Tag Archives: Meaning

Beyond the Fluffy Kitten Effect – a positive perspective!

Crisis is all Around

floods_colorado

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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Self Importance – false or true?

man-sunglasses

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.

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!!

Creating a Movement

Having stumbled upon this clip a little while ago, I couldn’t help but marvel at the power of crowd and the message that was contained within.

Leadership is over-rated, the First Followers are the key!

It seems to me that within our society today is an environment where we are each told to be leaders – we are each told that we have the potential to achieve anything. This I believe, in many respects has a lot of merit. To reinforce and focus our ability to dream, to develop our aspirations, and then to seek to consciously unlock our true potential, is one of the most powerful gifts we have as human beings.

However, there is a second edge to this sword. Through reinforcing that we should each be leaders, we risk creating further divides within society. That is, through the perceptions we attach to what ‘being a leader’ means, we perpetuate a mindset of individualism, where we unconsciously believe that “I am, or I must be the leader”. Pardon the cliche, but although there is no ‘I’ in Leader, it is the premise that underpins the concept of leadership.

To my mind, the biggest implication of this unconscious belief is that we dissolve the power of the crowd and we fall into one of our greatest existential concerns; isolation!

The Power of Aligned Purpose – The Power of the Movement

To live fulfilling your purpose in life, is what I call living on the path of Unconditional Happiness. And through the paradox of happiness, we can only achieve this if we recognise that our individual purpose in life is to make some form of positive contribution to others; we can only achieve true unconditional happiness through making a positive contribution to those around us. With this in mind, at the highest level, our purest purposes as individual human beings are aligned.

When we recognise this alignment of purposes we can begin to relax some of our preconceived ideas about being a leader; we can begin to let go of our belief that we need to be ‘the  leader’ and instead focus mobilising the crowd and building the power of the movement toward our aligned purpose.

Being the leader in any movement is a lonely place. Much like the penguin that finds themselves standing out of the edge of the colony, it is easy to feel isolated. However, by aligning with others who share our purpose and who seek to make the same contribution as us, we can build a movement. We can share our ideas and our energy and we can focus on working together as one to make a difference.

Examples of the  power of the crowd are all around us. Sometimes the crowd is mobilised for good and sometimes for bad. However, for each of us, focused on our purpose of making a positive contribution, we can be a leader by creating, or we can be a first followers helping to build or mobilise the crowd – either way, we can become a movement. And through becoming a movement, we can change the world!

Are you ready to create a movement? Are you ready to live fulfilling your purpose?

Are you a Victim?

There Are Victims Among Us…

Every time I watch this clip I can’t help but think about a few individuals that I’ve helped over the years. These individuals were all good people, with the right motives and all in search of happiness and fulfilment in their lives. However, in addition to these great traits, they also had one thing in common:

They were all Victims!

When I say that they were victims, I mean they allowed themselves to be victims to their circumstance; whenever things didn’t work out the way they’d hoped, they just sat there and complained, rather than taking ownership and action. 

How do we become Victims?

I’m not sure what the true reasons are for why we become victims, it could be both a nature and a nurture thing. However, what I am sure about about is why we continue to be victims into adulthood. And the reason is…

Because we avoid taking responsibility!

The absurdity of the video clip reveals this … ‘Why don’t they just walk up the steps?’ … I’m sure you wondered. That’s exactly right!

Although the video clip above is an extreme example, often when working with vicitms I’ve felt myself asking the same questions of them as we would ask of those people in the clip – Why don’t you take action? Why don’t you take responsibility?

Whenever I ask these questions of victims I always get bombarded with the usual load of excuses, all of which are designed to hold them in the comfortable ‘victim state’ they exist in!

Breaking Free of the Victim Mindset

To break free of the victim mindset is, as I describe it, simple but tough. It’s simple because taking responsibility is as easy as recognising when we’re avoiding responsibility. And then, when we realise that we’re in ‘avoiding’ mode, we seek to make our decisions for ourselves. However, although this seems simple, making the decisions we need to make can sometimes feel quite tough.

Why does it sometimes feel tough to make decisiosn for ourselves? Well…from what I’ve experienced with people, it’s because we’re scared of getting it wrong!

Being Scared of Getting it Wrong

The reason why we become victims and hence avoid taking responsibility is purely about fear. Often this fear is intense and buried deep within our unconscious. And, our fear is about being scared of getting it wrong.

One of the key existential concerns that each human has is the fear of freedom; we are free to choose what we do with our lives in the moment and over the course of our existence. We are therefore responsible for our lives. This on anyone’s measure is quite daunting, because the natural question ask is: what if I get it wrong?

This fear of getting it wrong, as I’ve said is natural. But this is only relevant if we believe there is a right and wrong decision to make. For many of the decisions we have to make we perceive them to be more important than they potentially are – yes, some decisions are critically important, but not all of them!

Throughout our lives we have to make many decisions, some big and some small. For the big decisions we know that they may have a significant impact on our lives. However, this is not a reason to avoid them or defer them to someone else. Because, believe it or not, this is still making a decision.

Stop being a Victim – Take Ownership of Your Life!

To avoid being a victim we must therefore recognise when we need to make decisions and then take ownership of our own lives. This does not mean that the decisions are not tough, but it does help us realise that whether we like it or not, they are our decisions to make!

Don’t allow yourself to be trapped as a victim – conquer your fear by stopping yourself from taking responsibility, so you can begin to take ownership of your life!