Journeys for the Well-Intentioned: Part 4
A note, with homage to Stephen King, to my Constant Reader: Struggle is essential to growth, and disruption precedes it. These journeys for the well-intentioned are not designed for passive consumption; they are invitations to question what you think you know and why you know it, to explore your own thinking and watch yourself along the way. The value is in the journey. Only you can decide which path to travel.
It’s our last journey together (at least of this series). You’re still here. Why? What value do you see in this? What effects and affects have these journeys produced?
(Pause here to consider these questions deeply. Watching your journey and describing what you observe is very powerful, but the value is greatly diminished unless you can articulate these observations in a durable form. We are not reliable witnesses to our past thinking, often mistaking old thoughts for new thinking and new thinking for something we have always known.)
(Ready? Let’s go!)
Pick a situation or two when you were working to “fix” or “improve” some living whole. Maybe your partner or a child or your chum. Maybe a co-worker or your supervisor or a student. Maybe your team or a classroom or your community. Maybe even yourself. Once you’ve selected them, consider these questions. What were your assumptions and beliefs about how this whole learns and grows? (That may seem like an unusual question for a non-human whole but try it on and see what emerges.) What was your goal in this situation? What outcome were you seeking? Who or what was the source of your ideas? What means did you employ in this situation? Describe the process.
(Ok, rest for a moment once you’ve struggled with these questions. We’ve got a bit further to go still.)
Now that you’ve clarified your premises and your intentions, your inspiration and your instruments — what actually happened? Were you successful? How do you know? Was the improvement still observable a week later? A month? A year? Did it diminish? Or improve further? Or stay about the same? What additional energy was required from you?
(That was quite the climb. But hey, you’ve developed some capability at this by now, right?)
What did you notice? Maybe you wanted to create more diversity, inclusion, and belonging in your organization. Towards that goal, you provided employees with a list of ten inclusive behaviors generated by a think tank somewhere. You printed out posters with them. You put them on spinners in conference rooms. You first asked and later required people to “pick one” to commit to modeling. All of it based on a premise that good people, when presented with the right ideas, will naturally adopt them. And bad people…well…we’ll just “manage them out” if they don’t comply. (Unless they’re too valuable to the business.) And does it work? Not really. Not durably anyway.
It seems reasonable though, right? It certainly won’t match your own situations, but maybe it resonates for you — good ideas, borrowed from some “expert”, presented to good people expected to conform. Maybe throw in an incentive or two. Or a stick if the carrots fail.
The well-intentioned never lack good ideas for how others could be better, for how systems could be improved, for how everyone could have more of their needs met. We want change so badly because we can see how the status quo just doesn’t get it done for everyone. We believe in growth mindsets over fixed mindsets. We believe in diversity and belonging and inclusion. We believe in being our authentic selves and in empowering others to do the same. We are, after all, so well-intentioned. And yet. The approach matters. Our good intentions are not enough.
(Read that again.)
So, can you see it? Can you see my purpose in writing these journeys? If you’ve actively joined me for them and not just read them passively, their purpose should be observable in the shifts you’ve noticed in yourself along the way. I’m seeking to be an agent supporting your development1 — your increasing ability to express your essence in the world, to manifest more of your inherent potential, and to contribute powerfully and effectively to those living systems that nest you.
These journeys started with a premise — the greatest source of potential for exponential change in the world is in the development of those well-intentioned advocates already seeking to change it. My goal was for you to see — to experience — how these seven principles of regeneration from Carol Sanford might disrupt your thinking of how change works, for you to deeply consider how you know what you think you know. I took my inspiration from Sanford’s Levels of Paradigm framework2, mostly contrasting between Do Good and Regenerate Life. And my instrument? Reflecting on your own life experiences, anchored by my carefully chosen questions. And maybe some humor. And a cheesy, though apt metaphor.
So, as this series of journeys comes to a close, let’s tarry for a bit to reflect on our time together. What was it like? Think back to the first journey through wholes and nestedness. Did you pause to reflect and make a few notes to yourself? Or did you just charge ahead? Was your journey through potential and nodes different? Describe it. What about as you continued with essence and fields? Did it get easier? Or harder? Or just…different? Why do you think that was? Did you read the interlude? Do you see how it fits? And this last journey? How does it relate to the rest?
(Ok, pause here, because we’ve arrived at the final moment of choosing.)
What did you notice in you as you joined me on this journey? What are you learning about you? What are you curious about? What greater wholes are calling for your essence-sourced contribution? What development will that contribution require of you?
(I know…so many questions. But what generates better outcomes? Better thinking. What generates better thinking? Better questions. What generates better questions…?)
Thanks for joining me on these journeys! Writing them has been a struggle. Each one harder than the one before. So much more to still discover. I’m curious what impact they’ve had on you. Leave a comment and let me know what this was like for you.
Originally published on Medium.