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.




Tangible Leadership

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

challenge-1024x576

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

 




On depression as a necessary winter before the spring…

suicide placardImagine if we, as a culture, could embrace depression. Imagine that in any life cycle there are, as in nature, seasons. Depression does not always have to be viewed as pathology.

The industrial age introduced clocks, the digital age upped 9-5 to 24/7.

We are not meant to operate outside of the natural order of things. Riotous springs are followed by productive summers. In fall, as energy wanes we’re motivated to prepare for winter and muster the energy to get things done. In winter we accept that little grows, days are short and if we give over to the darkness and rest, we’ll recharge.

I’ve learned from the creative people around me, as well as my own experience, that a depression is a terrible thing to waste. We will emerge from them. When we do, we can allow for the riotously creative personal spring that follows. It will be there when were ready to embrace life again.

To every season there is a time and a purpose.

Accept the winters. And please keep faith, your personal spring will follow.

 

Courtesy GardeningAtTheEdge.wordpress.com

Courtesy GardeningAtTheEdge.wordpress.com

See also: The Rose, Bette Middler’s timeless hit.

“Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows,
lies the seed that with the sun’s love in the Spring becomes the rose.”

Reframe your understanding of it. Imagine it as a love song for yourself.

Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD), is also predictable and seasonal, but the above reflection is on the experience of major depression.




Do something! Complacency is failing us…

"Do what is beyond your strength even should you fail sometimes."

“Do what is beyond your strength even should you fail sometimes.”

As the brilliant documentary “Older than the Ireland” so vividly illustrated, 100 years is not a long time.

It does, however, highlight how action taken today can significantly impact the Ireland of 2116.

I for one think we need to seriously adjust the trajectory.

Heartened and inspired by the leadership evidenced in the stories shared at Tangible Ireland’s Ambassador Summer School – 48 hours later I was faced with the critical need for a seismic shift in the expectations of the citizens of this island.

The state of Dublin is a disgrace.

We’ve invited the world to share in our commemoration, to witness our progress and experience our energy.

I joined an American tourist, spouse of a convention goer, who had no intimate knowledge of the Irish or Ireland. And I was deeply ashamed.

Navigating the streets, even outside the GPO is near impossible. Construction, broken pavements and crowds of pedestrians detoured around significant destinations, were confused, huddling over maps and tripping on obstacles.

Public transport is rerouted, the place looks dirty and disheveled.

It was a bit like being invited to a wedding when halfway down the aisle the bridal party decided that a change of hair, makeup and dresses was in order. And then they changed right there.

Let this serve as a call to action: We’re better than this!

Our emigrants have built cities all over the world. The children of this island have gone on to impact excellence in military, political, business and civic leadership all over the world. And we tolerate less than mediocrity here. I propose that we proclaim that:

The days of “whatever you say, say nothing” are over.
The days of “ah, sure they’ve got the run of themselves” are over.
The days of “sure, it’s grand, besides, you’ll never change it” are over.

Take action. Use digital media to bring examples of the unacceptable to light. Deficits in the delivery of public services, entitlement programs and long term planning can be brought to the attention of us all. Use the airwaves and Twitter-sphere to highlight failures and abuses of systems. Hold the names- just tell us what ought to be and is not. Use the hashtag #BetterThanThis. If #Shameful suits, use that too.

We’ll amplify each other’s frustrations, research and post the wisdom and experience of those who have overcome similar challenges and together we can bring the ideals of the founders to fruition in this our second century.

Alternatively, use and follow #PositiveIreland for the good news stories.

Let no one less than Charles Stewart Parnell inspire the call to action.

“We have never attempted to fix the ne plus ultra to the progress
of Ireland’s nationhood and we never shall.”




On Education, testing not required…

…or even relevant.

The links provided will offer a view into what system changes are succeeding elsewhere. The video below says it all.

Let’s get out of their way, stop lecturing and test less. Let’s motivate and challenge our young people to show us what they can do!

In Ireland, both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland we accept the unacceptable, which looks like:

What needs to change?

Noted education expert Sir Ken Robinson has written and spoken extensively on the subject. Changing Education Paradigms is an excellent summary of the issues at hand.

In Ireland, I invite you to follow the work of ChangED a new think tank focused on challenging us all to drive reforms in education across the island.

ChangEDYou can follow their work on Twitter @IRLChangED and watch for their position papers to be published this fall. The papers will address:

  • Mental Health in Education
  • School Admissions
  • Technology in Education

You can help:

Follow the good news stories, and when a school or a group distinguishes itself, please bring it everyone’s attention. People fear change and nothing alleviates that fear like the success stories.

Like this one:

CM Schools IntroIn Dublin at Donabate Portrane Educate Together, they’re Teaching Empathy, Leadership & Confidence. It is one of 12 Changemaker schools designated by Ashoka Ireland, an international network of social entrepreneurs.

It is when we demand this kind of innovation in education at every school in all levels that it will happen. Empower teachers, principals and parents by getting involved.
Educate yourself!

There is a wealth of information out there about innovative programs from around the world.

I will close with a summary statement of the goals of ChangED and suggest that it be a goal every citizen embraces.

ChangED aims to ensure that education in Ireland has equality of opportunity, excellence in teaching and learning, accountability, sustainability, a global outlook, wellbeing, resilience and an appreciation of the richness of different cultures and languages as its hallmarks.