Tag Archives: fulfilment

Beyond the Fluffy Kitten Effect – a positive perspective!

Crisis is all Around

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A week or so ago I read an interesting article on treehugger.com regarding the  floods in Colorado. Unfortunately this type of article, which tells the story of heart ache and devastation for fellow human beings is now all too common. In reading the article I was drawn to concept that as a society we’ve become immune to crisis.

Everyday, driven primarily by the mainstream media we are bombarded with an overwhelming number of stories and images that explain in detail, the negative things that are happening all around us. In fact, so prevalent has this focus become that it is almost impossible to escape. These stories and images extend from examples relating to single individuals through to the mass destruction of civil wars and environmental catastrophe.

Negativity Bias – a perpetual state of fear

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What many of us don’t realise is that as human beings we have an inherent bias towards the negative. That is, embedded deep within the reptilian parts of our brains, is our primary desire for safety and survival. From the very start of our evolution to become ‘modern man’ we have relied on this brain function to help our species survive and thrive.

Today, how this primary desire for safety and survival manifests is through an unconscious bias towards the negative; our negativity bias. That is, no matter how positive a person you claim to be, as a human being we are each  inherently more aware (at least at an unconscious level) of the dangers around us. It is true that some people are better able to deal with this than others, but this awareness of the negative is still the same. In fact, the theory of negativity bias suggests that we are five times more conscious of negative events than we are positive.  Hence, it requires five positives events to compensate for every negative one!

Restoring the balance – beyond the fluffy kitten effect

FluffyKittens3

It is a reasonable assumption that the focus of the mainstream media on the negative, is merely a collective unconscious reaction to our negativity bias. That is, because this bias exists within each of us, it is not unsurprising that we all are drawn to the negative stories, which drives up ratings and creates a perpetual cycle of fear. And, I’m sure it could be argued that this perpetual cycle of fear is what creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of threat-fear-reaction-threat, at the micro (individual) and macro (country) level. (The need for increased military spending and a nuclear deterrent is one such self-fulfilling prophecy that comes to mind!)

Whether this is true or not, is up to the audience to decide. And this does not mean that bad things are not happening constantly around us. But, what the Fluffy Kitten Effect tells is that the desire for positivity still exists. The Fluffy Kitten Effect is revealed by that single article in the news about the kitten being saved from the tree, or the dog that can ride the skateboard, or the birth of new Panda cubs etc etc, which is intended to restore our faith in the world we live within. It is the one glimmer of ‘goodness’ in an otherwise stream of negatativity.

For the average person living in modern society, the influenceable danger that may threaten our safety and survival is no longer as common as it was during our early evolution as primitive man. That is, today we are less likely to die from eating poisonous berries or be killed by a savage animals than we were back then. Yet the parts of our brain that are wired to be aware of potential threats are as strong as ever.

To overcome this we need to restore the balance and go beyond the Fluffy Kitten Effect. We need to find ways to increase the positivity, whilst decreasing the negativity we observe in every day life. A useful start of this for many of my friends has been to no longer watch the TV news or read news papers. Instead they are focusing on using this time for that which brings them greater positivity, meaning and purpose.

The Choice is Yours…

Ultimately once we become aware of our negativity bias we are given a choice. We can continue living a life where we allow the negativity that surrounds us every day to keep us in a unconscious (or even conscious) perpetual state of fear. Or, we can change our perspective and focus our attention on the richness and beauty of life and humanity!

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Stuck – focus on the process, not the solution

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Stuck in the Paradox of Choice

Over the last month I’ve had several conversations with people who are just stuck; their unhappy with their current place and want to do or be something different, but they don’t know what.

When talking to each of these people it became obvious that they were stuck in the paradox of choice. That is, in front of them they each had a variety of choices as to what job they could do, where they could live, and how they could choose to live their life. And while being in the position of having so many choices was great, they found themselves unsure of which of their choices to pursue, or even whether they should pursue any of them at all.

In all essence they were stalled by the number of possibilities in front of them.

