On Social Change in Ireland, “We’ll get there…”

In 2012, I closed a TEDxBelfastWomen talk with “We’ll get there”.

In 2018, I find we may actually be ‘there’.

It referenced my call to throw off the adaptive behaviours common to many on this island – our silence, passivity, self deprecation and shaming ways, in order to take our place on a global stage.

In 2010, I co-founded a coworking space in Newry. The intention was to support the emergence of a more dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem outside of Dublin and Belfast, on the border. Our contention was that the “peace process” had gone as far as it could go. What was then and now required for Ireland is a “prosperity process”.

That required culture change. And for us to share a different vision of Ireland.

From my vantage point on Carlingford Lough and the border, both Northern Ireland and the Republic were, as C.S. Lewis depicted them, a magical, medial place. A space in-between and one where opportunity abounds.

Culture change is a tall order!

It has been a hard road. Yet, the interesting thing about having a vision, setting an intention – and even failing from time to time, is that when you fail – you fall forward in the direction of your dream.

So imagine my delight in 2016 – when the Centre for Cross Border Studies added this tag line to their Cross Border Social Innovation Conference – “Lagan to the Liffey”.

The Emerald Valley facility had by then closed – but “from the Lagan to the Liffey” – our carefully chosen turn of phrase was designed, where innovation was concerned, to render the border invisible – and it lived on. We’d  fallen forward.

This week, I had notice of an event in Belfast focused on telling Northern Ireland’s story. Two things were heartening. I self-describe as an evangelist for Northern Ireland – both economically and civically.

Economically in trying to drive home-grown innovation and inward investment by highlighting our opportunities and accomplishments. Civically in both America and the Republic of Ireland – in efforts to drive a change in both attitude and language.

We are nearly 20  years on from the peace process – but nonetheless, many in both places remain unreconciled to it.

Control, Alt, Delete: Resetting How We Tell Northern Ireland’s Story 
sounds remarkably like this 2015 blog post:
Ireland 2.0 – America, try ‘Ctrl, Alt, Delete’ .

The journalists on this panel will, undoubtedly, be less impatient than the tone taken with my American readers, out of touch with what Northern Ireland looks like 25, 50 & 100 years after their families emigrated.

My point in these illustrations is not “I told you so”. It is to encourage. I’ve not been alone in writing and repeating these sentiments, and it’s not been to win hearts and minds. It was to support people who clearly felt the same way. To let them know they were not alone. And in time, to make it safe for them to speak up.

Failing and falling forward was worth it!

Robert Reich, Berkley Professor and former Labor Secretary under President Clinton has opened a series of lectures to the public. The course is called, In Focus: How to Ignite Social Change.

This slide speaks to “The Three Elements” it takes to reach the tipping point at which social change happens. Thankfully, in Ireland we have reached that point!

In Northern Ireland with the collapse of the Stormont executive and no devolved government for over a year and in the Republic with an ineffective government, as evidenced by crisis after crisis in Health Care, Housing, Homelessness, and a scandal ridden An Garda Síochána, there is, undeniably, a –

  • Widening gap between ideal and reality
  • Broad public knowledge of that gap

And what of the third?

  • Widespread sense of efficacy  ability to narrow the gap

“Ah sure, you’ll never change it” was the language of hopelessness that had undermined us.

But the last decade has offered proof that citizens could achieve a sense of efficacy – 

The populist genie was out of the bottle. Activism could clearly drive change.

Inspired, in the summer of 2017, a group of activists sent out over 200 press releases, yet couldn’t get media coverage for a “National Housing Cooperative Bill” to be introduced on Dáil Éirann’s return in September.

Undaunted, they then held a press conference at the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City – the proverbial “33rd county”. They were joined by Cornell University Law Professor Robert Hockett and got the attention of homeless and housing activists there, academics, politicians, philanthropists and investors. And won their hearts, as in true Irish fashion, when the formalities had passed, music ensued. Imagine visitors to the memorial serenaded with an impromptu rendition of “I’ll Tell My Ma When I Go Home.

