of nine elephants was kept chained to in- ground posts, not because they were dangerous, but because it made tourist mothers feel safer when their children fed the huge animals. Twenty minutes before the first wave hit, the elephants became extremely agitated and unruly. Four had just returned from a tour and their handlers had not yet chained them. Suddenly the four helped their five peers tear free from their chains. Then they all climbed a hill and began to bellow; many people followed them up the hill. Then the waves began to crash. After the tsunami subsided, the elephants charged down from the hill and began to pick up children with their trunks. Once the kids were in place, the elephants ran them back up the hill to safety. When all the children were taken care of, they started helping the adults. The elephants rescued 42 people. Not until the task was done would they allow their handlers to mount them. Then, with handlers atop, they began moving wreckage.
How smart is nature? Is life communicating to us everything we need to know? Are all living things connected by a deep layer of Presence? Surely, if we believe only in physical laws, evidence-based-research or the scientific method, then we have to use the most obtuse and convoluted reasoning to dismiss or explain-away reports like these.
While we tend to regard nature as brutal and impersonal, it is filled with compassion. Every one of us is imbued, from the ant to the whale, humans included...... with the capacity to know exactly what to do to help each other. If people or animals seem cold or unkind, it is not because we were created that way. It is because we have learned defensive habits from generations sullied by fear.
Several years ago at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago a three year old boy climbed a retaining wall and fell 17 feet onto the concrete floor of the gorilla pavilion. The child hit his head and fell unconscious in the midst of a group of gorillas. The boy’s mother went hysterical, onlookers were horrified, and several people ran to summon zoo officials. Before anyone could get to the boy, a gorilla named Binti Jua, with her own infant on her back, brushed away the other gorillas and took the unconscious child in her arms. As the crowd watched astonished, she tenderly carried the child to the door of the gorilla cage and handed him to an attendant. Later that year Time Magazine designated Binti Jua as the recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year award.
While these incidents seem astonishing, they are far closer to our nature than the cold-hearted manner to which many of us have become accustomed to living. Love is natural and bitterness is learned. Yet what was learned can be unlearned, and the truth of our inherent kindness tends to reveal itself when we most need it.
Acts of kindness are expressions of our true nature as spiritual beings. The media focuses so much attention on terrorism, perversions and crime that we come to believe that this is our basic nature. This is bullsh*t... it is not so... it is simply a fearful reaction to mistaken perceptions of powerlessness and hopelessness.
It is difficult to overcome fear, suffering or desperate circumstances directly, because it is ultimately only Love that overcomes fear, in whatever form it appears to take. Perfect love casts out fear perfectly.
At any moment we can choose to recognize the Love that is already (and always) alive within us, and then trust this in whatever endeavour, relationship or circumstance presents itself.
This is the choice for defencelessness instead of attack.... for our inherent strength and kindness over our perceived vulnerability.
Life seems to present many trials but (I believe) they are all, only ever, some form of fear made manifest. And so each one offers us this opportunity to recognise and express our true nature, our shared Presence.... to let the elephants lift us to higher ground.... and in doing so we are both freed from the illusion of powerlessness.
..this blog stems from a recognition that our true nature is far more creative, loving and unlimited than we could possibly imagine... and it transforms everything... a practical, generic solution to all our problems.