Why before What

In each of the conversations with those people who where were stuck, I couldn’t help but challenge them on whether they really knew what they wanted to achieve in the first place. That is, when we know the destination, assessing which path to take becomes easier.

When I raised the question of ‘Why’ – what is the purpose you are trying to fulfil in considering any of these options – they each looked at me blankly.

“Surely it’s only when we understand why something is important to us in terms of contributing to our purpose, that we can understand what the best options could be for fulfilling it.” I stated.

In the face of Uncertainty – Focus on the Process!

The question of purpose is not always an easy one to solve. Often, when we haven’t properly considered this – what is the purpose of our lives – we sit faced with a blank field of uncertainty in front of us.

Unfortunately, as is wired into our physiology, uncertainty for most human beings breads anxiety and fear. And to resolve this, we rapidly fumble around trying find a solution, often unconsciously clasping onto the most convenient solution rather than that which will help us truly fulfil our potential and live our purpose.

To ease our anxiety and fear in the face of uncertainty however, we don’t need to jump straight to solution mode; we don’t need to ‘fix-it’ as quickly as possible. Instead, we can fill the space with a process that helps us on the journey to find the solution.

Process = Journey of Discovery

The recommendation I gave to each person I spoke with is to hold the tension of wanting to find an answer and use your energy to go on a journey of discovery. To guide them on this journey I encouraged them to consider a few simple questions:

– Who am I ? (who do you really want to live your life as?)

– Why am I here? (what contribution do you wish to make in this world?)

Through considering these questions I’ve already seen these people explore different alternatives, connect with different people who give them energy and most importantly, contribute more positively to those around them.

The answers in life are not always easy and obvious but embarking on a journey of discovery, where our focus is on fulfilling our potential and purpose, is what helps us live in a state of unconditional happiness.

path journey

Self Importance – false or true?

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Where’s the spotlight

As I sit in the United Club in Chicago O’Hare Airport, it’s hard not to notice some of the people sitting around me. Almost everyone can hear their cell phone conversations as they try to close the last deal on a Friday. Or we are distracted by the guy at the bar who announces how this is his “last beer in the U.S.A. for three weeks” before he heads to China.

Unfortunately in such an environment, it’s hard not to get sucked into these valiant displays of importance. “Wow,’” is generally our initial reaction before we see the behavior for what it really is.

What really is important?

Often, because of the preconceptions of society, we allow ourselves to get sucked into definitions of who we should be, rather than who we really are and who we want to be. In doing this, we attach all sorts of symbols and meanings to our definitions of self. For example, when we are asked, “what do you do?” we respond with our job or title. In doing this we are in fact attempting to create a sense of self-importance, as aligned to what we believe society wants us to be. And in doing this, we unfortunately lose our true sense of self, instead trivializing it with a lesser definition.

Being an identity of true importance

As I watch the sales guy stand up, slipping on his Ray Bands in doors before puffing out his chest. And as I watch the guy heading to China who in fact appears beneath the surface to be quite a lonely individual, I can’t help but wonder: ‘What if, we each were able to distil what is truly important, not in terms of what we do, but instead of what impact we have?’ Surely then we begin to form an identity of true importance focused on how we contribute to society, rather than how we take from it, using the preconceptions to ‘prop-up’ the insecurities we have instead of being who we truly can be. Surely this is what we mean by living with purpose.

(Image care of 2magazineonline.com)

Showing Leadership – An Unselfish Affair

A New, Old Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, after the passing of my Grandmother, I visited the home where her and my Grandfather had settled after he retired from a life of service with the Royal Air Force. With the instructions from my father to make sure we collected all of the valuable history that remained, I stumbled across one box full of Grandad’s old Air Force possessions. Within this box, one item in particular caught my attention. It was a small blue booklet printed in 1949. The title of this booklet was:

Leadership: Some notes for the guidance of Royal Air Force Officers

With my passion for leadership, this small book was a hidden gem. As I carefully thumbed through the pages, soaking in all the words, it was the final page that left me in awe. The conclusion as shown below, I felt gave a wonderful new, old perspective on leadership.