The Irish Central – a digital newspaper with a reach of 3.5 million unique views a month covered the story, and the media in Ireland took note.

More and more stories began to surface here, “broad public knowledge” of “the gap between the ideal and real” led four brave individuals to join Financial Advisor Padraig Kissane in testimony before the Oireachtas Finance Committee – ultimately breaking the news of what is now estimated to be 33,000 tracker mortgage holders cheated by their banks.

When Mr. Kissane was asked how the banks got away with it for so long, he responded: “They used our Irishness against us.”

Clearly the banks were counting on our silence, passivity and shame. No longer.

Housing rights advocates and financial reformers are on the move. New legislation is to be introduced and the Oireachtas Finance Committee and it’s Chair TD John McGuinness are holding banks to account.  He and TD Pearse Doherty have called on Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe to support class action legislation because “the culture won’t change until the banks are prosecuted” – even though Ireland does not yet have a mechanism to bring one.

Watch this space!

Back to the subject of “getting there” –  my Irish-American father favoured an expression I am only now beginning to appreciate:

“We’ll get there, by degrees, the way an Irishman gets to heaven.”

Alongside wisdom I have always embraced:

Ours is not to complete the task, but neither may we desist from the labour.

For more on activism in Ireland, On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values

 




Nothing changes until we do!

In a recent LinkedIn article, Ready for a Change? – I made the case for choosing change. On one level it’s selfish – I work with people and small businesses when they’re ready for a change.

On another level it’s in service to those clients, neighbours and friends who require change in their wider worlds. More on that later.

Navigating change, personally, professionally or systemically, requires safe spaces.

So whether that involves creating a safe space personally – by throwing off old habits, distancing yourself from the crazy-makers in your life or quieting your undermining self-talk (all three?) – the work begins when we make up our minds that the pain of changing outweighs the pain of staying stuck.

Or more eloquently – as pictured:

Change in our work lives is no different, although creating this safe place is somewhat more fraught. It requires us to bring equal parts of self-confidence and humility to the process.

Unsafe at work may look like

  • the boss is mad
  • the workplace is intimidating
  • I’m a payday away from disaster

Let’s accept that every situation is “out of our control” and all we can control is our reaction to it.

What if we agree that-

  • the boss is mad! We might ask ourselves: Am I bringing my best self to each encounter? Am I consciously or unconsciously pushing his/her buttons? Have I even asked what they might be?
  • the workplace is intimidating! Does my demeanour (fear, lack of confidence, reticence) inadvertently contribute to the dynamic? What changes in my response might change my experience of it?
  •  am a payday away from disaster! How can I manage money more mindfully, get out of debt and expand my options?

What’s going on here is a kind of archeology. Or as it’s called in 12 step rooms – taking a searching and fearless inventory. We’re not judging or chastising, we’re observing our patterns. Not for anyone else’s purposes – just our own.

Because-

  • Every insight is power
  • Every repaired or rejected relationship emboldens us
  • Every safe place we create empowers us

Empowers us personally, professionally and should we choose to widen that sphere of influence – civically.

Back to what I meant by service.

Typically my clients (and often I) am stressed by failures in systems meant to support.

  • Caregivers waste time, energy and resources navigating the social service and health care delivery systems. Should it require a whole day off to take you ageing mother or child to the doctor, or for a scan? Should you have to go on a day that suits the health service or on an appointment day of your choosing?
  • Healthcare professionals are faced with uprooting themselves and their families while retraining or emigrating because working conditions have become too stressful, chaotic and in many cases dangerous.
  • Financial institutions insistent that they “owe no duty of care” to their clients – exacerbate homeowners attempts to renegotiate indebtedness – causing unimaginable pressures on families.
  • A culture of silence renders workplaces and schools inherently unsafe. Our default to, “sure you can’t change that”, “it’s always been that way” – allows for bullying, sexual harassment and exploitation.

Collectively more confident, we would be willing to speak out against systemic ills – without worrying about being labelled bold or cheeky.

Choose change, find your voice and take care to create safe spaces for yourself. Ask for help if you need to – just don’t go it alone!

