Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leaps of Faith, Hamlet, and Action

It's difficult sometimes to know whether to make a change or to stay the course. Rational decision-making processes generally feature some combination of weighing pros and cons, "gut" feelings, goals, and potential consequences of the options in play; i.e., one engages a variety of thought experiments in attempts to gain clarity amid confusion.

These attempts can be frustrating, though, because they often lead the intrepid thought-experimenter right back into their quagmire. The truth is, none of us can ever clearly ascertain the outcome of any decision. We can't predict the future with certainty. Many of us guard against that by proceeding methodically, and accounting for possible outcomes to the best of our abilities.

Sometimes, though, you just have to leap.

It's easier said than done, to be sure. Taking a leap of faith evokes a lot of negative feedback, both from within and without. Our conditioning, experience, and belief systems might protest, "this is crazy!" Our loved ones, along with societal norms, might send us the same messages. Such feedback can be paralyzing, and stop us in our tracks. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from "Hamlet":

And thus, the native hue of resolution 
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of Action.

Granted, Hamlet is referring to suicide, which I do not recommend or condone. That aside, however, these words remind me that sometimes one must simply ACT. Sometimes, one must fly in the face of convention and make a change, and let the chips fall where they will. Sometimes such behavior represents the deepest act of self-regard possible; for by doing so, one is proclaiming, "This situation is unacceptable to me, and I can't go on like this. I have to do this for my own well-being. And I trust that I will successfully navigate the consequences, and that I will be happier, healthier, wiser, and better for having done what I did."

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Nature of Working with Groups (In a variety of settings)

At a group’s onset, my philosophy is to explore our goals as a group; i.e., to identify group members’ endgame, or to ask, "We have convened here; what issue have we convened to tackle? What is our desired outcome? What is the next step beyond this group? What is the next level that we're all trying to get to?" While individual goals may differ, there will be similarities among the participants that the leader or facilitator can and should invoke; after all, the logic is simple: groups and organizations exist for a specific reason, and if an individual is part of that group or organization, there is an implicit thematic connection between the individual and the group or organization.

The work we all do as individuals, and, by extension, in groups and organizations, does not occur in a vacuum; rather, it is in view of the reality that we humans are all in 'place A' right now, and we will eventually be in 'place B.' In other words, in this life, change is constant, and we are always moving forward. That process is inexorable; but it becomes truly beneficial if and when we consciously recognize and engage it as the paradigm of life-as-evolution, and life-as-process. We are constantly in motion, encountering new information, meeting new people, and occupying never-before-experienced moments in time. All that "newness" represents the opportunity and potential to grow, and to expand into the authenticity of ourselves. We are here to learn, to make ourselves manifest, and to help others do the same.

Once these themes have been explored, we render the work more concrete; to do this, we ask the questions, “Ok, how do we get there (i.e., 'place B')? What do we have to do to get there?” The consideration of these questions becomes the roadmap of the work. It also becomes the lens, or the framework for everything that is discussed in the group, as well as everything that is worked on outside of the group. So, "How is this group member’s issue/participation/process, and how is the reflection and mutual aid that arises from group members’ issues/participation/processes, going to move us toward where we want to go? What can we learn from that setback? What can we take with us from that disagreement between group members?" The meta-themes (represented, again, by questions) are, “How are we going to tap into, and act upon, our deeper values? How are we going to gain access to the leader within ourselves, and, in turn, help others get where they want to go?” We must become curious, we must be willing to externalize our questions, we must be willing to explore, and we must be willing to provide others the supportive space necessary to do the same.

We do our best as humans when we connect our own mission with the missions of other individuals around us, and with the organizations, groups, and systems with which we are connected. Essentially, then, the facilitator's, or leader's, tasks are to invoke the path we are all traveling, and, by virtue of drawing connections between meta-evolution and the work at hand, to help participants along that path. By articulating goals, and bringing the endgame / termination plan into view, the leader brings focus to the work in a very practical sense, and reminds us that we’re here, in this room, for a clear purpose.

This process can apply in any work setting, and to any group. It could pertain to a focus group, a task group, or a therapy group, for example. These are principles, after all, and can be applied as needed; but we are all human beings, and when we convene for a purpose, we can let these principles guide our work.