Leadership-RAF

The Ultimate Spiritual factor – Unselfishness

“Unselfishness is the very root of courage – and also, incidentally, of our own happiness.”

“In these ranks have trodden some of the greatest pioneers of our times. Your leadership, discipline and consideration can help the whole to remain what Shakespeare’s King Harry calls ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers'”.

As I read the two paragraphs contained within the Conclusion, and in particular the quotes above, I can’t help but be inspired. For years I have equated the Showing of Leadership as a primary component of living in a state of unconditional happiness. And, that both require us to be selfless, as we seek to serve others in society.

For many people, spirituality has different definitions depending on their beliefs. For me, regardless of our definition of spirituality, I believe that as captured so eloquently above, the ultimate spiritual factor through which we can define ourselves is unselfishness; selflessness. And it is through our selflessness and our desire to serve that we fulfil our true potential and live in a state of unconditional happiness.

Micro-Manifestations – The patterns which define our Purpose

Forest

What we already know…

The purpose we seek to fulfil in our lives represents the purpose of our existence. When faced by such a significant statement, and choice, it’s easy to be daunted by the concept of searching for and even committing to something which will define us. Furthermore, when we realise that one of our core existential fears is of freedom – we fear the freedom we have to choose our life direction – we can understand why so few of us make the decision to ‘live with purpose’. But, what many people fail to realise is that each of us actually already know, albeit at an unconscious level, what our purpose is.

Look Outside to Find Within

When we hit the deepest darkest place within the existential vacuum it is easy to feel despair; it is easy to feel lost and without a destination or purpose; to feel that although there is no turning back to the life you’re leaving, there is also no clear path to follow into the future.

It is at this moment that we often intuitively begin our search within ourselves, introspecting to find the answers we need. However, this approach will not always provide what you desire, as although the answers to the questions posed within the existential vacuum (Who am I? and Why am I here?)  do come from within, they can only be answered from first looking outside. That is, to alleviate the tensions we feel and to discover the purpose we desire, we must focus first on our contribution to those around us – we must look outside of ourselves and focus on how and where we are making a positive contribution to the world. It is therefore, from outside ourselves that we find the answers which lie within.

Searching Outside – Look for the Micro-manifestations

Manifestation

The search outside to find our contribution to those around us can be a confusing one. It is rare for those passing through the existential vacuum to recognise that their contribution has been leaking from them throughout their lives; our purpose has always been with us, pouring from us into the world in the form of micro-manifestations. That is, throughout each of our lives we have, to a greater or lesser degree, been living our purpose through small unconscious patterns of behaviour. We have been contributing positively to those around us through our day to day actions as we interact with others.

To begin the journey of discovering your purpose, we must therefore consider the common ‘contribution’ patterns we have exhibited throughout our life. We must then piece these micro-manifestations of our purpose together as if completing a puzzle to see what they reveal. And as the picture forms, so to will your understanding of why you are here on this earth.

Although the journey through the existential vacuum is a difficult one, the answers you are seeking exist. They exist in your past and as a part of your present in the form of recurring patterns of contribution.

Job or a Calling – Fulfilling your purpose through work

A Profound Resignation

Pope Benedict Resignation

In February this year, some colleagues and I were fascinated to see on the BBC news that the Pope had resigned. Through the conversation which followed we deliberated about whether it is actually possible for someone in such a position, someone who represents something so symbolic for the catholic faith, could just step down.

At one point during the discussion I stated; “I guess that if it’s a job, then of course he can resign.”

One of my colleagues then quickly responded by saying; “But is it a job? Surely a position like that is not a job, it’s a calling.”

Although I’m sure the debate about the Pope’s decision to step down could continue into the late hours, I was struck by this question of ‘is it a job or a calling?’.

Is it just a job?