Finding our voices simply means we willing to tell the truth. For more on what that would look like, I’ve profiled some ordinary citizen-activists doing just that in a blog post On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values.

The systemic abuses I was addressing were unique to the Republic of Ireland. The call to action is equally relevant to my Northern Irish, British and American colleagues where we face different, but equally concerning failures of governance.

 




A Collage, A Vision Board & Action…

“It works if you work it”

Simple, tried and true – it’s an adage heard often in 12 Step fellowships.

So what is a “Vision Board”? It’s a tool for creating authentic outcomes in our own, ideal life. And yes, they work.

This Huffington Post article got my attention in early 2015: “The Reason Vision Boards Work and How to Make One“.

The term “Vision Board” was new to me. Somehow I’d missed the years of evangelising by Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and other celebrities – and I was skeptical.

Yet, I knew they worked, I’d actually been doing them for years.

It Works…

Twenty five years ago, I discovered the book and 12 week The Artist’s Way program.

This was long before ‘vision boards’ existed.

There was a “collage” assigned during Week 7, and it opened the door to a career change and more lucrative work; five years later a second collage inspired a major shift personally. Fifteen years ago, another collage catalysed a move from America to Ireland. 

Twice yearly now, I usher Artist’s Way groups through the process of making their own – and often, I join them.

Updating the images provides an insight into the effectiveness of my efforts. It’s like the infernal voice emanating from a GPS after a wrong turn: “recalculating“. I can then reroute and stay focused on the path of my own choosing. It keeps the chaos and busy-ness of life at bay.

According to Seeing is Believing: the power of visualisation:

There’s ample science to support the fact that “Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success!”

If you work it…

Here’s where my skepticism came into play. Doing a collage or a vision board just didn’t seem like work.

And thankfully it’s not! But occasionally, I need reminding: work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Work is our linear, thinking, logical brain, in action. And our logical brain is our “censor”. In the “Basic Tools” of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advises: “Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous…the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.”

Creativity resides in our “Artist Brain”. It’s our inventor, it’s childlike curious and apt to take chances – collecting images, being present to possibilities while silencing the “censor” is what’s unleashed while we’re creating the boards.

To quote Stephan Spencer’s article –  Vision Boards, Because New Year’s Resolutions Were So Last Year

“Vision boards help make all of the jumbled, abstract feelings in your head into a foreseeable future. If you’re skeptical about making a vision board yourself, ask what you really have to lose by trying it. Not really much. But perhaps it makes you more in tune to the repercussions of your choices and how they align with getting what you want.”

Even single images have power. This photo taken by Riley Robinson during a 2005 course we took in Ireland became my screen saver. Three years later I was living in that very village.

Action

Aligning our intention with our values, staying tuned in to the repercussions of our choices, and focus, is what ultimately determines whether we can sustain the changes we “think” we want to make. Let’s get back to that Logical Brain and the Artist Brain. Creating the vision, imagining what is unknown – requires turning off the logical brain and tuning in to the associative and freewheeling nature of our ‘Artist Brain’.

Keep the vision board up – and return to it’s message frequently, because –

“It’s like selling our own ideas to ourselves.”*

Now you have to close the sale. And I advocate doing that with support.

To that end I’ll be delivering a series of Vision Board Workshops. in 2018. They’ll provide a full day immersive experience during which you can achieve clarity in the company of like minded people. Groups challenge each other. On the day, you’ll find you dig deeper and are supported. Later, should you find your enthusiasm is waning, your peers are there to reflect back the best of what they’ve heard you commit to.

A goal is a dream with a deadline- let’s get dreaming!

The next workshop is in Carlingford, on Saturday, 13. January! Interested in bringing your best self to 2018? Leave your details on the right.

*Lucinda Cross




On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values…

My hope/wish/prayer for 2018 is that Ireland will be a safe place for a #Whistleblower and an increasingly unsafe place for politicians who take cover with “it’s what’s legal” vs. “it’s what is ethical, proactive and kind”.

A government that is far more congruent with Irish values.

To create that Ireland, we need to find our voices. We need to speak up, shout out and demand better leadership. Our silence serves only those who would lie to us, steal from us, and oppress. That individual and collective behaviour in law it is called ‘willful blindness’ and it is actionable.

Action requires embracing our entitlement to a ‘legitimate sense of outrage’. Or call it ‘righteous indignation’ over our leadership’s major failures and small slights.

Major failures among which are:

  1. closing rural Post Offices and locating a new Children’s Hospital in the centre of Dublin (a 5 hour drive from Donegal, 4 hrs from Kerry)
  2. ignoring a tri-city/county regional economic development approach to Cork/Limerick/Galway by continuing to drive Foreign Direct Investment primarily to Dublin
  3. failing to gear up for the additional housing required by post Brexit growth of financial service sector jobs relocating from London – creating more upward pressure on housing costs

…and only one of many small slights

  • a citizenry that accepts that it’s okay for taxpayer funded RTE to make you wait over 1 minute through advertising to hear an RTE Player broadcast of newsmakers interviewed on all the the above

The bold texts links to articles or videos of interest; for more information on the work of ordinary citizen activists –

Homelessness – @Right2Homes; Website; Founder, Brian J Reilly
Healthcare – @Bumbleance; Website; Founders, Mary & Tony Heffernan
Education – @IRLChangED; Website; Founder, Frank Milling
Corruption in Banking – @WhistleIrl; Website; Jonathan Sugarman
Legislative Oversight & Abuse of Powers – @ChangeisUptoYou; Website, Founder, Tom Darcy
Willful Blindness – @M_Heffernan In her book and TED talk

Not one person here is in it for the glory! Most are reluctant activists, they have worked individually and collectively, doggedly determined, while cajoled, undermined, harassed and in some cases bankrupted, to speak up and give voice to others.

Pick a cause, focus and support their efforts. Each have made great strides, advanced new agendas and empowered change. Follow, engage and if it resonates, support their efforts. Or bring forward your own.

*David McWilliams’ testimony references findings published in his 2005 book The Pope’s Children.

 




Embracing Uncertainty, the space in-between

OptimistAdjustSailsNavigating the space in between what was, what is, and what will be, can be daunting.

Yet, in those days, weeks, months or years, we conceive and create our future.

“Choose to live in the present moment” is fine advice. Living mindfully, embracing self-care and a sense of prosperity requires skill building and support. But where to begin?

Might I suggest that we take a lesson from the business world. Just for a moment, let’s not think in terms of a therapeutic or spiritual journey. Consider it a “personal change-management” program.

“The Quest for Resilience” (Hamel & Välikangas), got my attention a few years back. Originally published in the Harvard Business Review (2003), the paragraph headed, “Zero Trauma” was captivating. This followed:

“The quest for resilience can’t start with an inventory of best practices. Today’s best practices are manifestly inadequate. Instead, it must begin with an aspiration: zero trauma. The goal is a strategy that is forever morphing, forever conforming itself to emerging opportunities and incipient trends. The goal is an organization that is constantly making its future rather than defending its past… In a truly resilient organization, there is plenty of excitement, but there is no trauma.”

Now try re-reading it. Substitute “individual” for “organization”.

The human condition is unlikely to allow for “no trauma”, but when one frames this process as the “avoidance of pain”, we’re returned to the discipline of living one day at a time, mindfully and to its fullest.

The article continues:

“Sound impossible? A few decades ago, many would have laughed at the notion of “zero defects.” If you were driving a Ford Pinto or a Chevy Vega, or making those sorry automobiles, the very term would have sounded absurd. But today we live in a world where Six Sigma, 3.4 defects per million, is widely viewed as an achievable goal. So why shouldn’t we commit ourselves to zero trauma?” 

6sigmaPyramidAnd in the business world  the SixSigma process is the gold standard.

What would a “Personal Six Sigma” process look like? Pretty much the same.

Existing interventions and methodologies such as 12-Step Programs, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and self-help programs all employ similar methods.

Which makes a powerful case for skill building in support of well being. Particularly when taken out of the realm of pathology and treatment, while delivered as fitness training and education. To begin –

Define the problem

Consciously or unconsciously we have all adopted rituals and habits in our daily lives that either support or undermine well being.