In our current professional lives, it is easy to feel sucked into the corporate machine; existing to work 9 to 5 every day (if you’re lucky) to earn enough to satisfy the needs and wants that must be satisfied. At best in this scenario, you enjoy what you do and connect well with the people you work with, resulting in the ‘job’ being a pleasurable way to spend your day. At worst however, you find that your job draws the life out of you, and you feel as though it is slowly eroding your soul. And, I’m sure you could find yourself anywhere along the continuum between these two extremes.

The scenarios above however are only relevant if you believe that what you do is just a job. Throughout our education and life, very few of us have never been taught to see what we do as being more than a job. Very few of us learn that what we spend so much of our lives doing, can transcend the classic definitions of work, and actually represent our purpose – our calling.

Recognise your calling?

Your Calling

A calling represents the purpose for which you were put on to this earth; the purpose of your existence! As explained through the Paradox of Happiness, your calling is represented by the contribution you make to society, the fulfilment of which is what paradoxically helps you live in a state of unconditional happiness.

To recognise your calling it is essentially to start with the question of “Why am I here?” Through this question you can begin to explore three further questions:

  1. What is the difference I want to make in this world?
  2. Who do you want to make this difference to?
  3. How will you make this difference?

It is through these questions that you can begin to focus; you can begin to bring some clarity to your calling.

Fulfilling your Calling through your Work

Often when people first begin to define their calling (or their purpose), they feel a sense of frustration. This stems from the mis-alignment between what they currently do in their work and the difference they are seeking to make to others. While this frustration may feel like it is valid, before taking any drastic action (i.e. handing in your resignation without other options) it is important to first look for opportunities where you can bring your calling to life through your current job. I have been surprised when discussing this with people that the opportunities to bring your calling to life exist all around, but only if we become conscious of them.

Therefore, as you begin the journey of fulfilling your purpose, begin gently. And, like building the momentum in a fly wheel, look for ways in what you currently do day to day to test your calling and to practice.

(Image of Pope Benedict from Guardian.co.uk)

Development Areas are Useful, but the Key is to Play to your Strengths!

“You have Development Areas”

With part of my time spent in the corporate world, I’m constantly amazed at the fixation of many on what they call ‘Development Areas’. As I understand them in how they are described by others, it seems that these development areas are areas of weakness, where you are behaving or operating below the required standard.

Although I agree that we all have these ‘Development Areas’ depending on the context we are in, I don’t agree with our constant focus on them. Often I’ve wondered whether our fixation on ‘Development Areas’ is actually an unconscious way of holding people back and not pushing them forward to fulfil their potential. How many times have you heard? – “You are performing well, but we believe that you have these development areas!”

Fulfil your Potential – Play to your Strengths

In the journey we each progress through in our lives, to live in a state of unconditional happiness it’s critical that we are always consciously focused on fulfilling our potential and living with purpose. It’s true that to do this requires us to constantly explore what we are doing which is holding us back – e.g. our beliefs, behaviours, abilities and attitude – which could be described as ‘Development Areas’. That is, we should constantly explore how we further build or refine our skills, knowledge and/or capability in the context of fulfilling our purpose. But,  this is not the complete picture. To live in a state of unconditional happiness through living with purpose, we need to go beyond the focus on development areas – we each need to play to our strengths!

Playing to our strengths means that we must first know what our strengths are! Often, we get tricked into focusing on development areas, because we don’t always know what we’re good at and what impact these strengths have.

Secondly, when we know what our strengths are, we should explore how we use our strengths to make a positive contribution to society and thus live our purpose!

Finally, in knowing our strengths and how we use them, we should focus on using them more intelligently and more consciously to increase the positive impact we have.

A final word…

When you’re told to focus on your ‘Development Areas’ be sure to listen and understand where extra effort is required to improve in the areas that may be holding you back from living with purpose.

However, beyond this, be sure to play to your strengths. Your strengths represent the things you are good at and through which you will make the most positive contribution to society – your strengths are what will help you fulfil your potential, live with purpose and ultimately live in a state of unconditional happiness! And…the first step in doing this is to figure out what you strengths are!!