  • Perhaps there isn’t a problem that is easily named, just a sense of wanting more, a feeling that we’re not “firing on all pistons”.
  • Perhaps we are struggling with a weight problem, issues around drink, gambling or drugs.
  • Perhaps we are in transitional relationship, work or academic situation or a life stage.

Measure

As you map your current processes, ask yourself:

How are you sleeping?

How stressful is everyday life?

Are you living within your means?

Are you satisfied with your career?

Are you passionate about your work or your hobbies?

When was the last time you found yourself “the zone” – entirely immersed in an experience?

Analyse

Choose to identify the cause of the problem. Don’t go it alone!No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. copy

Ask for help. Join a group, find a coach, a trainer, a therapist or consult your GP – because analysis requires perspective.

Going it alone means you’re working with an often undermining ‘committee in your head‘ .  It repeats and reinforces your doubts and your negative self-talk.

To quote the linked article:

“Like any healthy organizational board, you should consider a term limit and invite new members to the committee.”

Asking for help is not about diagnosing a problem. It is simply about defining and isolating causes and effects.

Begin by asking yourself: What pain am I self-medicating when I’m over (or under) eating, sleeping, exercising, drinking, drugging, spending, etc.?

Improve

Implement and verify the solution in a supportive environment. One process at a time. This does not involve grandiose schemes or major life changes.  Isolate a single sentiment – “I’m miserable, I’m going to quit my job, leave my marriage, or move or whatever”.

Then isolate a small, simple, discrete change. It will make a difference. Choose one – or suggest another.

            • I’ll take to my bed at 9pm with a good book, leave the phone and tablet in the next room and get more rest.
            • I’ll reduce my caffeine, alcohol, drug, and or sugar intake.
            • I’ll monitor, chart or list my eating, drinking, gambling or spending.
            • I’ll keep a mood chart and note my periods of irritability, exhaustion, high energy, sadness or lethargy.
            • I’ll walk for 20 minutes three times a week.

Control

If an intervention or changed behaviour works, map it out, monitor it, make it a habit, and embrace a new ritual.
1

Then start again. You’re training for resilience.

Nothing succeeds like success with each incremental change you’ll be energised.

That’s it, simple but not easy, and achievable.

If Personal Change Management seems like a good approach, get in touch.

Introductory sessions, six and twelve week groups are forming to help you navigate the process.




Personal Change Management; the tools

A post entitled, Embracing Uncertainty, suggested an alternative description of the practices often recommended to support resilience.

It has become clear that the language helping professionals use, is often one of the most significant obstacles to supporting significant life and career change.

So, if you’ve embraced mindfulness, a daily meditation practice or have already found your way into a supportive recovery community – this post is not for you.

If you’ve explored mindfulness, worked with a trainer, have made multiple attempts to adopted a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, yet find it is difficult or impossible to maintain – this post is for you.

If you’re struggling with periods of malaise, outright depression, anxiety or physical symptoms which might be stress related, or if you have a sense that your work/home life could be better – this post is for you.

And if you’re living well, but have a niggling feeling that something is missing – keep reading. It can’t hurt.

Personal Change Management

Change management has been formally studied and implemented in business and industry for over half a century. In the early days it was characterised by a top-down exercise in defining goals and strategies; in recent decades the focus has moved toward ‘stakeholder-driven’ change.

This shift is important to note. Industry has determined that sustainable change and innovation follows bottom-up management by individuals, team leaders and ‘change champions’.

Boss yelling imageOur personal top-down change management system appears to need updating as well. New Year’s Resolutions are a great example:

  • I’m going on a diet
  • I’m looking for a new job
  • I’m training for a marathon

Good in theory, but arguably top-down. There’s a ring of “the boss says I should” to it.

Personal Change Champion

What would bottom-up personal goal setting look like? How different would it be when you, the ‘stakeholder’, is in charge?

  • Would you decide to diet, or would ask yourself what pain you are medicating by overeating or not exercising?
    Ask
    : What feelings are you shovelling down or numbing with sugar, carbs, drink or drugs?
  • Should you get a new job, or could you confront the stressors at this one?
    Ask: Are you bored? Is it the right field for you? Do you ask for what you need? Do you bring your best self to the workplace – or simply punch a clock?
  • Planning to train for your first or fifth marathon?
    Ask: Are you doing it to benefit from the exercise, discipline and camaraderie – or are you running away from something or for the sense of accomplishment? “Accomplishing” seems more like work than self-care.

Setting achievable goals and ultimately moving from knowing what you don’t want to what you do want, begins with more than a few tough questions.

It requires us to fine tune or re-calibrate our ‘receivers’.  Specific obstacles that have undermined us in the past, become apparent when we learn to listen in a whole new way.

Fine Tuning Receivers

Bandwidth. It’s a perfect metaphor for our attention span and focus. It’s not limitless. Which station are you tuned into? Favourite programme on 88.5? you can hear it on 88.6 or 88.4 – but through some static. In re-calibrating our receivers, it’s the static we’re out to eliminate; the noise characterised by that judging voice and negative self-talk that reinforces the message: why bother?

step.staircaseThe Method

Take one small action every day on your own behalf. The tools outlined below are designed to be adopted into your daily life and routine.

The process is fundamentally the same as the  “DMAIC” model used for Change Management in industry – Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.

If you’re in “I’ll do it myself” mode, we’re inviting you to embrace one small change at a time!

The Tools

These are modified slightly from their source for introductory purposes, links to the original work follow.

Morning Pages

The best case I can make for adopting this practice is laid out in journalist Oliver Burkeman’s 2014 Guardian article.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at how powerful Morning Pages proved, from day one, at calming anxieties, producing insights and resolving dilemmas. After all, the psychological benefits of externalising thoughts via journalling are well-established. And that bleary-eyed morning time has been shown to be associated with more creative thinking: with the brain’s inhibitory processes still weak, “A-ha!” moments come more readily.

Julia Cameron, who devised the practice, calls it “meditation for Westerners”. Absent our habit of embracing stillness or silence, three pages written in those early moments of wakefulness between dreams and consciousness, we can achieve the same effect. In her words –

“They are a trail that we follow into our own interior…”

After nearly two decades of doing them, I can attest that the days I write them go far better than the days I do not.

Simply put they are three hand written pages of whatever comes to mind – think of it as a stream of un-consciousness. Some mornings they flow, other mornings they look like a petty list of gripes, a to-do list for the day or a silly unreadable scrawl. They are meant to be private and not shared. They are rarely even re-read.

There is no wrong way to do them. Put your inner critic to the side, take pen to paper and focus on the fact that “done is better than perfect”. Perhaps you can consider them “mourning pages” –

“…a farewell to life as you knew it, and an introduction to life as it’s going to be”

Still skeptical? For more in the author’s own words you can listen to a brief description on her site .

It may just be simpler to try it!

Walking

Introduced in Cameron’s subsequent books, with this tool, she reminds us that

“…walking is a time-honoured spiritual tradition. Native Americans walk on vision quests, Aborigines go on walkabouts…Walking brings a welcome sense of connection…optimism and ….a sense of health and well-being.”

Make it a point to take a walk of at least 20 minutes, twice a week.

“Walking is a luxury, an escape from our frantic pace. When we walk, we experience the richness of the world”.

Time Out

Relax. It’s doable – it’s only five minutes!

Once in the morning and once at night – sit quietly for five minutes. Check in with yourself. It’s an opportunity “for self-appraisal and self-approval”.

Set a timer, make an appointment, silence your inner critic and listen. Simply ask yourself, “How am I feeling and why?”

Play DateCoasteeringPlay

Yes, I know Cameron calls it an “Artist Date“, but it is the single most resisted tool, usually while clients are emphatically insisting they are not “artists”. We’re taking liberty in describing it, as even Cameron calls it “assigned play”.

And to make the case for calling it a “Play Date”, consider this:

“What you begin to see when there’s major play deprivation in an otherwise competent adult is that they’re not much fun to be around,” he says. “You begin to see that the perseverance and joy in work is lessened and that life is much more laborious.”

That from Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the U.S. based National Institute for Play.

Once a week, imagine “what sounds like fun?” – then allow yourself some time alone to try it. Focus on the word “date”.
Cameron’s genius is never subtle – she is inviting you to “woo” yourself into doing something fun.

“Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play.”

And they need not be adventurous – a hour or two at a gallery, take in a film or a play, head off to an antique show, gaming convention or go berry picking. Just a few hours away, on our own and without a phone or technology is good for re-charging.

Techniques

The process is simple, but not necessarily easy. So choose one of the tools above and try it. If it serves you well, make a habit of it and add another. If you are struggling with one, add a different one and come back to it. And don’t go it alone!

The method, tools and techniques described are outlined in a series of books on creativity, resilience, perseverance, writing, abundance, money and starting over. Published over the last 3 decades and grounded in Julia Cameron’s own recovery, the techniques have evolved over the years, been embraced by millions worldwide and reflect much of the mindfulness based interventions for emotional well being.

You can find all of them from her first, The Artist’s Way to her most recent It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again online and in most bookshops.

Her intention was that small groups would come together into “creative clusters” and work through one chapter a week for 12 weeks at a time. There is information available on forming a cluster, joining a facilitated group, or individual coaching here.

For inspiration you can follow the hashtags #morningpages #artistdate on Twitter.

Thank you to our friends at CoasteeringNI and Firewalking Ireland for challenging us to play and push outside our comfort zone.




On NI, flags & the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of leadership…

Thank you to Alan Carson for suggestion my attendance and to Stephen Gough for organising “The State of the Union; Beyond 2021” event in East Belfast this week. The impression I left with was that we are all aching for great leadership.

This is the first of two posts I will offer on my insights from the session.fullsizeoutput_161




Mother’s Day, Martin & Me

“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life – without flinching or whining – the stronger the daughter.” Anita Diamont

Mothering, all parenting – is not a benign undertaking. We give as good as we got. Well mothered children grow up to be parents who can offer the same. For less well-mothered children, even in spite of our best efforts, our woundedness becomes inter-generational, having rendered us less than perfect parents.

English paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott addressed this in outlining the concept of good enough mother. He was writing 50+ years ago, so it’s fair to read ‘mother’ as ‘parent’.

Dr Jennifer Kunst describes Winnicott’s ‘good enough mother’ as:

… sincerely preoccupied with being a mother. She pays attention to her baby. She provides a holding environment. She offers both physical and emotional care. She provides security. When she fails, she tries again. She weathers painful feelings. She makes sacrifices. Winnicott’s good enough mother is not so much a goddess; she is a gardener. She tends her baby with love, patience, effort, and care.

And in a TED Talk, Why good leaders make you feel safe, the author Simon Sinek compares good leaders to good parents.

“The closest analogy I can give to what a great leader is, is like being a parent…What makes a great parent? We want to give our child opportunities, education, discipline them when necessary, all so that they can grow up and achieve more than we could for ourselves.

Great leaders want exactly the same thing. They want to provide their people opportunities, education and discipline when necessary, build their self confidence, give them the opportunity to try and fail, all so that they can achieve more than we could ever imagine for ourselves.”

I’d like to pitch the idea of “good enough leadership”.

This week’s coverage of death of Martin McGuinness – Northern Ireland’s former Deputy First Minister, IRA Commander, and one of the main architects of the Good Friday Agreement – reminded me of the Diamont quote.

Praised by many who knew and empathised with the details of his life, vilified by others – his legacy was and will be debated for decades. I’m choosing to see it her way:

“The more a [people] know the details of [a leader’s] life – without flinching or whining – the stronger the [people].”

Those who saw him as a great leader, experienced great leadership and benefited. Those who saw him as a good enough leader, also benefited.

And I’d like to believe that the impact of “good enough parenting” and “good enough leadership” is not what it says about us – but rather how it may benefit the next generation.

Because even those who have vilified him – having suffered horribly as a result of his paramilitary leadership, are now experiencing the benefit of a generation of Northern Irish Nationalists reared to be unwilling to take up arms.

Rationalisation? Perhaps – but on this Mothering Sunday, 2017, I’d like to believe that ‘good enough’ really is good enough because for all our missteps, we shared a commitment to providing:

… opportunities, education, discipline… when necessary, all so that they can grow up and achieve more than we could for ourselves.




Why Write? “…it is better to speak”

Per Audre Lorde

It is summed up beautifully by the fact that in an African naming ceremony she took the name Gamba Adisa, which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known“.

 What I leave behind has a life of its own…I’ve said this about poetry; I’ve said it about children. Well, in a sense I’m saying it about the very artifact of who I have been

I started writing because I had a need inside of me to create something that was not there.

She came into herself early, adopting a modified spelling of Audrey for “the symmetry” of it. She confidently dismissed discouragement in High School.

I learned about sonnets by reading Edna St. Vincent Millay’s love sonnets and loving them and deciding I was going to try. I learned to write love poems by reading poems I never understood but the words would get me high…I was editor of my high school magazine and I wrote a poem about love. And the student advisor, the faculty advisor said it was a bad sonnet. And I really knew that it was a good one. But I knew that she didn’t like it because of the things that I said in it. So I sent if off to Seventeen magazine and they bought it. And I made more money from that one poem than I made for the next ten years.

These are her words that most resonate with me:

…when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak

 A Litany for Survival 

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.

In her own words, Audre Lorde was a black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet. I came to know her work through “The Cancer Journals” required reading for my daughters in high school.

A Litany for Survival is also the name of a documentary on her life and work. You can hear much of what is quoted above in her own voice.

 




Tangible Leadership

  Where we’ve been and where we’re going!

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In 2009, David Allen Ibsen
published, “Leading your way out of the recession”.

It was a recipe for what it would take to survive the global economic crisis.

The ingredients included:

• Self Confidence
• A clearly articulated and broad vision
• A willingness to be flexible
• The skill to act upon intuition
• A talent in mobilizing resources (the right type, at the right time)

The skill to act upon intuition” was evident here in Ireland when, in January 2009, Raymond Sexton convened what he imagined would be a “one-off” session to bring a group of colleagues together. The meeting was designed to kick off the New Year and attend to:

• the move from despondency to a sense urgency and passion which would lead to focused actions, individually and collectively
• rediscovering the basic elements of success, in his view- Time, Treasure and Talent
• providing each other with needed inspiration, encouragement, and support
• curating a body of knowledge which would provide participants access to mentorship, connections and empathetic financial resources

The enthusiasm generated that day resulted in a call to “do this again”. In April, they convened Limerick. An ancient city and home of Shannon Development, created by some of the most forward thinking and action oriented change-makers in Ireland. Their initiatives from the 1960s forward have made Ireland the commercial gateway to Europe it is today.

In the three months between those the Howth & Limerick meetings, attendees at the first had launched nearly a dozen positive initiatives. Clearly, Tangible energy was catalysing change.

The momentum generated in Limerick drove the initiative forward to New York City in May. Scheduled on the morning of the annual Ireland Funds Gala, it was enthusiastically received. A July seminar followed in Sutton, Co Dublin and the leadership series was born.

As the series enters its ninth year, with over 60 seminars behind us, it includes 7 annual sessions in Ireland. Thanks to the enthusiasts, ambassadors and conveners we have met along the way, the global outreach now extends from New York to Sydney, and London to San Francisco.

We’ve proven that resilience is born, as the Irish proverb puts it, Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine, “In the shadow of each other, the people live”.

You are welcome to join us in Oranmore, County Galway on 6. October or in London on 17. November for the remaining #Tangible16 seminars.

In 2017, alongside our “events as usual” we will begin to deliver a structured programme designed to offer continuing professional development.

Next year’s events begin as we “Bring it On” in Howth, Tangible’s 65th event in it’s ninth “new year”!

Oranmore, County Galway

Oranmore, County Galway